Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
6-S Ranch Airpark in 'China Doll' (1958)
Canyon Country, California


The 6-S Ranch Airpark in Canyon Country, then called Saugus, doubles for China's Kunming Airfield in Frank Borzage's 1958 World War II love story, "China Doll," starring Victor Mature, Li Hua Li (as Li Li Hua), Ward Bond and Danny Chang.

Roughly the entire length of today's Pleasantdale Street runs down the middle of the airstrip, which ran east-west. The buildings seen in the film were located on the south side of the center of the airstrip, at what would become the southeast corner of Whites Canyon Road and Pleasantdale (see modern map). Neither street existed then.

Five scenes are shown here. The view is to the south when you see the trees behind the buildings. The view is to the north when you see mountains in the distance. (Some stock military footage is cut into the fifth scene, and the "baby" sequences are filmed on a sound stage.)

John Gilbert remembers (2017): "The bomb craters along the runway at the end of the movie were just west of Camp Plenty and Delight Street. We used to play army in them as kids in the mid-'60s before the tract was built. We wondered why the craters were there, as they were away some from Flare Northern. I never saw the movie till I bought it on DVD about eight years ago and recognized the hills, craters and building. (Also:) The orange tower formerly on the hill northeast of the airport was part of the old Skyways system using lights to navagate VFR at night before nav aids like radio became a standard. The towers were placed about 18 miles apart, and on a clear night you'd see them laid out in front of you, and fly from one to another."

MGM's "China Doll" also features Bob Mathias, Johnny Desmond, Stuart Whitman, Elaine Devry, Ann McCrea, Denver Pyle, Don "Red" Barry, Tige Andrews, Steve Mitchell, Ken Perry, Ann Paige, Gregg Barton, Barry O'Hara, Tita Aragon and Bill White Jr.

Helm and Earle Schmidt opened an airport in 1946 on the 1,800-acre 6-S Ranch, which had previously been owned by the grandson and namesake of the pioneer Los Angeles 20-Mule team freighter, Remi Nadeau. It was known as Nadeau Deer Farm and was, for years, one of the famous sights of northern Los Angeles county. The airfield sat to the northwest of the modern-day intersection of Soledad Canyon and Whites Canyon Roads.

Following Helm Schmidt's death in 1960, the acreage was sold and developed into the North Oaks tract, which began construction in 1961. It was the Santa Clarita Valley's second housing tract — the first being the 15-home "Rancho Santa Clarita" subdivision that the William Bonelli family built in Seco (Dry) Canyon in 1947.

By 1963, the North Oaks area, which had previously been considered a part of Saugus, was starting to achieve its own identity as "Canyon Country." The name became official in 1968 when the Canyon Country Post Office opened near Solemint Junction (the intersection of Soledad Canyon Road and Sierra Highway).



About Earl Schmidt


6-S Ranch Airpark ~1950s


6-S Ranch Airpark in "China Doll" (1958)


6-S Ranch Airpark in "The Beast of Yucca Flats" (1961)


Location of 6-S Ranch Airpark


Looking South 1968


Newberry's, Alpha Beta ~1970s


Aerial: Whites 1979


Whites Canyon Bridge Construction 1988

RETURN TO TOP ]   RETURN TO MAIN INDEX ]   PHOTO CREDITS ]   BIBLIOGRAPHY ]   BOOKS FOR SALE ] is another service of SCVTV, a 501c3 Nonprofit • Site contents ©SCVTV • Additional copyrights apply