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Movies Way Back When, Silents on the Islands, & Silents in Montecito, etc.

SILENTS IN MONTECITO

Image: Reel Life, October 31, 1914

The Dream Ship

 

This one-reel "Flying A" period drama was released on June 16, 1914, and was filmed on two of the millionaire estates in Montecito, California. It was inspired by a poem which says that in dreamland, a king and a pauper can change places.

 

According to the story, a woman prefers a man who she believes to be a pauper, but when it is revealed that he is actually a rich guy in disguise, she manages to adjust. C'est la vie, and all that jazz.

No copies are known to exist.

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MOVIES WAY BACK WHEN

Image: Motography, February 1, 1913

A Failure to Communicate


"Flying A" actors and film crews often showed up unannounced and startled Santa Barbara residents. When the "Flying A" movie folks arrived in Santa Barbara at the beginning of July 1912, they began filming immediately. Back then, there were almost no regulations about where and when they could film, or who they needed to notify. No permits; no problem. Right?


Oops! There were a number of problems caused when actors and film crews showed up unannounced. They scared the bejeezus out of a couple of Chinese gardeners on a ranch just outside the city limits. The gardeners were minding their own business and working in a beanfield when a couple of the "Flying A" actors rode up on horseback, dressed as tough hombres, flashing their six-shooters.


The gardener ran out to the road, where he encountered a local police officer. In spite of the language barrier, the Chinese man was able to convince the copper that something terrible was going on. When they returned to the scene of the "crime," the film crew was able to explain the situation to everyone's satisfaction one way or another. After that, the gardeners had a fun time watching the "bad hombres" do their thing.


This was not the last time that filming by the "Flying A" startled the inhabitants of Santa Barbara. More about that another time.

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MOVIES WAY BACK WHEN

Image: In 1913, the "Flying A" filmed "In the Days of Trajan" at Montecito's Gould estate. Estate photo from House Beautiful, March 1909. "Flying A" photo from Motography, September 20, 1913

Why Santa Barbara?

 

I've written in an earlier post that the "Flying A" moved to Santa Barbara from La Mesa in San Diego County in 1912. One reason was that we have a greater diversity of filming locations – mountains, beaches, historic adobes, mansions in Montecito, and islands – Santa Cruz Island in particular.

 

Another reason was the lack of afterhours activities in La Mesa. The Santa Barbara paper stated, "One reason why the company ["Flying A"] decided upon a change of base was that there were no amusements for the members of the company."

 

And a third reason was that Santa Barbara laid out the welcome mat for the movie company, mostly in the hopes that movies made here would encourage tourism. Quite the opposite occurred in La Mesa. "When the company first came to La Mesa, there was a certain element of the town that raised its hands in horror, anticipating an influx of undesirables. A sermon was even preached against the company." (Santa Barbara Morning Press, July 21, 1912)

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: screenshot

Civilization*

 

The 10-reel anti-war movie Civilization was released on June 2, 1916. Some scenes were filmed on California's Santa Catalina Island.

 

A submarine captain refuses an order to torpedo a defenseless passenger ship and is killed by his crew. He is reincarnated as Christ who visits world leaders and asks them to end the war (World War I).

 

*Good news! This movie is available on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwU035gIGO8

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: Moving Picture Weekly, May 21, 1921

Do or Die was released on May 30, 1921


Most of this adventure serial was filmed in Cuba, but a few scenes were filmed on California's Santa Catalina Island. Here's the story: Some members of an American family live in Cuba and own a special ring that contains a map to buried pirate treasure. A guy named Satan is the bad guy. (What else could he be with a name like that?) Satan tries repeatedly to gain possession of the ring.


A member of the family from the United States goes to Cuba to help combat Satan. He finds it's not as easy as it sounds because it takes 18 hellish episodes to combat the forces of evil.

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: Motography, July 1, 1916

The Secret of the Submarine was released on May 22, 1916

Two of the episodes of this 15-part adventure serial were filmed on California's Santa Cruz Island by the "Flying A" film company.

 

"Some unusual stunts were done at Santa Cruz Island for The Secret of the Submarine, and still photos secured by Faxon Dean are exceptional. One shows the house on the cliff after it had been dynamited. It was caught toppling down the cliff-side. Another shows Al Thompson making a leap over a precipice sixty-five feet high. This was not a regular dive. Thompson struck the water below but was unhurt." – Morning Press (Santa Barbara, California), April 26, 1916

 

The plot involves a young woman, whose father has invented an apparatus that enables submarines to dive to a great depth. She battles foreign spies who are trying to steal the secret plans of the apparatus.

 

(Submarines were in the news during World War I, so this was a very timely serial. The United States had not entered the war yet, but there was much talk about "preparedness.")

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SILENTS IN MONTECITO

Image: screenshot

Beverly of Graustark was released on May 17, 1916


Dozens of scenes from this movie were filmed at one of Montecito's grandest estates, near Santa Barbara, California. "Thirty members of the Biograph company in Los Angeles ... took about 30 scenes at George O. Knapp's estate, Arcady, in Montecito for ... Beverly of Graustark." – Morning Press (Santa Barbara, California), March 10, 1914


Although the filming took place in 1914, the movie was not released until 1916. I don't know why. But here's some good news – this film still exists and can be viewed on the Library of Congress website: https://www.loc.gov/item/2012600253/

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: theater poster

The Love of an Island Maid was released on May 13, 1912

 

This is one of the earliest movies filmed on California's Santa Catalina Island.

 

Catalina is the name of an island maiden who sells seashells down by the seashore. While doing so, she is attracted to a visiting yachtsman. He flirts with her and this causes problems with her island boyfriend. The guys tussle in the sea, Catalina joins the tussle, and sends the boyfriend to the bottom. She then decides she doesn't want the yachtsman either, and goes back to selling seashells down by the seashore.

 

No copies of this one-reel movie are known to exist. 

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: Exhibitors Herald, May 17, 1919

Miss Adventure was released on May 4, 1919

 

The leading lady had a close call during the filming of this five-reel adventure movie on two of California's Channel Islands – Santa Cruz Island and Santa Catalina Island.

 

"Fox Star Narrowly Escapes Being Hurt. Carried over a cliff and into the sea by a runaway automobile, Peggy Hyland . . . narrowly escaped drowning last week . . . The accident happened at Catalina Island, Cal., where Miss Hyland and her company were filming scenes for Miss Adventure . . . Miss Hyland, with Director Lynn F. Reynolds . . . was going to a location on the edge of a sharp bluff overlooking the Pacific. The road was narrow, but as it was straight and there were no visible difficulties, Mr. Reynolds, who was at the wheel, was driving at a rather rapid pace. Coming suddenly upon a hairpin turn, he was unable to swerve the car quickly enough . . . the machine [car] shot over the edge of the cliff, raced down the sharp incline and plunged into the surf." – Exhibitors Herald & Motography, April 12, 1919

 

There are no known copies of this film.

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SILENTS IN MONTECITO

Image: Motography, May 5, 1917

Whose Wife?

 

On April 30, 1917, the five-reel film Whose Wife? was released. Some scenes were filmed at the Miramar resort in Montecito, California. (The film doesn't seem to have survived. The resort has survived, but it has been totally rebuilt.)

 

The lead actress created a minor furor by refusing to wear a swimsuit. "Star Refuses to Wear Bathing Suit. Gail Kane . . . broke the hearts of her masculine associates by refusing to wear a bathing suit in the beach scene in the picture." – Los Angeles Herald, May 11, 1917

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