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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Classic Rock: Reflecting on the Iverson Movie Ranch's quirky Wrench Rock

"Annie Oakley" TV series (1956)

Here's a scene starring the always fascinating Wrench Rock — sometimes called Indian Head, Upper Indian Head or Bobby — in a relatively artistic shot from the TV show "Annie Oakley." This scene appears in a 1956 episode called "Dilemma at Diablo." I love the full reflection of the rock in the pool of water.

Also visible in the shot are the Aztec on the left (next to the horse, if you can make it out) and the distinctive hill profile Two-Humper, an important Iverson marker, in the top left corner. I've highlighted the key features in the shot below.

This is the same shot, with a number of key features highlighted. I've taken the liberty to call the pool of water the "Reflecting Pool." The main features seen here are located on the South Rim of the former Upper Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif.

The same setting in recent times

Here's the same group — Wrench Rock, the Aztec and Two-Humper — in a recent photo taken from close to the same angle, but moving in a bit closer to Wrench Rock as the Reflecting Pool was dry at this time. The shot is taken in springtime when California's neon green is in full bloom.

This is the same recent photo with the main features highlighted

Wrench Rock was apparently originally called "Indian Head" until that name became associated by mistake with another rock, which was originally known as Tower Rock (and sometimes called the Pinnacle), located on the Lower Iverson. Tower Rock, later known as Indian Head (and often seen paired with another rock, properly known as Sphinx but often called Eagle Beak), became one of Iverson's most famous rocks, helped by an appearance in John Ford's 1939 epic "Stagecoach." My guess is that's one reason Wrench Rock ultimately started being called other things, including Upper Indian Head, which isn't exactly elegant. (But then, neither is Wrench Rock.)

I didn't help matters when I came along years later, unaware of any of the rock's existing names, and started calling it Bobby. But I've since come to my senses, and I think Wrench Rock is the least confusing name for it.

If you want to get deeper into the complexity of rock names at Iverson, here's a blog post attempting to sort out the movie ranch's many so-called "Indian Heads."

This post is part of a series on "Classic Rocks" — sandstone giants located on the former Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., that became a part of not only America's physical landscape but also its cultural heritage, through featured roles in old movies, cliffhanger serials and early TV shows. Other entries in the series can be seen by clicking here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Lone Ranger and Tonto in the Garden of the Gods

"The Lone Ranger" TV show (1949)

Here are a couple of shots from early episodes of the "Lone Ranger" TV show (1949), also used in the 1952 movie version. The photo above provides sort of a concentrated glimpse at the combined heft of the major figures in Garden of the Gods on the Lower Iverson Movie Ranch — the Quintessentials, if you will. On the left are the Three Kings, including Tower Rock, or Indian Head, the tall figure just behind the Lone Ranger. To the right of Indian Head is a little glimpse of Pebblehead in the background. At right is a portion of the Sphinx, or Eagle Beak.

Another shot taken in the same area shows the rest of the Sphinx, aka Eagle Beak — including revealing the reason it's called the Sphinx — as it does bear some resemblance to the one in Egypt. To the right of Eagle Beak is the Phantom. Here's a more current look at the Phantom.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Iverson Village: the northern end of town

I've posted photos of the southern end of Iverson Village already (here), and this is what the rest of the town looked like. The shot above is from "The Hills of Utah" (1951). Note the stone buildings on both sides of the street. Most Western movie towns were wood, so the stone buildings help distinguish Iverson Village, also called El Paso Street. The traditional consensus was that the main street was oriented more or less north and south, although comparing the positions of Gumdrop and Church Rock, the marker rocks at the southern end of town seen in the other post, gave rise to the idea that the street would have had to be positioned at an angle, southwest to northeast. This idea was confirmed after an aerial photo of Iverson surfaced from 1952, when the Western town was still in place.

I searched at Iverson Ranch for months for that hill at the north end of town — the prominent dark shape in the photo above, which I call Smooth Hill — and even though I had a hard time believing it at first, I finally had to accept that it's gone. It was essentially leveled for development when the 118 freeway went through in the 1960s. Chunks along the southern edge of the hill were blown away to put the freeway through, and while they were at it they lopped off the top of it, probably in the name of stabilizing the terrain. Conveniently, that cleared the way for what is now a batch of condos and a large apartment building sitting on that spot, overlooking the freeway. I'm used to it, but it still bugs me that Smooth Hill isn't there anymore. It was a key marker identifying Iverson Village in the old movies, and it's kind of famous in its own right.

This shot from "Calamity Jane and the Texan" (1950) shows more of what would have been the eastern side of the street, and gives a better look at Oat Mountain to the north — the series of hills with streaks of white, in the background. One of the markers on Oat Mountain, Dark Triangle, is also visible, at the top of the photo, toward the left, partially hidden behind a small hill (Notch Hill).