Hollywood film set Guadalupe

In the dunes outside Guadalupe, California, there is a story, perhaps apocryphal, of amateur archeologists making an astonishing discovery. There, beneath the sand, lay what appeared to be the ruins of an ancient Egyptian civilisation: the remnants of sphinxes, the skeletons of chariots. It turned out to be the rubble from a Hollywood film set.

A silent-screen epic by Cecil B DeMille, the film in question was 1923's The Ten Commandments. No expense had been spared. The director hired 1,600 builders to construct a 10-acre site on the Guadalupe dunes, complete with a towering temple, 21 plaster sphinxes and a quartet of Ramses statues weighing 20 tonnes each. But when shooting wrapped, DeMille ordered that the whole place be bulldozed into a 300ft trench. There it remains to this day; a very Hollywood kind of ghost town.

The eyesores in our midst, socio-economic roadkill; either imperfectly bulldozed or left to rot in the sun, Ghost towns was called. The dictionary defines them as "deserted settlements, especially in the western US", which may explain their curious, symbiotic relationship with the American film industry. The birth of Hollywood, after all, coincided with the dying days of the wild west. In which Wyatt Earp worked as a studio script consultant and a collection of rusting former boom towns provided backdrops for anyone wanting to shoot a cowboy picture, in that time.
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