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.

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's Western street: The northern end of town ... and the demise of Smooth Hill


"The Hills of Utah" (1951) — Iverson Village looking north

I recently posted photos of the southern end of Iverson Village (you can click here to see that post), and this is what the rest of the town looked like. The shot above is from the Gene Autry B-Western "The Hills of Utah." Note the stone buildings on both sides of the street — the Saloon on the left and the Livery Stable on the right. Most Western movie towns were made of wood, so the buildings' stone appearance helps distinguish Iverson Village.

A number of the town's main structures are identified in this version of the shot, along with Smooth Hill, a landmark that sat just north of the town. The consensus for years among film historians 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 earlier post, gave rise to the idea that the street would have had to be positioned at an angle, leaning a bit southwest to northeast.

Aerial photo of Sheep Flats, 1952

This idea was confirmed after the above aerial photo surfaced from 1952, when the Western town was still in place. The town was located on a sprawling flat area known as Sheep Flats, which is now occupied by the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village.

"Check Your Guns" (1948) — Smooth Hill (before Casa Grande was built)

I searched at Iverson Ranch for months for the hill at the north end of town, which I began calling Smooth Hill. It eventually became apparent, even though I had a hard time believing it at first, that the hill was gone. It turns out the thing was basically leveled 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.

The former site of Smooth Hill as it appears today, now occupied by apartments and condos

The destruction of Smooth Hill cleared the way for what is now a batch of condos and a couple of large apartment buildings sitting on that spot, overlooking the freeway just above the Topanga interchange.

"Rocky Mountain Rangers" (1940) — Smooth Hill, before the town was built

Smooth Hill was a presence in movies even before the Western street was built, as in the above example from Republic's Three Mesquiteers Western "Rocky Mountain Rangers." Not only was the hill a key marker identifying Iverson Village in the old movies, but it was also kind of famous in its own right — and its loss is felt.

"Calamity Jane and the Texan" (1950)

This shot from the Columbia Western "Calamity Jane and the Texan" shows more of the eastern side of the street, and provides a 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, the Triangle Brand, is also visible, at the top of the photo, toward the left, partially hidden behind a small hill (Notch Hill).

Here's the same screen shot with some of the key features highlighted. The town set is also called El Paso Street, after its role in the 1949 movie "El Paso." Once again, for a look at the southern end of the Western street, please click here.