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 iversonfilmranch@aol.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 iversonfilmranch@aol.com.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"The Roy Rogers Show": One of the most important documents of filming on the Iverson Movie Ranch



If I had to pick one TV series to get my Iverson fix, I'd probably go with "The Roy Rogers Show." The 100 episodes filmed during the show's run from 1951-1957 are a treasure trove of Iverson Movie Ranch rocks.

Roy was an iconic Western hero, and even today, long after his death in 1998 at age 86, he defines cool. The legacy Roy left behind exhibits a genuine quality that transcends the silliness of 1950s TV and rises above the amateurish production values that typified the TV Westerns of the period — including his own show.

Roy, Dale and Trigger — publicity still

Roy Rogers and Dale Evans lived in Chatsworth around the time their TV show was on the air, so Iverson was their home court. And they made great use of the place.

"The Roy Rogers Show" — "Ambush" (premiered Jan. 15, 1956)

Here's a shot of Roy and Trigger in front of Raccoon Rock on the Lower Iverson in Season 5. The series filmed consistently at Iverson throughout its six-season run on NBC.

Above is a screen shot from the show that includes Batman Rock at the far right, along with a small wooden building that was located near Saddlehorn Relay Station, north of Garden of the Gods. This little building turns up in many productions, and I refer to it in my research as Saddlehorn Shed.

A lot of temporary buildings went up in that area over the years for various productions, and John Ford made ample use of the area for "Stagecoach" in 1939. (Click here for a detailed post about Iverson locations in "Stagecoach.") Saddlehorn Shed was off by itself, more or less east of the widely filmed Saddlehorn Relay Station.


A number of buildings and other features in the area are named after nearby Saddlehorn Rock, above — still found at the site, amid some condos, and still boasting its distinctive saddlehorn shape.

"The Roy Rogers Show": Outlaw Rock

This screen shot from "The Roy Rogers Show" features Outlaw Rock, which includes a small but distinctive marker rock that I used to call the Finch, when I didn't know any better. It's the rock at the top of the shot with what looks like a beak, pointing toward the left of the frame.

The marker rock is circled in this version of the shot. Outlaw Rock is located in the Above Nyoka area of the Lower Iverson, part of the same cluster as Chewbacca, which is around the corner to the right, out of the shot. My guess is that the small pile of rubble in the lower left corner of the shot is debris from Hangover Shack. The shack was almost always in disrepair, but survived in some form long after most of the structures of Iverson's filming era, being used for filming as late as 1996.


This photo is a distant shot of part of Outlaw Rock, including the small, pointed marker rock — the Finch, if you will — from a recent Iverson visit.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Classic Rock seen in "The Lone Ranger": Moschops — prehistoric "pre-mammal," beloved childhood toy ... and distinctive movie rock


"The Lone Ranger" (1950)

Here's a rock that doesn't tend to come up very often but I find worth talking about all the same. This sighting in "The Lone Ranger" is one of only a handful of times I've spotted the rock in a movie or TV show. I call it Moschops, after a prehistoric animal with a similar stance. In the photo above, Moschops is the distinctive rock at top-center — from this angle it has sort of a porpoise-head shape. The screen shot is from an episode of the "Lone Ranger" TV show called "Troubled Waters," which premiered March 9, 1950, during the show's first season.

To make sure we're on the same page, this is the same "Lone Ranger" screen shot with Moschops highlighted.

This is what Moschops, the rock, looks like today. It can be seen along the ridge in the South Rim area of the Upper Iverson. It's kind of hard to recognize, but if you look at the "negative space" — the shape of the sky backdrop between Moschops and the rock to the right of it — you should be able to spot the similarities in the outline. As usual, the angle isn't exactly the same.

Here's what the original Moschops supposedly looked like. Maybe some of you had toy versions of it as a kid, with your prehistoric critters. I had a couple of them, which came in bags of "prehistoric mammals," even though it's listed as a "mammal-like reptile."

Here's what the toy version of Moschops looks like.

This post is part of a series on "Classic Rocks" — sandstone giants located on the former Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., that became a part of not only America's physical landscape but also its cultural heritage, through featured roles in old movies, cliffhanger serials and early TV shows. Other entries in the series can be seen by clicking here.

Below is a link to a nice DVD set of the TV show "The Lone Ranger" on Amazon.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Welcome to the obsession: The Iverson Movie Ranch

"Silver Treasure" (Fox Film Corp., 1926)

I discovered it in summer 2008 and have been hooked on it ever since — the rugged landscape in Chatsworth, Calif., that marks the site of the former Iverson Movie Ranch. 


Tower Rock, left, and Sphinx in modern times

With its striking sandstone rock formations, this remote corner of the San Fernando Valley on the outskirts of Los Angeles was an important hub of the movie business from the earliest days of Hollywood well into the 1960s, gaining a reputation as the most widely filmed outdoor location in the world.

"20 Million Miles to Earth" (Columbia, 1957)

An ideal setting for Westerns, the 500-acre Iverson Movie Ranch also found its calling in science-fiction movies, war epics and tales of distant lands such as Africa, India and the Middle East.
 
The Phantom: Located on public land in the Garden of the Gods

It is the site where Republic Pictures made almost all of its serials and B-Westerns, and where countless outdoor action sequences were filmed by crews from Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros., Columbia, 20th Century-Fox, RKO, Monogram and just about every major production company of Hollywood's Golden Age.
 
"Little Big Horn" (Lloyd Bridges and John Ireland, 1951)

An estimated 3,500 films and TV episodes were filmed on the site, dating back to the 1910s.

"Jaunty Sailor"

While B-Westerns and early TV shows provided much of Iverson's business, the sprawling ranch also took a bow in major features such as John Ford's epic Western "Stagecoach" (1939) and his classic Depression saga "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940). 

"Along Came Jones" (RKO, 1945): Gary Cooper and William Demarest
on Cooper's newly minted Iverson Western street

Gary Cooper was a frequent visitor to the Iverson Ranch and built a Western town on the site for the 1945 RKO Western "Along Came Jones," the only movie Cooper produced himself. 

"The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" (Paramount, 1935): Climactic battle sequence
filmed in the Iverson Gorge

Cooper's "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" was among the major war movies filmed on the Iverson Ranch, along with John Wayne's "The Fighting Seabees" (1944) and Errol Flynn's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1936).

"Chewbacca"

All the cowboy movie heroes worked at Iverson — Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Audie Murphy, Randolph Scott, Tom Mix, William S. Hart and the rest. So did major movie stars from Barbara Stanwyck to James Cagney to Judy Garland to Henry Fonda to Shirley Temple. 

"Three Ages" (Buster Keaton in Bathtub Rock, 1923)

Bob Hope, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges were among the comedy stars to film at Iverson. Pioneering stuntman Yakima Canutt perfected many of his trademark stagecoach stunts on Iverson's well-traveled chase roads, while superheroes including Superman and Batman donned their capes at the ranch. 

Opening to "The Lone Ranger": Clayton Moore on Silver
at the Iverson Ranch's famed "Lone Ranger Rock"

Early TV Westerns such as "The Lone Ranger" and "The Cisco Kid" filmed regularly on the ranch, paving the way for the next generation of bigger, better TV productions — "Bonanza," "Gunsmoke," "The Virginian," "The Big Valley" and many others, all of which shot on the Iverson Ranch.

Woolly Mammoth

Iverson's charismatic rock "characters" — Lone Ranger Rock, Batman Rock, Tower Rock and Sphinx, Nyoka Cliff and hundreds of others — coexist today with the condominiums, mobile homes, mansions and apartments that took over the land as the heyday of the B-Western, the cliffhanger serial and early TV faded into history. 

"The Grapes of Wrath" (1940): The Joad family surveys the San Fernando Valley,
including Chatsworth's Stoney Point, from Iverson's Overlook Point

While a number of Iverson's distinctive and widely filmed movie rocks have been bulldozed or blown up to pave the way for progress, most have survived — even if in many cases they now lie forgotten in back yards, hidden behind locked gates or buried under a half-century of natural overgrowth.

Hangover Rock in 2008: African hut in place for the NBC series "Heroes"

Meanwhile, some Iverson landmarks remain at risk of being demolished for future development, opening the door for debate as to whether these silent stars are cultural artifacts that deserve to be protected.

"Chinless Wonder"

On the screen or in person, Iverson's unique giant boulders have so much personality that they seem to be living creatures. The charismatic stone figures that populate this intriguing corner of the world have become almost like family to me.

"Tarzan the Ape Man" (1932): Iverson's lost, lamented rock feature "The Wall"

I'm learning more about the Iverson Movie Ranch all the time, but it is a rich and complicated place, and one reason I love it is I know it holds mysteries I will never solve. 

Material is being added to the blog on a regular basis, as time permits. If you would like to be placed on my mailing list, to be notified about new entries as they're posted, please send me an email at iversonfilmranch@aol.com.

This blog contains a lot of information and photos. If you need help navigating, I suggest using the links along the right side of the page, including the "RECOMMENDED BLOG POSTS" section near the top and the long (and daunting) "LABELS" section below that, which indexes the blog entries by rock name, movie title, TV show title, actors and actresses, directors and other key elements. The blog's word search feature, which you should be able to find in the top left corner, also seems to work well and might help you find what you're looking for.


Please leave comments, and please feel free to email me for any reason.

Below are links to DVDs of just a few of the many movies filmed on the Iverson Movie Ranch. Please support efforts to research and preserve the history of the Iverson Ranch by clicking on the links to shop for these DVDs on Amazon ...