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 iversonmovieranch@gmail.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 iversonmovieranch@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Commemorating one of the baddest of the Western bad guys — Glenn Strange gets an Iverson Ranch rock dedicated in his honor

Glenn Strange, fixin' to do some ambushing at "Glenn Strange Rock" in "The Lone Ranger"

Something's happening this month that will be of interest to fans of the Iverson Movie Ranch, "The Lone Ranger" and perennial Western bad guy Glenn Strange — Glenn is having a rock dedicated in his name.

Glenn Strange as Sam the Bartender on "Gunsmoke"

You might remember Glenn as Sam Noonan, the gruff but lovable bartender on "Gunsmoke." But before he mellowed out enough to tend bar in Dodge for 12 seasons, most of his characters were harder to love.

Glenn Strange as Frankenstein's Monster

Sometime after Boris Karloff decided he was sick of being typecast as Frankenstein's Monster — and after brief, not entirely successful stints as the Monster by horror icons Lon Chaney Jr. and Bela Lugosi — it was Glenn Strange who stepped up to the plate.

Strange donned the green facepaint and neckbolts for Universal's final three Frankenstein movies of the '40s, making his debut as Frankenstein's Monster in "House of Frankenstein" in 1944.

Karloff stepped up from his old role as the Monster to play the Mad Doctor this time around, and Chaney returned to his familiar role as sad sack Larry Talbot — aka the Wolf Man.

Strange didn't rate a mention of his name on the lobby card or other promo material for "House of Frankenstein," part of a conscious effort by the studio to downplay that the role had been handed off yet again.

Swedish poster for "House of Frankenstein" (1944)

The lack of recognition for Strange's work as the Monster went global, as in this example from Sweden, where, as usual, Strange's name is nowhere to be found — even though his face is prominently depicted.

Poor Elena Verdugo had a lot of monsters to contend with in "House of Frankenstein," but Lon Chaney's Wolf Man was especially persistent in letting his intentions be known.

Verdugo was much more receptive to Chaney when he wasn't in one of his "moods."

Red "X" poster for "House of Frankenstein"

The studio made a point of marketing the sex angle. Here it's Anne Gwynne's character who's depicted in peril, although Gwynne's name is kept out of it — as is Glenn Strange's, yet again.

Anne Gwynne — World War II pinup girl

This is what Anne Gwynne — no relation to "Herman Munster," Fred Gwynne — looked like in the flesh. She was one of the most popular pinups among U.S. servicemen during World War II.

Two monsters share a tender moment in "House of Frankenstein"

Karloff and Strange — the former Frankenstein's Monster and the new one — are featured in a promo still for "House of Frankenstein." Karloff, who reportedly had health problems related to the heavy makeup, appears to be checking on how Strange is feeling under all that greasepaint.

"House of Dracula": Glenn Strange has another go at the Monster

Strange apparently didn't mind the makeup, the anonymity or other inconveniences of playing the Monster, tackling the role two more times — in "House of Dracula" in 1945 and "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" in 1948.

Onslow Stevens and Glenn Strange in "House of Dracula" (1945)

By the time of "House of Dracula," Boris Karloff had seen enough of Universal's monsters and bowed out of the franchise for the time being, opening the door for Onslow Stevens to slide into the role of the Mad Doctor.

"Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948)

It was only a matter of time before Universal brought in Abbott and Costello to take the series in a whole different direction — and once again, Glenn Strange was on board in all his green glory.

"Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein": Bela Lugosi and Glenn Strange

Strange wound up working with all three of the movies' "Big Three" classic horror icons — Karloff, Chaney and Lugosi. Here he has a scene with Bela in "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein."

Glenn Strange in his "Abbott and Costello" monster makeup

The movie may have played the monster thing for laughs, but Glenn was as terrifying as ever.

"The Lone Ranger," episode one: "Enter the Lone Ranger" (premiered Sept. 15, 1949)

Still, the scene that cemented Glenn Strange's place in TV history and the annals of Western bad-guydom took place one year after Glenn wiped off the green goo for the last time, and it took place on the Iverson Movie Ranch.

It was 1949 and TV was just getting up to speed — with "The Lone Ranger" poised to become one of its first big successes — when Strange, as Butch Cavendish, masterminded the ambush of the Texas Rangers that launched the saga of the Lone Ranger — all from a perch behind the rock that will now bear his name.

Glenn Strange Rock in modern times

The rock where Strange made TV history back in 1949 remains in place today on the former Iverson Movie Ranch. The rock is on public land and is easy to get to, so "Lone Ranger" fans can visit the spot whenever they want.

This is what Glenn Strange Rock looks like from a bit farther back — that's it on the right.

Butch Cavendish would have been perched on the south side of the rock during the "Lone Ranger" ambush — on a precarious slope, presumably with some scaffolding in place to make his stay more hospitable.

I suppose there's some poetic justice in the fact that the spot where the venomous Cavendish once did his nasty business is now home to a massive infestation of poison oak.

Glenn Strange Rock keeps some good company — the Phantom, on the left, appears in hundreds of productions, and in the center is the "laundry rock" made famous by Laurel and Hardy as the foundation for the massive pile of Foreign Legion laundry in the 1939 RKO comedy "The Flying Deuces."

Stan Laurel stands atop the famous laundry pile in "The Flying Deuces"

In fact, Glenn Strange Rock apparently had a hand in that famous laundry scene — it's probably the source of the telltale bump noted here. (You can read all about the Laurel and Hardy laundry scene by clicking here.)

The prolific and imposing Glenn Strange may not have received the recognition he deserved during his career, but the dedication of Glenn Strange Rock should begin to make up for that oversight.

A special event celebrating the dedication of the rock takes place Friday, Sept. 22, at the Valley Relics Museum, 21630 Marilla St. in Chatsworth, Calif. Doors open at 6 p.m., with the presentation set for 7 p.m.

Julie Ann Ream, the niece of Glenn Strange, will be on hand to give the inside scoop on her famous uncle, and will present the first episode of "The Lone Ranger." I plan to be there to help out if needed.

Valley Relics Museum founder Tommy Gelinas shows off the old Iverson Movie Ranch sign

The event is a fund raiser for the Valley Relics Museum, which is doing much-needed work to preserve the history of the San Fernando Valley. Some readers may recall that earlier this year I discovered an old sign for the Iverson Movie Ranch at the museum.


I hope to see some of you there next week! For more about Glenn Strange Rock and the "Lone Ranger" ambush, including a map to the site, please click here to see my post from 2015.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

George Arliss and the cast and crew of the early Warner Bros. soundie "The Green Goddess" travel deep into the Iverson Gorge

"The Green Goddess" (Warner Bros., 1930)

Some terrific Iverson Movie Ranch footage surfaced in a few clips that turned up on the TCM website from the VERY early Warner Bros. sound movie "The Green Goddess," starring Oscar winner George Arliss.

The movie was completed in 1929 but was held back for a while before its release in February 1930. This was right at the advent of sound in Hollywood, and the studio produced both a silent version and a sound version.

This shot features a column of people marching up the Iverson Gorge, with a fairly large cast assembled for the shoot. You'll notice that the column extends up the hill and off the frame at top left.

It's a hard movie to find all in one piece, but TCM.com features three short clips from "The Green Goddess," all of which contain at least a little Iverson Movie Ranch footage. Click here to get right to the clips.

Tornado's Mine Rocks (Iverson Gorge)

Jerry Condit snapped this shot in the Iverson Gorge in 2014. I call this small rock cluster the Tornado's Mine Rocks because they point to the rocky alcove where Tornado's Mine, named for Zorro's horse, used to stand.

The same cluster of rocks appears in the "Green Goddess" shot, as noted here. Jerry's photo above closely matches this angle, although the movie shot is taken from a little higher.

If you wanted to find that same spot today — and it's on public land, having been preserved as part of the Garden of the Gods Park — you could take the 118 to Topanga and head south.

Turn right at Santa Susana Pass Road, then right on Redmesa Road. You'll probably notice Lone Ranger Rock on the right, which is your cue to park — anywhere on Redmesa, below the condos.

Find your way down into the Gorge and east to the Tornado's Mine Rocks — there are several possible routes. I usually take a direct route down the embankment, cutting across just south of Lone Ranger Rock.

The spot where Lone Ranger Rock is marked on Google Maps is a little off. The actual rock is a short distance south of where Google says it is.

Here's a zoomed-in version of the Google Map so you can read the erroneous labeling of Lone Ranger Rock. It's only off by a little, but it's enough to matter.

Be careful if you go there because that embankment is slippery and the whole Gorge tends to be riddled with rattlesnakes and poison oak. Avoid the condos too, as they're private property.

Getting back to "The Green Goddess" and that shot at the top of this post, it's a not-so-subtle composite that places a fake building in the background, along with a painted version of the "Himalayas."

This image sums up in the most general terms what's going on in the shot.

The rocks, people and trees in the bottom section of the shot are real, and are filmed on the Iverson Ranch. I was able to identify Hawk Rock, which helps pinpoint where the location shoot took place.

The people in the bottom left corner are the same ones marching up the Gorge in the shot with the Tornado's Mine Rocks. That part of the frame is filmed live on location.

"The Green Goddess": Plane crash in the "Himalayas"

A key plot point in the movie involves a plane crash in the Himalayas. The crashed plane was filmed in Iverson's Upper Gorge, with the familiar Hole in the Wall rocks visible in the background.

Same rocks seen in the plane crash shot above

The people who live in the Cal West Townhomes know those rocks well — they're still holding down the Hole in the Wall area at the end of Sierra Pass Place, the first of the driveways into the condos off Redmesa Road.

This shot indicates the specific rocks that are visible in the shot above taken among the condos.

Alice Joyce and H.B. Warner meet "The Raja," played by George Arliss,
in "The Green Goddess"

The crash survivors meet The Raja in a sequence I initially assumed was filmed in the studio. I soon learned that appearances can be deceiving in "The Green Goddess."

The Gorge Arch and a portion of the "Green Goddess" set

The "meeting the Raja" sequence turns out to be filmed on a large set that was built in the Iverson Gorge. This shot, with the Gorge Arch rock formation at top right, pinpoints the location.

"The Silent Man" (1917): The Gorge Arch, 12 years earlier

The arch was already a "veteran movie rock" by the time "The Green Goddess" filmed at the site in 1929. The unusual rock formation's film resume goes back at least to 1917, when it was part of a massive shoot on the Lower Iverson for the William S. Hart movie "The Silent Man."

A portion of the "Green Goddess" set in the Iverson Gorge

The "Green Goddess" set may have been the first major set built on the Iverson Ranch in the sound era. The ranch was about to experience a boom as the arrival of the talkies fueled a surge in film production.

"The Utah Kid" (1930): early set in Iverson's Garden of the Gods

During the same period, a small Western town set stood a short distance to the west, just across the Gorge, in the Garden of the Gods. This set, seen in "The Utah Kid," may have been left over from the silent era.

"The Utah Kid": three adobe buildings beneath the Garden of the Gods behemoths

While the "Green Goddess" and "Utah Kid" sets appear unrelated from a production standpoint, they are linked historically, standing on nearby sections of the Iverson Ranch circa 1929-1930, during the transition to sound.

It was a dynamic time for Hollywood as it braced for the boom that the talkies would bring. I broke down the "Utah Kid" set in a post a couple of years back, which you can read by clicking here.

The 1923 version of "The Green Goddess" — not filmed at Iverson

It's easy to mix up 1930's "The Green Goddess" with Goldwyn's silent version, released in 1923. The 1923 movie also starred George Arliss and Alice Joyce, but appears to have been filmed mainly on the East Coast.

Plane crash scene from the 1923 movie — filmed on an indoor set

The 1923 version of "The Green Goddess" also features the staging of a plane crash — considered spectacular at the time. But a careful look at the background reveals that the scene was created in the studio.

For the period, the production team did a good job of creating a wall of fake rocks. Even so, upon close examination it becomes apparent that these "rocks" are a studio concoction.

Poster for the 1930 Warner Bros. version of "The Green Goddess"

By 1929, when the Warner Bros./Vitaphone/Iverson Movie Ranch version of "The Green Goddess" was filmed, virtually all of the studios had set up headquarters in Southern California.

1930 "Green Goddess" set, Iverson Gorge

Both the Iverson property — still not yet formally known as the "Iverson Movie Ranch" — and the film industry as a whole were poised by 1930 to experience a huge boom, with Hollywood's "Golden Age" just around the corner.