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.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Iverson 101: Hidden gems in the opening to the TV show "The Lone Ranger"

The Lone Ranger — Clayton Moore — and Silver

"The Lone Ranger" remains one of the most popular TV Westerns of all time, and its famous opening sequence, with Rossini's "William Tell Overture" blaring its fanfare as Clayton Moore storms across the Iverson Movie Ranch on the back of his trusty steed Silver, is forever etched on our collective consciousness — to the point where many of us will never be able to hear the composition without thinking of the legendary Masked Man.

Gioachino Rossini, the "King of Opera" ... and composer of the "William Tell Overture"

A number of different versions exist of that iconic TV show opening, and a degree of confusion surrounds the sequence — especially when it comes to filming locations. Figuring out just what's going on in the various "Lone Ranger" openings is part of Fundamentals of the Iverson Movie Ranch, or "Iverson 101."

By the way, is it just me? ...

  John Goodman, above, and Gioachino Rossini are not the same guy

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, as the Lone Ranger rides again ...

Below you will find several of the main versions of the opening. I will do my best to sort them out — but first I want to make sure you know that you can expand any of these video clips to full screen by clicking on the frame icon in the lower right corner, next to the YouTube logo ...


The original opening to the "Lone Ranger" TV show, seen below, is NOT the most widely seen version of the opening. This version, in various forms, appeared only during the show's original run on TV and only for its first four seasons, from 1949-1955. After that the opening was refilmed, and subsequent airings of the show, including the first run for season five (from 1956-1957) along with later presentations of all five seasons in syndication, on videotape and eventually on cable and DVD, ran with variations of the refilmed opening. (I'll go into more detail about these versions below.)



Version 1 of the opening to "The Lone Ranger" — shot in Lone Pine and on the Iverson Movie Ranch

The original opening, seen above, begins with a sequence shot in Lone Pine, Calif., which plays out over the clip's first 21 seconds. The scene then transitions to the Iverson Movie Ranch, where Clayton Moore, as the Lone Ranger, first rides south through the Iverson Gorge as the cry of "Hi-yo Silver!" is heard and the familiar voiceover comes on, talking about "a fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty 'Hi-yo Silver!"

With the Lone Ranger in the saddle, Silver rears up next to Lone Ranger Rock in the Iverson Gorge, 
from the 1949 version of the opening to the TV show

The big moment starts at about the 31-second mark, as Lone Ranger Rock comes into view and Silver then rears up on his hind legs next to the distinctive landmark. You'll notice several cuts or edits during this sequence, something that's common to all known iterations of the opening. Every version I've seen has a series of edits during the "rearing up" scene, which makes sense as it would have been pretty much impossible to get Silver to scamper up the hill to the rock, turn slightly to the left and immediately do a picture-perfect "rearing up" — all within a matter of a few seconds. (Never mind pausing for the episode title to appear before turning and heading down into the Gorge on cue.)

Lone Ranger Rock as it appears today

Lone Ranger Rock, which got its name from its appearance in the opening to the TV show, can still be visited today, on the former site of the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif. You can see it from the car as you drive north on Redmesa Road, just north of Santa Susana Pass Road, and you can also get out and hike a short distance for your photo op with the rock.

The Lone Ranger heads down the Gorge in the extended version of the original 1949 opening

As the clip continues, the Lone Ranger leaves Lone Ranger Rock and continues his ride south through the Iverson Gorge. A version of this part of the ride appears in both the original 1949 opening and the 1956 reshoot. However, the most commonly seen versions (which are from the 1956 reshoot) cut short the ride well before the point seen in the screen shot above. The original 1949 clip above contains what is probably the longest version of the Ranger's ride into the Gorge.

A shot of Iverson's Upper Gorge from the original opening, just before the ascent to Lone Ranger Rock

The above shot, taken from the original 1949 opening, appears moments before the Lone Ranger makes a right turn to head up to Lone Ranger Rock. It's seen at about the 28-second mark in the clip above. The shot features a portion of Iverson's Upper Gorge, including key rocks that are still in place today. Behind the Lone Ranger and Silver, the shot also includes the trail the Ranger rides as he approaches Lone Ranger Rock. Below I will compare this shot with its counterpart from the 1956 reshoot, and will talk about the features seen in the shot.

If you're inclined to try to follow in the hoofsteps of Silver and hike the path taken by the Lone Ranger — and I can tell you from personal experience, you're not the first to want to do it — the good news is you can do just that. The trail where Clayton Moore and Silver rode through the Iverson Gorge has been preserved as public land, an unmarked section of Garden of the Gods Park on the east side of Redmesa Road in Chatsworth. As long as you stay below the condos, you should have only the rattlesnakes and poison oak to worry about.


It's worth emphasizing that version 2 is an ENTIRELY NEW VERSION of the opening, containing none of the original footage. I'm emphasizing it because a large portion of the new opening closely replicates footage from the original version filmed seven years earlier, and many viewers — including myself — have probably watched the two versions of this footage countless times without realizing it's from two different shoots, seven years apart. (I'll go into detail below about how to tell the 1949 and 1956 versions apart.)

This is the version of the opening that is probably the most familiar to fans of the TV show:



Version 2 of the opening to "The Lone Ranger" — shot entirely on the Iverson Movie Ranch, in 1956

Along with all-new video, this new 1956 version features a new arrangement of the "William Tell Overture" — although it's hard to tell them apart until about 12 seconds in, when the familiar "deedle-eet, deedle-eet, deedle-eet-deet-deet" part, now synonymous with the Lone Ranger, kicks in. (If you go back to the 1949 clip and pay attention to the music, you may be surprised to find that the "deedle-eet" section is missing from the first half of the clip — but it does come in around the 34-second mark, and accompanies the ride into the Lower Gorge.)

In the new video, Clayton Moore again guides Silver along the same trail through the Iverson Gorge that he traversed in 1949, and again the horse rears up next to Lone Ranger Rock.

Season 5 title shot — the fifth season was the only one shot in color

The backstory on this version is that the opening was completely reshot, in color, in 1956, for the fifth and, as it turned out, final season of the series — the only season of the show that aired in color. (See version 4, below, for the color version of the opening.) This new color version of the opening sequence, shot entirely on the Iverson Movie Ranch, was then "decolorized" for use on subsequent airings and repackages of seasons one through four of the TV show — in reruns, in syndication, on videotape, and eventually, on cable and DVD.

The Lone Ranger and Silver at Lone Ranger Rock, as seen in the clip from 1956

The climactic moment for most fans probably comes about halfway through the clip, soon after the familiar cry of "Hi-Yo Silver!" is heard, when Clayton Moore rides up to the rock now known as Lone Ranger Rock and rears up on Silver. It is because of this sequence that the rock came to be known as Lone Ranger Rock, and remains the most famous rock on the former site of the Iverson Movie Ranch.

Here's a side-by-side view of the two different "rearing up" sequences shot at Lone Ranger Rock — the original 1949 version on the left and the 1956 reshoot on the right.

One quick way to tell the two shoots apart is by looking at the shadows on Lone Ranger Rock. In the 1949 footage, much of the rock is in shadow, while in the 1956 update, the rock is largely in sunlight.

If you think about it, it's a real tribute to the importance the producers of "The Lone Ranger" placed on Lone Ranger Rock that they made a point to refilm the sequence in the exact same location. I do not know whether the rock had come to be known as Lone Ranger Rock by 1956, but if anyone has any insights on the topic, I hope you will comment or contact me by email.

Frame from version 2 of the "Lone Ranger" opening, with a white gate visible

One element distinguishing this version of the opening — although it goes by quickly — is a white gate that appears briefly in the background at about the 17-second mark, immediately before the cry of "Hi-yo Silver!"

Here's the same screen shot from version 2, with the gate noted. In version 3 of the opening, which you can see below, the gate has been edited out and a few other minor changes have been made.

Here's a shot of the Lone Ranger just before he arrives at Lone Ranger Rock, taken from the 1956 reshoot. This shot can be compared with a similar shot from the original 1949 shoot, which I posted higher up. In the next three photos I will point out some of the details in the two shots.

This is the same 1956 shot with a few key details pointed out. Other than Sticky Bun, which was concealed behind foliage in the 1949 sequence, these same features are also seen in the original, as noted below.

Here's another look at the comparable moment in the 1949 sequence, with key details noted. Sea Leopard is the nickname I've used in my research to indicate the large rock seen at the right in both shots. While all of the noted features remain in place today, Sea Leopard is virtually impossible to find because it is now buried under heavy vegetation. The other features seen here remain relatively easy to find.

Here's a comparison of the Sea Leopard sightings in the 1949 shot and the 1956 shot, focusing one of the key differences between the two shots. Notice how much more foliage appears around and in front of Sea Leopard in the 1956 version, with the native vegetation having grown significantly in just seven years. Today this growth surrounds and towers over the rock, effectively making it impossible to see.


I'm including a version 2a here — It's the same footage seen above in version 2, but a shorter edit, omitting the ride down the Gorge after the Lone Ranger leaves Lone Ranger Rock. This clip also happens to run too fast, but I'm including it because the picture quality is better than on my version 2 above.

Here's the speeded-up version 2, which provides a better look at the gate and other details:



Version 2a — runs fast, but the picture is better

While this clip runs a little too fast (or a lot too fast, depending on your tolerance level), it has the best picture quality I've been able to find for this version of the opening. It runs about 30 seconds and was filmed — and it was film, not video, in those days — entirely on the Iverson Movie Ranch, in 1956.


Version 3 is one of a number of variations created with minor edits, but it represents a significant evolution from version 2 in that it deletes the apparently unwanted (and initially overlooked) appearance of the gate.


  
Version 3 of the opening to "The Lone Ranger" — edited down from version 2 (shot in 1956, entirely at Iverson)

This version contains a number of additional edits of the footage found in version 2, besides deleting the brief shot of the gate. One key difference is that in this version, after the cry of "Hi-yo Silver!," the Lone Ranger fires three shots before riding up to Lone Ranger Rock. That's edited down from the five shots he fires in version 2.


I want to note that I'm not presenting these openings in the chronological sequence in which they first appeared, because version 4, the color opening, would have preceded versions 2 and 3, which are decolorized reprints of version 4, the color opening. Here's the 1956 shoot as it was intended, in color:



The clip I've posted here is truncated, but it's the best I could find. It does not include any footage after the "rearing up" sequence at Lone Ranger Rock, so it excludes the ride down the Gorge. However, this clip matches version two (other than the fact that one is in color and one's in black-and-white), in that this original color clip also includes the brief glimpse of the white gate, and it also has the Lone Ranger firing five shots after the cry of "Hi-yo Silver!"

Here's the original appearance, in color, of that pesky white gate. This is part of the first segment of the reshot opening, which takes place on the Upper Iverson. In this color clip, the Upper Iverson segment lasts about 17 seconds, right up to the cry of "Hi-yo Silver!," where the scene shifts to the Lower Iverson for the ride past Sea Leopard, the ascent up to Lone Ranger Rock and — had it been included — the eventual ride down into the Lower Gorge.

Another screen shot from the portion of the color 1956 opening that was filmed on the Upper Iverson, this frame includes Pyramid Peak in the background, behind the Lone Ranger's head, along with the Line of Trees. The Line of Trees marked the western boundary of the Upper Iverson, with neighboring Brandeis Ranch on the other side of the trees. Brandeis was also a filming location for a period of time in the 1930s and 1940s.


Here's what the opening looks like — and more to the point, sounds like — in Spanish:



Version 5 of the opening to "The Lone Ranger" — Spanish version, "El Llanero Solitario"

One of the most interesting things about this Spanish version is that it uses a completely different recording of the "William Tell Overture." I like this one better than either of the two arrangements used on the U.S. versions, as the horns have a more dynamic sound. The video footage seen here is the same footage from 1956, shot entirely on the Iverson Movie Ranch, and in some ways this interpretation of the opening is closer to the familiar version 2, above, than are any of the opening's other incarnations. Here again, we see the white gate, and here we again have five shots ring out after the cry of "Hi-yo Silver!" Of course, we also have a completely different voiceover here, in Spanish, along with a "Spanish-sounding" guy yelling "Hi-yo Silver!"


The above examples are NOT all there is when it comes to the "Lone Ranger" opening. These few variations are by no means an exhaustive collection of the many openings to the TV show. A virtually unlimited number of variations exist, but I tried to hit on the main differences here without going overboard. If you watch your own "Lone Ranger" episodes, you will undoubtedly discover other variations.

Before I knew about the 1956 color reshoot, I posted several years ago about the "Lone Ranger" opening and speculated about whether the sequence had been colorized. I learned from a reader that it had not, and I've since learned a lot more about the opening. But that original post is still up, and you can read it, if you're interested, by clicking here.


Below are some links to various DVD packages of the TV show "The Lone Ranger" that are available on Amazon — I have the 75th Anniversary set, which contains complete seasons one and two, and I can vouch for it being pretty amazing in terms of Iverson Movie Ranch content:


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.