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

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What was the director of "Casablanca" doing on the Iverson Movie Ranch?

Michael Curtiz

One of the most acclaimed directors of Hollywood's Golden Age — and the director of the movie that many film lovers call the best of all time — Michael Curtiz had a history at Iverson. While he didn't shoot "Casablanca" at the ranch, he visited Chatsworth on a number of occasions to add Iverson's dramatic backdrops to his movies.

"Noah's Ark," 1928

Curtiz directed for years in his native Hungary in the silent era before relocating to the U.S. in 1926. One of his first Hollywood projects, the silent biblical epic "Noah's Ark," produced the iconic special-effects shot seen above, in which the massive Ark is "beached" on the familiar rocks of Iverson's Garden of the Gods — notably Tower Rock and Sphinx, sometimes called Indian Head and Eagle Beak. Curtiz collaborated with legendary studio mogul Darryl F. Zanuck on the movie, which starred a lineup of silent era A-listers including Dolores Costello, George O'Brien, Noah Beery and Myrna Loy.

Here's a contemporary shot of the same rocks, with the view from this angle now largely blocked by trees. That's Tower Rock on the left (also known as Indian Head) and Sphinx on the right (also known as Eagle Beak).

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in "Casablanca"

Curtiz went on to direct a string of cinema classics in the 1930s and early 1940s, being nominated for an Academy Award for "Captain Blood" (1935) — a write-in nomination, leading to a second-place finish in the voting for the Oscar — receiving two nominations for best director in one year for the 1938 movies "Four Daughters" and "Angels With Dirty Faces" and chalking up still another nomination for best director for "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942) before winning the Academy Award for his masterpiece, "Casablanca" (1942).

Joan Crawford in "Mildred Pierce"

Notoriously caustic toward actors, Curtiz nonetheless worked with the best in the business. Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, John Garfield, Ann Blyth, William Powell, Paul Muni, Eve Arden and Claude Rains all received Oscar nominations for their work in Michael Curtiz movies, while James Cagney ("Yankee Doodle Dandy," 1942) and Joan Crawford ("Mildred Pierce," 1945) picked up statuettes. The list of Hollywood legends he directed is too long to do it justice, but it also includes Bette Davis, Al Jolson, Elizabeth Taylor, Edward G. Robinson, Sophia Loren, Bing Crosby, Alan Ladd, Patricia Neal and Robert Taylor, among many others.

Curtiz even worked with the King, directing Elvis in "King Creole" in 1958. This one wasn't shot at Iverson, but Elvis did shoot one movie there — "Harum Scarum" in 1965.

For the 1936 war movie "Charge of the Light Brigade" Curtiz staged battle scenes in Iverson's Upper Gorge. In the above screen shot from the movie, warriors are gathered atop The Wall, and in particular Potato Rock, the boulder at the right. These rocks no longer exist, having been destroyed to make way for condos.

Another group of combatants in "Charge of the Light Brigade" is set up nearby, with the group at the top of the shot seated on Three Ages Rock. This rock has survived condo development and can still be seen today — although the section in the foreground, where the shooter is carefully aiming his rifle, has been blown away.

"Charge of the Light Brigade" was one in a series of Michael Curtiz movies that paired Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn. Others included "Captain Blood" (1935), "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (1938), "Essex and Elizabeth" (1939) and "Dodge City" (1939).

Curtiz knocked out a few Westerns toward the end of his career, including "The Proud Rebel" in 1958, with de Havilland again and Alan Ladd, and "The Hangman" in 1959, featuring a cast of now familiar TV names such as Tina Louise ("Gilligan's Island"), Fess Parker ("Davy Crockett") and Jack Lord ("Hawaii Five-0"). His final film was another Western — "The Comancheros" (1961), starring John Wayne. Six months after its release, on April 10, 1962, Michael Curtiz died of cancer in Hollywood at age 75.


Miss Marty said...

Over 200 horses were murdered for the final scene of Charge of the Light Brigade. That will forever make Micky Curtiz an unforgivable villain in my book. Fortunately, that horror helped lead to the end of trip wires.

Anonymous said...

The airport scene of Casablanca was shot at Van Nuys.