Be in Pictures
Exploring Marin’s rich cinematic history.
BY PETER CROOKS
THE MOVIE’S FIRST SHOT IS tightly focused on the base of an enormous Sequoia semper- virens, the type of redwood
found in Muir Woods. An actress emerges
from a large crack in the massive tree’s
interior, then approaches the camera.
The film cuts to a long shot of the actress
standing at the base of the tree, and the
camera slowly pans up to show the massive height of the redwood from base to
tip, then slowly pans down again. This
shot lasts well over a minute.
“It’s one of my favorite shots in the film.
If you think about it, this is how many people around the world saw a redwood tree
for the first time,” says Laurie Thompson,
librarian in the Anne T. Kent California
Room at the Marin Country Free Library.
“Salomy Jane was distributed around the
world, so audiences in New York, or even
Australia, who watched the film saw foot-
age from California that had never been
seen by most of the world.”
Australia is an important reference,
because the only existing six-reel print of
Salomy Jane was discovered in a film vault
Down Under about 15 years ago. The feature-length film was quickly shipped to the
U. S. Library of Congress for restoration,
and it has been preserved in both celluloid
and digital formats. Thompson has hosted
t wo screenings over the past few years.
“The audience was very enthusiastic;
both screenings sold out,” Thompson
says. “There’s a stagecoach chase along
Fairfax-Bolinas Road and other scenes
featuring recognizable locations. It was
quite an experience to see these up on
the big screen.”
Peters and Michelena in
Salomy Jane. Scene filmed
at Lake Lagunitas.
Matt Snyder and
William Nigh in
House Peters in
1914’s Salomy Jane.
Salomy Jane was the first production of the wildly ambitious California
Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC), a
silent film studio that set up shop in San
Rafael in 1914. The production studio,
founded by a group of wealthy investors,
had a stated mission to create films that
showed the world life in the West. George
Middleton, a Peninsula-raised man with
a background in advertising and auto
sales, was both a founder of the company
and the director of Salomy Jane and the
studio’s other pictures. His wife, actress
Beatriz Michelena, was the studio’s star
— she played Salomy Jane.
According to a March 20, 1914, issue of
the Marin Journal, the studio’s founders
(who included Henry T. Scott, president of
the Mercantile National Bank, and Charles
Templeton Crocker, director of Crocker
National Bank) scoured the state for an
ideal location and settled on San Rafael.
“The choice of San Rafael as a studio
site was made after the producers had
searched all the more attractive spots
in California,” the Journal’s article said.
“Arthur Cadwell, who helped develop
the technical end of the motion picture
industry in this country after a long
schooling in France and who is chief of