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.

Friday, March 14, 2014

One rock to rule them all? A Hobbit House hides among the condos

Bilbo Baggins at home at Bag End

Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit from "Lord of the Rings," would be right at home in the Cal West Townhomes community in Chatsworth, Calif. The condo development was built on the site of the former Iverson Movie Ranch — the most heavily filmed outdoor location in the history of the movies — and as luck would have it, there's a Hobbit House, or something that looks like one, hidden among the condos.

"The Trusted Outlaw" (1937)

I talked about my search for Plaza Rock in the previous blog entry, and I teased the fact that, while I was unable to find Plaza Rock amid the condos, I did find something pretty cool. What I found was the larger mushroom-shaped rock that is often seen behind Plaza Rock, as in the above screen shot from the Bob Steele movie "The Trusted Outlaw." For reasons I will explain below, I began referring to the larger rock as "Hobbit House."

Hobbit House as it appears today, amid the Cal West Townhomes

After discovering the mushroom-shaped rock in its current setting — where it serves as a large-scale planter decoration in the condo community — I realized the rock has something in common with the Hobbit dwellings in "Lord of the Rings." Like a Hobbit residence in the Shire, most of the rock is now underground.

"Stagecoach Express" (1942)

Here's a shot from the Don "Red" Barry B-Western "Stagecoach Express" from Republic that gives some idea of how tall and imposing Hobbit House was back in its movie days. The rock is at least twice the height of a stagecoach and much taller than Gorge Cabin.

"The Old Corral" (1936)

As you can see in this shot cropped from "The Old Corral," Hobbit House as it stood in the filming era towered over Plaza Rock, which was itself a substantial formation, seen here looming above a large car.

But to create the present-day community of condos surrounding Hobbit House, developers had to make compromises. One of those compromises was to bury most of Hobbit House, fill in the area in front of it with dirt and plant a sprawling lawn, as can be seen in this shot taken on a recent visit to the site.

Hobbit House then — in the 1942 movie "Stagecoach Express," on the left — and now, on the right.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of two shots — one showing Hobbit House as it appeared in the movies in 1942, on the left, and one taken in recent times revealing the rock's new role as a lawn sculpture, on the right. The comparison makes it clear just how significantly the rock formation's stature was diminished when the bulk of it was buried during grading for the condo project.

Today residents of the condo community have the privilege of driving past Hobbit House on their way to and from their garages, as the former movie rock is situated right next to a main driveway. As excited as I was to find the rock — and to learn that it had survived, more or less — I was saddened to see that it had been somewhat brutally "domesticated" in order to make it compatible with a community of townhomes.

 "The Trusted Outlaw" (1937)

But the fate of Hobbit House is better than what happened to Plaza Rock. Which reminds me, what DID happen to Plaza Rock?

All we know is what we can see ... and what we can see makes it pretty clear: Plaza Rock is no more. This shot and the even wider view a couple of photos up present a fairly complete picture of the area in front of and around Hobbit House. If Plaza Rock were still to be found, it would be somewhere in these two shots. My hunch is that Plaza Rock remains under this lawn, completely buried ... probably with the top part of the rock knocked off.

The other option is they broke it up, maybe blew it up, and trucked it off in pieces to a remote location, as illustrated above. (The photo is just an illustration, and has no connection with Iverson.) It strikes me as a lot of wasted effort when they could have just buried the thing. They knew they were going to fill the area with dirt, and that would have been the easiest way to get rid of the "problem" of Plaza Rock.

1952 aerial photo of the Upper Gorge

An aerial view of a portion of Iverson's Upper Gorge, taken in 1952 — when the rocks were still above ground — shows the proximity of Hobbit House and Plaza Rock, which were practically on top of each other. The aerial also highlights a couple of nearby features: the Angry Cardinal, a large rock formation that was the focus of this recent blog post, and the site of Gorge Cabin, which was already gone by 1952. You can click here to read an earlier blog entry that goes into detail about Gorge Cabin. My post previous to this current one, which focuses mainly on Plaza Rock, also discusses the location of Gorge Cabin, and can be seen by clicking here.

This is what the same area looks like today in an aerial view, noting the positions of Hobbit House and Plaza Rock among the condos.


Until someone comes up with a better idea, I'm going on the theory that Plaza Rock remains buried under the lawn. X marks the spot.

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