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, July 2, 2010

"The Gene Autry Show" in color

Prominent Rock, aka Medicine Rock, at top right, in "The Gene Autry Show"

Over the course of its 86 episodes spanning 1950-1955, the early TV Western "The Gene Autry Show" filmed about one episode in five on the Iverson Movie Ranch. At the end of the run the series was filming in color, leaving us with a few relatively rare color views of some of the ranch's rock features.

"Stage to San Dimas" ("Gene Autry" episode, premiered Oct. 8, 1955)

George J. Lewis appeared in more than 400 features, shorts and TV episodes, from the silent era well into the 1960s, including more than 10 episodes of Gene's TV show. He was a regular in Republic serials, including a starring role opposite Linda Stirling in the 1944 Iverson Movie Ranch showpiece "Zorro's Black Whip." He also appeared as Don Alejandro de la Vega in Disney's "Zorro" TV series.

By the time Gene got around to doing TV he had already made bagloads of money as a cowboy star in the movies, which helped him round up a big enough budget to shoot much of the TV show out of town.

Pioneertown's "Mane Street"

One place he filmed a number of episodes — and it was film in those days — was around Pioneertown, near Palm Springs, Calif. In fact, Gene was one of the key players in setting up a movie town at Pioneertown — a town that still exists, although it's important to keep expectations low if you plan a trip there.

One of the many distinctive rock clumps near Pioneertown

The rocks around Pioneertown have a certain look to them — I call it "desert scrabble." It's similar enough to the look of the distinctive rock formations of the Alabama Hills in Lone Pine, Calif., that many filmmakers — including Autry — would blend the two locations into a single scene.

The Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, Calif.

The "desert scrabble" look of Lone Pine's Alabama Hills, however, is nicely augmented by the often snow-covered peaks of the Eastern Sierra — including Lone Pine Peak, seen here in the background just left of center.

Smiling Lion (at right), a happy rock formation on the Upper Iverson ("The Gene Autry Show")

I want to get back to the Iverson Ranch and show a couple more color shots from "Autry." I've had a hard time finding good prints of the series, so I hope readers will forgive the lower quality of some of these screen shots.

Upper Iverson Movie Ranch in modern times — Smiling Lion, bottom left

Smiling Lion can still be found on the former Upper Iverson, but because of the terrain and the homes that have been built in the area, it's hard to duplicate the angle seen in the "Autry" episode. Above is a recent shot of Smiling Lion from about as close as I could get to the same angle.

Smiling Lion can be seen in the bottom left corner of the photo. Unavoidably, you'll also see, just above Smiling Lion, one of the estate homes that now occupy much of the former Upper Iverson Movie Ranch.

Also visible in this shot are Turtle Rock, at the right, and a couple of the key background hills of the Upper Iverson, Two-Humper at top left and Notch Hill at top center.

"The Gene Autry Show": "The Stage to San Dimas" (1955)

Another screen shot from the "Stage to San Dimas" episode shows a cliff area along the South Rim. I call this the T-Cliff because of the distinguishing capital "T" that seems to be carved into it (along with sort of a cross to its right, creating a square or a tic-tac-toe board).

The markings could be interpreted any number of ways, but T-Cliff works for me as a way of identifying it. This cliff is also sometimes referred to as simply "The Cliff" among Iverson historians — a term that may be a bit too generic considering that the movie ranch features a number of cliffs.

Here's a little bit of that same cliff area, photographed during a recent visit. The tree has grown quite a bit in the half-century-plus since "The Gene Autry Show" taped at Iverson, and much of the cliff is now hidden. But the prominent T-shaped crack still identifies it as the T-Cliff.

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