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, April 1, 2012

Judy Garland works the Iverson Movie Ranch — and her "rocky relationship" with Ronald Reagan

A recent post by film researcher Jerry England on his blog included a promo still released in connection with the 1946 movie "The Harvey Girls," starring Judy Garland. It reminded me that there's an interesting story about Judy's main Iverson scene from the movie, and a particular rock at Iverson.

Here's the still from "The Harvey Girls," featuring Judy Garland and John Hodiak. The movie is a romantic musical that's a long way from the B-Westerns and cliffhanger serials generally associated with Iverson. In this shot Judy is leaning on a rock that was located in the camera mount area of Garden of the Gods — an area also known as Overlook Point that overlooks Chatsworth and the northwest corner of the San Fernando Valley, as seen above. You can see that this portion of the Valley was mostly farmland in 1946, although of course it's much more developed now. Overlook Point, which is in a portion of the former Iverson Movie Ranch that has been preserved as Garden of the Gods Park, also overlooks the Iverson Gorge and provides great views of Nyoka Cliff and other rocks that were featured in hundreds of movies.

This is the same rock today, although it's almost unrecognizable. The rock, which I call Judy Garland Rock, is still found in the same general location, but in the intervening years it has fallen off the other rocks that were propping it up in 1946. Another possibility is it was removed intentionally and placed on the ground — perhaps as a safety precaution when the place was spruced up and preserved as Garden of the Gods Park. Whatever the reason, the rock now rests on the ground, meaning the shot with Judy leaning on it could never be duplicated. My best guess is Judy Garland Rock was knocked down by an earthquake, but if anyone has another theory, I'm open to it. By the way, the white horizontal strip in the above photo, to the right of the rock, is part of the metal camera track that remains in place from the filming days.

Here's another look at parts of the old camera mount that remain in place today, including the pipe that was used as a base for the cameras. I've never been quite sure how this worked, so if any of the cinematographers out there want to clue me in, please do. This shot also provides a view of the Valley from the camera mount, including some of the houses and stores that have proliferated in the decades since the peak filming era. The town of Chatsworth, where the Iverson Movie Ranch was situated in the San Fernando Valley's northwestern corner, hasn't been hit quite as hard by development as much of the rest of the Valley, in part because residents have fought to preserve its equestrian heritage.

video

The scene from "The Harvey Girls" that's depicted in the promo still has Judy and John singing "My Intuition," by Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren, as they fall in love in Garden of the Gods. (That's the video above.) The scene was deleted from the movie — probably a good call, as the song, which is pretty sappy by today's standards, was thought to slow down the movie, even in 1946. But the scene was included as an extra in the DVD release — and thank goodness, because even though the song might be lame, the rocks are cool. They're all rocks that can still be seen today on a visit to Iverson. Check out the view of Stoney Point on the right and Nyoka Cliff on the left at the 2:42 mark (if you can put up with the song that long).

Even though the song was deleted, the movie does include a number of Iverson shots. The above screen shot — part of the same sequence as the deleted song, although this one made it into the movie — shows Judy in Garden of the Gods. The flowers were brought in to make it appear as more of a garden spot than it really is.

In this shot from the movie a portion of the western end of the Lower Iverson and land farther west is used to wow Judy's character with the natural beauty of the West. The place is only green for a short time each year, so this scene would have had to be shot in late winter or spring.

The landscape is quite different today, with the 118 Freeway cutting through the once pristine region. The freeway construction required blasting away large sections of the area hills, as seen toward the left of the photo. But you still may be able to spot the same landmarks among the background hills in the above two shots. Built in the late 1960s, the freeway had a lot to do with ending the movie business at Iverson.

This shot from "The Harvey Girls" was done in the studio, but the producers included footage of Stoney Point, as seen from Iverson, in the background (at the right of the photo).

Another "Harvey Girls" shot that's a composite of a studio shoot and location footage, this scene starring Angela Lansbury features a fake train car in the foreground, what looks to me like a fake set full of cactus plants and other props in middle ground, and background footage shot on location that includes actual Iverson features, mainly Garden of the Gods (just below the overhanging roof of the train car), along with the hills above Chatsworth Park.

Here's a shot from a different movie, to add some perspective on Judy Garland Rock. In this scene from the 1955 Western "Tennessee's Partner," the horse in the middle of the photo is positioned right next to Judy Garland Rock. I like the context of this shot, with some of the less well-known rocks of the interior of Garden of the Gods in the foreground, and Iverson's Upper Gorge in the background.

This shot from later in the same sequence in "Tennessee's Partner" provides a closer view of Judy Garland Rock. As promised in the headline on this blog entry, that's Ronald Reagan having his own movie moment at the same rock where Judy Garland fell in love. Here Reagan's character is patting down the horse to find out whether it's been "freshly rode." Lone Ranger Rock is also in the shot, just above the horse's hindquarters, although it's not very distinctive at this distance. It's just to the right of a larger rock seen near the left edge of the photo. Click here for a detailed post about "Tennessee's Partner," including the exact location where Ronald Reagan's character was shot dead.

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