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, October 30, 2016

"The Outlaw Deputy": The day Karl and Augusta Iverson invited a movie company to shoot in their house

Karl and Augusta Iverson, ca. early 1940s (Quiet on the Set)

The Iverson Movie Ranch was founded by Karl and Augusta Iverson, who homesteaded in the rocky hills above the northwest San Fernando Valley in the late 19th century.

Iverson family watermelon crop (ca. early 1930s)

Like most of the families that settled the West, the Iversons' original livelihood came from farming. The family grew a variety of crops over the years, including potatoes, figs, grapes and watermelons.

"The Silent Man" (1917), one of the earliest movies filmed on the Iverson Ranch:
The rocks in the background can still be found at the site

After early Hollywood location scouts started sniffing around the couple's hillside property as early as 1912, Karl and Augusta began transitioning from farming to the movie location business.

Karl and Augusta Iverson's "house on the hill" under construction (ca. 1927)

By the late 1920s, their sons Joe and Aaron had taken over much of the day-to-day movie business, and Karl and Augusta moved into their new house overlooking the Valley.

Karl and Augusta's house after the January 1930 snowstorm

Built in about 1927, the house was located near the homes of both Joe and Aaron, but was remote enough to enable the couple to enjoy their golden years in relative privacy.

"The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" TV series (1960)

The movie business was generally kept a safe distance from the residence, which became known as the "Old Folks' House." It was only on rare occasions that a partial glimpse of the house might slip into the background of a movie or TV episode.

So it was out of character when, in 1935, Augusta and Karl allowed a film crew into their home to shoot a scene for the movie "The Outlaw Deputy."

"The Outlaw Deputy" (1935): Scene filmed in the Iversons' house

The brief scene plays out in a corner of the Iverson house, showcasing some of the building's distinctive arches. The location for this shoot would have been lost to history had it not been for the sharp eye of film historian Tinsley E. Yarbrough.

"The Outlaw Deputy": Nora Lane in the Iverson home

Tinsley noticed the scene in the movie and was able to pinpoint the location as the Old Folks' House — a jaw-dropping bit of location spotting, if you ask me.

"Foyer" area of the house, where the 1935 shoot takes place

The brief movie sequence essentially has two camera setups, one shooting west and one shooting south. Both setups were filmed in what I would call the "foyer" of the house, overlooking the Valley.

"The Outlaw Deputy": Rocky mound to the east of the Iverson Ranch

In a shot taken with the camera shooting to the east, we see a large rocky mound that today is located just east of Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Topanga would not be built through this area until the 1960s.

The same rocky mound, now located east of Topanga Canyon Boulevard

The rocky mound can still be found today, just across Topanga looking east from the former Iverson property.

Markers can be identified today that can also be seen in the movie. I've circled a number of rock clusters in this photo to facilitate matching them up against the background in the movie shot.

The same rock clusters are spotlighted here, with the outlines color-coded to match the recent shot above this one. The comparison is easier if you click on the photos to enlarge them.

Interesting rock seen with the camera shooting south

The property where the house once stood remains private and today is inaccessible. I hope to someday get a chance to track down the rock noted here, which I am almost certain would still be there.

The Old Folks' House in summer 2008

It's unclear whether the Old Folks' House had any full-time residents following the deaths of Karl and Augusta Iverson in the late 1940s. By the time I first came face to face with it in 2008 the place was all boarded up.

The boarded-up garage in 2008

After years of disuse, the Old Folks' House — aka the "House on the Hill" — became a hangout for kids hopping the fence from the nearby mobile home park.

Hangover Rock, which appeared frequently in productions, looms a short distance northwest of the house and garage.

Here's a better look at Hangover Rock in 2008, with a glimpse of the garage in the background. The African hut was a set for the NBC series "Heroes." (Click here to read more about the "Heroes" shoot.)

Remnants of the Old Folks' House after the 2008 Sesnon Fire

The Sesnon Fire, also known as the Porter Ranch Fire, ripped through the former Iverson Movie Ranch in fall 2008, destroying the Old Folks' House. I visited the site within weeks of the destruction and took pictures of the rubble.

After the fire: The "foyer"?

One part of the house that remained upright after the fire bears a resemblance to the "foyer" area used in "The Outlaw Deputy," although it does not appear to be correctly oriented. The design of the house included a number of arched entryways.

It's easy to miss the Chatsworth landmark Stoney Point, even though it looms large in the background. The shot is taken with the camera aimed toward the southeast.

Not surprisingly, the fireplace was also among the last features standing when the house burned down.

The foundation and fireplace in 2009

Not long after the fire the rubble was removed and the area was cleaned up. Even though this photo was taken in 2009, this is essentially what the foundation still looks like today.

Why "The Outlaw Deputy"?

The "Outlaw Deputy" shoot raises its share of questions. I can't help but wonder why, out of the thousands of productions filmed on their ranch, the Iversons opened their doors to an obscure Tim McCoy B-Western and then never repeated the gesture. I'd be interested to hear any theories.

I want to congratulate Tinsley E. Yarbrough on an amazing piece of detective work in spotting the "foyer" shoot, and would like to thank him again for all his great location research. Tinsley recently updated his seminal book "Those Great Western Movie Locations," which can be purchased through this previous blog post or by clicking on the Amazon icon below.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"Montana Moon" (1930): In the first "singing cowboy" movie, Johnny Mack Brown romances Joan Crawford and is serenaded by Jiminy Cricket on the Iverson Ranch

"Montana Moon" (MGM, 1930)

The early Western talkie "Montana Moon," starring Joan Crawford and Johnny Mack Brown, has been cited as the movie that introduced the singing cowboy to the silver screen.


This 3-minute clip from the movie is filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch and is one of the most unusual Iverson sequences I've run across in some time.

Cliff Edwards and Jiminy Cricket

The guy singing and playing the ukulele — his "Lambchop," as he calls it in the clip — is Cliff Edwards, whose voice you might recognize as the voice of Jiminy Cricket.

Cliff first played Jiminy in "Pinocchio" in 1940 — remember "When You Wish Upon a Star"? — and went on to voice the animated cricket for the next 30 years.

Years before he became Jiminy Cricket, Cliff Edwards went by the name Ukulele Ike, and this is one time we can say that someone literally wrote the book on something — Edwards, or Ike, wrote the book on playing the ukulele.

He also had a bunch of his own ukulele records. It always bodes well when you can get R. Crumb to do the cover for your record — even though this release came out after Edwards' death in 1971.


Edwards was an unlikely choice for Disney's high-profile spokescricket, given the Mouse House's prudish reputation and Ukulele Ike's penchant for naughty innuendo. Click on the above audio clip to sample the kind of mischief Ike was up to in the early 1930s.

A crestfallen Johnny Mack Brown in Garden of the Gods in "Montana Moon"

But the most exciting thing about the "Montana Moon" clip, to me, is the locations. This scene is shot along the western edge of Iverson's Garden of the Gods, and spotlights some rarely filmed rocks.

The site is carefully chosen — not just for the rocks but also for the view looking west toward Santa Susana Pass Road, which is incorporated into the scene.

The same setting in 2016: Western Garden of the Gods

Here's the same rock Johnny was sitting on in 1930, which is easily identified by its large diagonal crack. Today the view of the road below is blocked by brush.

However, Santa Susana Pass Road is still visible down below if you go one rock over. The road forms an S-curve as it snakes through the area, just as it did in 1930.

In a poignant juxtaposition of the road below and the rocks above, Cliff Edwards and Johnny Mack Brown watch as a caravan of vehicles heads west on the Pass, taking their women away.

While the cars are traveling west in the real world, it is understood that in the movie, the caravan is headed east — both geographically and metaphorically.

Both of the rocks where the heartbroken cowboys sat are still to be found in the same spot — on the west end of the Central Garden of the Gods.

When their broken hearts get the best of them, the cowboys ride out in pursuit of that caravan.

Here's the same pass between the rocks where they rode out, as it appears in 2016.

The rock on the right is one I've blogged about before, which I call "Getaway Rock."

Getaway Rock

Here's a wider view of Getaway Rock. These rocks were part of a terrific sequence in "Tennessee's Partner," which you can read about by clicking here.

This Bing aerial should help you find the "Montana Moon" filming site, if you're so inclined. It's located on land that has been preserved as a park and is open to the public during daylight hours.

"Montana Moon" — incredible Iverson Ranch location shot

We still haven't talked about the single best shot in the clip, seen here. For this part of the sequence the action shifts to Iverson Ranch Road and the car is now traveling northeast.

We now see a bunch of cowboys — it's not clear to me where they all materialized from — closing in on the last car in the caravan.

It took me a while to figure out what I was seeing here, partly because I had to pinch myself to believe it was real. The shot includes a view of some old stone buttressing that I had never seen showcased in such detail in any other production.

Other markers in the shot pinpoint the location, as noted here. We can see a portion of Rock Island in the background, and behind it, farther west, is the back side of Batman Rock.


The shot contains a wealth of information about how the Iverson Ranch was set up at the tail end of the silent film era — including the road, the buttressing and even the fencing.

The stone buttressing on both sides of the road creates a culvert under the road that is part of the area's drainage system. I'm tempted to romanticize it a bit by calling it a "creek," but as it was usually dry, "drainage channel" will have to do.

1952 aerial view of the Lower Iverson

Iverson Ranch Road was essentially the entrance to the location ranch, and at the same time served as the driveway leading to the Iverson family residences.

Chatsworth Train Depot, looking south, in "Montana Moon"

Just as the clip fades out, everyone arrives at the Chatsworth Train Depot. This building, which stood from about 1910 to 1962, made its way into countless productions, but no longer exists.

The old Chatsworth Train Depot (looking north; ca. 1950s)

The old train depot stood about halfway between Lassen and Devonshire and about halfway between Canoga and Owensmouth — pretty close to the spot where its replacement, the present-day Chatsworth transit station, now stands.

"Montana Moon": Southbound train approaches the water tower

This shot didn't quite make it into the clip, but it appears in the movie and offers a rare closeup of Chatsworth's old railroad water tower that once stood near what is now Devonshire — alongside the tracks, about halfway between Canoga and Owensmouth.

The water tower shot also provides a glimpse of the Chatsworth landmark Stoney Point in the background, along with a section of Oat Mountain way in the distance to the north.

Johnny Mack Brown and Joan Crawford, whose torrid love affair 
is the centerpiece of "Montana Moon"

While "Montana Moon" is a Western, it's mainly a love story — with the romance more central to the plot than would become the practice as the Western genre "matured." Within a few years Westerns would be aimed primarily at young boys, and would be more about shooting it out than about making out.

John Mack Brown and Greta Garbo — promo still for "A Woman of Affairs" (1928)

But Johnny Mack Brown did plenty of making out early in his movie career, before he became a B-movie cowboy. Besides Joan Crawford, Johnny — billed in the early days as John — starred with Garbo, Mary Pickford, Norma Shearer and other top actresses of the '20s and '30s.

Joan Crawford publicity still for "Montana Moon"

Some of the publicity shots for "Montana Moon" and other pre-code John Mack Brown movies are pretty amusing. Click here to see more about Brown and his many leading ladies.

I want to send a shout-out to fellow rock detective Don Kelsen, who brought the "Montana Moon" clip to my attention while we were out searching for Hopalong Cassidy rocks in the Garden of the Gods. You can click here to see a recent post about that adventure.



I can recommend "Montana Moon" and encourage readers to click on the link above to go to Amazon.com, but I want to add the disclaimer that there's almost no Iverson Movie Ranch content beyond what's in the clip near the top of this post.