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 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

Friday, January 22, 2010

Batman Rock, as seen in "Stagecoach" (1939) — and today

John Ford's Great American Western "Stagecoach" (1939) made ample use of the Lower Iverson Movie Ranch, splicing together footage shot there with footage of Utah's Monument Valley to create a convenient Hollywood amalgam of the American West. Of the Iverson scenes, by far the most famous is the shot of the stage arriving at the relay station with the Sphinx (also known as Eagle Beak) and Tower Rock (also known as Indian Head) in the background. I've posted about it previously here. But Ford also was taken by the rock seen in the above screen shot from the movie, now widely known as Batman Rock because of its appearance in the Batman serials. Early in my research I called this rock Chief Um before I learned that it already had a name, so sometimes the name Chief Um still comes up, including on this blog. The name Chief Um comes from an old doo-wop song by Otis Williams and the Charms. But the name Batman Rock is preferred.

Batman Rock/Chief Um remains alive and well, albeit somewhat more hidden than in the heyday, now living alongside some condos and a driveway, just north of Garden of the Gods.

John Ford was something of a regular at Iverson, shooting a number of films at the location. His most extensive work at Iverson was for the Shirley Temple film "Wee Willie Winkie," produced two years before "Stagecoach," in 1937. He also shot a key scene at Iverson for "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940).

The blog The Great Silence, which focuses on movie locations and has some good entries on the Iverson Movie Ranch, has a detailed post about this "Stagecoach" shoot at Iverson here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lone Ranger Rock and the "Lone Ranger" title sequence

Lone Ranger Rock, as it appears today, on the former site of the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This early post about the "Lone Ranger" opening remains up as a historical reference, but I have since updated my research on the opening and have posted a newer, more comprehensive blog entry about the sequence, including higher-quality video of various versions of the opening, which you can see by clicking here.


Original 1949 opening
Here's a brief video clip of the famous opening sequence to the TV show "The Lone Ranger," which aired original episodes on ABC from September 1949 to June 1957, divided up into five seasons. If you aren't old enough to have caught it back then, you probably still saw it thanks to reruns, syndication, cable, VHS, DVD, YouTube, etc. It's pretty hard to miss. Because of the distinctiveness and ubiquity of Lone Ranger Rock, this sequence tends to be the starting point in a lot of people's exploration of the Iverson Movie Ranch.

A few different versions of the title sequence were used over the span of the show's 221 episodes, with various edits and a couple of different tapings of the Lone Ranger's arrival on his horse, Silver. (Click here for a breakdown of the different versions.) For the most part the versions are pretty similar, with the first part consisting of an open gallop along a straightaway. In the above clip, this initial part is shot in Lone Pine, but in the later reshoot, it's done on the Upper Iverson, with Pyramid Peak visible in the background. 

Soon we come to the familiar arrival and hard right turn to ascend to Lone Ranger Rock to rear up on Silver (shot on the Lower Iverson amid rocks that are all still pretty much in place); and a final sequence (deleted from this video) that includes a descent through Iverson's Lower Gorge toward Santa Susana Pass Road and some additional horseback footage from Lone Pine in early versions of the sequence. 

The final frames of the clip above show the Lone Ranger rearing up Silver right next to the rock that (thanks to this sequence) became known as Lone Ranger Rock. Supposedly before that it was known as Indian Head Rock, which is unfortunate because there are at least three other rocks at Iverson that have been referred to as Indian Head. (See separate post on Eagle Beak and Indian Head.) 

The most interesting stuff for me in this clip isn't Lone Ranger Rock itself but the other rocks that can be seen before the Lone Ranger makes the turn to head up to Lone Ranger Rock. My early Iverson research included trying to retrace this part of his path, which isn't nearly as easy as it looks. If you pause the clip at the 18-second mark, you'll see a large rock on the right, Sea Leopard. That thing eluded me for some time because it's buried inside a large tree now and you really can't get to it. 

In that same frame, again not very clear but still visible, are some landmark rocks in the background, pretty much in the center of the frame: Sticky Bun, Cracked Meringue and Stegosaurus. All of these features appear frequently in the old movies shot at Iverson, and they're all still intact, though they now have some condos as neighbors. The plan is to discuss these rocks in more detail, so you should be able to use the label index to find posts on them.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Iverson's Western street: The southern end of town

"Along Came Jones" (1945) — Iverson Village is born as Payneville

For all its well-earned reputation as a rock wonderland that essentially defined the look of the American West in countless productions filmed at the site during the heyday of the movie Western, the Iverson Movie Ranch never possessed a Western town set that could quite match the grandeur of those on the studio backlots and at some of the other L.A. area movie ranches.

"Along Came Jones": Gary Cooper in "Payneville," the town he built at Iverson

Up until 1945, when Gary Cooper decided that he wanted a town built at Iverson for his Western "Along Came Jones" — Cooper's sole credit as a producer — the Iverson Ranch didn't have a town set at all. The Western town that did finally get built in 1945 was relatively modest, but it grew up a bit over the years, and was, let's just say, adequate — especially for the low-budget B-Westerns that were Iverson's bread and butter.

Gene Autry in "The Hills of Utah" (1951): Iverson Village, aka El Paso Street 

Along with Gene Autry in his B-Western "The Hills of Utah," the above screen shot includes a couple of important features of Iverson's Western town: the distinctive stone Saloon building on the right, a landmark that often helps distinguish Iverson Village from other town sets, and Gumdrop, the sharply angular rock in the background, just above the horse's head. Gumdrop, which was positioned prominently at the southern end of town, also often helps identify Iverson Village.

"The Lone Ranger" (filmed in 1949): Gumdrop, at the south end of town

Here's another view of the southern end of Iverson Village, with Gumdrop dutifully marking the spot. This scene is from "The Lone Ranger," featuring footage shot in 1949, originally for the TV show and later repackaged into the "Lone Ranger" movie for release in 1952. Just visible at the top left of the shot is the tip of Church Rock, another marker rock for the southern end of Iverson Village.

Here's the same photo with the two main rock features at the south end of town identified. 

Gumdrop and Church Rock in recent times

As with most shots of the Iverson Village area today, any attempt to depict Gumdrop and other nearby features involves working around mobile homes, as the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village now occupies the spot where the Western street stood. Here is a recent shot of Gumdrop taken from the town set area.

Only the tip of Gumdrop is visible now from this angle, with even less of Church Rock exposed. For another look at Church Rock, Gumdrop (very partial, again) and the southern end of Iverson Village, see this other post.

For a look at the northern end of Iverson Village, click here.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Yet another elephant part found at Iverson

For those of you who just can't get enough elephants, woolly mammoths and other pachydermalia, here's another Iverson oddity to add to the list. This is the Elephant's Trunk, tucked away in a relatively obscure cranny in Garden of the Gods. You may also be interested in Elephant Rock, seen in another post (or click here), and the strange and delightful Woolly Mammoth, which is still getting work in TV. And if you still haven't had your fill of all things elephantine, check this out.