"The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" (1958)
When I spotted this shot on the "Wyatt Earp" TV show — in the episode "One-Man Army," which first aired Jan. 7, 1958 — something about it didn't look right. That's Hugh O'Brian as Earp standing on the left and Robert Anderson as the ne'er-do-well Drum Denman on the horse, at right. The boys look OK — it's the rock in the background that bugs me. That sharp-pointed "Alpine" pinnacle at the top doesn't fit in with the rest of the Iverson Movie Ranch landscape.
Part of Rock Island as it appears today — held captive in Rock Island Prison
These days Rock Island is mostly buried, and the fraction of it that remains above ground is behind bars — in a location I call Rock Island Prison. It's actually one of the swimming pool areas for the Cal West Townhomes, and the rock serves as a decoration of sorts alongside the driveway into the condos. The "prison bars" kind of dampen its decorative usefulness if you ask me, but no one did. So there it sits — I suppose it's better than being blown up.
"They Died With Their Boots On" (1941) — Rock Island
This is Rock Island in happier times, when armies marched below the mighty cluster of rocks, as seen in Warner Bros.' big-budget feature on the Custer/Little Big Horn story "They Died With Their Boots On," starring Errol Flynn. The massive formation of sandstone boulders was an imposing presence, towering above a detachment of mounted Cavalrymen who had no idea they were about to be on the losing end of one of U.S. history's most famous massacres.
"Fighting Seabees" (1944) — Rock Island at top right
Custer's army wasn't the first or last to have to negotiate Rock Island. With World War II still raging a few years later, another big-budget war movie, John Wayne's "Fighting Seabees," set up shop in the Iverson Gorge and Rock Island became part of the battle in the South Pacific. This shot underscores the massive scale of the rocks, as the men look like toy soldiers beneath the towering boulders. I'll point out some of the key details of this shot in the next photo.
"Ride 'em Cowboy" (1942) — Rock Island
Another view of Rock Island more closely matches the angle seen in the Wyatt Earp sequence — and the angle seen in the "Rock Island Prison" view. In this shot from the Abbott and Costello comedy "Ride 'em Cowboy," the car at the center of the frame is about to splash into a manmade pond in the foreground.
The same rock as it appears today
The question is why — and I'm afraid I don't know the answer. This is what that same rock looks like in real life, and I can't say I see anything wrong with it. To me the rock looks a bit like a crouching cat. The shot includes a number of the modern annoyances that have pretty much ruined the ambiance of the area, namely condos, water tanks and the 118 Freeway. I would propose that the fake "Alpine peak" was there to conceal the water tank, but the tank hadn't been built yet in 1957, when the "Wyatt Earp" episode was shot.
Christened: Crouching Cat
I was torn between One-Man Army Rock, in honor of the "Wyatt Earp" episode, and Crouching Cat, because that's what the rock looks like to me. I initially tried to go with One-Man Army Rock, and some readers may have seen the rock briefly ID'd that way on the blog. But as the weeks went on I found I couldn't remember the name and I was constantly asking myself, "What was that name I came up with again for the Crouching Cat rock?" I finally accepted that the rock, by virtue of its stubborn insistence on looking like a crouching cat, had named itself: It's Crouching Cat.
"The Purple Monster Strikes" (1945)
Crouching Cat wasn't one of Iverson's most widely filmed features, but it did make an appearance in the Republic Serial "The Purple Monster Strikes."
I'm including links to Amazon, below, for some of the productions discussed in this blog entry ... check 'em out!