icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Movies & Million-Dollar Mansions, Behind the Scenes at the "Flying A," & Silents on the Islands

Behind the Scenes at the "Flying A"

Image: Baby Peggy in Carmen, Jr. (Motion Picture Magazine, March 1923)

Baby Peggy Films in Santa Barbara


Although the "Flying A" studio had folded in the early 1920s, filmmakers were still coming to Santa Barbara to use the studio's facilities or to take advantage of our city's picturesque locales.


In 1922, Baby Peggy, one of the most famous kid-stars, was here filming. "Baby Peggy to Work at Santa Barbara. As soon as Baby Peggy returns from San Diego . . . she will go to Santa Barbara, where additional shots will be made." – Motion Picture News, November 18, 1922


This movie, Carmen, Jr., was released in 1923.


Be the first to comment

Behind the Scenes at the "Flying A"

Image: Lompoc stagecoach. (Moving Picture World, October 19, 1912)

An Authentic Stagecoach in the Movies


Shortly after the "Flying A" folks moved to Santa Barbara in 1912, they were able to use the old Lompoc stagecoach in their films. One of the first films that the studio created here was The Jack of Diamonds. Some of the scenes were filmed on the stagecoach.

"The exteriors were taken in the vicinity of the Hollister Road [upper State Street], about a mile from the studio. The old stagecoach which was used in early days out of Lompoc was called into play for the first time. It will add considerable color to the story." – Santa Barbara Morning Press, August 16, 1912

Later in 1912, the stagecoach was used again in the film Intrusion at Lompoc, which was filmed in Lompoc.

Be the first to comment

Behind the Scenes at the "Flying A"

Image: Jack Richardson. (Motography, January 18, 1913)

Just Horsing Around


"Flying A" actor Jack Richardson had a horse that he was very fond of. "That Jack loves his steed, is eloquently attested by the glossy coat and well-groomed hoofs which 'Chief' presents . . . as well as by the fact that Jack spends considerable leisure in the saddle, when not being filmed in 'Flying A' dramas."


However, one afternoon, 'Chief' majorly embarrassed his owner. The two were at a garden party at a Santa Barbara mansion. It started well. 'Chief' wandered casually across the beautiful lawn, nibbling the grass here and there, while Jack chatted pleasantly with the guests on the spacious veranda.


"Suddenly a scream from the hostess curdled the blood of her guests . . . Eternal disgraces!"


'Chief' had decided that the garden of carefully cultivated tropical plants would be an ideal spot to roll around in. Oops! The horse and his owner apologized and made a hasty exit. – Motography, September 9, 1916


Be the first to comment

Behind the Scenes at the "Flying A"

Image: A scene from The Diamond From the Sky. (Reel Life, August 7, 1915)

A Misbehaving Monkey


A monkey was featured in Santa Barbara's "Flying A" silent movie The Diamond From the Sky but, unfortunately, this was a monkey with attitude. "He was not inclined to be friendly, in fact a few fingers have been bitten in the attempt to educate him to the film game."


Fortunately, the "Flying A" actor who would be performing with the monkey, knew how to speak monkey, or something. The actor said, "he does not believe there is a monkey in the world that he cannot make friends with. As soon as the two were introduced [the actor] started some sort of outlandish gibberish that the monkey seemed to understand or at least take interest in. The two have become great friends, but the monkey's attitude towards others has not changed." – Santa Barbara Morning Press, September 9, 1915


Be the first to comment

Behind the Scenes at the "Flying A"

Image: A scene from The Decision. (Moving Picture World, February 27, 1915)

Courting Disaster

During the filming of the "Flying A" silent film, The Decision, an actor was playing the part of a drunken judge. As the actor staggered toward the Santa Barbara Courthouse, "a crowd gathered, and . . . began to hoot and yell and run at his heels. Then the mob saw the camera, and so many members of it wanted to get their picture taken at once" that they spoiled the take. – Motography, July 3, 1915

Be the first to comment

Behind the Scenes at the "Flying A"

Image: A scene from The Law of the Wilds. (Motography, February 6, 1915)

Movie Villains and Kids Don't Mix


The "Flying A" silent movie villain Jack Richardson's acting was so real, he scared one of the child actors in a scene in The Law of the Wilds.


"The famous villain made a lunge at the youngster, letting out a fine line of choice expletives. The startled child gazed, paralyzed for a moment, into the sinister face of his pseudo parent. Then he gave vent to a terrified shriek, and to another, and yet another, wailing hysterically and refusing to be comforted . . . The small actor had to be returned to headquarters and another less sensitive child taken out to the location." – Reel Life, January 16, 1915


Be the first to comment

Behind the Scenes at the "Flying A"

A scene from "After the Storm." (Pictures and the Picturegoer, October 23, 1915)

From Real Life to the Screen

A large trunk washed up on the beach in Santa Barbara, California after a big storm in 1915. When the trunk was opened, an infant was found, snuggled in blankets.

Two "Flying A" actresses were walking along the beach at this time and witnessed the discovery. They told others at the studio, and the story was made into a silent movie titled After the Storm. – Pictures and the Picturegoer, October 16, 1915

(This story and more will be included in my upcoming book, Behind the Scenes at the "Flying A," due out this fall.)

Be the first to comment


(Motion Picture Classic, January 1916)

A Deliberate Disguise


When "Flying A" actress Mary Miles Minter wanted to walk around Santa Barbara without being noticed, she put on a disguise. "Mary possesses a hat and coat of ancient vintage, which she loves to don and go shopping all by her lonesome in Santa Barbara. Few who pass the little girl enveloped in the old coat and hidden by the drooping brim of the old hat would ever dream that it was Mary Miles Minter." – Motography, June 15, 1918

Be the first to comment


(Image: Paramount Book, 1917)

Happy Birthdate, Lehua Waipahu!


Well, that was not her real name. In fact, that name was only used for her appearance in The Bottle Imp, in which she costarred with Sessue Hayakawa in 1917. (That wasn't his real name either, but that's another story.) Anyway, Lehua was actually Margaret Loomis, who was born on May 27, 1893.


The movie takes place in Hawaii, and the studio claimed that it was filmed there as well. But guess what! That was also a bunch of "movie-magazine malarkey." Much of the filming was done at a mansion in Montecito, California.


The folks in Hawaii were not amused. "It is … claimed that 'the setting of the story is picturesque Hawaii' … The truth of these claims must be judged by the members of the audience." – News (Maui, Hawaii), September 17, 1917


Be the first to comment


Image: Film Index, July 2, 1910

The Little Doctor of the Foothills


Essanay released this one-reel silent on May 21, 1910. This was one of a dozen or so movies that this studio filmed during their three-month stay in Santa Barbara in 1910. Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson directed and performed in this film, along with Clara Williams.


When an attractive female doctor arrives in a Western town, the cowboys pretend to be sick, one after another. The doctor is wise to their "illnesses," however. When she tires of these fakers, she takes action. The next time a cowboy is "sick," she pulls out her butcher knife. The cowboy suddenly recovers.


When another cowboy is accidentally shot, the doctor assumes it is another fake report, and refuses to go to the scene. The injury is real, however, and the cowboy is brought to the doctor. She is horrified to see that it is a real injury, and takes care of him ASAP. As the movie ends, she falls in love with her patient.


This movie was said to be filmed somewhere around Hope Avenue, which was still a rural area.

Be the first to comment