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.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

I'll see you on the Dark Side of The Wall — or Not!

A couple of months after I first published this blog post I realized I had made a mistake in determining that this rock was a part of the legendary Iverson Movie Ranch rock wall known as "The Wall" — and that means the whole "Dark Side of the Wall" business that I had so much fun with at the time was just a wee bit off-target. I have since written a new post revealing the true identity of this rock — and I'm sure this time, as I've seen it in person. You can read that post by clicking here, and find out the real story of the rock seen in the photos below — which is still an Iverson Movie Ranch rock and, as a matter of fact, is still pretty cool.

In the meantime, I'll leave up this post more or less as it appeared originally, not counting this big "mea culpa" at the top — along with a few choice editorial comments added, in red, I suppose to pre-emptively mock myself. The post still contains mostly valid information. Between this one and the update, I hope readers will find something of entertainment value if not historical merit.

"Cowboy Holiday" (1934)

This shot is so unusual — and from a film location research standpoint, so spectacular — that at first I didn't know what I was seeing. But I eventually figured it out — I think — and when I did, I momentarily had a hard time catching my breath. Unless I'm mistaken (and as it turns out, I was), this shot from the 1934 Beacon Productions B-Western "Cowboy Holiday" presents a view of the west side of "The Wall," a legendary rock feature that used to stand on the old Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif. The large rock "wall" filling the top half of the frame would be just the southern tip of the much larger formation known as The Wall, and this view from the west was virtually never filmed — at least not from close range. Even though the rock appears white in this shot, it's truly the unseen "Dark Side of The Wall." (OK, so, not so much.)

An aerial view of the Cal West Townhomes development on the site of the former Lower Iverson
Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., shows where The Wall used to stand — approximately
where the magenta bar appears.

The Wall was not an uncommon feature in old movies and TV shows shot on the Iverson Movie Ranch, but it was almost always shot from the east. It was a striking feature, and is among the most lamented of the classic movie rocks that were demolished to make way for development as the old Iverson Ranch was subdivided and built out. Where The Wall once stood, we now have the sprawling condo development known as Cal West Townhomes.

"Lone Rider in Ghost Town" (1941)

This is one of the most familiar views of The Wall, as it appears in the 1941 PRC B-Western "Lone Rider in Ghost Town," showing the rock feature's eastern side. That's The Wall above the horses, filling up much of the right half of the frame. Hanging over the edge on top of the wall, above the horse toward the left, is another well-known feature, Potato Rock. The hazy mountain peak in the background — also a familiar sight in the old Iverson productions — is some distance to the south, located above Chatsworth Park. I call it Elders Peak.

"Tarzan the Ape Man" (1932)

This shot of The Wall is taken from a similar angle to the one seen in "Lone Rider in Ghost Town." The Wall isn't as sharp here, but I wanted to include the shot because it's part of a classic sequence filmed in the Iverson Gorge that appears near the end of the 1932 feature "Tarzan the Ape Man" — the movie that launched the Johnny Weissmuller era of Tarzan. Here again, The Wall is seen at the right, and Potato Rock is easy to spot, above and to the right of the elephant riders. Elders Peak appears again, at top center, and below it are the Elders, in the distance near the center of the shot. I'll highlight all of these features in the photo below.

"Tarzan the Ape Man" — with Iverson Gorge features noted

I want to note again that the Elders and Elders Peak are not on the Iverson Movie Ranch but are across Santa Susana Pass Road, a short distance to the south. They are, however, important features when trying to understand the location work done at Iverson, because they show up frequently in productions filmed on the ranch.

"Jesse James at Bay" (1941)

The above shot from the 1941 Roy Rogers movie "Jesse James at Bay" from Republic offers a wider view of The Wall and its context in the Iverson Gorge, seen again from the east, as usual. The focal point of the shot is Gorge Cabin, in the foreground, but many of the dynamic features of the Gorge can be seen in the background and should be pointed out. I'll highlight them in a series of shots, below.

"Jesse James at Bay" — with Iverson Gorge features highlighted

Gorge Cabin was in place in the Iverson Gorge from approximately 1936-1944, undergoing a series of renovations and expansions and appearing in many movies, among them "The Terror of Tiny Town" (1938), the original "Lone Ranger" serial (1938)  and many of PRC's "Billy the Kid" movies of the early 1940s. It is believed that the cabin was relocated in the mid-1940s to the Upper Iverson, where it continued to appear in productions for some time, usually being referred to during that later period as Hidden Valley Cabin or Stone Cabin.

"Jesse James at Bay" — with additional Iverson Gorge features highlighted

This shot indicates the status today of some of the Iverson Gorge rock features. Those that have survived, or in some cases, partially survived (for example, about half of the original Crown Rock exists today), are sprinkled among the Cal West Townhomes.

Here's one more version of the "Jesse James at Bay" shot, and this one gets back to the main point of this blog entry. The highlighted area shows the southern end of The Wall, as seen from the east. This is approximately the same portion of the rock feature that appears in the shots from "Cowboy Holiday" (which we now know is not true) — where it's seen from the west, revealing the other side of the rock. The shot below pinpoints the view of this portion of the rock in "Cowboy Holiday" ... but in fact, no.

"Cowboy Holiday" ... but NOT what's labeled here.

Although the scale is vastly different in the above two shots, I (used to) believe they zero in on the same piece of The Wall — from opposite sides. Below is an even closer shot of this "Dark Side of The Wall," with some additional context.

Southern tip of The Wall (NOT), seen from the west (true), in "Cowboy Holiday" (true)
with Nyoka Cliff in the background at top right (and true)

Another shot from "Cowboy Holiday," above, helps nail down exactly what we're looking at because the shot includes a well-known Iverson rock feature that was located nearby — Nyoka Cliff. The cliff is seen in the background in the above shot, in the top right corner. Below is a closer examination of some of the features of Nyoka Cliff seen in this shot.

This wider view of Nyoka Cliff appears in the 1952 movie "Son of Paleface."

A split-screen comparison of portions of the above two shots from "Cowboy Holiday," on the left, and "Son of Paleface," on the right, features Nyoka Cliff as seen in both movies, revealing a number of markers such as the smaller rock above the cliff and the horizontal cracks in the cliff itself. Some of the markers are pointed out in the shots below. You can click on any of these shots for a larger view.




Here's an image of Nyoka Cliff as it appears today, taken on a recent visit to the site. The same markers noted above, as they appeared in "Cowboy Holiday" and "Son of Paleface," can still be seen, as highlighted in the shot below.

Nyoka Cliff today, with markers noted from "Cowboy Holiday" and "Son of Paleface"

I'm stating the obvious here, but just for the record, I don't mean to imply that it's the same bush, still there 80 years after "Cowboy Holiday" was filmed. But it's a similar bush growing in the exact same spot, where the cliff apparently offers a little patch of fertile dirt.

One last shot of the west side of The Wall — the "Dark Side" — as seen in "Cowboy Holiday" (but not really)

The Wall as it appears in "Cowboy Holiday" could hardly be called a thing of beauty. In terms of aesthetics, its intimidating size, scarred surface and brutish shape make it something of a monstrosity. But to me, getting a look at the west side of The Wall is a little bit like the early space explorers finally catching their first glimpse of the dark side of the Moon (and then finding out the Moon landing was faked). In a way the "Dark Side of The Wall" is even more rare — we knew the dark side of the Moon would be there waiting for us if we could just get up there. But with The Wall having been destroyed years ago, the only way we were ever going to see its "dark side" was if it turned up in a movie or TV show. Luckily, it finally did. (And then it didn't.)


The Wall comes up pretty regularly on this blog, and if you would like to read more about it, I recommend checking out my recent tribute to Shirley Temple, which gets into The Wall in connection with Shirley's appearance in "Wee Willie Winkie." You should be able to find the Shirley Temple post below this one, or you can click here to read it. Other previous posts about The Wall include the Three Stooges' visit to the rock feature (part of a longer post about the Stooges), a Ray Harryhausen "Dynamation" monster on a rampage near The Wall and a post about the Gorge Cabin that includes a number of movie shots of The Wall. Additional posts about The Wall can be seen by clicking here or by finding The Wall in the extensive index at the right of this page.

In case you're interested in seeing "Cowboy Holiday" for yourself, I've included a link below where you should be able to buy a reasonably priced DVD of the movie off Amazon.

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