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

Monday, July 12, 2010

The great Iverson cinematographers:
Robert Cline

born July 1898, Arizona
died November 1946, Hollywood (age 48)

Robert Cline emerges as the mad genius of the Iverson era, and probably would hold that title even if he had shot just one film: his mystical 1942 Range Busters masterpiece Thunder River Feud. While it’s possible that the artistic “brilliance” of Cline’s fuzzy visual poetry in this strange and wonderful movie is purely accidental, it seems unlikely. Shot after shot reveals subtle, elusive images, often tucked away in the corners of the frame. For the viewer who is able to relax into it and surrender to the weirdness of it all, it adds up to a cinematic experience that is more akin to spotting faces in the clouds or looking at a book of hidden-eye puzzles than to watching a B-Western.

Regardless of whether Cline intentionally injected illusions into his work, whether it’s all attributable to a bad print or whether the puzzling images in his shots are purely imaginary, he showed a flair for Iverson in a solid string of 1940s B-Westerns, part of an ephemeral career that began in the silent era and soon saw Cline emerge as one of the key shooters in early sound Westerns. By the time the genre hit its stride in the mid-1930s he was already a master of the outdoor action sequence, had already developed much of his unique visual style and had already begun shooting at Iverson.

Working mostly with smaller outfits — including Trem Carr Pictures and William Berke Productions in the early days and later the Alexander brothers and A.W. Hackel’s Supreme Pictures — Cline found himself at the center of what was suddenly the hottest film commodity in the business, the B-Western. He began to connect with some of the bigger players, flirting briefly with Republic, where he shot three Westerns in the late 1930s. He found more steady work at Monogram starting in 1940, migrating over to Ray Corrigan’s Monogram-affiliated Range Busters Productions in 1941. He settled in for a good run with Corrigan, shooting 16 Range Busters features before moving on to PRC in 1943.

Much of his best Iverson work was done during this Range Busters/PRC period, including the Range Busters installments
Underground Rustlers and Fugitive Valley (both 1941) and the Buster Crabbe/Billy the Kid/Billy Carson yarns Western Cyclone and Devil Riders (both 1943) at PRC. 

An early Iverson standout for Cline is the 1938 Bob Steele feature Paroled to Die from A.W. Hackel, and one of Cline’s later career highlights is the Lash LaRue movie Law of the Lash from PRC, released in 1947, after Cline’s death.

He rarely stayed long in any one place, adding to the mystique of Robert Cline as a restless and perhaps troubled genius. He avoided the one thing that almost all major Iverson cinematographers share: a lengthy stay at Republic Pictures. Maybe it’s part of his genius that he found a way to keep himself from getting sucked into that machine in a big way, something almost no one else seemed able to resist.

He has presided over our pantheon of Iverson DPs from the beginning, and was the inspiration for the creation of a pantheon in the first place. His volume of work doesn’t stand alongside prolific Republic shooters such as Ernest Miller or John MacBurnie, but Robert Cline is clearly one of the masters, if not THE master of shooting Iverson. This despite his relatively high “miss ratio” — for example working quite a bit at Corriganville, working on low-Iverson-percentage Texas Rangers movies and working extensively in the silents (and therefore largely unseen).

Like many of the cinematographers from the B-Western era, Robert Cline was born out West. He came from Arizona, which may have helped instill his affinity for Westerns and the Western landscape. And like so many of the cinematographers of the period, he died young — in his case even younger than most, at 48. But he also started young, well back into the silent era. His career essentially spanned 1925-1946, with a few releases coming out after his death, in 1947. He has a respectable 139 productions listed in his filmography. He lived long enough to see television coming, but he was dead before he had a chance to work in the new medium.

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