Head of the Lion, Chatsworth, Calif.
If you have ever been to the Garden of the Gods Park in Chatsworth, Calif., chances are you walked right past the Head of the Lion. It's one of the hundreds of widely filmed movie rocks that still populate the area, from when the site was part of a bustling filming location known as the Iverson Movie Ranch. The face of the rock directly overlooks what is now the main trail into the park.
"Rocky Mountain Rangers" (1940)
The rock's position — and on occasion, its artistic use — can make it easy to miss. An example of the latter is the above shot from a movie that's a full-on Iverson spectacle, Republic's Three Mesquiteers B-Western "Rocky Mountain Rangers." In this shot, you may or may not notice the Head of the Lion at first. Only the snout area is visible, with the rock being used as a framing device for an overview of a portion of the Iverson Gorge. The lion's snout can be seen at the left edge of the frame. I'll highlight it in the next photo.
Another view of Head of the Lion in modern times
The Head of the Lion looks like this when it's viewed from the west, and if you've been following this blog in recent weeks you may already know where this is headed. This angle does not show the part of the rock that looks like a lion's head, and that fact contributed to some confusion recently in my research. I put up a blog post about seeing this rock in an old movie, the 1934 Beacon Productions B-Western "Cowboy Holiday." But at the time I thought it was something else entirely.
"Cowboy Holiday" (1934)
This is how Head of the Lion Looks in "Cowboy Holiday," and after momentarily losing consciousness because I was so excited over what I thought I was seeing, I wrote a blog entry making a big deal about spotting what I thought was the "Dark Side of The Wall." You can click here to read that post — I'm leaving it up as a reference, but I'm adding a big "mea culpa."
"Cowboy Holiday": Another shot of Head of the Lion
One problem with "Cowboy Holiday" — and one reason I got the sighting wrong — is the movie never does show the face of the lion. The above shot is about as close as it gets, with Head of the Lion being the main rock filling up the middle of the shot. If they would have moved the camera a short distance to the right, they could have captured a much more ... what's the right word, leonine? ... view of the rock.
"Adventures of Captain Marvel" (1941)
Another production in which Head of the Lion makes an appearance is the Republic serial "Adventures of Captain Marvel," as seen above. Here again, the rock is hard to see — and that may be one reason it wasn't filmed more often than it was. I'll highlight it in the next shot.
"Rogue of the Rio Grande" (1930)
Above is what might be the first featured appearance on film by Head of the Lion, in the early sound B-Western "Rogue of the Rio Grande," from Monogram and Atlantic Pictures. The movie is said to be the first talking role for early cinema icon Myrna Loy. You should be able to spot the lion's face right in the middle of the shot.
"Blazing Across the Pecos" (1948)
Here's a shot from the Durango Kid movie "Blazing Across the Pecos," starring Charles Starrett, that shows not only part of the face of the lion, at far right, but also the rock's non-lion-head-like western profile.