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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• 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).
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Two Towers of the old Iverson Church and Schoolhouse: A case for the Crime Doctor

I reported a few years back on the 1947 movie "The Millerson Case," part of a series of "Crime Doctor" movies from Poverty Row studio Larry Darmour Productions that starred Warner Baxter and were distributed to theaters by Columbia. Around that time, film historian Bill Sasser tipped me off that the movie had some interesting Iverson content, and wow, was he right.

"Crime Doctor" was originally a CBS radio program, airing from 1940-1947. The franchise expanded into feature films during that run, with 10 "Crime Doctor" movies released from 1943-1949.

Iverson Village as the town of Brook Falls in "The Millerson Case" (1947)

The "Crime Doctor" film series is set in the big city, and so it rarely ventures into rustic Iverson territory. But in "The Millerson Case" the lead character goes on a hunting trip and finds himself in a small country town called Brook Falls — with Iverson's Western street serving as the set for the town. The Iverson town set, often called El Paso Street or Iverson Village, was in place from 1945 until about 1957, appearing in hundreds of movies and early TV productions.

Here's another shot of Iverson Village from "The Millerson Case," which spends a lot of time in Brook Falls and offers a number of good shots of Iverson's Western street. This scene happens to feature a catfight in the middle of the street involving two of the ladies of Brook Falls. The stone building in the background is the Livery Stable.

Iverson Church, part of Iverson Village, as seen in "Check Your Guns" (1948)

This is the typical shot of Iverson Church, with this particular shot coming from the PRC B-Western "Check Your Guns." That's singing cowboy Eddie Dean riding into town on White Cloud. Iverson Church, at the south end of the street, had a much shorter lifespan than the town as a whole, standing only from about 1947-1949.

"The Millerson Case" (1947): Iverson Church in its original configuration, as a schoolhouse

"The Millerson Case" probably marks the earliest film appearance — by about a month — of the building that would become the Iverson Church, with the structure first surfacing here as a schoolhouse. Based on release dates and other details, it appears likely that the church — make that the schoolhouse — was built initially for "The Millerson Case," which came out in May 1947.

"The Marauders" (1947): The schoolhouse resurfaces as a church

One month after the release of "The Millerson Case" the structure appeared again in the Hopalong Cassidy feature "The Marauders," where it was reborn as a church. Both of these film appearances predate by a few months the first of what are probably the structure's most widely seen film roles, in a string of PRC-produced B-Westerns starring Eddie Dean and Lash LaRue.

The schoolhouse in "The Millerson Case"

Here's another shot of the schoolhouse in "The Millerson Case," showing the school building's original turret. The schoolhouse plays a central role in the plot of the movie — as headquarters for treating an outbreak of typhoid fever. The building is featured far more in "The Millerson Case" and "The Marauders" than in any other movie I've seen.

The church bell tower, in "The Marauders"

While the building ended up spending most of its brief movie career as a church, it appears it remained "convertible" — that is, it could be converted from church to schoolhouse, and back again, with only minor modifications.

You may or may not have noticed Hoppy sneaking up onto the roof in that last shot.

"The Marauders" (1947)

The building's conversion from schoolhouse to church involved mainly two cosmetic changes: adding or removing the arches above the two front windows — a procedure that included creating the illusion of stained glass — and reconfiguring the schoolhouse turret into the church steeple

Notice how the windows on the schoolhouse, left, become church windows with simple add-ons.

Here's a closer look at the conversion of the windows, as the process was handled in 1947 for "The Millerson Case," with the schoolhouse setup, and "The Marauders," with the fake arched church windows added. Also, the schoolhouse doors, which contain windows, have been replaced with what appears to be windowless doors for the church configuration.

It's hard to get a good look at the schoolhouse turret, which may have been used just once, in "The Millerson Case." It would have been a lot more trouble to change over the building's tower than it was to slap fake arches over the windows. For this reason I think the tower element of the conversion was done only once: when the building was finished being used as a schoolhouse for "The Millerson Case" and was converted into a church for "The Marauders," with the much taller church bell tower put in place.

"Calamity Jane and Sam Bass" (1949): back to the schoolhouse configuration — but not all the way back

When the building appears again as a schoolhouse two years later in "Calamity Jane and Sam Bass," the old window configuration has been revived but the building is still outfitted with the church's bell tower. It appears to me that this color B-Western from Universal, starring Howard Duff and Yvonne De Carlo, found a way around the costly conversion of the steeple back to a schoolhouse turret: Simply don't include much of the tower in the shot. (Even so, this shot includes enough of the turret that we can see it still includes the bell cutout from the church configuration.)

"The Westward Trail" (1948)

You may have already spotted Church Rock hovering over the building in some of the above shots. The above shot isn't the greatest picture quality, but the church and Church Rock are pointed out as they appear in PRC's Eddie Dean movie "The Westward Trail."

Here's another look at that schoolhouse shot from "Calamity Jane and Sam Bass," with Church Rock identified.

"Stage to Blue River" (1951)

By 1951 the church/schoolhouse was long gone — but of course Church Rock remained in place, as highlighted in the above promo still for the Whip Wilson B-Western "Stage to Blue River." Notice that the buildings of Iverson Village are mostly in pretty good shape here, although the roof of the Livery Stable, just above the shoulder of the stage driver, is showing some signs of wear.

This shot pinpoints the Livery Stable. 1951 and 1952 were peak years for Iverson Village, which began to deteriorate around this time. During the next five years it was seen increasingly as a ghost town.

"The Lone Ranger" TV show, "Ghost Town Fury" (first aired March 28, 1957) 

This image of a rundown Iverson Village was taken a few years later, in late 1956 or early 1957, when the town was soon to be dismantled. The shot comes from an episode of the TV show "The Lone Ranger" aired during the show's fifth and final season — the only season that was filmed in color. This view offers another look at Church Rock at the southwest end of town, along with its smaller neighbor, the important marker rock Gumdrop.

Here's the same shot from "The Lone Ranger," with some of the major features highlighted.

Church Rock in recent times

Church Rock continues to mark the spot today, although the spot now is filled largely with mobile homes. Nothing remains of the church itself, or of Iverson Village. In their place is the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village.

Gumdrop and Church Rock in recent times

Gumdrop can still be seen today too — at least the tip of it can. From this angle Gumdrop is to the left of Church Rock.

This blog entry is a new, hopefully improved version of a post I did back in 2010. If you're interested, you can click here to see my original post on "The Millerson Case" and the discovery that Iverson Church first appeared as a schoolhouse. You'll find that a little bit of the material I've covered here is duplicated in the 2010 post, and that original entry also includes some content that didn't make it into this update.

Below you will find links pointing you to Amazon pages where you can buy DVDs of some of the productions featured in this post.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Was this town used for Dodge City in the half hour Gunsmoke episodes?