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.
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• 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.
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Saturday, September 15, 2018

That Quentin Tarantino set being built at Corriganville is just about done — shooting is expected to start any day now

Corriganville, September 2018: Set built on location for "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"

Work has continued at a rapid pace on the former site of the Corriganville Movie Ranch, where we've confirmed that the big set being built is for Quentin Tarantino's next movie, "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood."

Drone's eye view of the Tarantino set looking north

My buddy Dennis Cohee visited the site the other day with his drone and sent some terrific shots of what the sprawling set looks like from up above. If you click on the photos you should see a larger, more detailed version.

Junk cars "clutter up" the Corriganville set (photo by Jerry Condit)

One of the most recent developments is they've brought in a bunch of old junk cars that are now strewn about among the distressed buildings.

Period-appropriate prop cars, circa 1969

The cars appear to be among the finishing touches being put on the set. Volkswagen Beetles were a common site back in 1969 — the period being re-created for the movie. But in this case the Beetles are integral to the story.

The main "Spahn Ranch" set for "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" (Cliff Roberts photo)

The movie is set in Charles Manson-era Hollywood, and the Corriganville set replicates the old Spahn Movie Ranch. This part of the set re-creates what might be called the "main set" at Spahn.

Police raid on Spahn Ranch, Aug. 16, 1969

The original Spahn Ranch, where Manson and his followers were based at the time of the Tate-LaBianca murders, was located across the street from the Iverson Movie Ranch. Spahn's main set is seen here in a widely circulated photo taken during a raid on the Manson compound one week after the killings.

Photo from circa 1969 reportedly depicting the Spahn Ranch dune buggy operation

The raid wasn't triggered by the murders, but by reports about a "chop shop" operation being run at the movie ranch in which stolen Volkswagen Beetles were being chopped up to make dune buggies.

Charles Manson arrested at Spahn Ranch, Aug. 16, 1969

Manson and 25 other people were arrested during the raid on suspicion of running a "major auto theft ring" — the dune buggy chop shop. The suspects were released a few days later due to a clerical error in the warrant.

Manson family members in one of the group's chopped-up dune buggies, circa 1969

The dune buggies apparently had been getting some use among Manson's followers while they were on the ranch. Manson would be rearrested in October 1969 — not at Spahn but at the Barker Ranch in Death Valley, Calif.

Tarantino's re-creation of the dune buggy shop

This is the view Dennis Cohee's drone had of the Corriganville chop shop set for "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." Again, I encourage readers to click on the photo to see it in more detail.

Jerry Condit captured another angle on the Tarantino chop shop, seen in the background.

The "Rock City Cafe" and "Longhorn Saloon" signs can be seen in many of the old photos of the main set, along with the "Trading Post" sign, which is harder to make out. Tarantino's set closely matches the original.

The Tarantino set in early September — shiny and new, with signs covered up for secrecy

Access to the set is restricted, but Jerry Condit managed to get a nice shot of the main Spahn set back in early September. A number of the signs were covered up in an attempt to keep the project as secret as possible, and the set still looked relatively shiny and new at that point.

The set a few days later — "distressed" and exposed

Within a few days the set had been ... the word that keeps coming to mind is "distressed." This shot was taken by location researcher Cliff Roberts on Sept. 6.

"Randy Starr" sign — one of the early clues

One sign that has been covered during much of the construction — but happened to be exposed when Cliff stopped by in late August — mentions stuntman Randy Starr, who was a real-life figure in the Manson story.

Randy Starr

Starr, born Joseph Randall, was the foreman at Spahn Ranch in the late '60s. He reportedly owned a .22-caliber revolver used in the Manson killings and was scheduled to be a prosecution witness in the Manson trial.

The "Randy Starr" sign was one of the first pieces of solid evidence that the set was being built for the Tarantino movie. Starr never got to testify — he died of meningitis on Aug. 4, 1970, at age 38.

The original sign at the east end of the main set at Spahn Ranch, Aug. 16, 1969

We can catch a glimpse of the original "Randy Starr" sign during the 1969 raid on Spahn Ranch.

"Boat Hill" to the west, in the Rocky Peak area

Fans of the Iverson Movie Ranch might recognize a familiar rocky ridge in the background. The profile of "Boat Hill" to the west, in the Rocky Peak area, is commonly seen in productions shot on the Iverson Ranch.

"The Grapes of Wrath" (1940), filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch

To cite just one example, Boat Hill can be seen in the John Ford classic "The Grapes of Wrath." The rocky ridge appears over the shoulder of actress Jane Darwell, who won an Oscar for her role in the movie.

Main set area at Spahn Ranch in 1969

This view of Spahn Ranch in 1969 is taken looking south, with Santa Susana Pass Road visible in the bottom half of the frame. The rocks in the foreground are located today near the Church at Rocky Peak, which is situated on the north side of the road and now owns much of the property surrounding the former Spahn Ranch set area.

The same location in 2015

This matching shot was taken by Jerry Condit in 2015. The rocks remain in place today, as does the distinctive hill in the background. As it turns out, the church rents out land that was once part of the Spahn Ranch for filming, with the Fox series "The Orville" one of a number of productions to shoot in the area in the past few years.

The plateau that once housed the main set area is now a vacant field. Today this triangular plateau is part of the sprawling Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park and is not part of the church's filming operation.

Tarantino presumably would have tried to secure the former Spahn property to build his Spahn Ranch set, but had to settle instead for Corriganville, about 3 miles to the west down Santa Susana Pass Road.

New building coexisting with the old stone walls

Besides the main Spahn set, several other structures have been built. This charismatic old barn was erected partially within the surviving stone walls of what was once Corriganville's "New Barn" or "Barn No. 2."

Tarantino's barn alongside original Corriganville stonework

Here's another view of the barn, along with some of the old Corriganville stonework on the left. I don't know what role the barn will play in the movie, but presumably it's another part of the Spahn Ranch set.

"Fighting Lawman" (1953): Corriganville's "New Barn" at the northeast end of Silvertown

This is what the place looked like, including the old stone walls, back in the filming days. Today the surviving walls of Corriganville's "Barn No. 2" are considered an important historical artifact.

Being integrated into the stone walls of the original Corriganville barn would seem to limit the new structure's usefulness as a set, but it will be interesting to see whether the old walls show up in the Tarantino movie.

George Spahn's house?

One building that appears to be getting some extra attention is this one, which reportedly will play the home of Spahn Ranch owner George Spahn. Sadly, the part of George Spahn will have to be recast following the recent death of film icon Burt Reynolds, who had signed on to play Spahn.

Possible permanent building?

Here's what Spahn's house looks like with its paint job "finished." It's the only building in the entire set that appears to be built to more than movie set standards. The solid foundation suggests the building could be permanent.

This is a shot I took of the George Spahn house back on Aug. 26, before the roof patch was in place and before the building was "spruced down," if that's a term, with its distressed whitewash job.

Gorilla Rock, one of Corriganville's best-known and most heavily filmed rock features, lurks in the background.

"Have Gun Will Travel": Corriganville's Silvertown and Gorilla Rock in 1957

Back in the filming days, Gorilla Rock loomed over Silvertown, Corriganville's famed Western street. This shot comes from the "Have Gun Will Travel" episode "The Great Mojave Chase," which premiered Sept. 28, 1957.

The George Spahn house — complete with concrete slab

A view of the Spahn house from this angle gives some idea of the work that has gone into the foundation. Movie sets don't usually get the full concrete slab treatment unless they're meant to be kept around after filming wraps.

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in costume for "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood"

The Tarantino movie is a big-budget production, with a cast that includes not only Brad and Leo, but also Al Pacino, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, James Marsden, Kurt Russell and other A-listers.

Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate

"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" has a tentative release date of July 26, 2019, which strikes me as a bit optimistic, but who knows? I'm looking forward to it — if only to see Corriganville back in action.

The "Manson bus," parked near the old Corriganville stone wall — photo by Jerry Condit

I want to give a special shout-out to the folks on the front lines who have been sending in updates and photos, especially my pals Cliff Roberts, Jerry Condit and Dennis Cohee, for helping us all keep up on this fun story.

The Corriganville set in the early stages of construction — just a few weeks ago

For some background on Corriganville and views of the Tarantino set as it appeared in its early stages a few weeks ago, click here to see the feature we posted about the project back on Aug. 25.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Remembering Burt Reynolds and his 1962 photo shoot for "Gunsmoke" — shot on the Iverson Movie Ranch (Was Burt Reynolds left-handed?)

Burt Reynolds on the Iverson Movie Ranch, 1962

In celebration of the life of film icon Burt Reynolds, who died this week at 82, the Iverson Movie Ranch Blog is updating some posts about Burt and his work on the Iverson Ranch. I was delighted back in 2013 when I ran across these promotional photos of Reynolds from 1962, taken on the Upper Iverson.

Burt Reynolds photo shoot for "Gunsmoke" (1962)

The photo shoot was done in connection with the long-running TV Western "Gunsmoke." The above two shots are the only ones I've been able to find in color, and these appear to be the main ones released from the shoot. But a few black-and-white shots are also in circulation, and I've included some of those below. The shoot took place on the Fury Set, a ranch set that was built around 1955 for the TV show "Fury." The set included the barn and house seen in the above shots, along with a corral and a small cabin.

One quirk I noticed about the "Gunsmoke" shoot is that the barn photo above is horizontally flipped — in effect creating a mirror image of the actual shot. An easy way to tell something's off is by comparing Burt's hair in the two photos above. Other clues include the wristband, which appears to switch arms, and the orientation of his gun in the two shots. It took a little detective work to figure out which photo is properly oriented and which is flipped, but after studying the backgrounds I was able to determine that the barn shot is the one that's reversed. As a bonus, it also dawned on me in the process that the barn shot was taken looking south, showcasing the rarely seen north end of the barn. (It looks about the same as the much more commonly seen south end.)

The barn shot should really look like this:

Burt Reynolds promo shot, with correct orientation

In the background is Cactus Hill — the hill that divided the Upper and Lower Iverson. Cactus Hill is still in place, just north of the 118 Freeway, and now has a couple of water tanks sitting on top of it.

Here's another shot from the same sequence — I tend to think of this one as an outtake. But the fact that it circulates in this orientation lends a little bit of support to what we already knew: that the barn shot near the top of this blog post is flipped. This shot also reveals more of Cactus Hill in the background.

Billy the Kid — circa 1879: left-handed or right-handed?

One tidbit I took away from this research is that Burt must have been left-handed, at least when it came to shooting a gun — unless he  just decided to play the character left-handed for some reason. I never did figure out whether Reynolds was in fact left-handed, but it's an issue of some importance when it comes to the Wild West. As an example, the "handedness" of Billy the Kid was debated for almost 100 years, in part because of the above photo.

Billy the Kid — properly oriented

Billy the Kid — born William Henry McCarty Jr. — was eventually determined to be right-handed, and the original ferrotype photo, thought for more than a century to be the only surviving image of the outlaw, was determined to be a mirror image. In its proper orientation, shown above, Billy holds a Winchester carbine in his left hand, but his six-shooter is strapped to his right side. So even though Billy the Kid and Burt Reynolds don't share the trait of being left-handed, they do share the experience of having a "promotional" photo flipped horizontally.

Paul Newman as Billy the Kid in "The Left Handed Gun" (1958)

The legend of Billy the Kid as a left-handed gunslinger was so entrenched in modern culture that his story was told in a 1958 feature film titled "The Left Handed Gun," with Paul Newman portraying Billy in all his mythical left-handed glory.

A comic book version also appeared. I found it interesting that the original photo was tilted slightly to create a better composition for the comic book cover.

Burt Reynolds on the Fury Set at Iverson

Burt Reynolds' time on "Gunsmoke" is a relatively overlooked chapter of his career, but he had a pretty good run on the show playing Quint, a half-Comanche blacksmith, from 1962-1965. Reynolds played the character in about 50 episodes, and the exposure helped jump-start his career. He had been kicking around TV, mostly in one-off roles, since about 1959, but his movie career had yet to take off. Right after "Gunsmoke," Reynolds landed the lead role in the spaghetti Western "Navajo Joe" (1966), and his film career was off and running. A few years later — in 1972 — he became a huge star thanks to "Deliverance."

The above shot shows the more commonly seen south end of the Fury Barn, along with part of the Fury Corral.

The above picture of a more stripped-down Burt — showing off his formidable biceps — was part of the same photo shoot as the other shots. The setting is still somewhere near the Fury Set, based once again on Cactus Hill in the background. Reynolds frequently appeared shirtless on "Gunsmoke," or at least with bare arms, and my guess is they had him gradually peel off his clothes as the shoot went on to get him closer to the "real" Quint.

In another promo shot showing off Reynolds' arms, we can see that he's still wearing the wristband, further evidence that it's all the same shoot.

The "Gunsmoke" gang — including Burt Reynolds as Quint

Even though "Gunsmoke" did the Quint promo shoot at Iverson, the series did not shoot at the ranch during the seasons Reynolds was on the show. "Gunsmoke" taped quite a few episodes there during other seasons — maybe as many as 50 episodes in all. The show aired from 1955 to 1975, breaking most of the TV longevity records and amassing a whopping 635 total episodes — and included during that run were a number of memorable Iverson Movie Ranch shoots.

Here is a clip of Burt Reynolds in his full fury on "Gunsmoke" — taken from the episode "The Bad One," which originally aired Jan. 26, 1963. The clip is shot in the studio and has nothing to do with Iverson, but it's good fun — even if most or all of the actual fighting was done by Burt's perennial wingman, Hal Needham.

For additional views of the Fury Barn, please click here to see a previous blog entry featuring the barn. The following links should point you to the Burt Reynolds seasons of "Gunsmoke" on Amazon, in case you're interested in owning them on DVD or Blu-ray: