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.

Friday, January 29, 2016

How Roy Rogers solved the mystery of the Japanese sniper in John Wayne's "Fighting Seabees"

"The Fighting Seabees" (1944)

One photo I didn't put up when I blogged last summer about the John Wayne World War II movie "The Fighting Seabees" was this shot of a Japanese soldier using a diagonal crack in a rock as a sniper's perch.

"The Roy Rogers Show" (1952)

I didn't post the shot because I couldn't figure out where it was taken. But with some help from Roy Rogers, the mystery is now solved. Roy peers through the same crack in an early episode of "The Roy Rogers Show" called "The Train Robbery," filmed in 1951 and first aired Feb. 3, 1952.

Sniper's crack, on a recent visit to the Lower Iverson

Thanks to the context in the "Roy Rogers" episode, I was able to determine that the crack is part of a heavily filmed movie rock that I call Hangdog. The tricky thing about both the "Fighting Seabees" shot and the "Roy Rogers" shot above is that they feature the rarely seen "back side" of the rock.

"The Train Robbery" ("The Roy Rogers Show")

This is what the sniper's crack area looks like from the much more heavily filmed "front side" of the rock — its west side. In the "Roy Rogers" episode, Roy climbs on top of Hangdog to get a drop on the bad guys.

A portion of the crack is visible near the legs of the two bad guys. The section of Hangdog shown in this shot is just a fraction of the massive rock feature.

The rock, including the sniper's crack, remains intact today on the Lower Iverson Ranch. This recent photo of Hangdog shows the same section of the rock seen in the "Roy Rogers" shot.

The sniper's crack area is located at the north end of the rock.

This is what the rest of Hangdog looks like in modern times. The photo shows the west-facing side of the rock.

Hangdog today is on private property, and access is difficult. The rock is positioned near the southeast corner of the Cal West Townhomes, separated from the condo community by a brick wall.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Movie rock "survivors" found in the Iverson Gorge — thanks to "Atom Man vs. Superman"

"Atom Man vs. Superman" (1950): Bald Knob, center, and its neighbors

I recently came across this shot of the gravity-defying Bald Knob and some of its neighboring rocks in "Atom Man vs. Superman," the second of Columbia's two Superman serials. Some readers may recall previous posts talking about whether Bald Knob was real or fake.

We may never know for sure, because Bald Knob disappeared when development came to the Iverson Gorge in the late 1980s. The space once occupied by this fascinating movie rock is now filled by dirt embankments supporting Redmesa Road and the Cal West Townhomes.

The sighting inspired me to do a little exploring in the Gorge. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to find out whether any of those nearby rocks might have survived. To my surprise, I was able to pretty easily find some of the rocks seen in the "Atom Man vs. Superman" shot.

This shot from my recent expedition into the Gorge features a small clump of rocks that has survived from the "Atom Man vs. Superman" shoot. The terrain has been dramatically altered in the intervening years, and only the rocks near the top of the formation seen in the serial remain above ground.

This shot from "Atom Man vs. Superman" points out the surviving rocks. You may be able to see the similarities between these rocks and those in the recent photos — especially a sort of duckbilled rock on the left and a mushroom-like "crown" at the top of the formation.

Here's another view of the surviving rocks. From this angle it can be seen that the ground level is now much higher than it was back in 1950.

A wider shot from the same recent Gorge expedition shows the setting where the surviving rocks can be found today, with Nyoka Cliff in the background. The "Atom Man" rocks can be seen near the bottom of the photo.

Iverson Gorge (Bing bird's-eye view)

This bird's-eye view pinpoints how to find the rocks. Make your way to Redmesa Road in Chatsworth, Calif., just north of Santa Susana Pass Road, and park below the first condos. The rocks are on the east side of the road.

The discovery of the "Atom Man" rocks helps narrow down the area where Bald Knob once stood — and where it may still be located beneath the Redmesa dirt embankment. The above bird's-eye view also notes its proximity to the landmark Lone Ranger Rock.

Friday, January 15, 2016

"Border Feud," starring Lash LaRue: The day in 1947 when the Iverson family left the barn door open

The Aaron Iverson barn, as seen in "Border Feud" (1947)

The Iverson family's residential and farm buildings were generally kept out of movies filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch, but there were a few exceptions. The single biggest exception was probably the day in 1947 when the barn on Aaron Iverson's ranch became a key set for the Lash LaRue Western "Border Feud."

"Border Feud" was part of a string of ultra-cheapo B-Westerns from Producers Releasing Corp. filmed on the ranch. PRC was a consistent presence at Iverson from 1940-1947, and LaRue, one of the Poverty Row studio's biggest stars, filmed virtually all of his PRC movies at the Chatsworth shooting location.

Al "Fuzzy" St. John at the Aaron Iverson barn in "Border Feud"

Like many of PRC's productions, "Border Feud" also featured perennial Western sidekick Al "Fuzzy" St. John, a screen veteran with a resume going back to about 1914. Like LaRue, Fuzzy was a fixture at Iverson, providing comic relief opposite LaRue, Buster Crabbe, George Houston, Bob Steele and other cowboy heroes.

Just a few of PRC's Lash LaRue movies filmed at Iverson in 1947

PRC filmed at least a dozen B-Westerns at Iverson in 1947 alone. It may be that by the time "Border Feud" was filming, the Iversons had developed a level of familiarity with LaRue, Fuzzy and the PRC crew that made the family comfortable enough to relax the rules. "Border Feud" represents the only time the barn was used as a movie set.

"Border Feud" — the Aaron Iverson barn

Western movie historian Tinsley E. Yarbrough first identified the "Border Feud" building as an Iverson family barn in an article published in 1998. In the years since then, the barn has been mildly controversial, with some researchers — including yours truly — remaining skeptical that the barn seen in the movie was located at Iverson.

Aaron Iverson in front of his barn (Edwin Iverson collection)

But any controversy was put to rest in a recent exchange I had with Tinsley, who pointed me to the "smoking gun" that proves the identity of the building. The undated photo above, circulated by Aaron Iverson's son Edwin, shows Aaron in front of his barn — which can be readily identified as the same barn seen in "Border Feud."

A number of the same markers seen in the "cow photo" can also be identified in screen shots from "Border Feud," as noted above. These markers leave no doubt that it's the same building in both shots.

Closeup of the Aaron Iverson barn in "Border Feud"

Other screen shots from the movie provide detailed views of various sections of the barn. The dilapidated building was a holdover from an earlier period when farming was still an important part of life on the Iverson Ranch — before the movie location operation evolved into the ranch's predominant business activity.

Here's a shot of the movie's star, Lash LaRue, in front of the Aaron Iverson barn.

This shot of Fuzzy near the corner of the barn includes a rare glimpse of a second structure, apparently another farm building, at the right of the frame. "Border Feud" stands alone as a film document of these buildings.

In addition to detailing farm features such as fences and windmills, the movie shots reveal the view looking out from the barn area. This shot looks southwest toward the rugged hills south of Santa Susana Pass Road.

"The Virginian" (1963)

Although the Aaron Iverson barn figured prominently in the action in "Border Feud," it was essentially never seen up close in a movie again. However, it does pop up from time to time in backgrounds, with the above shot from the TV Western "The Virginian" being one of the best examples.

The shot comes from the episode "Strangers at Sundown," which premiered April 3, 1963.

"Tell It to the Marines" (1926)

A screen shot from the silent movie "Tell It to the Marines" reveals that the barn was already in place as early as 1926. The building, identifiable by its angled white roof, can be seen near the center of the frame.

The barn is highlighted here. The shot is taken from Garden of the Gods, and includes a Chinese bridge, to the left of the barn, that was the subject of a detailed a post in September.



I mentioned this in a recent blog entry, but in case you still haven't rounded up a copy of "Those Great Western Movie Locations," Tinsley E. Yarbrough's landmark reference book, it has recently been updated and reissued. Please click on the link above to find the book on Amazon. Highly recommended!