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.
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• 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.
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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Oscar Wilde visits the Iverson Movie Ranch and Gorge Arch

John O'Malley as Oscar Wilde in "Have Gun Will Travel"

Let's get this much settled right up front: It was a TV version of Oscar Wilde, not the real-life Irish-born playwright and poet. The real Oscar Wilde, who wrote "The Importance of Being Earnest" and "The Picture of Dorian Gray," was a sensation in London in the late 19th century before dying in 1900 — a little too early to make his way into TV or movie productions. But he toured the U.S. in the 1880s, visiting the American West when there still was such a thing, and found his way into a few tidbits of Western lore — drinking whisky with miners in Leadville, Colo., and so forth. Years later, during Hollywood's long love affair with the Wild West, a favorite plot device was to snatch famous visitors to the West from real life and put them in either an exaggerated or completely made-up storyline. Oscar Wilde's turn came around in 1958, and as luck would have it, he had his curtain call at Iverson.

Richard Shannon as Boss Rook, with John O'Malley sitting on the Gorge Arch

The character Oscar Wilde, played by Australian actor John O'Malley, had a central role in an episode of "Have Gun Will Travel" called "The Ballad of Oscar Wilde," which premiered Dec. 6, 1958. The story had Wilde kidnapped by a bad guy named Boss Rook, played by Richard Shannon, who held Wilde hostage in the Iverson Gorge.

While awaiting his fate, Wilde cooled his heels on a small boulder that was part of one of the Iverson Movie Ranch's legendary rock structures — the Gorge Arch, legendary in large part because it no longer exists, having been replaced by condos. The arch, which consisted mainly of three large boulders, was big enough to ride a horse through, and for a while in the late 1930s and early 1940s it stood next to the Gorge Cabin. In the setting above, the cabin would have been to the right, out of the shot (but it was no longer in place at the time this show was shot). The two big rocks in the background had a corral and shed in front of them for much of the period that the cabin was in place. The cabin, corral and shed, along with a fake mine entrance that was often seen in the area, were all long gone by the time "Have Gun Will Travel" showed up to tape this episode.

Inevitably, it's the series' hero, Paladin, played by Richard Boone, who rides to Wilde's rescue. At first Paladin, on the right, tries to arrange a prisoner swap, but predictably, he ends up having to shoot it out with Boss Rook.

Rook initially takes cover inside Gorge Arch — giving viewers a rare look at the inside of the arch.

Paladin makes his move, climbing on top of the smaller boulder on the left side of the arch to get the drop on Rook.

Rook slips around to the right side of Gorge Arch, providing an extremely rare detailed view of the huge boulder that makes up that side of the rock structure.

Wilde, at the left, creates a diversion, enabling Paladin to swoop in for the capture. I'm including this shot mainly because it shows the scale, with Paladin perched on the smaller of the Gorge Arch's two "base" rocks.

With the situation finally under control, Wilde and Paladin find time to exchange a few pithy quips for comic relief. Some things never change.

The real Oscar Wilde

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