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

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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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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