John Forsythe in "Zane Grey Theatre" (1957)
The giant sandstone boulders get most of the attention at the Iverson Movie Ranch — something that was true in the filming days and remains true in modern times, as researchers comb the history of the ranch. That fact has helped keep the study of the former filming location's many distinctive oak trees largely on a back burner. But with the identification earlier this year of Bear Tree on the Upper Iverson, things are beginning to pick up. And in a new development, I am pleased to report that a second group of important movie trees has been discovered.
John Forsythe, left, in the Midway Oaks
All of the photos seen above are from "Decision at Wilson's Creek," an episode of the Western anthology series "Zane Grey Theatre." The episode premiered May 17, 1957, on CBS, with much of its outdoor footage shot on the Upper Iverson. A number of key scenes took place in a group of trees located near Iverson's Midway House, which I call the Midway Oaks. In the scene above, shot in the Midway Oaks, one of the grove's surviving trees can be seen directly over Forsythe's shoulder.
read about by clicking here, resulted in identifying Bear Tree, as seen in Disney's "The Adventures of Spin and Marty." In the course of that research, a set of trees in the Oak Flats area became identified as Trees A through D.
The Forsythe Oak and other surviving Midway Oaks, as they stand today
The Forsythe Oak and a number of the other Midway Oaks survived the development of the former Upper Iverson and now reside in the back yard of an estate that has been built on the site, in Chatsworth, Calif. The Forsythe Oak can be seen in the above shot taken recently by film historian and field operative Cliff Roberts. The Forsythe Oak appears near the bottom center of the photo, with much of the tree leaning sharply to the left.
Aerial photo from 1959 showing the Midway area on the Upper Iverson
The above aerial photograph from 1959 shows the main features of the Midway area at that time, which consisted of Midway House, the Midway Rocks and the Midway Oaks. The white rectangles that appear in various places are believed to be movie trucks.
"Decision at Wilson's Creek" ("Zane Grey Theatre," 1957)
Trees E and F — the two main Midway Oaks that did not survive — make appearances in the "Zane Grey" episode, where John Forsythe walks along the east-west road below them — Road A. In the above shot, Forsythe has begun walking east along Road A. Tree E stands at the intersection of Roads A and B, and a portion of Road B can be seen behind it.
Fish Head, a familiar Upper Iverson rock, visible in the background.
in this previous blog entry.
More of the Midway Oak Grove as it stands in 2014
Cliff's recent foray into the Midway Oaks reveals that the grove as it stands today is far more extensive than just the few trees seen in the "Zane Grey" episode. We have been unable thus far to match up any of the oak trees seen in the above contemporary shot, but many of the trees appear large enough — and therefore old enough — that they would have been in place during the filming era. On the other hand, some of the younger trees may have been planted in the decades since filming wound down on the Upper Iverson.
The Forsythe Oak, left, and other Midway Oaks as they appear today
Another recent shot of the Midway Oaks includes the Forsythe Oak, at the far left of the photo. In this shot it's hard to be sure whether some of the other trees are among those seen in "Zane Grey." The biggest problem is limited access, which prevents researchers from viewing the trees from the same angles used in the TV show. Additionally, the trees have grown and changed shape in the 57 years or so since the production was filmed.
The links below will take you to DVD versions of "Zane Grey Theatre" for sale on Amazon. The link on the left is for the complete first season, which should include the episode "Decision at Wilson's Creek," featured in this post.