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.
• Your feedback is appreciated — please leave comments on any of the posts.
• To find specific rock features or look up movie titles, TV shows, actors and production people, see the "LABELS" section — the long alphabetical listing on the right side of the page, below.
• To join the MAILING LIST, send me an email at iversonmovieranch@gmail.com and let me know you'd like to sign up.
• 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).
• To go right to the great Iverson cinematographers, click here.
• Readers can email the webmaster at iversonmovieranch@gmail.com.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dinosaur-related news: A rock that looks like a trachodon

Trachodon

This rock can be found north of Garden of the Gods, in a section of the former Iverson Movie Ranch that has been preserved as parkland. I'd be willing to bet that "Trachodon" found its way into a movie or TV show, but at this point I've still never seen it, other than in person. If you happen to spot this thing anywhere, please let us know!

The Sinclair Dinoland version of a trachodon

Here's another rendition of a trachodon, from Sinclair Dinoland. Who knows how accurate either version is — to state the obvious, no one alive today has seen an actual trachodon, as they lived in the Campanian age, about 80 million years ago. Make a note of that — it might come in handy for bar trivia.

"The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" TV episode: "One" (April 15, 1958)

Unlike its fellow dinosaur Trachodon, Stegosaurus shows up regularly in movies and TV shows — including multiple appearances on the "Wyatt Earp" TV series. Click here to see another example from "Wyatt Earp."

1950s-vintage Marx dinosaurs — not the author's collection

I probably see more "dinosaurs" at Iverson than I should — I blame my childhood obsession with my toy dinos. I think I still have two shoeboxes full of them somewhere. If you ever want to visit a site run by someone who's WAY into the toy dinos ... check out this link.

"Journey to the Center of the Earth" (1959)

It was probably "Journey to the Center of the Earth," more than any other single event, that was responsible for my obsession. I've been partial to dimetrodons ever since — and I know I'm not alone!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Explorers solve the mystery of an inscription on the Sphinx

A rock carving near the base of the Iverson Movie Ranch landmark known as the Sphinx reads: "June 1825, Siedry-Bert." I'm sure only a handful of visitors have ever noticed the inscription, and to most of those who did happen to spot it, the carving would have been a mystery — until now.

Lloyd Bridges on the Iverson Movie Ranch in "The Loner" (1965)

Fellow Iverson explorer Cliff Roberts and I stopped by the Siedry-Bert carving on a recent foray into Garden of the Gods, and when Cliff followed up with some Internet research, he came up with a solid lead: His search pointed him to the old Lloyd Bridges TV series "The Loner."

"Sea Hunt" magazine: Lloyd Bridges as Mike Nelson

Bridges was already a few years removed from his much more heralded run as Mike Nelson on "Sea Hunt" (1958-61) when he tackled "The Loner." Created by "Twilight Zone" mastermind Rod Serling, the new Western series lasted just one season on CBS, 1965-1966, producing 39 episodes.

As far as I know, the maritime-oriented "Sea Hunt," which aired in syndication for four seasons from 1958-1961, did not shoot at Iverson. Locations included Florida and the Bahamas, along with sites in Southern California such as Paradise Cove, Catalina Island and a favorite childhood destination of mine, Marineland of the Pacific.

Lloyd Bridges, right, on the Upper Iverson with John Ireland in "Little Big Horn" (1951)

But the star of "Sea Hunt" and "The Loner," Lloyd Bridges, was well-acquainted with the Iverson Movie Ranch. By the time he became a big TV star in the late 1950s, he had already been a part of two major Iverson shoots.

Lloyd Bridges on the Iverson Movie Ranch in "Apache Woman" (1955)

After starring as a member of a doomed Cavalry patrol in the 1951 Iverson masterpiece "Little Big Horn," Bridges returned to the location ranch for Roger Corman's 1955 Iverson showcase "Apache Woman." Both movies are on my list of the greatest Iverson productions.

Jeff Bridges, left, and Beau Bridges, right, with their dad, Lloyd Bridges

Even though Lloyd Bridges was a huge TV star in the 1950s and 1960s, these days he's probably more famous for being the father of Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges. Jeff's brother Beau is also an accomplished actor.

Lloyd Bridges at Iverson in "Hunt the Man Down" (from the TV show "The Loner")

Bridges' TV Western "The Loner" appears to have shot just a single episode at Iverson: "Hunt the Man Down," which premiered Dec. 11, 1965. But that shoot for "The Loner" quite literally left its mark on the movie ranch.
 
Burgess Meredith as Siedry in "Hunt the Man Down"

The episode guest-starred Burgess Meredith as Siedry, an eccentric mountain man on the run from the law.

Tom Tully as Bert Shaftoe — the "Bert" in "Siedry-Bert"

A key plot point surrounded Siedry's long friendship with a man named Bert Shaftoe, played by Tom Tully.

When Siedry and Bert were kids — back in June 1825 — they carved their names, along with the date, into a rock that marked a favorite spot only the two pals knew about.

Now, decades later, Bert is part of a posse tracking down Siedry — and the old friends meet up at that same spot.

The inscription area becomes the setting for the climactic sequence in "Hunt the Man Down." In this shot, Lloyd Bridges, center, tries to help Burgess Meredith and Tom Tully sort things out.

All the while, the inscription lurks in the background.

The inscription gets some camera time as Burgess Meredith hunkers down to ponder his desperate situation. I won't spoil the ending for you.

In the real world, the inscription was carved by a TV crew in 1965, and it marked a hidden spot on the south side of the heavily filmed movie rock Sphinx, one of the stars of the Garden of the Gods and the Iverson Ranch.

The inscription remains on the rock today, a souvenir from "The Loner."

Promotional still for "Bullet Code" (1940)

The Sphinx gets its name from a side of the rock that's around the corner from the Siedry-Bert inscription. In this promo still from the RKO Western "Bullet Code," the camera is shooting the rock from the northeast.

How to find the Siedry-Bert inscription

This Bing bird's-eye view may help readers find the inscription, if they're so inclined. From the 118 Freeway, head south on Topanga, turn right on Santa Susana Pass Road and right again on Redmesa. Park just before the condos and you should see the entrance gate for Garden of the Gods on the west side of the road.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fifty years later, an Elvis Presley filming location has been found on the Iverson Movie Ranch

Colorized promo shot for "Harum Scarum" (1965): Elvis Presley and Fran Jeffries

Elvis Presley worked on the Iverson Movie Ranch 50 years ago, during production of his 1965 movie "Harum Scarum," and a number of the shooting locations have only recently begun to be found. One such location, seen in this colorized promo shot, was discovered just in the past couple of weeks on a visit to Garden of the Gods.

Original black-and-white promo still with a wider version of the same shot

The photo, originally shot in black-and-white, shows Elvis and Fran Jeffries in a romantic encounter in front of a tent. The tent scene was filmed at Iverson, but was later reshot in the studio. The Iverson version is widely seen in promo pics for the movie, but does not appear in the movie itself — making the scene all the more intriguing.

Lobby card for "Harum Scarum" using the tent photo

I wanted to show readers this photo of a well-traveled lobby card for the movie because I think the tape marks and overall wear-and-tear tell their own story: Someone loved this photo enough to put it up on a wall or mirror, not realizing — or not caring — that it might diminish the item's future value for collectors.

Shooting schedule for "Harum Scarum"

The Elvis promo shot was brought to my attention by Bill Bram, the author of "Elvis: Frame by Frame." Bill, who has done his homework on Elvis movie locations, knew from the shooting schedule for "Harum Scarum" that the scene was shot on the Iverson Movie Ranch. The schedule also gives us the date of the shoot: March 17, 1965 — almost exactly 50 years ago.

March 2015: Site of the Elvis tent scene, 50 years later

The question was the same as it usually is when it comes to filming locations: Where, exactly? The answer turned out to be right in the middle of Garden of the Gods, on the Lower Iverson.

Photo taken on March 2015 expedition into Garden of the Gods

These shots show the location as it appears today. The key to matching up the movie shot, as usual, is the rocks. The same rocks appear in the tent scene as in the recent photo.

The tent scene, in which Elvis sang "Animal Instinct" to Jeffries, was shot in virtually the same spot where Ronald Reagan's character was gunned down 10 years earlier in "Tennessee's Partner."

"Tennessee's Partner" (1955): John Payne, left, and Ronald Reagan

This screen shot from "Tennessee's Partner" is taken in the same spot where the tent scene was filmed. I blogged previously about this sequence, in which Reagan's character is killed. You can read that post by clicking here.

This version of the recent shot shows which rocks appear in the "Tennessee's Partner" screen shot.

Here the rocks are noted in the "Tennessee's Partner" screen shot. The angle is different from the recent shot, but you may be able to match up the rocks.

One thing I found interesting in the "Harum Scarum" promo shot is that it contains a shadow that probably shouldn't be there. My guess is the shadow belongs to a boom mic and a sound shield or sound man. 

"Harum Scarum" (1965): Tent scene, as reshot in the studio

When "Harum Scarum" came out, the Elvis-Fran Jeffries tent scene bore little resemblance to the sequence that was filmed at Iverson. The scene had been reshot in the studio, with sand, fake plants and a fake background.

Elvis and Fran Jeffries at Iverson, shooting the original tent scene

A number of promo shots from the original Iverson tent scene, including this rare color shot, have surfaced among collectors. While the color reproduction isn't great, the colors are closer to reality than on the colorized promo shot.

Colorized promo shot, with all the wrong colors

The colorized promo shot, seen again here with some color notations, contains one of the most widely circulated photos of the original shoot. But it gets it all wrong when it comes to the colors. Note how the dull green color of the grass resembles AstroTurf, in contrast to the vibrant green of the recent shot.

Most of the promo shots from the Iverson tent scene are black-and-white. In this one, a few of the rocks of Central Garden of the Gods remain visible in the background.

The kiss: Another "Harum Scarum" still from the Iverson tent scene

This kiss between Elvis and Fran Jeffries during the tent scene was reportedly not in the script. But it wasn't exactly improvised, either. The director is said to have worked it into the shoot at the last minute, just after Elvis finished his song to Jeffries, "Animal Instinct."

Studio promo shot: Fran Jeffries, left, Elvis Presley and Mary Ann Mobley

Elvis had his hands full with multiple love interests in "Harum Scarum" — not an unusual scenario for the King, either in the movies or in real life. Vying for the affections of Elvis along with tent scene seductress Fran Jeffries was Mary Ann Mobley, who proved to be a formidable contender in her own right.

"Harum Scarum" promo still: Elvis Presley and Mary Ann Mobley ride the Iverson Gorge

Mobley, too, put in time at Iverson in photo shoots for "Harum Scarum," mainly in horseback scenes with Elvis. For the most part, the horseback shots that made it into the movie featured doubles sitting in for the main actors. But the stars were called to duty for the promo stills, where it's possible to make out their faces even at a distance.

Promo still for "Harum Scarum": Elvis romps among the rocks of the Lower Iverson

Elvis scampered around Iverson in a number of scenes for "Harum Scarum," including this one shot not far from where the tent scene was filmed. This sequence yielded its own promo stills, notably the one seen above, and the footage actually wound up in the movie. Please click here to read an earlier post about this shoot.

"Love me Tender" (1956): Elvis, right, with Neville Brand

Elvis author Bill Bram and I collaborated last month on some research at the former Bell Location Ranch in connection with another Elvis movie, "Love Me Tender," which you can read about in this recent blog post.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Iverson Movie Ranch Western street, one building at a time ... Part XVI: The decline and fall of the Western street

"The Lone Ranger" TV series: "Ghost Town Fury" (aired March 28, 1957)

It may seem morbid to devote the final entry in this series to the deterioration of the Iverson Western street, but the town's "Golden Years" provide a fascinating coda to its 12-year Hollywood career. As the set became increasingly dilapidated from about 1954 on, it was typically called on to depict a ghost town, as it did in "The Lone Ranger."

Readers who have been following this series of posts will probably recognize many of the landmarks in this shot of the south end of town. The episode aired in early 1957, during the final season of "The Lone Ranger," and was most likely shot during 1956. The decay of the town set was already well under way at the time.

"Treasure of Ruby Hills" (filmed in 1954, released in 1955) — Casa Grande in background

At the north end of town, Casa Grande, seen at the right in the above shot, remained in the condition shown here — with its front awning resting askew against the building after apparently falling off — for a period of time from about 1954-1956.

"Annie Oakley" TV series (1954) — before the awning fell off

This is what Casa Grande looked like just before the awning came loose — probably in late 1953, or very early in 1954. This shot appears in the "Annie Oakley" episode "Justice Guns," which aired April 17, 1954. The town in general was still in decent shape at this point.

But by the time "Treasure of Ruby Hills" was filmed later in 1954, the awning was down and not just Casa Grande, but also much of the rest of the town, was a mess. As it turns out, this was a busy period for filming on the town set, resulting in Casa Grande's "awning askew" look turning up in a number of other productions.

The "Silvertown" sign in "Treasure of Ruby Hills" makes the point that what was once a town of 2,200 people is now deserted. While the numbers don't apply, the sign could almost be talking about the actual Iverson town set.

"Jailbreakers" (filmed circa 1955-56)

The above promo still for the movie "Jailbreakers" shows Casa Grande in the background with the awning still perched awkwardly against the building. If you look closely you'll notice that the awning has in fact fallen further since filming took place for "Treasure of Ruby Hills," and the building has deteriorated further as well.

Another promo shot for "Jailbreakers" again shows the Casa Grande awning in the background, behind the head of the man on the ground. I've been unable to find the backstory on the movie, which was a fairly obscure crime/exploitation flick, but for some reason it wasn't released until 1960 — some four or five years after it filmed.

"Whirlybirds" TV series (shot in 1956)

Fans of the old TV show "Whirlybirds" will probably love this shot, as I do. The helicopter has touched down on the Western street, right in front of a decaying Casa Grande. While the shot is not particularly clear, it again shows the building's awning in its familiar askew position — directly behind the chopper.

The name of the "Whirlybirds" episode, in keeping with the trend on the Western street at the time, was "Ghost Town Flight." The episode premiered Feb. 14, 1957, and was probably shot in 1956.

"Buffalo Bill, Jr." TV series (1955)

Here's yet another production in which the famously askew awning appears, in the "Buffalo Bill, Jr." episode "Red Hawk," which premiered May 28, 1955. For a change, the episode title didn't have the words "Ghost Town" in it.

It's unclear what's happening on the left side of the frame, but something that looks like scaffolding appears to be in place, probably associated with the South Adobe.

If this is the shadow cast by the Hotel, which it probably is, then the scaffolding is just north of the building — where the South Adobe was located. My guess is that the scaffolding is related to the teardown of the town.

Another intriguing shot from the same "Buffalo Bill, Jr." episode captures the perpetually troubled Hotel roof with a massive hole in it. The Hotel roof had its share of problems during the town set's declining years, as you may have seen in this earlier entry on the Hotel.

"Sky King" aerial footage (1955)

The bad condition of the Hotel roof can even be seen from the air, as in this aerial footage shot in 1955 for the TV series "Sky King."

"Sky King" TV series: 'Dead Man's Will" (aired Feb. 22, 1958)

The roof wasn't the Hotel's only problem during the town set's last days. In this shot from 1957, that's a corner of the Hotel at the right of the frame, with a troublesome lean to it. The building appears to be ready to fall over, and it probably was.

The condition of the Hotel in this amazing screen shot is interesting, but it's overshadowed by the two other main elements of the shot: the building in the background and the car in front of it. The car is important because it locks in the time element, but the "wow" factor here belongs to that incredible building in the background — one of the best shots I've seen of the old India Fort set after it sat largely idle for more than 15 years.

1957 Chrysler Windsor

Knowing the model year of the car narrows down the time frame for the shoot to some extent. The 1957 Chrysler Windsor became available in October 1956, so the shoot for "Dead Man's Will" had to take place sometime after that — probably in 1957.

This blurry shot from the same "Sky King" sequence helps flesh out some of the details, showing more of the Hotel — including the exterior staircase on its south face, at top right — along with another glimpse of the Chrysler and the "Wee Willie Winkie" building in the background.

"The Lone Ranger" TV show: "Ghost Town Fury" (aired March 28, 1957)

Another great sequence of shots featuring the same original "Wee Willie Winkie" building appears in "Ghost Town Fury," from the final season of the "Lone Ranger" TV series. Luckily, this was the one season of "The Lone Ranger" that was shot in color.

"The Lone Ranger" (probably shot in 1956)

The building is seen from virtually the same angle in "The Lone Ranger" that would be used a year later in "Sky King," with the camera shooting toward the west from a vantage point between the Saloon and the Hotel. In these "Lone Ranger" shots, the Saloon's exterior staircase is seen at the left of the frame.

"Sky King" (shot circa 1957)

A close look at the "Wee Willie Winkie" building in "Sky King" reveals signs of further deterioration from the condition it was in a year earlier in "The Lone Ranger." These buildings were almost never filmed after 1941, so it's pretty exciting to get any kind of a decent look at them — and the looks we get in both "The Lone Ranger" and "Sky King" are more than decent.

This aerial view from 1955, part of the footage shot for "Sky King" and used in multiple episodes of the series, points out the part of the old "Wee Willie Winkie" set that we're seeing in the "Lone Ranger" and "Sky King" shots.

"Sky King": Casa Grande in 1955, in the episode "Plastic Ghost"

"Sky King" also touched down on the Iverson Western street two years before the "Dead Man's Will" shoot, in 1955, when the TV series became another of the numerous productions to capture Casa Grande in its "awning askew" position. This shot was part of an extensive shoot using the town set for the episode "Plastic Ghost."

"Plastic Ghost" (shot in 1955)

The two major "Sky King" shoots on the Western street produced an interesting comparison. Here's a screen shot from the 1955 shoot for "Plastic Ghost," which premiered Jan. 9, 1956.

"Dead Man's Will" (circa 1957)

Here's a similar shot two years later from "Dead Man's Will." Notice that Casa Grande has vanished from the north end of the street, making the point that the building — which was really a false front — had been torn down sometime between 1955 and 1957, with the dismantling of the bulk of the town still to come.

"Plastic Ghost" — The Hotel in 1955

Shots of the Hotel in the two "Sky King" episodes also tell a key part of the story of the town set's final days. From this angle it appears that the structure was still relatively intact in 1955.

But from another angle used during the same 1955 shoot, we can see that the deterioration of the Hotel's roof has already begun. Also note the lack of balcony railing at this end of the building.

"Dead Man's Will" — The Hotel in 1957, at left

By the time "Sky King" returned to the town set two years later to shoot "Dead Man's Will," even less was left of the roof and the triangular gable at the center of the roofline had begun to collapse.

Down on the ground floor, closeup shots of the Hotel in "Dead Man's Will" revealed a boarded-up window during the circa 1957 shoot for the "Sky King" episode.

"Jailbreakers" promo still — the Hotel, with boarded window

The same boarded-up window is seen in one of the "Jailbreakers" promo shots. In terms of constructing a timeline, we can now say that the Hotel windows were boarded up before Casa Grande was torn down, as Casa Grande was still in place during the "Jailbreakers" shoot.

"The Lone Ranger" — boarded-up windows in "Ghost Town Fury" (shot circa 1956)

The presence of the same boarded-up window in "The Lone Ranger" indicates that the Hotel remained in this condition for some time, at least in 1956-57. Combining this information with Casa Grande's enduring "askew awning," it's safe to say not much sprucing up, if any, was taking place on the Western street from about 1954 on.

"Whirlybirds" (1956): a flooded Western street

Meanwhile, the town set faced another obstacle: flooding. It had been a recurring problem for the town over the years, and a soggy version of the Western street resurfaced in the "Whirlybirds" episode "Ghost Town Flight."

"Whirlybirds" — "Ghost Town Flight"

Combined with the overall level of deterioration of the set by 1956, the flooded version of the town featured in "Ghost Town Flight" appeared to be on its last legs — and indeed, it was.

Shot after shot in the "Whirlybirds" episode displays a soaked and heavily decayed town set. But despite its woeful condition, the set would continue to host productions for about another year.

In this shot we get a graphic image of the Sheriff's Office seemingly about ready to crumble. By contrast, the General Store remains relatively intact.

The show's title "whirlybird" flies over the flooded town in "Ghost Town Flight." Around the same time, a helicopter — possibly the same one — was used to get aerial shots of the flooding.

The helicopter, toward the right of the shot, is reflected in floodwater as it rests at the north end of town, in front of Casa Grande. In the foreground is the Harness Maker building, near the south end of town.

The key features are identified in this version of the "Whirlybirds" shot.

"Prairie Gunsmoke" (1942) — before the Western street was built

Flooding on Sheep Flats, where the Western street stood, was not a new phenomenon. In the early 1940s, before the town set was built, the "pond" created by flooding was occasionally used as a water feature, as in this example from the Bill Elliott B-Western "Prairie Gunsmoke," released by Columbia.

The "Prairie Gunsmoke" sequence included Pond Rock, a stacked-rock formation that later found a long-term hiding place next to the General Store as a fixture of the Western street.

"Rawhide Rangers" (1941) — the adobe fort ... and "Iverson Pond"

In an even earlier appearance by the "pond," the Universal Western "Rawhide Rangers," starring Johnny Mack Brown, incorporated the flooded area into footage of a magnificent adobe fort that stood for a short period of time in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

"Rawhide Rangers": some of the back buildings of the adobe fort

Built from the remnants of the "Wee Willie Winkie" India Fort from 1937, the adobe fort stood just west of where the town set would be built and many of the buildings remained standing while the Western street was in place. One of these buildings in particular is featured higher up in this post, in shots from "The Lone Ranger" and "Sky King."

It's possible the building highlighted here, from "Rawhide Rangers," is the same building seen in the "Lone Ranger" and "Sky King" shots. At this point the comparison is only speculation, but I'm keeping an eye out for additional clues.

The Three Stooges at Iverson Pond in "Have Rocket — Will Travel" (1959)

Once the Western town set was out of the way, with demolition completed by sometime in 1958, the "problem" of flooding in the area became an opportunity for the location ranch, which brought back the Pond as a water feature. Note Pond Rock at the right in the above Three Stooges shot.

Ruta Lee and Burt Reynolds at Iverson Pond in "Zane Grey Theatre" (1961)

A number of TV Westerns featured the Pond in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Pond Rock appears again, on the left this time, in the above shot from the Western anthology series "Zane Grey Theatre."

The shot comes from the "Zane Grey" episode "Man From Everywhere," which premiered April 13, 1961. I spotlighted this sequence in a recent blog post, which you can see by clicking here.

Chuck Connors at Iverson Pond in "The Rifleman" (1962)

The popular TV Western "The Rifleman" also filmed at Iverson Pond for the episode "Conflict," which aired Dec. 24, 1962. The Pond area flourished as a filming location from 1959 to 1963, until the land was sold off for construction of a mobile home park.

"The Virginian" TV series (1963): Iverson Pond

"Strangers at Sundown," an episode of the TV Western "The Virginian" that premiered April 6, 1963, provided a scenic showcase for Iverson Pond — and was one of the last productions to feature it. Later that same year, construction began on the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village.


I want to send out a thank-you to film historian John Emmons for his help rounding up the best shots from "Sky King," which filled in many of the missing pieces in the story of the town set's final days. John's pioneering research several years ago helped get the ball rolling on the study of the Iverson Western street.


This is the final installment in "The Iverson Movie Ranch Western street, one building at a time," a series covering the movie and TV history of each of the major structures making up Iverson's town set, which stood from 1945 to 1957 and appeared in hundreds of productions.



To see all of the posts in the series on the Iverson Western street, please click on the following links:

Part I: Casa Grande
Part II: The Livery Stable
Part III: The Saloon
Part IV: The Hotel
Part V: The General Store 
Part VI: The Barn
Part VII: The Sheriff's Office
Part VIII: The North and South Adobes
Part IX: The Lost Dutchman
Part X: The original north end of town
Part XI: The North and South Towers
Part XII: The Harness Maker
Part XIII: Rainbow Mine Co. 
Part XIV: The Church/Schoolhouse  
Part XV: The Corral Rocks Shack
Part XVI: The decline and fall of the Western street