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Film/TV Locations | love San Fernando Valley

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Film/TV Locations

Film/TV Locations


SFV Granny loves Westerns. They are still her favorite genre. They’re entwined in the family DNA.

My grandparents’ teen years growing up in LA included a lot of movie-going. Their generation was wowed by the magic of seeing film, even if they couldn’t hear any actors speaking words. My grand uncle was an accomplished pianist. His first job was playing  the piano accompaniment at the movies in the gold boomtown Jackson up in the Sierras where my grandma and he were born.

Going to the Saturday matinee was a big part of my parents’ growing up in Washington state. Who knew they were watching black and white scenery from the movie ranches in the San Fernando Valley and Placerita Canyon! Growing up in small towns in the West during the 1960s, we neighborhood kids sometimes went to the movies on a Saturday afternoon when my dad and other merchants organized events to bring our moms into town to shop.

But we were more familiar with Westerns through our TV watching, a new family past-time made fabulous when we got our first color TV in 1966. Again, many shows were filmed right in this area — Gunsmoke’s 635 episodes did not take place in barren Dodge City, Kansas after all, but in the oak-dotted hills of Placerita Canyon (at the very same set location as Deadwood, and even Little House on the Prairie made the Dakotas look like southern CA — hmmm, wonder why)!

Let’s face it, Westerns set in the rocks and hills around the western edge of the SFV had a big influence on us. The four kids in my family, and the four in my husband’s family were always playing cowboys and Indians growing up. One of my younger brothers especially loved Roy Rogers. SFV Granny well-remembers him at age 4 with his gun belt slung low on his skinny little hips, one eye perpetually closed as he’d look up at you, all tough-like. Imagine the fun of driving by Roger’s house recently over in West Hills, along Trigger Lane. Along with his Roy Rogers lunch box, little brother had treasured a plastic model of that famous palomino (who used to be seen in all his stuffed glory over in the Rogers’ Apple Valley museum on the desert side of the mountains). We all yearned for our own horse like Trigger! My favorite horse is still the golden palomino.

Yep, Westerns have been a deep part of three generations. Probably it’s the same for you as you watch this video montage.


Resources covering the SFV movie ranches

A former movie cowboy’s books

A SFV cowboy’s blog

This blog covers B westerns

Read more about each of the Movie ranches on Wikipedia


Movie Ranches

When Westerns became popular in the 1920s, the movie studios needed wide open spaces. Shooting outdoors provided the realism that sound stages couldn’t recreate. Movie ranches in the country were developed with western-looking buildings, while maintaining tracts of undeveloped acreage (which were needed for other outdoor epics like battle scenes, etc.).  There were eight large ranches and three smaller locations around the Valley. Just three have survived as remnants among the subdivisions that smothered the Valley after World War II. It must have seemed that the NW corner of the San Fernando Valley was the Old West incarnate, since so many gunslingers and horses tore up the dirt roads for decades!

The studios had a policy that their locations would be within a 30-35 mile zone to accommodate actors/crew having to drive to locations. But with all the development gobbling up land, even back in the old days most of these locations fell just within that zone. Certainly in modern times it is a miracle that some of the working ranches have been able to stay intact, but then they are the furthest out in either Simi Valley or Santa Clarita’s Placerita Canyon.

NW San Fernando Valley

Iverson Movie Ranch

Originally homesteaded in 1888 by a single immigrant woman, this location was used for more movies — particularly westerns — and TV shows than any other place. Cowboy film historian Jerry England estimates the number at 2000, but Wikpedia estimates 3500 productions and episodes! Anyway, the world knows practically every inch of the Iverson Movie Ranch location since we’ve been looking at it on film for over 100 years! Yes, the Iversons began renting to Hollywood for the very first full-length feature in 1913 — The Squaw Man, Cecil B. DeMille’s first film. The TV show The Virginian was shot here for years. Roy Rogers worked at this location so often that he ended up building his house down the road in Chatsworth (Double R Bar Ranch). Check out the excellent photos and research of the blogs dedicated to these locations. They’ve got a phenomenal collection of film stills, which can easily consume an afternoon of browsing.

What killed this location for filming was construction of the 118 Freeway through Santa Susana Pass. It cut right through the middle of Iverson Ranch. Essentially the traffic noise made it impossible to film. Then the Cal-West condo subdivision was built on the lower half.  SFV Granny tried for a time to buy a condo among the rocks of the former studio ranch, just because the location was so familiar from seeing it on TV while growing up (had no idea it was SFV at that time). She still loves that condo development. There’s a little mobile home park built where the fake western town had been. For some time we could still drive up into the upper half of the movie ranch among the canyons. But in recent years a gated community called Indian Hills has been built there at the end of Topanga Boulevard. Boo hoo!

Iverson Ranch modern photos

Iverson Ranch and Bell Moving Picture Ranch

Iverson Rocks and Garden of the Gods – some of the hills and rock formations are preserved by the Santa Monica Mountains Nature Conservancy for hikers.

DIRECTIONS:  From the 118 Freeway, exit at Topanga Canyon Blvd and turn left (south). Straight ahead where the big houses are on the hill was the upper part of Iverson Ranch. You’ll pass the mobile home park on your right, which was part of the middle ranch. At Santa Susana Pass Road turn right (west). You’re looking at Stoney Point on the left, which was also on the ranch. Turn right into the development at Red Mesa Road. Walk the short trail to see the Lone Ranger’s rock and an old camera mounting.


Bell Moving Picture Ranch

Bell Ranch is  located above Iverson in the Simi Hills of the west Valley — some of Elvis Presley’s first movie Love Me Tender was shot there. It’s still remote. It makes you wonder how in the world they hauled up heavy film equipment to the rocks.

Bell Ranch

DIRECTIONS: From the 118 Freeway, exit at Topanga Canyon Blvd and turn left (south). At Santa Susana Pass Road turn right (west). Go past the Iverson Movie Ranch site and the Spahn Ranch site, both on the right side of road.  To enter the Berry/Bell Ranch from the eastern side, turn left on Lilac Lane and head to the end of the road. You’ll be on the eastern side of the ranch. To reach the western side of the ranch, instead of turning on Lilac Lane, turn left on Box Canyon Road. Head up the hill until you find Studio Road on the left. Turn there and head on up. The end of the paved Studio Road is the approximate location of the Bell Ranch western street.


Spahn Movie Ranch

This isolated location was once owned by silent film star William S. Hartwhose house is  just over in Santa Clarita. He was very interested in making authentic westerns. There once was a western town built for filming used during the 1940s- 1960s. Episodes of Bonanza were filmed here.

After it was practically deserted except for an elderly owner/caretaker, Spahn Ranch became infamous when Charles Manson and his followers holed up in the old western film town.

In the upper reaches of the canyon is a shallow cave where the Manson women would come with the children to hide from the police. They actually had a phone line strung across Red Mesa from the house below to let them know when it was safe to come back down.

DIRECTIONS: Today the Spahn Ranch is located within the boundaries Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park. The canyon is just below the historic — very steep — dirt stage coach road that once was the only way in and out of the Valley, and on to LA. It’s bounded on the other side by winding Santa Susana Road. At the top is a bridge across to a private residence. Enter further down the road by walking in. The buildings were burned down in a wildfire, then bulldozed, and it’s now overgrown. A couple of locals have posted videos on YouTube showing how to find Spahn Ranch. It’s opposite, below the road, and south of Iverson Ranch.


Brandeis Ranch

This is the fourth ranch in this NW corner of the San Fernando Valley, tucked in next door and west of the upper Iverson Ranch. Today it’s subdivided within the gated community of Indian Hills right up against the rocky hills. It was small to begin with at 160 acres, compared to its huge neighbor. And much of it remained private for the owner’s use. He eventually closed it to filming. The original ranch entrance was about a quarter mile west of the Iverson Ranch, just before the gated access road on the right.


Simi Hills Locations

If you continue up and over Santa Susana Pass Road, on the “down” side of the pass, but still in the Santa Susana Mountains, you come to Ray “Crash” Corrigan’s Corriganville Movie Ranch. He’d been a movie cowboy/stuntman and developed this multi-dimensional film location. Clark Gable had taken Ray quail hunting on this land while on a break filming “Mutiny on the Bounty” in SFV. Ray liked the property so much he bought 250 acres. Some 3500 projects including The African Queen and Ft.Apache were filmed here from 1937-1965. Ray opened part to the public in 1949 as a western amusement park more popular than either Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm. Some weekends there were 22,000 tourists. In 1966 Bob Hope bought it and changed the name to Hopetown. He added a race course. View then and now dirt bike racing.

The site is now preserved as Corriganvile Regional Park. There are still old remnants to see. But part of the impetus to save the location stems from its function as a wild animal corridor. Something cool you can also do from this location is hike along the original stagecoach road that was once the only way in and out of the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles. The Stagecoach Trail is one mile long, and well over 100+ years old. From it you can catch longer trails west over the Simi Hills into Chatsworth Park.


If you’re on Santa Susana Pass Road, turn on Smith Road when you round the bend. Or take the 118 W to Rocky Peak Road and get off exit 32. Follow Santa Susana Pass Road to Smith Road.

7001 Smith Road

Simi Valley 93063

Burro Flats

Let’s come back to the San Fernando Valley and work our way on down the west side of the Simi Hills. Up in the hills along with Bell Moving Picture Ranch, there was filming at Burro Flats in the 1940s– today a significant and protected Native American site on Boeing private property at the top of Bell Canyon. In this film clip of The Cisco Kid, you can see what the area looks like when the camera pans those hills. It’s partly the Indian cave, and partly the sensitive old Rocketdyne Rocket Engine Test Facility that Boeing purchased, as to why the area is off -limits to the public. But it is undeveloped and could make a special open space park one day — once the nuclear contamination is finally cleaned up from Rocketdyne’s 1959 experimental nuclear reactor meltdown, which was the worst ever in US history.

Francis Lederer’s property                                                                                                                                                                               L.A. Cultural Monument #135                                                                                                                                                                       23130 Sherman Way                                                                                                                                                                                                 West Hills 91307                                                                                                                                                                                             Phone: (818) 610-3228                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             The  film star was honorary mayor of Canoga Park for 25 years                                                                                                                       His property was adjacent to the open landscape of El Escorpion Mexican land grant                                                                            Watch Lederer in The Return of Dracula in California


Famous Players-Lasky Movie Ranch

Also known as Lasky Mesa Ranch, purchased in 1914.

Probably one of the most famous movie scenes in the world is of Scarlet O’Hara standing on the hillside in her torn dress, raising her fist to the sky declaring that she’d never be hungry again. Guess what! It was filmed at 6:00 a.m. one morning at the Lasky Movie Ranch. Not like there haven’t been plenty of attempts to develop it, such as Bob Hope’s plans to build 750 houses and a golf course above West Hills. But the wide open spaces of the ranch have been preserved to this day by very dedicated public servants who bought it for the people.

This wasn’t Jesse Lasky’s first film venture. He actually started off in a barn in Hollywood with Cecil B. DeMille and Samuel Goldwyn making the first-ever feature, The Squaw Man. Interiors were filmed in their little barn (the first movie sound stage), but outdoor scenes were filmed at Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth. These pioneer filmmakers were already out roaming the Valley for remote locations in their Model T’s, bumping along the dirt roads out to “the sticks.”

Eventually, in 1963 the Ahmanson family Home Savings and Loan purchased the land with the intention of building a new city in the hills! Long years of negotiating and lawsuits ensued, led by a coalition of women from the Conejo Valley. The Lasky Mesa is now protected within the huge Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve.

Crummer Ranch Road                                                                                                                                                                                    Calabasas 91302



Northern Film Ranches

North of Simi Valley

Big Sky Movie Ranch

This Simi Valley ranch was once 10.000 acres, owned by J. Paul Getty. Part of the ranch has since been developed into housing subdivisions, but many attempts have been made to preserve the rest of the open space. It’s the largest movie ranch still in operation.

Home to Bonanza  It makes sense that Michael Landon would bring his own show here later, having filmed at the ranch in his Bonanza days.

Filming Little House on the Prairie

Visiting the location of Little House.

Other productions associated with Landon and filmed here were Father Murphy and Highway to Heaven.

The Thornbirds starring Richard Chamberlain was filmed here.

Besides a film location, it’s also a site for special events and weddings.


Individual Locations


The Roy Rogers TV Show

This was filmed in Roy’s 300 acre backyard in the Santa Susana Hills, which has since been subdivided into 1 acre ranchettes. It’s one last pocket of the Valley still zoned for horses. The other is the opposite far NE crescent of Kagel Canyon, Lake View Terrace, Shadow Hills, and La Tuna Canyon.

RR Bar Ranch

28801 W. Trigger Street



Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Brad and Stacy’s house

24124 Welby Way

West Hills


The publicity stills from outside SFV come from the terrific treasure trove compiled by You can enjoy much, much more at that website.

This is Beale’s Cut

Movie history of Beale’s Cut

Beale’s Cut

Tom Mix Stunt at Beale’s Cut


Santa Clarita Valley

History of the Monogram/Melody Movie Ranch location, “B” westerns we grew up with, “Gunsmoke,” and Placerita Canyon

Gene Autrey at Placerita Canyon western ranch set

Gene Autrey and Melody Movie Ranch

Bob Steele and Blanch Mehaffey at Placerita Canyon

Lucille Ball at Placerita Canyon

Voodoo Man at Placerita Canyon

Movie set of Holes

Mary Pickford at Piru Hotel