Santa Cruz County History - Films

Full Text Newspaper ArticleSanta Cruz Sentinel-News, Morning Edition. Oct. 17, 1917. p. 2


by Josephine Clifford McCrackin

Michelena Flat, the romantic setting for more than one of Bret Harte's romantic early-day stories, is growing in extent and popularity. Elegant interiors, and fake exteriors, have been added, so that other picture-filming companies have expressed a desire for the use and possession of what was once Poverty Flat.

At present the Beatriz Michelena company holds this grand stage in another play by Earle Snell, the man whose last play is always the best. This time it is "Just Squaw," another picture of the "Primitive West," the California days when the first white women, few and far between, came here.

But Fawn, Beatriz Michelena, was not "Just Squaw," which is shown in the prologue, where the Indian woman (Miss Angers), deserted by "Tennessee" Jones, takes her revenge by capturing the little daughter of Jones' white wife, and passing her off as her own.

The prologue closes dramatically and realistically with the death of the Indian woman, who has survived both "Tennessee" Jones and his white wife. Indian fashion she lies stoically awaiting death, but surrounded by all the symbols and tokens of a "good Indian" religion, though the bright red dress she wears, and the down-at-heels ladies' boots, proclaim that civilization has lapped the edge of this wilderness. The "God plague" of the Oraibe Indians is on the wall above her head, but her Indian dance-dress, with its tinkling, flapping fringe, hangs close beside it. At almost the last gasp she summons her Indian son, whose father is "Tennessee" Jones, to her side, and sending little Fawn, who thinks the Indian woman her mother, away, she insists that the half-breed, little Fawn's half brother, take a solemn Indian oath always to claim Fawn as his full sister; never to betray that there is a drop of white blood in the girl's veins. Albert Morrison makes a magnificent half-breed Indian, and little June Williams, not more than ten, shows her talent as little Fawn.

When the play opens, after the prologue, little Fawn has become a beautiful and dashing girl, and the ten years since the curtain fell have obliterated all trace of her early history. She believes the half-breed her brother, and even the parson at the parsonage does not know to the contrary. Beatriz Michelena, with dark eyes, naturally black hair, and the swift, graceful movements of a gazelle, is an ideal type of the Indian that does not exist, but is so attractive on the stage or screen; and what Fawn's trials would be, is not difficult to tell. But there is so much of pioneer story and adventure woven into it that it is an interesting picture from any point of view.

"Snake" Le Gal is so treacherous and hateful a character that only an artist could take the part, and Andrew Robson plays it. Sam Hollister is the role of the leading man, William Pike; the parson, good man, is Jeff Williams, and Mr. Mitsora is two at once, "Babe" Romney and Jimmy Dorr. But these are only the principal figures, for the half-breed turns outlaw and many men are needed in the play.

It is so easy to say "they are filming such a picture at such a place." But you don't know what it means till you have watched day after day the incessant struggle with sun and shadow, with chance of minute disturbance or disarrangement, till any ordinary mortal would swear and throw up the sponge. But Geo. E. Middleton, director, is made of sterner stuff, and he tries and tries till he succeeds. In the "tries" and the struggle Mr. Burrell, architect in chief, is also involved; but Mr. Padilla, he of the gigantic, spread-out-able, double-up-able camera--what does he do while they are tirelessly posing? He philosophically opens his penknife and begins to carve; and no artist-countrymen of his has ever done anything more wonderful than the exquisite fashioning of an elephant, with a--what-do-you-call-it--on his back, and the whole as big as one half your finger nail.

Copyrighted by the Santa Cruz Sentinel-News, Morning Edition. Reproduced by permission.