Lobby card for "The King of Wild Horses" (1924), featuring Rex the Wonder Horse
Fans of old Westerns — and I mean really old Westerns — speak of a legendary horse from the silent movie days named Rex, who was often billed as "Rex the Wonder Horse" or "Rex, the King of Wild Horses."
Ad from 1926 for "The Devil Horse"
An ad that was used at the time to promote "The Devil Horse" described Rex in terms that modern audiences might consider racist, singling him out as "the horse who hates Indians." (You can read the blurb below.)
"The Devil Horse" (1926): Yakima Canutt and Rex on the Lower Iverson
But as wild as Rex was, it turned out he had a soft spot for legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt, who stepped up to a starring role alongside Rex in "The Devil Horse."
"Look Ma, no hands!" — Yakima celebrates breaking Rex ... or so he thinks
Rex even permits Yakima to ride him, eventually — although Rex never fully warms up to the saddle.
Yakima learns the hard way that Rex isn't quite broken yet
The bumpy relationship between Rex and Yakima forms one of the main plot threads running through the movie — and parallels real-world challenges filmmakers faced in working with the notoriously moody Rex.
Yakima picks himself up after being thrown by an angry Rex
Most of the key scenes involving Yakima and Rex were filmed on the Iverson Ranch, and on a recent expedition into the Garden of the Gods, I was able to locate a number of shooting sites for "The Devil Horse."
The pointed ledge in 2017 — hidden in a tree
A short hike south from the camera location reveals that the pointed ledge is still in place. I found it right where I expected it to be, although today only a small portion of the ledge protrudes from its hiding place in the tree.
Google aerial view of Garden of the Gods from the west
The bulk of the Iverson Movie Ranch location shoot for "The Devil Horse" took place on what is now public land, with the Garden of the Gods preserved as a park. This Google map shows where the pointed ledge can be found.
Dave Carson (Yakima Canutt) and Prowling Wolf (Bob Kortman) clash near a fake rock arch
Another scene in "The Devil Horse" features what appears to be a rock arch. I know most of the arches at Iverson, and when I saw this one I thought it must be fake.
Present-day location of the fake arch seen in "The Devil Horse"
From the context in the movie, I was able to determine that the fake arch was built on top of two existing rocks.
Galapagos tortoise — note the high shell
I'll try to explain why I call the rock "Desert Tortoise." I've always thought the coolest of the giant tortoises are the ones with a really high shell, like the Galapagos and certain varieties of the desert tortoise.
"The Lone Ranger" TV series (1949): "Desert Tortoise"
I think I first made the connection between the rock and the high shell of the desert tortoise in this shot from one of the earliest episodes of the "Lone Ranger" TV show.
"Flounder," as it appears from the north
With regard to "Flounder," I believe from this angle it's self-explanatory.
Footholds" area northeast of here.
"The Devil Horse": The carving can be seen in 1926
I initially assumed the indentation was used to help anchor the fake arch. However, after going back over the movie sequence I realized the carved hole is located outside the area where the arch was positioned.
"The Devil Horse": Prowling Wolf arrives at the fake arch
Then I discovered the reason the indentation was carved into the rock. It was used to help set up the climactic confrontation between Yakima's Dave Carson and his bitter enemy, Prowling Wolf.
Prowling Wolf plots his ambush of Dave Carson
In full war bonnet, and with an ambush in mind, Prowling Wolf takes a look at the rock before he tries to climb it. I wonder whether he already has his eye on the carved indentation at this point.
Prowling Wolf climbs up on "Flounder"
As Prowling Wolf climbs up the rock holding his bow in one hand, he could use a little help getting all the way up. My guess is a stuntman was brought in to do the actual climb, although actor Bob Kortman, already a veteran of many Westerns by 1926, may well have done the stunt himself.
Directions to the rock arch location (Bing bird's-eye view)
This map provides directions to the location of the fake rock arch. Start by finding your way to Chatsworth, Calif., then take Redmesa Road north off Santa Susana Pass Road. (Click on the map for a larger view.)
Sphinx and the tree on its north face (2017)
Moving to ground level, this shot from a recent visit to the Garden of the Gods shows the tree as it appears today. Like many of the old trees in the area, it has struggled to survive during the recent drought years.
Trunk of the tree on the Sphinx's north face (2017)
Moving inside the canopy of the old tree, we get a look at its formidable trunk. We can also see just how close the tree sits to the base of the mighty Sphinx.
"The Devil Horse": Yakima and Rex at the tree in 1926
Here's what the same tree looked like more than 90 years ago, when "The Devil Horse" was filmed. The tree was little more than a sapling at the time.
"Bullet Code" (1940): One of countless movie appearances for the Sphinx and the tree
These two prominent Iverson Movie Ranch features — the Sphinx and its nearby tree — have coexisted for decades, appearing in hundreds of movies and TV shows.
"The Devil Horse": The tree begins to branch out
Even back in 1926, the horizontal branch was easy to spot — in its early stages, but already reaching westward.
"The Lone Ranger" TV series: Tonto faces an ordeal at the tree
In later years, the branch would show up again during filming. This shot comes from an episode of "The Lone Ranger" called "The Courage of Tonto," which was filmed in 1956 and first aired Jan. 17, 1957.
click here to see that post.
The same tree in fall 2016: The horizontal branch has broken off
When Jerry revisited the site about six months later, in the fall of 2016, he noticed that the branch had broken off.
The tree's problems continue in 2017
More recently, another major branch has broken off and is now lodged among the tree's main limbs.
"The Devil Horse": Landmark rocks remain at the site
Even with the tree's issues, a number of landmarks can be tracked from 1926 that remain a part of the contemporary landscape. For example, notice rocks A, B, C and D, seen here in "The Devil Horse."
The same rocks in 2017
Rocks A, B, C and D are still easy to identify, right in the same positions where they've been all along.
"The Devil Horse": Yakima Canutt at the base of the Sphinx
In another shot from the same sequence, Yakima Canutt sits in front of a distinctive "cave" — a small opening at the base of the Sphinx, below the tree, along the rock's north face, Notice the black space behind Yakima's head.
The same location in 2017
This small "cave" at the base of the Sphinx, next to the old tree, is still easy to find and easy to match up.
There's much more to be said about "The Devil Horse," one of the true gems in the early history of the Iverson Movie Ranch. I hope to post more about it in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, you can stream it on Amazon Prime, where it's listed as "Rex the Devil Horse" — click on the link above to find it on Amazon.