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.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Topanga Canyon Boulevard — sort of — circa 1947 (updated)

This is an older blog entry that I decided to update and repost because I've learned more about it since then and wanted to clarify some details. The above shot is from the 1947 Republic serial "The Black Widow," directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and Fred C. Brannon, with cinematography by the great John MacBurnie. We're looking north along what I believed when I originally posted this to be part of Topanga Canyon Boulevard in Chatsworth, circa 1947. I originally noted: "Anyone familiar with that corner of the San Fernando Valley knows that Topanga has come a long way from being an undeveloped two-lane country road with nothing but a fruit stand as far as the eye can see. These days it's fully built out and even at six lanes wide or more, constantly jammed with cars."

However, I've since learned that Topanga Canyon Boulevard didn't exist at that time, at least not that far north. It's a bit of a technicality, as this stretch of road appears to be in more or less the same place where one finds Topanga now — and old aerial photos of the area do show a country road following much of the route now occupied by Topanga. The stretch of road seen above was most likely part of Old Santa Susana Pass Road, which followed part of the current Topanga route through what was then a very rural eastern San Fernando Valley. It's definitely Chatsworth, based on the landmarks noted below (from the original post).

Among the landmarks in this screen shot are Stoney Point on the far right and some of the rocks at or near the Iverson Movie Ranch in the center background, which would be right where the 118 freeway now crosses Topanga. All the way in the background is Oat Mountain.

Here's a more recent shot of Stoney Point, which is a familiar sight to motorists traveling along the northern end of Topanga. It's a popular rock-climbing venue these days. It has minimal history as a movie location in its own right, but it appears frequently in the background of films shot at the nearby Iverson Movie Ranch.

Stoney Point also figures prominently in a well-known promo shot for John Ford's "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940), seen above. In the movie itself, Stoney Point was cut out of the shot, with the focus instead on the rich farmland that surrounded it in 1940 — all of which has since been fully developed into residential and business properties. Check out Jerry England's blog for a good entry on Stoney Point, including a bit more about "Grapes of Wrath."

Here's an example of how this shot is handled in the movie:

The sequence is shot from Iverson's Overlook Point, also known as the camera mount. This view signifies the arrival of the Joad family in the promised land of California, where they have been counting on finding agricultural jobs. After barely making it through the Mojave Desert, they're pretty excited to see how good the land is here.

While I've never been able to properly explain it, I find a sort of circular perfection — albeit a bit disturbing — in Hollywood telling the story of the migration to California for farming, when ultimately the even more defining migration to California may have been for Hollywood itself, for the burgeoning movie industry — a migration that in fact brought about the destruction of farmland for housing and movie sets (including Iverson), along with the decidedly "farming unfriendly" diversion of water from rural areas to L.A. Inevitably, Hollywood and L.A. got too big to even allow the industry's movie sets to survive, and they eventually succumbed to the spiraling development pressure and, in some cases (as in the case of the Upper Iverson), wound up hosting the sprawling homes of those who had made their fortunes in Hollywood.

"The Real McCoys" offers another perspective, even if it's a lot lighter in tone.

On another lighter note, Stoney Point is a great place to see faces pop out of the rocks. Below are a couple of the characters I spotted in the recent photo of Stoney Point:

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