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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Farewell to the lovely Lorna Gray, who died April 30 at age 99 — she left her stamp as Nyoka's villainous nemesis Vultura

Lorna Gray, aka Adrian Booth

As a contract player at Columbia early in her career and later as one of Republic Pictures' top stars, actress Lorna Gray was a regular on the Iverson Movie Ranch. She racked up a string of screen credits, largely in serials and B-Westerns, from the late 1930s through the 1940s before retiring from acting back in 1951. Born Virginia Pound, she worked for about a decade as Lorna Gray and then wound down her career under the stage name Adrian Booth.

Lorna Gray as Vultura in "Perils of Nyoka" (1942)

Gray made a big impact at Iverson as the villainous Vultura in the 1942 Republic serial "Perils of Nyoka," leaving behind an unusual legacy of rocks and other features on the movie ranch that now bear informal "Vultura-related" nicknames: Vultura's Pass, Vultura's Trail, Vultura's Trail Rock, Vultura's Stakeout, etc.

Vultura's Palace, as seen in "Perils of Nyoka"

I've posted before about Vultura's Palace, a "Perils of Nyoka" set built on the Lower Iverson. You can click here to see "then and now" shots of the area where the palace stood. The structure was a false front built onto high-profile rocks that remain in place in a privately owned section of the former movie ranch.

Lorna Gray takes aim in "Daughter of Don Q" (1946)

Gray earned a reputation as an actress who was "good at being bad," and frequently wound up playing evil characters. But her versatile chops enabled her to break out of that mold from time to time, something she did with panache in the 1946 Republic serial "Daughter of Don Q."

Gray segues smoothly into the spotlight as the serial's heroine — and she is an action heroine in the purest sense. Much of the action in "Daughter of Don Q" takes place on the Iverson Movie Ranch, including all of the screen shots you see here from the production.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games"

Gray's bow-and-arrow-wielding heroine was a forerunner to — and possibly inspiration for — later heroic female archers such as Katniss Everdeen of "The Hunger Games" ...

... or red-haired Merida of Disney/Pixar's 2012 animated feature "Brave."

Kirk Alyn and Lorna Gray in "Daughter of Don Q"

Gray stars with Kirk Alyn, who two years later would become the first Superman of the movies, starring in the 1948 Columbia serial "Superman" and the 1950 sequel "Atom Man vs. Superman."

This shot from behind the actors locks in where the scene takes place — it's just north of Garden of the Gods on the former Iverson Movie Ranch, with the well-known movie landmark Cleft Rock providing a positive ID.

This movie rock is still in place at Iverson, as you'll see below, and you can click here to see a post containing additional photos and other details about Cleft Rock.

Lorna Gray and Charles Starrett in "Bullets for Rustlers" (1940)

In her 20s Lorna Gray was a contract player at Columbia, starring opposite movie cowboy Charles Starrett in 1940 in "Bullets for Rustlers," filmed largely at Iverson.

Gray wasn't afraid to mix it up with the boys, and got right in the middle of the action for this shootout among the rocks north of Garden of the Gods in "Bullets for Rustlers."

 "Bullets for Rustlers" (1940)

This shot, another one taken north of Garden of the Gods, contains a number of noteworthy features.

Notice the large rock in front of Lorna Gray, with the major cleft pointed out.

Here's a photo of that same area from a recent visit to Iverson. The rock behind which Lorna Gray stood, with the major cleft, appears again here.

Monte Hale and Lorna Gray — billed here as Adrian Booth — in 1947

Other movies Lorna Gray — by this time working as Adrian Booth — shot at Iverson included a number of Republic Pictures' Monte Hale titles: "Home on the Range" (1946); "Out California Way" (1946), with Hale, Roy Rogers and a young Robert ("Bobby") Blake; "The Man From Rainbow Valley" (1946); "Under Colorado Skies" (1947); "Last Frontier Uprising" (1947); and "California Firebrand" (1948), to name a few.

Lorna Gray and Don Douglas in "Deadwood Dick"

Gray starred with Don Douglas in Columbia's 1940 serial "Deadwood Dick," another Iverson production, and worked the Iverson Ranch yet again in Republic's "The Gallant Legion" (1948), starring alongside Wild Bill Elliott.

The movies I've mentioned are just a sampling of Gray's Iverson Movie Ranch filmography — of her 69 film credits in the span of a career that lasted just 14 years, it's probably not a stretch to say that most of those movies were filmed on the Iverson Ranch.

Adrian Booth Brian in 2009

Lorna Gray, who later went by Adrian Booth Brian, was still going strong in 2014 when an early version of this blog post first ran. Late in life she still regularly made the rounds of movie conventions and other industry events.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Seeing Yellow: Check out these B-Western lobby cards shot on the Iverson Movie Ranch

"Bullet Code" (RKO, 1940): Iverson's Garden of the Gods

More than 1,000 B-Westerns were filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., from the silent movie era through the 1950s.

"Pioneer Days" (Monogram, 1940): Center Rock, on the Lower Iverson

In many cases the movie ranch's rock features, Western street and other movie sets were incorporated into promotional stills, movie posters and lobby cards.

"Red River Valley" (Republic, 1941): Horses and cars mix it up on the Upper Iverson

A number of the the lobby cards featured here come from the amazing collection of longtime Western movie location historian Jerry England.

"Raiders of the South" (Monogram, 1947): Johnny Mack Brown on the Lower Iverson

Many of the lobby cards are colorized, but in this case someone made the odd decision to go with two-tone rocks. Just to be clear, in the real world all of these rocks are more or less the same color — sort of a toned-down version of the weird rust color seen here.

"Stage to Tucson" (Columbia, 1950): Rod Cameron gets held up near Garden of the Gods

You should be able to click on any of these photos to see a larger version.

"Escort West" (United Artists, 1959): Victor Mature and the womenfolk

"Escort West," starring Victor Mature and Elaine Stewart, might be called a "B+" Western, with a bigger budget and, at 75 minutes, a longer running time than most. It also came out a bit after the heyday of the B-Western.

"Lone Star Raiders" (Republic, 1940): An entry in the long-running "Three Mesquiteers" series

The Iverson family charged by the head, so this scene filmed on the Upper Iverson would have been a fairly expensive shoot — especially considering Republic's notoriously tight budgets.

"The Golden Stallion" (Republic, 1949): odd-colored horses on the Upper Iverson

Another sizable gathering of horses on the Upper Iverson, and another colorization misfire. The unnatural "golden" stallion of the title is one thing, but green horses?

"Trailing Double Trouble" (Monogram's "Range Busters" series, 1940)

If anyone can explain why they used so much yellow in these old lobby cards, I'd be interested to find out.

"Old Oklahoma Plains" (Republic, 1952): Upper Iverson, with the Molar visible at top right

Rex Allen, "the Arizona Cowboy," rides Koko, "the Miracle Horse of the Movies," and in the pitch room someone says, "We don't want to make the photo too big, so let's put a massive yellow border around it!"

"El Paso" (1949): an "A" Western from Paramount

"El Paso" was a relatively big-budget Western for its day — but that didn't keep them from going for another yellow ("-ish") lobby card. The scene takes place on the Lower Iverson, with Cactus Hill visible in the background.

"The Fugitive Sheriff" (Columbia, 1936)

Visible in the top right corner is a small section of the Santa Susana Mountains, west of the Iverson Ranch.

"Under Texas Skies" (Republic, 1940): Three Mesquiteers

Here's a nice action shot taken on the Upper Iverson — the old bulldog move — with Prominent Rock visible at the right of the frame — and a rare exception to the "yellow lobby card" rule.

"Wagon Tracks West" (Republic, 1943): Bill Elliott and Gabby Hayes on the Upper Iverson

The rock feature known as the Slates, on the Upper Iverson's South Rim, can be seen behind Gabby Hayes.

"Dead Man's Gold" (Western Adventure, 1948): Lash LaRue and Al "Fuzzy" St. John

Many readers will recognize the Garden of the Gods features in the background — Tower Rock to the left of Fuzzy and the Sphinx behind Lash.

"Outlaw Country" (Western Adventure, 1949): Lash makes his stand in the adobe village

The adobe village that stood in the Iverson Gorge in the 1940s and early 1950s was featured in a series of PRC and Western Adventure B-Westerns, with Lash LaRue among those who got to play cowboy on the set.

"Arizona Territory" (Monogram, 1950)

The Gorge Adobes turn up again in this lobby card for the Whip Wilson B-Western "Arizona Territory." The small photo in the bottom left corner offers a wider view of the adobe village.

"Sons of New Mexico" (Columbia, 1949): Gene Autry and Gail Davis

Gene Autry and his protege, future TV "Annie Oakley" Gail Davis, ride the Upper Iverson in this lobby card for "Sons of New Mexico." Typically, Autry's horse, Champion, got billing on the card even though Davis didn't.

"The Texan Meets Calamity Jane" (Columbia, 1950)

We get a more sweeping view of the Upper Iverson in this shot for "The Texan Meets Calamity Jane" — a color Iverson spectacle that's also known as "Calamity Jane and the Texan."

"Waco" (Monogram, 1952): The Iverson Western street in "glorious" Sepia Tone

Cool shot of the Western street on the Iverson Ranch, but it might have been better in "glorious" black and white.

"Undercover Man" (United Artists, 1942): Hoppy at the nexus of the great Gorge rocks

More cool rocks — and more yellow — courtesy of Hopalong Cassidy. I broke down what's going on in this lobby card a while back, and you can see that post by clicking here.

"Valley of Hunted Men" (Republic, 1942)

Back to the Three Mesquiteers for a fistfight overlooking the Upper Iverson.

"Under Western Skies" (Universal, 1945): Stage holdup on the Upper Iverson

One of the most colorful of the many stage holdups that took place on the Iverson Ranch.

"Albuquerque" (Paramount, 1948): Another stage holdup, this time on the Lower Iverson

That's Randolph Scott in the yellow shirt — yes, yellow again — near the center of the frame.

"Wagon Team" (Columbia, 1952): Gene and Champ on the Iverson Western street

Another not exactly well-colorized version of the Iverson Western street, along with more yellow — and faded yellow, at that — than we should be expected to tolerate.

"Thunder in God's Country" (Republic, 1951)

Hey look — it's Grumpy! (The rock just to the left of the riders.)

"Devil Riders" (PRC, 1943): Buster Crabbe gets his man

Buster Crabbe — in the yellow shirt — shows a bad guy the ropes under the watchful eye of Prominent Rock.

"The Wild Westerners" (Columbia, 1962): Cactus Hill in the background

"The Wild Westerners" came out well after the B-Western had largely faded from view, but Columbia was one of the last studios to give up on the formula.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Iverson Movie Ranch Blog takes its show on the road

I believe it's one of the seven signs of the Apocalypse, but the webmaster, executive blogger and chief bottle washer of the Iverson Movie Ranch Blog is about to appear in public. As the above flier suggests, I'll be doing a presentation about the Iverson Ranch on Tuesday evening, May 23, 2017, at the Valley Relics Museum in Chatsworth, Calif. If you can make it, I hope you'll come on down and say howdy! It'll be a hoot to meet some of my blog readers in person.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

It's Springtime on the Iverson Ranch ... and the Cactus Is in Bloom


This blog post has a soundtrack, starting with the Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry. Just play the above video while you scroll down. (The photos below are better if you click on them to see a bigger version.)

If you're into cactus — and with Gene Autry singing about it, how can you not be? — a terrific place to see them in all their glory is Cactus Hill on the former Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif.

The word is that Joe Iverson, who oversaw filming on the ranch for more than 60 years, planted most of the cactus on Cactus Hill himself. Joe had a green thumb and was known to do large-scale plantings of a variety of flora.

Most of the cactus plants on the hill are of the prickly pear variety. I don't know the scientific name, but they're fascinating plants that have some unusual habits.

For example, here's one that decided to grow in the shape of a heart.

The heart-shaped cactus lives right in the middle of a bunch of "normal" ones.

Here's something that's probably normal for cactus plants, but I still thought it was a little unusual.

It's a new hunk of cactus growing right out of the surface of an older hunk.


Since that Gene Autry track is barely a minute long, here's another version of the cactus song to keep the soundtrack going. This one's by Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass.

I've been up there a few times lately to track the progress of the cactus blossoms. It appears to me that a lot of them are still waiting for the right moment to open up.

In areas that get more sun, the blossoming is further along.

Most of the cactus blossoms are yellow, although I've seen a few red ones here and there.

The trail at the top of Cactus Hill is punctuated by one impressive cactus field after another.

A single cactus leaf can hold a huge collection of buds. This batch of about 25 individual buds appears to still be a week or two away from full bloom.

Cactus, movie rocks and a view of the San Fernando Valley to the south

A few movie rocks are sprinkled among the cactus, although Cactus Hill wasn't nearly as heavily filmed as other areas of the ranch. The hill was a hard place for film crews to access — and remains a little out of the way today.

Along with the cactus, a number of other colorful plants can be found on Cactus Hill. I'm no plant expert, so I won't try to identify anything. But this was an especially pretty batch of flowers.

For the most part the colors are subdued, but we do get a nice blend of gold and lavender in spots.

Looking southwest from Cactus Hill

The foliage on Cactus Hill, and all over the Iverson Ranch, is much thicker than usual in the wake of Southern California's wettest winter in years.

As I was heading back down the hill in the late evening a few weeks ago, I caught an unusual shot of the Santa Susana Mountains to the west. The profiles seen here turn up regularly in old Westerns and other productions.