- Here's some entertaining info I was able to glean while
looking into the popular urban legend regarding the classic western film
"Rio Grande" starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.
- The film was directed by John Ford one of Hollywood's
most celebrated filmmakers.
- Your webmaster James Neff, alerted to the scene by one
"Roland A. Duby," brought up an examination of a clip from "Rio
Grande" where it appeared as though a strange light was moving in
the distance behind Wayne and O'Hara during a scene.
- Often with UFO stories they'll drag on and on sometimes
festering for decades without resolution. As explanations for the odd lights
fluttered about I decided to toss my hand in and ask some of the actors
who were at the scene of the incident in question.
- No, not The Duke, but Ms. Maureen O'Hara and Harry Carey,
- Ms. O'Hara starred in the film as John Wayne's leading
lady as she did in several films with The Duke, my favorite being "The
Quiet Man" with the funniest fight scene in motion picture history.
- Sure enough, Ms. O'Hara, one of the few true icons of
Hollywood stardom is still up and about tending to her fans worldwide.
Still radiant and true to form she engages in numerous activities and even
has a vibrant website where
her devotees can interact with her. Her dear fan and webmistress Ms. June
Beck answered me right off as did several of Ms. O'Hara's fans regarding
the mysterious UFO in question. The same with Mr. Carey! His website
is a true testament to the fans of the western flicks.
- My primary question was whether the scene was on location
or shot on a sound stage. On a sound stage, many a special effect including
backdrops can be added. The special effects question came to mind while
perusing the credits of 'Rio Grande' I noticed the famous Lydecker brothers,
Theodore and Howard, were the special effects team. For those young folks
out there, the Lydecker brothers were the ILM of cinema for close to 50
years. The Lydeckers' credits are astounding to say the least and generations
have and still do thrill to them. That made me giggle as I had posted on
another listserve that it might be a Lydecker thing.
- In a short period of time, several explanations came
forth as to the origin of the lights. I first called a long time friend
who sits on the Writer's Guild of America and asked him about it. He got
back to me within hours and stated that the film was predominantly shot
on location in Moab, Utah and that any studio shots would have been mere
close ups or dubbing.
- The same data was confirmed from several references from
the studio historians. As well as the State of Utah's historical guides.
- That's all well and good but a first hand account is
- Next another cinema expert and fan of the film stated
that the movie was mostly shot on location in Moab, but several scenes
were shot on the Republic Studios lot including the scene in question.
He states the background is a painted backdrop and theorizes that "
the wandering UFO is the reflection of an arc lamp. since the scene is
divided into several different camera angles, the 'wandering' coud be due
to re-positioning of the lamp."
- Republic Studios is legendary for the greatest action
films of all time and a staple in cinema history. Just a side note for
the youngin's who think they've seen it all and without a knowledge of
Republic Studios films, haven't seen anything yet.
- We're left with conflicting explanations and still waiting
for some form of first hand account.
- Finally, Ms. Beck emailed me that she'd gotten in touch
with Mrs. Marilyn Carey who gave an account of the incident far more entertaining
than the incident itself.
- Ms. Beck said that Mrs. Carey was familiar with the story
and had read an article on the event.
- Sure enough Mrs. Carey was true to her word. An article
from "Western Clippings" publication by Boyd Magers, multi-talented
man and veteran radio professional focused on the mystery:
- "UFO's in "Rio Grande?"
- In a film
clip provided from John Wayne's "Rio Grande" it is theorized
there are actual UFOs darting around in the background to the left of Wayne's
head as he talks with Maureen O'Hara.
- The true explanation comes from a onetime film festival
attendee, Gary Kramer, who recalls talking to actor Walter Reed in Knoxville
one evening where he told the story about how Herbert J. Yates found out
the Lydecker Brothers, under contract with Republic for special effects
work, were being used by John Ford to do similar work on "Rio Grande."
- When Yates learned the Lydeckers were going to Utah with
Ford, he asked him to take along one of their miniature flying saucers
that was going to be used in the Republic serial "Flying Disc Man
from Mars" (in which Read starred) which was soon to begin shooting.
Yates hoped to get some realistic looking shots of the flying saucer darting
above the Monument Valley landscape. Actually, the miniature was not that
small, about six feet around.
- What you actually see in the background of the Wayne/O'Hara
shot is the Lydecker's testing their remote controlled miniature flying
saucer. John Ford was directing the scene and never even noticed it!
- The Lydeckers were prepared to get some close-up shots
the following day, bribing one of the assistant cameramen on "Rio
Grande" to do the filming. In order to do this, the brothers had to
get their cameraman drunk. To accomplish this, they naturally had to imbibe
a little themselves. Howard Lydecker started up the flying saucer and signaled
to Theodore, who was handling the remote controls, to begin circling the
craft above the cameraman who was about 100 yards away.
- Unfortunately, Theodore, in his inebriated condition,
promptly flew the saucer into the side of one of the Monument Valley mountains
and smashed it beyond repair. So, no further film footage was ever obtained
and all that exists today is the one scene that made it into 'Rio Grande.'
When Yates heard about what happened, he was so furious that the Lydecker
brothers almost got fired."
- Says Mr. Magers, "We saw the John Wayne 'Rio Grande'
myth online and happened to know the truth and printed in our magazine
Western Clippings. It was in issue #64 (March/April '05)."
- Subscriptions to WC are $27.50 per year, 6 issues per
- Boyd Magers
- 1312 Stagecoach Rd. SE, Albuquerque, NM
- At first I thought they were pulling my leg, might be,
but it's great they responded at all. It's not too often one can get to
communicate with legends and their families and fans, as well as get a
peek at great memorabilia.
- Here we have conflicting stories...yet all is valuable.
The predominance of data says the scene was shot on location.
- My instincts tell me it was shot on a sound stage but
the abundance of data says otherwise.
- Some more digging will be made as schedules clear up
and perhaps Ms. O'Hara will chime in or any of the living film crew.
- What's most of value to me is the fun researching UFOs
can be when you get the opportunity to study history. I've friends who
are western maniacs. They're also country western DJs who had no idea such
neat memorabilia and guests are out here.
- Just getting the opportunity to chat with someone who
knows Ms. O'Hara and Mr. Carey is enough to have bragging rights during
a lifetime of St. Patrick's Day get togethers.
- UFOlogy is full of frustration but it's also full of
lots of fun as it calls upon one to be aware of the various sciences and
humanities and of the greatest value to me is the chance to chat with people
from around the world and especially those people who have made history.
- It would benefit one to spend that time with Grandpa
and Grandma and get the story from the source.
From Jack Goosey
- Dear Jeff -
- With all due respect to Greg Boone and his research into
the ufo in the movie Rio Grande, sorry but I'm not buying it. Does the
video show a remote controlled device that is technologically feasible
now, 50 years later? Not that I'm aware of. Those high speed starts and
stops don't look like anything I've ever seen, and if such a high-speed,
highly manueverable vehicle were available--even today--I should think
it would have immediate military applications. Nice try, but the mystery
- (We agree - JR)
From Randy Littlejohn
- The first model planes emerged in the 1920's. The craft
were quite heavy. Many of the early pioneers of radio controlled (RC) model
planes were involved in amateur radio. Walter and Bill Good are credited
with building the first RC model plane in 1937 for the Nationals RC event
in Detroit. Called the 'Guff' their plane had an 8-foot wingspan and weighed
8.5 pounds. Its radio had only two frequencies, one for the rudder and
the other for the elevator control. It is now on permanent display at the
Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
- Thirteen years later were movie effects guys able to
build a radio controlled, wingless saucer-shaped device that could exhibit
the flying characteristics we see in the background of the scene in Rio
Grande? I doubt it. What would their RC saucer have used for propulsion?
Fans pushing air through ducting, I would assume. What else? So, their
remote control would have had to use multiple frequencies to control multiple
doors in multiple ducts in order to allow for not only up and down movement,
but also flight in any direction. Besides the feat of making the thing
stable, they would also have had to be clever enough to design a wingless
craft able to perform high performance aerobatics. Didn't the military
shelve their own attempts after numerous attempts?
- I'm not buying RC saucers from a sci-fi movie.
- Another explanation is that for some reason there, s
glass in the background of the set that we're not supposed to see. Perhaps
it was there to block wind form the set - who knows?. Maybe the light is
a reflection on this glass from something going on behind the camera. Another
possibility is that somehow something reflected off the glass in the matt
box attached to the front of the camera. A matt box is a frame mounted
in front of the camera lens, which is designed to hold the camera glass
mattes used in trick, or special effects, photography to add static visual
stuff to a scene (like a building or mountains), as well as to hold special
filters. In order to keep reflections like the one I,m talking about off
the glass, matt boxes usually are combined with a sunshade, but mistakes
happen. Maybe we're seeing the reflection of a flashlight held by a camera
- Randy Littlejohn
- From Kathleen
- Dear Mr. Boone,
- You know I told my husband about the UFO in Rio Grande
and my husband went out and bought the DVD. We watched it several times
and of course saw the UFO flying around John Wayne's head. BUT, no one
has commented about the UFO closer to the end of the movie.
- It's been about a month since I watched the movie but
I remember there was a scene where John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara are standing
watching the soldiers march by or ride by on their horses and you see them
go to the three gentlemen in the film and see a UFO flying between them
too. Can you explain this one, too?
(Time permitting, we will check this one out also - ed)
- It's highly unlikely that the Lydeckers were testing
a "radio controlled flying saucer" during the filming of 1950's
"Rio Grande." Besides, if they had perfected such a technique,
it would have been picked up by every Hollywood studio for miniature aerial
- To see what a "Lydecker shot" of a flying saucer
would look like, just watch 1965's "Lost In Space." Howard Lydecker
used the brothers' traditional slow-motion cinematography of a large miniature
sliding down a wire to create the elegant crash-landing of the Jupiter
- Leigh Hanlon
- John Wayne UFO Movie Update
- Clark Boone
- As you already know and can attest, UFOlogy has it's
fair share of good shiggles and gits.
- Such is the case of the mysterious lights in the film
"Rio Grande" that some claim are UFOs or special effects or even
the 'wee folk'.
- I can understand their confusion if they've been watching
the film on VHS or on a DVD that's not up to par.
- I'd been watching it on VHS as it took a while to get
hold of the collector's edition of the film.
- It's a real treat to see this classic restored and the
additional commentary by Maureen O'Hara and Harry 'Dobe' Carey Jr. as well
as the sons of John Wayne and Mr. McLaughlin the man who went 15 rounds
with legendary heavyweight boxing champ Jack Johnson!
- From the songbird's nest you hear over and over again
how the film was shot on location. Similarly to what my pal from the WGA
said. Even in the disputed scene in question we hear on the DVD Ms. O'Hara
state that the scene was indeed shot on location.
- Ends that debate right there.
- But what are those mysterious lights buzzing about John
- One look at the restored DVD from Artisan and you'll
see the explanation as clear as the nose on your face.
- It doesn't necessarily invalidate the analysis by Boyd
Magers and "Western Clippings" magazine, but when thinking of
the magic of the Lydecker brothers and their special effects it could well
be part, and I do mean part of what we see.
- In a nutshell the glowing objects darting about are nothing
more than reflections of light along wires attached to the nearby tent
in the scene or tree. The wires are moving either by the breeze or manual
operation. You can easily see the reflections dart back and forth along
the wires/filaments. Crystal clear on the DVD version.
- Now we know that the Lydecker brothers were 'the' specialists
in wire work for their special effects. That's a matter of historical record
and legend and they were indeed on the set. If they'd been in the background
working on another film and it got caught on camera by error that's a possibility
but the bottom line is just that, a bottom line of line.
- Oh and in regard to a supposed 'other' UFO in a scene
near the films end it's no more than a bird or bug out of focus in the
- So the big mystery that's gone on for quite some time
is easily answered.
- The reward for me is getting the treasure of studying
a great classic film, legendary stars and technicians and reaffirming why
some creative works last the test of time, it's due to quality, courage
- The back story to this classic western and the people
who made it as well as it's look at the wild west is priceless.
- Maybe they don't make folks like those anymore or maybe
the studio insurance folks won't let em'.
- I'd certainly like to take a look at this "Artisan"
DVD version, especially on Zoom command, but it seems to me these moving
lights are being too easily dismissed. Especially the story of the Lydecker
brothers. Take a look sometime at their handiwork -- it's rather pathetic
and laughable, the stuff of cheap serials. It may have been 'state of the
art' then but what we're seeing in this film is far more complex than mere
light reflections across moving wires, or some 'remote control' flying
saucer by a couple of drunk FX brothers out in the desert (and it's a bit
of stretch to believe a genius and meticulous detail master like Ford would
not have known they were out there in his shot). The strange lights, for
me, remain UFOs -- unidentified flying objects.
From K Beswic
- I'm in agreement with the other four people who have
responded to Mr. Boone's explanation. With all due respect to his research
and ability to speak directly with stars from the 1950s, I think the notion
of this object being a highly-advanced remote control device is positively
- First off, IF this were the case, the Lydecker Brothers
certainly wouldn't be working in Hollywood for very long, they'd be snapped
up by the US Military so quick it would make your head spin.
- Secondly, as an intermediate-level RC scale hobbyist
myself and proprietor of www.thinkinrussian.org, I think I have some experience
with both remotely piloted aircraft AND fictional Hollywood props and inventions.
With $1,000 worth of Futuba radio equipment and a $300 gyro stabilizer,
it's possible to construct an RC helicopter that can stay quite steady
& stable during a hover, but the acceleration is nowhere even NEAR
what is seen in that film footage. It's very easy to get quite "untidy"
with ANY remote controlled vehicle when you factor in elements like wind.
I'm much more apt to accept the 'reflection off of a glass backdrop' theory
than anything involving RC saucers.
- Nice try Mr. Boone, but no cigar...
- Original Article
- Did UFOs Make An Appearance In
John Wayne's 'Rio Grande'?
- Clip from Roland A. Duby
by James Neff
- At first, this looked a lot like a sound stage shot,
as there are not many old black and white films that have convincing day-for-night
scenes and few directors worth their salt ever attempted real night shooting.
But it appears this footage from "Rio Grande" (John Ford/1950)
is indeed in the great outdoors. Roland writes, "On the DVD I have
there is a documentary called the making of RIO GRANDE and it says the
film was shot entirely on location in Moabe, Utah."
'Rio Grande' just happened to be aired on American Movie Channel this afternoon
and I caught it, and only spotted one or two "set" shots (one
was the use of a film backdrop as a covered wagon in the foreground is
speeding along -- such a shot would require some kind of a studio trick)
that were likely tossed in post-production. The vast majority of night
shots were expertly done day-for-night (where special darkening lenses
are used during daylight shooting to imitate night). Later in color productions
they would use a blue filter to achieve the same "fake night"
effect. So if this is a true night shot, it's remarkably well done for
its time and whatever is flying around those mountains is very brightly
illuminated and making maneuvers no plan or jet could pull off, even today.
It's also rather large, whatever it is. If the shot is day-for-night, we're
still talking about a very large, very bright or highly reflective object.
Either way, its a UFO.
In the clip provided, you'll see the UFO, which appears to be disc shaped,
suddenly appear to the left of the Duke's head and brightly travel left
to just behind a tree in the foreground. It then seems to bobble, lose
illumination, and reappear streaking rapidly across the sky above the mountain
range, leaving a tracer. Then it's not clear if the same UFO or several
UFO start an up and down dance in the same general area, crossing from
the sky to the area just at the top of the mountain, one swooping down
- View the 3 meg Windows Media Player file HERE
(If you have trouble downloading, try right-clicking and asking to "save
target as" -- on Mac, hold down mouse and select "Save As")
- Submitted: A ZOOMED Version
of the area in question (Note: this WMV might not play on Mac versions
of Windows Media Player). Click HERE (758k)