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


Image: Screenshot of Pavlova on the beach at Santa Catalina Island

Happy Birthdate, Anna Pavlova!


The famous ballet dancer Anna Pavlova was born in Russia on February 12, 1881. In 1916, she appeared in the silent film The Dumb Girl of Portici. At first, it might seem odd that a silent movie is based on an opera. But the opera itself is based on a young woman who cannot speak, so that's a bit quirky to start with. The title, The Dumb Girl of Portici, sounds insulting to modern audiences, although a century ago, "dumb" simply meant "mute" or unable to speak.


The opera is sometimes called The Mute Girl of Portici or Masaniello (named for the mute girl's brother). Indeed, in the opera itself, the mute girl dances and pantomimes, so it's not much of a stretch to have a prima ballerina play this part. She spends much of her time dancing on the beach instead of doing something useful like cleaning and gutting fish.


Lois Weber directed this movie, which was filmed in one of the million-dollar mansions of Montecito, California as well as Santa Catalina Island.


Good news! This movie still exists and is available for viewing on Youtube.

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