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

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 Village: the southern end of town

For all its reputation as a rock wonderland that formed the ideal backdrop for countless Western scenes in the heyday of the movie Western, Iverson never possessed a Western village that could quite match the grandeur of those on the studio backlots and at some of the other L.A. area movie ranches, such as Corriganville and Gene Autry's Melody Ranch. Up until 1945, when Gary Cooper insisted that a town be built at Iverson for his movie "Along Came Jones" — Cooper's sole credit as a producer — Iverson didn't have a village at all. The village 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 Westerns that were Iverson's bread and butter.

The scene above is from "The Hills of Utah" (1951) and shows a couple of important features of Iverson's Western town: the stone building on the right, which is one of the most distinctive structures in Iverson Village and a good way to help pick it out from other towns, and Gumdrop, the sharply angular rock in the background, just above the horse's head. Gumdrop, marking the southern end of town, is often the best on-screen indicator that what you're seeing is Iverson Village.

Incidentally, the town doesn't seem to have an "official" name, but I usually refer to it as Iverson Village. It has also been called El Paso Street, based on its appearance in the 1949 Western "El Paso."

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.

As with most shots of the Iverson Village area today, any attempt to depict Gumdrop or other rocks that marked the area is likely to be filled with mobile homes, as the Indian Hills Mobile Home Park now occupies the spot where the village once stood. Here is a recent shot of Gumdrop taken from what once would have been Iverson Village. Unfortunately, all you can see from here now is the tip of the rock. You can also see a little bit of nearby Church Rock, above and to the right of Gumdrop. 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, go 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 the Elephant with a large monkeyhead on its back, seen in another post (or click here), and the strange and delightful Woolly Mammoth, which is still getting work in TV.