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.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Charles Bronson in "Bonanza" ... and the "Charles Bronson Hanging Tree"

Charles Bronson in the "Bonanza" episode "The Underdog" (1964)

Charles Bronson was already a pretty big movie star when he worked the Iverson Movie Ranch in 1964 as the featured guest star in the "Bonanza" episode "The Underdog," which premiered Dec. 13, 1964.

Outdoor action for the "Bonanza" episode was taped primarily on the South Rim of the Upper Iverson, where all of the shots in this blog post were taken. In the photo above, that's Bronson at the right as half-breed horse thief Harry Starr, enjoying a little campfire conversation with his gang.

Bronson wasn't quite "Death Wish" big yet — the first installment in his career-defining film franchise was still 10 years away. But he already had a solid movie resume under his belt by the time he rode up on the Ponderosa, having put his stamp on "The Magnificent Seven," "Machine-Gun Kelly" and "The Great Escape," among others. In the next few years Bronson would also chalk up "The Dirty Dozen" and the movie often cited as the quintessential spaghetti Western, "Once Upon a Time in the West."

Bronson's second-in-command in the gang, Lee Burton, was played by Tom Reese, a formidable actor in his own right.

Bronson got a chance to prove he could handle a horse during the "Bonanza" shoot, and acquitted himself admirably. Already a veteran of a number of Westerns at the time, the actor had no problem negotiating the rugged terrain of the South Rim.

A primitive horse corral was set up on the South Rim for the shoot, along with some other minor construction. The above shot includes familiar rock features in the background, which help pinpoint where the action was set.

One of the features in the screen shot is a rock known as Moschops, which you can read more about by clicking here. Moschops is also featured in this entry about the shoot for the 1986 movie "The Tomb."

Here's a look at Moschops in recent times, near the top center of the frame.

This screen shot includes some of the other minor construction that turns up in the episode — possibly a mine entrance, visible at the right of the frame. The photo also features the South Rim rocks known as the Pixies.

In this version of the photo the two main rock formations that make up the Pixies are highlighted. You can learn more about the Pixies by clicking here.

This shot answers the question, "Did Iverson have a hanging tree?" And the answer is: Oh, did it ever — and it still does! Thanks to the "Bonanza" episode, in which Bronson's character is found swinging from the tree — apparently having been betrayed by his own gang — I've taken to calling it the "Charles Bronson Hanging Tree." But I'd be willing to bet Bronson wasn't the first unfortunate soul to dangle from the tree.

The Charles Bronson Hanging Tree, as it appears today

Best of all, the Charles Bronson Hanging Tree is still around, and can be found pretty easily on the South Rim of the former Upper Iverson. This is a different angle from the one seen in the "Bonanza" episode, but it's the same tree. It should be noted that the tree remains on private property, and is now located in the front yard of a large residential home.

If you're an Iverson aficionado you may have already spotted the widely filmed movie rock the Molar, which was featured in countless B-Western chase scenes going back to the 1930s. If you happen to know where the Molar is located, then the Hanging Tree is easy to find — it's a part of the same circular driveway. You can click here to read an earlier blog post about the discovery of the Molar.

Here's another view of the Charles Bronson Hanging Tree in recent years, this time a little closer to the angle seen in "Bonanza" — and with the Molar now to the left of the tree's trunk. You may be able to match up some of the tree's main limbs with the shot below from "Bonanza."

It was the Molar that made it possible to find the tree. In this shot from the "Bonanza" episode, the Molar can be seen toward the left. Another marker, Rock in the Field, appears to be visible in the distance, although it is barely discernible.

Here's another version of the "Bonanza" shot with the Molar identified, along with what I believe to be Rock in the Field. The shot provides an unusual angle on the Molar, but through close examination I was able to make a positive ID on the rock.

Bear Tree, as seen in "The Adventures of Spin and Marty"  (1955)
— a close neighbor to the Charles Bronson Hanging Tree

Regular readers of this blog may recognize the area where the Charles Bronson Hanging Tree was found as being in close proximity to the location of another famous tree — Bear Tree, named after its appearance in the Disney TV serial "The Adventures of Spin and Marty." Please click here to read my earlier blog entry about Bear Tree.


Here's a fun video clip of the "Bonanza" episode's climactic sequence, featuring a fight to the death among the rocks of Iverson's South Rim. It may seem overly cautious to give a spoiler warning about a TV show from 50 years ago, but even so: If you don't want to know the episode's surprise twist, don't watch the clip. Also, I should mention that this particular clip does not include the Charles Bronson Hanging Tree.

3 comments:

Mark said...

One thing that I think is really cool and that's that they didn't blast off a portion molar to make way for the circle drive. For that I give them a thumbs up.

Mark said...

And they enough sense not to saw down the hanging tree. There is hope.

Swami Nano said...

Hi Mark:

You nailed it — the Molar dodged a bullet when they put in that driveway. (I like the idea of the rock's having dodged a bullet, since it probably "dodged" hundreds of them during its movie career — even though most of them were blanks.)

I can say that when the area caved in to development pressure, they did an OK job with the rocks. By my rough estimate, they probably spared at least three-quarters of the most important movie rocks from destruction. I would have preferred that they spared ALL of them — and especially wish they would have avoided putting them in people's back yards. But what's done is done, and I think now the point is to ensure that no additional movie rocks get destroyed going forward.

It's interesting that you mentioned the idea of blasting off a portion of the Molar to make way for the driveway, because that's exactly what happened at the house next door to this one, on the east side. You probably already know this, but for the benefit of newer readers, that house next door has a main driveway that runs between two heavily fimed rock features. You can see it in this post from 2011, about "Panic in Year Zero":

http://iversonmovieranch.blogspot.com/2011/10/panic-in-year-zero-iverson-as-refuge.html

If you go to that post and scroll down to the seventh, eighth and ninth photos (counting the poster), you'll see the family travel trailer squeezing between two rocks (I call the one on the left Lobsterclaw). The trailer is driving into what remains a driveway today. The second of the three shots gives a good look at the "duckbill" on the rock on the right. That duckbill was destroyed to give the house a wider driveway. The third of those three shots shows the rock as it appears today, next to the driveway. I still have to go back and get a shot of it from a different angle to show the part where the duckbill was removed.

Based on the site's track record of preserving movie trees, there is indeed hope. I think trees have historically had a stronger "lobbying effort" than rocks, as a number of environmental groups pay attention to trees but haven't yet acknowledged the existence of rocks. I suppose rocks seem tough enough to defend themselves, but really they're no match for explosives and heavy equipment.

I've mentioned before — and probably even used the same pun — that trees are still a relatively new "branch" of the research. But I've been encouraged by what I've found so far. I've searched mainly for three movie trees, and found them all. Besides the Charles Bronson Hanging Tree, I've blogged before about Bear Tree and the Forsythe Oak. You can find all of them in the long index ("labels") at the right of the page.

In the process, I did discover that a number of trees have gone away. The ratio may end up being about the same as with the rocks, with about three-quarters of the trees surviving. But it's too early to come up with an accurate number. I do have another really interesting movie tree that I'm trying to find, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Figuring out what has survived and what has been destroyed, whether it's rocks or trees, is one of the things that makes Iverson research as exciting as it is, because it could always go either way.

Thanks for your comments!

-SN