"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.
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 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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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 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.