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).
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Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Lew Murdock carving in "Have Gun — Will Travel"

"Have Gun — Will Travel": "Sons of Aaron Murdock" (1959)

An episode of "Have Gun — Will Travel" from the TV Western's second season includes this shot of a rock with the name "Lew Murdock" carved into it, along with a rough carving of a bird with its wings outstretched. The shot appears in the episode "Sons of Aaron Murdock," which premiered May 9, 1959.

The rock plays a part in a scene shot on the South Rim of the Upper Iverson Movie Ranch. The carving is a key plot element, and various characters stop by to get a look at it. In the shot above, series star Richard Boone, as Paladin, checks out the inscription — although it's a little hard to see in the screen shot.

This is where the carving appears on the rock in the "Have Gun — Will Travel" shot.

Lew Murdock Rock as it appears today

I was surprised to learn recently that the Lew Murdock carving remains in place today. Iverson explorer Cliff Roberts ran across it on a foray into the Upper Iverson, and passed along some new photos of "Lew Murdock Rock."

These shots approximate the angle seen in the Paladin screen shot. It's still not easy to make out the carving here — it helps to click on the photo to see a larger version.

Closeup of the Lew Murdock carving

It seems to me that the owners of the filming location, the Iverson family, might not have approved of the defacing of one of their boulders. For one thing, the permanent marking of a rock in this manner might get in the way of future filming. My guess would be that the TV crew didn't exactly volunteer information about what it was up to.

"Bonanza": "Death on Sun Mountain" (Sept. 19, 1959) — Lew Murdock Rock

As a case in point, Lew Murdock Rock turned up later that same year, 1959, in an episode of "Bonanza," where it was shot from pretty much the same angle seen in "Have Gun — Will Travel." The Lew Murdock inscription was probably right there for the world to see, but the "Bonanza" shots aren't quite clear enough to make it out.

The approximate area where the inscription would be found is noted in this version of the "Bonanza" shot. The impact of the carving on subsequent filming was probably minimal, especially coming late in the life cycle of the location ranch. But the carving of inscriptions by production crews is intriguing from a historical perspective, producing unusual artifacts of the filming days.

Burgess Meredith and the "Siedry-Bert" inscription in "The Loner"

Some readers may recall a recent post about a similar "carving incident" at Iverson — the "Siedry-Bert" inscription on Sphinx, on the Lower Iverson. You can click here to read the post about that carving, which was featured in an episode of the Lloyd Bridges TV Western "The Loner" in which Burgess Meredith guest-starred.

Lew Murdock Rock is located on the South Rim of the Upper Iverson, on the north side of Cactus Hill.


Mark Sherman said...

Always fun to read and learn...Thanks! Mark Sherman

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this interesting entry.

Mark said...

I wish they would have carved more inscriptions. Thanks for sharing this cool post.

Swami Nano said...

Thanks for the feedback, both Marks and anonymous commenter ...

I agree, I wish we had more inscriptions to investigate. I did recently find one more, which I'm waiting for a chance to check out. It's just initials, not nearly as intriguing as either Lew Murdock or Siedry-Bert. But still, it's an inscription! At this point I haven't been able to make out the initials.

The newest inscription will be previewed in an upcoming post about Rock Island that I've been working on for a few weeks. Watch for it!

Thanks again — it's always gratifying to hear back.