"The Bold Caballero" (1936)
I had an experience along those lines recently when I was searching the grounds of the former Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., looking for a particular "classic rock" from the movies — a stacked formation I call Plaza Rock. You can see it in the shot above, from the old Republic Zorro movie "The Bold Caballero," starring Bob Livingston. That's Plaza Rock filling up much of the left half of the screen.
"The Old Corral" (1936)
I started calling it Plaza Rock in my research because often when I saw the rock in the movies, it had a sort of dirt "plaza" in front of it, and appeared to be positioned strategically at a crossroads, as if presiding over the plaza. You can get an idea of the plaza in the above screen shot from the Gene Autry movie "The Old Corral." You may also want to pay attention to that much larger rock in the top right corner, which sort of lurks meaningfully behind Plaza Rock. That rock will be discussed in the post that follows this one, and it is a big part of the Plaza Rock story. But for now I'm going to hold off on talking about it and keep the focus on Plaza Rock itself.
"The Lone Ranger" (Republic serial, 1938)
During the years when the Gorge Cabin was in place, from about 1936-1944, Plaza Rock was one of the nearest rock features to the cabin. In fact, one thing that makes Plaza Rock especially important is that it helps pinpoint the location of the cabin. I've blogged previously about Gorge Cabin, and you can read more about it and see a bunch of other movie shots of the cabin by clicking here.
Promotional still, circa 1940-1943, featuring Gorge Cabin and much of Iverson's Upper Gorge
The above promotional still comes from the collection of film historian Jerry England, and it's one I've featured before on the blog. In addition to providing one of the clearest looks at the Gorge Cabin, this shot includes a number of important features of Iverson's Upper Gorge. No one has successfully determined — yet — which production the shot was made for, although it's thought to be from a Columbia serial, possibly "Batman" (1943). For now I'll have to give a date range for it rather than a specific year.
"Outlaw's Son" (1957)
The above screen shot from "Outlaw's Son," a relatively obscure Western feature from United Artists that starred Dane Clark and Ben Cooper, provides a look at the same area where Gorge Cabin stood, but after the cabin was gone, in 1957. The camera angles are comparable, though far from exact, between this shot and the early 1940s promo shot above, and a couple of key rocks appearing in both photos serve to further pin down the location of the cabin. It would have been in the flat "plaza" area adjacent to Plaza Rock, toward the back of the shot, behind the tree that appears directly in the center of the shot.
The above markup shows an experiment I did that attempts to draw a closer comparison between the two preceding shots — with and without the cabin. I can't honestly say I'm convinced that this effort contributed much, if anything, to the process of pinpointing the former location of the cabin. But it was something I thought I'd try and this was the result, for better or worse. Besides Plaza Rock, the same large foreground rock appears in both shots, and the dotted line between the two rocks should intersect the cabin location.
Click here to see Western movie location expert Jerry England's blog, where he talks about the Iverson Movie Ranch, other filming locations in the Santa Susana Mountains, a little family history and all things cowboy.