Years ago, I was watching a movie on network television when I suddenly jumped from my seat, pointed at the TV, and screamed, “Look! Look! That’s Dayton! That’s Dayton!”
Unfortunately, in my excitement, I knocked over a whole bowl of popcorn.
But you can’t blame me: It’s exciting when you recognize a location in a Hollywood movie. Especially if it’s your hometown!
The movie was “The Wizard,” a 1989 film starring Fred Savage, probably best known as the kid from “The Princess Bride.” He also starred in “The Wonder Years.”
“The Wizard,” is about a young, autistic child who has an uncanny knack for mastering video games – specifically, the Nintendo-console video games that were popular at the time (I can’t even begin to comprehend video games nowadays). He and his brother set off on a road trip for a video-game tournament in Los Angeles … and in the process travel through some areas Northern Nevadans will find very familiar.
Daytonites in particular will love a pivotal scene in which Beau Bridges and Christian Slater get in a fight with another guy. The backdrop for the scene is downtown Dayton!
At one point, you very clearly can see the courthouse in the background, as well as the Union Hotel. The scene ends with “the bad guy” driving toward the stoplight, from an angle similar to the photo below.
The intersection of Highway 50 and Dayton Valley Road in Dayton, Nevada
That scene in particular shows how much Dayton has changed over the years. In the movie, the parcel where the Chevron station now stands is a vacant lot. The bridge that crosses the Carson River is two-lane instead of four-lane.
And, if you look closely, you can see Dayton Elementary School in the distance, back when it was painted yellow.
If you have a chance to see the movie, you should check it out, even if only to catch the downtown Dayton scene. However, there are many other locations you also might recognize, including a shot of the famous Volkswagen spider sculpture along Highway 50 through Mound House. There also are several distinctive shots of downtown Reno – including, of course, the Reno Arch.
“Honkytonk Man” (1982) is another movie that boasts scenes filmed in downtown Dayton. It stars Clint Eastwood as a Depression-era country musician who’s dying of tuberculosis. He and his nephew, Whit (played by Eastwood’s son, Kyle), embark on one last road trip to Nashville, Tenn., where Eastwood’s character has a shot at appearing on the Grand Ole Opry.
There are a few scenes near the beginning that’ll have Daytonites pointing at the television and hollering (and perhaps even knocking over a bowl of popcorn).
In one, Eastwood is confronted by two police officers and arrested for stealing chickens. The street clearly is downtown Dayton; I believe at one point you can make out the former End of the Trail saloon (which now of course is the Gold Canyon Steakhouse).
Later on, Whit breaks Eastwood’s character out of jail, and the two speed down Pike Street. The Union Hotel is visible in the distance, as well as the Odeon Hall … from an angle similar to the photo below.
Downtown Dayton, with the Union Hotel in the background.
Much of “Honkytonk Man,” in fact, was shot around Northern Nevada, including areas such as Genoa and Jack’s Valley Road. Area residents will have a field day watching the movie and spotting familiar locations.
Both “Honkytonk Man” and “The Wizard” appeared in the 1980s, and unfortunately, I’m not aware of any film crews descending upon Dayton since then. It’s a wonderful community for filming, though, as it combines modern-day amenities with a rustic, small-town ambiance. Let’s hope the next big blockbuster is filmed here!
There’s another, very famous movie that was filmed in Dayton – and it appeared much earlier than the 1980s. Can you guess? (If you live in Dayton, you’re probably already shouting out the answer.)
It starred Clark Gable … and Montgomery Clift … and an actress whom, well, you might have heard of: Marilyn Monroe.
If you’re not already waving your hand in excitement, yelling “Pick me, pick me, I know!”, then I’ll go ahead and give you the answer: It’s 1961’s “The Misfits.”
Reviews of the film are mixed, but that doesn’t stop Daytonites from having a sense of pride over the movie’s being filmed here. Many scenes were shot in downtown Dayton, and what now is J’s Bistro, in fact, at one time was called “The Misfits!”
All three movies are worth checking out, if for no other reason than to catch glimpses of Dayton. Just be sure your popcorn is safely out of reach, so you don’t knock it over in excitement when you recognize one of the locations!
Do you have any additional fun facts about movies that were filmed in Dayton … or were you present during the fillming of any of the movies? Add to the conversation by leaving your comment below!
Jody Foley is a Realtor® who’s served the Dayton, Nevada community for more than 25 years. If anyone made a movie about her life, it’d probably be an action-packed flick filled with lots of car chases!