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.

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."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Roy Rogers' rocky rendezvous on Cactus Hill

"The Roy Rogers Show" ("Unwilling Outlaw," premiered March 8, 1952)

I found myself on Cactus Hill the other day searching for something that Iverson co-conspirator Cliff Roberts pointed out in an old episode of "The Roy Rogers Show."

The rock noted here has a featured role in a brief sequence where Roy comes to the aid of the "unwilling outlaw" of the episode title — a friend of Roy and Dale's who everyone thinks has gone bad.

A wider view of the area provides a nice look at the rock, along with a view of the foothills to the east of the Iverson Movie Ranch. Filming for the episode would have taken place late in 1951.

I've noted the rock again here to make it clear which rock I was trying to find. Based on its context in the episode, I expected to find it on top of Cactus Hill, near the east end of the hill.

While we're at it, I want to make sure you notice Roy, who's helping his fallen friend at the side of the trail.

We get a pretty good look at the rock in this shot of Roy helping Jed Collins, aka the "unwilling outlaw," played by prolific B-Western baddie I. Stanford Jolley. Not to spoil it, but Jolley plays a good guy here.

The same rock, as it appears in 2016

On my recent trip to Cactus Hill — the small hill that once separated the Upper Iverson from the Lower Iverson — I found the rock right where it was supposed to be. However, I have to admit I had a little trouble recognizing it.

The rock has undergone a bit of a facelift since 1951 — although "lift" probably isn't the right word. A big chunk at the top of the rock fell off at some point during the 65 years since "The Roy Rogers Show" filmed here.

It's an important piece, going a long way to define the look of the rock as it appeared back in 1951.

Fortunately, other markers on the rock can be identified, ensuring a positive match between then and now.

The same markers on the rock are highlighted in the same colors in the above two photos. Plus, the overall shape of the rock is pretty distinctive, even with the piece missing.

"Turban Rock," right, with the rock seen in "Unwilling Outlaw" on the left

The rock from the "Roy Rogers" episode is located close to an instantly recognized rock that I've been tracking for some time, which I call "Turban Rock" in my research. The two rocks overlook the western San Fernando Valley.

"Gun Street" (United Artists, 1961): Turban Rock

Positioned near the top of Cactus Hill, Turban Rock can be seen from many different angles and pops up in backgrounds all the time. However, the rock does not appear in the "Roy Rogers" episode.

Taking another look at the wide shot from "Unwilling Outlaw," let me call your attention to the background hills highlighted here.

This recent vista taken from near the "Unwilling Outlaw" rock includes the same background features in their contemporary setting. Suffice to say the place has gone through some changes.

The most obvious change since the "Roy Rogers" days is development, with the homes of the massive Porter Ranch development now occupying much of the landscape.

At the same time, many of the hills — especially those in the distance — remain largely untouched. The features identified here as A, B, C, D and E can all be found in the "Roy Rogers" vista.

Some of the most distant features are hard to make out here — particularly the peak labeled "C." But they're all here if you look closely.

The foothill that might be considered the "next hill over" looking east from Cactus Hill has paid a price in its battle against encroaching development in the years since Roy Rogers rode the local range.

This hill, which sits right in the middle of the largely built-out Porter Ranch area, has had a number of chunks taken out of it, and in fact has itself been earmarked for further development.

Hill in the middle of Porter Ranch (east of Cactus Hill and the Iverson Ranch)

This is what the hill to the east of Cactus Hill looks like today in a Google aerial — already carved up into individual lots and waiting to be developed into a high-profile suburban jungle that will match the surrounding neighborhoods.

Roy Rogers poses for a photo with two kids who showed up 
during a location shoot on the Upper Iverson (circa 1951)

A quick word about Roy Rogers, who I've always thought was one of the coolest of the old cowboy stars. By all accounts, he was a genuinely nice guy, and numerous photos have turned up that support that claim — including this one of Roy taking time out from an Iverson shoot to delight a couple of kids with a photo op.

I only wish someone would see to it that "The Roy Rogers Show," which is not on DVD in complete form and hard to find in any kind of decent quality, gets a long-overdue remastered DVD release of the full series. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Promo shots surface from the John Wayne World War II movie "The Fighting Seabees" ... and we go deep!

Promo still for "The Fighting Seabees" (1944) — Garden of the Gods in background

I recently rounded up a nice batch of promotional stills from the John Wayne movie "The Fighting Seabees," showing the production filming on the Iverson Movie Ranch.

Iverson's rocky Upper Gorge, with Cactus Hill in the background

Most of the rocks seen in this shot can still be found on the site of the former Lower Iverson, just off Redmesa Road in Chatsworth, Calif.

The spot where the fuel tank stood is now filled with condos

The World War II movie is right near the top of just about any list of Iverson productions — one of the most important movies to shoot at Iverson, and one that's loaded with great Iverson content.

The Seabees work on the airstrip on the Iverson Ranch

"The Fighting Seabees" came out in January 1944, and the production occupied much of the Iverson Movie Ranch — both the Upper Iverson and the Lower Iverson — for several weeks in late 1943.

An inferno in the Iverson Gorge, on the Lower Iverson

The producers of "Fighting Seabees" set a number of fires and blew up plenty of explosives during the location shoot — something I blogged about last year.

Let's take a closer look at the portion of the photo highlighted here in red. Also note that you can click on any of these photos to see additional details in a larger view.

Closeup of a portion of the previous photo

The closeup reveals a number of details hidden in the background. In this zoomed-in version of the photo, you may be able to spot a windmill toward the left.

I believe this windmill is part of the Iverson family's farm operation. It is rare for it to appear in movies, and I don't know that it turns up in "The Fighting Seabees" — only that it did make it into this promo shot.

A few other items in the closeup from the promo shot are also interesting. The palm tree is fake, one of many brought in to turn the Iverson Ranch into a Pacific island for "The Fighting Seabees."

This section of the photo also caught my attention. Seen here are an old car and a large tank, along with a piece of equipment that I first thought might be a plow, again part of the farming operation.

Zooming in further on the photo, however, it becomes evident that a person can be seen near the equipment — and he (or she) appears to be wearing a fire suit. Also, the old car looks like a 1938 or 1939 Ford delivery van.

Given that the photo is taken during a massive fire sequence, it makes sense that the equipment seen in the shot might be a part of either the fire-making operation or safety efforts. However, I'm only speculating.

I still think the piece of equipment in front of the tank looks like a plow. Either way, it's surprising what sometimes turns up on a close examination of these old promo shots.


For more about "The Fighting Seabees," please click here to see my detailed post from last year. If you'd like to see the movie for yourself, you can click on the link below to go to Amazon.com to buy the DVD.


This DVD set is a John Wayne double feature that also includes the movie "Wake of the Red Witch." It's the same DVD I have, and the picture quality on "The Fighting Seabees" is really nice. ("Wake of the Red Witch" is not filmed on the Iverson Ranch.)