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.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Laurel and Hardy take on the Iverson Movie Ranch in "The Flying Deuces"

One of the best-known movies to shoot at the Iverson Movie Ranch is Laurel and Hardy's 1939 French Foreign Legion farce "The Flying Deuces."

"The Flying Deuces" (1939) — laundry scene

The footage shot at Iverson for the movie consists of just one sequence, but it's a memorable one. Usually referred to as the "laundry scene," the sequence has the two protagonists attempting to get through a nightmarish, massive laundry project — seemingly doing the laundry for the entire Foreign Legion — as they're forced to pay a price for causing a ruckus in training camp.

In the shot above, which I've annotated here, a couple of familiar rocks can be seen behind the boys — Water Wiggle, behind Stan Laurel, on the right, and Faux Hangdog 2, behind Oliver Hardy, on the left. Both rocks remain in place today, and are now part of the park area designated as Garden of the Gods.

This shot offers a slightly improved view of Faux Hangdog 2, just above a hunched-over Hardy, along with a better look at Water Wiggle, to its right. I blogged a few months back about Water Wiggle and a number of the other rocks in this area, which is known as the North Cluster. You can read that post, and see better photos of these and other North Cluster rocks, by clicking here.

This is the famous mountain of laundry, which is, of course, fake. In fact, the pile is built partly on top of a rock. That's Stan Laurel on top of the pile, selecting a pair of long johns to be scrubbed. The shot is taken with the camera looking west, and Pyramid Peak is visible in the background, toward the right.

Another view of the mountain of laundry reveals a well-known movie rock, Phantom, lurking nearby, at the center of the shot. 

Here's a look at the same area as it appears in recent times. The pile of laundry was built using the rock at the right to contribute to its heft.

This version of the shot has the main rocks identified.

Views such as this one, in which the rock seems to be wearing a mask, give the Phantom its name.

Here's a nice shot of Oliver Hardy at work at Iverson, from "The Flying Deuces" — once again with Faux Hangdog 2 in the background, at the right. The movie is by far the legendary comedy team's most high-profile appearance at the Iverson Movie Ranch, although at least one silent short featuring Laurel and Hardy, "Flying Elephants," released in early 1928, also contained footage shot at Iverson.

Lines of laundry stretch out across the area just north of Garden of the Gods, known as the North Cluster.

In this annotated version of the shot, a number of rock features and background hills are identified.

"Adventures of Spin and Marty" (1955)

This shot from a production made 16 years after "Flying Deuces" gives an idea what the same area looked like without all the laundry hanging out to dry. The shot from the Disney TV serial "Adventures of Spin and Marty" is taken from a similar angle to the "Flying Deuces" laundry lines shot.

This version of the "Spin and Marty" shot is annotated to point out some of the features common to both this shot and the "Flying Deuces" shot above this one. The shot is narrower than the "Flying Deuces" shot, but includes many of the same rocks and hills.

Low Wall, as it appears today

Low Wall remains in place today, and still looks pretty much the same. Today it is part of the area that has been preserved as the Garden of the Gods, and can be found by taking a short hike west off Redmesa Road, north of Santa Susana Pass Road.

North Cluster Wall of Rock, as it appears today

North Cluster Wall of Rock remains intact too, for the most part, but it does not look the same as it did in 1939. These days it's overgrown with trees and other foliage, and hard to get a good look at. This shot of a portion of the rock feature was taken on a visit in April of this year.

Here's the same shot of North Cluster Wall of Rock with some labels added. These labels correspond with those in the following shot, which is a labeled version of the "Spin and Marty" shot.

Here's the "Spin and Marty" shot from 1955 with rock labels corresponding to the recent shot above. You can see how much more open the North Cluster Wall of Rock was in 1955.

Returning to the laundry line shot from "The Flying Deuces," it's harder to see the specific features of the North Cluster Wall of Rock, but the labels correspond with those in the preceding shots.

Cockpit shot — promo still from the aerial sequence in "The Flying Deuces"

Aerial footage for the climactic flying sequence in "The Flying Deuces" was shot partially in the sky above Iverson, and this part of the shoot produced some interesting material, which I will talk about in more detail below. However, the aerial footage from this shoot that found its way into the movie does not include views of the movie ranch.

Laundry shot seen during the aerial sequence — created by special effects

This shot, which appears in "The Flying Deuces" during the aerial sequence, may be one reason that some knowledgeable viewers — particularly those who are interested in locations and know that the laundry scene was filmed at Iverson — think they're seeing the Iverson Movie Ranch during the aerial sequence. However, it turns out that this shot is a model, and not the actual location. One clue is that the rocks don't match the real rocks in the North Cluster area as they appear from the air, which you may be able to see in some of the shots below.

This shot zooms in on the laundry model. The plane could never have come close enough to the ground to get this shot if it were the actual laundry hanging out at Iverson. But the model is used effectively to create the illusion of a close fly-by of the laundry area. After comparing shots of the model, shots taken on the ground of the actual laundry lines, and shots of the actual laundry from the air (see below), I came to the conclusion that the model is "better," in a way, than the actual laundry set. It's a nice model, just sprawling enough and just detailed enough, making for a completely believable "diving plane" shot of the scene.

"Manhunt of Mystery Island" (1945) — aerial footage shot six years earlier for "The Flying Deuces"

It appears that actual aerial footage of the site of the laundry scene was shot for "Flying Deuces" but was not used — at least not in that movie. The footage subsequently turned up in a number of other productions, including the Republic sci-fi serial "Manhunt of Mystery Island."

Here's the aerial shot again from "Manhunt of Mystery Island," pinpointing a few of the major features. The shots below will continue the sequence as the plane closes in on the ground, approaching the Iverson Movie Ranch and getting closer to the Garden of the Gods and closer to the site of the laundry scene.

As the plane moves just a bit closer to Garden of the Gods, the features begin to take better shape. Here you may be able to spot the laundry hanging out to dry — a white area near the center of the frame. In addition to "Manhunt of Mystery Island," pieces of this aerial footage have surfaced in the Republic serial "Radar Patrol vs. Spy King" (1949) and in the Allied Artists horror movie "The Cyclops" (1957), and probably in other productions as well. I'm showing shots only from "Manhunt of Mystery Island," as it's the clearest footage I've been able to find.

Moving in still closer, we can now see the laundry much more clearly — and we can make out a number of the major Garden of the Gods features. Tower Rock and the Sphinx are visible near the top right corner of the shot, along with part of the Phantom. I'll point them out in the next shot.

Here's the same shot from "Manhunt of Mystery Island" with key features identified.

At this point the plane taking the footage has closed in just about all the way — almost as close as it could safely get. In addition to a better look at the laundry along with a few large Garden of the Gods rock figures, something unexpected can be seen in this shot: the false back on the large pile of laundry seen in "The Flying Deuces."

This shot points out where the fake laundry pile is located — the same pile on which Stan Laurel examines a pair of long johns in a screen capture up above. It's possible — although it seems unlikely — that the discovery of the laundry pile's false back in the footage was a factor in the decision not to use the sequence in "The Flying Deuces." I say it's unlikely because it was rare in those days for filmmakers to be concerned about such minor details, especially given that the shot appears only briefly.

One other item seen in the "Manhunt of Mystery Island" aerial sequence is also noteworthy, and that's the "laundry shed" set where much of the laundry scene takes place in "The Flying Deuces." In the above shot, which is now all the way in — slightly closer than the previous shot, and as close as the plane could come to the ground — the shed can be seen fairly clearly in the center of the shot, to the left of the false laundry pile.

Here's the same shot with the laundry shed noted, along with the fake laundry pile.


Below you will find links to "The Flying Deuces" and other productions mentioned in this post, for sale on DVD on Amazon.com. Enjoy!

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