Here's what the Iverson Movie Ranch obsession is all about ...

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• 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).
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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Off the Beaten Path: The Barkley family mansion and barn in "The Big Valley" — and where in tarnation did they drop off Miss Kitty in "Gunsmoke"?

The Barkley family mansion, as seen in the title sequence for "The Big Valley" (1965-1969)

It's fairly well-known that the Barkley family mansion on the TV series "The Big Valley" was located on the old Republic backlot in Studio City, Calif. But I recently uncovered a few tidbits about the sets used for the show that I don't think have been publicized much, if at all.

The Mansion, as seen on "The Big Valley"

Here's another look at the Barkley family home on "The Big Valley." This screen shot comes from the episode "Under a Dark Star," which premiered Feb. 9, 1966, during the show's first season. The building on the Republic lot that served as the Barkley mansion tends to be referred to somewhat generically as "The Mansion," or the Mansion set.

"The Mansion," on the Republic backlot in Studio City

This shot of the Mansion is unrelated to "The Big Valley" or any other production, as far as I know, but has been circulated as something of a reference shot of Republic's Mansion set. The photo also appears in Tinsley E. Yarbrough's quintessential book "Those Great Western Movie Locations." Tinsley suggests the mansion was originally built for the 1949 John Wayne movie "The Fighting Kentuckian."

"The Big Valley" — closing credits

Here's the shot of the mansion that appears while the closing credits roll at the end of episodes of "The Big Valley." The one-hour series aired for four seasons and 112 episodes on ABC, from 1965-1969, and was part of a wave of TV Westerns including "Bonanza," 'Gunsmoke" and "The Virginian" that helped transition the genre from its primary role in the 1950s as children's entertainment into a well-regarded adult dramatic format.

The Barkley family barn, as seen on "The Big Valley"

The Barkley family's red barn, seen in a number of episodes, was also located on the Republic backlot. The barn was part of the Duchess Ranch set, which happened to be adjacent to the Mansion set. This shot comes from the episode "The Fallen Hawk," which premiered March 2, 1966.

The small house on the left is actually part of a large house that was situated near the Mansion. This gray house and the barn effectively made up the Duchess Ranch set, which was used constantly by Republic when it was cranking out B-Westerns.

"Santa Fe Passage" (Republic, 1955)

The Mansion set occasionally snuck into the shot in productions that featured the Duchess Ranch set, as in this example from the John Payne-Rod Cameron Western "Santa Fe Passage."

Clarifying what's what in the shot, if needed.

Additions and upgrades to the Duchess Ranch barn for "The Big Valley"

Even though the barn as it appears in "The Big Valley" is seen from close to the same angle used in "Santa Fe Passage," its appearance is markedly different in the two productions. For "The Big Valley," along with a new red paint job, the barn had a number of additions built on — such as the new covered entry area highlighted here. A freshly painted new corral area was also set up.

Another look at the new covered entry area that's part of the barn set for "The Big Valley."

The barn also boasts a new turret on top.

"The Golden Stallion" (Republic, 1949) — Duchess Ranch

The same set was featured in countless productions over the years, usually looking more like a typical dusty old Western ranch set — as it does here in the Roy Rogers and Trigger showcase "The Golden Stallion."

"The Big Valley" — gate to be replicated in Oak Park

The new corral area seen in "The Big Valley" was used to help establish the setting where the producers wanted viewers to believe the Barkley family compound was located, which is seen in the shot below.

"The Big Valley" — the replica gate, from the episode "Image of Yesterday"

The episode containing this screen shot of a replica corral gate — presumably meant to represent the gate back on the Republic lot — premiered Jan. 9, 1967, during season two. This gate appears in a number of episodes, with characters riding through it as they arrive at or depart from the Barkley compound.

"The Big Valley" — "Image of Yesterday" (1967)

The location of the gate is clearly meant to define the setting surrounding the Barkley family home on "The Big Valley." However, in the real world, the gate was located miles away in what is now the suburbs of Oak Park, Calif., specifically Lindero Canyon. It appears that the only part of the "Big Valley" set that stood in this location was the replica of the gate.

A close look at the gate and fence that stood in what is now Oak Park reveals that it's not a perfect match with the gate at Duchess Ranch in Studio City. While the supports on the crossbar at the top and the diamond-shaped bracing on the gate itself are a good match, the configuration of the fence is a giveaway.

Another bend in the layout of the fence belies the producers' attempt to replicate the Duchess Ranch set.

"The Big Valley" — shot in the Oak Park area

This shot from "Wagonload of Dreams" was taped near where the replica gate was set up. You may detect commonality in the background hills between this photo and those featuring the gate set. (See the next photo, for example.) This episode first aired Jan. 2, 1967, one week before "Image of Yesterday," and may well have been filmed during the same shoot.

"The Big Valley" — "Cage of Eagles"

The gate and background hills appear again in the episode "Cage of Eagles," which aired later in season two, premiering April 24, 1967. I wonder how long that gate would have stayed in place out there — or whether they kept putting it up and taking it down. More'n likely, they just kept recycling the same footage.

Here I've combined parts of the two shots above to show that they contain the same rocky bluff in the background. While the bluff is more distinct in the top half of the composite, from "Wagonload of Dreams," the overall shape matches the more distant shot on the bottom, from "Cage of Eagles."

"Branded" TV show (1966) — same bluffs in the background

Lindero Canyon being a bit off the radar, tracking down the location of the "Big Valley" gate set took some doing. But the locale did play host to some filming activity, especially in the mid-1960s — this "Branded" shot being another example.

With the similarity in shape between the bluff noted here and the one to its right, it makes sense to check that we're on the same page. The bluffs pull one's eye off course sometimes. The "Branded" shot comes from the episode "Call to Glory, Part 3," which wrapped up a three-part series of episodes that aired in February and March 1966.

The bluff at the right in this shot can also be seen in "The Big Valley," in the shot from "Wagonload of Dreams," where it appears above and to the right of the wagon. The bluff in the center of this shot is not seen in any of the "Big Valley" shots, but lifts itself here because the "Branded" scene was shot from a much higher angle.

Google Earth photo: Hiking trail in Oak Park

A photo I found posted on Google Earth, taken by a hiker along a trail in the Lindero Canyon area, captures the same bluffs seen in "Branded" and "The Big Valley," albeit from a different angle.

I've labeled the bluffs appearing in the photo posted by the Oak Park hiker to show how they match up with the "Branded" shot, which appears below with similar labels.

Here's the "Branded" shot again, labeled to show how the bluffs match up with the photo posted by the hiker.

"Gunsmoke" (1965) — the Miss Kitty dropoff point

The Oak Park shooting location first came to my attention as part of a search by Michael D, one of the readers of this blog. Michael is a "Gunsmoke" fan and mentioned that he had been searching for the remote location seen above, where Miss Kitty gets dropped off by the stagecoach in the episode "Gold Mine."

This clump of rocks in the "Gunsmoke" scene was the focal point of Michael's location hunt.

Amanda Blake as Kitty, stranded at the clump of rocks

In the "Gunsmoke" episode, Miss Kitty is dropped off by the stagecoach and left at the clump of rocks, where it's pertinent to the theme of the episode that she was stranded in the middle of nowhere. The episode premiered on Christmas Day in 1965 as part of "Gunsmoke's" 11th season.

As it turned out, the same clump of rocks also appeared in "Branded," although it was shot from a different direction and so it had a different background — the bluffs.

The hiker who posted the Google Earth photo taken along the trail above Oak Park, with the bluffs in the background, also posted this shot, taken from close to the same spot. The shot contains the same hills seen in the background during the "Gunsmoke" sequence.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the hills above Oak Park as they appear in the background of the hiker's photo and in the "Gunsmoke" sequence. The same hills appear in both photos.

While I had a hand in helping to put a few of the pieces together, it was Michael who nailed down the "Gunsmoke" location as Oak Park. Between the two of us, we were able to determine that the site of the original clump of rocks where Miss Kitty was dropped off was approximately here — in what is now a residential back yard. In an enticing twist, it's possible — although far from certain — that some of the original rocks may have survived.


Off the Beaten Path is a series of posts that are not specifically focused on the Iverson Movie Ranch. Typically they're about filming locations in Southern California. Past subjects have included Corriganville, Bell Ranch, Pioneertown and Mulholland Drive, to name a few. You can go directly to the Off the Beaten Path posts by looking up the term "Off the Beaten Path" in the long index of labels at the right of the page, or by clicking here (recommended!).

18 comments:

Otis Criblecoblis said...

Thanks for this fascinating post! I've long been curious to know more about the Barkley mansion, and had never noticed that it is used in The Fighting Kentuckian. I watched it again tonight, and there it was!

Swami Nano said...

Thanks for your feedback, O.C. Those sets on the backlot at Republic are always popping up somewhere — although the Mansion is one of the more sparsely used sets on the lot. That set next-door to the Mansion, the Duchess Ranch set, was a busy place, especially in the Republic B-Westerns. It also shows up in "The Restless Gun," "Law of the Plainsman" and some other TV Westerns of the '50s.

Your name reminds me of a famous quote: "I was in love with a beautiful blonde once. She drove me to drink. That's the one thing I'm indebted to her for."

-SN

Otis Criblecoblis said...

I'm happy you know the origin of my nom de blogue. Kids today are so sadly unaware of the greats.

Ardell Young said...

After the Melody Ranch fire in 1962, where did Gunsmoke film the exterior shots of the Dodge City street?

Swami Nano said...

Hi Ardell ... thanks for your comment.

I've been putting thought into your question about the "Gunsmoke" town set post-1962, and I'm afraid I don't have a good answer. Even though it's a seemingly simple question, I think the answer is complicated. With a series that aired for 20 seasons and produced 635 episodes, that's not surprising. But I am a little surprised that it's as hard as it is to find a solid source of location info on a show with the devoted fan base that "Gunsmoke" has.

One thing I can say is the show appears to have shot quite a bit at the same location discussed in this entry on "The Big Valley," the CBS Studio Center on the Radford lot in Studio City, which was also the Republic Pictures lot before CBS bought it (and Mascot before that, and Keystone back in the silent era). The location has a long, rich filming history and at that time still had an extensive group of Western sets on its backlot. You can look up "Republic backlot" in the long index at the right of this page to see a little bit of additional material about the site.

It does appear to me that at least for part of the time in the years after the 1962 fire at Melody Ranch, "Gunsmoke" used various Western town sets on the CBS Studio Center backlot, and some of those probably dated back to the Republic era. "Gunsmoke" would have been keeping up a long tradition of using those sets, after their extensive appearances in B-Westerns from the '30s through the '50s. But I am not as familiar with the look of particular town sets at the old Republic site as I wish I were, and I've been unable to identify anything specific.

It's also worth noting that "Gunsmoke" did a substantial amount of shooting out of state. As the show's long run extended, I'm sure the producers felt they needed to widen their location reach to avoid becoming repetitious. Arizona, South Dakota and Utah have all been mentioned in connection with "Gunsmoke," along with a vast array of California locations (including "perennials" such as Iverson, Corriganville, Bell Ranch, Vasquez Rocks and Bronson Canyon).

I'm hoping we will hear from a "Gunsmoke" expert who can shed light on locations for the series, starting with the evolution of Dodge in the post-Melody Ranch era. A film historian who is well-acquainted with the Republic backlot/CBS Studios filming history may also be able to shed light.

Thanks again, Ardell!

-SN

jrd said...

Very interesting blog. I'm enjoying reading it.

marie umbay said...

Love the side by side photos of the same spot then and now! Thank you

Mark Roland said...

I just watched an episode of Perry Mason with Paul Drake, the private detective for Mason, standing at the gates and behind the gated entry was the Barkley Mansion. Richard Anderson, who was on The Big Valley and Six Million Dollar Man, was also in this episode of Perry Mason as a candidate for the Senate. I think this episode was shot prior to Big Valley going on the air.

Swami Nano said...

Thanks for the comment, Mark. I'll keep an eye out for that episode. You're right about the sequence of events. The "Perry Mason" episode, "The Case of the Paper Bullets," aired Oct. 1, 1964, about a year before "The Big Valley" first went on the air.

Anonymous said...

I just saw it on an episode of the Wild Wild West where Jim West is,drugged by Dr. Lovelace.

leland frame said...

I just saw the mansion in the old sci-fi serial "Zombies of The Stratosphere"! LOL

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a great post. Very interest, in what we can now call history.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing all these out.
Too bad we can't go visit the mansion and ranch. I heard that it's been torn down but I hope that's not true and that it still exists.

Anonymous said...

I really admired the mansion, particularly the staircase, but l have read elsewhere it was torn down, so only on episodes of The Big Valley can you still admire it.

Anonymous said...

Is this mansion exterior the same as the classic wild wild west episode that was a dream sequence in which they were transporting a prisoner and were being haunted? Artemis dreamed they were staying the night in the home.

Anonymous said...

^^^ The exterior AND interior of the Barkley Mansion (Iverson Ranch) were used in filming The Wild Wild West episode "The Night of the Surreal McCoy" also!
I recognized it immediately, having just watched an episode of The Big Valley an hour or so earlier. There was even a 'painting' of the mansion exterior hanging inside.

Unknown said...

I'm new to this blog and hope these comments are in the right place! The Barkley Mansion was used in a rare cinematic (OK - it was TV) event, the only time Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood acted together. The Rawhide episode was towards the end of the series, in Season 8.

Duel at Daybreak has an excellent performance by Charlie, who proves his detractors were wrong. He really could act when he wanted to. Charlie and Clint barely speak to each other, but they appear in one scene with some of the Rawhide regulars. The mansion is visible in the background.

As for Gunsmoke locations, several episodes were definitely shot in Johnson Canyon, near Kanab in southern Utah. The set is still there, unprotected and gradually decaying into the dust.

Regards to all,

Wild Bill,
England

gary8264 said...

I don't think it's been mentioned, but the mansion also appeared in the very first episode of "The Night Gallery". The Pilot episode, entitled "The Cemetary", with Roddy Mcdowall.