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 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

Sunday, February 4, 2018

"The Young Rajah," starring Rudolph Valentino: 1922 silent movie was filmed on the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth

Rudolph Valentino and Wanda Hawley in "The Young Rajah" (1922)

We're barely into 2018 and we've already had a historic Iverson Movie Ranch sighting in a super-old movie — the Paramount silent feature "The Young Rajah," starring Rudolph Valentino.

The movie came out in 1922 — not quite a century ago, but it was long enough ago that the legendary actor wasn't known as Rudolph Valentino yet. Back then he was still being billed as Rodolph.

If we were to go back even further in time, we might find Valentino billed as Rodolfo Di Valentina, as he is in this ad for the 1918 feature film "The Married Virgin."

Rudolph Valentino as "The Young Rajah" in a publicity still for the movie

Like much of Valentino's early work, "The Young Rajah" did not survive intact. A lot of what we know of the look of the film comes from promotional stills.

"The Young Rajah": a single surviving photo taken on the Iverson Ranch

The version of "The Young Rajah" that circulates today was stitched together from surviving film fragments along with still photos. But as luck would have it, one of those still photos, seen here, was taken on the Iverson Ranch.

The photo shows a battle taking place in the Central Garden of the Gods. Two of the large sandstone boulders seen in the shot, Phantom and Sphinx, were already on their way to becoming famous movie rocks.

For a single photo, it contains a lot of interesting stuff — not the least being the fake rocks noted here. The reason the fakes were brought in is unclear.

The same location in 2018

This is as close as I could come to duplicating the shot on a recent visit. The movie angle is impossible to match today without the use of camera scaffolding, as the original shot was taken from well above ground level.

Note the markers identified here as A, B and C on the rock at the right of the frame.

The same rock appears at the right of the frame in the "Young Rajah" shot, and the same markers can be found.

The profile of the Sphinx from this angle is much as it appears in the movie shot. If you're able to visualize it, pretend for a moment that the bush in the lower right corner of the outlined area isn't there.

The same approximate area of the Sphinx is marked here as in the recent shot above. This entire section of the rock would be visible in the recent photo if that bush didn't get in the way.

The Phantom, which is easy to make out in the "Young Rajah" shot, doesn't fare nearly as well as its neighbor the Sphinx when we attempt to replicate the movie shot today.

Today our view of the Phantom is blocked by a tree that wasn't there in 1922. A secondary issue is the shift in vertical alignment between Phantom and Sphinx due to the unavailability of camera scaffolding in 2018.

Lurking in the background in the "Young Rajah" shot is still another significant feature, which I call Green Hill.

"Green Hill" as it appears today

Green Hill remains in place today, a short distance west of the Garden of the Gods. The hill is situated south of Santa Susana Pass Road and appears to be on land that was once part of the Spahn Ranch.

"Wanted: Dead or Alive" TV series ("Drop to Drink," premiered Dec. 27, 1958)

Green Hill comes up regularly in old movies and TV shows, and can be an important location identifier. It pops up when the cameras are in the vicinity of the Garden of the Gods and are pointed west or slightly southwest.

Spring 2015: Green Hill and other hills to the west of the Lower Iverson

Green Hill does tend to be greener than the other hills in the area. Appearing in the lower part of this photo is the Church at Rocky Peak, which today occupies the plot of land directly west of the former Lower Iverson Ranch.

Getaway Rock, at right, and other features at the west end of Central Garden of the Gods

The fake rocks in "The Young Rajah" prevent us from seeing most of the Central Garden of the Gods area, including Getaway Rock, situated at the west end of the clearing.

"The Young Rajah": Why the fake rocks?

Filmmakers sometimes brought in fake rocks specifically to conceal existing rock features, but I doubt that's the case with "The Young Rajah." The fakes may have been used to facilitate the staging of extras for the battle sequence, or to create the narrow pass needed for the battle scene to work.

Wanda Hawley and Rudolph Valentino: Promo still for "The Young Rajah"

Unfortunately, with the battle footage from "The Young Rajah" presumed lost, we're left to speculate about how the sequence played out and what role the fake rocks may have played.

I normally would not consider a movie to be an Iverson sighting based solely on a still photo, but in this case the Garden of the Gods photo proves the movie was filmed on the location ranch. There's no chance such a large cast would have been assembled just for a promo still.

This map I included in a post from 2016 about the Joan Crawford movie "Montana Moon" will lead you from Redmesa Road to the Getaway Rock area, walking directly through the "Young Rajah" battle site.


Rp said...

Interesting photos of before and after.

Cliff said...

nice work!!