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.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Guess where the "Star Wars" series "The Mandalorian" has been shooting — right here in the Santa Susana Mountains!

"The Mandalorian": The latest disturbance in the Force

The tourism industry in the Santa Susana Pass may be in for a boom in the near future, because we just nailed down a filming location that fans of the "Star Wars" series "The Mandalorian" have been eager to find — and it's right here in the Santa Susana Mountains, tucked away between Chatsworth and Simi Valley.

"The Mandalorian," Chapter 14: "The Tragedy" (premiered Dec. 4, 2020)

I received the above screen shot from the recent episode "The Tragedy" from "Mandalorian" fan Scott Lechuga, who asked whether I might recognize the location. I didn't, but I did recognize the look of the "Chatsworth Formation," a geological phenomenon that runs through the former Iverson Ranch and much of Chatsworth.

The same location as it appears on Google Maps

After some poking around, I was able to match up the ridgeline seen in the "Mandalorian" screen shot. The filming area was along the Rocky Peak Trail, northwest of Chatsworth.

Identifying features in the ridgeline

Some of the markers along the ridgeline that help identify the location are noted here.

The same features can be found in "The Mandalorian"

Here are the same markers in the "Mandalorian" screen shot. The alignment is slightly off because it's impossible to duplicate the angle on Google Maps. But it's close enough that you should be able to tell it's the same place.

"The Mandalorian": Three key rocks at ground level

Closer to the ground, we can find additional markers that also match up, enabling us to further define the filming location. Notice the group of three rocks highlighted here.

The three rocks turn up in the Google Maps shot

The same three rocks can be seen in the Google Maps photo, although here they're much farther to the right in the shot, and once again, the angle isn't quite the same.

The three rocks appear near the center of the frame
 
Shifting the angle on Google Maps, we can get a better look at the three rocks, seen here near the center of the frame. This shot also shows the proximity of the "Mandalorian" rocks to the Rocky Peak Trail.

The shooting location is just off Rocky Peak Trail
 
The shot more closely matches the action on the ground in the "Mandalorian" screen shot, although again it's not exactly the same angle.

Google Maps shot showing more of the terrain in the "Mandalorian" screen shot
 
Examining still another Google angle, we again see the three key rocks, but here we can also see much of the rest of the terrain captured in the "Mandalorian" screen shot. This should enable us to match up a few more rocks.
 
One of the more distinctive rocks in the "Mandalorian" shot, Rock "A"

One rock in the "Mandalorian" screen shot that cries out to be found is Rock "A," which almost appears to be wearing a helmet out of "Star Wars." Also note Rocks "B" and "C."

Rocks A, B and C on Google Maps

Even though Rock "A" is not as well defined in this Google Maps shot as we might want it to be, it's clear that it matches "The Mandalorian," as do Rocks "B" and "C."
 
"The Tragedy": Stormtroopers romp around Rocky Peak Park
 
Here's a shot from "The Mandalorian" showing some Stormtroopers up to no good in the mountains. This shot can be matched up with photos from the Rocky Peak filming location.
 
The same background hills, viewed from the Rocky Peak Trail

This photo shows the view to the southwest of the filming site, including the 118 Freeway and, beyond it, Santa Susana Pass Road, running across the frame horizontally.
 
Notice the background hill circled in yellow.
 
The same hill can be seen in the "Mandalorian" shot.

Filming area for "The Mandalorian"

The "Mandalorian" shooting area is located well up the Rocky Peak Trail, as indicated here. If you're planning to go check it out, be forewarned that the trail is like straight up —  bring water and a strong pair of legs.
 
Thumbs-up, Scott!

 
I want to give a big shout-out to Scott Lechuga for getting the ball rolling on what turned out to be a fun location hunt — and a fruitful one!
 
Since we first published the filming location in December 2020, a number of "Mandalorian" fans have been making the trek to the site and are posting videos and photos that expand on the sighting. One of the best can be found below — a YouTube video first posted by All About Los Angeles — check it out!
 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Rare photo from Bison Archives redefines what we know
about the history of the Iverson Movie Ranch

The photo that rewrote Iverson Movie Ranch history

A photo surfaced recently from the depths of the incredible Bison Archives that just about made my head explode — in a good way — as it instantly changed what we know about the early history of the Iverson Movie Ranch.

Linda Arvidson, aka Linda Griffith, as "Everyman"

The photo is believed to be a still from the long-lost and long-forgotten 1913 silent movie "Everyman," which stars Linda Arvidson in the title role. That's right: Linda plays a man in the movie — Everyman.

Linda Arvidson — One of Hollywood's earliest stars

Arvidson, also known as Linda Griffith, was married to D.W. Griffith from 1906-1936, and became one of the fledgling movie industry's first screen stars. Linda and D.W. were separated at the time "Everyman" was produced, and the famed director was not involved with the movie.

Kinemacolor ad running in Moving Picture World, 1913

The movie was released by Kinemacolor — and the company's odd name accurately conveys its business model. Kinemacolor was a pioneer in color processing and was producing color movies more than 100 years ago.

"Two Clowns" (1908): An example of Kinemacolor's early color film process

The film version of "Everyman" was apparently lost, so we don't know what it looked like. But the above shot from the movie "Two Clowns" gives us a glimpse of the Kinemacolor process all the way back in 1908.

"Everyman": The first proof of filming on the Iverson Ranch prior to 1917

The fact that "Everyman" can no longer be viewed intensifies the historical importance of the Bison Archives photo, which confirms for the first time that movies were being made on the Iverson Ranch by 1913. 

Karl and Augusta Iverson (1888): Founders of the Iverson Movie Ranch

I've always kind of figured that was the case, since word-of-mouth from the Iverson family — not always a reliable source — has consistently adhered to the story that filming began on the ranch around 1912 or 1913.

"The Silent Man" (1917): William S. Hart and Vola Vale on the Iverson Ranch

 
But as a historian, I need to see proof. And until the "Everyman" photo surfaced, the earliest proof I had of filming at Iverson went back only as far as 1917, when "The Silent Man" and a few other surviving films were shot.

"Everyman" (1913): Photo taken from the interior of the Garden of the Gods

 
Taken looking north from what would later come to be known as the Garden of the Gods, the "Everyman" photo contains enough landmarks to enable us to confirm the location.

The same location in 2020
 
I went to the site recently to see whether it was still possible to duplicate the shot. It was harder than I expected — things had shifted around a bit since 1913 — but I came reasonably close.
 
Shrubbery dominates the area in 1913

I was amused to find out that the lush foliage at the bottom of the 1913 photo is still there in 2020. Not the same plants, of course, but presumably some descendants of those plants from more than a century ago.

Laurel sumac

I hear from people who know more than I do that these plants are laurel sumac, which is prominently distributed throughout much of Southern California — and is currently running rampant all over the former Iverson Ranch.

The same foliage remains in place on the Iverson Movie Ranch in 2020

A wider shot from my recent visit to the site shows that the laurel sumac also remains prominent in the part of the Garden of the Gods where the "Everyman" photo was taken. That's all laurel sumac in the foreground.
 
"The Adventures of Dollie" (1908): One of almost 150 D.W. Griffith-Linda Arvidson collaborations

 
Linda Arvidson is an unfairly overlooked figure in early Hollywood. She worked with her husband on close to 150 movies, going back to "The Adventures of Dollie" in 1908 — the first movie D.W. Griffith directed.
 
Early Kinemacolor projector

 
But by the time Griffith and Arvidson were transitioning to the West Coast, their marriage had fizzled out and they were following divergent paths. They separated in 1912, just as Griffith's star was on the rise at Biograph, and Arvidson hitched her wagon to Kinemacolor.
 
"The Birth of a Nation" (D.W. Griffith, 1915)

 
Griffith went on to become one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of the industry, although his legacy has been tainted by his warm embrace of the Ku Klux Klan in his 1915 opus "The Birth of a Nation."
 
Linda Arvidson in "The Scarlet Letter" (Kinemacolor, 1913)


Arvidson's career, meanwhile, was rapidly winding down. She appeared in just a handful of additional films before quitting acting in 1916.
 
"Charity" (1916): Screenplay by Linda Arvidson


Arvidson, who sometimes billed herself as Linda A. Griffith, also wrote screenplays, including "Charity," in which she also starred. Released in October 1916, the Mutual Film feature marked her final screen role.
 
"When the Movies Were Young," first published in 1925


It wasn't until 1936 that Arvidson and Griffith officially divorced, when Griffith decided to remarry. In the interim, Arvidson published a well-regarded account of early Hollywood in her memoir, "When the Movies Were Young."
 
Linda Arvidson on the Iverson Movie Ranch, no later than 1913

 
Because "Everyman," like the rest of Kinemacolor's output, has been lost, nailing down the origin of the photo can be tricky. But we know it's Linda Arvidson and is a Kinemacolor photo, and Arvidson made her last movie for Kinemacolor in 1913.
 
"Judith of Bethulia" (D.W. Griffith, 1914): Filmed in Chatsworth in 1912-1913


Coincidentally, around the same time Arvidson was filming on the Iverson Ranch, her estranged husband was also making movies in Chatsworth. A few miles to the south, in the Lake Manor area, D.W. Griffith was at work on "Judith of Bethulia" in 1912 and early 1913, a shoot that you can read about in this post from 2019.