Monday, January 31, 2011

Trip to Iverson Ranch

On Saturday our film class went to the Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth. Iverson Movie Ranch is one of the most filmed areas in the world, if not THE most. From silent movies including many starring Buster Keaton, to the Lone Ranger, to "The Fighting Seabees," to The Virginian television show, and on and on, the Iverson Ranch has been the set for at least 2,000 movies (Numbers vary depending on what source you read).

The rocky terrain and narrow, winding roads frequently turned up in Republic serials of the 1940s. I was delighted to learn that my favorite serial (not that I've seen all that many), JUNGLE GIRL, was filmed here. In addition, a silent movie that we viewed at the Lone Pine Film Festival, THE STOLEN RANCH, was filmed here as well.

During its heyday, the ranch had a complete western street, a three-sided ranch house with accompanying barn, and many small buildings that usually were used as outlaw shacks, stagecoach stops, and the like.

In 1966, the State of California began construction on the Simi Valley Freeway which cut the Iverson ranch in half. This freeway ended the use of the ranch as a viable movie location because of the high sound levels caused by traffic.

Although much of the land has now been divided and developed into condominiums (how depressing is that?), there is a part of the ranch, including the famous "Garden of the Gods," where many rock formations that were seen in many an old western, can still be visited.

On our tour, we were told that dogs were welcome, so I took mine. Which, in hindsight, was a minor mistake. There were about 20 people on the tour, but my two beasts were the only dogs that showed up. And while everybody loved them and fawned over them, Annie would not stop whining - she does that when she's very excited. Unfortunately I forgot about that little annoying habit until we were there, and then it was too late.

Once we got up into the rock formations, I let the dogs off the leash. They were perfectly happy mingling with the group and Annie stopped whining. But once we got back to the street level and to another location, I had to put them back on the leash. And Annie started to whine again. Still, as much as I tried to keep her quiet and I kept them away form the group, I think after a while Annie's whining was getting on people's nerves, so we left after the group moved on. And because I had to hang back, I didn't get to listen to all of E.J.'s lecture at the various spots. Oh well. Lesson Learned. And now I know how to get there, and I can go there at my leisure. It looks like a terrific place to hike.

Here are some photos that I managed to take.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chaplin Fest Hits the Big Time

You might remember me mentioning the upcoming ChaplinFest next weekend in Newhall. Exciting news today is that the festival has hit the big time and has a full length feature today on AOL news Web site. Go here for the full article.

Here's a clip of the last scene from MODERN TIMES, which was filmed on the Sierra Highway neaby.

If you're interesting in partaking of the many events at Chaplin Fest next weekend, here's their website. I wish I could go, but I'll be in Phoenix visiting my great-uncle George and my cousins.

E.J. Stephens, who spearheaded the Chaplin Fest, is the teach of the Newhallywood film class I took, which ended yesterday with a tour of the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth. I'll be posting pics of that later. But if you missed the class and would like to attend, E.J. is offering the class again in March. Go to the SCV Historical Society's page for information.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

What I'm Reading Now

I believe it was Ron Scheer over at Buddies in the Saddle that recommended this book to me:

Here's the description on the back:

"Wagon boss Hugh Hitchcock knows the cowboy life better than most: In 1883 if you’re a cowboy, you can’t own a cow and you are stigmatized as a drunk. Worse, you are exploited by the wealthy cattle owners who fence the range, replace traditions and trust with written rules of employment, refuse to pay a livable wage, and change things “that ought to be left alone.” The cowboys working in the Canadian River country of the Texas Panhandle decide to fight back, to do the unthinkable: go on strike.

In this celebrated novel, Elmer Kelton uses the true but little-known Canadian River incident to focus on the changes brought to ranching by big-money syndicates."

For those of you interested in learning about this strike, instead of running a search on "Canadian River Strike," you're better off running a search under "Cowboy Strike of 1883." There's plenty of material out there.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

True Grit Pulp Covers

To celebrate TRUE GRIT's ten Oscar nominations this week, here are a gallery of pulp covers that display what "True Grit" means to me. To me, it's a combination of characteristics such as courage, honesty, a pioneer spirit, and the ability to stand up to the toughest of tests. Even though a western hero might be flawed (such as Rooster Cogburn), there is still an innate sense of the importance of doing the right thing. So these covers depict those characteristics for me. And, of course, women of the frontier had plenty of grit themselves, and so they are represented in some of these covers as well.

So what does "True Grit" mean to you? Is it something different than how I picture it?

WEST, September 10, 1927

FRONTIER STORIES, September 1927

ADVENTURE, June 1934

WESTERN STORY, August 26, 1939

WESTERN STORY, May 16, 1936

RANCH ROMANCES, August No. 2, 1931

WESTERN STORY, January 12, 1929

WILD WEST WEEKLY, May 12, 1934

PETE RICE, May, 1934

LARIAT, June 1934



WILD WEST WEEKLY, June 9, 1934


WESTERN STORY, December 27, 1941

BIG BOOK WESTERN, March-April 1937


WILD WEST WEEKLY, March 17, 1934

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Laurie's Wild West Has Gone International

Some of you might remember the great Spanish blog I discovered last year, Acotaciones. I wrote a short history of pulp Westerns and WILD WEST WEEKLY and now it's been posted on Acotaciones - translated into Spanish. You can check it out here.

I can't read it, but I can say it looks really good! And it's wonderful to think that pulps and my favorite, WILD WEST WEEKLY, can now be appreciated in Spanish.

Thanks, Enrique!

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Kevin Costner on the Dilemma of the Western Movie

Kevin Costner was interviewed in the Sunday L.A. Times yesterday and he had some memorable comments about why it's been so difficult to make Western movies nowadays. The discussion began with his comments on making Dances with Wolves (1993) for $16 million. Can you imagine making Dances with Wolves today and what it would cost? The shot below, by the way, is the only scene in the movie that was made with CGI, according to Costner.

Anyway, here is the question and his answer on the Western movie:

And this year "True Grit" is considered one of the year's best films. Why do you think Americans seem to be so ambivalent about the genre?

Because mostly they're not done well. It was a very complicated time, and filmmakers tend to simplify them with the black hat, white hat. When they were enjoying their largest acceptance back in the '50s and '60s, [filmmakers] just got lazier and lazier. When they're done really well, there's a lot of dilemma because the way you and I live, if someone threatens us, there are three or four different layers that we can go to — the police, our politics, our PR person, our agent, our lawyer — to arbitrate our problems. Back then you had nobody to arbitrate your problems, and very often you found yourself even against the law because it's not a cliché for the lawman to have been bought back then. If somebody came and wanted your property, you had to make up your mind quickly. Very few of us have those instincts now about how we would behave. And so if you can create those in your story — the dilemma that men and women faced — then they can be incredibly entertaining.

Your thoughts, please. I tend to agree with him.

You can read the entire interview here.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Morning Hike: Walker Ranch

The girls and I went for a hike this morning. Since I moved to Santa Clarita I've been sticking mainly to walks around town or a few select parks, mainly because I didn't want to try any hiking trails on my own. But after my sour and self-pitying mood of yesterday, I decided I needed to get out, come hell or highwater. I found this great site that belongs to the local Community Hiking Club, and their page on trail destinations is fantastic with very good directions.

I decided to do something easy, especially since the dogs aren't hiking dogs per se. We went to the Walker Ranch Trailhead off of Placerita Canyon Road at about 9 AM this morning. I was wondering if there would be anyone else there; even with the dogs, I'd feel better if there were a few other human beings around. I shouldn't have worried: there were already 8 other cars in the parking area when I got there. But while on the hike, I only encountered two groups of people.

As for what kind of a hike it is, I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

We went up the Waterfall Trail, but we stopped at a certain point; mainly because this was the girls' first real hike and they were just learning to encounter things like crossing water. This coming from two dogs who don't even like to walk on a wet sidewalk when somebody's got their sprinklers running.

Besides, we hit an especially dicey part and with me just wearing tennis shoes (don't ask; I have perfectly good hiking boots at home), I decided to turn back.

But what a glorious day. It certainly set my mood upright again, and it definitely got me to thinking of joining the local hiking club.

As for the girls, they learned to cross creeks and even did a little bouldering. Mt. Everest, here we come!

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Photo Finish Friday: Vasquez Rocks

Vasquez Rocks. Taken April 24, 2010.

Class #3 of Newhallywood on Location, occurring tomorrow from 1-4, will consist of a field trip to famous movie locations such as Vasquez Rocks, Beale's Cut, and Halfway House Cafe. Go to the Santa Clarita Historical Society main page for more information.

Photo Finish Friday is a series hosted by Leah J. Utas. Other participants are The Londonholic, Buddies in the Saddle, and Stumbling the Walk.

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