Here's what the Iverson Movie Ranch obsession is all about ...

For an introduction to this blog and to the obsession a growing number of vintage film and TV fans have with the Iverson Movie Ranch — the most widely filmed outdoor location in movie and TV history — please read the site's introductory post, found here.
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• To find specific rock features or look up movie titles, TV shows, actors and production people, see the "LABELS" section — the long alphabetical listing on the right side of the page, below.
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• I've also begun a YouTube channel for Iverson Movie Ranch clips and other movie location videos, which you can get to by clicking here.
• Here's a link to Garden of the Gods, the best-known section of the Iverson Movie Ranch (featured in the movie "Stagecoach," the "Lone Ranger" TV show and hundreds of other productions).
• To go right to the great Iverson cinematographers, click here.
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Monday, March 2, 2015

The Iverson Movie Ranch Western street, one building at a time ... Part XI: The North and South Towers

"Check Your Guns" (1948): Eddie Dean and the Two Towers

A large section of the eastern side of the Iverson Western street was occupied by the two similar buildings shown here in a shot from the PRC Western "Check Your Guns."

The neighboring two-story "towers," which I identify in my research as the North Tower and South Tower, are immediately recognizable by their angular rooflines and vertical windows — four windows on the South Tower and three windows on the North Tower.

"The Range Rider" TV series (1952)

The Two Towers became a familiar sight to movie and TV fans through their frequent appearances in productions shot on the Western street over a span of a little more than 10 years, from 1946 to 1957. The above shot comes from an episode of the early TV Western "The Range Rider" titled "Renegade Ranch."

The towers occupied the space between the Livery Stable to the south and the Sheriff's Office to the north. Their rooflines and windows were part of a major renovation of that side of the street that took place starting in 1946.

"Along Came Jones" (1945): Before the Towers were built

When the town set first surfaced in "Along Came Jones," that part of the eastern side of the street consisted of an almost unnoticeable single-story structure.

Renovation on this single-story structure would begin almost as soon as production wrapped on "Along Came Jones" in 1945. By late 1946, the place would look quite a bit different. 

In "Along Came Jones" the span between the Livery Stable and the Sheriff's Office housed two small businesses: the Chinese Laundry, to the north, and a store dealing in "Ladies' and Gentlemen's Furnishings," to the south.

This is the clearest shot I could find of the sign on the Chinese Laundry in "Along Came Jones."

Here's a closeup of the sign. I looks to me like "Hop Sing Chinese Laundry," but I'm not positive about the name. If it is Hop Sing, then it's the same name later used for the Cartwright family's cook on "Bonanza."

The Chinese Laundry was filmed from inside the Lost Dutchman across the street during an attempted ambush In "Along Came Jones." Click here to read an entry on the Lost Dutchman that talks more about this sequence.

Here's a partial glimpse of the sign for "Ladies' and Gentlemen's Furnishings" in "Along Came Jones."

"California" (filmed in 1946, released in February 1947)

Within a year after the release of "Along Came Jones," the producers of the Barbara Stanwyck movie "California" had created a new look for the Chinese Laundry/Furnishings area, adding second stories with new storefronts that, as far as I know, would be seen only in that one movie.

For its appearance in "California," the South Tower bore some resemblance to a Quonset hut, while the North Tower had a more traditional Wild West storefront appearance. The buildings' trademark vertical windows were already in place, but the shapes of both storefronts would soon be redesigned.

Promotional still for "California" — Barbara Stanwyck in the striped dress

"California" was filmed in color, but the clearest image I've seen of this rare "Quonset hut" front on the South Tower is in this black-and-white promo shot for the Paramount Western. The most prominent building in the shot is the Livery Stable at the right, appearing as "General Agent & Outfitters." The photo comes from the collection of Western film historian Jerry England.

"El Paso" (1949)

By 1949 the familiar angled roofs were in place on the North and South Towers, as seen in another Paramount Western, "El Paso" — the movie that gave the Iverson town set one of its nicknames, "El Paso Street."

Now the rooflines on the Two Towers matched those on the other major structures on the east side of the street, the Livery Stable and General Store.

"Calamity Jane and the Texan" (1950)

Once the angled roofs were in place, the "permanent" look of the North and South Towers was set. This shot in Columbia's "Calamity Jane and the Texan" bears a strong resemblance to the shot from "El Paso" a year earlier.

The biggest difference between the "El Paso" shot and the shot one year later from "Calamity Jane and the Texan" is that by 1950 the original Casa Grande built for "El Paso" had been replaced with a more generic design.

"El Paso": North Tower as "Texas Development"

Both towers took on a variety of identities in their many movie and TV appearances over the years. In "El Paso" the North Tower became the lending firm "Texas Development."

The South Tower played the Sheriff's Office in "El Paso," although it's hard to read the sign in this dusty shot. You may want to click on the photo to see a larger version.

"The Nevadan" (filmed in 1949, released in 1950)

In the Randolph Scott Western "The Nevadan," released in January 1950 by Columbia, the unmarked North and South Towers were just across the street from the Westville Stage Depot, which was played by the Saloon.

"The Daltons' Women" (filmed in 1949, released in 1950)

For the Lash LaRue movie "The Daltons' Women," from Poverty Row studio Western Adventure Productions, the stage stop moved across the street, with the sign on the North Tower reading "Stage Coach Depot." This is another nice promo still from the Jerry England collection.

"Gold Raiders" (1951)

Most of the buildings in town got new names for the Three Stooges movie "Gold Raiders." The South Tower became "Johns General Merchandise."

"Silver Canyon (1951)

The Gene Autry B-Western "Silver Canyon" did some shooting on the Iverson Western street around the same time the Three Stooges were in town, and part of the sign on the South Tower found its way into the Autry movie.

"Gold Raiders" — the North Tower as the Odd Fellows Lodge

It may be hard to spot here, but a sign on the front of the North Tower in the Three Stooges movie says "IOOF Lodge," indicating that the building is a meeting place for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

While the "Odd Fellows" reference could be taken as a humorous swipe at the Three Stooges, the reference is historically accurate. During America's "Golden Age of Fraternalism" in the second half of the 19th century, the IOOF was the predominant fraternal organization in the small towns of the West.

"The Range Rider" TV series (1953)

Like other signs installed in town for "Gold Raiders," the "IOOF Lodge" sign on the North Tower took on a life of its own. A blurry version of the sign appears in the top left corner of this shot from the "Range Rider" episode "Convict at Large." The episode aired in 1953, but I believe the footage was probably from 1951 or 1952.

"The Lone Ranger" TV series (shot in 1956, aired in 1957)

The Western town set fell on hard times in later years — whether by design or due to actual deterioration, as it was sometimes hard to tell which was which. When things started falling apart, as in this shot from the TV show "The Lone Ranger," the Two Towers went into decline along with the rest of the town.

This version of the screen shot points out the North and South Towers, toward the left, along with other key features of the town and its surroundings. The shot comes from the "Lone Ranger" episode "Ghost Town Fury," which premiered March 28, 1957.

"Sky King" TV series (1955)

I hope this shot is not a disappointment for readers, but aerial footage of the Iverson Western town taken in 1955 for the TV series "Sky King" revealed that the North and South Towers were movie props and not actual buildings. Like much of the town set, the towers consisted mainly of false fronts with partial roofs.

From a historical standpoint, this aerial footage is extremely important. I'm not sure it would have been known that the Two Towers were fronts had it not been for the "Sky King" footage, illustrating the key role a single production can play in unlocking the secrets of movie history.

"The Iverson Movie Ranch Western street, one building at a time" is a continuing series covering the movie and TV history of each of the major structures making up Iverson's town set, which stood from 1945 to 1957 and appeared in hundreds of productions.

To see other posts in this series on the Iverson Western street, please click on the following links:

Part I: Casa Grande
Part II: The Livery Stable
Part III: The Saloon
Part IV: The Hotel
Part V: The General Store 
Part VI: The Barn
Part VII: The Sheriff's Office
Part VIII: The North and South Adobes
Part IX: The Lost Dutchman
Part X: The original north end of town

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Iverson Movie Ranch Western street, one building at a time ... Part X: The original north end of town

"Along Came Jones" (1945) — Loretta Young at the north end of the Western street

The original Iverson Western street, built in 1945 for the Gary Cooper-Loretta Young feature "Along Came Jones," included no fewer than five buildings at the north end of town that would be torn down in the next couple of years.

Four of those buildings — the Lost Dutchman, the Barber Shop, the original Blacksmith Shop and a small adobe at the far north end of town — were situated on the west side of the street.

Here's another look at the Barber Shop, Blacksmith Shop and small adobe, again from "Along Came Jones," with Gary Cooper riding his horse across the street. All of these buildings would soon be gone.

"Along Came Jones" — Gary Cooper arrives at the General Store

Also disappearing within a few years would be the small, odd-shaped building to the north of the General Store, on the east side of the street. In this shot the building can be seen above and behind Gary Cooper.

The odd-shaped building is highlighted above. I've never found anything explaining the building's role in "Along Came Jones" or other productions, but the building stood at least until 1947 and made it into a few movies.

"Romance of the West" (1946) — an appearance by the original Blacksmith Shop

"Along Came Jones" was the primary showcase for these early buildings, although the Blacksmith Shop resurfaced the following year in a couple of PRC B-Westerns. The Eddie Dean vehicle "Romance of the West" appears to be the first movie to film in town after production wrapped on "Along Came Jones."

"Romance of the West" — the Barber Shop

It's a little hard to tell from these washed-out shots, but "Romance of the West" was filmed in color — a significant break with B-Western tradition in 1946, and an uncharacteristically expensive move for the notoriously low-budget PRC. While the barber pole remains something close to red, the original Cinecolor has not held up well over time.

"The Caravan Trail" — the original north end of town

PRC continued its move into color with "The Caravan Trail," which premiered just one month after "Romance of the West," in April 1946. Once again an early version of the Iverson Western street was featured — including the original north end of town.

The only copy I've found of "The Caravan Trail" is pretty heavily damaged — note the vertical scoring near the top of the frame. But the movie provides rare color views of some of the short-lived buildings at the north end of town, such as the small adobe.

The original Blacksmith Shop pops up again in the background in "The Caravan Trail," although its painted "Blacksmith — Horseshoeing" sign is hidden.

The shot is taken from the deck area in front of the South Adobe. Like its predecessor "Romance of the West," "The Caravan Trail" was shot in Cinecolor — and in this case the color has held up reasonably well.

Lash LaRue takes a gunfighter's stance in "The Caravan Trail," with the small adobe in the background. It has been reported that the Iverson Movie Ranch had a policy of waiting two years to begin filming the sets left behind by production companies, but it's clear that no such policy was in place when it came to the Western town set.

"Ghost Town Renegades" (1947): The odd-shaped building and Pond Rock

The odd-shaped building near the General Store turns up again in the Lash LaRue B-Western "Ghost Town Renegades," another PRC effort. In this shot two riders approach town from the northeast.

The odd-shaped building, Pond Rock and the northeast road in and out of town are noted in this version of the "Ghost Town Renegades" shot.

"Silver Canyon" (1951) — headed out of town toward the northeast

The same northeast road is seen a few years later in the Gene Autry movie "Silver Canyon." By this time the odd-shaped building had been torn down.

The "Ghost Town Renegades" shot and the "Silver Canyon" shot show almost exactly the same stretch of road, as evidenced by some of the background rocks. The rocks designated here as A, B, C and D ...

... appear again in the "Silver Canyon" shot four years later. The shadow of Pond Rock is visible in both photos, and a couple of large rocks can now be seen toward the left of the screen that were concealed by the odd-shaped building when it was standing.

"Check Your Guns" (1948 release, filmed in 1947)

When the Eddie Dean movie "Check Your Guns" came out in early 1948, the odd-shaped building was still in place.

As it was in "Along Came Jones," the building is partially concealed behind the General Store.

You may have noticed the large rock in the background in some of these shots. Center Rock has its own history apart from that of the Western street, appearing in many movies and TV shows. The rock outlived the town set and today can be found at the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village. Please click here to learn more about Center Rock.

"Ghost Town Renegades" (1947): North end of town in transition

By 1947, all of the buildings north of the South Adobe on the west side of the street had been torn down, and the north end of town was in a period of transition.

A temporary Blacksmith Shed jutted out into the street in the area where the Lost Dutchman previously stood, and a pile of rubble could be found on the previous site of the original Blacksmith Shop.

"The Millerson Case" (1947) — The Blacksmith Shed

We get a good look at the new Blacksmith Shed — complete with blacksmith — in the 1947 Crime Doctor movie "The Millerson Case."

The Blacksmith Shed remained in place for a couple of years while the north end of town was in transition.

"Man From Sonora" (1950)

By 1950 the transition was complete — with the removal of the Blacksmith Shed and the additions of Casa Grande and the North Adobe.

In combination with the South Adobe, which was part of the original town set, the new structures created the effect of an adobe village at the north end of town.

"The Iverson Movie Ranch Western street, one building at a time" is a continuing series covering the movie and TV history of each of the major structures making up Iverson's town set, which stood from 1945 to 1957 and appeared in hundreds of productions.

To see the other posts in this series on the Iverson Western street, please click on the following links:

Part I: Casa Grande
Part II: The Livery Stable
Part III: The Saloon
Part IV: The Hotel
Part V: The General Store 
Part VI: The Barn
Part VII: The Sheriff's Office
Part VIII: The North and South Adobes
Part IX: The Lost Dutchman