I've had to slow down a little on my blogging in the past few weeks, as I've been spending most of my spare time trying to solve the mystery of the Chinese bridge.
Lon Chaney and Eleanor Boardman: Promo still for "Tell It to the Marines"
The movie stars Lon Chaney, a major figure in silent cinema and the father of horror icon Lon Chaney Jr. Playing the love interest in the movie is Eleanor Boardman.
William Haines and Lon Chaney
William Haines is on board as the brash recruit who's the thorn in the side of Chaney's tough Marine drill instructor — and conveniently, the three main players also form a love triangle.
Lon Chaney in "Tell It to the Marines" (1926)
Known as "the Man of a Thousand Faces," the elder Lon Chaney launched the family horror movie franchise with iconic performances in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923) and "Phantom of the Opera" (1925), years before son Lon Chaney Jr. would pick up the baton and become a horror icon in his own right.
Lon Chaney Jr. menaces Evelyn Ankers in "The Wolf Man" (1941)
Chaney Jr. wound up becoming an even more familiar face — at least to modern-day audiences — with his performances as the Wolf Man, the Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster and the Son of Dracula, among other monster movie favorites.
"Tell It to the Marines": bridge spanning a steep gorge
But I digress. Let's talk about the Iverson Movie Ranch, and specifically, the ambitious 1926 shoot near the location ranch's Garden of the Gods for "Tell It to the Marines" — and that amazing Chinese arched bridge. Believe it or not, the above shot of the bridge is filmed at Iverson.
you can read by clicking here.
"Go West, Young Lady" (1941): Glenn Ford and Glenn Ford Rock
The cluster of small rocks includes one that I've been calling Glenn Ford Rock, based on a sequence in the Columbia musical comedy "Go West, Young Lady." I blogged not long ago about this sequence in a post about the Footholds area, and you can find a number of photos from the sequence by clicking here.
Glenn Ford Rock as it appears today
This shot from 2009 captures Glenn Ford Rock from approximately the same angle seen in "Go West, Young Lady," and also shows a portion of the Low Wall — the much larger rock feature beneath Glenn Ford Rock.
1926 production photo from "Tell It to the Marines": the Chinese bridge
Within the past few weeks, the above behind-the-scenes photo surfaced from production on "Tell It to the Marines." This production photo, unearthed by Iverson historian Ben Burtt, may be the single most important clue to come along in the effort to pinpoint the location of the bridge.
A portion of the Footholds area (2015)
The Footholds area, or simply "Footholds," can be found a short distance north of Garden of the Gods and contains a high concentration of manmade indentations in the rocks. Many of them do appear to have been used as footholds, but it has also become clear that some of these "footholds" played roles in the construction of movie sets. For an intro to the Footholds, I encourage you to check out this blog entry from earlier this year.
Closeup of Foothold A
After I published my post on Footholds back in June, several readers came forward with their own theories. Movie location aficionado Bob Chancey, a regular reader of the blog, even suggested that some of the Footholds — especially the square ones, such as Foothold A — might be related specifically to the bridge in "Tell It to the Marines." As it turns out, Bob's suggestion appears to be right on the mark.
Newly discovered "Foothold G"
I recently did a little more exploring at the site, and I think I struck gold. The above photo shows a rectangular "foothold," or anchor point, that I had missed on previous expeditions. For now, I'll call it "Foothold G," to maintain consistency with the alphabetical system that's already in place.
Minisub, photographed in 2011
The overgrowth of foliage in recent years makes it difficult to duplicate the angle seen in the matte shot, but this relatively recent photo of Minisub from a similar angle should provide enough detail to match it up with the portion of the rock appearing in the matte shot.
The tilted rock, as it appears today
Similarly, a modern-day photo of the unnamed tilted rock, taken from a similar but not exact angle, is a pretty good match for the matte shot.
Please click here to read all about Footholds when it was still thought of as just a bunch of footholds.
This blog item is part of a series of posts exploring silent movies filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch. We have previously reported on a number of the Iverson silent films, and you can read those posts by clicking on the links below:
• "Man-Woman-Marriage" (Dorothy Phillips, 1921): This post explores a large-scale battle sequence filmed near Garden of the Gods in 1920 that was billed at the time as "so stupendous that it amazed even the film colony of Los Angeles."
• "Richard the Lion-Hearted" (Wallace Beery, 1923): Click here to see how a massive Medieval castle was created amid the huge rock features of Garden of the Gods.
• "Three Ages" (Buster Keaton, 1923) — Buster's "armory": This movie may be the best-known of the silent-era Iverson shoots, and this post explores a rarely discussed set for the movie — an "armory" controlled by Buster's caveman character, built high atop Rock Island in the Iverson Gorge.
• "Three Ages" (1923) — the fake cave house: Please click here to read about a fake cave house that stood near Garden of the Gods for several years in the 1920s — and possibly as far back as the 1910s — which had a prominent role in the 1923 Buster Keaton silent feature "Three Ages."
• "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ" (Ramon Novarro, 1925): Click here to see some terrific behind-the-scenes photos provided by Jill Bergstrom, the granddaughter of the great Iverson cinematographer George B. Meehan Jr., who was part of the camera crew on "Ben-Hur." (Note that most of the material in this post is non-Iverson, even though parts of "Ben-Hur" were filmed on the location ranch.)
• Noah's Ark (Dolores Costello, 1928): Here's where the label for this series comes from (see above), in which Noah's Ark is "beached" on top of the sandstone giants of Garden of the Gods. The movie is directed by Michael Curtiz, who later directed "Casablanca" and who brought crews to the Iverson Movie Ranch on a number of occasions.