A famous promo shot for John Ford's Depression-era classic "The Grapes of Wrath," taken on the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., shows the Joads, a migrant family swept out of Oklahoma by the Dust Bowl, getting their first look at the lush farmland of California.
Screen shot from "The Grapes of Wrath": same location, different angle
The promo shot is significantly different from the corresponding shots that appear in the movie. The most obvious difference is that the promo shot includes the Chatsworth landmark Stoney Point, while the shots from the movie avoid Stoney Point, focusing instead on the farmland to the south and west of it.
Promo shot: Much lower angle
On the other hand, the still photographer, who would have been on the set to shoot promotional photos and behind-the-scenes material, settled for a much lower angle for his famous shot. I picture him climbing on a rock to get the minor elevation he used for the photo, but that's just conjecture.
The camera mount at Overlook Point — still in place today
The name "Camera Mount" comes from the presence of a metal mount and circular rail setup located at the site. The rig appears to have been used for pan shots of the Iverson Gorge, but its exact origin is unknown.
View of the western San Fernando Valley from Overlook Point
The view of the western San Fernando Valley in recent years contains few traces of the old farmland, as the Valley has since grown into a major population center.
"The Grapes of Wrath": The truck sequence
The Joads' arrival in California's farm country in "The Grapes of Wrath" is put together from two separate location shoots at Iverson, which took place a short distance apart. The above shot — I call it the "truck sequence" — appears just before the Overlook Point sequence and is filmed to the northeast of Overlook Point.
Bald Knob and Minisub. Some readers may recall that Minisub played a big role in pinpointing the Chinese Bridge in "Tell It to the Marines."
Rock Island formation. By lining up RI-3 and Minisub — both of which remain in place at the site today — we can get a good idea of where the shot was taken.
RI-3 as it appears today
Today RI-3 and the rest of what was once Rock Island are largely buried, with the tops of the once formidable boulders now serving as decorations in the swimming pool area of the Cal West Townhomes.
"Doomed at Sundown" (Republic, 1937)
The same buttressing is seen from the other side, from the south, in the old Bob Steele B-Western "Doomed at Sundown." Even though the buttressing is pretty distant here, you might be able to spot one angular rock rising above the others. This rock can also be seen in "The Grapes of Wrath," pointing in the opposite direction.