"Little Big Horn" (1951) — filmed by DP Ernest Miller
At the suggestion of blog reader Steven Dwyer, I recently revisited the astonishingly good Iverson movie "Little Big Horn." The movie is an embarrassment of riches for an Iverson researcher — it's not just that virtually the entire movie was shot on the location ranch, but, more important, that the movie was shot by Ernest Miller, one of the greatest Iverson cinematographers and a man with a keen eye for the drama and the rugged beauty that was the Iverson Movie Ranch. The above shot, using silhouettes of the Garden of the Gods rock towers, at right, as a framing device in combination with an angry sky, is a prime example.
The protagonists of "Little Big Horn" speed past what is now the Cul de Sac area on the Upper Iverson
The movie stars Lloyd Bridges and John Ireland, with Charles Marquis Warren directing for Lippert Pictures. But to my eye the film is above all a showcase for Miller. I've blogged previously about him, talking about how he used Iverson's rocks in ways that almost no one else did, consistently showcasing them as artistic elements. As I mentioned in a post not long ago, Miller was one of two DPs to receive an Academy Award nomination for cinematography for the movie "Army Girl," which he also filmed at Iverson.
"Fury" TV series — "Joey and the Wolf Pack" (premiered Nov. 3, 1956)
This shot from the TV show "Fury" is one of surprisingly few other examples I've run across that give a good idea of the location of Shoe Fluffer — seen here filling up the foreground of the shot with Lobsterclaw in the background, at the right. Shoe Fluffer, so named because its shape is similar to those wooden devices that go inside of shoes to help them hold their shape, did not survive the development of the Upper Iverson, but its neighbor Lobsterclaw remains in place today — albeit on private property as part of someone's landscaping.
"The Golden Stallion" (1949)
Here's another production where Shoe Fluffer and Lobsterclaw can be seen — in color this time — along with the twisted rock tower that dominates the rock formation I call the Cul de Sac Crew. The shot comes from the Roy Rogers B-Western "The Golden Stallion," from Republic Pictures.
The Cul de Sac Crew in modern times
In its contemporary setting the Cul de Sac Crew has some modern annoyances in its environment such as a chain-link gate and a property marker, but it also has a cool oak tree up above, and a nice flowerbed below.
Eagle Beak Rock as it appears today
Eagle Beak Rock today is part of the same residential landscape as Lobsterclaw, and is easy to spot at top center in this shot from 2011. Shoe Fluffer and Nautilus are no longer anywhere to be found, but you can see the tip of Lobsterclaw jutting into the frame near the bottom left corner.
"Little Big Horn" — Cowbones
Moving to higher ground, this shot from "Little Big Horn" is taken just above the Cul de Sac area, along the northern slope of Cactus Hill. While the familiar and heavily filmed Turtle Rock lurks in the background, a far less commonly photographed, but I think equally interesting, rock can be seen filling much of the left half of the shot. This largely overlooked rock feature hovering above the South Rim reminds me of a bleached set of cow bones, and that's what I have been calling it: "Cowbones."
Cowbones as it appears today
I found Cowbones on a recent visit to Iverson. It's perched near the northern edge of Cactus Hill, above the South Rim of the Upper Iverson. The rock in the lower right corner can also be seen in the "Little Big Horn" shot. For readers who saw my recent entry about the Snakeskin Mine Shack, Cowbones is in the immediate vicinity of the shack location, just out of the picture in "Gun Belt" but just to the northeast of the shack.