"The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp"
The Iverson Movie Ranch was home to a number of well-used fake caves and fake mines during the filming days, but I recently heard about a little-known one that was set up in Central Garden of the Gods in the late 1950s.
"Wyatt Earp" episode "Frontier Surgeon"
Iverson researcher Cliff Roberts noticed the cave in "Frontier Surgeon," an episode of the TV series "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp." The episode premiered Jan. 19, 1960, and would have been shot in 1959.
Phantom — the north face
The cave entrance appeared over a large crack on the south side of Phantom, one of the most iconic boulders in Garden of the Gods. The above photo from recent years shows the more familiar north side of Phantom.
"Tennessee's Partner" (1955): Anthony Caruso in the crack on the south side of Phantom
The crack on Phantom's south side is famous in its own right, having played a pivotal role in the RKO Western "Tennessee's Partner." Spoiler alert: Skip ahead if you don't want to know that a certain U.S. president gets gunned down near here. As Iverson location shoots go, that "Tennessee's Partner" sequence is a barnburner.
"Frontier Surgeon": Fake cave built over the crack
The crack on the south side of Phantom is right where the fake cave was built that appears in "Wyatt Earp." This area is "Grubstake's Claim," so named after its role in "Tennessee's Partner."
Elvis Presley filmed the original tent scene for "Harum Scarum" in 1965. A few feet away and a few years earlier, wild boars caused trouble in "Old Yeller."
The huge crack is also visible in the shot of Anthony Caruso from "Tennessee's Partner."
Lane Bradford, in "Wyatt Earp"
I'd be remiss not to point out Lane Bradford, one of the most familiar bad guys in the B-Westerns.
Lane Bradford, right, with fellow outlaw Jimmy Noel in the "Wyatt Earp" episode
Bradford never lost his stride when the Westerns shifted to TV in the 1950s. The prolific actor tallied in the ballpark of 250 credits, about evenly distributed between B-Westerns and TV series.
Swanee, played by Lane Bradford, schemes to get the dying man's money
In some "Wyatt Earp" shots we catch glimpses of an indented area on the rock, to the right of the fake cave. In this shot it's near the top left corner.
Graffiti near entrance to Grubstake's Claim (2011)
The graffiti has been there for some time. It already looked worn-out — and appeared exactly the same as it does now — when I took this photo back in 2011.
"Outlaws of Boulder Pass" (1942): Phantom Shack
It should be noted that the same site was home to the Phantom Shack in the 1940s. If I had to guess I'd say the hole is most likely an artifact of this period and probably originally helped hold the shack in place.
"Six Gun Gospel" (1943): Phantom Shack
But even if the hole originated as part of the support system for the Phantom Shack, it may have been called upon again in 1959 to serve as an anchor point for the fake cave in "Wyatt Earp."
"The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp"
While many of the fake caves and fake mines on the old Iverson Movie Ranch stood for years and were used repeatedly, the fake cave seen in "Wyatt Earp" appears to have been in place for only a short time — possibly for a single production.
"Tennessee's Partner": Anthony Caruso holds Grubstake McNiven's claim sign
In telling the tale of Grubstake's Claim out behind Phantom in "Tennessee's Partner," the movie goes so far as to display the claim sign. In a way, the sign works not only to stake Grubstake's claim in the movie, but also to stamp this historic filming location as "Grubstake's Claim" ... at the risk of over-romanticizing the movies.