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.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The stories those old oak trees could tell ...

"The Adventures of Spin and Marty" (1955)

Getting the trees to tell their stories is a relatively untapped branch of Iverson Movie Ranch research, and one that's in some ways more challenging than using rocks to reveal history. After all, trees don't hold their shape over the decades quite as well as rocks do. But there comes a time when a tree is the best person to tell a story. The scene depicted above, from the Disney production "The Adventures of Spin and Marty," is a good example. (Credit Disney for any screen shots from "Spin and Marty" that appear here.)

The same shot, with an Iverson landmark noted

I was skeptical at first when "Spin and Marty" expert Kurt Spitzner suggested that the bear sequence was shot at Iverson. But as is usually the case with Kurt and anything to do with "Spin and Marty," he was absolutely right. Kurt's research pointed to the Oak Flats area of the Upper Iverson, where many of the original oak trees — not all of them, unfortunately — have survived. Kurt spotted a number of rocks in the background that turned out to be known Iverson rocks, with the clincher for me being Rock in the Field, as noted above.

"The Golden Stallion" (1949)

The above shot from Republic's color B-Western "The Golden Stallion," starring Roy Rogers, offers a more familiar view of Rock in the Field. The rock was commonly seen during chase sequences in old Western movies and early Western TV shows, typically appearing to be out in the middle of a field (hence, the name).

1952 aerial photo of the Oak Flats section of the Upper Iverson

With Rock in the Field as a known landmark, the search for the tree in the "Spin and Marty" bear sequence zeroed in on the area seen in the above aerial photo from 1952, which depicts the section of the former Upper Iverson Movie Ranch known as "Oak Flats."

Here's that same 1952 aerial with a few key features noted.

A zoomed-in view of the Oak Flats area — still from the 1952 aerial — shows a number of trees that were identified as possibilities for the bear sequence in "Spin and Marty." The research team, consisting of myself, Kurt and field operative Cliff Roberts, began testing out theories involving Trees A, B and C.

This is what that same area looks like today, in a Google aerial view. A number of large estates now occupy the site of the former Upper Iverson, but by comparing this view with the 1952 aerial above, we can see that many of the native oak trees that made up Oak Flats during the filming era remain in place — including all three trees that were targeted in the "Spin and Marty" research.

Tree A: "Bear Tree," as it appears today

After I obtained photos of all of the trees in question, it became immediately apparent that Tree A — now known in my research as "Bear Tree" — is the mighty four-trunked oak seen in "Spin and Marty."

A closer view of Bear Tree gives some idea of how gnarled it has become in the almost 60 years since "Spin and Marty" was filmed. The chain-link fence in the background is a reminder that the area is all private property — and is now home to an exclusive gated community.

Certain views of the tree can be matched up almost perfectly with shots from the 1955 "Spin and Marty" episode. The shot above includes a distinctive arched limb branching off to the left, and Rock in the Field, although hard to make out here, appears in the background. This shot is a good match for the bear shot from 1955 seen below.

The same arched limb seen in the 2014 photo of Bear Tree is immediately recognizable in the bear sequence from 1955 — the limb looks remarkably similar in these two shots taken almost 60 years apart. You may notice that by 2014 the weight of the limb and its many appendages has caused it to sag, with much of the weight of that part of the tree now resting on the ground.

This is the same view of the bear and its namesake tree from 1955, pointing out the arched limb and noting the location of Rock in the Field.

For comparison, here's the 2014 shot of Bear Tree's arched limb, with the limb and the location of Rock in the Field noted. As I mentioned above, it's harder to make out Rock in the Field from this angle than it was in 1955. Some of that has to do with lighting conditions at the time this photo was taken. But it's still possible to see the rock.

The young actors treed by the bear in the "Spin and Marty" episode are Dee Aaker and Tim Hartnagel, as noted above.

Here's a better look at the boys in the tree.

The bear that took part in the sequence must have been pretty tame. Presumably the producers had containment measures in place, but based on some of these shots it appears as though the bear could have bolted the set if it got a sudden hankering to make a run for nearby Cactus Hill. This is the only time I can recall seeing a live bear at Iverson for the filming of a production — rather than a guy in a bear suit, which is how they would have handled it in the old B-movies.

Interactive map from Kurt Spitzner's "Spin and Marty" site cinchset.com

Please do yourself a favor — especially if you have fond memories of "Spin and Marty" — and check out Kurt's incredibly well-researched cinchset.com website, devoted to all things "Spin and Marty." The site's emphasis is on the first, and widely considered the best, of the three "Spin and Marty" productions, "The Adventures of Spin and Marty," which aired during 1955 as part of "The Mickey Mouse Club." While "Spin and Marty" shot mainly at Disney's Golden Oak Ranch in Newhall — which is still operating as a filming location — Kurt's site includes a number of pages devoted exclusively to "Spin and Marty" location shoots at the Iverson Movie Ranch, which you can access directly by clicking here. His recent research on Bear Tree and the Upper Iverson, including the interactive map seen above, can be found by clicking here and going to the bottom of the page.

Below is a link to the DVD set "Walt Disney Treasures: The Adventures of Spin & Marty," which is the same set I used in my Bear Tree research:


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Monogram commits to Harry Carey

 "China's Little Devils" (1945)

I'm about as hard to convince as anyone that a building actually existed where the filmmakers want us to think it did — rather than being "placed" there through special effects. But it appears that they actually did put up a building on the Upper Iverson for Monogram Pictures' barely seen World War II movie "China's Little Devils," starring Harry Carey. In the above shot the building appears in front of Cap Rock, one of the most familiar Upper Iverson features due to its prominent role in countless B-Western chase sequences.

The building is shot from a number of angles in the movie, and appears with a variety of the Upper Iverson's known rock features. In this screen shot the rock known as the Molar appears at top left, with the building at top right.

Here's another shot of the Molar from the same movie, with Harry Carey, as Doc Temple, lining up a group of Chinese youngsters. The shot is taken from a different angle from the previous shot, and Cactus Hill can be seen in the background.

Harry Carey and a young actor in "China's Little Devils" (1945)

The movie was one of the last for Harry Carey, who spent much of his career in the silents. Some readers may be more familiar with the work of his son, actor Harry Carey Jr., who segued from B-Westerns in the 1940s and 1950s to a long career in television. But Carey Jr.'s dad, Harry Carey Sr., had an even more prolific acting career. Besides being one of the top stars of the silent movie era, he transitioned successfully to the talkies and was nominated for an Oscar in 1940 for "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington."

Here's another shot that includes the building — I'll call it "Carey's Cabin." In this shot the background includes Rock in the Field, as noted in the next photo.

This is the same shot with Rock in the Field highlighted.

Rock in the Field, as seen in "The Lowest Bidder," a 1954 episode of the TV series "The Cisco Kid"

For comparison, here's a shot of Rock in the Field from a different production — an episode from season five of the "Cisco Kid" TV series that first aired Oct. 30, 1954. Rock in the Field is at the center of the shot. Notice the positions and shapes of the trees behind the rock — the tree at far left, and the one just behind the rock. If you compare these to the trees near Rock in the Field in the "China's Little Devils" shot above, you can tell they're the same trees, and the angles used in the two productions are similar.

"China's Little Devils," left, and "The Cisco Kid," right

The above shot compares the two productions, showing how the trees, even nine years apart, retain enough of their shape to help make a positive ID on Rock in the Field, in turn helping to pinpoint the location of the building in "China's Little Devils."

Another angle on Carey's Cabin. I have yet to spot the building anywhere other than in "China's Little Devils."

Recessed central area of Carey's Cabin in "China's Little Devils"

All indications are that Carey's Cabin was built specifically for "China's Little Devils" — the indications being mainly (1) it's not showing up anywhere else, and (2) it's used extensively in the movie. Given the tight budgets that were standard at the Poverty Row studios, including Monogram, the structure reflects an unusual level of commitment on the part of the company to the movie and Harry Carey.

Harry Carey Jr., left, and Harry Carey Sr., right

Them fightin' Carey boys.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Classic Rock: The Old Man of the Gorge

The Old Man of the Gorge

Let me introduce a rock character I call the Old Man of the Gorge — that's him in profile in the above photo.

This is what the Old Man looks like from a little farther back. The rock, located on the site of the former Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., has a history of appearing in film and television productions.

"Around the World in 80 Days" (1956)

One of the Old Man's best appearances was in a movie I'm willing to bet you've heard of — and possibly seen: the widescreen feature "Around the World in 80 Days." In the screen shot above you should be able to pick out the Old Man above the rear pair of horses, nearest the center of the shot.

This is the same shot, with the Old Man of the Gorge highlighted. You can click on any of these photos to see a larger version.

At one point in the movie an Indian Brave appears on top of the Old Man of the Gorge, apparently with intent to ambush a Cavalryman.

The scene offers partial views of a few other widely filmed features of the Lower Iverson Movie Ranch, as highlighted above. Here are some links you can click on to read more about these features: Devil's Doorway, Doglips, Cactus Hill.

Rock and warrior share a closeup.

These days the Old Man shares his space with some nearby condos.

In the movie the Old Man of the Gorge can be seen as part of a group with two other rocks. For the sake of having a way to refer to them, I'll call them the "Three Amigos."

The "Three Amigos" are all still intact, on public property just below the condos. This shot shows them in their current environs.

Iverson's Upper Gorge, as seen in "Khyber Patrol" (1954)

It's not always easy to pick out the Three Amigos in wider shots of Iverson's rocky Upper Gorge, such as the above view of the Gorge in the United Artists movie "Khyber Patrol," about the British colonial period in India. This shot would have been filmed from across the Gorge, from Overlook Point on the western ridge of the Gorge, where a heavy-duty camera mount was in place. The Amigos tend to be in these wide shots of the Gorge, but you have to know where to look.

Here's the same shot from "Khyber Patrol" with the Three Amigos highlighted — along with their more famous neighbor, Lone Ranger Rock. The Amigos were and remain among the closest neighbors to Iverson's most famous rock denizen, and were along the route of the Lone Ranger as he rode up to Lone Ranger Rock at the beginning of each episode of the TV show to rear up and declare, "Hi-yo, Silver!" It all happened right here.

"Panic in Year Zero" (1962)

Depending on how the camera was positioned in the camera mount area at Overlook Point, Lone Ranger Rock and the Old Man of the Gorge have a tendency to overlap, as in the above shot from the atom bomb movie "Panic in Year Zero." The way Lone Ranger Rock and the Old Man of the Gorge are lined up in the shot makes it hard to see either one clearly.

Here's the same shot, highlighting where Lone Ranger Rock ends and the Old Man of the Gorge begins.

Traces of the old camera mount — the track and the 
mount itself — remain in place today at Overlook Point. 

The name "The Old Man of the Gorge" may have been inspired in some small way by the character the Old Man of the Mountain, who appeared in vintage Betty Boop cartoons. His featured role was in this 1933 classic featuring a brief live-action appearance by Cab Calloway and some mildly trippy animation by Dave Fleischer. Check it out:



This post is part of a series on "Classic Rocks" — sandstone giants located on the former Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., that became a part of not only America's physical landscape but also its cultural heritage, through featured roles in old movies, cliffhanger serials and early TV shows. Other entries in the series can be seen by clicking here.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

I believe you've met the Angry Cardinal's stiff upper lip ...

"Khyber Patrol" (1954)

A few posts back I introduced a rock formation I call the Angry Cardinal, which was located on the Iverson Movie Ranch and appeared in countless old movies and TV shows. I left out a few details from that post because I needed to bring readers up to speed on some of the Cardinal's neighboring rocks in Iverson's Upper Gorge — especially Hobbit House.

Hobbit House, as it appears today (mostly buried underground)

Hobbit House and Angry Cardinal were close neighbors in the filming era, and in fact Hobbit House was incorporated into the image of the Angry Cardinal. For some background, you can read my original Angry Cardinal post here, and you can click here to get the basics on Hobbit House.

Hobbit House as it stood tall in its movie days, seen here in "Stagecoach Express" in 1942

You may have already put this together, but one big connection between Hobbit House and Angry Cardinal is that the mushroom-shaped top of Hobbit House — its distinguishing characteristic — formed the top beak of the Angry Cardinal.



Hobbit House in context in the Iverson Gorge, as seen in "Khyber Patrol."

The Cardinal's "angry beak" — Hobbit House — could be seen from all the way across the Iverson Gorge, as in the shot, again, from "Khyber Patrol." Hobbit House gave the Angry Cardinal its "stiff upper lip" — its snarling top beak, a focal point of the rock character's "anger." (Another one being the "angry eyebrow" above the beak, which you may be able to spot in the next photo.)

"The Trusted Outlaw" (1937)

The above shot from the Republic B-Western "The Trusted Outlaw" — one of the best productions for spotting cool Iverson stuff — shows a couple of the key components of the Angry Cardinal: the beak, or "stiff upper lip," provided by Hobbit House, and the angry eyebrow — essentially, the Angry Cardinal's head — at top center.

That same shot, with the key players identified.

"The Lone Gun" (1954)

Like the Cardinal's beak, the angry eyebrow could be seen from across the Gorge, as in the above shot from the George Montgomery Western "The Lone Gun."

Components of Iverson's "Angry Cardinal"

Here's that shot again from "The Lone Gun," highlighting some of the features that make up the Angry Cardinal. The bad news about Angry Cardinal is that most of the rock formation appears to have been destroyed. While the "lips," or beak, remain alive in the form of Hobbit House, other features such as the distinctive "angry eyebrow" no longer survive. In their place is a condo unit.

The view today from the same Overlook Point is far less striking.

Here's the same shot with a couple of labels detailing what happened to Angry Cardinal. I've also spotlighted Lone Ranger Rock here, as it's Iverson's most famous rock and serves as a reference point for many film location fans.

My previous post about the Angry Cardinal can be found by clicking here.