Santa Cruz County History - Films

Full Text Newspaper ArticleSanta Cruz Daily Surf. Feb. 16, 1915. p. 8


A Visit to Mimic Pioneer Village Where Movies Are Being Made

by James P. Leonard

Secure in the fastness of the forest primeval a short mile above Boulder Creek, guarded against the intrusion of thoughtless "visitors" and the distractions of the city, the California Motion Picture Corporation has established and built up a motion picture town and studio. It is here that Bret Harte's famous book, "The Lily of Poverty Flat," depicting the life of early California settlers in the days of gold, is being dramatized, or "filmatized." And it is here that a typical early California settlement has sprung up. This is "Poverty Flat," which for the time being is the home of such screen stars as Beatrice Michalena, Andrew Robeson, Matt Snyder, Frederick Lewis, Earl Imlay, Mary Land, George Arper (who created such a sensation in the leading role in "Salome Jane"), Tom and Jack Millrick, cowboys from the northern part of the state and who won such great honors at the recent rodeo; D. Mitsoras and Annette Fox, famed for her Indian impersonations. One not knowing her personally would immediately think she was a genuine daughter of a red skin chief.

Poverty Flat, as has been said, is a typical pioneer village. It consists of a dozen log and shake cabins, with its usual quota of saloons, general merchandise stores conspicuous among them being the post office and overland stage headquarters. On the extreme end of the "town" a high platform has been erected, from upon which two camera men record the daily happenings and mishaps of the villagers, and the director, H. Entwistle, bellows his hoarse directions to the actors, putting life and vim into the action of the play.

Methods of Photoing

On reaching Boulder Creek the writer was presented to Mr. Burrel, chief of the commissary department; was given lunch and was then taken to "Poverty Flat" in one of the Company's delivery wagons, where, upon arriving, was introduced to George Middleton and was taken around and shown the "sights" of the town and also the photographing of a few of the different scenes of the drama.

An innovation in the art of taking motion pictures has been introduced by the California Motion Picture Company in the staging of this play, which is the taking of interior scenes on the very spot upon which the rest of the acting is being done. To attain this, shells of cabins have been erected minus a roof and one side, over which a huge white sheet is spread for the proper diffusion and regulating of the light. On the floor and sides, out of focus of the cameras, are spread white diffusors and reflectors, in order that every facial expression and the most minute of the interior details may be brought out clearly and vividly.

Behind the two camera men, Frank Padilla and Lou Hutt, stands the manager, George Middleton, and the producer and director, Mr. Entwistle, which two personages direct every action, giving instructions, commands and suggestions to the actors, property men and operators and attending in every possible manner to the general staging of their great feature film.

In taking the outdoor pictures, such as a street scene, town panorama, etc., the large platform is used, from which an unobstructed view of the town and the high mountains surrounding is obtained. It is from here that the writer saw the photographing and acting of one of the main action scenes of the play, which was the escape of a Mexican (D. Mitsoras) from the sheriff's posse, who followed him in hot pursuit on horses. This scene, to the observers in a moving picture theater, will take between one to two minutes, while that short scene was rehearsed between ten and twelve times before the camera men could ever think of recording it. The same process was gone thru in a short scene in the village general store and post office, where the director had the participants go thru the action of the scene upward of a dozen times, until he was satisfied as to the most minute of details, such as the glimpsing thru the open door and window of the big stage coach loaded with mail and passengers dashing up and stopping in front of the store.

The Company, Its Equipment, Etc.

On the regular pay roll of the Company at Boulder Creek are between seventy-five and eighty people, all who have regular parts in the "Lily of Poverty Flat," while in some scenes upward of a hundred people will appear.

As the manager, George Middleton, stated, the California Motion Picture Company is the most completely equipped and better prepared for staging a great play than any other company in the business, and to prove this assertion pointed to their three previous productions, "Mrs. Wiggs Of The Cabbage Patch," "Mignon," and "Salome Jane," all of them being film masterpieces, not being equalled by any previous productions of other companies.

A few scenes of "Salome Jane" were taken about seven or eight months ago near Boulder Creek on the San Lorenzo River and in the deep gorge of the creek that follows the state road for a few miles outside Boulder, while the opening scene of this play was taken on Boulder's main street.

To add to the completeness of the play, a large mine, with large sluiceways, dams, etc., has been constructed on Boulder Creek. During the last storm the dam and sluiceways washed away, but the Company's large force of carpenters are now at work repairing the damage done and if the weather permits the mine will be in working order in a few days.

No expense has been spared by the Company in the securing of the best possible paraphernalia for the proper filming of plays, which may be gleaned from the fact that in the every day film work a $1250 Belle and Howard camera is used. This camera carries two reels, so that two negatives of the same scene may be secured. In addition a $700 camera is used in conjunction with the Belle and Howard machine, with the result that three pictures of each scene are secured.

A large modern laboratory is now being installed in Boulder Creek to be used for developing the pictures taken there. This is being installed in order that no time will be wasted between taking and releasing the pictures. The proofs will be shown at Boulder in the Company's private auditorium.

Besides this laboratory the California Motion Picture Company has one of the finest studios and laboratories in America, located at San Rafael, where "Mrs. Wiggs Of The Cabbage Patch," one of their great productions, was staged and filmed; also parts of "Mignon" and "Salome Jane," the latter two being conceded by experts all over the country as being masterpieces.

To harmonize and add to the effect the company has at "Poverty Flat" about thirty horses, many burros, mules, chickens, ducks, etc; also an old time stage coach over forty years old.

Notables Seen at Poverty Flat

On the occasion of Miss Michalena's birthday a great celebration was held among the players, who had "Salome Jane" brought to Boulder Creek and shown for Miss Michalena's benefit. To add to the occasion, Ferdinand Michalena, the noted tenor who fifteen years ago occupied Caruso's place in grand opera, came to the mountain metropolis.

Acting the part of a deputy sheriff is seen a noted descendant of a great Spanish family, Nicholas Couverupice of Don Portola fame, a direct descendant of the great discoverer of San Francisco Bay.

A Saturday visitor to Poverty Flat was one Carl Buttgenbach, a former athlete who in 1906-7 starred in the 100 and 200 yard dashes. At the Greater San Francisco Field Day in 1906 he won from a field of thirty or more candidates the 220 yard dash.

Charles Kenyon, the scenario writer of the "Lily Of Poverty Flat," is on the grounds five days in the week. He is now working on a scenario depicting present day life in the mountains, which will be filmed at Boulder Creek.

Copyrighted by the Santa Cruz Daily Surf. Reproduced by permission.