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.

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.

7 comments:

PRINCEDRAGNA said...

Fantastic find!! Congratulations

Jeff Wheat said...

A nice Christmas bonus. Great find.

online virtual academy for films said...

Iverson Movie Ranch in 1913 had act great dont now days actor and actress they add to much makeup on set with worst acting on movie

Swami Nano said...

Let me see if I catch your drift: Old movies are good, new movies are bad ... and if you take classes at our online academy we can set you on the right path. Oddly enough, I agree with some of what you say. But I think the movies have always had plenty of bad acting -- maybe even moreso in 1913 than in 2020 -- along with plenty of makeup. Thanks for your perspective!

BlueTrain said...

Your articles about Iverson are fascinating to me. Maybe I'll make it out there again someday. So far, the only location I've been able to visit was in Fawnskin, up in the mountains. I was surprised to see a utility pole at the location from a relatively obscure movie (Giant from the Unknown, 1958--Bob Steele was in it). But when I went back and watched the movie again, it was certainly there.

One thing that I have noticed, however, is that in the old movies, there always seems to be less vegetation than in your own photos. Or do you suppose that's simply because greenery doesn't show up as well in a black & white film?

Swami Nano said...

Your observation is on target, BlueTrain. The Iverson Ranch has become overrun with vegetation since the last major fire swept through there, which was in 2008. Back when it was a working location ranch, the Iverson family kept the vegetation under control in the important filming areas. It could use that kind of attention today. It can be a problem when you're looking for an old filming site and can't see it or can't get to it because the trees, bushes and weeds have filled it in.
Interesting note about Fawnskin and Giant From the Unknown.
Thanks for your comment.
-SN

BlueTrain said...

In reading about the various movie ranches, I have been struck by the number of fires there have been. Remember when brush fires were in the news a lot back when Baywatch was being filmed? At the time, I was working for a company with plants in various places around the country, including in Southern California. I was on the phone with them every month. I asked if the fires were close to that plant and the answer was, "No, but we have those all the time anyway." All in the perspective.

My son lives in L.A. and was working in the movie industry, at least up until last year. One of the first thing he did was to visit a couple of filming locations. A few things have changed here and there.