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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Monday, March 2, 2015

The Iverson Movie Ranch Western street, one building at a time ... Part XI: The North and South Towers

"Check Your Guns" (1948): Eddie Dean and the Two Towers

A large section of the eastern side of the Iverson Western street was occupied by the two similar buildings shown here in a shot from the PRC Western "Check Your Guns."

The neighboring two-story "towers," which I identify in my research as the North Tower and South Tower, are immediately recognizable by their angular rooflines and vertical windows — four windows on the South Tower and three windows on the North Tower.

"The Range Rider" TV series (1952)

The Two Towers became a familiar sight to movie and TV fans through their frequent appearances in productions shot on the Western street over a span of a little more than 10 years, from 1946 to 1957. The above shot comes from an episode of the early TV Western "The Range Rider" titled "Renegade Ranch."

The towers occupied the space between the Livery Stable to the south and the Sheriff's Office to the north. Their rooflines and windows were part of a major renovation of that side of the street that took place starting in 1946.

"Along Came Jones" (1945): Before the Towers were built

When the town set first surfaced in "Along Came Jones," that part of the eastern side of the street consisted of an almost unnoticeable single-story structure.

Renovation on this single-story structure would begin almost as soon as production wrapped on "Along Came Jones" in 1945. By late 1946, the place would look quite a bit different. 

In "Along Came Jones" the span between the Livery Stable and the Sheriff's Office housed two small businesses: the Chinese Laundry, to the north, and a store dealing in "Ladies' and Gentlemen's Furnishings," to the south.

This is the clearest shot I could find of the sign on the Chinese Laundry in "Along Came Jones."

Here's a closeup of the sign. I looks to me like "Hop Sing Chinese Laundry," but I'm not positive about the name. If it is Hop Sing, then it's the same name later used for the Cartwright family's cook on "Bonanza."

The Chinese Laundry was filmed from inside the Lost Dutchman across the street during an attempted ambush In "Along Came Jones." Click here to read an entry on the Lost Dutchman that talks more about this sequence.

Here's a partial glimpse of the sign for "Ladies' and Gentlemen's Furnishings" in "Along Came Jones."

"California" (filmed in 1946, released in February 1947)

Within a year after the release of "Along Came Jones," the producers of the Barbara Stanwyck movie "California" had created a new look for the Chinese Laundry/Furnishings area, adding second stories with new storefronts that, as far as I know, would be seen only in that one movie.

For its appearance in "California," the South Tower bore some resemblance to a Quonset hut, while the North Tower had a more traditional Wild West storefront appearance. The buildings' trademark vertical windows were already in place, but the shapes of both storefronts would soon be redesigned.

Promotional still for "California" — Barbara Stanwyck in the striped dress

"California" was filmed in color, but the clearest image I've seen of this rare "Quonset hut" front on the South Tower is in this black-and-white promo shot for the Paramount Western. The most prominent building in the shot is the Livery Stable at the right, appearing as "General Agent & Outfitters." The photo comes from the collection of Western film historian Jerry England.

"El Paso" (1949)

By 1949 the familiar angled roofs were in place on the North and South Towers, as seen in another Paramount Western, "El Paso" — the movie that gave the Iverson town set one of its nicknames, "El Paso Street."

Now the rooflines on the Two Towers matched those on the other major structures on the east side of the street, the Livery Stable and General Store.

"Calamity Jane and the Texan" (1950)

Once the angled roofs were in place, the "permanent" look of the North and South Towers was set. This shot in Columbia's "Calamity Jane and the Texan" bears a strong resemblance to the shot from "El Paso" a year earlier.

The biggest difference between the "El Paso" shot and the shot one year later from "Calamity Jane and the Texan" is that by 1950 the original Casa Grande built for "El Paso" had been replaced with a more generic design.

"El Paso": North Tower as "Texas Development"

Both towers took on a variety of identities in their many movie and TV appearances over the years. In "El Paso" the North Tower became the lending firm "Texas Development."

The South Tower played the Sheriff's Office in "El Paso," although it's hard to read the sign in this dusty shot. You may want to click on the photo to see a larger version.

"The Nevadan" (filmed in 1949, released in 1950)

In the Randolph Scott Western "The Nevadan," released in January 1950 by Columbia, the unmarked North and South Towers were just across the street from the Westville Stage Depot, which was played by the Saloon.

"The Daltons' Women" (filmed in 1949, released in 1950)

For the Lash LaRue movie "The Daltons' Women," from Poverty Row studio Western Adventure Productions, the stage stop moved across the street, with the sign on the North Tower reading "Stage Coach Depot." This is another nice promo still from the Jerry England collection.

"Gold Raiders" (1951)

Most of the buildings in town got new names for the Three Stooges movie "Gold Raiders." The South Tower became "Johns General Merchandise."

"Silver Canyon (1951)

The Gene Autry B-Western "Silver Canyon" did some shooting on the Iverson Western street around the same time the Three Stooges were in town, and part of the sign on the South Tower found its way into the Autry movie.

"Gold Raiders" — the North Tower as the Odd Fellows Lodge

It may be hard to spot here, but a sign on the front of the North Tower in the Three Stooges movie says "IOOF Lodge," indicating that the building is a meeting place for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

While the "Odd Fellows" reference could be taken as a humorous swipe at the Three Stooges, the reference is historically accurate. During America's "Golden Age of Fraternalism" in the second half of the 19th century, the IOOF was the predominant fraternal organization in the small towns of the West.

"The Range Rider" TV series (1953)

Like other signs installed in town for "Gold Raiders," the "IOOF Lodge" sign on the North Tower took on a life of its own. A blurry version of the sign appears in the top left corner of this shot from the "Range Rider" episode "Convict at Large." The episode aired in 1953, but I believe the footage was probably from 1951 or 1952.

"The Lone Ranger" TV series (shot in 1956, aired in 1957)

The Western town set fell on hard times in later years — whether by design or due to actual deterioration, as it was sometimes hard to tell which was which. When things started falling apart, as in this shot from the TV show "The Lone Ranger," the Two Towers went into decline along with the rest of the town.

This version of the screen shot points out the North and South Towers, toward the left, along with other key features of the town and its surroundings. The shot comes from the "Lone Ranger" episode "Ghost Town Fury," which premiered March 28, 1957.

"Sky King" TV series (1955)

I hope this shot is not a disappointment for readers, but aerial footage of the Iverson Western town taken in 1955 for the TV series "Sky King" revealed that the North and South Towers were movie props and not actual buildings. Like much of the town set, the towers consisted mainly of false fronts with partial roofs.

From a historical standpoint, this aerial footage is extremely important. I'm not sure it would have been known that the Two Towers were fronts had it not been for the "Sky King" footage, illustrating the key role a single production can play in unlocking the secrets of movie history.


"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

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