Smiling Lion (at right), Upper Iverson, seen in "The Gene Autry Show"
I haven't had much luck tracking down DVD copies of "The Gene Autry Show," but it airs regularly on Encore Westerns so I've been able to tape most of the episodes. Overall only about one in five is shot at Iverson. It seems that by the time Gene got around to doing TV he had a decent budget from his success in movies and was able to shoot out of town. He did a lot of filming (and it was film in those days) in Pioneertown, near Palm Springs, Calif., and also frequently traveled to Lone Pine, Calif., where he could take advantage of the dramatic rock formations of the Alabama Hills.
"Desert scrabble" near Pioneertown, Calif.
While they're quite different from each other, the Pioneertown area and the Alabama Hills of Lone Pine are similar enough that they could blend easily in the editing room, and "The Gene Autry Show" made ample use of that fact, combining the two locations for a number of action sequences.
Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, Calif.
Iverson Movie Ranch, on the other hand, does have its dramatic rock formations, but they're spread out across its sagebrush terrain, creating a more realistic, versatile and less intrusive backdrop for Westerns that ultimately gives them what I think is a better overall look.
Upper Iverson Movie Ranch, Chatsworth, Calif.
But I digress. My point with this post is that I did finally catch a color episode of "The Gene Autry Show" shot at Iverson. At the top of this post is a screen shot of a rock I call Smiling Lion, taken from the 1955 episode "The Stage to San Dimas." That's the Notch Hill in the background, at the top-center of the photo. Smiling Lion is found in the South Rim area of the Upper Iverson, just slightly north of Turtle Rock. It's fairly easy to find, but because of the terrain and the homes that have been built in the area, it's hard to duplicate the shot 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 is in the bottom left corner of the photo. Also seen 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. 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.
"The Gene Autry Show": "The Stage to San Dimas" (1955)
Here's a screen shot from the same episode showing 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 known as simply "The Cliff" among Iverson historians.
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 clearly identifies it as T-Cliff.