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Movies & Million-Dollar Mansions, Behind the Scenes at the "Flying A," Silents on the Islands, Way Back When: SB in 1924


Santa Barbara News-Press, April 4, 1943

The End of Silent Movie Days in Santa Barbara

Dateline: April 1943

The "Flying A" ceased operating in Santa Barbara in 1921. A few Hollywood studios came here to film on the studio's property in the 1920s, but the end finally came in 1943 when the remaining studio property was demolished except for the studio building at the corner of Mission and Chapala streets, and a portion of the administration building that still stand. – Santa Barbara News-Press, April 4, 1943


Longtime Santa Barbara resident Mary Grimm told me that "During the war years in the 40s, the studios had been torn down and just the cement floors remained. The neighborhood kids used to go over there with our roller skates and brooms, sweep the trash aside, and have a grand time roller skating."

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Pig and Mary Miles Minter in a scene from Dulcie's Adventure. (Photo-Play Journal, April 1917)


A Pig Named "Mary"


Dateline: April 1917
"Flying A" ingenue star Mary Miles Minter liked to visit the pigs at a local farm owned by Farmer Jones. "'I can't say that Mr. Jones' baby pigs are mine . . . but I go out to see them every Sunday afternoon, so they sort of belong to me . . . This little pig's name is 'Mary' – named after me . . . Mrs. Jones said I might have it killed and have it for dinner after it had played with me, but I just couldn't bear to have it done." – Photo-Play Journal, April 1917


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Image: Al Capone, courtesy of the FBI

No Honor Among Thieves!


Dateline: April 1924

Al Capone was not in Santa Barbara, but this was starting to seem like a film noir movie in our fair city. It was clear that bootleggers were not playing nice with each other during the Prohibition Era. "A war between rival bands of liquor dealers is expected to break out within a few days between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles factions, which may develop into a serious clash . . . A truckload of liquor was stolen from several rum smugglers north of Santa Barbara several days ago.


"Monday, two young men, alleged to be rum dealers, appeared in Santa Barbara to locate the men who were responsible for the theft. One of these men is alleged to have left a card at the home of the suspected man warning him to 'pack a gun today and to stay away from the ''plant" if you value your life.' " – Santa Barbara Morning Press, April 3, 1924

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Image: courtesy of Olive & Gold, 1924

Santa Barbara High School Taking Shape


Dateline: March 1924

Construction of the Santa Barbara High School at its new location at 700 East Anapamu Street was nearing completion, and school officials were hoping that the new auditorium would be ready for June graduation ceremonies.

(Spoiler alert - the new school would open for classes in September 1924.)


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Image: Crucifix of Destiny screenshot

A Complimentary Contribution!


Dateline – March 1920

The Pandora Productions studio of Los Angeles was making the silent film Crucifix of Destiny near the Santa Barbara Mission in 1920. An actor, dressed as a monk, "was given a handful of coppers by an old woman, who mistook him for the bona fide article." – Camera, March 20, 1920


A portion of this film is available for viewing online. Early scenes in the movie were filmed at the Mission and St. Anthony's Seminary, so it's a way to take a peek at that area 100+ years ago. (The final portion of the movie appears to be missing.) Here's the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Tat4vwglsw

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Image: courtesy of John Woodward

 A Peak Performance


Dateline – March 1915

There used to be a large, picturesque rock on Santa Barbara's West Beach called Castle Rock. It was popular with tourists and starred in some "Flying A" silent movies as well.


"A certain scene taken near the Castle Rock bluff called for a fall down. A dummy might have been used, but rather than that, the director decided to make the fall himself, and in the picture, he will be shown going down and clutching at brush and rocks, all of which gave way. The final landing was made in a net, but that does not show in the picture. All who saw it, declare that it was some stunt." – Santa Barbara Morning Press, March 4, 1915

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Motion Picture News, February 12, 1916

Mermaids Uncovered and Unashamed


Dateline – March 1916

California's Channel Islands – Santa Catalina Island and Santa Cruz Island were popular locations for silent movie filming.

"The shores of Catalina Island furnished the settings of sandy beaches, rugged and jagged rocks." – News Pilot (San Pedro, California), March 13, 1916


Mermaid movies were popular in the early silent movie years when ladies rarely showed their ankles on the streets, so movies about mermaids wearing just a few wisps of seaweed were considered hot stuff. Scenes for the mermaid movie Undine were filmed on Santa Cruz Island (seen here) and Santa Catalina Island.


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Motography, March 18, 1916

Mae Murray, or Mae Rooned?


Dateline – March 1916

A silent movie crew filming To Have and to Hold off the shore of California's Santa Catalina Island lost the movie's leading actress for a while. "Mae Murray was left all night on a rock during a storm at Catalina . . . Now they call her 'Mae Rooned.'" – Motography, March 4, 1916


Here's how it happened:

"In two vessels, they went to Church Rock. Early in the afternoon, the sky began to look like rain, and Director George Melford decided upon a return to Avalon. Those in each vessel thought Miss Murray was in the other, and it was not until 8:00 that night, sometime after their arrival at Avalon, that they learned definitely that she had not left the rock with either party.

"Melford and Wallace Reid headed a rescue party in a launch . . . it was raining heavily, and they found Miss Murray vainly trying to obtain some shelter from the storm as she crouched by the side of the rock. She was so cold and wet and exhausted that they found it necessary to lash her to the skiff." – Moving Picture World, February 12, 1916


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A scene from In the Twilight. (Moving Picture World, February 13, 1915)

Movie Making in Goleta, CA


Dateline: February 1915


There was little mention of Santa Barbara's "Flying A" studio filming in the Goleta area, but they did make a couple of silent movies there. "Twilight . . . and its long cast calls for the entire company and a number of extras. Thirty-four scenes were taken at the John Moore Ranch at Goleta." – Moving Picture World, February 6, 1915.


This silent film was released as In the Twilight.

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Exhibitors Trade Review, March 31, 1923

A Genuine Black Eye


Dateline: February 1923


Things got kind of rough during the filming of a silent movie called The Isle of Lost Ships that was taking place on a ship near Santa Catalina Island, CA. Here's the story for the movie: A small group of passengers on a ship is stranded in the middle of the Sargasso Sea when their ship collides with a shipwreck floating amidst the seaweed. One of the group is a nasty guy who is mean to everyone, including the only young woman in the group.


When the hero steps in to save the folks, he has to battle the nasty guy, and the fight got pretty realistic. (Sometimes actors in silent films used a movie fight as a way to settle an old score.) Somehow, the actor playing the hero got an honest-to-goodness injury. "[The actor] is wearing a 'beautiful' black eye, the result of an honest-to-goodness battle . . . one of the most thrilling scenes in the big melodrama." – Camera, February 3, 1923


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