A Life for a Kiss
R: Allan Dwan. D: J. Warren Kerrigan, Pauline Bush, Jack Richardson, Pete Morrison. P: American Film Manufacturing Company / Flying A. USA 1912
The landscape, the horses, the rivals, the persecution furor, the show-down, the death: the quintessence of a genre – in thirteen minutes
“Jim Richeson was a haunted man, but he smiled carelessly as he handled the sign offering a reward for his capture, dead or alive. He smiled again as he wheeled his horse and galloped off down the road, waving a satirical adieu to the posse. A pretty mountain girl with pail in hand, stood at the pump when Jim rode up. He took the pail from her, drank deeply, and then, as an afterthought, seized her and kissed her heartily. Then he leisurely mounted his horse and galloped off. Furious at the insult, the girl rushed for a gun, only to meet her lover, just as he rounded the bunkhouse. That person at once flew into a passion and gave hot chase to the vanishing bandit, vowing to have his life. Meanwhile, the girl, at the head of a posse, followed less swiftly. A royal battle took place in the mountains. (…)”
Moving Picture World synopsis
“In the early days of film, fledgling movie-makers fled the East in favor of the West Coast, in search of better weather, western locations for popular cowboy sagas, and to escape marshals seeking to enforce Edison’s patent on cameras and projectors, according to Stephen Lawton’s authoritative history of the Flying A Studio.
Chicago’s American Film Company arrived here in 1912 to find everything it was looking for, including a wide variety of locations and sunshine at a time when shooting outdoors was still iffy from a technical point of view. We had the Western flavor, mansions, mountains, sea, and downtown locations. In July 1912, Flying A, so named for its winged ‘A’ logo, arrived and went to work grinding out popular Broncho Billy Western shorts. (…)
This was before Hollywood’s scandals of the 1920s, and Santa Barbara welcomed the movie crews and actors, who became local celebrities. According to Lawton, not only were locals finding work with the studio, but Flying A was also pumping important dollars into the small town, population around 15,000. By 1919, its weekly payroll was $19,000. (…)
Flying A had everything except vision. In an industry changing with blinding speed, trying to satisfy a national audience showing greater sophistication following World War I, studio executives stood pat on what they were turning out. There was a belief in the industry that audiences wouldn’t sit still for films longer than a few minutes, certainly not for feature films. Flying A was doomed by its philosophy, along with growing distribution problems of getting its films into theaters. But during its heyday, Flying A was a great success, attracting top directors, cameramen, and actors. Not surprisingly, other studios gave thought to setting up shop here, and an outfit financed by local moneybags started up.”
Barney Brantingham: The Short, Happy Life of Flying A
Santa Barbara Independent
“At that time there occurred a managerial shakeup and the Western troupe moved to San Juan Capistrano, California, where a young technician named Allan Dwan replaced [head director Frank] Beal. (…) Despite the primitive conditions and threat of violence, American Flying A’s La Mesa troupe turned out well over one hundred one-reel films. Most of these were cowboy pictures, although the troupe produced a significant number of documentaries dealing with Southern California.
Movie making in the early 1900s required little in the way of planning or preparation. The Flying A company allowed three days for the shooting of two one-reel pictures. Technicians spent another two days developing the films and then shipped them to Chicago for printing and nationwide distribution. This leisurely schedule left the cast and crew free every weekend for sightseeing. Director Allan Dwan described a typical day’s activities:
‘I’d pile everyone into two buckboards, a ranch wagon for our equipment, the cowboys on their horses — the actors too if they were riding in the picture — and off we went out into the country to make a picture. On the way out, I’d try to contrive something to do. I had a heavy named Jack Richardson, so we’d send J. Warren Kerrigan, the leading man, up there to struggle with Richardson and throw him off the cliff. Now, having made the last scene of the picture, I had to go backwards and try to figure out why all this happened.'”
Blaine P. Lamb: Silent Film Making in San Diego
San Diego History Center