Saddlehorn Relay Station in an old Iverson family photo (ca. 1939-1940)
Following up on my latest post about the Saddlehorn Relay Station, let's focus in on a feature that can be seen behind the relay station in this Iverson family photo, toward the left of the frame.
"Ghost Valley Raiders" (1940): The Mattress, out behind the Relay Station
There it is again, in "Ghost Valley Raiders." The Mattress can be seen in productions spanning two decades — making it unlikely that it was an actual mattress.
"Black Bandit" (Universal, 1938): Earliest known sighting of the Mattress
The Mattress was already hanging around before the Relay Station was built. When it first showed up in the Bob Baker B-Western "Black Bandit" back in 1938, the unusual piece was situated at the base of Batman Rock.
"The Adventures of the Masked Phantom" (1939): The Mattress, at the base of Batman Rock
Batman Rock is shot from an unusual angle in this sequence from the Equity B-Western "The Adventures of the Masked Phantom," which captures the Mattress still in position at the base of the rock.
Buffalo Nickel" face on.
By late 1939 or early 1940, the Mattress had been moved a short distance to the west, where it was situated near a rock I call the Happy Slab — a holdover from my "silly rock names" period several years ago.
"Six-Gun Serenade" provides what may be the best view of the Mattress. In fact, the boxy and unnatural-looking Mattress is seen so clearly in this shot, it's surprising that they left it in the movie.
In a similar but more subtle shot from the TV series "Wanted Dead or Alive" — seen in the episode "Bad Gun," which premiered Oct. 24, 1959 — the Mattress appears to have a fake tree sitting on top of it.
"Atom Man vs. Superman" (Columbia serial, 1950)
The Mattress is usually seen in that same exact spot, right in front of the Happy Slab.
"Colorado Ambush" (1951) — the Mattress and, above it, the Happy Slab
The fact that the Mattress is always seen in the same general area — and almost always in one spot, in front of the Happy Slab — suggests it was heavy, which would have been a good reason not to move it around.
Still, the presence of the Mattress in the backgrounds of so many movies and TV shows indicates that production teams didn't realize the feature would stick out like a sore thumb. It's human nature to believe what we want to believe, and clearly they didn't want to have to deal with the stupid thing.
"The Lone Ranger" episode "War Horse": The Mattress at the center of the frame
Presumably it could have been moved out of the way with a crane. But it still had to end up somewhere, and on the Iverson Movie Ranch, it would have gotten in the way of filming almost anywhere it ended up.
"Stagecoach" (1939) — Batman Rock and the Happy Slab near the burned-out Lee's Ferry station
John Ford's landmark Western "Stagecoach" may hold the key to the origin of the Mattress. In this shot from the movie's Lee's Ferry sequence, we see the close proximity of Batman Rock and the Happy Slab.
Promo still for "Stagecoach," 1939 (Jerry England collection)
A partial view of the Mattress in that same position — again, assuming it is in fact the Mattress — also turns up in a promotional photo for "Stagecoach."
Lobby card for "Stagecoach" showing stops along the coach's route
Could it be that director John Ford had the Mattress built so his Lee's Ferry ruins might include a more authentic fireplace, complete with a concrete floor, or hearth? An unusual lobby card for the movie offers a clue.
While the origin of the Mattress remains speculative, its various positions have been documented in the productions filmed in the area over the years. This diagram illustrates its three known locations.
Even though "Black Bandit" came out in 1938 — ahead of the early 1939 release of "Stagecoach" — it makes sense to place the filming of "Black Bandit" after the filming of "Stagecoach," a big-budget movie that would have been in production for much longer than the B-Western "Black Bandit."
"The Roy Rogers Show" — "Phantom Rustlers" (premiered April 5, 1953)
A more typical shot of the Happy Slab, along with a weird view of the Mattress, appears almost 15 years later in "The Roy Rogers Show." I can't explain why the usually boxy Mattress looks like an overinflated air mattress here.
What remains today of the Happy Slab
Recent years have been less than happy for the Slab, ever since more than half of it was lopped off during condo construction. Today the rock's barely recognizable "stump" coexists with a cluster of mailboxes.
"Stagecoach" (1939): The Happy Slab as a "Mini-Me" version of Batman Rock
In kind of an odd twist of fate, both Batman Rock and the Happy Slab have curved notches missing — one way to put it would be "bites" taken out of them — in pretty much the same place.
"Batman and Robin" (Columbia serial, 1949)
About 10 years later, we get a less cluttered view of the same key players in "Batman and Robin."
"Viking Women and the Sea Serpent" (1957)
Even a pair of shapely Viking women can't conceal the potent screen presence of the Mattress, as we see in a shot from Roger Corman's Iverson Movie Ranch tour de force "Viking Women and the Sea Serpent."
For readers who might be interested in further exploring these sightings, I've included links below to some of the productions discussed in this entry.