Film historians have struggled over the years to find the location for the haunting scene in the 1951 Western "Little Big Horn" in which the brutalized body of Sheb Wooley's character, "Quince," is found propped up on a stick. But I'm excited to report that the grassy knoll where the scene was filmed has now been found.
"Little Big Horn" — closeup of Quince's body
The closeup of Quince provides clues to the location, with the landmark Elders Peak, south of the Iverson Movie Ranch, seen in the background. "Elders Peak" is my research term for this frequently filmed hill, which has also been known by a number of other names including Sunset, Retz Peak and Rockridge.
Veteran movie location hunter Eddie Henn was the driving force behind the discovery. Eddie noticed the alignment between Elders Peak and a distinctive notch in the ridgeline atop the Santa Monica Mountains, which form the southern boundary of the San Fernando Valley.
The same features as they line up today — from the grassy knoll
Eddie and I got together in January for an expedition onto the former Upper Iverson to see whether we could locate the sweet spot where the background hills would line up. As we approached our "target zone" at the west end of Cactus Hill, suddenly there it was: the grassy knoll.
At the top of the knoll it quickly became obvious that it was the filming location for "Little Big Horn," as everything matched up. The above shot provides a wider view of the grassy knoll with its contemporary background.
"Little Big Horn"
I don't know of any other movies in which the grassy knoll has been used for filming, but it's such a nondescript setting that it would be easy to miss. While the Iverson Ranch as a whole is defined by its rock features, the grassy knoll is virtually rock-free.
Looking south from the Grassy Knoll (photo by Jerry Condit)
On a return visit to the site within days of the discovery, we brought along another intrepid location hunter, Jerry Condit, who took a black-and-white photo that nicely matches the closeup of Quince from the movie.
Quince on the Grassy Knoll — "Little Big Horn"
Here's another look at the haunting Quince closeup to facilitate comparison with Jerry's photo above this one. The detail in Jerry's shot reveals that much of the background remains virtually untouched, even 65 years later.