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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• 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.
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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Iverson after the brutal Southern California wildfires of fall 1970: A record found in an obscure TV show

An episode of the short-lived early 1970s Glenn Ford TV show "Cade's County" contains some unusual Iverson Movie Ranch footage — unusual in part because it was late in the life cycle of the movie ranch, where production wound down for the most part by the end of the 1960s, and also unusual because the "Cade's County" footage captures some of the effects of the devastating fall 1970 Southern California wildfires.

"Cade's County" TV series: "The Mustangers" (premiered Nov. 14, 1971)

The episode would have been shot during summer 1971. The Upper Iverson landscape shown in "The Mustangers" is a combination of dried grass and the still-black charred trunks of trees and bushes that survived the fire. This footage captures a moment in the regeneration process of the native foliage: The grass had grown back during the winter and spring following the fire, and then had subsequently dried out as another hot Chatsworth summer set in.

The wildfires that raged for 13 days that fall — from Sept. 22-Oct. 4, 1970 — became a notorious chapter in California's history of natural disasters, leaving 16 people dead, destroying 722 homes and burning 576,508 acres, according to various media accounts. In all, a reported 773 wildfires were documented throughout the state around that time. The one that swept through Iverson, sometimes called the Newhall-Malibu Fire or the Chatsworth-Malibu Fire, was huge, and besides burning down virtually all of the remaining manmade sets at Iverson, it has been said that the same fire burned down almost all that was left of Corriganville, several miles to the west in Simi Valley.

Laguna Fire, 1970

The most famous of the fall 1970 wildfires became known as the Laguna Fire, although while it was raging it was also called either the Kitchen Creek Fire or the Boulder Oaks Fire. The above map shows the area it destroyed, mainly in eastern San Diego County. Said to be either the second largest or third largest fire in California history at the time, depending on which report you read, the Laguna Fire broke out on Sept. 26, 1970, as a result of downed power lines caused by Santa Ana winds, and went on to burn 175,425 acres, killing eight civilians and destroying 382 homes.

Topo map: Clampitt Fire, 1970

The Newhall-Malibu Fires of 1970 break down in various ways according to various reports, but documentation exists for something called the Clampitt Fire, as seen in the topo map above. The Clampitt Fire is said to have destroyed between 105,000 and 115,000 acres and is blamed for the loss of four lives and 86 structures. The map isn't as dramatic or as easy to follow as the map of the Laguna Fire, but a close look at it reveals that the Clampitt Fire would have cut a swath through a number of well-known movie sites. Besides hitting parts of the Lower Iverson, in the top right corner of the map, the fire would have swept through historic filming locations including Spahn Ranch, just south of Iverson; Bell Ranch, in the area designated "Box Canyon" on the map; Burro Flats, near where "Rocketdyne" is indicated; and Ahmanson Ranch, which is pinpointed on the map. It looks to me as though this particular branch of the fires missed both Corriganville and the Upper Iverson, although those areas were hit by other destructive fires around the same time.

This photo dated Sept. 25, 1970, from what was being called the Chatsworth-Malibu Fire, ran on the front page of the L.A. Times with a caption reading: "Randy Pearson, 18, kneels in front of his Chatsworth home as the roof goes up in flames."

Back to Iverson the following summer, and the shoot for "Cade's County." George Maharis, above, guest-starred in "The Mustangers" as a motorcycle-riding, fringe-leather-wearing, gun-totin' bad guy. This shot shows Maharis on the Upper Iverson, with Prominent Rock, also known as Medicine Rock, in the background. Notice the thick coating of dry grass on the ground, along with some oak trees that appear to have been missed by the fires.

Here's Maharis on his ride, which he uses on the show to illegally round up wild horses. Turtle Rock, a familiar feature from countless chase sequences in the B-Western era, looms in the top right corner, and a little more of the charred remains of foliage is visible in the background.

This shot from "The Mustangers" shows a familiar Upper Iverson rock formation I call the Three Stooges. To my eye the terrain, as it appeared in the summer of 1971, looks even more dusty and sparse than usual.

Some things never change — the producers couldn't resist working Wrench Rock into the episode. That's the widely filmed Wrench Rock — also known as Indian Head, Upper Indian Head, Bobby and various other names — directly above the heads of the young couple.

Wrench Rock was used as a prop for an impromptu photo shoot in the episode, with the young man taking pictures of his girlfriend in front of the charismatic rock feature. The Rocky Peak area of the Santa Susana Mountains to the west can be seen in the background.

The young lady mugs for the camera below Wrench Rock.

Wrench Rock also got its own closeup, seen in this screen shot. The rock can still be found today on the former Upper Iverson Movie Ranch.

A number of "wild" mustangs were turned loose on the Upper Iverson during the shoot for "Cade's County" — probably one of the last times that happened at Iverson. Here again, the landscape looks even more desolate than it usually does.

Glenn Ford, the star of the series, made it out to Iverson for the shoot, and is seen here riding on the Upper Iverson's South Rim. He usually drove a Jeep on the show, which was essentially a contemporary Western focused on Ford as a small-town sheriff. The show's run on CBS lasted only one season — from September 1971 to April 1972 — with a total of 24 episodes airing.

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