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.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The stories those old oak trees could tell ...

"The Adventures of Spin and Marty" (1955)

Getting the trees to tell their stories is a relatively untapped branch of Iverson Movie Ranch research, and one that's in some ways more challenging than using rocks to reveal history. After all, trees don't hold their shape over the decades quite as well as rocks do. But there comes a time when a tree is the best person to tell a story. The scene depicted above, from the Disney production "The Adventures of Spin and Marty," is a good example. (Credit Disney for any screen shots from "Spin and Marty" that appear here.)

The same shot, with an Iverson landmark noted

I was skeptical at first when "Spin and Marty" expert Kurt Spitzner suggested that the bear sequence was shot at Iverson. But as is usually the case with Kurt and anything to do with "Spin and Marty," he was absolutely right. Kurt's research pointed to the Oak Flats area of the Upper Iverson, where many of the original oak trees — not all of them, unfortunately — have survived. Kurt spotted a number of rocks in the background that turned out to be known Iverson rocks, with the clincher for me being Rock in the Field, as noted above.

"The Golden Stallion" (1949)

The above shot from Republic's color B-Western "The Golden Stallion," starring Roy Rogers, offers a more familiar view of Rock in the Field. The rock was commonly seen during chase sequences in old Western movies and early Western TV shows, typically appearing to be out in the middle of a field (hence, the name).

1952 aerial photo of the Oak Flats section of the Upper Iverson

With Rock in the Field as a known landmark, the search for the tree in the "Spin and Marty" bear sequence zeroed in on the area seen in the above aerial photo from 1952, which depicts the section of the former Upper Iverson Movie Ranch known as "Oak Flats."

Here's that same 1952 aerial with a few key features noted.

A zoomed-in view of the Oak Flats area — still from the 1952 aerial — shows a number of trees that were identified as possibilities for the bear sequence in "Spin and Marty." The research team, consisting of myself, Kurt and field operative Cliff Roberts, began testing out theories involving Trees A, B and C.

This is what that same area looks like today, in a Google aerial view. A number of large estates now occupy the site of the former Upper Iverson, but by comparing this view with the 1952 aerial above, we can see that many of the native oak trees that made up Oak Flats during the filming era remain in place — including all three trees that were targeted in the "Spin and Marty" research.

Tree A: "Bear Tree," as it appears today

After I obtained photos of all of the trees in question, it became immediately apparent that Tree A — now known in my research as "Bear Tree" — is the mighty four-trunked oak seen in "Spin and Marty."

A closer view of Bear Tree gives some idea of how gnarled it has become in the almost 60 years since "Spin and Marty" was filmed. The chain-link fence in the background is a reminder that the area is all private property — and is now home to an exclusive gated community.

Certain views of the tree can be matched up almost perfectly with shots from the 1955 "Spin and Marty" episode. The shot above includes a distinctive arched limb branching off to the left, and Rock in the Field, although hard to make out here, appears in the background. This shot is a good match for the bear shot from 1955 seen below.

The same arched limb seen in the 2014 photo of Bear Tree is immediately recognizable in the bear sequence from 1955 — the limb looks remarkably similar in these two shots taken almost 60 years apart. You may notice that by 2014 the weight of the limb and its many appendages has caused it to sag, with much of the weight of that part of the tree now resting on the ground.

This is the same view of the bear and its namesake tree from 1955, pointing out the arched limb and noting the location of Rock in the Field.

For comparison, here's the 2014 shot of Bear Tree's arched limb, with the limb and the location of Rock in the Field noted. As I mentioned above, it's harder to make out Rock in the Field from this angle than it was in 1955. Some of that has to do with lighting conditions at the time this photo was taken. But it's still possible to see the rock.

The young actors treed by the bear in the "Spin and Marty" episode are Dee Aaker and Tim Hartnagel, as noted above.

Here's a better look at the boys in the tree.

The bear that took part in the sequence must have been pretty tame. Presumably the producers had containment measures in place, but based on some of these shots it appears as though the bear could have bolted the set if it got a sudden hankering to make a run for nearby Cactus Hill. This is the only time I can recall seeing a live bear at Iverson for the filming of a production — rather than a guy in a bear suit, which is how they would have handled it in the old B-movies.

Interactive map from Kurt Spitzner's "Spin and Marty" site cinchset.com

Please do yourself a favor — especially if you have fond memories of "Spin and Marty" — and check out Kurt's incredibly well-researched cinchset.com website, devoted to all things "Spin and Marty." The site's emphasis is on the first, and widely considered the best, of the three "Spin and Marty" productions, "The Adventures of Spin and Marty," which aired during 1955 as part of "The Mickey Mouse Club." While "Spin and Marty" shot mainly at Disney's Golden Oak Ranch in Newhall — which is still operating as a filming location — Kurt's site includes a number of pages devoted exclusively to "Spin and Marty" location shoots at the Iverson Movie Ranch, which you can access directly by clicking here. His recent research on Bear Tree and the Upper Iverson, including the interactive map seen above, can be found by clicking here and going to the bottom of the page.

Below is a link to the DVD set "Walt Disney Treasures: The Adventures of Spin & Marty," which is the same set I used in my Bear Tree research:


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