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.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Little Big Horn": Tracking down the infamous grassy knoll where Sheb Wooley met his demise

"Little Big Horn" (1951): A grisly end for Sheb Wooley's character on the grassy knoll

Film historians have struggled over the years to find the location for the haunting scene in the 1951 Western "Little Big Horn" in which the brutalized body of Sheb Wooley's character, "Quince," is found propped up on a stick. But I'm excited to report that the grassy knoll where the scene was filmed has now been found.

"Little Big Horn" — closeup of Quince's body

The closeup of Quince provides clues to the location, with the landmark Chatsworth Peak, south of the Iverson Movie Ranch, seen in the background. I've also referred to this familiar peak in my research as "Elders Peak."

Note the alignment of background features in the red circle

Veteran movie location hunter Eddie Henn was the driving force behind the discovery. Eddie noticed the alignment between Chatsworth Peak and a distinctive notch in the ridgeline atop the Santa Monica Mountains, which form the southern boundary of the San Fernando Valley.

The same features as they line up today — from the grassy knoll

Eddie and I got together in January for an expedition onto the former Upper Iverson to see whether we could locate the sweet spot where the background hills would line up. As we approached our "target zone" at the west end of Cactus Hill, suddenly there it was: the grassy knoll.

Wider shot of the grassy knoll

At the top of the knoll it quickly became obvious that it was the filming location for "Little Big Horn," as everything matched up. The above shot provides a wider view of the grassy knoll with its contemporary background.

"Little Big Horn"

I don't know of any other movies in which the grassy knoll has been used for filming, but it's such a nondescript setting that it would be easy to miss. While the Iverson Ranch as a whole is defined by its rock features, the grassy knoll is virtually rock-free.

Looking south from the Grassy Knoll (photo by Jerry Condit)

On a return visit to the site within days of the discovery, we brought along another intrepid location hunter, Jerry Condit, who took a black-and-white photo that nicely matches the closeup of Quince from the movie.

Quince on the Grassy Knoll — "Little Big Horn"

Here's another look at the haunting Quince closeup to facilitate comparison with Jerry's photo above this one. The detail in Jerry's shot reveals that much of the background remains virtually untouched, even 65 years later.

The view from behind Sheb Wooley, which also appears in the movie, provides more insights. With the camera looking north toward a portion of the former Upper Iverson, some of the rocks at the west end of Cactus Hill come into view near the right of the frame.

This is what the view looks like today. A few of the estate homes that now occupy the former Upper Iverson can be seen here, along with Oat Mountain filling the top of the frame.

Note the two rocks identified here as "A" and "B."

The same rocks can be seen in the recent photo, although the trees surrounding Rock "A" have grown considerably in the intervening years, and now conceal much of the rock.

Both the 1951 screen shot and the 2016 photo also feature two distinctive foothills situated just to the north of the Upper Iverson. My nickname for these hills is the Tetons.

The Tetons as they appear today are identified in this shot.

The approximate location of the grassy knoll is noted on this Google aerial. The location remains on private property today, and access is restricted.

Friday, January 29, 2016

How Roy Rogers solved the mystery of the Japanese sniper in John Wayne's "Fighting Seabees"

"The Fighting Seabees" (1944)

One photo I didn't put up when I blogged last summer about the John Wayne World War II movie "The Fighting Seabees" was this shot of a Japanese soldier using a diagonal crack in a rock as a sniper's perch.

"The Roy Rogers Show" (1952)

I didn't post the shot because I couldn't figure out where it was taken. But with some help from Roy Rogers, the mystery is now solved. Roy peers through the same crack in an early episode of "The Roy Rogers Show" called "The Train Robbery," filmed in 1951 and first aired Feb. 3, 1952.

Sniper's crack, on a recent visit to the Lower Iverson

Thanks to the context in the "Roy Rogers" episode, I was able to determine that the crack is part of a heavily filmed movie rock that I call Hangdog. The tricky thing about both the "Fighting Seabees" shot and the "Roy Rogers" shot above is that they feature the rarely seen "back side" of the rock.

"The Train Robbery" ("The Roy Rogers Show")

This is what the sniper's crack area looks like from the much more heavily filmed "front side" of the rock — its west side. In the "Roy Rogers" episode, Roy climbs on top of Hangdog to get a drop on the bad guys.

A portion of the crack is visible near the legs of the two bad guys. The section of Hangdog shown in this shot is just a fraction of the massive rock feature.

The rock, including the sniper's crack, remains intact today on the Lower Iverson Ranch. This recent photo of Hangdog shows the same section of the rock seen in the "Roy Rogers" shot.

The sniper's crack area is located at the north end of the rock.

This is what the rest of Hangdog looks like in modern times. The photo shows the west-facing side of the rock.

Hangdog today is on private property, and access is difficult. The rock is positioned near the southeast corner of the Cal West Townhomes, separated from the condo community by a brick wall.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Movie rock "survivors" found in the Iverson Gorge — thanks to "Atom Man vs. Superman"

"Atom Man vs. Superman" (1950): Bald Knob, center, and its neighbors

I recently came across this shot of the gravity-defying Bald Knob and some of its neighboring rocks in "Atom Man vs. Superman," the second of Columbia's two Superman serials. Some readers may recall previous posts talking about whether Bald Knob was real or fake

We may never know for sure, because Bald Knob disappeared when development came to the Iverson Gorge in the late 1980s. The space once occupied by this fascinating movie rock is now filled by dirt embankments supporting Redmesa Road and the Cal West Townhomes.

The sighting inspired me to do a little exploring in the Gorge. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to find out whether any of those nearby rocks might have survived. To my surprise, I was able to pretty easily find some of the rocks seen in the "Atom Man vs. Superman" shot.

This shot from my recent expedition into the Gorge features a small clump of rocks that has survived from the "Atom Man vs. Superman" shoot. The terrain has been dramatically altered in the intervening years, and only the rocks near the top of the formation seen in the serial remain above ground.

This shot from "Atom Man vs. Superman" points out the surviving rocks. You may be able to see the similarities between these rocks and those in the recent photos — especially a sort of duckbilled rock on the left and a mushroom-like "crown" at the top of the formation.

Here's another view of the surviving rocks. From this angle it can be seen that the ground level is now much higher than it was back in 1950.

A wider shot from the same recent Gorge expedition shows the setting where the surviving rocks can be found today, with Nyoka Cliff in the background. The "Atom Man" rocks can be seen near the bottom of the photo.

Iverson Gorge (Bing bird's-eye view)

This bird's-eye view pinpoints how to find the rocks. Make your way to Redmesa Road in Chatsworth, Calif., just north of Santa Susana Pass Road, and park below the first condos. The rocks are on the east side of the road.

The discovery of the "Atom Man" rocks helps narrow down the area where Bald Knob once stood — and where it may still be located beneath the Redmesa dirt embankment. The above bird's-eye view also notes its proximity to the landmark Lone Ranger Rock.

Friday, January 15, 2016

"Border Feud," starring Lash LaRue: The day in 1947 when the Iverson family left the barn door open

The Aaron Iverson barn, as seen in "Border Feud" (1947)

The Iverson family's residential and farm buildings were generally kept out of movies filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch, but there were a few exceptions. The single biggest exception was probably the day in 1947 when the barn on Aaron Iverson's ranch became a key set for the Lash LaRue Western "Border Feud."

"Border Feud" was part of a string of ultra-cheapo B-Westerns from Producers Releasing Corp. filmed on the ranch. PRC was a consistent presence at Iverson from 1940-1947, and LaRue, one of the Poverty Row studio's biggest stars, filmed virtually all of his PRC movies at the Chatsworth shooting location.

Al "Fuzzy" St. John at the Aaron Iverson barn in "Border Feud"

Like many of PRC's productions, "Border Feud" also featured perennial Western sidekick Al "Fuzzy" St. John, a screen veteran with a resume going back to about 1914. Like LaRue, Fuzzy was a fixture at Iverson, providing comic relief opposite LaRue, Buster Crabbe, George Houston, Bob Steele and other cowboy heroes.

Just a few of PRC's Lash LaRue movies filmed at Iverson in 1947

PRC filmed at least a dozen B-Westerns at Iverson in 1947 alone. It may be that by the time "Border Feud" was filming, the Iversons had developed a level of familiarity with LaRue, Fuzzy and the PRC crew that made the family comfortable enough to relax the rules. "Border Feud" represents the only time the barn was used as a movie set.

"Border Feud" — the Aaron Iverson barn

Western movie historian Tinsley E. Yarbrough first identified the "Border Feud" building as an Iverson family barn in an article published in 1998. In the years since then, the barn has been mildly controversial, with some researchers — including yours truly — remaining skeptical that the barn seen in the movie was located at Iverson.

Aaron Iverson in front of his barn (Edwin Iverson collection)

But any controversy was put to rest in a recent exchange I had with Tinsley, who pointed me to the "smoking gun" that proves the identity of the building. The undated photo above, circulated by Aaron Iverson's son Edwin, shows Aaron in front of his barn — which can be readily identified as the same barn seen in "Border Feud."

A number of the same markers seen in the "cow photo" can also be identified in screen shots from "Border Feud," as noted above. These markers leave no doubt that it's the same building in both shots.

Closeup of the Aaron Iverson barn in "Border Feud"

Other screen shots from the movie provide detailed views of various sections of the barn. The dilapidated building was a holdover from an earlier period when farming was still an important part of life on the Iverson Ranch — before the movie location operation evolved into the ranch's predominant business activity.

Here's a shot of the movie's star, Lash LaRue, in front of the Aaron Iverson barn.

This shot of Fuzzy near the corner of the barn includes a rare glimpse of a second structure, apparently another farm building, at the right of the frame. "Border Feud" stands alone as a film document of these buildings.

In addition to detailing farm features such as fences and windmills, the movie shots reveal the view looking out from the barn area. This shot looks southwest toward the rugged hills south of Santa Susana Pass Road.

"The Virginian" (1963)

Although the Aaron Iverson barn figured prominently in the action in "Border Feud," it was essentially never seen up close in a movie again. However, it does pop up from time to time in backgrounds, with the above shot from the TV Western "The Virginian" being one of the best examples.

The shot comes from the episode "Strangers at Sundown," which premiered April 3, 1963.

"Tell It to the Marines" (1926)

A screen shot from the silent movie "Tell It to the Marines" reveals that the barn was already in place as early as 1926. The building, identifiable by its angled white roof, can be seen near the center of the frame.

The barn is highlighted here. The shot is taken from Garden of the Gods, and includes a Chinese bridge, to the left of the barn, that was the subject of a detailed a post in September.



I mentioned this in a recent blog entry, but in case you still haven't rounded up a copy of "Those Great Western Movie Locations," Tinsley E. Yarbrough's landmark reference book, it has recently been updated and reissued. Please click on the link above to find the book on Amazon. Highly recommended!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Year in Review: Top 10 Iverson Movie Ranch finds of 2015


2014 was a tough act to follow, but as the dust settles on 2015, it becomes clear that this has been a year of even bigger milestones in Iverson Movie Ranch research — highlighted by discoveries dating back to the silent movies and by greater collaboration than ever among a dedicated community of researchers. Here's a look back at some of my personal favorites among the finds I've been privileged to be a part of in 2015 ...


No. 10:
The Lew Murdock inscription from "Have Gun — Will Travel"

Lew Murdock Rock, on the Upper Iverson's South Rim

In a terrific example of collaborative research, Cliff Roberts spotted this beautiful artifact during an expedition on the Upper Iverson, and I was able to find the source of the inscription in an episode of "Have Gun — Will Travel" from 1959. It's always exciting when we can uncover a well-preserved relic of the filming era in all its glory — especially when we're able to figure out its origin.

• Click here to go to the original post with all the details about the Lew Murdock carving and Lew Murdock Rock, from May 2015.

No. 9:
Location of a cabin that stood in Central Garden of the Gods in 1935, seen in "Song of the Saddle"

"Song of the Saddle" (filmed in 1935, released in 1936)

We were able to identify rock clues in the background to pinpoint the location of this cabin seen in the Dick Foran Western "Song of the Saddle." It turns out the cabin was positioned in a historically significant area in Central Garden of the Gods, near where the Phantom Shack would be built a few years later.

• Click here to read the original post from earlier this month about the cabin seen in "Song of the Saddle."

No. 8:
"Ghost images" of Rock Island surface amid the foliage next to the swimming pool in the Cal West Townhomes

"RI-4," part of Rock Island, as seen in 1960 in "Have Gun — Will Travel"

Two major research threads crossed paths in 2015 as an examination of Elvis Presley filming locations at Iverson led us to Rock Island just as our in-depth examination of Rock Island was producing the first detailed picture of what happened to this key formation of movie rocks.

The hidden location of "RI-4," one of the five main features of Rock Island

In a strange way, Rock Island remains intact — depending on one's definition of "intact." Today Rock Island is mostly buried underground, and the small portion of the formation that remains above ground — the tips of what was once a cluster of large columns of rock — is mostly covered with ivy.

• Click here to revisit our in-depth exploration of Rock Island, then and now, from May 2015.
• Click here to see a post focusing on the Elvis Presley connection to Rock Island.

No. 7:  
An old Western "town" set in Garden of the Gods in 1930, seen in "The Utah Kid"

"The Utah Kid" (1930): Early village in Garden of the Gods

Film location historian Tinsley Yarbrough spotted this early-sound-era cluster of buildings in the old Rex Lease Western "The Utah Kid." The buildings, which form a sort of adobe village, may date back to the silent era.

• Click here to read more about this amazing find, in an entry posted back in May 2015.

No. 6:  
Siedry-Bert Inscription near the base of Sphinx, from the TV show "The Loner"

Burgess Meredith at the Siedry-Bert inscription in "The Loner" (1965)

The origin of the "Siedry-Bert" inscription in Central Garden of the Gods has remained a mystery for years, and this year we finally solved the mystery. Iverson explorer Cliff Roberts and I put our heads together to delve into the carving's backstory, and we hit pay dirt, figuring out that the carving originated in an episode of the Lloyd Bridges Western TV series "The Loner," featuring guest star Burgess Meredith as Siedry.

• Click here to read the blog post from March 2015 telling the story of the Siedry-Bert carving.

No. 5:
Elvis Presley filming location in Central Garden of the Gods, from "Harum Scarum" (1965) 

Elvis Presley and Fran Jeffries in Garden of the Gods: the original tent scene for "Harum Scarum"

Elvis Presley's connections with the Iverson Movie Ranch came into much sharper focus during 2015, with much of the progress attributable to a collaboration with Elvis location researcher Bill Bram. A key development was the identification of the "Harum Scarum Cluster," seen in the background of the above promo still.

• Click here for a detailed report on the Elvis shoot at the Harum Scarum Cluster in Central Garden of the Gods, from March 2015.

No. 4:
Footholds in the Boots Rock area near Garden of the Gods

Two of the many footholds in the rocks of the "Footholds Region"

Mysterious manmade holes, apparently dating back to early in the filming era, were discovered in an area located a short distance north of Garden of the Gods. The origins of these possible footholds and anchor points for sets, camera towers and other construction remain largely a mystery.

• Click here to read our in-depth report on the Footholds area, published in June 2015.

No. 3:  
Fake cave house that stood north of Garden of the Gods for much of the 1920s

"Three Ages" (Buster Keaton, 1923): Fake cave house near Garden of the Gods

A fake cave house on the Lower Iverson is seen in screen shots and behind-the-scenes production shots for silent movies filmed at least from 1920-1926, meaning it may have been built for an even earlier production.

• Click here for a full report on the cave house published on the blog in August 2015.

No. 2:  
"The Silent Man": A 1917 silent Western containing the earliest known film images of the Iverson Movie Ranch

William S. Hart and Vola Vale in the Iverson Gorge: "The Silent Man" (1917)

The discovery of the silent Western "The Silent Man" — probably not the earliest movie filmed on the Iverson Ranch, but the earliest that I've been able to identify positively — was something of a miracle. Most of the movies from this period have been destroyed, along with much of the documentation of film production at Iverson during the silent era. "The Silent Man" survives as one of the most important documents of the ranch's earliest days.

• Click here to read the December 2015 post revealing the many Iverson Movie Ranch treasures contained in the 1917 Western "The Silent Man."

No. 1:
Location of the Chinese Bridge in "Tell It to the Marines," including anchor points for the struts

Production shot for "Tell It to the Marines" (1926)

The above production shot, unearthed by Iverson Movie Ranch aficionado Ben Burtt, played a key role in solving the mystery of the Chinese Bridge seen in the 1926 silent movie "Tell It to the Marines."

• Click here to see the blog item from September 2015 pinpointing the spot on the Lower Iverson Movie Ranch where the Chinese Bridge was located.



We had a number of other noteworthy finds in 2015 that just missed making the Top 10. Here are the best of the rest, in no particular order, with links to posts containing photos and details about each find:

• New details surface about the 1920 shoot in the Garden of the Gods for the silent spectacle "Man-Woman-Marriage."

• Strange Rock is identified — the spot where Glenn Strange positioned himself in the ambush of Texas Rangers that launched the story of "The Lone Ranger."

• The location of the Grapes of Wrath truck-pushing sequence is found.

• Disaster at Overlook Point on the set of the 1938 Gary Cooper movie "Adventures of Marco Polo."

• Lower Iverson's East Gate is identified, along with a fire station that was the movie ranch's closest neighbor.

• A previously unknown fake cave turns up in the TV show "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp," located on the south side of the Phantom in Central Garden of the Gods.

• The Crouching Cat Walkway area is identified after blog reader David King matches it up with a shot in the 1949 Columbia serial "Batman and Robin."

• The exact spot is pinpointed where Fuzzy Knight placed the dynamite on the Upper Iverson's South Rim in "Boss of Bullion City."

• The proximity of the Iverson Ranch to a notorious nearby movie ranch is spotlighted by the appearance of Iverson's Garden of the Gods in "Linda and Abilene, a "Naughty Western" filmed on the Spahn Ranch.

In a welcome trend, foliage is being peeled back all around the Lower Iverson, revealing more of the original movie rocks. Naked rocks appear in several locations, thanks to tree removal in Garden of the Gods, the stripping away of ivy concealing Rock Island, and the removal of brush covering Mushroom Rock.


Click here to see the Top 10 Iverson Movie Ranch finds of 2014.