Despite its small size and off the track location, Nogales, Arizona, has been the location of choice for several major motion pictures, including Oklahoma and the biblical story of David and Bathsheba.
Nogales was chosen because it looked more like turn-of-the-century Oklahoma than anywhere in Oklahoma did in 1955, when the film was made. It was made an “honorary” part of the state of Oklahoma for the duration of the film shoot by order of the governor of Arizona.
Development of a film version of Oklahoma! dates as far back as 1943, when the musical first opened on Broadway.
Although the film was initially to have been shot on location in Oklahoma, the producers opted to shoot in Nogales, apparently because the oil wells would be a distraction for exterior scenes. The corn field in the opening number was located in a farm in Amado, Arizona, just a few miles north of Nogales. The train station used in the “Kansas City” routine was located in Elgin, Arizona and back lot sequences were filmed at MGM Studios in Culver City, CA.
Among the many actors who tried out for the role of Curly included James Dean and Paul Newman, the role ultimately went to Gordon MacRae.
Rodgers and Hammerstein personally oversaw the film themselves to prevent the studio from making changes that were then typical of stage-to-film musical adaptations—such as putting in new songs by different composers.
In 2007, Oklahoma was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
David and Bathsheba
David and Bathsheba is a 1951 biblical Technicolor epic film about King David made by 20th Century Fox. King David was the second king of Israel and this film is based on the Old Testament book of Samuel.
Gregory Peck stars as King David and the film follows King David’s life as he adjusts to ruling as a King, and about his relationship with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba (Susan Hayward). It was shot entirely in Nogales, Arizona. The Goliath of Gath was portrayed by a Polish wrestler named Wladyslaw Talun.
Other Famous Mentions
Nogales was mentioned as a border crossing point in Carlos Castaneda’s “Don Juan” series, and a gateway into the Mexican Yaqui communities of Sonora. Nogales is also mentioned in Men in Black and recently in a PlayStation 3 video game advertisement: MAG. Massive Action Game.