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.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Glenn Strange and his "Strange Rock": Sam the Bartender on "Gunsmoke" wasn't always such a nice guy — just ask the Lone Ranger!

"Gunsmoke": Glenn Strange as Sam the Bartender

Fans of "Gunsmoke" know Glenn Strange mainly as Sam Noonan, the mild-mannered, albeit occasionally shotgun-wielding, bartender in Miss Kitty's Long Branch Saloon.

Glenn Strange: B-Western baddie

But before he settled down in 1961 for what would turn out to be 12 years and 238 episodes of steady, law-abiding work keeping Dodge City liquored up, Strange spent three decades in Hollywood piling up a resume as one of the baddest — and busiest — bad guys in the Westerns.

"Last Stagecoach West" (1957): Glenn Strange in the Iverson Gorge

As one of the most prolific actors in B-Westerns and early TV Westerns, Strange was a regular on the Iverson Movie Ranch. Between his career in movies going back to 1930 and his TV work starting with "The Lone Ranger" in 1949, Strange appeared in close to 600 productions.

Glenn Strange as Frankenstein's monster

Strange also played Frankenstein's monster in a series of Universal horror films in the 1940s, taking over the role made famous by Boris Karloff after Karloff reportedly got tired of being the monster all the time.

"The Lone Ranger," Episode 1: Glenn Strange as Butch Cavendish (1949)

One of Strange's signature roles came in the TV series "The Lone Ranger." Starting in the show's first episode, Strange played one of the most hated characters of his career — the brutal killer Butch Cavendish.

The Cavendish Gang gathers in Iverson's Garden of the Gods to plan an ambush

In a way, Strange's character created the Lone Ranger. Early in episode one of the TV show, Cavendish masterminded an ambush of a group of Texas Rangers that left almost all of them dead — all except one, who would recover from his injuries and would go on to become the Lone Ranger.

L.A.'s Bronson Canyon: Members of the Cavendish Gang lie in wait

The ambush scene was edited together from two location shoots in two different parts of L.A. — one in Bronson Canyon, near Griffith Park, and one on the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth. Many of the shots of the bushwhackers were filmed in Bronson Canyon.

Texas Rangers ride into trouble in L.A.'s Bronson Canyon

The "box canyon" configuration of Bronson Canyon — a setup that a layman might call a "dead end" — makes it the ideal spot for an ambush.

Glenn Strange as Cavendish — the Phantom in the background

But shots of Cavendish himself during the ambush were filmed in front of a distinctive rock located on the Iverson Movie Ranch: the Phantom, one of the many sandstone giants found in the Garden of the Gods.

Cavendish, center, is joined by members of his gang at his ambush perch in front of the Phantom. The Phantom is readily identified by the smaller rock protruding over the edge at the top of the larger rock.

This is what the Phantom looks like today, from farther back. Here again we can see the smaller rock, at top center, sticking out over the edge of the larger rock.

The rocks seen in the "Lone Ranger" shot tend to blend into each other, but the shot includes three main rock features, as noted here — the Phantom in the background (Rock A), a rock immediately behind the bushwhackers (Rock B) and the rock in the foreground that provides cover for the bushwhackers (Rock C).

The same site as it appears today (photo by Tony M)

The general location for this shot has been known for several years. I blogged about the sequence back in 2010, soon after identifying the Phantom as the rock in the background. But it was only a couple of months ago that the other rocks in the shot were identified.

Iverson aficionado Tony M pointed out the site to me when he was here in September on a tour of movie locations. Tony also took this photo at that time — and I've taken the liberty of marking it up to show the three main rocks.

Rock C: "Strange Rock," in foreground

The identification of Rocks B and C is historically significant, given the central role the site played in the "Lone Ranger" story. After Tony showed me the spot, I found I couldn't resist calling Rock C "Strange Rock," in honor of Glenn Strange. The rock's slightly "strange" shape only makes the name that much more appropriate.

"Desire" (1936): Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich

Rocks B and C turn up in a number of other productions as well, although they're generally not seen from the angles used in "The Lone Ranger." Both rocks are visible in the background in this screen shot from the Marlene Dietrich-Gary Cooper movie "Desire."

I mentioned Rock C — referring to it generically at the time as "the pointed rock" — when I wrote a couple of years ago about the Garden of the Gods shoot for "Desire." You can see the original post by clicking here.

Where Glenn Strange was positioned during filming of the "Lone Ranger" ambush

Taking a closer look at the "Lone Ranger" ambush site today, we can see that the almost 45-degree slope on the south side of Strange Rock, where Cavendish and his henchmen were positioned, would have made this a precarious shoot — even without the dried brush that now occupies much of the space.

Presumably Glenn Strange and the other actors had some kind of scaffolding to stand on during filming.

"The Flying Deuces" (Laurel and Hardy, 1939)

"Rock B" from the ambush sequence has its own claim to fame, having provided the foundation for a mountain of laundry during the famous "laundry scene" in the 1939 Laurel and Hardy movie "The Flying Deuces."

The Phantom and "Rock B" in modern times

Here's "Rock B" without the laundry piled on top of it. I posted a blog item last year providing additional details about this shoot, which you can find by clicking on this link.

Map to Strange Rock and the "Lone Ranger" ambush site

If you can find your way to Redmesa Road in Chatsworth, Calif., you can probably find Strange Rock and the site of the "Lone Ranger" ambush. Park on Redmesa, just before the condos, and head for the blue gate on the west side of the road. Behind the gate, take Garden of the Gods Trail; at the top, continue straight ahead.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tinsley E. Yarbrough's seminal Western movie location book has been updated!

One of the top reference works in the field of location research

I just heard from Tinsley Yarbrough, one of the most respected experts on Western filming locations, who broke the news that he has reprinted and added an update to his book "Those Great Western Movie Locations," one of the seminal works in the field — and a reference that has been invaluable to me in my own location research.

Tinsley notes that the new printing comes with a "2016 Supplement" that updates some of the existing entries and adds entries on some locations that weren't covered in the original, such as Victor Valley and Towsley Canyon.


The new book is available on Amazon, but if you order it directly from Tinsley, you can save a big chunk of money. Tinsley is selling the book directly for $35 postpaid to domestic locations. International buyers can email Tinsley at yarbrought@ecu.edu for shipping rates. To buy the book, send a check or money order to:

Tinsley E. Yarbrough
337 Glenn Court
Greenville, NC 27858

You can also pay by PayPal, by sending the payment to:

yarbrought@ecu.edu

Amazon listing for the original edition of Tinsley E. Yarbrough's 
"Those Great Western Movie Locations"

Here's how amazing this deal is. The original run sold out a couple of years ago, and the few copies that are still around have been offered online for upwards of $1,000, as you can see in the above listing from Amazon.com, which I just pulled from the site today.


If all else fails, the book is selling for $49.95 plus shipping on Amazon. (See the link at the bottom of this post.)


The new book has 402 pages and nearly 500 photos, with material on more than 110 filming locations and references to more than 1,200 movies and TV series. The original book has been praised by noted film critic Leonard Maltin, who said it is "as good as any [location book] I've seen."


Insiders in the movie location research universe have known about Tinsley's work for years — and have all raved about it. Jerry Schneider's Movie Making Locations website lists Tinsley's book as "highly recommended," and Boyd Magers of Western Clippings calls it "the ultimate locations guidebook."


Personally, I've learned so much from Tinsley — who still checks in from time to time to keep me honest in my own research — I can't say enough about the body of research he has produced on filming locations. His book is one of the most important documents we have in this field. Thanks for the update, Tinsley!



Tinsley's book is on Amazon now, and you can buy it by clicking on the link above.