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.
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• 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.
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• 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).
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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper rendezvous at the border between France and Spain — really the Iverson Movie Ranch's Garden of the Gods

I found a terrific sequence filmed at the Iverson Movie Ranch in the 1936 Paramount movie "Desire," starring Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich — with both of the film's big stars putting in some time on location in Iverson's Garden of the Gods for the sequence.

Dietrich watches as Cooper tries to figure out what's wrong with her car in a scene that takes place at the border crossing from France into Spain. In reality it was shot in the Garden of the Gods on the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif. Notice the sharp, pointed rock in the top right corner, which is a widely filmed movie rock.

The same pointed rock appears at the far left in this shot taken on a recent visit to Iverson. You can also see Rocky Peak in the background, in the hills directly to the west of Iverson.

The pointed rock is at the left again in this shot from the 1937 Columbia B-Western "Ranger Courage." You may recognize the rock at the right, as it also appears in the recent shot above.

Here's one more look at the pointed rock, in the 1938 RKO B-Western "The Renegade Ranger," starring George O'Brien. This time the pointed rock fills up the middle of the frame.

A promotional still of Dietrich in the car was part of the Iverson shoot, with minor Garden of the Gods rocks visible in the background. The car was a fairly spectacular ride back in its day (and still is) — a 1935 Auburn 851 Supercharged Boattail Speedster.

Here's a shot of the Auburn 851 in action, cruising past Iverson rocks as it nears the border crossing. It's kind of obviously not Dietrich at the wheel in this shot, but I'm not going to quibble about that with all the great shots coming up.

This is what the same car looked like when it was put up for auction in 2010. This was the exact car used in the movie, and it had been specially fitted with a rear-mounted spare for the movie. The spare was removed before the sale to restore the car to its original state, but was included as part of the sale.

Here's another shot of the car as it appeared when it was being auctioned. I'm told it went for $377,000.

The focal point of the scene in "Desire" is the border crossing between France and Spain, a source of tension because Dietrich's character is carrying stolen pearls. Here Dietrich's car approaches the crossing, where the filmmakers apparently built a set in the Garden of the Gods to serve as the border guards' headquarters.

Dietrich's car arrives at the border, with a familiar Iverson movie rock visible in the distance, at top center.

That same movie rock as it appears today, toward the top left of this shot. The rock is a prominent feature of the Iverson Gorge and a part of the Hole in the Wall group. I have referred to it in the past as GTR, and noted that from its back side it adopts the persona of a Jaunty Sailor. I hope you can match up the profiles of the rock in the above two photos.

Another view of the border crossing. Now Cooper is behind Dietrich in his Pontiac, about to get dragged into her situation. This shot offers a better view of part of the border crossing set, along with an improved view of some of the rocks.

This shot of Dietrich has the look of a studio shot or backlot, and we might think that's what it was if we hadn't already got a look at the border crossing set. She was on location at Iverson, and at this point was setting her sights on Cooper.

Dietrich and Cooper connect, with Garden of the Gods and part of the set in the background. Technically, I've never heard that this set was built specifically for this movie, but everything adds up: Paramount had the budget for that sort of thing, and this was a heavily filmed area and a busy time for Iverson. If these buildings had been built for any other reason, or had remained standing for any length of time, they would have turned up in other productions.

Another shot from the sequence, featuring Cooper's Pontiac, is also filmed in Garden of the Gods. Notice the rock and tree in the background.

"Cowboy Holiday" (1934)

The same rock and tree also surface in the 1934 Guinn "Big Boy" Williams B-Western "Cowboy Holiday," as seen above.

By the end of the scene in "Desire," Cooper is clearly smitten with Dietrich — and appears to have no idea what kind of trouble he's in.

"Desire" seems to be a hard movie to find. I wanted to include a link here for a DVD or Blu-ray on, but I could only find non-USA DVD formats and clunky old VHS — so you're on your own. Good luck!

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