Spanish Hollywood in Europe
During the sixties and the seventies of the last century the Tabernas Desert in Almeria, in the southeast of Spain acted as a small branch of Hollywood in Europe. The greatest movie stars of the day – Henry Fonda, Clint Eastwood, Sophia Loren, Charlton Heston, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor had their temporary home there during the long months of shooting many films, including the famous spaghetti westerns.
These films got their names because of the directors that were mostly of Italian origin. Sergio Leone was one of the most prominent directors of the genre. In Tabernas he created his famous Man with No Name Trilogy: A Fistfull of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.
Today, these legendary film sets are turned into thematic western parks, where western movies aficionados can be guests in the saloon, get behind the bars of the local prison and to recreate a shooting scene at the ‘town’ square. Actors dressed as cowboys participate in the daily programs in which the play classic western roles. Banks are being robbed literally every day, and there is always a cowboy ready to be hung. There is also a zoo and a water park.
Authentic Sets of Western Movies
Visitors are often amazed by the authenticity of the sets. Many western fans are lured into Tabernas to get the ultimate western experience. Many of those who work at the park are former stunt masters that had the opportunity to ride alongside Clint Eastwood. Today they do stunts at birthday parties.
Film directors happily chose Tabernas as a filming location because of the great similarities with the American West – the landscape is full of windy plains interspersed with arid streams and rocky canyons. And the location came at a cheap price as well. However, at the end of the seventies these locations were abandoned due to the more favored landscapes of Morocco and Turkey, and the film business in Almeria came to a stall.
Spanish Hollywood Troubles
In the small village of Tabernas, the only populated settlement in the surrounding area, the locals gladly revive the days of glory during the Golden Age of the Westerns. The Spanish Hollywood is troubled by unemployment these days. There is a sort of melancholic atmosphere around Tabernas, the place captured in time, still living in the times of the great days of the western, only in a cheaper imitation.
Among the ones who stayed is a member of the Blackfeet tribe from Canada who also worked on one of the movies and now lives in a rustic desert camp. He gladly recalls the shooting of Sergio Leone’s movie with a very suitable title – Once Upon a Time in the West.