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.
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• 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.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

"The Devil Horse" (1926), starring Yakima Canutt, Rex the Wonder Horse ... and the Iverson Movie Ranch

Lobby card for "The King of Wild Horses" (1924), featuring Rex the Wonder Horse

Fans of old Westerns — and I mean really old Westerns — speak of a legendary horse from the silent movie days named Rex, who was often billed as "Rex the Wonder Horse" or "Rex, the King of Wild Horses."

Rex, who had a reputation for being mean, worked the Iverson Movie Ranch on a number of occasions. With his casting in the title role of "The Devil Horse" in 1926, Rex's ornery nature became a centerpiece of the plot.

Ad from 1926 for "The Devil Horse"

An ad that was used at the time to promote "The Devil Horse" described Rex in terms that modern audiences might consider racist, singling him out as "the horse who hates Indians." (You can read the blurb below.)

The colorful language in the 1926 blurb portrays Rex as a lover, a fighter, "a very devil of rage," and more.

"The Devil Horse" (1926): Yakima Canutt and Rex on the Lower Iverson

But as wild as Rex was, it turned out he had a soft spot for legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt, who stepped up to a starring role alongside Rex in "The Devil Horse."

"Look Ma, no hands!" — Yakima celebrates breaking Rex ... or so he thinks

Rex even permits Yakima to ride him, eventually — although Rex never fully warms up to the saddle.

Yakima learns the hard way that Rex isn't quite broken yet

The bumpy relationship between Rex and Yakima forms one of the main plot threads running through the movie — and parallels real-world challenges filmmakers faced in working with the notoriously moody Rex.

Yakima picks himself up after being thrown by an angry Rex

Most of the key scenes involving Yakima and Rex were filmed on the Iverson Ranch, and on a recent expedition into the Garden of the Gods, I was able to locate a number of shooting sites for "The Devil Horse."

An early sequence in the movie features a group of Indians out on a pointed ledge. "The Devil Horse" is one of the many early Westerns in which good and bad are essentially defined as Indians bad, white people good.

Sunset Peak in the background, located a short distance south of Iverson, helped narrow down the location. The position of the peak suggested that the sequence was filmed along the western edge of the Garden of the Gods.

Soon after arriving in the general area, I spotted some of the rocks seen in the movie. Notice the rocks marked here as "A," "B" and "C."

The same rocks can be identified in the movie shot. The key rock, however — the pointed ledge itself — is missing from the recent photo.

That's because the pointed ledge is now hidden behind a big tree and is no longer visible from the camera angle used in "The Devil Horse."

The pointed ledge in 2017 — hidden in a tree

A short hike south from the camera location reveals that the pointed ledge is still in place. I found it right where I expected it to be, although today only a small portion of the ledge protrudes from its hiding place in the tree.

Google aerial view of Garden of the Gods from the west

The bulk of the Iverson Movie Ranch location shoot for "The Devil Horse" took place on what is now public land, with the Garden of the Gods preserved as a park. This Google map shows where the pointed ledge can be found.

Dave Carson (Yakima Canutt) and Prowling Wolf (Bob Kortman) clash near a fake rock arch

Another scene in "The Devil Horse" features what appears to be a rock arch. I know most of the arches at Iverson, and when I saw this one I thought it must be fake.

Present-day location of the fake arch seen in "The Devil Horse"

From the context in the movie, I was able to determine that the fake arch was built on top of two existing rocks.

In my research I refer to these rocks as "Desert Tortoise" and "Flounder." They're located due west of the massive Garden of the Gods landmark known as Sphinx, and are just a short distance north of the pointed ledge.

Galapagos tortoise — note the high shell

I'll try to explain why I call the rock "Desert Tortoise." I've always thought the coolest of the giant tortoises are the ones with a really high shell, like the Galapagos and certain varieties of the desert tortoise.

"The Lone Ranger" TV series (1949): "Desert Tortoise"

I think I first made the connection between the rock and the high shell of the desert tortoise in this shot from one of the earliest episodes of the "Lone Ranger" TV show.

If you were to exaggerate the height of a really high tortoise shell just a bit, you might get something like this. As usual, the image probably won't work for everyone, but I'm kind of stuck with the name.

"Flounder," as it appears from the north

With regard to "Flounder," I believe from this angle it's self-explanatory.

The spot where Desert Tortoise and Flounder come closest together was used to create the base for the rock arch in "The Devil Horse."

The yellow line marks the approximate delineation between the fake arch material above and the real rocks below.

As I scoured the rocks for any artifacts that might remain from the 1926 shoot, I found something interesting: a manmade indentation carved in the rock, similar to those found in the "Footholds" area northeast of here.

"The Devil Horse": The carving can be seen in 1926

I initially assumed the indentation was used to help anchor the fake arch. However, after going back over the movie sequence I realized the carved hole is located outside the area where the arch was positioned.

"The Devil Horse": Prowling Wolf arrives at the fake arch

Then I discovered the reason the indentation was carved into the rock. It was used to help set up the climactic confrontation between Yakima's Dave Carson and his bitter enemy, Prowling Wolf.

Prowling Wolf plots his ambush of Dave Carson

In full war bonnet, and with an ambush in mind, Prowling Wolf takes a look at the rock before he tries to climb it. I wonder whether he already has his eye on the carved indentation at this point.

This shot also provides a pretty good look at most of the fake arch. As fake arches go, it's a nice one.

Prowling Wolf climbs up on "Flounder"

As Prowling Wolf climbs up the rock holding his bow in one hand, he could use a little help getting all the way up. My guess is a stuntman was brought in to do the actual climb, although actor Bob Kortman, already a veteran of many Westerns by 1926, may well have done the stunt himself.

Prowling Wolf finds just what he needs when he reaches the foothold. Here he keeps both feet in the hole as he turns to peer over the arch. Of course, audiences at the time would be unaware of the strategically placed foothold.

Prowling wolf really gets his money's worth out of that foothold. Here he appears to be standing on tiptoes in the indentation as he raises up to look over the fake arch.

While he waits for his victim to arrive, Prowling Wolf keeps both moccasins firmly planted in the handy foothold.

Here's a closeup of Bob Kortman on the rock as Prowling Wolf, lying in wait. Kortman played henchmen, Indians and other roles, usually uncredited, in about 300 movies going all the way back to 1914.

When Dave Carson finally arrives through the fake arch, Prowling Wolf uses his solid footing in the carved foothold as the launching pad for his ambush.

Prowling Wolf — the stuntman again, presumably — flies off the rock and catches Carson off-guard, using a "bulldog" move to wrestle him to the ground. (Technically, Yakima appears prepared to go voluntarily.)

A life-or-death struggle then takes place — I don't want to give anything away, but some of the screen shots higher up in this post may or may not hold clues to the outcome.

Needless to say, Yakima Canutt, the most legendary stuntman of all time, did his own stunts.

Directions to the rock arch location (Bing bird's-eye view)

This map provides directions to the location of the fake rock arch. Start by finding your way to Chatsworth, Calif., then take Redmesa Road north off Santa Susana Pass Road. (Click on the map for a larger view.)

Zooming in on the above map, we get a better look at the approximate location of the fake arch.

Notice the tree adjacent to the Sphinx, a short distance east of where the fake arch was located. This tree has been filmed many times over the years, and also had a role in "The Devil Horse."

Sphinx and the tree on its north face (2017)

Moving to ground level, this shot from a recent visit to the Garden of the Gods shows the tree as it appears today. Like many of the old trees in the area, it has struggled to survive during the recent drought years.

A number of features are noted in this version of the shot — including a big patch of poison oak, one of the main hazards to watch out for when visiting the former Iverson Movie Ranch.

Trunk of the tree on the Sphinx's north face (2017)

Moving inside the canopy of the old tree, we get a look at its formidable trunk. We can also see just how close the tree sits to the base of the mighty Sphinx.

"The Devil Horse": Yakima and Rex at the tree in 1926

Here's what the same tree looked like more than 90 years ago, when "The Devil Horse" was filmed. The tree was little more than a sapling at the time.

"Bullet Code" (1940): One of countless movie appearances for the Sphinx and the tree

These two prominent Iverson Movie Ranch features — the Sphinx and its nearby tree — have coexisted for decades, appearing in hundreds of movies and TV shows.

The tree has lost a number of major branches in just the past year, most notably its distinctive horizontal branch, which broke off in 2016. The branch was one of the tree's defining characteristics throughout the filming era.

"The Devil Horse": The tree begins to branch out

Even back in 1926, the horizontal branch was easy to spot — in its early stages, but already reaching westward.

"The Lone Ranger" TV series: Tonto faces an ordeal at the tree 

In later years, the branch would show up again during filming. This shot comes from an episode of "The Lone Ranger" called "The Courage of Tonto," which was filmed in 1956 and first aired Jan. 17, 1957.

As recently as early 2016, when photographer and film historian Jerry Condit snapped this photo from an angle similar to the one seen in the "Lone Ranger" shot, the branch remained intact.

I originally ran the Tonto shot and Jerry's matching shot as part of an in-depth collection of Iverson photos from the color season of "The Lone Ranger." I encourage readers to click here to see that post.

The same tree in fall 2016: The horizontal branch has broken off

When Jerry revisited the site about six months later, in the fall of 2016, he noticed that the branch had broken off.

The tree's problems continue in 2017

More recently, another major branch has broken off and is now lodged among the tree's main limbs.

"The Devil Horse": Landmark rocks remain at the site

Even with the tree's issues, a number of landmarks can be tracked from 1926 that remain a part of the contemporary landscape. For example, notice rocks A, B, C and D, seen here in "The Devil Horse."

The same rocks in 2017

Rocks A, B, C and D are still easy to identify, right in the same positions where they've been all along.

"The Devil Horse": Yakima Canutt at the base of the Sphinx

In another shot from the same sequence, Yakima Canutt sits in front of a distinctive "cave" — a small opening at the base of the Sphinx, below the tree, along the rock's north face, Notice the black space behind Yakima's head.

The same location in 2017

This small "cave" at the base of the Sphinx, next to the old tree, is still easy to find and easy to match up.



There's much more to be said about "The Devil Horse," one of the true gems in the early history of the Iverson Movie Ranch. I hope to post more about it in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, you can stream it on Amazon Prime, where it's listed as "Rex the Devil Horse" — click on the link above to find it on Amazon.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent! Here's a very short YouTube video, the second half of which is an interview with Yakima Canutt explaining his trauninf tactics with Rex the Wonder Horse.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Io8ZoqYG2ps

Joe

Phil Bird said...

I love this post, you can really feel the ghosts of old productions . Next time you go can you take a watering can for the tree.

Brenda Negri said...

Wow…what incredible research on your part. I too really enjoyed this post, great work!