John Wayne romanced Gail Russell right here at the historic Cottonwood Hotel during their 1946 filming of 'Angel and the Badman'.
Even though this now classic movie was filmed in Sedona, Arizona, it was reviewed regularly during the making of the film at the old Rialto Theater, today's location of the Tavern Grille in Old Town Cottonwood, Arizona, just a few doors down from the Cottonwood Hotel.
Along with several other movies that were locally filmed in the Verde Valley, Sedona-Cottonwood area, the old Rialto Theater was used for over a hundred "Rushes" (movies in the works), bringing producers, directors, movie stars and legends to review and edit their progress of the movies being filmed in the area.
At the time of the filming of 'Angel and the Badman', John Wayne and Gail Russell had been involved in a secret, but not so secret love affair. During their hot romance they walked from the Rialto Theater after a "Rush" to the Cottonwood Hotel to get a room and spend the night on several occasions. Early morning, they'd get up and sneak back into their Sedona lodging location, before other crew members would waken.
John Wayne's wife (Chata) at the time, threatened John on many occasions about his affair with Gail. She even shot at him and almost got him in the temple.
Gail Russell had to testify during John's divorce from Chata, that they were not having an affair (under oath)... Most knew otherwise!
John Wayne & Gail Russell
John Wayne & Gail Russell
***Old timers Josephine Becchetti-See and Jean Hall-Redman (Arizona Bootlegger Kings daughter) shared their stories, recapturing the past. "My dad Joe Becchetti owed the Rialto Theater and worked directly with the movie studios directors and producers. Most locals did not know when a "Rush" was coming to town, and we weren't suppose to say anything, as they were private showings", Jo indulged in her memories. "Most didn't even know who John Wayne was back then, he was still young in his career", Jo continued.
"We sure knew who he was," Jean said. "I was working here at the hotel in Robinson's Western Wear Clothier. John bought western wear here".
"We saw John and Gail holding hands and smooching in the hotel corridor", Jo continued, as both Jean and Jo giggled. "I remember them kissing right there in the doorway", Jean pointed and giggles some more. "I remember when another doorway use to be here", Jean pointed to an area that use to have a doorway going upstairs to the hotel rooms. "I use to have to make sure when I closed the store to lock that door so that the hotel guests couldn't come back into the store after closing hours. They had to use the outside entrance".
Jo Becchetti See's dad (Joseph Becchetti) was also friends with Bob Bradshaw, who owned the Bradshaw Ranch out 525 Rd. between Cottonwood and Sedona. This was a famous movie location for about 144 films. Bob also played as an extra, many times.
Robinson's Western Clothier, where "the Duke" bought western wear, was below the hotel and is the Cottonwood Hotel's office today.
For more Cottonwood Arizona history and locally filmed movies see more...
John Wayne (1946)
John Wayne Suite Executive Suite
For the last 10 years our Suite #2 has been called the John Wayne Suite, and more recent the executive suite, as it is our largest suite today. It has three original rooms that were changed into one suite in 1952, with an added bath at that time.
The old classic (romantic western) video movie "Angel and the Badman" can be viewed and enjoyed when you stay in this suite. Other classic locally filmed movies are available for viewing.
John Wayne Loved to Take Baths
Cottonwood Hotel Clawfoot Tub ~Room#5
Cottonwood Hotel Clawfoot Tub ~Suite#4
Since there are no old hotel guest registration, I can only go on what I hear from the old timers or what I find in archives. Since a more recent oral conversation by an old timer who stayed here in the later 1940's, I believe now that the suite John Wayne most likely stayed in was Suite 4. Suite 4 has been called the Mae West Suite for several years, as she stayed here too. It will now become my movie suite.
In 1946, Suite 4 was the only suite at the time, as the rest of the upper floor hotel were just small rooms and not larger suites like they are today. Suite #4 was also the most elaborate of the prohibition era old west hotel to stay in at that time, and it had one of the original bathrooms with a clawfoot tub. I think John Wayne would have picked the best during his time. see more
As I continually collect additional history about the hotel and Cottonwood by going through archived old newspapers, old census, land transfers, etc. and old timers stories who lived it, I get more excited all the time and learn something new everyday.
Movie Suite 4
Actor, Ermal Williamson, John Wayne impersonator stayed at the Cottonwood Hotel June 2-3, 2001. He performed at the Cottonwood River Walk Celebration, for National Trail's Day and Grand Opening of the Jail Trail, part of the Verde River Greenway Riparian Habitat.
Ermal Williamson, recognized internationally as the JOHN WAYNE look-alike, has been impersonating The Duke professionally for years. Ermal is the actor who has made five national Coors Light Beer commercials as John Wayne. He has riden several times in the Festival of Roses Parade, and has patriotically performed at the Pre-Bowl events.
He appeared as John Wayne with members of the Duke's family, actors, and stuntmen at the John Wayne Convention in Akron Ohio, June of 1994, paying tribute to Duke in honor of his passing away. see more
Mr. and Mrs. Ermal Williamson stayed in our John Wayne Suite at that time, which was Suite #4.
I also brought Bob Bradshaw in for the grand opening of the Jail Trail to share his stories. When asked about John Wayne and Gail Russell's affair, he would only mention how the two always disappeared after a "Rush" and sneak back into Sedona early morning hours.