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.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Western hero rides off into the sunset: Dale Robertson, 1923-2013

I was sorry to hear today that Dale Robertson, a Western hero of both the big screen and the little one, has died. Robertson, whose credits in Westerns are virtually endless, died Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, at age 89 of complications from lung cancer and pneumonia.

Here's a clip that someone put up on YouTube as a tribute to Robertson. The video I originally linked to, which included some Iverson footage, has since been taken down from YouTube — apologies to any of my readers who tried to watch it and were disappointed to discover that it was gone. This newer one doesn't appear to contain Iverson, but it makes up for it by being a little weird. The location clips here are mainly Vasquez Rocks, but the highlight may be the  "Amazing Grace"/"House of the Rising Sun" mashup in the second half:



A number of the Western productions in Robertson's long career were shot at least in part at the Iverson Movie Ranch, with the ones that come to mind right away being the TV shows "Tales of Wells Fargo" and "Death Valley Days." Robertson's series "Iron Horse" also supposedly shot at Iverson, but I've only found a few episodes so far and the movie ranch has yet to turn up.

One movie I know was shot partially at Iverson that features Robertson is "Fighting Man of the Plains" (1949), a Randolph Scott movie in which Robertson has a small role as the outlaw Jesse James.

The Dale Robertson movie "Sitting Bull" (1954) is often cited as an Iverson production, but I have to refute that claim — I've gone through the movie and didn't find any Iverson. I tend to believe the other citation that turns up for this movie, which is that it's shot around Durango, Mexico.

Similarly, the 1964 Paramount Western "Law of the Lawless," starring Robertson along with Yvonne De Carlo, has been cited as Iverson, but I believe that's another erroneous listing.

Robertson acted from the late 1940s into the 1990s — a career spanning six decades. Even with more than 60 movies under his belt — most of them Westerns — he made his biggest impact on TV, including his early success on "Tales of Wells Fargo." Later in his career he appeared in shows including "Dynasty," "Dallas," "Matt Houston" and "Murder, She Wrote," and he headlined his own series, "J.J. Starbuck," for a short time in the late 1980s.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Where did Superman grow up? Right here in Chatsworth, Calif. ... sort of


Kirk Alyn — the original movie "Superman" — at
the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth

The family of the original movie "Superman" joined us last night for a gathering of the Chatsworth Historical Society at the group's Chatsworth history museum, located at the far west end of Devonshire. The centerpiece of the event was a screening of some clips featuring Kirk Alyn in the 1948 Columbia serial "Superman," which filmed most of its location shots at the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth. The serial also starred Noel Neill as Lois Lane and Tommy Bond — formerly the neighborhood bully "Butch" in the "Our Gang" comedies — as cub reporter Jimmy Olsen.

Kirk Alyn and Jean Dean in Radar Patrol vs. Spy King"

A teaser for the event ran on northridge.patch.com with the headline "Shocking! Superman Grew Up in Chatsworth!" That headline was apparently what caught the attention of Alyn's family and brought them out to the CHS meeting ... a happy ending of sorts — which is just what we've come to expect from Superman. Multiple generations of "Superman's" — well, Alyn's — brood were on hand, including his daughter, grandkids and even a great-granddaughter ... along with spouses. Alyn himself died in Texas in 1999 at age 88 after a distinguished career that included not only the two Columbia "Superman" serials (the second being "Atom Man vs. Superman" in 1950) but also a song-and-dance career in vaudeville and on Broadway along with lead roles in a number of other serials, including Republic's "Radar Patrol vs. Spy King" (1949) and Columbia's "Blackhawk" (1952).

Below is a short YouTube clip from early in the original "Superman" serial, which includes the production's first shots of Iverson. After a brief animated segment, the Iverson material starts at about the 18-second mark, with a scene in which an animated mini-rocket containing the infant Superman falls to Earth on the old Upper Iverson.



Among the Iverson Movie Ranch landmarks appearing in the clip: Rock in the Field, seen in the background in the initial shots of the couple in their old truck (starting around 0:21); Rocky Peak — or Pyramid Peak — at 0:29; the Molar (blink and you'll miss it, with the mini-rocket disappearing behind it at 0:34); and the Upper Iverson's Oak Grove, throughout.

But even with all those impressive landmarks, naturally, it's the infant Superman who steals the show.

I have more to write about the Iverson location work in the "Superman" serials — the second one, "Atom Man vs. Superman," is an even better showcase for the movie ranch — and some of Kirk Alyn's other work at Iverson, so check back for future posts. I'll also point you to a previous entry about the 1950s TV show "Adventures of Superman," which shot at least one memorable episode at Iverson. (Click here to see that entry.)

The two Kirk Alyn "Superman" serials finally made it to DVD a few years ago, in a well-done (and reasonably priced) set containing both serials along with a few extras. I'm including a link to Amazon below for anyone interested in checking it out.

Monday, February 11, 2013

It's one of those movies where the rocks have faces — oh, do they ever!

"The Trusted Outlaw" (1937)

The shots in this blog entry are all from the Bob Steele B-Western "The Trusted Outlaw," filmed at the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif. Your mileage may vary, and probably will — and that's probably a good thing. But I'm seeing faces and more faces in these rocks. For example, in the above shot I can make out at least four or five characters, starting with what looks kind of like a claymation clown with multiple faces, on the right side of the shot.

This thing.

And plenty of other "characters." Just look around.

This is a nice view looking southwest across Sheep Flats, with Split Rock on the left (in shadow), Hook Rock on the right and Church Rock in the distance (the small dark, almost horizontal rock visible above the treeline, almost directly above the horse). But what's going on ...

... here?

Here's another screen shot where I think a lot of people would be able to find interesting faces if they wanted to, even though the shot's a little dark. Below are some of my favorite "rock characters" from this shot ...

This one may have a little James Dean in it.

A teenager leaning on a wall? I'm resisting the temptation to say that this unusual movie rock looks like Bob Dylan.

Here's something along the lines of Max Headroom.

There's plenty more where these came from. "The Trusted Outlaw" is a strange movie, to say the least, and it also happens to be one of the greatest Iverson productions ever filmed. The proliferation of weird faces and illusions and what-not in the rocks reminds me of another really weird and wonderful Iverson movie, "Thunder River Feud," which I've blogged about before a number of times — click here to check that one out.

You may also want to click here to see my earlier posts tagged "tricks of light," which include more material along the lines of faces in the rocks. There you'll find the infamous Stegosaurus Caught in an Awkward Moment, Circus Clown in Agony, Man in the Moon, Girl in the Sky and many more. Even the rare and inexplicable Captain Hornblower and White Fang.


Above are some Amazon links in case you're interested in getting ahold of a copy of "The Trusted Outlaw" on DVD.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Actors who were "born old": Walter Brennan


Some of the best-loved characters of classic film and the early TV era were brought to life by actors who seemed as though they were always old — with Walter Brennan being perhaps the quintessential example.

Walter Brennan as Grandpa Amos 
on "The Real McCoys"

Brennan worked in movies for decades before he became famous, but the idea of a "young Walter Brennan" remains all but unimaginable to most of us. Born in 1894, Brennan was already working in silent movies in his early 30s, and he had a distinguished early career. But he became a household name when he broke through in 1957 — at age 63 —as Grandpa Amos on "The Real McCoys" — which included an appearance by Brennan and his TV family at the Iverson Movie Ranch in the pilot.

The McCoy family's new house in California was portrayed in the series pilot by the Middle Iverson Ranch Set, seen above. Their arrival is discussed in more detail in a previous blog entry that you can find here.

Brennan in "The Westerner" (1940)

Brennan already had three Oscars by the time he launched his TV career, having won three times for supporting roles (the only actor to do so) — for "Come and Get It" (1936), "Kentucky" (1938) and "The Westerner" (1940). He wasn't exactly "OLD old" in his film roles of that era ... but he was already "playing old." He just had that kind of look.

With Audie Murphy in "Drums Across the River" (1954)

He worked his way into his share of movies shot at the Iverson Movie Ranch in the course of his career — among them, "Drums Across the River" (1954) and "Support Your Local Sheriff" (1969).

A highlight of Brennan's TV work at Iverson — from a location standpoint — is "Vengeance Canyon," an episode of the Western anthology series "Zane Grey Theatre" that premiered Nov. 30, 1956. In the above screen shot from the episode, that's the well-known movie rock Sphinx behind the actors.

Another shot of Brennan from the "Vengeance Canyon" episode of "Zane Grey Theatre," this time a portion of the Hole in the Wall section of Iverson can be seen in the background.

This is what those same rocks — Iverson's Hole in the Wall, seen in the background in the Walter Brennan shot above — look like today. You may be able to spot the similarities in the outline of the rock at the top and its neighbors.

Brennan was all over the Lower Iverson for that 1956 "Zane Grey" episode. Here's a scene that takes place below Lash LaRue's Arch, seen at the left of the shot.

Another scene from the "Zane Grey Theatre" episode "Vengeance Canyon," this one is shot in the Iverson Gorge.

Walter Brennan is the high-profile tip of the iceberg when it comes to those "born old" actors. Most of the others have much less familiar names — but in some cases they have mighty familiar faces. Below are a few of the most beloved fogeys, geezers, codgers and coots — male and female — who worked at Iverson in the days of B-Westerns and early TV ...

Cyril Delevanti ... I posted about him here

Irene Tedrow


Here are a few examples of Walter Brennan's work, available from Amazon ...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tilted Cube survives ... but Walnut, not so much

Here's a movie rock I call Tilted Cube, shown in the 1952 Durango Kid movie "Smoky Canyon," which starred movie cowboy Charles Starrett near the end of his run as the Durango Kid and in B-Westerns in general. Tilted Cube wasn't one of the most widely filmed features on the ranch, but it turned up from time to time.

I ran across it on a recent visit to the former movie ranch, still alive and well, if those terms can be applied to a rock. These days it's a part of the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village, tucked in behind a doublewide. It took a while to track it down, partly because it's well out of the way and also because it doesn't look quite as "cube-like" as it did in the movies. With a rock named Tilted Cube, it's all about the angle of the tilt, and today you would have to climb on top of a mobile home to get that angle. But you may be able to match it up from these two shots. You can see sort of a "competition stripe" running across it in both photos.

Tilted Cube had a neighbor, Walnut, which I've blogged about before — click here to see that entry. The above shot, which includes the rest of that same frame seen above from "Smoky Canyon," shows the proximity of Tilted Cube to Walnut, partially visible as the large, dark shape on the right.

Here's a better look at Walnut, from the 1943 Republic serial "Secret Service in Darkest Africa," starring Rod Cameron, Joan Marsh and Duncan Renaldo. Cinematography was by Iverson great William Bradford, and the serial was directed by the prolific B-movie director Spencer Gordon Bennet. Walnut was a mighty rock — you can get a sense of the scale of the rock by the size of the car next to it. Even so, it didn't survive the construction of the mobile home park back in the mid-1960s. One of the most lamented of the now departed "classic rocks" in that area of the old Iverson Ranch, Walnut remains only as a memory — and in these images from old movies.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"Daybreak" in Chatsworth: They're still making movies at the Iverson Ranch

Planter in front of the rec room at the Indian Hills Mobile Home Park

The Iverson Movie Ranch hasn't existed for a few decades now — at least not as a working movie ranch. But the land is still there, all 500 acres of it. And most of the trademark rocks remain, even if in many cases they're hidden behind condos and mobile homes — or used as decorative elements in planters, as in the case of End Rock, said to be the large, flat rock in the photo above.

"Secret Service in Darkest Africa" (1943)

Back in Hollywood's Golden Age, End Rock was a more natural landmark, and appeared in countless movies, serials and early TV shows, proudly marking the entry point for a widely filmed chase road. That's End Rock directly behind the horse in the above shot from the Republic serial "Secret Service in Darkest Africa." At least a version of End Rock is still being showcased, in a way — even if it is in the planter outside the community room of the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village.

A shot from the 2012 production "Daybreak" shows the same planter seen at the top 
of this blog entry — including a small slice of what passes for End Rock these days. 

It may come as a surprise that they're still shooting at Iverson, and in fact they're still shooting at Indian Hills. Most of the action nowadays is for TV shows, with the popular comedy series "The Big Bang Theory" and the police procedural "CSI" among those reportedly shooting in the mobile home park in recent years. Lately some of the production is shifting to Web series, a newer format that has also discovered the appeal of the former Iverson Ranch. Whether the crews even realize the place was once a thriving movie facility, who knows? But Hollywood continues to come out to Chatsworth to make movie magic.

"Daybreak" (2012)

The Web series "Daybreak" filmed at Indian Hills in early 2012 and began "airing" on an ATT website last May. To be sure, these modern shoots bear little resemblance to the productions of Iverson's glory days. These days the property is used for what it became when it was no longer a working film location, and in the case of "Daybreak" that means a mobile home park. Other productions in recent years have made use of the estates that now occupy the former Upper Iverson, and on occasion someone will still even shoot the rocks.

The chase is on — a motorcycle chase through the mobile home park, covering the same turf that once featured horse chases on a regular basis. The basic idea is still the same, but the cowboys and Indians have given way to tech nerds and mysterious government agents.

One of the two Ryans who star in "Daybreak" — Ryan Eggold or Ryan McPartlin. (I can't tell them apart.) I got a kick out of seeing the "Indian Hills" sign at the entrance to the mobile home park — if nothing else, it proves where the scene was shot.

The "Daybreak" crew also aimed their cameras across Topanga Canyon Boulevard for a few seconds of footage, catching two of the busy street's main features: Stoney Point, partially visible at the right, and the ubiquitous traffic. This shot was taken from just outside the mobile home park.

Here's a better look at Stoney Point from "Daybreak" — it's one of Chatsworth's most distinctive landmarks and shows up in the background in a lot of old movies, but it's rarely filmed from this close.

Sarah Roemer

Besides the Ryans, the main cast of "Daybreak" consists of Sarah Roemer, Eugene Byrd and Shannon Lucio. One of the show's creators is Tim Kring, who was behind NBC's "Heroes" — which also shot a few scenes at Iverson, back in 2008. Kring is currently an executive producer on Fox's Kiefer Sutherland series "Touch."

Monday, February 4, 2013

"Made it, Ma — top of the world" ... or "You dirty, double-crossing rat"? Cagney Rock and the one that got away


Promotional still for "The Oklahoma Kid" (1939)

The above promo shot for the James Cagney movie "The Oklahoma Kid," featuring Cagney in a rare Western role, comes courtesy of movie location researcher Jerry England. The rock directly behind Cagney's head can still be found at the former Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif. Unfortunately, the overhanging rock hovering above Cagney no longer exists — it was destroyed around the late 1980s to early 1990s when the Cal West Townhomes development was built.

This markup version of the promo still should make it clear which two rocks we're talking about. The overhanging rock has earned the nickname "Overhang Rock," appropriately enough, while I've taken to calling the other one "Cagney Rock."

When I recently found that same rock — the one behind Cagney's head — at Iverson it seemed like kind of a big deal so I honored the occasion by naming it Cagney Rock, at least in my own mind. The above shot shows Cagney Rock in its current setting — from as close as it's possible to get to the same angle seen in the promo shot. These days it's part of the landscaping for the condos. It's no longer possible to duplicate the exact angle of the Cagney promo still.

To be honest, it's not a particularly impressive rock in person — this is probably the best shot I could get of it. You might say it dressed up for the occasion with a dashing "fern necktie." The unnamed rock behind it — which will show up better in some of the photos below — is bigger and, I suppose, grander. And neither of them is nearly as spectacular as "the one that got away" — Overhang Rock. But these two both deserve credit for surviving — and Cagney Rock earned some recognition with its featured appearance in the promo shot.

"The Desert Horseman" (1946)

The one that got away: This is another view of the overhanging rock that hovers above James Cagney in the "Oklahoma Kid" promo still at the top. The thing has had a number of nicknames, the most common being Overhang Rock. I've also seen it referred to as Oklahoma Kid Rock, and I heard recently that some film location researchers have been calling it "Justice Rock," after an appearance by the rock in the Johnny Mack Brown B-Western "Oklahoma Justice." In the above shot from the 1946 Durango Kid movie "The Desert Horseman," the rock reminds me of a rooster, possibly missing its head. Anyway, the shot gives some idea of the scale of Overhang Rock, which was clearly taller than a horse and rider.

Here you'll see I've marked up a copy of the "Desert Horseman" shot, for no apparent good reason. I did want to make sure readers can positively ID Cagney Rock, and I also will use this opportunity to confess that, early in my Iverson Research — before I learned of Overhang Rock's more proper identities and back when I was still taking a more whimsical approach to rock identities — I gave the rock the unofficial nickname Rooster Boy.

"Escort West" (1959)

A shot from the Victor Mature Western "Escort West" shows a portion of Overhang Rock, in the bottom left corner, along with its neighbors, including Cagney Rock, partially visible at bottom center, just to the right of the small tree near the center of the photo. (That tree, by the way, may be the same one, much bigger now, that's blocking the view of Cagney Rock these days — as seen above in the third photo of this blog entry.) This shot gives some idea of the view these rocks had of the rocky Iverson Gorge. The peaks seen in the background, near top center, are across Santa Susana Pass Road from Iverson looking south, above Chatsworth Park.

This is that same shot from "Escort West" with some of the key features marked.

"Land Beyond the Law" (1937)

Overhang Rock was the object of some wishin' and hopin' on the part of Iverson researchers for years, until the sad truth became known just within the past year or so: Overhang Rock no longer exists. The discovery of the neighboring rocks — Cagney Rock and the larger rock next to it, with no Overhang Rock to be found — had a lot to do with proving Overhang Rock was gone. This screen shot from the Dick Foran Western "Land Beyond the Law" shows Overhang Rock, near the bottom left corner, with the much smaller Cagney Rock partially visible directly above Overhang Rock. The smaller rocks to the right of Overhang Rock are gone now too.

A marked-up version of the same "Land Beyond the Law" shot reveals some of the survivors, along with the casualties of development, in Iverson's Upper Gorge.

"The Cheyenne Kid" (1940)

Here's a view of the same group of rocks from the opposite side — looking up at them from down the hill, looking more or less to the north — as seen in the Monogram B-Western "The Cheyenne Kid." Seen here, right to left, are Overhang Rock (above and to the right of the cowboy's head), Cagney Rock (the smaller rock perched kind of precariously, directly above the cowboy's head) and the unnamed "bigger and grander" rock to the left of Cagney Rock that also survived and can still be found at the site today.

The same shot from "The Cheyenne Kid," with the key players highlighted.

Here's what the survivors of that group look like today from about the same angle. Sorry about the dark shot but it was getting toward dusk and these rocks all now live in the shade of that one tree mentioned above. The rocks seen here are the same ones above and to the left of the cowboy's head in the "Cheyenne Kid" shot above.

One last look at the surviving rocks as they appear today, highlighting the main man — the "Oklahoma Kid" himself, Cagney Rock.



I couldn't find a DVD version of "The Oklahoma Kid" to link to, but here's a link to a VHS version — at least until someone snaps it up.