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Hollywood’s home of westerns bites the dust
(From left to right) Actors Robert Duvall, Annette Bening and Kevin Costner in a scene from Open Range. (Reuters)

Los Angeles, Aug. 18: The bulldozers have moved into Hollywood and Laramie Street, home of the western on the Warner Brothers back lot since 1930, is biting the dust through which Errol Flynn and Henry Fonda strode.

Into the sunset has gone the saloon, where Robert Mitchum, six-shooter in hand, romanced a bar girl in The Good Guys and the Bad Guys. Workmen have dismantled the boardwalk by the The Central Drug Store and the blacksmiths, the backdrop for Paul Newman in The Left Handed-Gun.

A clearance crew has also disposed of the cantina, railroad track, hotel with its swing doors and hitching rail, the spot used by John Ford for his last western, Cheyenne Autumn with James Stewart in 1964. Gene Wilder fought, somewhat playfully, with Cleavon Little in the middle of Laramie Street in his Blazing Saddles send-up of the old West a decade later.

Flynn made most of his westerns from 1939 to 1950 on the lot, as did Joel McRea, noted for Wells Fargo.

Now the site is being cleared to make way for a set more suitable for today’s new breed of young filmmakers: 11 clapboard New England homes, with clipped and lush lawns on a cul-de-sac, perfect for horror films or musicals.

For cowboy epics are doubtful box office prospects nowadays, liable, according to the Hollywood Reporter, to attract only “baby boomer males” who remember the horse operas of old. A recent revival of the western genre has seen several big stars making cowboy films again. But they are being shot miles from Hollywood. Kevin Costner’s Open Range was made in Alberta, Canada, and a new version of The Alamo has seen a £6.4 million replica of the garrison built on a Texas ranch.

Produced and directed by Kevin Costner, Open Range pays tribute to the cowboy code of honour and cost $23 million.

Laramie was a film set for only nine days in the past five years and with space in Los Angeles coming at a premium, Warner Brothers say it had to go.

Gary Credle, a Warner executive, said yesterday: “We hated to lose Laramie Street because there’s a lot of history and nostalgia there. But it was sitting there fallow.”

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