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 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

Saturday, October 11, 2014

"Mission: Impossible's" Mr. Phelps — Peter Graves in action on the Iverson Movie Ranch

Peter Graves in "Fury" (1956) — on the North Rim at the Iverson Movie Ranch

Peter Graves achieved his greatest fame as Mr. Phelps, head of the Impossible Missions Force on the classic spy show "Mission: Impossible" in the 1960s. (Insert your own "self-destruct" joke here.) But earlier in his career he was devoted adoptive dad Jim Newton on the TV show "Fury," raising Joey, played by Bobby Diamond, and helping to nurture the bond between the youngster and the stallion Fury at the Broken Wheel Ranch in California.

The same rocks as they appear today, on the North Rim of the Upper Iverson

The fondly remembered "Fury" is one of the most Iverson-intensive TV shows of all time, having shot parts of almost every episode on the movie ranch during its five-year run on NBC, from 1955-1960. The above shot, taken by film historian Cliff Roberts on a recent research stop at the North Rim, captures the same rocks seen behind Peter Graves in the top photo. You may be able to match up some of the holes in the rocks, such as the round one above the brim of Graves' hat. For research purposes I call this the Skull Rock area.

Pulling back for a wider shot, this photo shows the bulk of the Rocks Across the Way-East formation as it appears today, with the Skull Rock area visible toward the left of the frame. The area surrounding these rocks has been almost entirely developed and is now home to a number of large estates. This particular lot, in the foreground, has been prepped for development but has not yet been built.

Rocks Across the Way — on the North Rim of the Upper Iverson

This bird's-eye view of the area shows the not-yet-developed parcel in the bottom right corner, immediately adjacent to Rocks Across The Way-East on the formation's south side. Solar panels for a home on the north side have been incorporated into the rock area, and the rocks form a backdrop for both a residential swimming pool, at top right, and a small basketball court — the red area closer to the center of the photo. You may want to click on these shots to see a larger version with much more detail.

Here's the same bird's-eye view with the key rock features identified, including the "Skull Rock" area seen behind Peter Graves in the photo at the top of this post. The Rocks Across the Way are also known as the Festival Rocks.

"Montana Territory" (1952)

This shot includes a more familiar view of the Rocks Across the Way, from the Columbia B-Western "Montana Territory." The rocks are seen in the distance, which is how they were most commonly filmed. The flat expanse in front of the Rocks Across the Way, also visible in the background, contained a network of chase roads and well-maintained camera car roads. The Rocks Across the Way thus became a common sight in the backgrounds of chase sequences filmed throughout the B-Western era and the early days of the TV Western.

This shot identifies the two main clumps that make up the Rocks Across the Way, as seen in the "Montana Territory" shot.

Those same two clumps of rocks can be seen in this photo of the area in more recent years. The photo also reveals some of the extensive development that has been undertaken on the former Upper Iverson.

This version of the recent shot again points out the two main clumps that make up the Rocks Across the Way.

The Fury Set in 1955 — its first appearance in "Fury," in the show's fifth episode

Regular readers of this blog may already know that for almost the entire run of "Fury" — all but the first four episodes — the Broken Wheel Ranch was in fact a set on the Upper Iverson, including buildings constructed specifically for the TV show. The Fury Set, as it's still known (although the set perished in the wildfires of 1970), initially consisted of just a barn and corral, with a rarely filmed main house and a smaller cabin added later.

"Fury" episode "The Earthquake" (1956)

This shot from an episode early in season two of "Fury" shows Joey, played by Bobby Diamond, hard at work in the corral area of the Fury Set. In the background we can see a portion of the Rocks Across the Way-East.

This version of the screen shot points out a distinctive rock shape that helps identify the background rocks as the Rocks Across the Way-East. The episode, "The Earthquake," premiered Oct. 20, 1956.

Here's the same rock feature as it appears in one of Cliff Roberts' recent shots of the Rocks Across the Way — the same photo that can be seen near the top of this post.

Midway House — located south of the Fury Set and used as the family home in "Fury"

Construction of another house a short distance to the south of the Fury Set, which I call Midway House, was completed in time for season two of "Fury" and became the family home for the remainder of the TV show. The above shot of Midway House comes from the "Fury" episode "An Old Indian Trick," which first aired Feb. 14, 1959, during the show's fourth season.

William Fawcett, Peter Graves and Bobby Diamond (left to right) at Midway House

Here's a shot of the three main protagonists in "Fury" on the front porch of Midway House, from the episode "Trial by Jury." B-Western fixture William Fawcett, at left, was on hand for the full five-year run of the show, playing Pete Wilkey, who cooked and helped out around the house while Jim Newton (Peter Graves) was busy ranching and parenting. Bobby Diamond's mission as young Joey Newton was to be a kid and have adventures.

This is another shot from the same episode, with the three regulars joined by guest stars Pamela Baird, as Joey's friend Sally, and Ray Montgomery as her dad. We get a better look at the porch of Midway House here, and we can begin to see some of the rocks to the south of Midway House. "Trial by Jury" premiered Oct. 27, 1956.

One more from "Trial by Jury": In this shot of Pamela Baird and Ray Montgomery we get a look at the rock feature Smiling Lion, which was one of the closest neighbors to Midway House. Smiling Lion was situated just south of the house, overlooking the creek when it was running.

Same shot, this time with Smiling Lion highlighted. A previous blog entry you can go to by clicking here has a section on Smiling Lion with more details and photos.

A sign reading "Broken Wheel Ranch" hung on the gate into the Fury Set during the five-season run of "Fury."

Fury was played by Highland Dale, seen here frolicking on the Upper Iverson in a shot from the season four episode "Feeling His Oats," which premiered Jan. 24, 1959. The shot appears here the way it ran in the show, where it was horizontally flipped.

This is a "fixed" version of the shot, flipped horizontally to its correct orientation, showing what Highland Dale — and that section of the Upper Iverson — really looked like.

William Fawcett and Peter Graves at Skull Rock in "Fury"

Someone apparently thought Peter Graves looked like a Jim, because besides playing Jim Newton on "Fury," he also played one — Jim Phelps — on "Mission: Impossible." Graves won a Golden Globe in 1971 for his work on "Mission: Impossible." His brother was another well-known Jim: James Arness, known to the world as Marshal Dillon on "Gunsmoke."


Anonymous said...

Wow that was just in time, glad i could add a little to a great entry. Cliff

Swami Nano said...

Thanks again, Cliff. We may not be able to see the Skull Rock area much longer, with construction apparently soon to begin on that lot. I appreciate your getting in there while we still have a chance to document it.

Mark said...

I've got to tell ya, I always get a sense of sadness when an entry of yours tells of domed destruction to these beautiful rock formations.

Swami Nano said...

I know what you mean, Mark. I do think there are things that can be done, even though for the most part the development of the former Iverson Movie Ranch is a done deal.

In some cases it may still be possible to help by letting lawmakers know that some historically important rock features remain in jeopardy. I'm no expert on the activist side, but I would guess the L.A. County Planning Commission would be one place to start, when it comes to future building projects at Iverson. I suspect the people making development decisions often just don't know the history.

If anyone has suggestions, please let us know.