Here's what the Iverson Movie Ranch obsession is all about ...

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• 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).
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Saturday, August 27, 2016

The day "Bonanza" brought a lion to the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif.

"Bonanza" episode "The Strange One" (premiered Nov. 14, 1965)

"Bonanza" was one of the few TV Westerns that continued to film on the Iverson Ranch throughout the 1960s, and the show had some noteworthy shoots during the location ranch's waning years.

One memorable "Bonanza" shoot took place on the Upper Iverson in 1965, when the crew brought a mountain lion to the ranch for an episode called "The Strange One."

The mountain lion made its appearance near Wrench Rock, on the South Rim. The animal appears to be loose, which had to be a logistical challenge.

As Snagglepuss would say, "Heavens to Murgatroyd, Exit stage left!"

They didn't get much work out of the big cat. It starts out kind of splayed on top of a rock, then it gets up and walks off camera. That's it.

It's possible that at this point crew members were making a frantic dash for the safety of the bus. I want to believe they had a system in place to keep the critter in check — maybe a hidden fence around the perimeter. Either that or an enticing food bowl waiting just off camera.

Stock footage of a different mountain lion, somewhere else

The next thing we see is an obviously different cat in a different location. With the "real" mountain lion playing a limited role, the producers must have sent out for every shred of stock cougar footage they could get their hands on. Nice job, finding one on some "Iverson-esque" rocks. But for crying out loud, the animal is black!

Enter mountain lion No. 3 — this one's the right color, but it lives in the woods!

For what seems like the next few minutes, but it's probably only a few seconds, we see what appears to be just about every mountain lion ever captured on film — regardless of the setting or what the cat looks like.

Greetings from the Great American Southwest

One of the cougars comes at us from an Arizona/New Mexico-type setting. These are all actual shots from the "Bonanza" episode — kind of a fun reminder of how unsophisticated we were as viewers back in 1965.

Hoss and Little Joe close in on the mountain lion

I had to check to make sure we're supposed to think they're all the same lion, and we are. The big cat has been killing Ponderosa cattle, and Hoss and Little Joe are out hunting for it — even though in this shot it kind of looks like Joe is holding Hoss prisoner.

Yet another piece of lion footage — who knows where it was shot, but it wasn't at Iverson

Another cornucopia of lion footage is stitched together for the sequence where the cat meets its fate. I'll spare you most of the grisly details, but I need to share a couple of highlights to keep the plot moving.

The big cat gets increasingly scary because it's about to attack a lady — the "Strange One" of the episode title.

This is the lady, and as you can see, she's really scared. She might even be more scared than I would be if I were about to get attacked by a lion, but it's hard to say. I know I'd be plenty scared, but boy is she scared.

So the thing pounces, and, spoiler alert ... Little Joe manages to shoot it in midair. Personally, I think that would be really hard to do, but as you may know, Joe is a damn fine shot. ... OK, this is your only warning that you may want to skip the next few photos if you're bothered by graphic images. (They're not all that graphic.)

I honestly do not know how they got this shot, unless they actually killed a mountain lion and filmed it, which I don't think they would have done. When the cat lands, it immediately crumples to the ground. It's disturbing to watch.

Hoss and Little Joe approach the dead lion, which landed on the Lower Iverson, just north of the big towers of the Garden of the Gods.

While Hoss admires the big cat, Joe goes off to look for the lady, which sounds like what Joe would do.

They find the lady, played by Louise Sorel, lying in dry grass, wondering why Hollywood isn't nearly as glamorous as she thought it would be. My heart goes out to Louise — I've been to that spot, and it's a foxtail nightmare.

Louise Sorel as Marie — aka "the strange one" — in "The Strange One"

Her treacherous romp near the Garden of the Gods in "Bonanza" came early in what would become a prolific and accomplished 50-plus-year career in show business for Louise Sorel.

Sorel, who was about 25 when she played lion bait on "Bonanza," went on to be a star in soap operas, with roles on "Santa Barbara," "Days of Our Lives" and others. She racked up a ton of Soap Opera Digest Awards in the 1990s, owning categories like Outstanding Villainess, Female Scene Stealer and Female Showstopper.

Louise Sorel with TV husband John Aniston from "Days of Our Lives"

Sorel kept fans of NBC's "Days of Our Lives" on edge as Vivian Alamain/Vivian Kiriakis over a span of almost 20 years, till the series did a major cast reboot in 2011. Her character was married for a while on the show to crime lord Victor Kiriakis, played by John Aniston — the father of former "Friends" star Jennifer Aniston.

Sorel, who remains active in showbiz today, has another pretty significant Iverson connection. She's the daughter of film producer Albert J. Cohen and actress Jeanne Sorel. Cohen's many credits include producing one of the quintessential Iverson Movie Ranch films, John Wayne's "The Fighting Seabees."


Mark Sherman said...

Another great post! You are amazing when it comes to this stuff. Now I have to find the episode of Bonanza. That mountain lion should have won an award for best animal playing dead in a series. Thanks again!

Scotty Rawson said...

Yep! You did it again. Great post

Brian Harrington said...

AS Mark said... ANOTHER GREAT Post, thank you