"El Paso" (1949): Casa Grande, at the north end of Iverson's Western street
Casa Grande was an easy choice to lead off this series on the Iverson Movie Ranch Western street, because it's one of the most interesting and complex buildings in the town set. It wasn't part of the original set when the town was built in 1945, but was added a few years later and quickly became one of the iconic features of the set, occupying a high-profile position at the north end of the street.
"The Lone Ranger" (1949) — an early TV appearance by Casa Grande
This is probably the first appearance by Casa Grande on television, in an episode of the TV show "The Lone Ranger" called "The Renegades," which premiered Nov. 3, 1949. The building looks quite different here from its appearance around the same time in "El Paso," with wider pillars and a smaller roof over the porch area in "The Lone Ranger," along with a different configuration for the second story. But it's the same building in both photos.
Kenneth MacDonald, left, vs. the Three Stooges
Among MacDonald's more than 400 credits in film and television, he had a recurring role as a sheriff on "The Range Rider" in the early 1950s and took his share of pies to the face as a frequent foil for the Three Stooges in their Columbia shorts of the 1940s.
"Calamity Jane and Sam Bass" (1949): looking north toward Casa Grande
The earliest productions I've been able to find that include Casa Grande are all from 1949, with the building surfacing both in films and on TV that year. The above shot of Iverson Village comes from the 1949 release "Calamity Jane and Sam Bass," starring Yvonne De Carlo as Calamity and Howard Duff as Sam.
De Carlo is seen in front of Casa Grande in the above screen shot from "Calamity Jane and Sam Bass." The building appears in the movie as the Exchange Hotel.
Yvonne De Carlo as Lily Munster
You may remember Yvonne De Carlo as Lily on "The Munsters."
"El Paso" (1949): Iverson Village, aka El Paso Street
Paramount's "El Paso" and Universal's "Calamity Jane and Sam Bass" came out just one month apart, with "Calamity" making it to theaters first. Following the release of "Calamity" on the Fourth of July, 1949, Paramount rolled out "El Paso" on Aug. 5. Both movies were filmed in Cinecolor, and both prominently featured Casa Grande and the Iverson town set.
"El Paso": the Iverson Western street as the town of El Paso, Texas
While the backstory on the construction of Casa Grande is not clear, it's a good bet that the structure was built by Paramount for its John Payne-Sterling Hayden Western "El Paso." It comes down to either "El Paso" or "Calamity Jane and Sam Bass," and my money's on the Paramount production, which not only would have had the bigger budget of the two films, but also showcases Casa Grande far more extensively.
"Sky King" TV series (footage from 1955): aerial view of Iverson Village
Some readers may be disappointed to learn that Casa Grande was in reality a false front, as were other parts of the town set. The above aerial view, which comes from remarkable footage shot for the TV show "Sky King" that aired in a number of episodes of the series, exposes Casa Grande from the back, toward the right of the shot.
read more about this spectacular fort set by clicking here.
A little more than a year after Universal's release of "Calamity Jane and Sam Bass" came the Columbia feature "Calamity Jane and the Texan," which again featured Casa Grande. As it did in "El Paso," Casa Grande again plays a cantina — the Prairie Queen this time, run by Calamity.
"Calamity Jane and the Texan" — Evelyn Ankers as Calamity
Originally released under the title "The Texan Meets Calamity Jane," the Columbia picture featured Evelyn Ankers in the role of Calamity. Here Ankers stands at the top of the stairs outside the saloon, near the south end of town.
click here for pictures and details about Wild Bill Hickok's gravesite at Iverson.
The real Calamity Jane — born Martha Jane Cannary or Canary — may not have looked quite the part of a movie star, but she was a true frontierswoman and a formidable presence in her own right.
In the Three Stooges movie "Gold Raiders," Casa Grande resurfaces as "Acme House," and at this point the building has yet another configuration for its second story. This version of the second story is a hybrid — half adobe and half wooden building.
"Flaming Feather" (1952)
Filmed around the same time as "Gold Raiders" but released the following year, the color production "Flaming Feather" from Paramount uses much of the same signage seen in the Stooges movie and offers a better look at the "split personality" of Casa Grande's new second story — adobe on the left, wood on the right. This configuration, minus the Acme House sign, remained in use for much of the rest of the building's lifespan.
"Wagon Team" (1952)
In the Gene Autry movie "Wagon Team," released the same year as "Flaming Feather," the building's adobe qualities are brought to the forefront. The second story was still in place, but this sequence shoots around it, focusing on the single-story left half of the building along with the familiar low adobe wall to its left. It's clear in this shot that the adobe wall, which occupies the left portion of the frame, is supposed to look like a building.
"Annie Oakley" TV series (1954): A small adobe village at the north end of the street
This shot from an episode of the TV series "Annie Oakley" titled "Justice Guns" shows off the adobe characteristics of that whole north end of the Western street — even without the adobe wall next to Casa Grande being visible in this photo. The "Annie Oakley" episode premiered April 17, 1954.
The main buildings making up the "adobe village" part of Iverson's Western street
Combining with Casa Grande to create the adobe village were a couple of small adobes that had been in place for years on the western side of the street. Here's the "Annie Oakley" shot again with those buildings, the North Adobe and the South Adobe, identified. I will go into detail about these structures in upcoming entries in this series.
Iverson Village before Casa Grande ...
"Cheyenne Takes Over" (1947)
This is what the north end of town looked like back in 1947, in the Lash LaRue movie "Cheyenne Takes Over," a couple of years before Casa Grande was built. The north end of town was wide open, with Center Rock visible in the background.
"Check Your Guns" (1948): The north end of town
A year or so later, the Eddie Dean movie "Check Your Guns" again featured Iverson Village. This was soon before Casa Grande was built, and the north end of town remained vacant, with a virtually unblocked view of Smooth Hill.
"The Iverson Movie Ranch Western street, one building at a time" is a series of posts on the movie and TV history of each of the major structures making up Iverson's town set, which stood from 1945 to 1957 and appeared in hundreds of productions.
To see all of the posts in the series on the Iverson Western street, please click on the following links:
Part I: Casa Grande
Part II: The Livery Stable
Part III: The Saloon
Part IV: The Hotel
Part V: The General Store
Part VI: The Barn
Part VII: The Sheriff's Office
Part VIII: The North and South Adobes
Part IX: The Lost Dutchman
Part X: The original north end of town
Part XI: The North and South Towers
Part XII: The Harness Maker
Part XIII: Rainbow Mine Co.
Part XIV: The Church/Schoolhouse
Part XV: The Corral Rocks Shack
Part XVI: The decline and fall of the Western street
For additional material on the Iverson Western street, you can click here to see a previous entry on the north end of town, or here for a post examining the south end of town.