"Alias Smith and Jones," Season 3: Roger Davis and Ben Murphy on the Upper Iverson
The early '70s TV Western "Alias Smith and Jones" still has a dedicated following today, and one of the show's many loyal fans got in touch recently to point me to an unusual Iverson Movie Ranch shoot for the series.
The boys ride past Gold Raiders Rock on the Upper Iverson's South Rim
A few things set this shoot apart from most. For one thing, it was the 1970s and filming on the Iverson Ranch had largely shut down. Production on the ranch during the '70s was relatively rare.
"Border Feud" (Lash LaRue Western, 1947): The concrete bridge, unadorned
This is what the bridge looked like when it wasn't hidden behind foliage. Plenty of Westerns opted to just leave it there and not worry about whether someone might be bothered by seeing a modern bridge in the background.
"Superman" (Columbia serial, 1948)
The "Superman" serial in 1948 decided to go ahead and put the bridge to use — that's Clark Kent ducking under it to change his outfit. The big valve to his right could be used to cut off the flow of water through the bridge, turning the concrete structure into a dam and creating a reservoir behind it.
If you're interested in learning more about the Superman shoot at the bridge, please click here to read a previous post examining the sequence. The post includes photos of what the bridge looks like today.
Catering for the crew on the Upper Iverson in 1972 (Posted on the IATSE Local 728 website)
Getting back to the "Alias Smith and Jones" shoot, the trade union IATSE — the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees — posted a set of behind-the-scenes photos from the shoot.
Gaffer Ron McLeish checks his light against a backdrop that includes "Ol' Roundtop"
The unusual IATSE photos give us a chance to salute some of those anonymous crew members — and we can still give shout-outs to a few famous rocks.
"Calamity Jane and the Texan" (1950): Wild Bill Hickok's grave
Here's one of Roundtop's movie appearances, in a scene featuring Wild Bill Hickok's grave — with Hickok's name spelled wrong on the grave marker. (Click here to read more about this sequence.)
Sadly, Bill died in February 2017 at age 79. At the time of the "Alias Smith and Jones" shoot in 1972, he was uncredited, working as a camera assistant. Over the course of his career he worked his way up from loader to second assistant to first assistant and finally camera operator. Bill's TV work included long runs on "Happy Days," "Falcon Crest," "The Guns of Will Sonnett," "Peyton Place" and other shows.
Laurie Lynn: Where are you now?
Laurie Lynn took part in the 1972 shoot as a stand-in. I wasn't able to find out anything else about her, in part because it turns out a number of women identified as "Laurie Lynn" have tried to break into the movies over the years. Let's hope she's one of the ones who made it.
Have you seen this man? (The answer is probably "Yes!")
Cecil Combs, another stand-in on "Alias Smith and Jones," was one of those "face in the crowd" actors who turned up in the background in a lot of movies and TV shows. He was in at least 200 productions going back to the 1940s — always uncredited. Cecil did more than his share of TV Westerns: 20 or more "Wagon Trains," close to 50 episodes of "The Virginian," at least 14 "Tales of Wells Fargos" ... here's to all the Cecil Combses out there!
Assistant director Charles Dismukes "rests his eyes" during his ample free time on the set
Charles Dismukes worked steadily behind the TV cameras throughout the '70s in a variety of roles — unit manager, assistant director, associate producer and producer, among others. He had long runs on "Baretta" and "Quincy M.E.," sharing in "Baretta's" Emmy nomination in 1977 for Outstanding Drama Series.
Don B. Courtney: Special effects
Don Courtney was a special effects man who worked at least into the 1980s, both on TV and in features. He kept busy on the TV series version of "Logan's Run" in the late '70s and on "Vega$" in 1980-1981.
Crew members cling to a rocky slope during shooting on the episode's climactic sequence
"Bushwack!" builds up to a bullet-riddled denouement that plays out on this rocky slope on the South Rim.
"Alias Smith and Jones": Just before the final shootout
This scene leading up to the final shootout shows the rocky slope in the background.
click here to see an old blog post about them.
"Zorro" TV episode "Zorro's Romance" (premiered Nov. 7, 1957): The Pixies
The enigmatic Pixies pop up in productions from time to time, although they tend to be camera-shy. That's them in the background of Disney's "Zorro" TV series.
The Pixies in recent times
On a visit to the Upper Iverson earlier this year, photographer and movie location researcher Jerry Condit snapped this photo of the Pixies from the same angle seen in the "Zorro" episode.
Director Jack Arnold offers instructions to his stars
Jack Arnold, who directed "Bushwack!" and four other "Alias Smith and Jones" episodes, was already an icon among science-fiction fans thanks to a certain creature feature he directed almost 20 years earlier.
"Creature From the Black Lagoon" (1954)
Even if all he had done was direct "Creature From the Black Lagoon," Jack Arnold would be a sci-fi legend. As monster movies go, it's a classic.
"Creature From the Black Lagoon"
For kids who watched it on TV back in The Day, including me — it was a staple on the "Chiller" movie series on Channel 11 in L.A. — "Creature From the Black Lagoon" was too close to our watery nightmares. You know, the old, "Help, I'm stuck to the bottom of the swimming pool!" Anyone else have those, or is it just me?
"Creature From the Black Lagoon": Accident on the set
The movie was also a bit of a headache for its star Julie Adams, who was reportedly almost knocked out in an accident on the set. Here director Arnold, at top left, is a concerned observer as a nurse administers first aid.
Part of the complex love story running through "Creature From the Black Lagoon"
In the widely reported on-set mishap, the adorable Adams, the object of the title Creature's procreation interests, bonked her head during the endless sequences when Chapman was hauling her around.
Ben Chapman gets fitted for his Gill Man suit
Chapman didn't actually look like a fish-lizard monster in real life. Julie could do worse.
"It Came From Outer Space" (1953): Another Jack Arnold sci-fi classic
Jack Arnold's legend status was cemented by "Creature," but he also directed a couple of other genre classics: "It Came From Outer Space" and "The Incredible Shrinking Man."
"Tarantula" (1955) — directed by Jack Arnold
Then there was "Tarantula." Sure, an oversized bug superimposed over a normal-sized background is a yawner by today's standards. But it's a cool movie for locations, filmed largely in the Southern California desert.
Julie Adams in an interview a few years ago
Adams, who has given many interviews over the years, explained that she never warmed up to "Julia," a name that was given to her by the studio — and the studio was generous enough to let her change it. By the way, Julie just turned 91 last October and is still going strong.
Adams holds an interesting place in the history of the Iverson Movie Ranch. Back when she was getting her acting career started in 1950, she landed the female lead in not one but six B-Westerns made by the small outfit Lippert Pictures. Lippert made all six movies in a span of five weeks, filming extensively all over the Iverson Ranch.
Promo still for "Marshal of Heldorado" (Lippert, 1950): Gorge Arch at right
All six Lippert Westerns were directed by Thomas Carr and filmed by master Iverson cinematographer Ernest Miller — possibly the greatest director and DP team in the history of the Iverson Movie Ranch, at least when it comes to appreciating the rocks and understanding how to showcase them.
The movies starred Jimmy Ellison and Russell Hayden, with support from B-Western stalwarts including Raymond Hatton, Fuzzy Knight, John L. Cason and Tom Tyler — and Julie held her own with the baddest of the bad.
Promo still for "Colorado Ranger" (Lippert, 1950): Julie in control
I'm working on a follow-up post about the Lippert Westerns, and Julie's role in them, which I plan to publish soon. If you like what you've seen so far of Julie — and if you like a lot of Iverson rocks — stay tuned!
Home page of the official Ben Murphy website (benmurphyfans.com)
A big shout-out to Marion Veal, who runs the official Ben Murphy website at benmurphyfans.com and is keeping the lamp lit for Ben and "Alias Smith and Jones." Marion was the one who found the terrific IATSE photos.
Below you'll find a link to a nice DVD set, "Big Iron Collection," featuring all six of the "Lippert Six" B-Westerns. I've also included a link to "Alias Smith and Jones: The Complete Series." The six Lippert Westerns all filmed on the Iverson Ranch, while I've only found the one "Alias Smith and Jones" episode so far that filmed on the ranch. I have the "Big Iron Collection," which is nice picture quality and is the source for screen shots seen above ...
Here are some links to various versions of "Creature From the Black Lagoon" — a reasonably priced DVD along with two Blu-ray sets, both of which include both the 2-D and the 3-D versions of the movie ...