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Movies & Million-Dollar Mansions, and Silents on the Islands

MOVIES WAY BACK WHEN

Image: Moving Picture World, July 1914

The Photoplayer

 

The so-called silent movies rarely lived up to their name. Here's a high-tech gizmo called a Photoplayer that supplied music and sound effects in Santa Barbara, California's Palace Theater at 904 State Street in 1915. This one cost $5,000. In addition to playing music, the operator flipped switches to change the tone of the sound, and create special effects such as pipes, drums, cymbals, bells, siren, locomotive whistle, auto horn, horses' hoofs, castanets, tambourines, etc. The Photoplayer mea­sured 17 feet wide.

 

As time went on, these photoplayers morphed into even fancier and more sophisticated theater organs such as the 1928 theater organ that lives in the orchestra pit at our Arlington Theatre. This organ rises out of the floor every so often to accompany a silent movie thanks to the SB Theatre Organ Society.

 

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: screenshot

Betty and the Buccaneers was released on November 12, 1917. Some scenes were filmed on California's Santa Cruz Island.

 

Believe it or not, portions of the film were deleted in Chicago. "Official Cut-Outs Made by the Chicago Board of Censors . . . slugging old man; rifling his pockets; flash struggle scenes between drunken sailor and girl; subtitles: 'We can chuck him down the well,' . . . throwing the captain down the well." – Exhibitors Herald, December 15, 1917.

 

You can view this film on YouTube and see what you think: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSAPxyXueuY&list=PLwSPMzTpih4tpezb3MWCfJkBaEp_VCVya

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MOVIES WAY BACK WHEN

Image: Library of Congress

Guess the name!

 

Back in 1914, a couple of kids in Santa Barbara, California gave a collie to Vivian Rich, one of the leading ladies of the "Flying A" Film Company here. Vivian, who clearly had a sense of humor, in addition to her good looks, named the dog "Guess."

 

"Miss Rich takes keen delight in being asked the name of her new pet," reported Motion Picture News in its October 17, 1914 issue. "Without a smile, she will say, 'Guess,' and of course the inquirer calls to mind every conceivable name. Not being successful, the usual inquiry is, 'Well, what do you call him?'" And so, the game continues.

 

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: Paramount Comedy Releases Press Book, January 5, 1919

When Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle was filming scenes for Camping Out on California's Santa Catalina Island (see photo) in 1918, a couple of uninvited guests showed up one night.

 

"Fatty Arbuckle will swear that D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett can smell good food farther than anybody else in the motion picture business. One morning, Fatty . . . started preparation on a big barbeque . . . Just as Fatty announced that everything was ready [for dinner] . . . the shrill siren of a fast-coming launch proclaimed visitors. The jovial Roscoe swam out to where the launch had anchored and discovered D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett, who announced that they were just in time for dinner. During the barbecue, the two producers jokingly told Arbuckle the beef was so good they had smelled it away over in Hollywood." – Exhibitor's Press Book, September 1918

 

(This film may be shown on Ben Model's Youtube channel sometime in the future.)

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: Motion Picture News, August 23, 1919

On November 2, 1919, the movie Bonds of Love was released. Some scenes were filmed on California's Catalina Island.

 

This one sounds like a real tearjerker. A young woman is in love with a young man (guy #1), but her parents force her to marry another man (guy #2). However, she has a secret affair with guy #1. Then she has a baby and dies. Guy #2 remarries. Wife #2 discovers that wife #1 had the affair. (Perhaps there is a question about who the child's father is?)

 

Anyway, wife #2 keeps the secret to herself because she loves her stepchild. Eventually guy #2 discovers his first wife's infidelity and appreciates his second wife better. (There are no known copies of this film.)

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WAY BACK WHEN

Image: New York Public Library

The streets in Santa Barbara, California were devoid of little demons and witches on Halloween in 1918 while the so-called Spanish Flu floated around the city.

 

The local paper wrote, "Flu puts quietus on even decorous revelry in celebration of Halloween. The Board of Health has issued orders forbidding ghosts to walk or congregate on Halloween this year, owing to the prevalence of the Spanish influenza. In past years, Halloween, the night on which ghosts are both unusually active and unusually propitious, has been celebrated in many and various ways, by small boys, and older ones, too, who on mischief bent, prowled the streets until a late hour, and older folk who made the night merry with dancing and parties. But on Halloween this year, there will be none of the usual gayety, for all are united in the effort to check the spread of the dread disease."

 

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: Moving Picture Weekly, October 20, 1917

On October 28, 1917, Princess Virtue, a five-reel Bluebird film was released.

It was called "a light, breezy comedy of the bathing beaches and gay Paree . . . a most pleasing Sunday offering." - San Bernardino Sun, November 18, 1917.

Some of the beach scenes were filmed on California's Santa Catalina Island.

 

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MOVIES WAY BACK WHEN

Image: courtesy of Mike Perry

Actress Blanche Payson was born in Santa Barbara, California and appeared in 158 movies, although none were filmed here. Blanche was 6'2" or 6'4", depending on the source. She performed with comedy greats such as Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, and the Three Stooges, among many others. Many of her parts were small, but she was the leading player in some films. She was usually cast as a domineering wife or mother-in-law, parts in which her height gave her a distinct advantage.

 

Here she is in a scene with Buster Keaton in the 1923 film Three Ages.

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: Universal Weekly, October 4, 1924

Universal's seven-reel comedy The Fast Worker was released on October 26 in 1924. Parts of the movie were filmed on California's Santa Catalina Island.

 

Here's a quick synopsis: "He met her on the train. He started to make love to her in the hotel, he proposed to her in the woods, he kissed her in the auto, he eloped with her on the steamer. Oh boy, he was The Fast Worker." - Northern Neck News (Warsaw, Virginia), July 31, 1925

 

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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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