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, December 9, 2017

Unsolved mysteries of the Iverson Movie Ranch

I typically post about Iverson Movie Ranch mysteries that have been solved, but I wanted to let readers in on some of the countless mysteries that remain unsolved — and if you have any thoughts on these, please let us know either by commenting below or by sending me an email at iversonmovieranch@gmail.com.

A road of steppingstones, north of Garden of the Gods

A short distance north of the main sandstone towers of the Garden of the Gods, a strip of stones appears to have been assembled into a short road — which remains in place today.

I call it the "Cobblestone Road," just for fun, even though technically cobblestones are smaller and rounder than the flat, steppingstone-sized rocks that make up the road.

"Perils of Nyoka" (Republic serial, 1942): The road glistens

The origin of the road is unknown, but it turns up on occasion in later productions that were filmed in the same area, such as the old Republic serial "Perils of Nyoka."

The road goes back at least to the early '30s, and may well be an artifact of the silent movie era.

"Bonanza" episode "The Long Night" (premiered May 6, 1962)

The Cobblestone Road came up in a post I published earlier this year about James Coburn on the TV show "Bonanza." That post, which you can read by clicking here, includes a map showing how to find the road.

The road survives as an intriguing document of early filming on the Iverson Ranch, but it would mean a lot more if the movie could be identified that was responsible for the road's construction.

Tent city from unknown production, north of Garden of the Gods

Numerous tent cities came and went during the filming era at Iverson, and some of them remain mysteries. This one, possibly from the silent era, conveys a Middle Eastern or biblical theme.

Photos of the tent city can be found in Robert Sherman's book "Quiet on the Set," where the set is attributed to the biblical movie "David and Goliath," supposedly filmed in 1920 — information that does not match any known films.

It was not uncommon for movies filmed on the ranch to have a working title that differed from the film's eventual title, but even an errant reference such as "David and Goliath" contains a clue, reinforcing the suggestion that this tent city was created for a biblical film.

"The King of Kings" (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927)

The Garden of the Gods tents are similar in design to tents seen in DeMille's biblical epic "The King of Kings," parts of which were in color. But on close examination, they do not appear to be the same tents.

Mystery military camp set on the Lower Iverson, circa 1918-1935

Another tent city, this one consistent with the style of U.S. military tents used in World War I, was part of another unknown production, probably from the silent era or the early 1930s.

Similar tents seen in "Draft 258" (not an Iverson production)

The style of the tents on the Iverson set matches this shot taken at a different location during filming of the 1917 silent movie "Draft 258." The photo turned up in a 1917 issue of the old trade magazine Motion Picture News.

The Iverson camp set stood west of a familiar rock feature known as Church Rock, which would later rise above the church that stood at the end of the Iverson Western street for a couple of years in the 1940s.

Sometimes the vehicles in the background hold the best clues to the age of a photo, but I can't get much out of either the truck on the left or the car on the right. The car looks like a Model T, probably no older than the early 1920s, but that doesn't narrow it down much.

"Posada" set on the Iverson Ranch, circa 1931

A number of buildings have turned up in old photos of the Iverson Ranch that have never been identified. This one appears in a photo believed to be from about 1931, with a sign on the building that includes the Spanish word "Posada," or "inn." The people in the photo are unidentified.

Middle Eastern set at Sheep Flats — north side of the building

Undated photos show a substantial Middle Eastern set that was erected on Sheep Flats on the Lower Iverson Ranch. My guess is that it was in place in the early 1950s, but it could be earlier.

The Sheep Flats location is pinpointed by the presence in the background of a well-known movie rock that I call "Saucer." For more about Saucer, click here to read a 2016 post about Silverland, adjacent to Sheep Flats.

The background also features what is presumably an old movie bus. I wish we could see more of it, but based on the rectangular windows it could be pre-World War II. The women in the photo have not been identified.

Eastern side of the set, including the garden

The set was quite elaborate, and included an ornate garden. I have yet to find the movie associated with this impressive set.

1959 aerial photo of the Upper Iverson Movie Ranch

One of the biggest mysteries I've encountered in my Iverson Movie Ranch research concerns a cluster of buildings that I first noticed in a 1959 aerial photograph of the Upper Iverson.

I refer to this set as the "Upper Iverson Village" or "Upper Village," although the relatively uniform size and shape of the buildings suggests that they may have been used to depict an Army barracks or similar facility.

The Upper Village was tucked out of the way in the far northwest corner of the Iverson Ranch, hidden on the north side of a heavily filmed rock feature known as the Rocks Across the Way, or the Festival Rocks.

Most of the rocks remain in place today and continue to pinpoint the location, even though the rest of the area has been developed as part of the Indian Falls Estates gated community.

Nearby features that turn up in the 1959 aerial include the Fury Set and the Midway House.

Also of interest in the old aerial is the Double Line of Trees.

"The Golden Stallion" (Republic, 1949)

The Double Line of Trees can be spotted occasionally in the backgrounds of productions filmed on the Upper Iverson, as in this example from the Roy Rogers movie "The Golden Stallion."

Running north and south, the Double Line of Trees formed part of the boundary between the Upper Iverson to the east and Brandeis Ranch to the west. A few of the trees remain in place today.

Closeup of the Upper Village in the 1959 aerial

A good starting point for trying to find the origins of the Upper Village would be to take a look at war movies or military-themed TV series from circa 1957-1958.

A mysterious "Rip Van Winkle" photo from 1921

It may be ironic that a "Rip Van Winkle" photo has been keeping me up at night, but this colorized lobby card for the 1921 silent movie based on Washington Irving's hard-sleeping bearded wonder has been haunting me. The rocks are strongly reminiscent of the Iverson Ranch area, but so far I've been unable to place them.

"Lorna Doone" (1922): Madge Bellamy among the rocks

Another example of the "needle in a haystack" nature of these mysteries is this shot featuring early film siren Madge Bellamy looking fetching among some suspiciously Iverson-like rocks. It is unknown where this sequence was filmed, but it has long been suspected that "Lorna Doone" filmed at Iverson. I would love to find this spot.

"Bat Masterson" TV series: "Buffalo Kill" (1959)

Some rocks seem too big and unusual not to turn up at some point. Case in point, this beauty, which my gut tells me is somewhere along Cactus Hill.

"Buffalo Kill" — another interesting rock in the same episode

Another shot from "Bat Masterson" includes a similarly intriguing rock, whose whereabouts are also not known.

"Trigger Pals" (1939): Iverson ... or not Iverson?

The Cinemart/Grand National B-Western "Trigger Pals," starring Art Jarrett and Lee Powell, captures yet another mystery rock. The movie is mostly non-Iverson, so this thing could be anywhere — please give us a holler if you see it, whether it's in the real world or in a movie.

Popular Science Monthly (November 1935): Mystery buildings near the Garden of the Gods

A 1935 article about stuntmen featured this shot of some unknown buildings set up north of the Garden of the Gods, with the stuntman aboard the falling oil derrick identified as Matt Gilman. The buildings and the movie that featured the stunt remain mysteries.

"The Little Princess" (1917): Mystery rocks and fake rock wall

Here's a mystery that's 100 years old, even though it's one that we only recently ran across. It's a shot from the silent Mary Pickford movie "The Little Princess," from 1917.

The shot appears to include two real rocks, on the left and right, along with a fake rock wall in the middle, and some additional real rocks in the background, at top center.

"The Little Princess" (1917)

This shot from the movie provides a closer look at both the fake rock wall and the real rock on the right. These rocks look every bit the part of Iverson Movie Ranch rocks, but they have yet to be found.

The "assassins" in "Harum Scarum" (1965): Somewhere near the Garden of the Gods?

The Elvis Presley movie "Harum Scarum" has produced some cool sightings and rock matches, but it also presents its share of unsolved mysteries — including this shot of a group of assassins lurking among the rocks. I've been looking for these rocks for a few years, to no avail.

"Harum Scarum": The "ridge ride"

Another shot from "Harum Scarum" that has proved challenging is this "ridge ride." The rocks may not have survived, but if they did it seems as though they would be somewhere in the Gorge or the Garden of the Gods.

"Mystery Man" (1944): Iverson Ranch ... or Lone Pine?

The Garden of the Gods is also the focus of a lingering question involving the Hopalong Cassidy movie "Mystery Man." We found tons (literally) of key rocks from the movie a while back, but never did find these — and we're still unsure whether this shot is taken at Iverson or in Lone Pine, where much of the movie was filmed.


These are just a few of the countless mysteries that remain to be solved surrounding the Iverson Movie Ranch. If you spot any clues, please comment or send me an email at iversonmovieranch@gmail.com.

You may already know this, but you can get a better look at the above photos — or at least see a larger version — by clicking on them. Happy hunting!

5 comments:

Brenda Negri said...

Regarding the "double line of trees" it was most likely a windbreak planted intentionally by the Brandeis Ranch. It appears to be next to a former, flat field that could have been farmed as grass hay, or some sort of crop. Just my guess!

Wild Bill said...

I'm just an old Limey who's never been to the Iverson, but I have spent two days wandering round the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine. I'd put a fistful of dollars on these rocks being Lone Piners. The shot has the atmosphere of the place.

Wild Bill said...

OOPS! I'm talking about the Mystery Man rocks!

Swami Nano said...

I've been kind of leaning that way too, Bill ... especially since I can't find the Mystery Man rocks at Iverson. I know it's hard to find individual rocks at Lone Pine, because that place is so big. Maybe some of you Lone Pine aficionados reading the blog feel like taking on the challenge!
Good luck ...

Swami Nano said...

Thanks for your comment on the "double line of trees," Brenda. You make a good point about the farming. I've always been a little perplexed by that big flat area occupying much of the Brandeis property. The double line of trees is mainly higher up, and next to an area that did have some farming, including apparently some groves of trees stretching west from the vertical lines of trees.

From what I can gather by going over old aerials and movie shots, it appears that the double line of trees and the farming both got started around the same time, in the 1930s, and were going strong by 1938. I believe the Brandeis family got the property from the Johnsons (the homesteaders) in 1929, so the farming and tree planting would have taken place under Brandeis ownership, as you suggest.

I know the two lines of trees had a road running between them, which was apparently an easement heading north to what I believe was the George Jones homestead — north of the Frank Reposo homestead, which became the Upper Iverson in the mid-1930s. George Jones is not the country singer, but a Chatsworth homesteader with the same name. The stone foundation of the old George Jones cabin is still up there, north of what today is the Indian Falls Estates.

There's still a lot of fascinating history to be figured out up that way.

Thanks again!

-SN