"Three Ages" (Buster Keaton, 1923): Fake "cave house" near Garden of the Gods
New details have recently come to light about a large fake rock that stood on the Iverson Movie Ranch during the 1920s. In the above shot from the silent comedy feature "Three Ages," the fake rock occupies much of the background — including a crude staircase visible on the left and a cave opening near the center of the frame.
Buster Keaton, left, and Wallace Beery vie for the affections of Margaret Leahy in "Three Ages"
The rock has a prominent role in "Three Ages" as the home of "The Girl," played by Margaret Leahy, along with her cave parents. Leahy's cave girl is Buster's love interest during the caveman portions of the film, which make up about a third of the one-hour movie.
Buster Keaton's "armory" on top of Rock Island in "Three Ages"
All of the caveman sequences in "Three Ages" were filmed on the Lower Iverson, in what was at the time one of the most extensive film shoots ever undertaken on the location ranch. I've blogged previously about one of the sets used in "Three Ages" — an "armory" built high atop Rock Island, as seen above. Please click here to read my earlier post about Buster's armory.
Above you'll find a link where you can shop for "Silent Echoes" on Amazon.com, along with Bengtson's similarly exhaustive Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd location books, "Silent Traces" (Chaplin) and "Silent Visions" (Lloyd). I can give an enthusiastic recommendation to all of Bengtson's crucial film location research.
The set of the big battle scene in "Man-Woman-Marriage" (photo taken in 1920)
Recent scouring of old production photos — especially by longtime Iverson researcher Ben Burtt — reveals that the fake rock was in place well before "Three Ages" arrived at the movie ranch for filming in 1923. The above photo that Ben dug up from 1920 is a key piece of evidence.
please click here to read my recent post.
Lobby card for "Man-Woman-Marriage" (1921) — photo taken in 1920
A lobby card for "Man-Woman-Marriage" also captures a portion of the fake cave house. I talked more about this lobby card in the recent entry on "Man-Woman-Marriage."
Promo still for "Tell It to the Marines" (1926)
Another piece of the puzzle surfaces a few years later, in connection with the 1926 silent feature "Tell It to the Marines." The above promotional still for the movie includes a partial glimpse of what I believe to be the same fake rock house.
"The Primitive Man" (D.W. Griffith, 1914): Not believed to be filmed at Iverson
Was it always a "cave house"? Was it a part of an old caveman movie from before that time? Suffice to say the fake cave house is a pretty hot topic among location researchers at the moment, and if the answer is out there, I have a feeling someone will find it.
This post is the latest entry in what's planned as a comprehensive series of blog posts exploring silent movies filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch. We have previously reported on a few of the Iverson silent films, and you can read those posts by clicking on the following links:
• Here's a link to a recent post that set the stage for this one, focusing on the battle sequence filmed near Garden of the Gods for the 1921 release "Man-Woman-Marriage."
• 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 the material in this post is mostly non-Iverson.)