The movie considered by many fans to be the start of the Tarzan franchise is MGM's "Tarzan the Ape Man," released in 1932 — Weissmuller's first appearance as the Lord of the Jungle. A number of Tarzan movies predated this one, going back to 1918 and silent movie star Elmo Lincoln. But MGM and Weissmuller — along with Maureen O'Sullivan, who fueled Tarzan's jungle passions as Jane — turned Tarzan into a cultural phenomenon.
Three Ages Rock — where Tarzan and Jane stood during the iconic "wave goodbye" scene at the end of "Tarzan the Ape Man." The rock can still easily be seen today, from Redmesa Road, just below the Cal West Townhomes development. You may be able to match up the vertical crack and the smaller rock below Three Ages Rock in the above two shots. (You can enlarge any of these photos by clicking on them.)
Iverson Gorge for the above sequence. The large rock feature at the right, known as The Wall, no longer exists, having been torn down to build condos. The overhanging rock just above and to the right of the heads of the riders is Potato Rock, which was also a casualty of that development. What's still around are the Elders, at the center of the shot (directly to the left of the riders' heads), and Elders Peak, top center. These features, seen in the backgrounds of many Iverson movies, are above Chatsworth Park, "across the street" from Iverson — south of Santa Susana Pass Road.
Porter Ranch Fire, which accounts for the area's barren appearance.
Nyoka Cliff to join the "wave goodbye" sequence.
The "Tarzan the Ape Man" steps surface in other productions from time to time, including the above shot from the 1939 Republic B-Western "Rough Riders' Round-Up." In this screen shot Three Ages Rock is the large horizontal boulder directly above the top of the steps. The rock immediately to the right of the rider is a fascinating character I've blogged about before, which I call the D-Train.
"The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1936)
Those same rocks also appear in the 1936 movie "The Charge of the Light Brigade," but as you can see in the top right corner of the above shot: no steps. It looks to me as though someone went to the trouble to smooth over that stairway, probably with cement. The shot of the steps above this one that appeared in "Rough Riders' Round-Up" in 1939 could be explained by the use of recycled older footage, but that's just a guess. Another theory would be that someone fashioned a "disguise" for the steps, so they could be covered up or exposed as needed. It sounds like a stretch, but it was not unheard of at Iverson back then to complement the rocks with what might be called "prosthetics."
in a scene from "Tarzan and the Slave Girl," 1950
Later versions of "Tarzan," including some of the RKO releases in the 1950s in which the ape man was played by Lex Barker ("Tarzan and the Slave Girl," 1950; "Tarzan's Savage Fury," 1952) or Gordon Scott ("Tarzan's Hidden Jungle," 1955; "Tarzan and the Trappers," 1958), featured a number of Iverson scenes, such as this one filmed on the Upper Iverson.
Notch Rock, looks like today. It's a frequent landmark in old movies and early TV shows.
this post about a "Bonanza" shoot.
"Tarzan's Savage Fury" (1952)
One of the most ambitious Iverson shoots in the Tarzan movies was for the 1952 release "Tarzan's Savage Fury," again starring Lex Barker. An African village consisting of about 10 huts and other structures appears in the movie, just north of Garden of the Gods. I've always figured it's probably a composite shot, with a portion of the village not really at Iverson. But at least part of it is real, including three or four huts seen in the photo below. In the above shot, all of the rocks are recognizable and familiar, and the flat area in the foreground that contains most of the village is known to be a flat area in reality, which is now full of condos. The rocks at the right, behind the large building in the center, are now a part of Garden of the Gods Park, although the smaller clump of rocks at the far right, directly behind the second hut from the right, was destroyed.
In this shot from inside the village, the Phantom, one of the main rock features of Garden of the Gods, can be seen in the top left corner. This shot establishes that at least a portion of the village was in fact built at Iverson.
Tarzan and Jane — Maureen O'Sullivan
and Johnny Weissmuller