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 iversonfilmranch@aol.com.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Robert Mitchum brings film noir to Garden of the Gods

It was relatively rare for film noir to be shot at the Iverson Movie Ranch, where the staples were B-Westerns in particular, along with war movies, desert adventures and some sci-fi. But the movie ranch did see action in a few film noirs, including the acclaimed 1949 Robert Mitchum movie "The Big Steal."

"The Big Steal" (1949) — Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum

Garden of the Gods stands in for the hills of Mexico in one scene late in the movie, with a key shootout taking place that puts Mitchum and his leading lady Jane Greer in peril.

The scene plays out mainly in the central Garden of the Gods area, near the camera mount and Overlook Point. The rocks that show up during the shootout are basically all still in place, in the portion of the former Iverson Movie Ranch that has been preserved as a park.

A romp through Garden of the Gods often turns up that big rock with the horizontal crack, which tends to be a helpful identifier. I call it Moray Eel.

This is the same shot from the movie, with Moray Eel pointed out.

Here's another look at Moray Eel and that same area from a recent visit to the site.

A colorized version of the movie has also made the rounds. This is what Moray Eel and its surroundings look like in that version.

One of the hallmarks of film noir is the great-looking old cars, and "The Big Steal" is no exception. Here they drove the old convertible right up into the middle of Garden of the Gods, where it became part of the shootout.

Colorizing tends to miss the point of film noir, but that convertible does look good in baby blue.

Another angle on the Garden of the Gods shootout in "The Big Steal."

More Mitchum — putting up a fight in Garden of the Gods.

With Sphinx in the background, one of the bad guys gets the drop on Mitchum.

And it's all over — the whole Iverson scene lasts only about five minutes.

The legacy of "The Big Steal's" location shoot at the Iverson Movie Ranch includes a rock in Garden of the Gods that film historians now call Mitchum Rock. I started calling it that for the purposes of my research, and it seems to have caught on.


Here are a few options if you feel like picking up a copy of "The Big Steal" — try the above links.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

John Ford gets a postage stamp

John Ford's appreciation for the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., as a filming location never got as much publicity as his love for Monument Valley on the Utah-Arizona border — where he created a series of film images that became emblematic of the American West. But he was a regular at Iverson, directing some of the most important productions shot at the ranch and skillfully interweaving Iverson's rocky terrain with images filmed elsewhere to create a richer and more complex library of Western imagery. I have always considered him an important member of the Iverson "family," and I wanted to celebrate the release of Ford's new U.S. postage stamp.

Here it is — the new John Ford "forever" first-class stamp, depicting a scene inspired by "The Searchers" along with a rendition of the director. The movie scene appears to be based on the film's opening sequence, with Monument Valley in the background and a figure presumably inspired by John Wayne in the foreground. Wayne, by the way, was another Hollywood legend who worked at Iverson a time or two.

The Ford stamp is part of a set of four new stamps honoring American directors, including Frank Capra, Billy Wilder and John Huston. The set is officially designated the Great Film Directors (Forever) stamps by the U.S. Postal Service, and you can buy them now from usps.com.

The John Ford stamp continues a tradition of U.S. postage stamps celebrating the American West, including the above Sitting Bull stamp. Blogger Bennett Owen, inspired by the announcement last year of the Ford stamp, put up a nice post rounding up some of the most compelling Western-themed stamps over the years, which you can read by clicking here. I'll go ahead and post a few more of the images below, because they're mighty cool. Here you go ...





While Ford didn't shoot "The Searchers" at Iverson, his Iverson filmography includes some terrific movies. Among them:

"Stagecoach" (1939), often called the quintessential American Western. I did an extensive blog post on "Stagecoach" some time ago, found here, which breaks down the Iverson filming locations seen in the movie. You can find more about "Stagecoach" in various places throughout the blog by clicking "Stagecoach" in the long alphabetical index on the right side of the page, or by clicking here. One note about "Stagecoach" that I didn't mention last time is that the first appearance of John Wayne in the movie — an introduction that has been cited as one of the best ever for a screen actor — was created using a composite of Monument Valley footage and Iverson Movie Ranch footage. The stagecoach is seen traveling through scenery that is mostly Monument Valley with a little Iverson in the mix, but when the camera settles in on Wayne during his first encounter with the stage, the rocks seen behind him are at Iverson.

This screen grab from the John Wayne entrance sequence in "Stagecoach" is from a colorized version of the movie, although the movie itself was shot in black and white.

Another frame from the same sequence, but in the original black and white. The rocks behind Wayne were found in the Upper Gorge on the Iverson Movie Ranch, and for the most part were destroyed in the late 1980s to make way for condos.

"Wee Willie Winkie" (1937) — This Shirley Temple war movie (anti-war, really) about the British colonization of India was an important project in its day, and John Ford shot it largely at Iverson. The production included the building of elaborate sets at the movie ranch, and some of that construction became the foundation for other sets that remained in use throughout much of the filming era at Iverson.

Victor McLaglen and Shirley Temple at work on the Lower Iverson in John Ford's "Wee Willie Winkie." The movie comes up regularly on this blog, and you can read more about it by clicking here (or by looking up "Wee Willie Winkie" in the alphabetical index at the right side of the page).

Here's a promo still from "Wee Willie Winkie" that provides a good look at part of the elaborate "India fort" set built for the movie on Sheep Flats, on the Lower Iverson. The picture is courtesy of movie location expert Jerry England and his great blog, "A Drifting Cowboy," which you can read by clicking here.

"The Grapes of Wrath" (1940) — John Ford's definitive movie on the westward migration during the Dust Bowl is one of my favorite movies of the 1940s.

The movie only contains a little bit of Iverson — mainly the above shot, which looks out on the San Fernando Valley from Iverson. At that time the Valley was still mostly farms, and the shot depicted the migrant family's first look at California's rich farmland — farmland that held the prospect of jobs in the field. Click here for more about this shot and about "The Grapes of Wrath."



The above links can be used to shop for John Ford's Iverson movies on Amazon.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

L.A. band the Lonely Wild immortalizes Chatsworth's rocky hills in two music videos

The members of a young L.A.-based band called the Lonely Wild climbed Stoney Point — just across Topanga from the site of the former Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif. — to perform a couple of their songs for music videos, which they've posted on YouTube.

The Lonely Wild 

Here's "Morning Song," with glimpses of the San Fernando Valley (including an unexpected pan at the end), some of the hills above Chatsworth (south of Iverson Ranch) and plenty of cool rocks in the background:


This next one's called "Hail." You can catch glimpses of Garden of the Gods and the southeast corner of the Lower Iverson in the background (for example, at 0:51, in the top right corner) along with some of the familiar background hills often seen in Iverson movie and TV footage, such as Pyramid Peak (top right corner, 0:43) and Boat Hill (top right corner, 0:59). Also visible in this video are Elders Peak and the rock formation known as the Elders (directly behind the drummer in the first shot of the band), above Chatsworth Park:



You can check out the Lonely Wild website here.