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

MOVIES WAY BACK WHEN

Image: Reel Life, May 22, 1915

In the "Flying A" film The Lonely Heart, the heroine, who must be lonely (or perverted?), caresses a toad. The Santa Barbara, CA studio was desperate for publicity for this 1915 movie, and the local papers must have been desperate for "news" to fill their pages – so there were five articles about the toad, or was it a frog?

 

There seemed to be some amphibian ambiguity going on, not to mention the question of what to feed it – flies or crackers? Not surprisingly, several amphibians gave up their lives for "Art" during the filming.

 

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: Screenland, December 1927

 

On October 19, 1927, Shanghaied was released. Parts of it were filmed on California's Santa Catalina Island. According to a trade magazine, "Shanghaied  is a vivid melodrama of San Francisco, and the sea. It is the story of a man who, tricked by a girl, sets out to tame her and revenge himself." (Exhibitors Herald, May 7, 1927)

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MOVIES WAY BACK WHEN

Image: Motion Picture News, September 1915

How about this for a winning combination – an angry gypsy, a kindly hunchback, babies switched at birth, and a guy named Marmaduke Smythe? Then throw in a flaming meteorite that contains a diamond bigger than anything Elizabeth Taylor ever owned, and you've got high-class entertainment. Yes, indeedy! How could you go wrong?

 

The Diamond From the Sky, a 30-part serial movie produced in 1915 by the "Flying A" movie studio in Santa Barbara, California was a winner, and the only thing that went wrong was that no one saved any copies of the movie. Oops!

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: Exhibitors Trade Review, July 19, 1924

On October 13, 1924, Buster Keaton's film The Navigator was released. Scenes from the movie were filmed on California's Santa Catalina Island.

 

When the film was shown in the theater there in the fall, the local paper, The Catalina Islander, wrote, "When the comedy was being filmed last spring under the direction of Buster Keaton, many interesting stories were told of incidents which happened. If the picture is as comical as some of the tales . . .  it certainly will be a 'scream.'"

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The Great House Detective

An Impressive Adobe on Cliff Drive with a Colorful Past

 

This month I profiled a home that many people pass by every day that's worth taking a look at. Check out my Great House Detective column in this week's Santa Barbara Independent.

 

https://www.independent.com/2020/10/08/impressive-adobe-overlooking-cliff-drive/

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MOVIES WAY BACK WHEN

Image: Santa Barbara Morning Press, September 13, 1914

The "Flying A" was Flying High in Santa Barbara, California in 1914

 

 

The folks from the "Flying A" studio (American Film Company) were filming in locations such as stores on State Street, all around the county, and even out on the Channel Islands. Many interior scenes were shot in the company's large glass studio. The studio was located on the corner of Mission and Chapala streets. A few of the original buildings remain, most notably the building shown in the top left of the photo.

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SILENTS IN MONTECITO

Image: Reel Life, September 11, 1915

On September 23, 1915, Santa Barbara's American Film Company ("Flying A") released The House of a Thousand Scandals. The movie – about a Utopian commune – was filmed at one of the seaside estates in Montecito. The commune members run around in Grecian-style sandals and skirts even though the movie is set in modern times. The skimpy attire gives rise to the scandals in the film's title. This movie no longer exists and neither does the mansion – fortunately, there are still photos of both.

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MOVIES WAY BACK WHEN

Image: courtesy of the Library of Congress

A First in Santa Barbara


The earliest reference that I've found about movies being shown in Santa Barbara, California dates to 1898. An article in the local paper about a vaudeville show at the opera house (the original Lobero Theater) mentioned that the show included "the Waragraph, a scientific wonder of life, showing the recent naval events, the military parades and a Spanish bull fight." – Santa Barbara Morning Press, October 16, 1898


The "recent naval events" mentioned were scenes from the Spanish-American War in Cuba in 1898, produced by the Edison Wargraph Company. These were some of the first moving images that audiences here had ever seen projected on a screen.

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SILENTS IN MONTECITO

Image: Scene from For the Crown, from Moving Picture News, August 30, 1913

On September 8, 1913, the movie For the Crown was released. Santa Barbara's American Film Company, the "Flying A," filmed most of this two-reel historical costume drama at a big estate in Montecito, California.

 

The plot involved plenty of swordplay, a fair maiden who needed rescuing, and ended with the vanquishing of baddies. This film is one of 63 silents that were filmed in Montecito. It is considered "lost."

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: courtesy of Margaret Herrick Library

On September 4, 1911 (109 years ago today), the one-reel silent movie How Algy Captured a Wild Man was released. The movie was filmed on California's Santa Cruz Island. The Santa Barbara Weekly Press called it, "A real 'sure-'nuff' dandy show. Anyone with any sense of humor will enjoy this picture story."

 

This is one of about 250 movies that were filmed on California's Channel Islands.

 

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