Film industry pioneer William N. Selig with cowboy actors and Blackfoot Indians (1912)
Back before the Hollywood film industry existed, William Nicholas Selig — known today as "the man who invented Hollywood" — settled on the Edendale section of L.A. to open Southern California's first film studio.
Rented bungalow at 1845 Allesandro St. in Edendale — site of Selig's first West Coast studio
It was 1909, and this rented bungalow on Allesandro Street — today's Glendale Boulevard — is said to be where it all started. Soon as many as 30 studios — including Pathe, William Fox, Bison Film Co., Keystone and other early operations — would be in business along a four-block stretch of Allesandro.
Later version of Selig's Edendale studio, with its fancy new gate
Allesandro between Effie and Duane, in what is now the Silver Lake-Echo Park neighborhood, was the forerunner of Hollywood — the West Coast base for a film industry that was still finding its footing in the early teens.
Google street view of the Jack in the Box on Glendale Boulevard in Silver Lake
Almost nothing survives today of the original Edendale studios, but there are exceptions. Notice the large building designated here with a blue arrow, tucked in behind the Jack in the Box on Glendale Boulevard.
The first Hollywood studio, the Nestor Motion Picture Co., would open in late 1911. But almost a year before that milestone, William Selig's Edendale operation, Selig Polyscope Co., made a short Western called "The Outbreak."
Still photo from filming of "The Outbreak"
Almost nothing is known about "The Outbreak" — not even who starred in it or who directed it. The movie itself is lost, but one photo that survives from the film's production contains more than its share of history.
"Santa Fe Stampede" (Republic, 1938): An early Corriganville appearance by Fort Apache Rock
The smooth-faced rock outcropping casts a striking and immediately identifiable profile in its screen appearances — which until now were known to date back only to the late 1930s.
"Wyoming Outlaw" (Republic, 1939)
Almost everything we previously knew about Fort Apache Rock came from productions spanning less than 30 years, from the earliest filming at Corriganville in late 1937 until the arrival of the 118 Freeway in the 1960s.
With progress comes sacrifice, and sadly, Fort Apache Rock became a casualty of the freeway that today is a major route from Simi Valley and Ventura County into the San Fernando Valley and L.A.
"Tarzan the Ape Man" (1932): One of Ray Corrigan's first gorilla suits
Corrigan had just found his way into the movie business five years earlier, starting out as a stuntman and an uncredited guy in a gorilla suit — including an appearance in Johnny Weissmuller's first Tarzan movie, filmed in part on the Iverson Ranch.
Ray "Crash" Corrigan, movie cowboy (Lower Iverson Ranch)
"Crash" was already an accomplished cowboy actor by 1937, but he dreamed of something more. Germinating inside of Ray Corrigan were the seeds of a vision that would blossom into Corriganville — a thriving movie ranch, sure, but also a place where children's Wild West fantasies could take flight.
"Overland Stage Raiders" (Republic, 1938) — L-R: Ray Corrigan, John Wayne and Max Terhune
Corrigan had become a fixture in Republic's Western trio series "The Three Mesquiteers" — a steady paycheck, but one that required him to play second fiddle, first to Robert Livingston and later to John Wayne.
"Undersea Kingdom" (Republic serial, 1936)
Ray Corrigan would have been feeling pretty flush in 1937 — at least by B-movie cowboy standards. He had recently been promoted to leading man status, including a juicy starring role in the serial "Undersea Kingdom."
"Pals of the Saddle" (Three Mesquiteers, 1938): Ray Corrigan, center
With the ink barely dry on the deed to his new Simi Valley property, Corrigan opened the place to film shoots — and business was good. By mid-1938 a full slate of films was in production at Corriganville — including Ray Corrigan's own "Three Mesquiteers" movies, which had previously shot largely on the Iverson Ranch.
Corriganville postcard (1950s): Ray Corrigan and his Western movie set, "Silvertown"
As the movies came to Corriganville, sets were built — a Western town, a lake, a Corsican village and various cabins, caves, bridges and barns. Ray Corrigan kept the pieces intact, groomed it all into something resembling a frontier theme park, and in 1949 he began opening the gates to the public on weekends.
"The Fighting Lawman" (Allied Artists, 1953): Southwest end of Silvertown
The same picket fence noted on the postcard, outside Ray Corrigan's home, can be seen in movie shots of Silvertown, along with Corrigan's house, all but hidden at the southwest end of the street.
Bird's-eye view of Silvertown in the mid-1950s
By the mid-1950s, Corriganville's Silvertown had grown into an elaborate Western set, bustling with film and TV shoots during the week and hosting a stream of tourists on the weekends that was said to rival attendance at Southern California's top theme parks of the era, Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm.
Fort Apache, built in 1947 for John Ford's "Fort Apache," released in March 1948
When John Ford needed a fort for his Western "Fort Apache," he built one at Corriganville. I can imagine Ray telling him, "Don't worry about the mess, John — I'll clean it up" ... and then re-using the fort for the next 20 years.
Henry Fonda and John Wayne at Fort Apache
Ford's big-budget "Fort Apache," starring John Wayne and Henry Fonda, became known as the first part of the director's "Cavalry Trilogy," followed by "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" in 1949 and "Rio Grande" in 1950.
"Fort Apache": Shirley Temple, John Agar and John Wayne on the Corriganville fort set
The movie also starred a 19-year-old Shirley Temple, seen here outside one of the main buildings on the original Fort Apache set. Also pictured are John Wayne and John Agar, Temple's real-life husband at the time.
Shirley Temple and John Agar: Happier times?
Temple and Agar married when Temple was just 17, and wound up in a bitter divorce five years later. Some critics have noted that the couple did not appear to have much chemistry as a romantic pairing in "Fort Apache."
Shirley Temple at Fort Apache
Temple's career in movies wouldn't last much beyond "Fort Apache." Her body may have grown up, but she had a hard time convincing audiences that she wasn't still the 6-year-old who sang "On The Good Ship Lollipop."
Shirley Temple, age 6, delivers her signature song in "Bright Eyes" (1934)
Come to think of it, would this even be considered appropriate in the Hollywood of the #MeToo era?
"The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin" (1954-1959): Steady work for Fort Apache
The Fort Apache set would undergo a series of adaptations over the years, notably the addition of a high wooden wall that made it look more like, well, a fort.
Two youngsters endure a photo op outside the fort — which boasts an identifying sign just for the tourists
Not only did the high wall give Fort Apache more of that frontier fort je ne sais quoi it needed for the movies, it also proved useful in the fort's weekend job: convincing visiting kids that they were at a real deal Wild West fort.
Children playing at Fort Apache, early 1960s
And it worked: As the souvenir booklet promised, everyone really did have fun at Corriganville.
For a look at Fort Apache from a tourist's-eye view, here's a little home movie footage of a 1956 Corriganville visit. The first segment features Fort Apache. (You can also stay tuned for gunfights, fistfights, a stage holdup, etc.)
"Fort Vengeance" (1953): Fort Apache in glorious Cinecolor
Movie and TV work found Fort Apache playing a series of "other forts": Fort Bravo, Fort Vengeance and so on. On the "Rin Tin Tin" TV show, in the true spirit of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," it was Fort Apache.
Fort Apache Rock rears its stony head, yet again
There's our old friend again — Fort Apache Rock ... and it's telling us it's time to get back on track — back to 1911, and back to our story about what must have been the Great Rock's first foray into the movies.
"The Outbreak" (1911): What else is up in the old neighborhood?
With Fort Apache Rock gone now, I wanted to match up anything I could find of the other rock features seen in the "Outbreak" shot. To begin that process, notice the cluster of rocks highlighted here.
"Fort Apache": The understudy takes a bow
The "Mini-Me" rock did have its moments back in the filming era, including this solo appearance in "Fort Apache." The shot was taken from the fort, but at a low enough angle that Fort Apache Rock disappeared over the horizon.
The "Mini-Me" rock: All huff and no puff
For all its landmark aura, I didn't find the "Mini-Me" rock to be of much use in trying to locate other rocks from "The Outbreak." When it came time to get down to some serious triangulating, "Mini-Me" just didn't have it.
"The Outbreak": Some background rocks that could come in handy
On the other hand, the rocks noted here turned out to be terrific triangulation partners. Once I locked in on this crowd, I had a hunch that if I could find them in the current century, I'd be in business.
Some of the key marker rocks are identified in the 2018 photo
One nice thing about these rocks is that the sharp "beak" on Rock A makes it relatively easy to tell whether we're seeing it from the angle we need to see it from — the same angle seen in "The Outbreak."
The same rocks can be identified in the 1911 photo
And we are — or at least pretty close. Everything matches up nicely. If only it were always this easy.
The same rocks seen in "The Outbreak," as they appear in 2018
It took three separate expeditions to Corriganville, but ultimately I was able to find them. The rocks are in a remote part of the former movie ranch that I would guess has rarely if ever been filmed since that one time in 1911.
Corriganville in recent times (Bing aerial)
This aerial shot depicts the main portion of the former Corriganville Movie Ranch, which today is contained in Corriganville Park. It's open to the public, and you can enter from the southwest off Smith Road.
Two rocks marked with the white "X" (Google 3D photo)
One way you'll know you've found the rock is that it happens to have a big white "X" on it — presumably these are surveyor's marks used in aerial mapping. A second "X" rock can also be found nearby but the "Outbreak" rock is the farther south of the two.
• We know they got at least one great shot during their visit to "pre-Corriganville" Corriganville for "The Outbreak," but which other features did they film? Sadly, since the movie is lost, we'll probably never know.
• Why did they go to the trouble to get to such an inaccessible spot to shoot these particular rocks? The area had plenty of other rocks to choose from, and almost any of them would have been easier to get to.
• Which brings up a related question: How on Earth did they get all the way up there with a full cast and crew, along with a lot of heavy, delicate silent movie gear, with no roads and presumably not even so much as a trail?
• Now that we know there was filming at Corriganville more than a quarter-century before it became Corriganville, what else might have been filmed there before 1937?