"Richard the Lion-Hearted" (1923)
A number of early filmmakers were inspired to build fake castles and palaces in exactly the same spot — spanning the two most prominent sandstone behemoths in the Iverson Movie Ranch's Garden of the Gods. The above example is a production shot for "Richard the Lion-Hearted," a rarely seen silent picture starring Wallace Beery.
Fake castle front, built for "Richard the Lion-Hearted"
This production shot depicts only the portion of the castle that was built in Garden of the Gods, along with a full view of the sandstone boulders framing the construction. You may also notice a few crew members working on a camera tower in front of the castle gate.
"Dallas" (Warner Bros., 1950)
These giant boulders have been featured in countless movies and TV shows spanning roughly the past 100 years. The above photo is a nice color example of the rocks as they appear in the Gary Cooper Western "Dallas," filmed from approximately the same angle seen in the "Richard the Lion-Hearted" photo.
"The Lone Ranger" TV series (1949)
Here's another example, from the TV series "The Lone Ranger," with the two main rocks shot from a different angle. From this angle I think we get a pretty good idea of why the giant boulder on the right — which is closer to the center in this shot — is called "The Sphinx."
Garden of the Gods, on a visit to the site in 2015
Here's a shot of the same area seen in the "Richard the Lion-Hearted" photo, taken on a recent visit to the site. While Tower Rock and Sphinx are instantly recognizable, even some of the smaller rocks, seemingly strewn about on the ground, can be matched up with the movie shots.
The above links to Amazon.com should help you track down a copy of "The Invisible Art" if you have an interest in learning more about the use of matte shots in film. This incredible reference work has been released in both hardbound and paperback versions.
"Three Ages" (1923): Fake cave house
This shot from "Three Ages" shows the cave house in use by a cave family. The "stone" staircase seen at the left here is visible toward the front of the shot in the castle photo above this one. The cave house is known to have stood near Garden of the Gods at least from 1920-1926, and may date as far back as the 1910s. You can read more about this fake cave house by clicking here.
Set for battle scene in "Man-Woman-Marriage" — filmed in 1920, released in 1921
We've recently explored another example of silent movie-era construction in the same spot where the castle was built for "Richard the Lion-Hearted." For "Man-Woman-Marriage," filmed three years earlier, a palace front was built, along with a fake rock backdrop spanning the gap between Tower Rock (aka the Pinnacle) and the Sphinx. Please click here to read the recent post about the 1920 shoot for "Man-Woman-Marriage."
This blog post is part of a series of posts exploring silent movies filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch. We have previously reported on a number of the Iverson silent films, and you can read those posts by clicking on the links below:
• Please click here to read a recent post about a fake cave house that stood near Garden of the Gods for several years in the 1920s — and possibly as far back as the 1910s — which had a prominent role in the 1923 Buster Keaton silent feature "Three Ages."
• Here's a post about a battle sequence filmed near Garden of the Gods for the 1921 release "Man-Woman-Marriage" — a scene that was billed at the time as "so stupendous that it amazed even the film colony of Los Angeles."
• This blog post talks a little bit about the iconic scene used in the label above, in which Noah's Ark is "beached" on top of the sandstone giants of Garden of the Gods. The shot comes from the 1928 silent feature "Noah's Ark," directed by Michael Curtiz, who later directed "Casablanca" and who brought crews to the Iverson Movie Ranch on a number of occasions.
• Buster Keaton's 1923 comedy feature "Three Ages" may be the best-known of the silent-era Iverson shoots, and this post from August 2014 explores a rarely discussed set for the movie: an "armory" controlled by Buster's caveman character, built high atop Rock Island in the Iverson Gorge.
• Click here to see some terrific behind-the-scenes photos from the 1925 silent feature "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ," provided by Jill Bergstrom, the granddaughter of the great Iverson cinematographer George B. Meehan Jr., who was part of the camera crew on "Ben-Hur." (Note that most of the material in this post is non-Iverson, even though parts of "Ben-Hur" were filmed on the location ranch.)