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, March 20, 2016

Beautiful color images of the Iverson Movie Ranch from the final season of "The Lone Ranger"

"The Lone Ranger" (1957): Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels on the Lower Iverson

The TV show "The Lone Ranger" aired just one season in color — the final year of its five-season run on ABC. The 39 color episodes that made up season five aired from 1956-1957.

"The Sheriff of Smoke Tree" (premiered Sept. 20, 1956)

Much of the show's location footage during season five was filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch, producing memorable color images of the ranch during one of its most productive periods.

Tonto playfully lassoes the Lone Ranger outside the Cottage on the Middle Iverson Ranch Set
in "Decision for Chris McKeever" (Dec. 6, 1956)

Season five marked a homecoming for series stars Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, as the show took on its most ambitious Iverson shooting schedule since production on season one in 1949-1950.

"Quarter Horse War" (Nov. 8, 1956)

The saddle pals take a break at a "water feature" — probably just a puddle left behind by the rain. The scene takes place on a lightly filmed patch of land near the eastern boundary of the Lower Iverson. This land no longer exists, having been demolished in the 1960s to put through Topanga Canyon Boulevard.

The "Topanga Cut," as it appears today (looking east)

This recent bird's-eye view diagrams approximately where the water feature (or puddle) in the previous shot would have been located — somewhere in the middle of the "Topanga Cut." The demolition required to extend Topanga to the 118 Freeway resulted in the loss of a substantial chunk of scenic terrain.

The Topanga Cut, looking west

This bird's-eye highlights the scale of the Topanga Cut, including the enormous change in elevation between the original Iverson Movie Ranch property at the top and the current level of the road far below. Notice how the cars are dwarfed by the "slice" that was carved through the terrain.

 John Beradino as stage holdup specialist Lem Crater in "The Sheriff of Smoke Tree"

In "The Sheriff of Smoke Tree," former Major League infielder Johnny Beradino — who went by "John" after he transitioned to acting — led a crew of outlaws who terrorized the Lower Iverson holding up stagecoaches. Beradino would resurface in a variety of bad-guy roles throughout season five.

The shot of Beradino includes a couple of Iverson-area landmarks, noted here. The Football can be found today among the condos, as I've discussed in previous posts. Elders Peak, also known as Rockridge, Sunset or Retz Peak, is situated south of the movie ranch.

Maurice Jara as Red Cloud — "The Courage of Tonto" (Jan. 17, 1957)

Much of the episode "The Courage of Tonto" was filmed in Iverson's Garden of the Gods, including this sequence set in the Central Garden of the Gods. The camera is pointed toward the west, with Getaway Rock featured prominently behind Maurice Jara and Green Hill in the distance.

Getaway Rock in modern times — Central Garden of the Gods

Getaway Rock and Green Hill remain in place today, as seen in this photo from a visit to the ranch in 2014.

"The Courage of Tonto"

For this part of the sequence the camera remains in roughly the same place, but is turned around and aimed toward the east. Visible between Maurice Jara and Jay Silverheels is part of the Harum Scarum Cluster.

"The Avenger" (Jan. 10, 1957): Central Garden of the Gods

This shot taken in the same area appears in the episode "The Avenger," which premiered one week before "The Courage of Tonto." A portion of the Harum Scarum Cluster can again be seen, along with the Old Yeller Tree.

"Old Yeller" (released Dec. 25, 1957)

When the Old Yeller Tree appeared about a year later in the Disney movie "Old Yeller," the tree was embellished with prosthetic limbs and a few fake rocks were added to the Harum Scarum Cluster.

The tree and rock cluster were featured in the dramatic feral pigs sequence in "Old Yeller" — a tearjerker that left many a young movie goer emotionally scarred.

This shot offers a rough idea of which of the rocks were real and which were fake in "Old Yeller." The rock highlighted in yellow is pretty easy to spot between Red Cloud and Tonto in the "Lone Ranger" photo up above.
 
"Tennessee's Partner" (1955): John Payne and Ronald Reagan in Central Garden of the Gods

The same setting — including the Harum Scarum Cluster and the Old Yeller Tree — can be seen during the climactic sequence in the Western "Tennessee's Partner," which you can read about by clicking here.

The Harum Scarum Cluster in recent times (Central Garden of the Gods)

The Harum Scarum Cluster remains in place today in Central Garden of the Gods. However, the Old Yeller Tree no longer exists.

"Outlaw Masquerade" (Jan. 3, 1957)

The Ranger pursued bad guys on the decaying Iverson Western street in "Outlaw Masquerade," which was filmed in 1956 for its premiere in early 1957.

"Outlaw Masquerade" — The Iverson Western street

The poor condition of the town set in 1956 was partly by design, as the set was frequently used as a ghost town. However, the town, built in 1945, was in fact falling apart, and would soon be demolished.

The Barn, as seen in "Outlaw Masquerade"

The Barn, part of the Western street set, was in especially bad shape in late 1956.

"Outlaw Masquerade"

Additional deterioration can be seen in a wide shot of the town from the same episode — especially on the Livery Stable, to the left of the riders. For additional photos of the town set, including more "Lone Ranger" shots, please click here to see my in-depth series of blog posts on the Iverson Western street from early 2015.

"The Avenger" — A shootout is brewing in Garden of the Gods

A big shootout takes place near Overlook Point in "The Avenger," pitting the Lone Ranger, with help from Tonto, against a bad guy known as Dave Spence.

Dave Spence sets his sights on the Ranger

Oddly, even though Dave Spence plays a large role in "The Avenger," the actor who played him is uncredited — and nobody seems to know who he was. If you recognize him, please give us a heads-up.

The Ranger tries to hold off Spence, who has the high ground. My guess is the mask made this sort of thing that much more difficult.

Meanwhile, Tonto circles around behind the bad guy. (Never saw that coming!)

Tonto gets the drop on Spence from above and behind him, even though the rock he's really behind is right next to where he was in the first place — and nowhere near where he's supposed to be. Based on his position here, he would be shooting into the ground.

Spence surrenders as Tonto balances on top of Mitchum Rock

One bad guy vs. two of the most legendary crimefighters of the Old West? Spence never had a chance. Especially once Tonto was magically transported to a strategically superior position.

"The Return of Don Pedro O'Sullivan" (Oct. 25, 1956)

Silver and Scout do some synchronized rearing up with the Lone Ranger and Tonto aboard during an extensive shoot on the Upper Iverson for "The Return of Don Pedro O'Sullivan."

"The Return of Don Pedro O'Sullivan"

The team charges across the Fern Ann Creekbed, with the Cliff, a prominent feature of the Upper Iverson's South Rim, looming at top left.

The episode showcases the Upper Iverson chase roads — including a few tire tracks that probably technically wouldn't have been there in the Wild West days. Also visible here are those pesky fenceposts.

"Quarter Horse War"

Both the Lone Ranger and Silver were ready for their closeup in "Quarter Horse War." The shot is part of the same sequence mentioned near the top of this post that was filmed in what's now the Topanga Cut.

"No Handicap" (Oct. 4, 1956)

Jay Silverheels and Scout work the area north of Garden of the Gods. Immediately to the right of Silverheels' leg is a rock I call the Toucan. Silverheels, who was born Harold J. Smith, reportedly rode two different "Scouts," both paint horses, during his five seasons on the TV series.

"Decision for Chris McKeever"

Iverson shoots for "The Lone Ranger" typically included plenty of pointing and neck craning for Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. This example is filmed between Strange Rock, on the left, and Tom Mix Rock, on the right.

"The Letter Bride" (Nov. 15, 1956) — Sheep Flats and Fireplace Rock

Fireplace Rock looms in the background during a stagecoach sequence in "The Letter Bride."

Here's a breakdown of the key components of Fireplace Rock, which I've referred to in the past as "Bugeye & Trapezoid," or "B&T."

Bugeye and Trapezoid are easy to spot today, still positioned atop Fireplace Rock but now part of the decor of the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village. The "fireplace" that gives the rock its name is impossible to see in modern times, but you can get a good look at it in the movies by clicking here.

Rooster Foot Gulley, in the episode "Journey to San Carlos"
Left to right: Clayton Moore, Melinda Byron, Joseph Sargent and Myron Healey

"Journey to San Carlos," which premiered May 9, 1957, featured a sequence filmed in "Rooster Foot Gulley" along the northern ridge of Cactus Hill. The camera is aimed east, and some rock features of the Upper Iverson's South Rim are seen in the background — including Turtle Rock, above Clayton Moore's shoulder.

Rooster Foot Gulley in 2016 (photo by Jerry Condit)

Location hunter and photographer Jerry Condit tracked down the site earlier this year and took this photo duplicating the frame from "The Lone Ranger."

"The Courage of Tonto" — Garden of the Gods

In "The Courage of Tonto," Tonto was tied to a tree on the north wall of the Sphinx. Notice how the artificial lighting casts multiple shadows — especially noticeable with the shadows of the tree and the character at far right.

The tree and rock wall can still be identified, as Jerry documented on a recent visit.

Lone Ranger Rock (opening to the TV show, filmed in 1956)

Lone Ranger fans know this shot well, as it's part of the opening to the TV series. A number of versions of the opening were filmed, as detailed in a previous post. This shot is from the most widely seen opening, filmed in 1956. Although the sequence was filmed in color, it is usually seen in "retrofitted" black-and-white.

"Breaking Point" (Jan. 24, 1957) — Lone Ranger Rock

A less familiar appearance by Lone Ranger Rock in the TV series has both the Lone Ranger and Tonto riding by in the episode "Breaking Point."

The most popular attraction on the former Iverson Movie Ranch, Lone Ranger Rock remains in place and can be seen from Redmesa Road — appearing on the right side of the road before visitors even get out of the car.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Years before the TV show "Adventures of Superman" premiered, a different Superman flew all over the Iverson Movie Ranch

Kirk Alyn, the screen's first live-action Superman 
(Columbia promo still for the serial "Superman," 1948)

The first live-action version of "Superman" to appear on film was a delightfully weird oddity. With ballet-trained Kirk Alyn in the title role, Columbia's 1948 serial danced across the rocky terrain of the Iverson Movie Ranch in an unashamed celebration of the kind of gee-whiz goofiness that marked a more innocent era of superheroes.

Kirk Alyn as Clark Kent on the Upper Iverson

The serial provided a showcase for the movie ranch's charismatic rock features. In this shot Kirk Alyn, as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, rolls up on a bit of unpleasantness on the Upper Iverson's South Rim, with the rock formation Smiling Lion lurking in the top right corner.

"Superman" (Columbia serial, 1948)

By all accounts, Kirk Alyn the actor was a "super" nice guy — to the point where the kind of strong-arm work required of his Superman character could be an odd fit. But Alyn proved he was up to the task when it came time to don the Spandex and pull the old double-headlock, or bash two bad guys' heads together.

Here again, Smiling Lion purrs its approval — although at this time of day it's less clear whether the rock is smiling or frowning. A comparison of this photo with the Clark Kent shot above illustrates how the "mood" of the Iverson rocks could be altered by moving the camera a few feet or waiting for the light to change.

The producers of the 1948 "Superman" conjured up an animated version of the superhero as a budget-friendly solution to the problem of flying. The sometimes awkward result found cartoon Superman sharing the frame with rugged Iverson landmarks such as Bigfoot, the rock feature peering in at the left in the above shot.

Back on the South Rim, Clark Kent runs toward the concrete bridge across Fern Ann Creek, also known as Falls Creek. Notice the large metal valve above his shoulder.

As Kent ducks under the bridge to change into his Superman suit, we get a clear look at both the valve and the concrete base of the bridge. I believe the valve was used to cut off the flow of water through the bridge, turning the bridge into a dam and creating a small reservoir on the other side of the bridge.

A moment later, Superman emerges.

As Superman takes flight, he once again becomes a cartoon.

The serial also provides a view of the top of the bridge, as a car approaches. The "low ground" to the left of the bridge filled in with water when the valve was closed, forming the reservoir. The Midway Oaks can be seen behind the car, and above them the top of Oat Mountain looms in the background.

Here's a wider view of the bridge area, filmed from the top of the cliff along the north edge of Cactus Hill. The white area to the right of the bridge is the rocky bed of Fern Ann Creek. The creek itself is rarely more than a trickle, and has been especially dry during California's current drought.

"Ghost Guns" (1944): Johnny Mack Brown and Evelyn Finley at the reservoir

The reservoir was seen in a handful of productions, including providing the background for a burial sequence in the Monogram B-Western "Ghost Guns," starring Johnny Mack Brown.

"Ghost Guns" — the reservoir on Iverson's South Rim

From the proper angle, the small reservoir could be made to appear quite scenic.

"Gunman" (1952) — The reservoir, with the Cliff in the background

A shot of the reservoir several years later, in the Whip Wilson movie "Gunman," is less aesthetically pleasing, but presents a clear view of the cliff and other South Rim features. The shot is taken with the camera pointed south.

A severely decayed version of the concrete bridge and dam remains at the site today, in a rugged, out-of-the-way spot in the midst of a gated community of large estates.

The same space where Clark Kent put on his Superman outfit can still be found, although gaining access to the location poses considerable challenges.

Near the spot where Superman got into character under the bridge, a bunch of crooks set up a diabolical super-weapon in a rocky nook. Most of the rocks surrounding them are still in place today, part of a large rock cluster known as the Totem Rocks or Easter Island.

This is what that same nook — or is it a cranny? — looks like today. You may want to try to match up the rocks in the above two photos before you peek at the labeled versions below.

Here's the "Superman" shot again, with some of the rocks labeled.

And here are those same labeled rocks in the recent photo. Incidentally, there used to be a horse trail up the hill between rocks C and D.

"Border Feud" (PRC, 1947) — Lash and Fuzzy head up the horse trail

In the Lash LaRue B-Western "Border Feud," filmed just a year before "Superman," Lash and Al "Fuzzy" St. John ride up to Cactus Hill in the same spot where we saw the bad guys setting up their super-blaster.

Here's another example of the animated flying spectacle, with a crotch shot of cartoon Superman soaring over the Iverson Gorge. Stoney Point appears at the center of the frame, partially blocked by Superman. Iverson's stagecoach road and Lower Nyoka Cliff are visible at the bottom of the shot.

Cartoon Superman would typically touch down by disappearing behind some landmark. In this shot the animated character makes a landing behind the Hangover Shack on the Lower Iverson.

Here's another landing by cartoon Superman — back in the Fern Ann Creekbed on the Upper Iverson.

A moment later, up pops Kirk Alyn at the same spot. The odd shadow at bottom right belongs to a car door.

Iverson Ranch Road on the Lower Iverson was another focal point of the action in the 1948 serial, with Superman harassing evil doers as they drove around in postwar land yachts that many car lovers would kill to have now.

The familiar profile of Three Kings and a portion of Tower Rock are among the Garden of the Gods features visible in this shot, looking south as the streamlined cruiser travels west on Iverson Ranch Road.

A seemingly unremarkable shot again depicts a vehicle heading west on Iverson Ranch Road. Shots like this, showing a bird's-eye view of a relatively wide area, tend to be rare in old productions, as they required extra setup. But when they do turn up they can be a big help in figuring out the lay of the land.

The shot captures the intersection of Iverson Ranch Road with the west fork of Iverson's so-called "stagecoach road," along with the northwest corner of Rock Island. This part of the stagecoach road is located approximately where Redmesa Road now runs through.

A good deal of misinformation exists about the stagecoach road. Even though it was always just a movie road, the myth that it was an actual stagecoach route has been widely circulated. The above example comes from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy's LAMountains.com website, in its entry on Garden of the Gods.

Here's the same Garden of the Gods blurb minus my editorial comment, so you can read the whole entry — most of which is true. The Conservancy has done a lot of good work in helping to protect the hills above Chatsworth, and is an important ally in the ongoing fight to preserve the land and its legacy.

This shot from recent years, taken among the condos on the Lower Iverson, features some rocks that are pretty distinctive, but are usually overshadowed by a famous neighbor.

They're the same rocks seen in the Kirk Alyn promo still from 1948 that appears at the top of this post. I've posted that photo again here to make it easy to compare the "then and now" shots.

Here's a wider view of the rocks in recent years, revealing that the rocks in the promotional still are part of the same hunk of sandstone that includes Saddlehorn Rock. The promo still is one of only a handful of shots I've seen that focus on the less-famous rocks behind Saddlehorn without featuring Saddlehorn itself.

Another photo from the same promo shoot for "Superman" — probably a more famous photo than the previous promo still — spotlights the Saddlehorn, and hints that it may have been the main reason for shooting promo stills in that spot. Personally, I prefer the more grim-faced Superman in the previous still.

Other shots have also surfaced from the same photo shoot, including this "outtake" promo still that I've posted before. You can read my 2013 report on Kirk Alyn's "Superman" by clicking here.

The 1948 Columbia serial "Superman" was followed two years later by "Atom Man vs. Superman," again starring Kirk Alyn and his cartoon alter-ego, and again filmed heavily at Iverson.  



The Columbia serials featured Alyn as the movies' first live-action Superman, but he wasn't the movies' first Superman. That title went to the cartoon version from Fleischer Studios, which first appeared in 1941. The above video clip is the first Superman cartoon.



Columbia's two "Superman" serials are combined in a reasonably priced DVD set sold on Amazon, which you can find by clicking on the above link. Both serials are filmed on the Iverson Ranch, and the second one, "Atom Man vs. Superman," which I plan to feature in an upcoming post, is on my list of the all-time great Iverson movies.