The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1992, Volume 38, Number 1
Richard W. Crawford, Editor

by GiannaMaria Babando

Images from the article

Anyone who enjoys film will attest to the fact that its ability to transport spectators into another place and another time is one of the medium’s most entrancing qualities. Several techniques such as dialogue, costuming, and setting make this possible. Setting in particular is effective for conveying the desired mood and impression. It is not surprising, then, that the studios went to extra expense to provide realistic backdrops for their productions. As producer and director Allan Dwan said of Soldiers of Fortune (1919), “I liked the way that picture turned out. It was very good, and one of the reasons was because I fell heir to some great backgrounds.”1

The “great backgrounds” that Dwan commended were those found in San Diego’s Balboa Park. Dedicated in 1868, the park had long remained in its wild, natural state under the San Diego Board of Trustees. A Park Committee was appointed in 1902, but it was not until 1909, when G. Aubrey Davidson, president of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, proposed that the city host an exposition to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, that the area began to take the shape that is familiar today. Davidson suggested that this “Panama-California Exposition” planned for 1915, would provide both buildings for the park and international publicity for San Diego.2 Balboa Park is still renowned for its scenic beauty and romantic architecture.

These same attributes attracted the attention of the Hollywood film industry as far back as the Exposition itself. One of the first reels of film ever to be shot in the park was a Mack Sennett comedy, Fatty and Mabel At the San Diego Exposition (1915). Sennett used the fairground as the actual setting for his film which starred two of the most famous comedic talents of that time: Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Mabel Normand.3 Subsequently other film companies would use Balboa Park (and other public commons) as backdrops for their movies set in distant lands. Years later, Dwan recalled his Soldiers of Fortune location experience:

I went down and used the fairgrounds in San Diego which were perfect for a small Latin republic. They were kind of magnificent too — all in plaster. And I got practically all the people in San Diego working in the picture. There were no unions in those days, so I put an ad in the paper inviting the populace to bring their lunches and come out to Balboa Park to see a picture being made. And they came in droves. I put straw hats on them, and when I brought my actors by, I said, “Wave those straw hats,” and they all waved them. Thousands of people in the picture, all having a good time, eating their lunch and waving straw hats and getting no money, being allowed to see a picture being made.4

In fact, location shooting in city parks became so popular that the San Diego Board of Park Commissioners, the administrative body that supervised the use of those areas, was forced to develop a formal procedure and schedule for the management of park sites and facilities.

The concept of location shooting was significant to the formation of the studios as well. Photoplay pioneers in New York and Chicago, struck by the popularity of their product, realized that their profitable reel-a-week process could become even more lucrative if increased fourfold. Such an arrangement precluded an increase in the number of directors and staff required to assist them in production. Thus, by 1909, the director-unit system was born with a number of companies under the control of a single studio. Based in the east but forced to keep up with year-round demand, they found it necessary to send these units to locales which allowed for exterior shooting even in the winter months. The quality and spirit that authentic settings achieved seems to have warranted the expense. Indeed, this was the main reason for the establishment of film studios in California.5

The division of labor in these units eventually resulted in specialization and compartmentation. By 1913 the selection of exterior locations had passed from being a director’s concern to an assistant director’s responsibility. Later on the position of “location man” or “location manager” was created to fulfill this task.6 Although a location manager may have found the ideal site for a particular picture, budget considerations sometimes dictated that a locale close to home base be chosen. This too had its drawbacks as producer Arthur C. Miller observed in One Reel a Week:

To produce our [Yorke Film Company’s] upcoming western series [1919], it was apparent that we needed a change in background from the run-of-the-mill westerns that were being shot short distances from Hollywood.

Their version of the western genre thus found a home in the environs of San Diego.7

Exotic locales that suggested foreign lands were also popular. To their delight the Hollywood studios discovered Balboa Park and the structures that had been erected for the exposition. These provided the movies with a variety of possible applications. In addition, production companies eagerly availed themselves of the fresh scenic landscapes in San Diego’s other parks.8 Here spectacle and efficiency were ideally combined to yield a successful and popular product.

The most sought-after location by far was Balboa Park, though Torrey Pines Park and Plaza Park were also the subject of many inquiries. The buildings in Balboa Park were originally constructed around a rectangular court, with the gate at Laurel Street to the eastern perimeter (Park Blvd.) mostly comprised of “ornamental plazas and esplanades.” Several edifices, including the California Building, impressive in its Renaissance Spanish style, lined one side of the court. The very large Botanical building was placed to the north, surrounded by international and government exhibits such as the Japanese Tea Pavilion and the “Varied Industries” displays. Cliff dwellings and tepees of the Arizona and New Mexico Indian tribes were situated further beyond with the natives present to demonstrate their ways of life. Ostensibly these were to provide a point of context for the fair’s themes: “the progress of man,” and the “resources … and the possibilities and future of the southwest.”9

Influenced by the Mexican and Spanish heritage of the area, the exposition committee decided that the buildings should be of the Spanish-Colonial style with colonnades, tiled roofs, patios, and fountains. New York architect Bertram Goodhue was hired; horticulturalists were engaged to provide landscaping including plants from throughout the world.10 It was the attractiveness of these elements and their effective representation of exotic locales that made filmmakers look to Balboa Park as an excellent source of exterior locations. This is evidenced by the more than fifty inquiries made into filming in Balboa and other parks throughout the city between 1915 and 1930.

Of the specified sites within Balboa Park, the majority of requests concerned the Indian Village and Painted Desert. (The latter of these was a simulation of the colored rock plateau region native to Arizona.) The central and largest plaza, the “Plaza de Panama”, and the “Laguna de las Flores”, also known as “the Lily Pond” were also popular filming locations. Another lagoon, “La Laguna Cabrillo,” featured the balustraded Cabrillo Bridge that spans the westernmost end of the park.11

So popular were these areas that motion picture companies petitioned the park board to allow them to establish studios along the Plaza. After consulting with the mayor, the board rejected such an overture from J. A. Robinson in March 1916. In November 1916 the board denied Victor Kremer’s request to set up a “film city” on the grounds that the board had “no legal right to lease any part of the park for commercial purposes.”12 Strangely enough, this was the same year that the Pollard Picture Plays Company was established along the Plaza (November 1916). Possibly because these people were “responsible and among the cleanest and best in the profession, and [were] spending considerable money in San Diego … increasing the amount as they progress[ed] in business” and were at the same time “producing moving pictures of a high type,” they were allowed to remain in their studio through 1917.13 Margarita Fischer, wife of Harry Pollard and star of his productions recalled:


We made five pictures that year…but we went broke because a Chicago company that distributed them never paid us. So we went back to Los Angeles. We would have stayed here [in Balboa Park], too. It was a lot cheaper making movies [here].14

Apparently other companies agreed. Between 1916 and 1930 Adolph Kramer, the Mayflower Photoplay Corporation, Bert Lennon Productions, the Great Southwestern Film Company, and West Coast Producers and Distributors Incorporated submitted proposals for renting buildings in Balboa Park. The park board denied all but two of these (Bert Lennon and West Coast Producers) who were only allowed to remain temporarily.15

The extant records indicate that thirty-eight studios, companies, and individuals expressed a desire to film in city parks during this period. Some of these merely stated in which parks they wanted to roll their cameras and the dates they expected to film. Those who had obviously done advance scouting and research provided more detailed information. For example, in October 1915, the local Lubin Motion Picture Company was allowed to film in the Pine Tree section of Balboa Park “between Upas and Quince Sts. and Park and West Drives.”16 On December 27 and 28 of the same year they were again able to film — this time in Switzer Canyon, and in “the ‘Jungle’ in the canyon back of the Fine Arts Building” near the Plaza de California.17

On June 20, 1918, Triangle Film Corporation submitted a letter of inquiry with regard to the possibility of taking a “moving picture of the pigeons in the Plaza at Balboa Park.” Filming, under the direction of Frank Borzage, was to begin about 9:00 A.M. Sunday morning and would include “several scenes of a man and a girl feeding the pigeons and one or two scenes at a table in an open air Cafe in Paris.”18 Ben Wilson Productions’ application to film in early September 1919 promised “no rough stuff” would be involved in their shooting “around the gardens and on the side walks, and in front of [the] Japanese Restaurant, [and] also in front of one of the large buildings.” They noted that nine people would be involved in this process.19 A letter dated 25 August 1924, from the General Studio Manager of the William Fox Vaudeville Company, stated that he had received phone confirmation regarding permission for the Tom Buckingham Company to film in Balboa Park on 28 August. To be included in the footage were the “front entrance of the main building, also the rotunda, with the buildings of Balboa Park in the background.”20

Precise details about the intended shoot, such as dates and the number of people involved, became pivotal once the park board instituted certain guidelines for filmmaking. The board’s earliest demands were simple: the film companies would be financially responsible for any damage done to park property, including that caused by fire.21 Special care was insisted upon for those using Torrey Pines Park, due to the rarity of its native trees.22 Although “due care” became a permanent part of contracts the board later added several other requirements that became standard.23 In June 1919, the board asked the Fox Film Corporation to submit its working plans to the park superintendent for approval.24 Afterwards it was common for oversight from the superintendent to be a condition under which a company would work. The first mention of a fee to be paid by filmmakers occurred in May 1919 when the Mayflower Company was charged a five hundred dollar bond for ten days’ work to ensure the protection of park property.25 Once the company paid $116.07 for labor and cleanup the deposit was returned; restorative costs could not be deducted.26

When the Universal Film Manufacturing Company requested use of the Indian Village in June 1921 it was advised that notice of its intent to shoot must be made in advance to the park office. The minimum deposit on ten days of filming was five hundred dollars (fifty dollars per day), plus fifty cents per day per person in the company. Further, there would be a charge for “electricity and materials furnished by the park,” as well as for cleanup (as usual). The board notified the company that half of the rental would be redirected to the Boy Scouts who had been given permission to occupy the Indian Village after the exposition and use the Painted Desert as their headquarters.27 It was not until April 1925 that fifty dollars per day and a flat rate fifty dollar refundable damage deposit became the rental fee. One month later the board issued a firm “schedule of charges for motion picture work.”28

As early as July 1923, the Nonpareil Producing Company attempted to convince the board that it was entitled to a waiver of fees since it was a local organization. Though this request was rejected, in March 1925 the San Diego Cinema Corporation was granted a half-rate reduction, presumably due to the influence of San Diego entrepreneur Col. Ed Fletcher.29 After the schedule was established in May, companies continued to seek rate adjustments. For example, the park board minutes of 8 September 1927 indicate that the board had received a telegram from an independent motion picture producer requesting permission to make films in Balboa Park “on a lump sum basis.” The board denied the request.30

A particular condition was placed upon the work of the Pollard Company, T. A. Edison Film Corporation, Screen Arts Films, and Triangle Films. All were allowed to film in Balboa Park pending the approval of the Navy Training Station Commandant. When America entered World War I, San Diego offered the vacated exposition buildings to the government in support of the war effort. The U. S. Naval Training Center and the Naval Air Station were then established in the park. Their personnel often provided security for the working filmmakers.31 The Boy Scouts were also stationed in the park before and after the war32 and until 1924, filming requests also had to have their approval. When William Fox Studios planned a “sequence around a cliff dweller’s set” it borrowed a collection of photographs from the Boy Scouts in order to better plan their shoot.33

Other than obtaining this extra permission to film, the companies had to avoid interfering in other events taking place in the park. For example, an operatic presentation (May 1919) and an organ recital (May 1922), both held at the Organ Pavilion in the Plaza de Los Estados at the south end of the Esplanada, curtailed the shooting schedules of the Mayflower Company and the Vitagraph Company of California.34 The permit granted to Action Pictures Incorporated in April 1925 for its use of the Indian Village stipulated that the company could not use the Organ Plaza between 2:30 and 4:30 P.M.35 In September 1927, Mascot Pictures Corporation was prohibited from working on Sunday, the only such qualification in the records.36 The park board generally accepted set-building on the premises except on one occasion. The basic rule was that the company had to remove all structures after the completion of filming without expense to the park department.37

Ordinarily the board was generous with the studios and sympathetic to the rigors and special circumstances of film production.38 Provisions for extensions on the time allotted in the permit were frequently made though not always free of charge. In one case, however, the permit remained valid until completion of the picture.39 When the advent of powerful arc lights and improved portable generators permitted filming at night the companies appealed to the park board to lengthen the number of hours they could shoot in one day. The board, ever-astute in financial matters, insisted that Famous Players-Lasky Corporation (November 1922) pay for the overtime and electrical equipment as well as five cents per kilowatt for the current.40

Over the years the park management gradually changed the form of the permits. They appeared first as letters signed by representatives of the park board (usually the secretary) and the film company (usually the location manager or the director). Responding to Lou Strohm’s inquiry in August 1926, Board Secretary Albert S. Hill wrote the location manager of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios that the “matter of obtaining a permit is the work of only a few moments upon application at this office.”41 A permit was either forwarded to the studio and returned, signed, when the company arrived in San Diego to do the actual shooting, or held until the company checked into the Department’s office to complete the particulars. Sometimes, as in the case of Famous Players-Lasky in August 1925, a separate document known as a “location agreement” was also processed. This was an official company form which reiterated the terms of the permit administered by the park board.42 Eventually these documents assumed the form of an official contract — like that undertaken between the board and Warner Bros. Pictures Incorporated in 1925. The permits contained the date of the shoot, the special adaptations of the park grounds (once approved), and the rates for personnel, animals, vehicles, and sets. Also, the requirements of “special care” for the grounds was emphasized.

An examination of these permits and their accompanying correspondence yields many interesting perspectives on both location shooting and the accommodations made to the early film industry by the Board of Park Commissioners. For example, Allan Dwan’s Soldiers of Fortune was shot in Balboa Park without paying a rental fee. Instead, the company promised three sets of production stills to the board, which, according to a letter of 21 July 1919, were duly received.43 Receipt of these photos from the newly-formed Mayflower Company’s first release was never recorded in the Board of Park Commissioners minutes of 1919, nor were they mentioned anywhere thereafter. This is unfortunate for the photographs would provide significant visual information on the shoot and the film itself.

On the other hand, correspondence between the Park Board and Famous Players-Lasky in January 1922 provides some insight into the latter’s production. The company spent ten days in Balboa Park and filmed along the Plaza de Panama between 9:00 A.M. and 4:30 P.M. While the cameras were actually rolling the traffic through the park was halted, but not for more than one hour at a time (the permit exempted park department vehicles from this restriction). The Board provided dressing and lunch rooms in the Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Kern County buildings located around the Plaza de Panama and the Esplanada to the south. Lastly, it granted the filmmakers the right to decorate the edifices along the Plaza with flags and other ornamentation with the park superintendent overseeing any construction.44 Fortunately, at least two production stills from this endeavor have been preserved, as published in the San Diego Union in March 1939.45 The film, entitled The Dictator, starred Wallace Reid and Lila Lee.

When the Vitagraph Company in 1925 submitted its intention to use Torrey Pines Park for two weeks of filming in February it requested permission to “build a little cottage” that would stand “for a couple of months.” The company also sought to “run a water pipe line from the road to the location,” and to plant a few flowers and shrubs.46 It further petitioned for a flat rate of $250 rather than the regular charge. The board responded favorably, although it stipulated that the company obtain permission from Ellen Scripps as their plans entailed using part of her property. With her approval and that of the Commission’s President, Hugo Klauber (for the lowered rate), Vitagraph produced The Garden of Charity (1925). Both the studio and the board were pleased with the handling of the shoot.47

Other productions were not so untrammeled. In January 1922, Starrett Ford of Metro Pictures Corporation applied on behalf of the Rex Ingram Company to film a picture called Prisoner of Zenda. This would have included a cast and staff of about thirty people and the use of one hundred to three hundred San Diegan extras. The studio made financial arrangements and Balboa Park was secured when Ford notified the office that “it was found necessary to make a change in plan which will eliminate the San Diego trip.” Ford gave no reasons and the board returned the deposit check.48

One of the most detailed requests to use Balboa Park came from Warner Bros. in May 1925. The studio planned to produce an adventure film fraught with battles, romance, and danger. The park board responded with enthusiasm. It made concessions on the rate for filming — a “flat charge of $250 per day will be made for two days when two thousand actors will be used, instead of the regular charge,” but the “balance of the schedule [was] to hold for [the] entire engagement.” In addition, park security would prevent traffic from entering “West Boulevard to Alameda Street during the time necessary,” and the board allowed for the “spraying [of] the asphalt pavement with red water color spray [and] setting posts at each tree on the prado between [the] Plaza de Panama and the Plaza de California.”49 The park management drew up contracts which had yet to be signed when Warner Bros. informed them that “the picture which we contemplated doing with Mr. John Barrymore has been called off for the present. Therefore we will not use the Park at this time as planned by us.” Their location manager R. C. Moore signed off by thanking the department for its “courtesies.”50

Not all plans went this far before being canceled. In November 1929 M-G-M’s location manager wrote to the Commission inquiring as to whether or not San Diego possessed a “Miniature Railway, similar to the one that used to be at Venice, California.” The board replied that no such thing existed in the parks or playground system of the city, but referred the studio to H. B. McCready of San Diego whose request to install one in Balboa Park they had recently denied.51

Generally, film companies and the park administration were enthusiastic about location shooting in San Diego parks. The Commission often received letters thanking them for their generous accommodations. Revenue generated by the filmmakers was a major inducement for the city and park board to cooperate. The Merchant’s Association of San Diego noted this in its defense of Pollard Pictures’ motion to remain in Balboa Park (November 1916) — a sentiment echoed (as previously related) by the board’s president.52 A report from the park administration’s executive secretary in February 1922 further attested to the economic benefits of movie-making in San Diego’s parks. Not only had Famous Players-Lasky reimbursed the department for “all expenses incurred, [but] … considerable profit [was derived] from increased business at the [Balboa Park] refreshment stands,” presumably during that company’s latest shoot.53 The Chamber of Commerce chimed in with its approval in June 1921:

We are glad to promote in any way possible the use of locations in this district for [motion] picture taking purposes, as emphasizing with the large producing managers at Hollywood the value of our community in this regard, and the many advantages of locales located here.54

Not all reactions were as favorable. San Diego real estate broker Fred A. Binney wrote to the Board that it was “contrary …to the best interests of San Diego to allow any part of the park to be used for the private business of a Moving Picture Company or [during the war] for a Military Camp.” According to Binney, the film shoots encroached upon citizens’ rights to park use, and the presence of the military suggested encouragement of “military-ism [sic].”55 Sentiments of anti-militarism was not unique for Screen Arts Films had earlier (November 1917) presented a disclaimer in its application to film a two-reel comedy in Balboa Park: “[this picture] contains nothing whatsoever pertaining to army or military life.”56

On the other hand, a letter dated 1922 from W. E. Howe urged the board to ignore those in opposition to filmmaking in Balboa Park. He described the industry as a “‘godsend’ to thousands of unemployed,” and was emphatic that such business “should be encouraged to come here as long as these starvation [post-war] conditions last.”57 Ultimately, any misgivings on the part of the city administration must have been minor — as attested to by the filmmakers’ continued use of city parks.

Likewise the Board of Park Commissioners received correspondence from the administrations of other cities who also were hosting movie companies on location. For example, in 1928 it received an inquiry from the parks superintendent of Pasadena as to the manner in which San Diego handled its location requests. He also suggested that a systematic policy on rates and conditions for location filming be established among the cities surrounding Hollywood which frequently received petitions for shoots.58

In April 1930, Hattie M. Heller of San Diego wrote in an effort to convince the board to list Balboa Park with the “Film Location Bureau of the Assistance League of Southern California.” Under its aegis the board would still receive the usual location fee but “in case [the Bureau] …[was] able to persuade the director to pay more …[it] should like to have the extra amount to be used for philanthropic purposes;” furthermore, the Bureau guaranteed supervision for the duration of filming. Despite Heller’s advocation that the Bureau was used (amply, was the implication) by directors in Hollywood the board politely declined her offer.59

That the park commissioners did not need such additional advertising to court the favor of Hollywood studios is evidenced by the number of productions that continued to be shot in the years following this period. Balboa Park hosted Paramount Pictures’ filming of The Magnificent Fraud in 1939; a Mickey Rooney feature entitled Dark Challenge was shot in 1949 and released by Twentieth Century-Fox as The Fireball in 1950; and backdrops were provided for R. K. O.’s 1940 production of Citizen Kane, to name but a few.60 It is unfortunate that the information on earlier films as recorded in the correspondence is so sparse that identification of the films concerned is unlikely. Without the benefit of the production records of the companies involved or the likelihood of viewing their creations the identity of many of these films will remain a mystery.

Filmmakers know well the importance of the appropriate backgrounds for their productions. In producer Arthur Miller’s memoirs, he asserted that “authentic locations played no small part in the success of [my] pictures.”61 Movie critics also recognized the contributions of well-scouted locales. In his review of The Americano (1917), Peter Milne remarked that John Emerson, the film’s “scenario” artist “selected most of his locations in the [San Diego] exposition grounds. Dressed up with a few properties and peopled with studio folk in picturesque costumes, they make ideal settings for the story.”62

In The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960, David Bordwell stated: “that a location is of little interest in its own right is shown by the fact that typically the exposition of space takes up the least time of any phase of the scene.”63 No doubt many location managers whose livelihoods depended on discovering the perfect exterior setting and who fretted over the innumerable details of the budget and shoot would disagree. So too would the San Diego Board of Park Commissioners; throughout the years they must have been proud to catch even a glimpse of familiar background. It was their contribution to the films that graced the silver screen.


Film Companies Using San Diego Park Grounds 1915-1930

This list was compiled from the collection housed at the California Room, San Diego Public Library.

Action Pictures Corporation
Adolph Kramer
Art Mix Productions
Ben Wilson Productions
B. P. Schulberg
Bert Lennon Productions
Duke Worne Productions
Clifford S. Efelt Productions
Famous Players-Lasky Corporation
F. B. O. Studios, Incorporated
Fox Film Corporation
Goldwyn Studios
Great Southwest Film Corporation
J. C. Castler Productions
Lubin Film Manufacturing Company
Mascot Pictures Corporation
Mayflower Photoplay Corporation
Metro Pictures Incorporated
Metropolitan Pictures, Incorporated
Neva Gerber Productions
Nonpareil Producing Company
Paramount-Famous-Lasky Corporation
Pathe Pictures
Pollard Pictures Producing Company
Ray Kirkwood
San Diego Cinema Corporation
Screen Arts Films
T. A. Edison Film Company
Tom Buckingham Company
Triangle Film Corporation
Universal Pictures
Victor Kremer
Vitagraph Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Incorporated
West Coast Producers and Distributors, Incorporated
William Fox Studios
William Fox Vaudeville Company



1. Peter Bogdanovich, Allan Dwan: The Last Pioneer (New York: Praeger Publishers, Inc., 1971), 49.

2. Florence Christman, The Romance of Balboa Park (San Diego: San Diego Historical Society, 1985), 14-16, 35.

3. Kalton C. Lahue, Mack Sennett’s Keystone: The Man, The Myth and the Comedies (New Jersey: A.S. Barnes and Co., 1971), 298.

4. Bogdanovich, Allan Dwan, 49-50. Advertisement appears in the San Diego Union, 28 May 1919, 7.

5. David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), 121.

6. Ibid., 148.

7. Fred J. Balshofer and Arthur C. Miller, One Reel a Week (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962), 141. The company’s needs were fulfilled when their search brought them to the town of Julian, east of San Diego.

8. Minutes of the San Diego Board of Park Commissioners, 1915- 1916, 13 October 1916, Park Recreation Conference Building, Balboa Park, San Diego. (Hereafter the same references will be cited as Park Board Minutes [dates].) The entry listed the city parks as: Old Town, New Town, La Jolla, Plaza, Balboa, Torrey Pines, Mission Hills, Point Loma, Mountain View, Cuyamaca View, Soledad, and University Heights Parks.

9. Christman, Balboa Park, 41-43, 57.

10. Ibid., 36, 42-43.

11. Ibid., 41, 44, 62. Lynn Adkins, “Jesse L. Nusbaum and the Painted Desert in San Diego,” Journal of San Diego History 29 (Spring 1983): 87.

12. Park Board Minutes (1915-1916), 17 November 1916; 29 November 1916.

13. Ibid., 22 November 1916; 11 May 1917.

14. S. A. Desick, “La Mesa Lost Chance to be Film Capital,” San Diego Union, 4 January 1969, 1.

15. Park Board Minutes (1918-1919), 11 January 1918; 20 June 1919; (1920-1923), 23 January 1920; 9 January 1920; (1924-1927), 23 October 1925.

16. San Diego Board of Park Commissioners (henceforth Park Board), San Diego, to “Whom it May Concern,” Lubin Motion Picture Co., Coronado: Letter, 7 October 1915. From the following collection: San Diego (City) Board of Park Commissioners, Papers, California Room, San Diego Public Library. Hereafter this collection will be cited as “Portfolio.”

17. Portfolio: Letter, 28 December 1915.

18. Ibid., Triangle Film Corp., Culver City, to Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 20 June 1918.

19. Ibid., Ben Wilson Productions, Universal City, to T. N. Faulconer, Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 28 August 1919.

20. Ibid., B. Jackson, General Studio Manager, William Fox Vaudeville Co., Los Angeles, to John Morley, Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 25 August 1924.

21. Ibid., Superintendent, Park Board, San Diego, to Mr. George, Lubin Co., Coronado: Letter, 29 April 1916.

22. Ibid., J. Morley, Park Board, San Diego, to Mr. Manning, F. B. O. Studios, Los Angeles: Letter, 27 February 1925.

23. Park Board Minutes (1918-1919), 21 March 1919.

24. Portfolio, Executive Secretary, Park Board, San Diego, to R. T. Thornby, Fox Film Co., Los Angeles: Letter, 4 June 1918 .

25. Ibid., Executive Secretary, Park Board, San Diego, to Mayflower Photoplay Corp., Hollywood: Letter, 20 May 1919.

26. Ibid., Superintendent, Park Board, San Diego, to Mayflower Photoplay Corp., Hollywood: Letter, 3 July 1919; Ibid., Executive Secretary, Park Board, San Diego, to A. M. Sawyer, Metro Pictures, Hollywood: Letter, 16 November 1921.

27. Ibid., Executive Secretary, Park Board, San Diego, to William T. McCulley, Universal Film Co.: Letter, 22 June 1921; Park Board Minutes (1920-1923), 23 April 1920.

28. Portfolio, A. S. Hill, Park Board, San Diego, to Action Pictures, Hollywood: Letter, 9 April 1925; Park Board Minutes (1924-1927), 15 May 1925.

29. Portfolio, Executive Secretary, Park Board, San Diego, to Nonpareil Producing Co., San Diego: Letter, 16 July 1923; Ed Fletcher, Ed. Fletcher Co., Grossmont, to Park Board, San Diego, Letter, 24 March 1925.

30. Park Board Minutes (1924-1927), 8 September 1927. 31. Ibid., (1917), 23 November 1917, 4 June 1917, 18 May 1917; Portfolio, Executive Secretary, Park Board, San Diego, to Triangle Pictures, Culver City: Letter, 21 June 1918; Christman, Balboa Park, 71.

32. Ibid., 124.

33. Portfolio, William Fox Studios, Los Angeles, to Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 29 July 1929; Ibid., A. S. Hill, Park Board, San Diego, to William Fox Studios, Los Angeles: Letter, 1 August 1929.

34. Park Board Minutes (1918-1919), 16 May 1919; (1920-1923), 12 May 1922; Christman, Balboa Park, 44.

35. Portfolio, A. S. Hill, Park Board, San Diego, to Action Pictures, Hollywood: Letter, 9 April 1925.

36. Ibid., A. S. Hill, Park Board, San Diego, to J. J. Bryan, Mascot Pictures Corp.: Document, 5 September 1927.

37. Ibid., C. D. Birde, William Fox Vaudeville Co., Los Angeles, to Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 30 August 1922; A. S. Hill, Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 30 August 1922; A. S. Hill, Park Board, San Diego: Permit, to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 3 August 1927.

38. Examples of “rigors” and “special circumstances” cited in the portfolio documents include ill stars and bad weather. Ibid., Famous Players-Lasky, Hollywood, to T. N. Faulconer, Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 6 February 1922; Frank S. Brown, Vitagraph Co., Los Angeles, to T. N. Faulconer, Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 19 May 1922.

39. Ibid., John Morley, Park Board, San Diego, to F. B. 0. Studios, Los Angeles: Letter, 27 February 1925.

40. Bordwell, Classical Hollywood Cinema, 263; Portfolio, Executive Secretary, Park Board, San Diego, to Famous Players-Lasky Corp., Hollywood: Letter, 24 November 1922.

41. Ibid., A. S. Hill, Park Board, San Diego, to Lou Strohm, M-G-M, Culver City: Letter, 20 August 1926.

42. Ibid., A. S. Hill, Park Board, San Diego, to Fred W. Harris, Famous Players-Lasky, Hollywood: Permit, 8 August 1925; Location Agreements.

43. Ibid., Executive Secretary, Park Board, San Diego, to B. T. Mellett, Mayflower Co., Hollywood: Letter, 21 July 1919.

44. Ibid., Park Board, San Diego, to Famous Players-Lasky, Hollywood: Letter, 20 January 1922.

45. Maurice Savage, “‘Magnificent Fraud’ to be filmed in San Diego Soon,” San Diego Union, 3 March 1939, 4.

46. Portfolio, Frank L. Smith, Vitagraph Co., Los Angeles, to John Morley, Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 28 October 1924.

47. Ibid., Frank L. Smith, Vitagraph Co., Los Angeles, to Hugo Klauber, Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 5 November 1924; Superintendent, Park Board, San Diego, to Frank Smith, Vitagraph Co., Los Angeles: Letter, 3 November 1924; Frank Smith, Vitagraph Co., Los Angeles, to John Morley, Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 23 March 1925; A. S. Hill, Park Board, San Diego, to Frank Smith, Vitagraph Co., Los Angeles: Letter, 26 March 1925. It must be noted that there are indications of yet more films which had been shot in city parks, which are not included in this set of correspondence. Two of these are Pearl of Paradise (1915), “Old Silent Films Shot Here on U.S.D. Program Tonight,” San Diego Union, 21 July 1972, 11; and The Devil’s Assistant (1915), “La Mesa Lost Chance to be Film Capital,” 4 January 1969, 1.

48. Portfolio, Starrett Ford, Metro Pictures, Hollywood, to T. N. Faulconer, Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 24 January 1922; Executive Secretary, Park Board, San Diego, to Starrett Ford, Metro Pictures, Hollywood: Letter, 30 January 1922.

49. Park Board Minutes (1924-1927), 22 May 1925.

50. Portfolio, R. C. Moore, Warner Bros., Los Angeles, to A. S. Hill, Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 8 June 1925.

51. Ibid., Lou Strohm, M-G-M, Culver City, to Secretary, Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 12 November 1929; A. S. Hill, Park Board, San Diego, to Lou Strohm, M-G-M, Culver City: Letter, 14 November 1929.

52. Ibid., W. 0. Talbot, The Merchant’s Association of San Diego, to Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 29 November 1916.

53. Park Board Minutes (1920-1923), 24 February 1922.

54. Portfolio, William Tomkins, Chamber of Commerce, San Diego, to T. N. Faulconer, Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 21 June 1921.

55. Ibid., Fred A. Binney, San Diego, to Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 1921.

56. Ibid., Gus Inglis, Screen Arts Films, Los Angeles, to John Morley, Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 19 November 1917.

57. Ibid., W. E. Howe, San Diego, to Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 21 February 1922.

58. Ibid., Gilbert Skutt, Pasadena, to John Morley, Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 17 November 1928.

59. Ibid., Hattie M. Heller, San Diego, to Park Board, San Diego: Letter, 23 April 1930; A. S. Hill, Park Board, San Diego, to Hattie M. Heller, San Diego: Letter, 26 April 1930.

60. Maurice Savage, “South America Comes to Balboa Park,” San Diego Union, 1 March 1939, 5; “Film Group to Start New Picture Here,” 29 November 1949, 11; “Balboa Park Scene ‘Shot’ For ‘Citizen Kane’,” 21 December 1940, 7.

61. Balshofer and Miller, One Reel a Week, 137.

62. Peter Milne, review of “The Americano,” in Motion Picture News 2 (January 1917): 271.

63. Bordwell, Classical Hollywood Cinema, 63.



GiannaMaria Babando is Archival Assistant at Metropolitan Toronto Records and Archives in Toronto, Ontario. She holds an M.A. degree in Public History from San Diego State University (1989) and a B.A. in history and English from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. As a graduate student, Ms. Babando worked as an archival intern at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California.