Here's what the Iverson Movie Ranch obsession is all about ...

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Iverson's other Western street

"Gunmen From Laredo" (1959) — Saddlehorn Village

While Iverson's El Paso Street, also known as Iverson Village, appeared in hundreds of productions and is well-known to film location researchers, the Iverson Movie Ranch also had, for a period of time from the late 1950s through the '60s, a scaled-down and much less widely filmed Western street located some distance to the west of the main movie street. This smaller Western street is seen in the screen shot above from the Columbia B-Western "Gunmen From Laredo," which starred Robert Knapp.

"Gunmen From Laredo," with buildings highlighted

In my research I refer to this relatively short-lived set as Saddlehorn Village, because it was adjacent to a widely filmed two-story building known as the Saddlehorn Relay Station, which can be partially seen at the left in the above shot.

"Black Bart" (1948)

Here's a better view of Saddlehorn Relay Station, as it appeared in the Universal-International Western "Black Bart," starring Yvonne De Carlo and Dan Duryea. The relay station was built around 1940 and saw action in movies and TV shows for about 30 years. For more about the Saddlehorn Relay Station, please click here.

"Escort West" (filmed in 1958, released in January 1959)

The earliest appearance of Saddlehorn Village that I know of is in the United Artists/MGM production "Escort West," which stars Victor Mature. It's possible the set was built specifically for this movie. In the above screen shot, Saddlehorn Relay Station is seen at the left, with the new buildings of Saddlehorn Village at right. The shot is taken looking more or less toward the west.

"Bonanza" TV series: "The Paiute War" (Oct. 3, 1959) — Saddlehorn Village

Saddlehorn Village stood during a period when much of the production being done at Iverson was for television, and the set found its way into a number of high-profile TV shows. The above shot comes from the "Bonanza" episode "The Paiute War," the fourth episode of the long-running TV Western.

"Gunsmoke" TV series (1966)

Another high-profile TV Western, "Gunsmoke," also made use of Saddlehorn Village, several years after the "Bonanza" appearance. The above screen shot, in which one of Saddlehorn Village's main buildings appears as "Harris Forwarding and Freight Station," comes from the "Gunsmoke" episode "Killer at Large." The episode first aired Feb. 5, 1966, and would have been shot in 1965.

This shot from the same "Gunsmoke" episode shows Saddlehorn Relay Station on the left along with a portion of the "Harris" building at the right, revealing that the village has been reconfigured considerably by this time. At least one building — the shed seen in the "Bonanza" shots and other photos above — has been removed from its previous spot. Readers who know a thing or two about the Saddlehorn Relay Station may also notice that the building has undergone some remodeling, notably the construction of an outer wall filling in the bottom story of the building, below the three windows. In previous incarnations, this lower section of the building had an overhang supported by pillars — one of the building's trademarks over the years.

"Fury" TV series (circa 1956-58)

This is what that side of Saddlehorn Relay Station — the northeast face — looked like for most of its lifespan. Notice the pillars supporting the overhanging portion of the building. The shot comes from an unknown episode of the TV show "Fury" that was filmed sometime from about 1956-58.

"Gunsmoke": "Killer at Large" (1966)

A closer look at the "Harris" building in the "Gunsmoke" episode shows that a number of features of the original Saddlehorn Village, such as the distinctive angled roofline — which can also be seen in the movie shots and one of the "Bonanza" shots higher up in this post — have been retained. Incidentally, that's Festus, played by Ken Curtis, driving the horse cart and chatting with a young boy.

Ken Curtis as Festus — "Gunsmoke" (1966)

Here's a better look at Festus, shot during the Saddlehorn Village scene as Festus listens intently to what the boy has to say. I believe the shot is taken looking south, and the hill behind Festus is just to the south of the Lower Iverson, across Santa Susana Pass Road.

Another view of the Harris Freight building in the "Gunsmoke" episode shows that, along with a well and a handful of roosters, the front of the place has been given the appearance of a brick building — something that wasn't evident in earlier incarnations of Saddlehorn Village.

Here's a closer look at those bricks, which were probably plaster of Paris or some other "movie magic" version of bricks. The appearance of buildings could be changed and then changed back again with relative ease through the use of false fronts. Something else you may have already noticed is the older gentleman in the rocking chair: That's veteran character actor Cyril Delevanti — one of those instantly recognizable quintessential geezers of the old movies and early TV era. Here he's playing Grandpa Harris, presumably the man behind Harris Forwarding and Freight, in the 1966 "Gunsmoke" episode.

Cyril Delevanti

Characters like Cyril Delevanti are one of the reasons going over these old productions is so much fun. Born in the 1880s — accounts differ as to the exact year — he's a member of that elite group of actors who seemed as though they were "always old" — but what a career he had, appearing in movies and TV shows from the early 1930s into the 1970s. One of the high points for Cyril was a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actor in 1965, following his appearance in John Huston's classic "The Night of the Iguana."

You may remember Cyril Delevanti from his many TV guest appearances. (No that's not him in the shot above — that's George Reeves as the TV version of Superman ... different guy altogether.) Delevanti showed up in everything from "Highway Patrol" to "Adventures of Superman" to "Dennis the Menace" to "Dick Van Dyke" to "Ironside" to "The F.B.I." — not to mention his countless roles in early TV Westerns. He was in too many TV series to do justice here to any kind of real list, but I want to mention that he was a frequent guest on high-end anthology-type TV dramas, including "The Twilight Zone" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." Born in London, Delevanti worked mainly in Hollywood, where he died of lung cancer in 1975.

The headline on this blog entry, "Iverson's other Western street," is a reference to the fact that Iverson's main Western town set, sometimes called El Paso Street, is much more widely filmed and more well-known than Saddlehorn Village. But that headline is actually a bit misleading, because the Iverson Movie Ranch may have had as many as three other sets over the decades — besides the main town set and Saddlehorn Village — that could be described as "Western streets." Each of these is even more obscure than Saddlehorn Village, but research into all of Iverson's sets is ongoing and I plan to report on them as soon as I know anything. I hope you'll sign up for the mailing list by emailing me at That way you'll be among the first to know about any new information I find.

In the meantime, check out these Amazon links to some of the movies and TV shows featured in this blog entry:

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