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

SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Neptune's Daughter


On April 25, 1914, the seven-reel mermaid fantasy Neptune's Daughter was released. Some scenes were filmed on California's Santa Catalina Island, although most of it was filmed in Bermuda.


Reviewers from as far away as Scotland were impressed by the film. "Lovers of the sea will be charmed and fascinated with the graceful movements of the mermaids." – Devon Valley Tribune (Clackmannanshire, Scotland), August 1, 1916


Copies of this film do exist.

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

The Tiger's Trail


On April 20, 1919, the adventure serial The Tiger's Trail was released. Some episodes were filmed on California's Santa Cruz Island. Maybe it should have been called The Trail of the Spider. Read on.


"During the making of this picture, Miss Roland [the star] had to lie outstretched on the studio floor for several hours waiting for a tarantula to crawl up her arm so that the camera could register the scene." – Photo-Play Journal, April 1919


"In one scene . . . she has to let [a tarantula] climb up her bare arm . . . she says it 'stepped on her as carefully as if she had been a warm personal friend.'" – Star (Seattle, Washington), April 10, 1919


There are no known copies of this serial.

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: News (Chattanooga, Tennessee), May 18, 1918

The Woman in the Web

 

On April 8, 1918, the serial film The Woman in the Web was released. It had 15 episodes, some of which were filmed on California's Santa Cruz Island. The company ran into some very unusual weather during the filming.

 

"The players . . . journey to the Santa Cruz Islands [sic] to film 'sunny summer weather,' demanded in the script. But they bumped into a full-fledged snow flurry and stoutly maintain that the scenes made of snow clinging to the blossoming trees and plants are the most beautiful ever recorded." – Motography, April 20, 1918

 

There are no known copies of this film.

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SILENTS IN MONTECITO

Image: screenshot

The Dumb Girl of Portici


On April 3, 1916, the eight-reel film The Dumb Girl of Portici was released. Some scenes for the movie were filmed at an estate in Montecito, California. (A century ago, the term "dumb" meant "unable to speak.") The star was a world-famous ballerina.


The film was extremely popular. "Although Pavlowa in The Dumb Girl of Portici has been shown six times daily to crowded houses . . . there are hundreds of people who have been turned away." – Los Angeles Herald, May 13, 1916


(This film was available on Youtube the last time I checked.)

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MOVIES WAY BACK WHEN

Image: Exhibitors Herald, March 16, 1918

Cars and stars at the "Flying A"

 

Of course, if you're a movie star, you can't just drive any old car. The star ingenue at Santa Barbara's "Flying A," Mary Miles Minter had a peacock blue Packard, for example.

 

William Russell, the leading actor at the studio, also had a spiffy set of wheels. He poses here in front of the "Flying A" studio. That building is still here at Mission and Chapala, and still looks pretty much the same today as it did 100 years ago. Not sure what happened to the car.

 

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SILENTS IN MONTECITO

Image: Motography, March 27, 1915

Ancestry

 

This movie was released on March 22, 1915. It could have been titled The Didn't Wanna-Be Duchess. It was filmed on one of the estates in Montecito, California. A young American woman is asked by a real Italian duchess to masquerade as her daughter, for reasons that are too convoluted to explain here. The young woman is, of course, happy to do this. (Who wouldn't?) Both the real duchess and the wanna-be duchess return to Italy and live la dulce vita on the palatial estate until the wanna-be duchess falls in love with an American artist.

 

So, here's the catch. (You knew there had to be a catch, right?) Her amante is a commoner, and that's completamente impossibile for someone of her position. Oh, mio Dio! What to do?

 

After much hand-wringing and bosom clutching, the wanna-be duchess decides she doesn't wanna be. So, she fesses up to the young man, and suddenly life is beautiful! The movie ends as the happy couple vow to love each other yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

 

No copies are known to exist. 

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MOVIES WAY BACK WHEN

Image: Motion Picture News, June 19, 1915

Special Effects on the Cheap

One hundred years ago, movie studios had neither budget nor equipment for special effects, so they leapt into action to film natural disasters such as shipwrecks and use them in a film. In 1915, the Norwegian ship Aggi ran aground on California's Santa Rosa Island. The Universal Film Company of Universal City paid $4,000 for the rights to film on the wreck and produced a film aptly titled The Toll of the Sea.

 

No copies are known to exist.

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: Moving Picture Weekly, April 23, 1921

The Diamond Queen
Some scenes of this adventure serial, released on March 15, 1921, were filmed on California's Santa Catalina Island. Here's the summary of just one episode of "The Diamond Queen" starring Eileen Sedgwick:

"She is called upon to jump from the rails of an ocean liner, in the dead of night, into a rough and shark-infested sea. Rough water had no terrors for Eileen Sedgwick, but sharks were an experience. Needless to say, she performed the hazardous feat herself, and it was marked by the same spirit of courage and daring which is so characteristic of this girl's screen work." – Moving Picture Weekly, January 21, 1921


No copies are known to exist.

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MOVIES WAY BACK WHEN

Image: A scene from the "Flying A" movie The Quest which was filmed at this estate in 1915. Reel Life, March 13, 1915

Touring the Piranhurst estate

 

There were a couple of walking/hiking groups in Santa Barbara, California in the 19-teens. One was the Nature Study Club. This group was fortunate enough to be allowed to wander around some of Montecito's grandest estates. (In those years, some of the estates were open to the public.)

 

In 1919, the group visited the Piranhurst estate belonging to H.E. Bothin on Cold Spring Road. "A walk through a lovely canyon under rustic arbors covered with trumpet vine and passion flowers led to the open-air theater that is unique in its setting and is a joy and delight to the beholder." The "Flying A" and a studio from Los Angeles had filmed silent movies at this estate.

 

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SILENTS ON THE ISLANDS

Image: Exhibitors Trade Review, October 3, 1925

The Black Pirate

 

This movie was released on March 8, 1926. Many of the scenes were filmed on or around California's Santa Catalina Island. To perfect his form, Douglas Fairbanks was said to be taking lessons in knife throwing, using a cutlass, as well as swimming lessons with swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller. Weissmuller later transitioned to movies and television.

 

Fortunately, copies of this film do exist and are available on Youtube for your viewing pleasure. 

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