LA MESA Centennial Reflections: SILENT FILM MAKING IN SAN DIEGO

February 27, 2012

The Artist,Silent Film,San Diego History Journal,The American Film Company

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in The Artist

The Artist

 

A couple of weeks ago I learned that one of the production companies in the early days of the silent film industry based themselves in Lakeside and La Mesa.  They called their operation The American Film Company and featured a stunt team called the The Flying A’s.  It crossed my mind that this might be a great subject for a blog, and then low and behold The Artist swept five Oscars this year.  Yay!  I love it when these things work out.  Though I have not seen the film, the trailer promises a charming and visually brilliant depiction of the life of a fictional movie star George Valentin.

1898 – 1912

Silent film making in San Diego, by Blaine P. Lamb, in The Journal of San Diego History, gives some interesting history of local silent film.

The American Film Company,Silent Film San Diego,La Mesa Centennial,Lakeside

Early Days Aerial Stunts

 Although the film industry had its genesis on the East Coast there soon occurred an exodus of moviemakers to points throughout the country.  It was not long before these primeval producers found their way to California.  As early as 1897, the Thomas Edison Company had cameramen traveling the length and breadth of the Golden State. In February 1898, an Edison crew shot a picture entitled, Street Scene, San Diego, (California).  The entire film was but twenty-five feet long and contained a glimpse of downtown San Diego and a double-decker trolley car taken from a fixed camera position.  These humble beginnings marked the birth of the motion picture business on the West Coast.

Stunt Men and Cinematographers

The American Film Company did not narrow themselves solely to aerial acrobatics.  The production company also filmed quite a few westerns.  According to Lamb, these were westerns with a twist, exploiting social issues into the bargain.  One such film was entitled, The Cowboy Socialist.  Things have not changed much since then.  I hope this little nugget whets your appetite to find out more about the rich history of our fine city.

Jean Dujardin,The Artist,Michel Hazanvicius,Silent Film

Jean Dujardin as George Valentin in The Artist

 

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