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.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

"Rodeo Roundup": A forgotten chapter in the cowboy history
of Chatsworth, the San Fernando Valley and the Iverson Ranch

"The Cisco Kid" episode "Rodeo" (Jan. 28, 1954): A rare look at the Iverson Ranch rodeo arena

It's not widely known that the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., once had its own rodeo arena — and for a short time in the early 1950s, it was the home of a weekly TV rodeo series.
 
Los Angeles TV listings from July 1953

The TV show, "Rodeo Roundup," aired during the summer of 1953 on local L.A. station KNBH, which later became KRCA and still later evolved into NBC's present-day West Coast flagship station, KNBC.
 
Early L.A. television personality "Cowboy Slim" (Sherman Loudermilk)

The television show and rodeo were hosted by TV personality "Cowboy Slim." Born Sherman Loudermilk in Leon, Texas, Slim had a long career as a TV and film art director along with hosting a number of early children's shows.
 
Cowboy Slim demonstrates bulldogging in the Iverson Ranch rodeo arena

Details about Slim's life and career are hard to dig up, but it appears that he was both a champion cowboy and an artist, besides being a TV host. The above photo of Slim in action ran in the Valley Times in May 1953.
 
"The Cisco Kid" episode "Rodeo": TV folk and rodeo folk gather at the Iverson rodeo arena

Information about the Iverson Ranch rodeo arena is also quite scarce, but with the help of fellow researchers, we have begun to piece together the story of this unusual venue and the ranch's brief foray into the rodeo world.
 
Column in the Long Beach Independent announcing the May 30, 1953, premiere of "Rodeo Roundup"

Much of the information was unearthed by the Chatsworth Historical Society, with Research Director Ray Vincent doing the heavy lifting. It was Ray who tracked down most of the newspaper clippings in this post.
 
"The Cisco Kid": Wide shot of the rodeo arena

But when it comes to photos of the arena, the best source has been the "Cisco Kid" episode "Rodeo," which premiered Jan. 28, 1954. Filming on the episode would have taken place around the same time the actual rodeos were happening, and it appears that some of the rodeo people were also involved in the "Cisco Kid" shoot.
 
1952 aerial photo: Before the rodeo arena was built

The arena was situated immediately north of the heavily filmed Iverson Movie Ranch Western street. This aerial photo from 1952 shows what the area looked like shortly before the arena was built.
 
1954 aerial: The rodeo arena is now in place

In another aerial taken about two years later, we can see the rodeo arena north of the town set.
 
Recent aerial view of the former rodeo arena site (Bing Maps)

In today's landscape, the footprint of the old Iverson Movie Ranch rodeo arena would be inside the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village, just below the 118 Freeway.
 
"The Cisco Kid": A glimpse of the arena's grandstand
 
In this shot from "The Cisco Kid" we see a portion of the grandstand, which ran along the northern edge of the arena. The facility was said to have seating for as many as 5,000 spectators.
 
"The Cisco Kid": More grandstands, and Smooth Hill

Another "Cisco Kid" rodeo shot shows more of the grandstands along with Smooth Hill, a landmark that turned up in many movies due to its strategic position at the north end of the Western street.
 
"The Hills of Utah" (1951): The Western street, with Smooth Hill to the north

This was a fairly common movie view of Smooth Hill, which fills much of the space beyond the end of the Western street. This shot was taken a couple of years before the rodeo arena was built.
 
"Rodeo Time at Roundup Town": Ad running in the Valley Times, May 1953

When the weekend rodeos were happening — probably just during that summer of 1953, even though the arena stood from about 1953-1957 — the Western town played a big role in rodeo activities. Ads running in the local papers even referred to the location as "Roundup Town."
 
Be still, my palpitating heart!

I have a feeling this will make some of you Iverson Movie Ranch fans yearn for a time machine, but just imagine going to the rodeo in the early 1950s and having the run of the location ranch — even the Arabian Village!
 
Pony ride on the Iverson Movie Ranch Western street, ca. 1953

If you were a little kid at the time and were lucky enough to find your way to the rodeo, there's a pretty good chance you could have gone for a pony ride right on the Iverson Western street, as seen in this rare photo.
 
Pony ride's location, adjacent to famous movie buildings

The pony ride location was tucked in between the South Adobe and North Adobe. These movie buildings were featured in an in-depth series of posts about the Western street back in 2015, which you can find by clicking here.
 
"Roy Rogers Show" episode "Outcasts of Paradise Valley" (aired Jan. 9, 1955)

The space that was once occupied by the pony ride can be seen in this shot from "The Roy Rogers Show." The gap between the two adobe structures is visible behind the group of people walking down the Western street.
 
No sign of the pony ride during filming in 1954

Establishing a timeline for the pony ride requires some speculation, but the most likely scenario is that it operated only in 1953, when the TV rodeos were taking place and visitors were officially admitted to the ranch.
 
Item running in the San Bernardino County Sun, May 28, 1953

This clip ran a couple of days before the TV premiere, and the blurb at the bottom specifically mentions that the "Western set" — in other words the Western street — will be used to televise a variety of events.
 
Citizen News, June 6, 1953

Less than a week after the premiere, one L.A. paper declared the TV show was "growing in popularity each week." And there was already some confusion over the show's title — was it "Rodeo Roundup" or "Roundup Town"?
 
Valley Times, June 12, 1953

By the rodeo's third weekend, it was ready to add some stunt programming: a horseback wedding for actor and stuntman Bill Chaney, who appeared in about 20 movies from 1941-1958.
 
"The Cisco Kid": Rodeo arena shot showcases nearby movie rocks

The wide shot of the rodeo arena that we mentioned briefly up above, from "The Cisco Kid," includes some movie rocks in the background that were located near the east end of the Lower Iverson.
 
"The Cisco Kid": A slightly better look at those rocks

The rock formations are a little easier to recognize in this screen shot from the same "Cisco Kid" episode, "Rodeo."
 
A familiar movie rock lurks in the background

One of the most recognizable rock features in the group is Fireplace Rock, which turns up regularly in old movies and TV shows. The formation has also been called B&T, or Bugeye and Trapezoid, among other names.
 
"The Lone Ranger": Fireplace Rock
 
Fireplace Rock is featured prominently in this screen shot from the color season of the TV series "The Lone Ranger." The episode, "The Letter Bride," premiered Nov. 15, 1956.
 
Famous movie rocks that survive today

The main features of the formation are noted here, although the fireplace area is hidden in shadow.
 
"Man From Sonora" (1951): A better look at the fireplace area

The Johnny Mack Brown movie "Man From Sonora" filmed extensively in this area, and provides some of the best views of a number of the rocks surrounding the rodeo arena.
 
Fireplace Rock in modern times

Fireplace Rock has survived, and today it can be found perched above the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village. Click here for more about Fireplace Rock, "Man From Sonora" and some of the other rocks in this area.
 
Fireplace Rock's place in the world

In the satellite photo we looked at earlier, showing the approximate footprint of the rodeo arena, we can now pinpoint the location of Fireplace Rock, indicated here in green.
 
"East Gate Rock," located east of the Iverson Movie Ranch

Other movie rocks to the east of the rodeo arena have also survived, including one I call East Gate Rock. This rock was not located on Iverson property, but it showed up in its share of Iverson Movie Ranch productions.
 
"Texas City" (Monogram, 1952): East Gate Rock looms large

Here's one of East Gate Rock's many film appearances, in the Johnny Mack Brown B-Western "Texas City."
 
Iverson's rarely seen East Gate

The name "East Gate Rock" is based on the rock's proximity to the Iverson Movie Ranch's East Gate, which turns up in productions far less often than East Gate Rock itself.
 
"Gold Raiders" (The Three Stooges, 1951): A rare closeup for East Gate

The best look we get at Iverson's East Gate may be this shot in "Gold Raiders." The gate provided access to the Lower Iverson from Mayan Drive in the years before Topanga Canyon Boulevard went through.
 
"Atom Man vs. Superman" (Columbia serial, 1950)

East Gate Rock and its neighbors form a muscular rock wall in this shot from "Atom Man vs. Superman." If you work at it, you might be able to barely make out part of East Gate, just below East Gate Rock.
 
East Gate Rock

This is more or less the section of rock that has survived, and the section I refer to as East Gate Rock.
 
Most of the rocks were not as fortunate

Of course, if East Gate Rock is the part that survived, that means all the rest of this imposing formation did not. So, what happened to it? Let's check it out.
 
East Gate Rock today, as seen looking east from the mobile home park

This is what remains of East Gate Rock and that huge rock wall today. This rock is located on the east side of Topanga, across the street from the former Iverson Movie Ranch and today's Indian Hills Mobile Home Village.
 
The Topanga Cut, as seen in a 3-D satellite view (Google Maps)

Pulling back to view the same area in a satellite image, taken from above the mobile home park, we can begin to see what happened. This shot of the Topanga Cut includes the area that once contained the entire rock wall.
 
Two of the area's rock survivors

This shot identifies Fireplace Rock and East Gate Rock, the two major rock formations that used to serve as bookends for that huge rock wall.
 
Casualties of the Topanga Cut

The bulk of the rock formation was destroyed when the terrain was blasted away in the 1960s to form the Topanga Cut and connect Topanga Canyon Boulevard with the new 118 Freeway.
 
Aerial view of the current layout, showing where the rock wall used to be

Revisiting our aerial view of the mobile home park and the footprint of the old rodeo arena, we can see how the rock wall was perched precariously over what today is Topanga Canyon Boulevard.
 
Topanga Canyon Boulevard carves its way to the 118, through the Topanga Cut

When the freeway arrived and the land was carved up to put Topanga through, the rock wall had no chance of survival. You might say it didn't make the cut.
 
"Ride 'em Cowboy" (Abbott and Costello, 1942)

Here's another shot of the big rock wall during its illustrious Hollywood career. For the most part, the rocks seen in this shot were lost in the devastation wreaked by the Topanga Cut.
 
Nothing lasts forever — even famous movie rocks

It may be worth noting that the "wall of rock" was never really a wall — it consisted of separate rock formations that just happened to line up to create the illusion of a wall from certain filming angles.
 
"Ghost Town Renegades" (PRC, 1947)

I like this shot from the Lash LaRue B-Western "Ghost Town Renegades." Sometimes all it takes is a piece of rusting farm equipment to turn an ordinary field into something much more atmospheric. The rocks help too.
 
"Adventures of Captain Marvel" (Republic, 1941)

This action shot from "Captain Marvel" features a group of riders tearing across what would later become the rodeo grounds. The shot also showcases the full "rock wall" from East Gate Rock to Fireplace Rock and beyond.
 
Once again we can see which rocks would survive and which ones were headed for oblivion.
 
"Lawless Cowboys" (1951): Rodeo movie filmed in the Iverson Ranch Western town

The Whip Wilson movie "Lawless Cowboys" did a big rodeo-themed shoot in and around the Iverson Western street in 1951 — two years before the movie ranch built its rodeo arena.
 
"Lawless Cowboys": The rodeo comes to town

The movie is all about the "Central City Rodeo," and the town was festooned with flags, banners and all manner of rodeo regalia for the occasion.
 
"Lawless Cowboys": All decked out for the Central City Rodeo

In a case of life imitating art, the movie rodeo in "Lawless Cowboys" foreshadows the real rodeos that would be starting up in the same location less than two years later.
 
A calf is roped at the "Central City Rodeo" in "Lawless Cowboys"

The fake "Central City Rodeo" in "Lawless Cowboys" even has the same backdrop that would soon become a fixture of the real rodeo, with East Gate Rock and its neighbors popping up in the backgound.
 
Whip Wilson and Jim Bannon make plans from the fence area

I can only speculate about any possible connection between "Lawless Cowboys" and the decision by the Iverson Ranch to begin hosting rodeos, but it seems unlikely that it was just a coincidence.
 
Some familiar landmarks in the background

If anything, "Lawless Cowboys" serves as a blueprint for the future construction of the rodeo arena — including just where to put the fence and have all the cowboys hang out.
 
"Lawless Cowboys": The fence area is a magnet for cowboys

In the movie, the cowboys just naturally congregate around the fence.
 
"The Cisco Kid": The cowboys claim the high ground

That idea is echoed in "The Cisco Kid" two years later, only now the cowboys get to hang around an actual rodeo arena, where the view is better. The same tree and hill can again be seen in the background.
 
"The Cisco Kid": The business end of the rodeo arena

In another shot from "The Cisco Kid," we see the same group of cowboys lined up to watch the rodeo. From this angle we can also make out East Gate Rock and some of the other "rock wall" features in the background.
 
"Lawless Cowboys": Cowboys, a fence, a fistfight and East Gate Rock

Many of the angles are repeated in the two productions made two years apart. Back in '51 the cowboys were already clustering around the fence — and even found time for a fistfight — while East Gate Rock stood watch.
 
"The Cisco Kid": Pancho and the sisters

You may have noticed Leo Carrillo, who played Pancho on "The Cisco Kid," hanging around at the bottom of this screen shot. He's flanked by two women, and it turns out they're stunt-riding sisters Sharon and Shirley Lucas.
 
Trick-riding sisters Sharon and Shirley Lucas

Here's a better picture of the sisters, who grew up in Oklahoma, took their trick-riding act on the road in the '40s and went on to do stunt work and play bit parts in movies and on TV.
 
"The Cisco Kid": A stunt-riding exhibition on the Middle Iverson Ranch

While they were on the Iverson Ranch, the sisters were filmed performing some of their equestrian tricks for "The Cisco Kid," both in the rodeo arena and, as seen in this shot, on the Middle Iverson Ranch Set.
 
Leo Carrillo — Pancho on "The Cisco Kid," renaissance man in real life

Speaking of Leo Carrillo, you may have missed my recent post about an amusing Leo Carrillo-related goof on TV. If so, please click here to see the post.
 
"The Lone Ranger" episode "Dan Reid's Fight for Life" (aired Nov. 18, 1954)

While the rodeo arena was standing in the 1950s, bits and pieces of it would occasionally turn up in productions that were filming in the area. One of the best examples is this shot from the TV series "The Lone Ranger."
 
The rodeo arena finds its way into "The Lone Ranger"

The scene features a chase past End Rock — the big rock near the center of the frame. End Rock saw more than its share of chases, and has been featured before on the blog. You can click here to read more about End Rock.
 
Location of the old East Gate in today's landscape: Note the green "X."

If you're wondering where the Iverson Ranch's old East Gate would be in the modern landscape, the small green "X" marks its approximate location — just outside the driveway to the mobile home park, on Topanga.
 
East Gate in the "Roy Rogers Show" episode "Doc Stevens' Traveling Store" (Jan. 6, 1952)

I hope Indian Hills residents are able to savor the history as they pass through the ghost of the old East Gate each time they drive in or out of the mobile home park.
 
I want to give a shout-out to Ray Vincent and the Chatsworth Historical Society for their help finding information about the Iverson Movie Ranch rodeos. You can find more of the group's incredible Chatsworth research here.
 
You may hold the key to this story

It has been all but impossible to find actual photos of the Iverson rodeos or the "Rodeo Roundup" TV show, and we are still hoping to gather more details. If any readers have memories of the rodeos, or even photos (I can dream, can't I?), we would love to hear from you. Please email me at iversonfilmranch@aol.com.