Here's what the Iverson Movie Ranch obsession is all about ...

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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Filming "The Roy Rogers Show" on Roy and Dale's old ranch in Chatsworth — and the truth about the "Double R Bar Ranch"

Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Trigger: Publicity still for "The Roy Rogers Show"

I've always heard that some "Roy Rogers Show" segments were shot on the old Roy Rogers Ranch in Chatsworth. But I had never seen any proof, so I finally decided to see whether I could find my own.

"The Roy Rogers Show" ran for six seasons on NBC, from 1951-1957, with most of its location footage shot on the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif.

Roy Rogers and Raccoon Rock on the Iverson Movie Ranch ("The Roy Rogers Show")

The show was responsible for some of the best Iverson Movie Ranch footage of the early TV era. You can click here, here and here to see examples of the show's many intriguing Iverson shoots.

Iverson Movie Ranch and Corriganville — two "Roy Rogers Show" filming locations

But like most early TV Westerns, the show filmed in multiple outdoor locations. One of those was Corriganville in Simi Valley, a few miles west of the Iverson Ranch.

Corriganville's Silvertown as "Mineral City" in "Junior Outlaw" (premiered Feb. 10, 1957)

Silvertown, Corriganville's main Western set, was one of several locations over the course of "The Roy Rogers Show's" six seasons to play Roy and Dale's fictional home town of Mineral City.

The massive oak tree at the southwest end of Silvertown hung on for decades, struggling to survive during California's extended drought of the 2010s, which finally broke after seven or eight years.

The same tree in early 2017, after giving up the fight

When the rain finally came, it was too late for the big tree, which keeled over in early 2017. This photo by location explorer Cliff Roberts is part of a blog item examining the tree's downfall — click here for the full story.

The Silvertown Saloon as Dale's Eureka Hotel and Cafe ("Junior Outlaw")

Silvertown's Saloon, a focal point of both Corriganville's filming business and its weekend tourist trade, became the exterior for Dale's Eureka Hotel and Cafe on the TV show.

This shot from the same episode provides a better look at the "Eureka Hotel and Cafe" sign as it appeared on the front of Corriganville's Saloon.

"The Horse Mixup" (March 17, 1956): Same sign, different movie ranch

At other times the Eureka was played by a building on the Ingram Ranch in Woodland Hills, Calif., 10 miles south of the Iverson Ranch. Ingram Ranch was a filming location run by perennial B-Western bad guy Jack Ingram.

"The Horse Mixup": The Ingram Ranch's scaled-down version of the Eureka

If we didn't know any better, we might think the two buildings were the same. But if we look hard enough we can find clues such as the smaller second-story windows and more bare-bones balcony railing on the Ingram structure.

Corriganville's "Eureka": Larger and fancier than the one at Ingram Ranch

The two buildings are supposed to look similar for the show, and they do. But thanks to the magic of screen shots, we're not fooled.

Back at Ingram Ranch: Sloppy set dressing?

An unexplained object can be seen on the balcony on the Ingram Ranch set. Presumably it's just a sign that was previously on the building, which had to be moved out of the way to dress the building as the Eureka Hotel.

We get a slightly better look at the misplaced sign in this shot. Apparently, whoever's job it was to remove the sign didn't feel like moving it any farther than absolutely necessary.

The same episode, "The Horse Mixup," with the out-of-place sign removed

This shot from the same episode suggests that someone eventually noticed and insisted on the sign's removal. Of course, they weren't about to reshoot any footage that had already been shot.

"Violence in Paradise Valley" (Nov. 2, 1955): Yet another version of Dale's cafe

A different exterior for the Eureka Hotel and Cafe, with a different sign, can be found in some episodes. My theory is that this one was on the Samuel Goldwyn Studios backlot, but if anyone knows, please comment.

"Three Masked Men": Roy arrives at the Mineral City Sheriff's Office on the Ingram Ranch

Jack Ingram's movie location ranch saw a lot of duty as Mineral City during the later seasons of "The Roy Rogers Show,"  and the faux brick Sheriff's Office and Jailhouse was seen on the show pretty regularly.

The side of the Jailhouse in "The Horse Mixup"

The Ingram Ranch had a reputation for being a shoestring operation, and the Mineral City Jailhouse is a case in point. It looks reasonably solid from the front, but slip around the corner and it's a different story.

The side of the "brick" structure looks more like cardboard paneling held in place with chewing gum, and the whole building looks like a stiff breeze might knock it down.

"False Faces": Pat Brady outside the Sheriff's Office in a scary mask

The episode "False Faces," which premiered Feb. 5, 1956, includes a fun sequence shot outside the Ingram Ranch Sheriff's Office, where Pat emerges from the building wearing a scary mask.

Pat encounters Trigger outside the Sheriff's Office in "False Faces"

Pat has already scared off Bullet the Wonder Dog and is running after him. That's when Trigger, who's parked outside, gets his first look at Pat in the mask.

Trigger responds as we might expect — he starts rearing up.

While Trigger is freaking out, we get a glimpse of the Ingram Ranch's trademark Saloon, with its distinctive rounded roofline. The building, partially visible at the left, turns up a lot in old movies and TV shows.

Here's a better look at the Saloon in the background, just as Trigger is about to bolt.

Pat chases after Trigger, having scared off all the animals.

Roy on Trigger, Dale on Buttermilk at the fictional "Double R Bar Ranch"

One "Roy Rogers Show" location that generated more interest than most — along with more confusion than any other — was a fictional place called the "Double R Bar Ranch."

One of the biggest myths about the "Double R Bar Ranch" was that Roy and Dale actually lived there. The so-called "Double R Bar Ranch" was something that was made up for the TV show, and wasn't their actual home.

The Double R Bar Ranch in Oro Grande — not connected to Chatsworth or the TV show

Roy and Dale did eventually adopt the name "Double R Bar Ranch" for a ranch they owned in Oro Grande, Calif. But that wasn't until years after the TV show ended and after they moved out of Chatsworth.

Roy and Dale outside their house at 19838 Tomahawk Road, Apple Valley

Even when they owned the ranch in Oro Grande, Roy and Dale didn't live there. They lived almost a half-hour's drive south in Apple Valley, where they had a couple of different homes over the years.

Sometimes referred to as "the Double R Bar Estate," the house on Tomahawk Road, where Roy and Dale lived during their retirement years, still features the Double R Bar brand on the gate.

"The Roy Rogers Show" end credits: The famous Double R Bar Ranch gate

The "Double R Bar Ranch" that was seen on the TV show, consisting mainly of a front gate seen in the end credits, wasn't located in Chatsworth either — that's another common misconception.

Santa pays a visit to the TV ranch in Nellybelle, Pat's cantankerous Jeep

The famous Double R Bar Ranch gate from the TV show was set up at still another filming location — Disney's Golden Oak Ranch in Placerita Canyon.

"Phantom Rustlers" (1953): Roy works out with Trigger on Disney's Golden Oak Ranch

If you're hesitant to connect "The Roy Rogers Show" with the Golden Oak Ranch, I recommend watching "Phantom Rustlers" from season 2, which contains extensive footage shot at Golden Oak.

Roy and Dale down on the farm in "Phantom Rustlers"

The episode finds Roy right at home on the Golden Oak Ranch, even working the fields on a tractor. In this scene Roy confers with Dale about the rustling situation as Buttermilk and Bullet listen in.

"Phantom Rustlers": Roy, Bullet and Trigger at Golden Oak

Roy appears in a number of scenes shot near the Golden Oak Ranch's horse stables, which have a distinctive look that makes them relatively easy to identify.

A wider shot from "Phantom Rustlers" shows more of the stables, along with a nearby building on the right.

The red outline indicates where Roy, Bullet and Trigger were seen in the earlier photo.

"The Adventures of Spin and Marty" (1955): Golden Oak Ranch

Shots of the stable area in "The Roy Rogers Show" can be compared with screen shots from the Disney production "The Adventures of Spin and Marty," filmed two years later on the Golden Oak Ranch.

The window noted here can be seen in both "Spin and Marty" and "The Roy Rogers Show."

Here's the same window in "The Roy Rogers Show," where we also see the front of the stables. Only the side of the building, with the window, is visible in the "Spin and Marty" shot.

"Spin and Marty": The stable building has been remodeled

This shot from "Spin and Marty" again shows the window, and this time we see the front of the stable building. But the building has been remodeled and is now a bunkhouse.

The front of the former stable building now features a number of hunting trophies, including a large set of antlers seen here in the top right corner.

"The Roy Rogers Show" — apparently the same antlers, two years earlier

We don't get a very good look at them here, but it appears to me that the same antlers were already in place two years earlier, when "The Roy Rogers Show" shot at Golden Oak and the building was a stable.

"The Adventures of Spin and Marty"

Also visible in the wide view of the "Spin and Marty" set is a larger stable building across from the smaller stable/bunkhouse building seen in "The Roy Rogers Show."

"Spin and Marty": The larger stable, on the left

When we get a better look at this larger stable, we can see that the design is similar to that of the smaller stable seen in "The Roy Rogers Show" — including a dark horizontal bar on the inside of each stable door.

Roy and Dale at "home" on the Golden Oak Ranch in "Phantom Rustlers"

As strange as it might seem, Disney's Golden Oak Ranch is the closest thing we have to a real-world location for Roy and Dale's TV ranch, the Double R Bar.

Milking the golden goose, to shamelessly mix metaphors

By the mid-1950s, Roy Rogers and his TV ranch had become the focus of a massive merchandising operation, which might help explain some of the mythology surrounding the ranch.

The centerpiece of the Roy Rogers marketing empire was the Happi-Time Double R Bar Ranch playset. The TV show had kids convinced that Roy and Dale lived on the Double R Bar, and the playsets flew off the shelves.

Plastic versions of Roy and Dale on the Double R Bar

The marketers weren't about to pour cold water on any existing hype that might help sell playsets — for example by clarifying that Roy and Dale didn't really live on the Double R Bar.

Plastic replica of the gate on the Disney location ranch

The myth about Roy and Dale living on the Double R Bar Ranch grew up with a generation of kids who were proud owners of the playset — which came with a gate that looked just like the one on the TV show.

Hot item on eBay

Double R Bar Ranch playsets remain a hot commodity today. This one was being offered for $250 on eBay.

This set looks like it was kind of a stripped-down model. But even this set was priced at more than $100 on eBay.

Post Cereals' cardboard-cutout Double R Bar Ranch

A cardboard version of the ranch was also available back in the 1950s, marketed by Post Cereals.

Double R Bar Ranch lunchbox

Almost anything could be branded "Double R Bar Ranch" — and it was. Ranch sets and lunchboxes were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to cashing in on Roy and Dale's popularity.

Double R Bar Ranch paper doll set

Even this paper doll dress-up set, which brought young Dusty Rogers into the family's merchandising dynasty, carried the Double R Bar Ranch brand.

Wow, check out Dale! Va-va-voom! Somehow, I doubt it was just girls who played with this set.

Autographed Double R Bar Ranch "standee"

Here's something called a "standee," with an image of Roy rearing up on Trigger at the TV ranch gate. Roy is seen pulling off the rare "square lariat" trick — plus it's autographed by Roy (and Trigger). It was selling on eBay for $10.99, which seems like a bargain. Caveat emptor!

At one time you could rock out on Trigger as long as you had a spare quarter. Of course, the mechanical Trigger was also branded "Double R Bar Ranch" — and featured yet another rendition of the famous gate.

Roy and Dale arriving at their new ranch in Chatsworth, circa mid-1950s

Back in the real world, Roy and Dale did live on an actual ranch — it just wasn't the Double R Bar. They moved to their Chatsworth ranch in the summer of 1955, around when season five of the TV series was starting production.

Roy Rogers at his house on White Oak in Encino, circa early 1940s

This photo of Roy waving in front of his house in the 1940s has often been misidentified as Roy's Chatsworth ranch. Roy lived in this house at 4704 White Oak in Encino in the early 1940s, before he married Dale Evans.

The Roy Rogers ranch house in Chatsworth (ca. mid-1950s)

This is a rare shot of the front of the actual ranch house in Chatsworth, probably taken soon after Roy and Dale moved in. Notice the rocky hills behind the house, which we will delve into later in this post.

Roy and Dale's Chatsworth ranch house, still in place today (Google aerial)

The house is still there today, although it's hidden behind trees and most of the house cannot be seen. Today the neighborhood is residential, having been developed after Roy and Dale moved out in the mid-1960s.

Future site of the Roy Rogers Ranch in 1952 

An aerial shot from 1952 reveals what the spread looked like around the time Roy and Dale bought the property. At that time the neighborhood was predominantly farm country.

The Andora gate leading to the RR Ranch

The couple's address in Chatsworth was 9839 Andora Ave., which was where the driveway started — but it was a long driveway. The house was situated about one-third of a mile southwest of the gate, as the crow flies.

The sign on the gate clearly identifies "The RR Ranch" — or, put another way, "The Double R Ranch." Not to be picky, but there's nothing on the sign about a bar — and to a ranch owner, it's a detail that would matter.

The gate to the Oro Grande ranch, featuring the "RR Bar" brand

When Roy and Dale opened their Double R Bar Ranch about 10 years later in Oro Grande, the "bar" was added to the brand — which otherwise looked a lot like the original "RR Ranch" brand.

Double tires on the back of Roy's rough 'n' ready Jeep

Back at the Andora gate in Chatsworth, I just want to point out that Roy had a no-nonsense Jeep — nothing like Pat's high-strung Nellybelle on the TV show. Anytime you see a Jeep with four back tires, you know it's a bad boy.

Roy wasn't just a Jeep guy, though. It may have been a paid part, but he's all about Chevies in this 1959 Chevy truck spot, filmed mainly on Roy's Chatsworth ranch. The ranch is identified twice at the start of the ad.

Nothing about any "Bar" in the name of the Chatsworth ranch

Did you happen to catch the sign right at the beginning of the commercial? It identifies the ranch as the "Roy Rogers Ranch." Roy also mentions the ranch in his narration, calling it the "Rogers Ranch."

The driveway from the Andora gate to the house (1952)

Roy and Dale hadn't bought the place yet when the 1952 aerial shot was taken over Chatsworth, but when they bought it three years later, it came with a significant drive from the Andora gate to the house.

Where the driveway would be if it were still in place today

Superimposing the original route of the driveway over the current residential configuration, we can see that the former driveway does not follow any existing roads.

The former Chatsworth home of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in modern times

While the former ranch property has been subdivided and redeveloped, the house where Roy and Dale lived remains intact. Today, along with new owners, the house has a new address: 22801 Trigger St.

Chatsworth landmarks near Roy and Dale's old house

The neighborhood is steeped in Chatsworth history and century-old movie history. Click here for the story of the 1917 "Jack and the Beanstalk" castle, and here for more about the Miranda Adobe and the Lillian Gish rocks.

The spot where the ranch's Andora gate used to be located is now the site of the Andora Trailhead, one of the best starting points for expeditions into the Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park.

Location of the Andora Trailhead leading into the Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park

The area is well worth exploring whether your interest is old movie locations or an appreciation for natural beauty and sandstone rock formations. The sweet spot is just southwest of the west end of Lassen Street.

I recently explored the hills above the old Roy Rogers house looking for filming locations for the TV series, and I was surprised by what I found: an expansive filming area on the former Roy Rogers Ranch property.

"False Faces" (season 5, episode 10): A rock formation just above the Rogers ranch house

We know filming on the ranch began soon after the Rogers family moved there in the summer of 1955, because we find scenes shot there as early as the season five episode "False Faces," which premiered Feb. 6, 1956.

The same rock in 2019

I spotted the same rock on a recent visit to the site. As with many of the rocks in the area, it's difficult or impossible to precisely match the angles seen in the TV show due to changes in the terrain.

"Paleface Justice" (season six, episode five — premiered Nov. 18, 1956)

Moving on to season six, the episode "Paleface Justice" had by far the most comprehensive location shoot I could find on Roy Rogers Ranch property. Notice the rock above the shoulder of the guy on the left.

Here's the same rock from my recent expedition — and if it looks familiar, there's a good reason. It's also the same rock seen in the season five shot above.

Here's a wider shot of the rock's current setting in which you can also see a few of the nearby houses along with Porter Ranch in the distance and the hills to the northeast. It's a nice spot, and it's public parkland.

The same rock is seen from still another angle elsewhere in "Paleface Justice," towering over passing riders.

This recent shot approximates the angle seen in "The Roy Rogers Show."

"Paleface Justice" — rock full of holes

A number of the most distinctive rocks in the area stand out because they're full of holes. The rock at the center of this screen shot helped open the door to the entire filming area for me.

The same rock, photographed on a recent visit

I recognized it immediately from its many holes, and it became the first rock in the area that I could match up positively with "The Roy Rogers Show." The rock has an especially tormented look when you see it in person.

"Paleface Justice"

This shot is taken looking way up the hill above the Rogers Ranch, toward the northwest.

The same rocks in 2019

I wasn't able to get a very good matching shot, but it may be good enough to recognize the two main rocks.

Here are a few key identifiers to help match up the rocks.

The same identifiers are noted in the "Roy Rogers Show" screen shot.

You may have noticed an interesting "bent" rock sticking up in the background, way up the hill.

In a separate shot from my recent trek, I caught a glimpse of that same bent rock. The rocks near the center of the photo are not matched with any shots from the TV show.

My eye was also drawn to these twisted shapes in the background.

Here's a better look at this oddball group of rock characters.

Roy with Sandy, left, and Dusty outside the family home in Chatsworth (Jerry England Collection)

The same nutty bunch of misfits turns up in the background of a photo probably from the late 1950s or 1960, taken at the Rogers family home. The photo shows Roy with his sons Sandy and Dusty in their uniforms.

Roy and Dale's old tennis court

The house is directly below the movie rocks we've been looking at, and while I was up there I got a look at Roy and Dale's old tennis court. It doesn't look as though it sees much action these days.

Nearby is a patio that was built in the rocks just above the house. The photos of the tennis court and patio give some idea of the thick tree cover in the area, which is the main reason we can't really see the house anymore.

Roy and Dale wave to a visitor from a rocky perch in their back yard

I believe Roy and Dale were hanging out in those same rocks around the high-rise patio when this photo was taken in the 1950s. The photo provides one of the better views I've seen of the house below.

A few yards from the patio rocks, a rocky hillside rises above a small meadow.

"Paleface Justice": Roy and Dale at work in their back yard

Roy and Dale "commuted" to their back yard to shoot this sequence in the meadow for the TV show. Notice that the same group of rocks can be seen in the top right corner of the two photos above.

"Horse Crazy" (season five — premiered Feb. 26, 1956)

Pat Brady drove Nellybelle through the same meadow in the season five episode "Horse Crazy," which also featured a significant shoot on the Roy Rogers Ranch.

The same background in 2019

Many of the same background rocks can be seen in this photo from one of my recent visits to the site, even though the angle is a little different.

A number of rocks are highlighted in this version of the photo to help match them up with the TV show.

The same rocks are noted in the screen shot from the show.

"Horse Crazy": Hill to the south

To the south of the meadow is a hill that also turns up in the TV show.

The same hill in 2019

The same hill remains in place today, south of Andora. The rock near the center of the frame can be seen in both of the above photos — it's toward the right of the frame in the screen shot from the TV show.

It's important to keep the filming on the old Roy Rogers Ranch in perspective. Claims that "much of the TV show" was filmed there are misleading — filming on the ranch didn't start until season five, and it was just a few episodes. Additionally, it would be inaccurate to say the Chatsworth ranch appeared as Roy's Double R Bar.

The main filming area on the former Roy Rogers Ranch has been preserved as part of Chatsworth Oaks Park. It's open to hikers and can be accessed at the end of Andora Avenue — but pay attention to the "no parking" signs.

Shout-out from the cowboy in the sky!

I want to give a big shout-out to Western historian and Iverson Movie Ranch enthusiast Jeff Wheat, who tracked down many of the later episodes of "The Roy Rogers Show" on DVD. Thanks, Jeff!

"Off the Beaten Path" is a series of posts that stray from the usual subject matter of this blog, which is the Iverson Movie Ranch. Past subjects have included Corriganville, Bell Ranch, Pioneertown, Franklin Canyon, Oak Park, Paramount Ranch, Rabbit Dry Lake in Lucerne Valley, various parts of Chatsworth, and other old filming locations. You can see all of the "Off the Beaten Path" posts by clicking on the term "Off the Beaten Path" in the long index of labels at the right of the page, or by clicking here.