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.
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• 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.
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

What are those mysterious white dots in the backgrounds of old Westerns?

"Overland Stage Raiders" (1938)

I started noticing a while back that some of the Westerns and other old movies filmed on the Upper Iverson Movie Ranch had mysterious white dots in the backgrounds. You may or may not see them in the top left corner of this photo, but I've highlighted them below. The shot comes from the old John Wayne movie "Overland Stage Raiders" from Republic, a Three Mesquiteers B-Western that also starred Ray Corrigan and Max Terhune.

These are the dots I'm talking about. I intentionally started with a blurry shot so you could play along at home. Feel free to make your own guess. I'm not sure ALL of the dots noted here fall into this category, but I'm pretty sure at least some of them do. In this shot, as is often the case, the dots are not particularly clear.

"California Firebrand" (1948): The Line of Trees — no dots ... yet

The white dots are typically seen in the vicinity of the Line of Trees. They're not visible in this shot, because the Line of Trees is blurry. But as you will see below, the dots become visible as the background becomes clearer.

This shot identifies the main components of the picture. The Line of Trees separated the Upper Iverson from the neighboring Brandeis Ranch, part of which was also a filming location during the 1930s and early 1940s. I've blogged before about the Line of Trees, and if you would like to see an earlier post that reveals the answer to the dot mystery (which is also revealed below), you can read that post by clicking here.

"California Firebrand": The background becomes clearer as the scene continues

As the "California Firebrand" sequence progresses, the background begins to come into focus and the dots start to appear. This screen shot is taken just moments after the previous one.

We can begin now to see white dots in the background.

"California Firebrand": More background dots

In this shot, still more background dots are visible against the Line of Trees. You may want to view a larger version of the picture by clicking on it.

Several white dots are highlighted in this version of the "California Firebrand" shot. As you may have figured out by now, the dots are part of a fence dividing the Iverson property from the Brandeis property. More specifically, the dots are the tapered or painted section at the top of the wooden fenceposts holding up the fence.

"Calamity Jane and the Texan" (1950)

In this photo we can start to tell that the white dots are attached to fenceposts. The shot comes from the Columbia Western "Calamity Jane and the Texan," which was originally released as "The Texan Meets Calamity Jane."

"The Hills of Utah" (1951): Gene Autry on the Upper Iverson

The fenceposts really start to take shape as Gene Autry rides the range in "The Hills of Utah."

This photo points out a couple of fenceposts in the background of the Gene Autry shot.

"Calamity Jane and the Texan": The money shot

Here's the money shot — the best view of the fenceposts that I've found. The photo reveals the tapered or painted area at the top of the posts that creates all those white dots in the backgrounds of old Westerns. It's another shot from the "Calamity Jane and the Texan" sequence, and three fenceposts are visible — one at the right of the frame, and one over the shoulder of each of the characters on the stagecoach.

"Riders of the Badlands" (1941)

In another stagecoach sequence, from the Charles Starrett movie "Riders of the Badlands," we get an amazing shot of 14 of those "white dots" that we now know are fencepost tops. For additional details about this shot, the white dots, the fenceposts and the Line of Trees, please see this previous post (also linked above).


Mark said...

So my question is - was painting of the tops of the fenceposts a common practice during the era of stagecoaches and such?

Swami Nano said...

Good question, Mark ... and thanks for your comment.

Somehow, I doubt they painted them back then. It's kind of surprising that they would have painted them at Iverson, as they had an interest in keeping noticeable distractions to a minimum in the background.

When I first started figuring out they were fenceposts, I thought the "white dot" was created by carving away the darker part of the wood to create a tapered fencepost top. But it does look like paint in the "Calamity Jane and the Texan" shot. It might be a combination of both paint and carving.