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.
• Your feedback is appreciated — please leave comments on any of the posts.
• 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.
• To join the MAILING LIST, send me an email at iversonmovieranch@gmail.com and let me know you'd like to sign up.
• 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.
• Readers can email the webmaster at iversonmovieranch@gmail.com.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Joe Iverson's "Garden of Stacked Rocks" on the Lower Iverson Movie Ranch

Joe Iverson builds a road through the Gorge, circa early 1930s

Joe Iverson, who ran all or part of the Iverson Movie Ranch for more than 60 years, was known to take it upon himself to "fine-tune" the ranch's rocky landscape.

"The Miracle Rider" (1935): Freddie Frog in foreground

One of Iverson's favorite techniques for changing the look of the place was to cement one rock on top of another — creating a "stacked rock" formation.

Freddie Frog, an early Iverson Ranch "stacked rock"

The earliest known example of a manmade stacked rock at Iverson is a feature I call Freddie Frog, which was in place as early as 1926.

Promo still for "Tell It to the Marines" (1926)

While it's relatively small and would be easy to miss in this early promo still, a careful examination of the shot reveals that Freddie Frog had already been created in 1926.

Remnants of Freddie Frog as found today

We know Freddie Frog was a manmade formation because remnants of the rock, including the cement that once held it in place, can be found today at the site.

I blogged about Freddie Frog back in February 2014, including getting into the nitty gritty about chunks of cement that remain from the formation's movie days.

"Range Beyond the Blue" (PRC, 1947)

This shot from the Eddie Dean movie "Range Beyond the Blue" shows Freddie at its most "frog-like." For more of the Freddie Frog story, please click here to read my blog post from 2014.

"Gold Raiders" (1951): Gold Raiders Rock appears at left

The Iverson Ranch was sprinkled with these "stacked rocks" throughout its filming era, and many of the stacks found their way into movies and TV shows. One of the best-known of the Iverson rock stacks is Gold Raiders Rock, seen above in the movie role that gives the rock its name.

"Ghost Town Renegades" (1947): Al "Fuzzy" St. John
rides past the future Gold Raiders Rock

Gold Raiders Rock, as it would later come to be known, also appeared in productions before it became a stacked rock. This is what it looked like before it had the smaller rock cemented on top of it.

Gold Raiders Rock today (photo by Jerry Condit)

A number of the original Iverson Movie Ranch stacked rocks have survived and can still be found on the former movie ranch. This is what Gold Raiders Rock looks like today.

"Five Guns West" (1955): "The Head" makes a rare appearance

An unusual stacked rock can be found near the west end of Cactus Hill. "The Head," as I call it, was rarely filmed, but did show its, um, head, in Roger Corman's terrific Western "Five Guns West."

The Head in modern times

The Head has survived and can still be found today next to the trail the riders used in "Five Guns West."

A closeup reveals the cement work that was done to hold the "head" in place.

A small bird rests on "The Head" as dusk approaches 

The Head may have had a limited film career, but it continues to make itself useful to the local wildlife.

Joe Iverson's "Garden of Stacked Rocks" in 2016

Joe Iverson outdid himself in one particular section of the former movie ranch, creating what amounts to a "garden of stacked rocks."

Contained within a small area are three distinct stacked-rock formations. The "garden" is located in a rarely explored private section of the former Lower Iverson, near Flat Rock and what remains of the Iverson Ranch Eucalyptus Grove.

For research purposes, I refer to the three stacked-rock formations as Grove Stacks A, B and C. The most familiar of the three is the triple stack identified here as "A."

"The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" (1960)

Grove Stack A is easy to spot in this scene from the "Wyatt Earp" TV series. The shot comes from an episode called "John Clum, Fighting Editor," which premiered April 12, 1960.

The key features of the "Wyatt Earp" shot are identified here. The camera is shooting northeast toward the nearby Eucalyptus Grove.

The same area is seen in this shot from a recent expedition to the site. A few new trees are in place, but the rock features are immediately recognizable.

"Escort West" (United Artists, 1959)

Another view of Grove Stack A, this time with the camera shooting south, appears in the Victor Mature movie "Escort West." The stacked formation can be seen at the left of the frame.

Grove Stack B in 2016

Grove Stack B, which is tucked in between Grove Stacks A and C, is the least frequently filmed of the three formations in Joe's "Garden of Stacked Rocks."

"The Roy Rogers Show" episode "Ghost Town Gold" (premiered May 25, 1952)

This rare shot from "The Roy Rogers Show" comes from one of the few scenes where it's possible to identify Grove Stack B in a production.

A portion of Grove Stack B appears at the far right in the "Roy Rogers Show" screen shot.

In fact, all three of Joe's Grove-area creations can be identified in the "Roy Rogers" shot, including a little bit of Grove Stack C hiding behind Grove Stack B.

"Hannah Lee: An American Primitive" (1953)

We get a better look at Grove Stack C in the John Ireland Western "Hannah Lee: An American Primitive."

The "Hannah Lee" shot also shows the stacked formation's proximity to Flat Rock.

"The Roy Rogers Show" episode "End of the Trail" (premiered Jan. 27, 1957)

Grove Stack C shares the screen with Roy Rogers in an episode from the final season of "The Roy Rogers Show."

Grove Stack C as it appears now, at left, and in "The Roy Rogers Show"

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the rock's profile in the "Roy Rogers" episode and in recent times.

Grove Stack C shows off its duck-shaped body in this modern-day photo.

A closeup of Grove Stack C shows the area where the "head" attaches to the body.

Zooming in further, we get a look at the cement work that helps hold the head in place.

Grove Stack B

Grove Stack B, too, is put together with the help of cement.

This closeup of Grove Stack B provides a look at some of the cement work holding the rock together.

Grove Stack A

As a classic "triple stack," Grove Stack A would have necessarily been slathered in cement.

Cement is used not only to fasten the head of Grove Stack A to the middle section, but also to hold the middle section in place atop the feature's large base rock.

Here's a closer look at the cement holding the head in place on Grove Stack A.

The finished product: Grove Stack A, in "Cole Younger, Gunfighter" (1958)

Joe Iverson's handiwork, Grove Stack A, can be seen in the lower right corner of this shot from the Allied Artists Western "Cole Younger, Gunfighter."

Joe Iverson's "Garden of Stacked Rocks" in 2016

Today the "Garden of Stacked Rocks" stands as a cement and sandstone testament to a man who knew a lot about rocks, earned his living from them — and even on occasion made his own.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

"The Outlaw Deputy": The day Karl and Augusta Iverson invited a movie company to shoot in their house

Karl and Augusta Iverson, ca. early 1940s (Quiet on the Set)

The Iverson Movie Ranch was founded by Karl and Augusta Iverson, who homesteaded in the rocky hills above the northwest San Fernando Valley in the late 19th century.

Iverson family watermelon crop (ca. early 1930s)

Like most of the families that settled the West, the Iversons' original livelihood came from farming. The family grew a variety of crops over the years, including potatoes, figs, grapes and watermelons.

"The Silent Man" (1917), one of the earliest movies filmed on the Iverson Ranch:
The rocks in the background can still be found at the site

After early Hollywood location scouts started sniffing around the couple's hillside property as early as 1912, Karl and Augusta began transitioning from farming to the movie location business.

Karl and Augusta Iverson's "house on the hill" under construction (ca. 1927)

By the late 1920s, their sons Joe and Aaron had taken over much of the day-to-day movie business, and Karl and Augusta moved into their new house overlooking the Valley.

Karl and Augusta's house after the January 1930 snowstorm

Built in about 1927, the house was located near the homes of both Joe and Aaron, but was remote enough to enable the couple to enjoy their golden years in relative privacy.

"The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" TV series (1960)

The movie business was generally kept a safe distance from the residence, which became known as the "Old Folks' House." It was only on rare occasions that a partial glimpse of the house might slip into the background of a movie or TV episode.

So it was out of character when, in 1935, Augusta and Karl allowed a film crew into their home to shoot a scene for the movie "The Outlaw Deputy."

"The Outlaw Deputy" (1935): Scene filmed in the Iversons' house

The brief scene plays out in a corner of the Iverson house, showcasing some of the building's distinctive arches. The location for this shoot would have been lost to history had it not been for the sharp eye of film historian Tinsley E. Yarbrough.

"The Outlaw Deputy": Nora Lane in the Iverson home

Tinsley noticed the scene in the movie and was able to pinpoint the location as the Old Folks' House — a jaw-dropping bit of location spotting, if you ask me.

"Foyer" area of the house, where the 1935 shoot takes place

The brief movie sequence essentially has two camera setups, one shooting west and one shooting south. Both setups were filmed in what I would call the "foyer" of the house, overlooking the Valley.

"The Outlaw Deputy": Rocky mound to the east of the Iverson Ranch

In a shot taken with the camera shooting to the east, we see a large rocky mound that today is located just east of Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Topanga would not be built through this area until the 1960s.

The same rocky mound, now located east of Topanga Canyon Boulevard

The rocky mound can still be found today, just across Topanga looking east from the former Iverson property.

Markers can be identified today that can also be seen in the movie. I've circled a number of rock clusters in this photo to facilitate matching them up against the background in the movie shot.

The same rock clusters are spotlighted here, with the outlines color-coded to match the recent shot above this one. The comparison is easier if you click on the photos to enlarge them.

Interesting rock seen with the camera shooting south

The property where the house once stood remains private and today is inaccessible. I hope to someday get a chance to track down the rock noted here, which I am almost certain would still be there.

The Old Folks' House in summer 2008

It's unclear whether the Old Folks' House had any full-time residents following the deaths of Karl and Augusta Iverson in the late 1940s. By the time I first came face to face with it in 2008 the place was all boarded up.

The boarded-up garage in 2008

After years of disuse, the Old Folks' House — aka the "House on the Hill" — became a hangout for kids hopping the fence from the nearby mobile home park.

Hangover Rock, which appeared frequently in productions, looms a short distance northwest of the house and garage.

Here's a better look at Hangover Rock in 2008, with a glimpse of the garage in the background. The African hut was a set for the NBC series "Heroes." (Click here to read more about the "Heroes" shoot.)

Remnants of the Old Folks' House after the 2008 Sesnon Fire

The Sesnon Fire, also known as the Porter Ranch Fire, ripped through the former Iverson Movie Ranch in fall 2008, destroying the Old Folks' House. I visited the site within weeks of the destruction and took pictures of the rubble.

After the fire: The "foyer"?

One part of the house that remained upright after the fire bears a resemblance to the "foyer" area used in "The Outlaw Deputy," although it does not appear to be correctly oriented. The design of the house included a number of arched entryways.

It's easy to miss the Chatsworth landmark Stoney Point, even though it looms large in the background. The shot is taken with the camera aimed toward the southeast.

Not surprisingly, the fireplace was also among the last features standing when the house burned down.

The foundation and fireplace in 2009

Not long after the fire the rubble was removed and the area was cleaned up. Even though this photo was taken in 2009, this is essentially what the foundation still looks like today.

Why "The Outlaw Deputy"?

The "Outlaw Deputy" shoot raises its share of questions. I can't help but wonder why, out of the thousands of productions filmed on their ranch, the Iversons opened their doors to an obscure Tim McCoy B-Western and then never repeated the gesture. I'd be interested to hear any theories.

I want to congratulate Tinsley E. Yarbrough on an amazing piece of detective work in spotting the "foyer" shoot, and would like to thank him again for all his great location research. Tinsley recently updated his seminal book "Those Great Western Movie Locations," which can be purchased through this previous blog post or by clicking on the Amazon icon below.