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.
• 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 find other 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.
• To go right to the great Iverson cinematographers,click here.
• 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.
• If you know of a way I can set up this blog so readers can subscribe to receive future posts via email, please let me know. In the meantime there's a link all the way at the bottom of this page that says "Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)," and if you're inclined to try it, it seems to take you into a world of customizable home pages or something, and you can have blog updates as a part of that page ... whether this is useful to you, who knows, but I thought I'd let you know it's there.
• Your feedback is appreciated — please leave a comment on any post, or email me at iversonfilmranch@aol.com.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

When legends collide: Bat Masterson vs. the Skipper (from "Gilligan's Island")

Alan Hale Jr., left, as the Skipper, and Gene Barry as Bat Masterson

A confrontation took place in the late 1950s between the man who would go on to become a TV legend as the Skipper on "Gilligan's Island" and the noted actor Gene Barry, who was midway through his first season playing Wild West legend Bat Masterson on the NBC series of the same name.

The incident took place about six years before the premiere of "Gilligan's Island," in an episode of the TV show "Bat Masterson." Here's a clip, filmed entirely on the Upper Iverson Movie Ranch — you can pop it out to full screen by clicking on the frame icon in the lower right corner, next to the YouTube logo:



The clip comes from the episode of "Bat Masterson" titled "A Personal Matter," which was filmed in 1958 and premiered on NBC on Jan. 28, 1959. The action takes place in the Oak Flats area of the Upper Iverson, and along with a number of the location's distinctive oak trees, the clip offers a good look at the famous movie rock known as the Molar.

Here are a few of the highlights, from a location standpoint ...

Around the 8-second mark we get our first look at the Molar, which is identified above.

About 14 seconds in, the above shot shows the close proximity of the Molar to Prominent Rock.

The Line of Trees: This feature marked the western boundary of the Upper Iverson Movie Ranch. On the other side of the Line of Trees was the neighboring Brandeis Ranch, which was also a filming location in the 1930s and 1940s.

Later in the clip we get a shot of the Skipper — er, Alan Hale Jr. — with a number of the famous movie trees of Oak Flats in the background.

A few moments later the clip provides a glimpse of Bear Tree, named after an episode of Disney's 1955 TV serial "The Adventures of Spin and Marty." Please click here to read an earlier blog post about the discovery of Bear Tree.

Finally, a shot near the end of the clip briefly reveals both Round Rock and a tree that was located near Bear Tree that has been referred to in research as Tree D. While Bear Tree, also known as Tree A, survived development and remains in place today on the former Upper Iverson — as does Round Rock — Tree D appears to have been removed sometime in the 1950s.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chuck Connors and Dale Robertson do some male bonding

Chuck Connors, left, and Dale Robertson in "Tales of Wells Fargo" (1957)

A couple of years before he became famous as "The Rifleman," Chuck Connors helped launch another TV Western, "Tales of Wells Fargo." Connors appeared alongside series star Dale Robertson in the first episode of the show, "The Thin Rope," which premiered March 18, 1957.



Connors and Robertson shared a stagecoach ride spanning most of the episode, a brief portion of which is seen in the above clip. The trip gave the two men plenty of time for male bonding … not to mention time to think about whether they might end up trying to kill each other. From a filming location standpoint, the episode was a showcase for the Upper Iverson Movie Ranch.

Chuck Connors and Dale Robertson — note the road in the background

The producers tried to get away with a little movie hocus-pocus on that stagecoach trip, through the magic of rear projection and the ability to reverse footage horizontally, or "flip the shot." The above screen shot includes a landmark in the background, Road Up the Hill, and because we've seen the same road in countless other productions, we can see that it appears here horizontally flipped.

This version of the screen shot points out the flipped road in the background, along with the properly oriented actors. Today the Road Up the Hill is part of a firebreak and hiking trail known as Johnson Motorway.

My own "fixed" version of the shot, showing Road Up the Hill in its proper orientation

In the above doctored version of the screen shot, I've flipped the photo to show how the road should look. Unfortunately, this also reverses the actors — in effect creating mirror images of them.

"Go West, Young Lady" (1941)

Here's an example of Road Up the Hill in another production. The road was seen hundreds of times in the backgrounds of movies and TV shows shot on the Upper Iverson. Here the road appears in a scene from the Columbia Western comedy/musical "Go West, Young Lady," which starred Glenn Ford, Penny Singleton, Ann Miller and Charlie Ruggles.

In this version of the shot from "Go West, Young Lady" the Road Up the Hill is pointed out. It's seen more clearly here than in the reverse-projection footage used in "Tales of Wells Fargo," but its distinctive shape leaves no doubt that it's the same road.

 "Tales of Wells Fargo" — Chuck and Dale approach the Reflecting Pool

Around the 1:16 mark in the video clip — the shot looks like the above photo — watch as the stagecoach wobbles while it struggles to negotiate an especially rocky stretch of road through Bobby's Bend. This rough piece of road, which I call the Floor, is ribbed with a series of large boulders, posing a formidable obstacle. While it seems nuts to even try to traverse this section of what could hardly be called a "road" in a rickety wooden stage, presumably this sort of thing was par for the course in the days of stagecoach travel — and here the stage does make it over the obstacle.

The photo contains a number of Upper Iverson features, which I've noted in the above version of the shot. You can learn more about these features by clicking on the following links: Wrench Rock, Smiling Lion, Two-Humper, the Aztec.

"The Tomb" (1986)

Here's one of the best views of the Floor that I've seen in any production. This view from high above Wrench Rock appears in the movie "The Tomb," a Fred Olen Ray film about an Egyptian curse with a cast that included John Carradine, Sybil Danning and Cameron Mitchell. It was one of the later films shot on this part of the Iverson Movie Ranch, and as you can see, the producers brought a couple of camels to the site for the shoot.

In this version of the photo from "The Tomb" I've identified the area I call the Floor, along with nearby Gold Raiders Rock, which is partially visible here. Please click here if you would like to see more photos from this unusual Upper Iverson shoot and learn more about "The Tomb" — including the Iverson location of the Tomb itself.

Back to that first "Tales of Wells Fargo" episode, this shot from the video clip above illustrates why the Reflecting Pool has that name, with the camera capturing a clear reflection of Wrench Rock in the pool.

The pool continues to be employed as a creative element as the sequence plays out. Here it conveys partial reflections of two of the bushwackers getting the drop on Chuck Connors. We also see Notch Rock directly above the head of one of the bad guys.

Chuck Connors in "Tales of Wells Fargo," with Wrench Rock in the background

The hat says "goofy Western sidekick" but the eyes say "bad intent." Connors plays an enigmatic character here — is he the naive rube Button Smith, or the notorious outlaw Pete Johnson? We get a tasty glimpse of both personas in his "Tales of Wells Fargo" appearance — and as anyone who ever saw "Nightmare in Badham County" can tell you, there was more to Chuck Connors than the upright citizen and loving dad he played on "The Rifleman."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

We knew and loved him as Dickie Jones — a B-Western child star and early TV Western pioneer; Richard Percy Jones, the voice of "Pinocchio," is dead at 87

Dick Jones as Buffalo Bill Jr.

With great sadness I must report the death of a man who was a fixture at the Iverson Movie Ranch during his acting career. Dick Jones made an impact as a child actor in B-Westerns, as a young man in the early days of television, and — as if that weren't enough — as the voice of the beloved Disney character "Pinocchio" in the 1940 animated movie.

12-year-old actor Dickie Jones reading the title role for "Pinocchio" in 1939

Richard Percy Jones — or as he was known early in his career, Dickie Jones — died Monday, July 7. 2014, at 87. He was one of the last of an era, a veteran who acted in the B-Westerns in their heyday in the 1930s and 1940s ... precious few of whom are still around.

 Dick Jones, at right, on the South Rim of the Upper Iverson Movie Ranch in "Wagon Team" (1952)

As a young man transitioning from his career as a child actor, Jones was taken under the wing of Gene Autry, appearing with the cowboy star in a series of Autry's Westerns in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when Jones was in his early 20s — "The Strawberry Roan" (1948), "Sons of New Mexico" (1949), "Wagon Team" (1952), "The Old West" (1952) and "Last of the Pony Riders" (1953).

Dick Jones on the Upper Iverson in the TV series "The Range Rider" (1953)

Autry was savvy enough to recognize the increasing importance of the new medium of television, and as Autry moved to the small screen with his own show, he brought Jones along for the ride. Autry groomed Jones with a string of appearances on "The Gene Autry Show" from 1950-1954. At the same time, he put Jones in a meaty role as the sidekick to B-Western veteran Jock Mahoney on the "Range Rider" TV series, produced by Autry's Flying A Pictures.

Dick Jones, right, and Jock Mahoney in "The Range Rider," 
with Iverson's Center Rock in the background (1953)

Jones played the teenage sidekick to the "much older" Mahoney (born Jacques O'Mahoney and billed as Jack Mahoney on the show), even though Jones was 26 by the time "The Range Rider" wrapped its three-year run in syndication in 1953 — and even though the ever-youthful Jones was only eight years younger than the veteran actor Mahoney.

"Buffalo Bill, Jr." (1955) — Dick Jones, right, appears to be getting the worst of it 
in a fight with a bad guy on Iverson's Western street

When the timing seemed right, Autry gave Jones his own show: "Buffalo Bill, Jr.," another Flying A Pictures production. The show featured a who's who of B-Western veterans in guest roles: Lee Van Cleef, Slim Pickens, Glenn Strange, Denver Pyle, William Fawcett, Kirk Alyn, Jack Ingram, John Doucette and Lane Bradford, to name a few. Jones, who was an accomplished stuntman as well as a natural horseman, put those skills to good use on the series, which had a 42-episode run in syndication, from 1955-1956.

Dick Jones, as Buffalo Bill Jr., has turned the tables on the bad guy, who wound up
crashing through the second-story railing off the hotel building in Iverson Village

By now Jones was "all grown up" and had lost the "Dickie" credit of his childhood, being billed as Dick Jones. But even though he was only 29 when "Buffalo Bill, Jr." ended its run, his career tapered off quickly after that and he appeared only sporadically on TV and in films over the next decade. His final credit was a supporting role in the Rod Cameron Western "Requiem for a Gunfighter" in 1965.

Richard Percy Jones — aka Dickie Jones (1927-2014)

Jones retired from acting after "Requiem" and reportedly went into real estate and banking. A popular figure for decades at Western movie fan events — and by all accounts a super-nice guy — he was honored in 1989 with the Golden Boot Award, given to the greats of the Western genre for their contribution to depictions of the West on TV and in film.


In yet another honor for his highly honored career, Jones was named a Disney Legend in 2000.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

"The Lives of a Bengal Lancer": A major production of the 1930s that left its mark on the Iverson Movie Ranch

"The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" (1935) — Iverson Gorge

Paramount built a major set in the Iverson Movie Ranch's Upper Gorge for "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer," part of which can be seen in the screen shot above. The movie, starring Gary Cooper and Franchot Tone, filmed at Iverson in 1934 and had its New York premiere on Jan. 11, 1935. The movie is widely considered one of the most important of the early sound productions filmed on the movie ranch.

In this version of the screen shot, I've identified some of the Iverson rock features surrounding the "Mogala" set in "Bengal Lancer." I'll highlight these and others in more detail below, and you can click on the following links to see previous blog posts about Nyoka Cliff, Three Ages Rock and Wyatt Earp Rock.

Director Henry Hathaway

"The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, for Henry Hathaway. Two assistant directors, Clem Beauchamp and Paul Wing, both won Academy Awards for their work on the film.

Henry Hathaway and Marilyn Monroe on the set of "Niagara"

Even though Hathaway went on to direct acclaimed movies including "True Grit" with John Wayne, "Call Northside 777" with James Stewart and "Niagara" with Marilyn Monroe, "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" produced his only Oscar nomination.

When we are introduced to Mogala — the mountain fortress where the final battle will play out in "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" — it is late in the movie and much of the preceding action has been filmed in the Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, Calif. Because of this, the producers of "Bengal Lancer" took steps to create the illusion that Mogala was set in Lone Pine.

Fake "Mogala" — matte painting, set in Lone Pine, Calif.

A fake version of Mogala, consisting of a matte painting, was placed against the backdrop of Lone Pine, with its rocky landscape in the foreground and the Eastern Sierra in the background. The tallest peak, near the center of the shot, is Lone Pine Peak, which is often mistakenly referred to as Mount Whitney. This version of Mogala never existed in the real world — it's the figment of an artist's imagination. But it does bear some resemblance to the real set for Mogala, built in the Iverson Gorge.

Mogala set, in Iverson's Upper Gorge, for "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer"

The "real" Mogala, seen here, stood in Iverson's Upper Gorge and included two main towers, a main lookout canopy, an impressive gate (see below) and various minor structures, many of them built onto the revered and long-lost Iverson rock feature known as The Wall.

Here's the same shot with some of the key features noted. The Wall and Potato Rock, which sat atop The Wall, are incorporated into the Mogala set, while Garden of the Gods is seen in the background and Elders Peak is also part of the background, being located a short distance southwest of the Iverson Gorge.

The main gate into the fortress city of Mogala spanned the gap between Three Ages Rock, on the right, and Wyatt Earp Rock, on the left.

Here's the same screen shot with some of the features noted. "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" was one of the first productions to bring camels to the Iverson Movie Ranch.

Another view of Mogala's formidable entry gate — camels and all — provides a better look at Three Ages Rock, with the lookout canopy built onto it. Most of the rock features visible in this photo remain in place today.

This is the same shot, with a number of notations related to Three Ages Rock. The name "Three Ages Rock" comes from the 1923 Buster Keaton silent feature "Three Ages," which filmed heavily in the Gorge and in Garden of the Gods, including a key sequence using the rock we now call Three Ages Rock. The name refers to the whole length of the rock, which is mostly still in place in the Gorge, but the name has also been used to refer specifically to the distinctive rectangular boulder that sits atop the rock feature.

This screen shot offers an even better look at the rectangular boulder that is the defining feature of Three Ages Rock. To my eye it resembles one of those aerodynamic luggage carriers that can be affixed to the roof of a car — and I have referred to the rock in the past as "the Luggage Carrier."

The camels get their closeup below Three Ages Rock in "Lives of a Bengal Lancer." Camels have appeared at Iverson on a number of occasions, including in the 1950s for the Bible series "The Old Testament Scriptures," and again in the waning days of Iverson's run as a movie location, for the 1986 release "The Tomb."

Inevitably, the gate to Mogala was breached, and when it was the camera pulled back enough to expose the rounded northern tip of Three Ages Rock, visible at the far right in this shot, about two-thirds of the way up. I call this part of the rock the D-Train, and you can find previous blog entries about it by looking it up in the long index at the right of this page, or read about the D-Train's appearance in a Tarzan movie by clicking here.

Much of the portion of Three Ages Rock I call the D-Train was destroyed to make way for condo development. You can read about the demise of the D-Train by clicking here.

The Iverson Gorge, as the fortress city of Mogala, played host to a large cast for the final battle sequence in "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer."

Something that would be easy to miss in the movie is the presence of a small rock feature consisting of three main boulders. This rock arch lurks in the shadows for much of the movie. You can barely make it out in the shot above, just to the left of the tower. I call this feature "Lancer Arch," in honor of "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer."

This shot pinpoints Lancer Arch. The arch should not be confused with the larger and much more prominent feature Gorge Arch, which was located nearby.

A wider shot of the tower from "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" provides a slightly better look at Lancer Arch, with other features of the Iverson Gorge also visible, including Nyoka Cliff in the background, Wyatt Earp Rock and Evolution.

Here's the same shot with Lancer Arch identified, along with other rock features. I recently blogged about the rock I call Evolution, and you can read that entry by clicking here. Another recent blog entry focuses on Wyatt Earp Rock.


Lancer Arch can also be seen in a number of other productions, with one of its most prominent appearances captured in the above shot from the Roger Corman cult film "The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent."

Here's another look at the "Viking Women" shot, with Lancer Arch and other features identified.

"One Foot in Hell" (1960)

Lancer Arch makes another appearance in the widescreen Alan Ladd Western "One Foot in Hell," from 20th Century Fox, which built a temporary set for the movie that included a small stable. In the above screen shot the arch can be seen at the left, partially blocked by the horse in the stable. The rock feature that dominates the center of the shot is Wyatt Earp Rock.

This version of the "One Foot in Hell" shot points out the juxtaposition of the Upper Gorge features Lancer Arch, Wyatt Earp Rock and Three Ages Rock. In the Mogala set for "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer," the gate to Mogala spanned the gap between Three Ages Rock and Wyatt Earp Rock, and would have been behind the rider in the above shot.

"Zane Grey Theatre" TV series (1959)

One more appearance by Lancer Arch takes place in an episode of the Western anthology TV series "Zane Grey Theatre." In the episode, "The Law and the Gun," which premiered June 4, 1959, a small water feature was created on the plateau above Iverson Gorge.

I've highlighted Lancer Arch and Wyatt Earp Rock here, but the feature that dominates the shot is that small manmade pond in the foreground. This plateau just above the Iverson Gorge is now occupied by the Cal West Townhomes — and both Lancer Arch and Wyatt Earp Rock were destroyed during construction of that project.

French lobby card for "The Real Glory" (1939)

"Bengal Lancer" director Henry Hathaway also directed a number of Westerns, especially early in his career, and worked frequently at Iverson. His Iverson movies include "Law of Vengeance" (1933) with Randolph Scott; "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" (1936), starring Fred MacMurray, Sylvia Sidney and Henry Fonda; and "The Real Glory" (1939), a war movie that again paired Hathaway with Gary Cooper.


The links below will take you to DVD versions of "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" on Amazon.com: