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, October 24, 2014

It's Now or Never: Time to find out whether Elvis Presley ever worked the Iverson Movie Ranch

The King of Rock 'n' Roll — in costume for "Harum Scarum" (1965)

I've been trying for some time now to nail down a definitive answer to the question of whether Elvis Presley ever appeared in movie footage shot at the Iverson Movie Ranch. That answer was surprisingly elusive, but I believe I finally have it — and the answer is ... Yes!

It happened in the 1965 MGM musical "Harum Scarum." It's widely known that a number of the outdoor scenes for the movie were shot at Iverson, but I had to put together a few separate pieces of evidence to determine whether Elvis himself took part in filming at the movie ranch. Finally, I can confirm that Elvis not only showed up at Iverson, but also ran around among its famous rocks.

"Harum Scarum" — Is that Elvis running around in the North Cluster?

This shot features Elvis' character, at the center of the frame, running near an Iverson rock that can be recognized from its appearances in other movies, as noted below. The shot does not provide a clear look at Elvis, but it's about as good as it gets as far as actually seeing the King at Iverson in the movie. (You may want to click on the photo to see a larger version.)

The rock seen just to the right of Elvis in the shot is one that appears frequently in old Westerns, which I call E.T. I've been aware of this shot for a few years, but I didn't consider it proof that Elvis was at Iverson because it could be that a stand-in was used in the shot. In those days big stars were routinely spared from having to do actual location work for long shots, especially in a harsh locale such as the Iverson Ranch. Until recently I remained skeptical about the actual presence of Elvis — Then I saw the promo still.

Promo still for "Harum Scarum" (1965) — shot on the Lower Iverson 

The promotional still, from the collection of film historian Jerry England, makes it clear that Elvis was indeed at Iverson. Whether the action here was a special setup for the photo or was a part of the actual filming doesn't matter. Clearly, the actors are all in costume for the movie, positioned in their same spots from the movie, and they're running through the same sequence that appears in the movie. Add it all up, and it means that's indeed Elvis in the scene in the movie.

The action in both the promo still and the movie scene takes place in a section of the former location ranch just north of Garden of the Gods known as the North Cluster. In this version of the shot I've identified the rock I call E.T.

"Come On, Cowboys" (1937)

This shot from the Three Mesquiteers movie "Come On, Cowboys" might help explain the origin of the name "E.T." The rock appears from a different angle here than in the Elvis movie, but is once again at the right of the frame.

This shot pinpoints E.T., as I want to make sure readers are certain which rock I'm talking about.

"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" (1982)

I find the shape of the rock to be strongly reminiscent of the title character in the Steven Spielberg movie. This shot also features a young Drew Barrymore.

"Stagecoach" (1939) — the stage arrives at Apache Wells

E.T. — the rock — appears in a minor role during an iconic sequence in one of the most high-profile movies filmed at Iverson, John Ford's Great American Western, "Stagecoach." The sequence in which the stagecoach arrives at the Apache Wells outpost, with the Garden of the Gods rock behemoths in the background, also includes the much smaller E.T. — although it would be easy to miss.

This version of the "Stagecoach" shot points out E.T. As I mentioned, it would be easy to miss the rock in this shot if you didn't know exactly where to look.

Here's a more widely recognized shot from the sequence, in which the giant Garden of the Gods towers are prominently featured in the background. From this angle, E.T. is blocked out by the wall and cannot be seen.

The best shot of E.T. in "Stagecoach" is probably this one, which appears as the stage pulls out of Apache Wells.

Pointing out E.T. one final time. In these shots we can begin to see that the rock was sort of out by itself, in a flat area where it was distanced from the other rocks. Its solitude and distance ultimately proved fatal, as E.T. was removed when the flat area was prepped for condo development in the 1980s.

"Harum Scarum": Is that Elvis, or a stand-in?

Getting back to "Harum Scarum," I wanted to point out a couple of other shots. The above scene is filmed at Iverson, with Cactus Hill in the background. But as with some of the other shots, it's unclear whether it's Elvis in the scene. His character is riding the second horse in the group, but here again, it could be a stand-in — and in this sequence, where only distant shots are included, my hunch is that this is not Elvis.

The situation is similar with this sequence of shots taken in the Iverson Gorge. Elvis is again supposedly a part of the group of riders, but it's impossible to be sure in the long shots. This shot includes the rock feature Bald Knob, directly above the riders. I talked about this shoot in a post about Bald Knob a couple of months back, which you can see by clicking here.


Below are some links to DVD versions of "Harum Scarum" and "Stagecoach," along with a link to a streaming version of "Come On, Cowboys," for those who are interested in seeing more of the Iverson Movie Ranch in these movies — or maybe just seeing the movies themselves.





No comments: