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Santa Cruz County History - Films
Santa Cruz Sentinel-News, Morning Edition. March 20, 1917. p. 5
SUNDAY COURT SCENES OF THE ROBARDS PLAYERS ATTRACT MANY PEOPLE
by Josephine Clifford McCrackin
We're all in it; and when that picture is released and brought back to Santa Cruz, we'll all have a chance to criticise each other.
It was in the courtroom in our courthouse, and the shooting of pictures for their great film by the Robards Company began early in the morning and lasted till late in the afternoon; and it will be the regret of my life that I did not visit the courtroom early in the day, for I had missed a scene of local and historic interest by being late: the triumph of Attorney Fred W. Swanton pleading for the prohibition party. I was told that the applause this attorney won for his success fairly shook the house.
This was in the film, you understand; and among the jurors were Harry Fleisig, S. Strauss, Sam Alkire, O'Keeffe and others, with J. J. Doran as foreman.
I should explain that this is the play of which we saw the beginning in this very courtroom, and the first continuation in the sun parlor at the beach. But we all know that the pictures are not taken in the order in which they are run on the screen. A scene here and a scene taken a hundred miles away, and the last scene taken first, sometimes; or a scene from the middle of the play precedes the opening picture. So in this case.
Mayor Howe, prosecuting attorney, hurled question after question at the head of the big, stolid Italian bomb-thrower (Mr. Griffith), eliciting only the one answer, "Si, signor; si, si; he throw the bomb." Then the prosecuting attorney would thunder at him, "Are you sure this is the man? Was he forced by the rest of you to throw the bomb, or did he go of his own free will?" "Si, signor; he wanta throw the bomb."
Well, the prisoners are condemned, Williams (Willis Robards) the husband of the lady governor (Dorothy Davenport) one of them. Innocent as he knows himself to be, he stands like a statue among the real criminals receiving their sentence. Then one of those tragic, pathetic moments arrives, and the whole crowded courtroom is thrilled as with a real incident in life: Mrs. Robards, a slender, brunette, with dark Italian eyes and fine-cut features, springs up, the wife of the big bomb-thrower, and with outstretched, pleading hands raised to the judge, she cries: "My hosband! You no taka my hosband from me--oh no, no, no--" till she falls back exhausted into the arms of two sympathetic ladies sitting on either side of her in the audience (in this case Mrs. Gosliner and Mrs. Tom Parker) who try to soothe and comfort her.
And here let me say that more real tears are shed in making up screen pictures than ever were shed on the stage. If a man or a woman is really fitted for their work, they must live what they are playing--or rather acting. When I saw Willis Robards in the scene where Father Sweeney (Mr. Kearns) was preparing him for the execution, this big, strong man sobbed like a child, his head on his folded hands, in the prison cell, and Father Sweeney holding the cross in trembling hands above him. This was one of the scenes put on the film "ahead of time," in Laveaga Park.
But to finish in the courtroom. A San Franciscan, Mr. Peer, a man of fine presence, was the judge who pronounced the sentence on the prisoners. Captain Armstrong was one of the judges, too, and wore a severely judicial air.
I don't wonder that many people had come to the rehearsal, nor do I wonder that Santa Cruzans are always willing to go on the screen for Hal Reid. This gentleman in the most courteous manner always explains what the scene will represent when taken, and what expression he would like that the audience should show in their face. The presence of so many Santa Cruzans will make the motion picture of the greatest interest, and when it comes here I am going to watch especially for Santa Cruz officials, from Mayor Howe to Michael Curry and Tom Parker.
All this looks as if there had been only Santa Cruzans there. But Billie Bennett, the militant suffragette, with her emphatic umbrella was there, and Mrs. Griffith (Mrs. Louden), leading suffragette. Miss Griffith is also a suffragette. Dorothy Davenport, who, after having been made first woman judge, is next made governor, was present, though not active while I was there. Marcella Russell, with her long curls, and the appealing look in a face with sightless eyes--is the play--was before the lights several times, so was Mrs. Russell, who is the mother of the lady governor, on the screen. George Russell, who is sheriff and detective in this play, has had some experience in real life, having been detective on the Coebel murder case in Kentucky. Mr. Davies is also well known.
Again there were those terrific lights, and although Mr. Lundien is known to be perfect as camera man, he can not well attend to all the lights, and it is refreshing to see every villain and bomb-thrower, and even kid-gloved newspaper reporter Utell, jump in and help to manage these wonderful new light spreaders. Messrs. Kurfess and Tavares have evidently taken a course in electrics as well as bomb-throwing.
Though small in size, great in importance was Master Robards, fair haired as his mother is dark, but a screen actor at four.
Copyrighted by the Santa Cruz Sentinel-News, Morning Edition. Reproduced by permission.