History and Evolution of Denver Street
Medicine Bow Wyoming in the studio tour guide book maps was the first Denver Street on the Universal backlot. It was built by Revue Studios shortly after MCA purchased the Universal Property (1959).
Three western streets existed when the studio tour opened in 1964, namely: Six Points Texas, Denver Street, and Laramie Street.
Medicine Bow Wyoming took it’s name from the TV series The Virginian. The western street was located east of the Tower of London set.
Denver Street as it stands today was constructed around 1967 following the devastating fire that year, south of the Tower of London set. As Universal is a working studio, set locations often change completely over the years. Denver Street has moved at least twice since it was first built.
When Park Lake was constructed in the 1950s, Denver Street did not exist, so this location was not used for the early silent Westerns as Universal tour guides often claim.The area between Denver Street and Park Lake used to be the site of the Tower of London set, but this was replaced in 1989 with the Earthquake attraction.
The street is built on 7/8 scale to make the characters seem larger than life. Like many movie sets, foam rubber and plastic takes the place of brick and stone. During shooting, glass windows were replaced with “candy glass” or sugar glass which could be easily made on the backlot, and broke into harmless soft-edged chunks.
1959 – 1967 Medicine Bow Wyoming / Denver Street
The aerial photo below clearly shows the Denver Street location to the top right of the photo, which is east of it’s current location.
May 15 1967
A devastating fire destroyed the Denver and Laramie Street sets, along with much of the Little Europe area. The fire started near the sets for The VIrginian.
More about the fire
1967 – 2009 Denver Street
These photos are of the Denver Street replica that was built in 1967.
The sets are designed to remind and show visitors what the western set looked like as far back as 1915, when the silent western streets were located on the front lot.
The current Studio Tour guide script evokes the idea of the early silent Western shoots where visitors to the studio could watch movies being made. The Western Streets where this happened looked similar to Denver Street but they were in a totally different location.
To maximise the variety of sets on offer for directors, the 1967 Denver Street sets were built double-sided. In March 2008 a VIP Tour ventured to the other side of the sets, to photograph the facades not seen since the Earthquake attraction was built in 1988. The Earthquake show building was constructed very close to the Denver Street sets, so it’s not been possible for these sets to be used since then. (NB: These sets were removed in 2010).
Stunt Show (2008)
To provide additional excitement on the Studio Tour following the loss of King Kong and the New York Streets in June 2008, stunt performers demonstrated various falls from height onto airbags and jumps, in the area at the east end of Denver Street around the large tree.
In September 2010 a large section of the street was demolished including the area used for the Stunt Show above. This area contained double-sided sets, which were left from the days before the Earthquake attraction was built (see photo gallery above). This area is now used for parking for production vehicles, mainly for the Desperate Housewives cast and crew. Colonial Street is a short golf-cart ride up the hill, and is closer to the set than the previous production base at the old Prop Plaza site. Only the large tree remains.
Freight Train Station
At the west end of Denver Street you can find the Freight Train Station which along with the rest of todays Denver Street was constructed in 1967. Sitting at the station is the former Runaway Train locomotive.
When the street was first constructed, railway lines ran all the way down Denver Street, from the Train Station at the Court of Miracles, right down to the site of the Runaway Train, and beyond, towards the Front Lot.
Studio Tour Shootout
For a few years, there was a live western shootout in Denver Street for every passing tram. The text of the script below claims Denver Street was used for early Westerns – this is not the case. There was a Western Street elsewhere on the lot.
Script for Studio Tour Shootout (1999)
The colorful history of the studio began on this street, with Carl Laemmle, the studio’s founder, supervising the production of over 200 movies each year. Later, great westerns like Destry with Audie Murphy, and The Spoilers with John Wayne filmed here setting the tone for many western movies to follow.
(When you reach the middle of Denver Street continue with the following lines.)
This street was actually modelled after a turn of the century gold rush town. In fact, just around the corner we’ll be able to see the set of an old abandoned gold mine…
(This should be timed so you’re mentioning the gold mine set as the tram reaches the middle of Denver Street. NOTE: It is important to deliver the “abandoned gold mine” line, as it is the cue for the BAD GUY to begin the show.)
(BAD GUY fires his gun)
BAD GUY I don’t think you’ll be going to that gold mine if you know what’s good for you. Now what do we have here… this here is the biggest horseless carriage I ever did see! Alright everybody, get your wallets and jewelry out, this is a stick up!
(BAD GUY fires second shot in the air)
GOOD GUY (appearing at the Saloon door) Who’s making all that racket? You’re interrupting my poker game.
BAD GUY Well partner, I’m robbing these nice folks and I don’t appreciate this interruption.
GOOD GUY Clanton, I thought I told you to stay outta my town.
(He begins moving into showdown position; hand near gun)
BAD GUY Well I’m not quite done with this town yet. There’s still gold to be had and I’m gonna be the one havin’ it.
(Theme from “THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY” plays as they face off for the showdown. They draw and fire, the GOOD GUY hits the BAD GUY in the shoulder. The BAD GUY yells in pain and runs off, escaping into the Tack and Feed store)
Well folks, I don’t think you’ll have any more trouble here, you can just keep moving through our lovely town.
(He stretches with his pistol overhead)
Thanks Sheriff, we really appreciate your help.
(BAD GUY appears on the balcony of the Tack and Feed store)
Look out Sheriff!
BAD GUY (overlapping) Sheriff!
(He aims at the GOOD GUY. The GOOD GUY gets startled and the gun over his head goes off and hits the BAD GUY. The BAD GUY stumbles and falls into the hay bales in front of the store.)
Um well, as I was saying, I don’t think you’ll have any more trouble here. You’re safe to move on your way. Enjoy your day here at Universal Studios Hollywood!
(Guide tags encounter)
How about a hand for the Sheriff and the Bad Guy. Nice job, guys!
Productions listed below between 1962 and 1967 were shot on the first Denver Street, which was known as Medicine Bow Wyoming, after it’s role in The Virginian.
After the 1967 fire, Denver Street was repositioned and rebuilt, and this is what we see on the backlot today.
Seen on Screen: Universal Studios Hollywood [Denver]
|Tales of Wells Fargo [TV Series]||1957-1962||Frank Gruber, Gene Reynolds, James Brooks|
|Denver Street, Stage 35|
|Wagon Train [TV Series]||1957-1965||Lawrence Menkin|
|Denver Street, Six Points Texas, Colonial Street Munster House (Kitty Pryer Story, 1963), Stage 19|
|The Virginian [TV Series]||1962-1971||Frank Price, Teddi Sherman|
|Colonial Street, Denver Street, Six Points Texas, Train Station, Stage 34|
|The Raiders [Feature Film]||1963||Herschel Daugherty|
|Three Guns for Texas [Feature Film]||1963||Earl Bellamy, David Lowell Rich|
|Laredo [TV Series]||1965-1967|
|Denver Street, Stage 35|
|Pistols 'n' Petticoats [TV Series]||1966-1967||George Tibbles|
|Alias Smith and Jones [TV Series]||1971-1973||Glen A. Larson|
|Denver Street, Old Mexico, Six Points Texas, Train Station, Stage 36|
|Hec Ramsey [TV Series]||1972-1974||Harold Jack Bloom|
|Quincy M.E. [TV Series]||1976-1983||Glen A. Larson, Lou Shaw|
|Apartments, Colonial Street, Denver Street, New York Street, Stage 25|
|Knight Rider [TV Series]||1982 - 1986||Glen A. Larson|
|Along with soundstages, the backlot was used extensively including Colonial Street, Courthouse Square, Denver Street, Boragora and Six Points Texas. Stage 28 appeared in Season 4 Fright Knight episode. Stage 01 was also used.|
|Voyagers! [TV Series]||1982-1983||James D. Parriott|
|Colonial Street, Denver Street, Little Europe, Train Station, Mediterranean Square, Old Mexico, Square of Warriors, Collapsing Bridge (pilot)|
|Airwolf [TV Series]||1984-1986||Donald P. Bellisario|
|Colonial Street (Cleaver House), Colonial Street Church, Denver Street, Little Europe, New York Street, Six Points Texas, Square of Warriors, Tower of London backlot sets, Stage 14 [helicopter interior mockup], Stage 20 [process shots], Stage 24 [Hawke Cabin set], Stage 27 [The Lair hideout], Stage 28 [process shots]|
|Blacke's Magic [TV Series]||1986||Peter S. Fischer, Richard Levinson, William Link|
|Sliders [TV Series]||1995-2000||Tracy Tormè, Robert K. Weiss|
|Denver Street, Mediterranean Square, Little Europe|
|Big Fat Liar [Feature Film]||2002||Shawn Levy|
|Stage 01, Stage 34, Prop Warehouse, Flash Flood, Denver Street, Psycho House|
|Michael Buble: Hollywood [Music Video]||2010||Rich Lee|
|New York Street, Front Lot, Denver Street all feature in this video.|