Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
Sable Ranch & Rancho Maria in "Ride 'Em Cowboy"
Sand/Placerita Canyon, California



Ride 'Em Cowboy: Sable Ranch, Rancho Maria Scenes 1942

Ride 'Em Cowboy (Still) 1941-42

The Sable Ranch and Rancho Maria in Sand Canyon were the "Lazy S Ranch" in Universal's 1942 Abbott and Costello comedy, "Ride 'Em Cowboy."

The swimming pool sequence, when they go into the back yard, is Rancho Maria. Everything else shown here is the Sable Ranch.

Sable Ranch and Rancho Maria are next-door-neighbor movie ranches on the south side of the intersection of Sand Canyon and Placerita Canyon roads.

Regarding Sable Ranch, Western film historian Jerry L. Schneider writes:

The Sable Ranch was built by Frank Sentous around 1920. In 1940, Ralph Wagner bought the property. ... According to Tinsley Yarbrough, the current name of the ranch was obtanied during the chicken raising period with their advertisements referring to the chickens as "smooth as sable" (Schneider 2011:534).

According to former Sand Canyon resident George Starbuck (pers. comm. 2017) — whose family owned the property directly across the street (Placerita Canyon Road) from the Sable Ranch — in the early-mid 1940s, the Sable Ranch was known as the Spaulding Ranch. Then, after World War II (approx. 1946), it was sold to John A. Zublin, who continued to lease it to movie companies. Starbuck remembers that Zublin was a Russian immigrant who had large mansion in Beverly Hills (which Starbuck visted). Starbuck said Zublin invented a rotary drill bit for the oil industry and got into a patent fight over it with a major oil producer (Halliburton?). Public records confirm that Zublin patented many oil-drilling apparatuses from the 1920s-1950s.

Per Schneider, Rancho Maria was previously known by several different names including Riley Ranch and Brooks Ranch. Film companies used its ranch home, swimming pool, barns and outbuildings (ibid:536).

Wagner, owner of the Sable Ranch at the time of this Abbott and Costello picture, also owned Rancho Chihuahua, a 161-acre guest ranch in Sand Canyon. Considering a news report that said Rancho Chihuahua was the location "where much of [Abbott and Costello's] newest laughfilm, 'Ride 'Em Cowboy,' was made," it's possible that "Rancho Chihuahua" was a name for either the Sable Ranch or Rancho Maria. The only location this picture uses as much or more than Sable Ranch and Rancho Maria (besides the Universal lot) is the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth. Plus, Costello has as "smooth as sable" chicken in his lap in this on-location photograph. (Starbuck said he was not familiar with the name, "Rancho Chihuahua.")

Wagner turned out to be an interesting character. Known as Dr. Ralph Waldo Wagner, he was referenced in newspapers as a "wealthy sporting impressario, psychologist and gold mine operator." That was before he supposedly fell victim to exortionists (the case went unsolved) and later faced prison on charges of swindling investors who entrusted him to stake mining claims on their behalf in Inyo County. Ernest Wagner (his son?) took over ranch operations by the end of 1939.

Released domestically on Feb. 13, 1942, "Ride 'Em Cowboy" stars Lou Costello, Bud Abbott, Anne Gwynne, Johnny Mack Brown and crooner Dick Foran. Accompanied by the Merry Macs, Ella Fitzgerald shows up twice to sing two songs ("A-Tisket, A-Tasket" and "Rockin' and Reelin'") for no apparent reason, story-wise. But we're glad she did.


Way Out West 1937 (Rancho Maria)

Ride 'Em Cowboy: Sable Ranch, Rancho Maria Scenes 1942

Sable Ranch in Sand Fire, July 2016

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