Bonanza Creek Ranch was originally called the Jarrett Ranch when Hollywood first showed an interest. The year was l955 and the film was The Man From Laramie, starring Jimmy Stewart. The story goes that a former chauffeur for Mary Pickford, Louie Clifford, had started a cab company in Albuquerque while maintaining his Hollywood connections. It was Louie who brought Hollywood producers to the ranch. They quickly saw a stunning landscape that had, no doubt, equally enthralled the miners and settlers over the course of centuries – sloping green pastures (once the site of the gold mining town Bonanza) fed by a continually running artesian spring, ponds flanked by enormous grizzled cottonwoods and a century-old apple orchard hugging the base of Cerro de la Cruz.
Cowboy was filmed here in l958 with Glenn Ford and Jack Lemmon. For this Hughes actually brought 1,200 Corriente steers up from Mexico to use for the cattle drives.
In l989 from an Italian producer offered to build a stylized Western town set on the ranch. (There had been a set built once before, in l980 for The Legend of the Lone Ranger, which was later torn down.) Daisy Town, as the new set was called, was built for the European television series Lucky Luke starring Terence Hill. The town was constructed around a two-story Victorian house that had been built for the movie Silverado in l984. This house, which was also used in Lonesome Dove, was altered to become a mercantile.
Lucky Luke filmed for several years, and in l994 Terence Hill returned with an Italian-German co-production, The n/Fight Before Christmas. A large ranch house set was constructed alongside a pond, and both it and the Western town set have been popular film sites ever since.
Glenn Hughes, owner of Bonanza Creek Ranch, comes from a long line of New Mexico ranchers. His father and grandfather owned the Forked Lightning Ranch near Pecos years before it was eventually sold to Greer Garson and her husband Buddy Fogelson in the l940s. Garson would show off the bullet holes in the mantel to visitors - which resulted from the gunfight Hughes' father was involved in when New Mexico was still a territory. Personal history may be behind Hughes' resolve to keep the Bonanza Creek Ranch intact. "It's our intention to keep this thing in one piece, just the way it is," he said. "It's hard to hold it together, but I'm bound and determined to do it." If history is an indication, the movie industry is well positioned to benefit in the years ahead.