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Friday, June 8, 2018

Julie Adams and the "Lippert Six": Here's what happens when you make six movies in five weeks on the Iverson Ranch

"Fast on the Draw" (Lippert Pictures, 1950): One of the "Lippert Six"

In late 1949 a production team from the small independent studio Lippert Pictures pulled off an impressive feat on the Iverson Movie Ranch, making six movies in five weeks.

"Marshal of Heldorado" — The main cast for all six Lippert movies: From left, Julie Adams,
Jimmy Ellison, Raymond Hatton, Fuzzy Knight and Russell Hayden

The movies were all B-Westerns and all featured essentially the same cast and crew. Rather than film them sequentially, the producers saved time by filming, for example, all the chase scenes for all six movies at one time, then moving to the ranch set and filming all of the ranch scenes for all six, and so on.

"Marshal of Heldorado": Gorge Arch and the view to the south along the Upper Gorge

They ended up filming all over the Iverson Ranch — Upper Iverson, Lower Iverson, Garden of the Gods, the Western street, the Gorge, the Middle Iverson Ranch Set, Sheep Flats ... pretty much everywhere.

"Hostile Country": Heroes Tower on the Lower Iverson, at top left

Taken in combination, the six Lippert movies provide a comprehensive picture of the Iverson Ranch at a time when it was in transition, with the B-Westerns winding down and the TV era just getting started.

Wooden "barricade" across a strategic rocky pass

This ragged wooden structure was a key plot element in "Hostile Country." The story is a rehash of the tried-and-true range war motif where one rancher decides not to let other ranchers run their cattle through the pass anymore and builds a fence — which then becomes a magnet for conflict.

Everyone ends up shooting it out at the barricade. We would expect no less.

The barricade is a hot mess — it wouldn't be my first choice as a place to take cover in a big shootout. I can almost hear the production manager telling the crew members piling up the sticks: "It's good enough."

The barricade: An old gate and some loosely piled scrap lumber

I was surprised to hear that the production manager on "Hostile Country" was Ira Webb, who won an Oscar six years earlier for art direction on "Phantom of the Opera." I imagine the crew had more time for attention to details on that project than they did on the Lippert movies.

"Batman and Robin" (1949): The same gate

Pieces of the barricade were already in place on the Lower Iverson, left over from earlier productions. Here's a shot from the Columbia serial "Batman and Robin" earlier that year in which the same gate was used.

Zooming in on a section of the "Batman and Robin" shot, notice the I-shaped beams that form part of the framework holding the gate together.

The same I-shaped beams can be seen in "Hostile Country." I have to wonder whether someone on the Lippert crew saw the gate already at the site and said, hey, let's make one of the movies be about a gate.

"Adventures of Captain Marvel" (Republic serial, 1941)

The origins of the gate, and for that matter, probably the scrap lumber too, go back well before "Batman and Robin." The oldest appearance I know of for the gate is in "Adventures of Captain Marvel," back in 1941.

It seems likely that this stockade set was the original reason the gate was built — and probably the reason a bunch of other fencing material was readily available in the area.

"Adventures of Captain Marvel": Fire consumes much of the set

A large portion of the "Captain Marvel" set was burned for the movie, but it appears that the section of fencing at the north end of the set, which includes the gate, was spared.

The section of fencing outlined here in yellow was removed by the time "Batman and Robin" filmed at the site in 1949, probably because it blocked the road. But my hunch is that some of the wood from the "Captain Marvel" fences would have remained at the site and was later incorporated into the "Hostile Country" barricade.

Julie Adams on the Middle Iverson Ranch Set in "Crooked River"

The Middle Iverson Ranch Set appears throughout the Lippert movies, usually serving as the ranch where Julie Adams' character lives. Here she demonstrates that even if you wear an apron you can still be a badass.

"West of the Brazos": Julie Adams with Raymond Hatton, left, and Fuzzy Knight

Once the filming wrapped, someone back at the studio had the challenge of cutting up the footage into six separate movies. Then they were released over a span of about three months starting in March 1950.

"West of the Brazos": Pretty big screwup

Inevitably, things went wrong. Here's a shot where the shadows of reflectors used in production can be plainly seen in the background — the shot managed to find its way into the final cut of "West of the Brazos."

It was just something that happened from time to time, especially when budgets were tight — as they were at Lippert — and when crews were in a hurry, as they were on the "Lippert Six."

"Night Raiders" (Monogram, 1952): Whip Wilson movie had a similar problem

Here's a similar incident that happened during a shoot two years later on the Upper Iverson. Clearly, Lippert wasn't the only studio to shoot itself in the foot by trying to race through production.

It's interesting to see the similar shapes of the reflectors used by Monogram and Lippert during this period. If nothing else, these production errors illustrate that making movies wasn't always as easy as they made it look.

Promo still for "West of the Brazos": Russell Hayden in the Garden of the Gods

The production errors also extend to promotional material for the "Lippert Six," where it's not quite as egregious but still mildly amusing.

I don't think we're supposed to notice the electrical cord in the corner of the promo still.

Promo still for "Hostile Country": Julie Adams, Raymond Hatton, Jimmy Ellison and Fuzzy Knight

"Hostile Country," the first of the six movies to be released, may be the best of the six in terms of Iverson footage, but all of them are well worth seeing for anyone who's interested in film history on the Iverson Ranch.

Cleft Rock can be seen in the background of the promo still — it was a fairly widely filmed rock located a short distance north of the Garden of the Gods.

"Blackhawk: Fearless Champion of Freedom" (Columbia serial, 1952)

Here's a shot of a couple of actors walking right past Cleft Rock two years later in Columbia's "Blackhawk" serial. The angle is almost identical to the one seen in the "Hostile Country" promo shot.

It's a little hard to find Cleft Rock today, but it did survive the development of the Cal West Townhomes in the 1980s — barely. Today the rock is essentially a landscaping feature, even though it wound up on public land — it's tucked in between the condos and some other famous movie rocks.

A deadpan Buster Keaton scrubs down in an icky pool on top of "Bathtub Rock" in 1923

One of the famous movie rocks adjacent to Cleft Rock — and one of the most famous of all the rocks on the former Iverson Ranch — is Bathtub Rock. The rock achieved comedy immortality 95 years ago when Buster Keaton was filming his silent feature "Three Ages" and, legend has it, spontaneously hopped in.

Bathtub Rock in recent years — after the rain

Bathtub Rock still fills up when it rains. Whenever I happen upon the "full tub," I encourage whoever's with me to get in and replicate the Buster shot ... but nobody has taken me up on it. And no, I'm not doing it either.

A warning sign posted near Cleft Rock seems to suggest the possibility of a border war along the frontier between the publicly owned Garden of the Gods park, where Cleft Rock is positioned, and the adjacent condo property. The two properties are not fenced off, but as far as I know any problems in the area are relatively rare.

Julie Adams on the Upper Iverson in "Hostile Country"

One thing all of the "Lippert Six" movies had going for them was Julie Adams, who was just starting her film career back in 1949 and still had to "do her time" in the Westerns before she would get a chance to stretch her wings.

"Colorado Ranger": Julie covers Jimmy Ellison, Russell Hayden and Raymond Hatton

The Lippert movies turned out to be a steppingstone to bigger and better things for Julie. The movies got her noticed, and within a few months she had a contract with Universal.

Julie Adams and James Stewart in "Bend of the River" (Universal, 1952)

Universal kept Julie in Westerns at first, but she soon began working opposite top leading men.

"Bend of the River" yielded a series of memorable posters and lobby cards showing Julie's character with a bothersome arrow protruding from her shoulder area.

Universal's artists delivered their own interpretation of the arrow scene, changing Julie's hair color, giving her a more revealing neckline and turning a scene that was already disturbing into one that's perhaps even more disturbing — and now also a little bit sexy.

Italian poster for "Bend of the River"

Leave it to the Italians to "sex it up" even more. Julie is back to being a brunette in the Italian poster, but her dress has drifted still further off the shoulder while the arrow has migrated to a seemingly more life-threatening spot.

Julie Adams: Promo still for "Horizons West" (1952)

Pesky arrows notwithstanding, Julie had established her ability to pull off lead roles in higher-profile productions — and the roles kept coming.

When she starred opposite Robert Ryan in "Horizons West," the sex factor was almost as important as the six-guns. Even Ryan had to show some skin in posters for the movie.

"The Lawless Breed" (1953): Julie takes a spin as a dance hall girl

With legs like Julie's, she was bound to play a dance hall girl at least once, and she did just that in Raoul Walsh's "The Lawless Breed." Julie starred as Rosie McCoy, love interest to Rock Hudson's John Wesley Hardin.

"The Man From the Alamo" (1953): Julie Adams and Glenn Ford

Julie worked with Glenn Ford later that year in Universal's "The Man From the Alamo," where the lovey-dovey pair got a chance to steam up the camera lenses.

"Wings of the Hawk" (Universal, 1953)

That same year she tested the waters on the wrong side of the law, playing a Mexican bandida — really more of a soldier of the revolution — in "Wings of the Hawk."

Julie Adams tussles with Van Heflin in "Wings of the Hawk"

We can probably blame Van Heflin for leading her astray in that one. Julie had a way of bringing out the beast in the men around her.

"Creature From the Black Lagoon": Julie makes an impression on the creature — and on audiences

But when it comes to getting a rise out of her male castmates, it's hard to top Julie's breakout performance as Kay, the object of a monster's desires in the 1954 classic "Creature From the Black Lagoon."

We took a fond look at Julie's work in the landmark science-fiction movie in a recent post, which you can drool over by clicking here. (Julie and the "Gill Man" appear in the second half of the long post.)

Julie with Charlton Heston and young Tim Hovey in "The Private War of Major Benson" (1955)

Julie somehow survived not only her encounters with the "Gill Man" in "Creature," but also the sudden fame and fan worship brought by the iconic role. She continued to work steadily for the next 50 years.

Julie as Mary Simpson, a pretty nurse who catches Sheriff Taylor's eye on "The Andy Griffith Show" (1962)

By the late '50s Julie had begun shifting her focus to TV, although she continued to dabble in feature films. To date she has chalked up appearances in well over 200 movies and TV episodes.

Julie and Jimmy Stewart on "The Jimmy Stewart Show" (1971-1972)

When Jimmy Stewart decided to try his hand at a sitcom, Julie Adams signed on to play his wife. "The Jimmy Stewart Show" lasted one season on NBC, producing 24 episodes.

Julie Adams, left, as Eve Simpson on "Murder, She Wrote"

Many TV viewers know Julie from her recurring role as man-hungry real estate agent Eve Simpson on the CBS mystery "Murder She Wrote" in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Julie with her son and co-author Mitchell Danton, with Julie's autobiography

Julie is still going strong at 91, and has appeared in a number of shows in recent years, including "Lost," "Cold Case" and "CSI: NY." In 2011 she published her autobiography, "The Lucky Southern Star — Reflections From the Black Lagoon," written with her son Mitchell Danton, an accomplished television editor.

Julie continues to endure — and even embrace — the over-the-top fan worship that today, more than six decades later, still remains largely fixated on her role as Kay in "Creature From the Black Lagoon."

These days Julie makes the rounds of sci-fi festivals, generously autographs photos of herself with the Gill Man and does more than her share of interviews, both about "Creature" and about her time in Westerns. Above is an interview clip that includes a brief mention (at 1:35) of Julie's days in the "quickie Westerns."

Julie Adams struggles with John L. Cason on the Middle Iverson Ranch Set in "Crooked River"

I mentioned in an earlier post that Julie's characters in the "Lippert Six" Westerns had their run-ins with formidable B-Western bad guy John L. Cason throughout the six movies.

Friendly bunch (L-R): Tom Tyler, Dennis Moore and John L. Cason in "Marshal of Heldorado"

Cason, who had been playing heavies since he broke into the movies in 1941, was the ringleader of a cadre of Lippert Six henchmen that included onetime cowboy hero Tom Tyler and B-Western fixture Dennis Moore.

Tom Tyler sees God — or someone who looks like a lot of people's
idea of God — in "Adventures of Captain Marvel" (1941)

Tyler was a leading man and a pretty big cowboy star in the silents and early talkies, and became the movies' first Captain Marvel in the classic Republic serial "Adventures of Captain Marvel," released in 1941.

"Adventures of Captain Marvel": An old Garden of the Gods movie road with stone buttressing

"Captain Marvel" was another terrific Iverson Movie Ranch production. Click here to read a post from a few years ago about the discovery of surviving remnants from an interesting old road seen in the serial.

Possible evidence of "Evolution" contained in "Adventures of Captain Marvel" 

You can also click here for a controversial "Theory of Evolution" that owes its inspiration to "Adventures of Captain Marvel." The post also contains material on the recently discussed "Lives of a Bengal Lancer."

Tom Tyler demonstrates the proper care and feeding of the giant scorpion in "Captain Marvel"

If you'd like to come up with your own caption, please feel free because I don't have a clue what's going on here ... although I get the impression that it's somehow scorpion-related.

A poster for "Adventures of Captain Marvel" depicts a muscular action superhero as the title character.

The Captain Marvel seen in the poster seems a far cry from the tall, lanky, cheerful fellow who played him — at least the version of Tom Tyler who appears in "Marshal of Heldorado." But you may be surprised to learn that the "Captain Marvel" poster provides a reasonably accurate depiction of Tyler's body type.

Tom Tyler at age 25

Tyler may no longer have looked the part by 1949, but he was a champion bodybuilder in his youth, and remained active in the sport during the early years of his movie career.

Tom Tyler — still buff as "The Phantom" in 1943

Tyler's publicity material tells us that at one time he was considered the strongest man in America. He reportedly won the national AAU weightlifting championship in 1928 by lifting 760 pounds — I suspect that was the combined total for the snatch and the clean and jerk. He was also a member of the U.S. Olympic Team that same year.

Tom Tyler on the Iverson Ranch in Lippert's "West of the Brazos" (1950)

But the sad reality behind some of these photos is that Tyler had been struggling with health issues for a few years, including severe rheumatoid arthritis, by the time of the Lippert Six filming in 1949, and his career had been in decline. He died a few years later, on May 3, 1954, after suffering a heart attack at age 50.

"Battling With Buffalo Bill" (1931): Tom Tyler in the title role, with Lucile Brown

The movie serial website "Files of Jerry Blake" has a nice feature on Tom Tyler, which you can see by clicking here. It's well worth a visit ... and we'll be here waiting for you when you're ready to come back.

Gang member Dennis Moore brought his own solid credentials to the Lippert Six, having been a movie cowboy and serial hero going back to the early talkies. But Moore had to go without shaving to pull off the "bad guy" look.

Dennis Moore — publicity photo for "Oklahoma Raiders" (1944)

Moore's Ken Berry-esque "generic man" face may have been better suited for good guy roles, but he worked on either side of the law throughout his career. He might play a sheriff in one episode of "The Cisco Kid" and a henchman in the next — and he did play both roles on the show.

"Black Market Rustlers" (Range Busters, 1943) — L-R: Max Terhune, Dennis Moore and Ray Corrigan

Moore was a member of one of the classic B-Western "cowboy trios" for a few movies in the mid-1940s, filling a saddle alongside Ray "Crash" Corrigan and Max Terhune in Monogram's Range Busters series.

"Raiders of Ghost City" (1944): Dennis Moore, left, in an early lead role

He worked his way up to lead roles in a number of productions, especially serials. A clean-cut Moore appears above with Addison Richards, center, and Joe Sawyer in the Universal serial "Raiders of Ghost City."

Dennis Moore as Agent Grant Farrell in "The Mysterious Mr. M" (1946)

Moore also made a series of successful forays into non-Westerns. In the Universal serial "The Mysterious Mr. M" he starred as a federal agent bent on thwarting an evil scientist's scheme to steal submarine parts. For an evil scientist, Mr. M may have been a bit of a low achiever.

"Marshal of Heldorado (Lippert, 1950): The Tulliver boys lurk below Turtle Rock on the Upper Iverson

Moore was "slumming" as a henchman during the Lippert Six shoots — he was Henchman Pete in "Hostile Country," Henchman Ricco in "West of the Brazos" and Henchman Dick in "Fast on the Draw."

"Marshal of Heldorado" is the only film of the Lippert Six where Moore's credit doesn't include the word "henchman" — even though the role is once again "henchman-like." This time it's about family, as the bad guys are all Tullivers — which probably felt like a step up for all of the perennial henchmen.

"Man From Sonora" (Monogram, 1951): Incident on the Iverson Western street

In the great Iverson Western "Man From Sonora" the following year, Moore, at right, again went without shaving to ensure that audiences would buy him as a bad guy. Another giveaway here is the fact that he and House Peters Jr. are holding hero Johnny Mack Brown at gunpoint — along with Phyllis Coates and Lyle Talbot.

Dennis Moore, right, puts pressure on Bud Geary in "The Purple Monster Strikes" (1945)

Despite some serious setbacks — including being sidelined for more than a year after almost dying in a plane crash — Moore wound up with a long and prolific career, appearing in something like 350 movies and TV episodes. But much of the background information I've dug up on him suggests he was a troubled soul.

"Springtime in Texas" (1945): Moore gets second billing to Jimmy Wakely

In a widely reported incident in 1945, Moore seriously injured singing cowboy and frequent co-star Jimmy Wakely in a knife attack, reportedly fueled by alcohol and professional jealousy. Wakely refused to press charges and the two men continued to work together, co-starring in a series of B-Westerns throughout the late 1940s.

The one member of Lippert's motley crew of bad guys who was virtually always bad — and with his bulldog face and fireplug body, how could he be anything but — was John L. Cason.

John L. Cason

One of the absolute greats in the annals of B-Western thugs and outlaws, Cason went into movies after a stint as a professional boxer — as if you couldn't already tell from this mug shot!

Lash LaRue is fixin' to take a pop at Cason in "Mark of the Lash" (1948)

Even after he switched careers, he never completely left the world of fisticuffs. In the movies, Cason always seemed to be the guy who wound up in a fistfight with the hero — and he almost always got the worst of it. Something about that face of his just seemed to make people want to punch it in.

Movie fights are not pretty, especially when they're colorized — and especially when Cason is involved

He had the "honor" of being pummeled by many a cowboy star. Cason was a regular punching bag for Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Lash LaRue, Buster Crabbe, Clayton Moore's Lone Ranger and countless others — never mind that in real life he could have probably beaten up almost anybody in Hollywood.

"Don Daredevil Rides Again" (1951): Ken Curtis has a go at John L. Cason

Even "Gunsmoke's" Festus, scrawny Ken Curtis, got in on the act as long as Cason was being paid to get slapped around. That's Ken in the mask, in a rare lead role in the Republic serial "Don Daredevil Rides Again."

John L. Cason gets back in the ring for "Sunset Carson Rides Again" (1948)

Cason even did a little "real" boxing in the movies.

"Ringside" (1949): John L. Cason, left, Harry Brown, center, and Tom Brown

His character in the Don "Red" Barry movie "Ringside" was the boxing equivalent of his B-Western heavies — a dirty fighter named Tiger Johnson who was on hand to give the good guys somebody to take swings at. By the way, look at the relative size of the two fighters — who would you put your money on?

That's John taking a punch — what else is new? — in the poster for "Ringside."
"Ghost of Hidden Valley" (1946): Fuzzy, left, distracts Cason from the work at hand

By the time filming started on the Lippert Six in 1949, Cason had already appeared in close to 100 movies, often uncredited and rarely as anything of higher status than "henchman." The lacy doily is a nice touch.

Cason gets Jimmy Ellison and Russell Hayden worked up in "Colorado Ranger"

Cason made his nasty presence felt in all six of the Lippert Six movies. He was Tex in "Fast on the Draw," the Cyclone Kid in "West of the Brazos," Loco Joe in "Colorado Ranger" — the names changed each time but the work was pretty much the same: Go around causing trouble and annoying everyone.

With Tom Tyler backing him up, Cason hassles the two cowboy heroes in "Crooked River"

Here's a nice promo still for "Crooked River" showing a swath of the Upper Iverson looking west, with Pyramid Peak in the background at top center. The shot is taken near Lookout Point on Cactus Hill. 

Either fists or bullets — probably both — are ready to fly in "Fast on the Draw"

Another saloon, another unpleasant encounter between Cason and anyone who gets in his way. In this case the "John L. Cason problem" appears to be mainly Jimmy Ellison's, as Russell Hayden tries to hold Cason back.

Same movie, same saloon: Cason has the upper hand on Russell Hayden

Oddly enough, though, it's Hayden who's the focus of Cason's wrath in another promo still from the saloon brawl.

"From Here to Eternity" (1953) — John L. Cason, second from right, as Cpl. Paluso

I don't want to leave readers with the impression that Cason never appeared in any "A" pictures. He had his moments, including working with Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift in "From Here to Eternity."

Both Clift and Lancaster received Academy Award nominations for their roles, and the movie won eight Oscars including Best Picture. Sadly, Cason didn't get to bask much in the acclaim — like the bulk of his 400-plus film and TV appearances, his performance in "From Here to Eternity" was uncredited.

John L. Cason

Fun fact about John L. Cason: The "L" stood for "Lacy," and believe it or not, he preferred to be called "Lacy." He also went by Bob, which was the name he grew up with.

John L. Cason poses for a photo with some young fans on the Upper Iverson

Cason may not have been such a bad guy in real life. In this undated behind-the-scenes photo taken during filming on the Upper Iverson, the actor takes time to provide a "brush with fame" for two young visitors to the set.

Cason eyes an unseen pursuer during a chase on the Upper Iverson in "West of the Brazos"

But accounts from those who knew and worked with him suggest that, like his fellow "Lippert Six" bad guys, Cason had his demons — a big one being alcohol. 

Gone too soon: The "Lippert Six" bad guys

And it was his undoing. Cason died on a hunting trip with a longtime pal — his name is usually given as Charlie Lentz, although some sources give it as Al Lents. The two men were killed when their car went off the road near Buellton, Calif., in a crash that was reportedly alcohol-related.

John L. Cason lurks inside a window on the Middle Iverson Ranch Set in "Hostile Country"

Boyd Magers has a page dedicated to John Cason on his "Western Clippings" site that's well worth a look. Click here to check it out. Boyd also has a page on Dennis Moore, which you can find by clicking here.

Tom Tyler on the Upper Iverson's South Rim in "Marshal of Heldorado"

To read more about Tom Tyler, you can go to Chuck Anderson's "Old Corral" website at — click here to go right to the Tom Tyler section.

Julie with Raymond Hatton on the Iverson Western street in "Marshal of Heldorado"

Boyd Magers — he keeps busy! — also did an interview with Julie Adams, which you can read here.

Promo still for "Marshal of Heldorado"

As I mentioned in a recent post where I scratched the surface about the "Lippert Six," the movies were all directed by Thomas Carr and filmed by master Iverson cinematographer Ernest Miller, and the filmmakers clearly appreciated the important role played by the picturesque terrain of the Iverson Ranch.

All six Lippert B-Westerns are available on a budget-priced DVD set, "Big Iron Collection," which I have and can recommend. The picture quality is excellent — the DVD set is the source of the screen shots seen in this post. The set is a great place to find six movies with a lot of Iverson content. Here's a link to the DVD set on Amazon ...

Below are some additional links to productions mentioned in this post along with the Julie Adams biography, "The Lucky Southern Star." I believe it's an autographed copy and will probably be gone unless you're the first person to click through. The movies and TV show appear to be readily available ...