(Photo: Peninsula Studios, San Mateo County History Museum).
But it was rough going for the indie Peninsula Studios.
What a disappointment it must have been when “Let Women Alone” opened at San Francisco’s Cameo Theater in 1925 and the silent received the briefest mention in the local newspaper: “plenty of fun and a considerable portion of drama.”
Starring in the six-reel silent film was Pat O’Malley, fresh from a role as a reformed young Bowery gang leader in “Fools Highway,” a remake of the acclaimed silent “Regeneration.”
The comically talented Wallace Beery co-started along with such unknowns as Wanda Hawley and Ethel Wales. Frank Woods, a former New York drama critic, produced; Paul Powell directed.
(Photo: Peninsula Studios, San Mateo County History Museum, Redwood City)
In January 1925 the Half Moon Bay Review reported that Peninsula Studios had released “Let Women Alone.” The silent motion picture was adapted from “On The Shelf,” a short story by Viola Brothers Shore that appeared in the “Saturday Evening Post.”
In the silent version, the wild tug boat chase was filmed on location at Princeton. In the 1920s, Princeton, with its colorful roadhouses, buzzed with feverish activity as wary rumrunners unloaded illegal whiskey at one of three wooden piers.
Peninsula Studios built a “cinema city” in San Mateo in the early 1920s (see “The Golden Gate and the Silver Screen” by Geoffrey Bell). Two “mammoth” stages featured the most high tech lighting equipment. Individual buildings housed editing rooms, a lab for developing film, and, when needed, there was plenty of open land for the construction of exterior sets.
The stars weren’t forgotten as their private dressing rooms included luxurious bathrooms.
The maverick motion picture company was taking a big financial risk–in the 1920s the well-financed film industry was headquartered in New York and Hollywood–NOT the Bay Area. Thwarting conventional thinking, Peninsula Studios moved ahead intending to produce successful theatrical films.
The crew “from over the hill” filmed a thrilling sea chase against the colorful background of Prohibition Princeton–a small jumble of isolated roadhouses and fishing shacks. Whenever possible, Peninsula Studios–an indie motion picture company located far north from Hollywood in San Mateo–liked to shoot on location rather than on a contrived stage with paper waves.
The studio often took advantage of Northern California’s pictorial charm and the tapestry of its natural settings: the mountains, timber forests, rugged coastline could stand in for any romantic place in the world.
The plot of Peninsula Studio’s 1925 silent film, “Let Women Alone,” billed as a light-comedy drama, went like this:
Beth Wylie, our heroine, is a young mother surviving on a shoestring budget. Presuming that her missing husband, the bad guy, is dead, she falls in love with Tom Benham, the friendly life insurance agent.
Suddenly Beth’s hubby turns up–and she is horrified to learn that he has been smuggling Chinese families into California on a schooner.
To prevent his wife from running off with Tom, the bad guy husband kidnaps her and sets sail at Pillar Point Harbor near the fishing village of Princeton.
Madly in love, Tom pursues his beloved Beth in a tug boat. During an exhilirating sea battle-chase on the high seas, Beth’s husband is killed.
“Let Women Alone” ends happily as Tom and Beth are married.
Company: Peninsula Studios
Producer: Frank E. Woods and Elmer Harris
Director: Paul Powell
Story: Adapted from Viola Brothers Shore’s “On The Shelf”
Locations: San Francisco, San Mateo County
Cast: Pat O’Malley, Wanda Hawley, Noah Berry, J. Farrell MacDonald, Ethel Wales, Harris Gordon, Betty Jane Snowden
(Photo: Train Station at Montara)
Jeanette E. McKim was 72 when she died at her Montara home in early 1927–her son, Robert McKim, a well known actor, rushed from Los Angeles to be with his mom before she died. Robert’s sister, Marta McKim Fulloni, was the wife of Giuseppe Fulloni, the attache of the American Embassy in Rome–and Robert’s brother, Charles, was living in Mexico at the time.
Charlie Nye: We loved you dearly for being exactly who you were…terribly eccentric and a genial host.. who always made the unexpected guests who knocked on his door (often out of sheer curiosity) feel welcome at “The Reefs.”
Jenna Kinghorn, editor of “Between the Tides,”–the Friends of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve newletterhttp://www.fitzgeraldreserve.org/newsletter.htmlemailed me that Charlie Nye of Moss Beach (and “The Reefs” fame) has passed. Look for an obit in the March edition (online or via mail) of “Between the Tides.”
Charlie Nye, Jr. sitting amid the clutter of “The Reefs II” in 1980. The “Reefs II” was built on the cliffs overlooking the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve after the original Reefs built on the beach itself was destoryed in a storm.photo by June
Posing outside “The Reefs II”
Photo: A day at the beach– with “The Reefs” in the background. The building was destroyed by big waves during a storm more than 70 years ago.
Inside “The Reefs”:
The Reefs was built on the sands of the present day Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
Photo: At right, Frank Hillman fooling around with friend Ron Bryant–jr hi days. Thats an even bigger surprise! You still have that picture of Ron and myself. . That is Great!! I guess what happened to me was i went to Poly along with John Alexander and a few others from Hoover. I always thought i got cheated –leaving all my friends having to go to Poly. Still enjoyed it but always missed the West Portal and Hoover classmates.
I live in SF (Noe Valley) Have 2 grown daughters. Worked at S&C Ford for many years. One of my neighbors in Rodney May. I think its fantastic that you all remained close contact
with many of the girls. How about the guys?? I still have my West Portal School class pictures from 58,59, and 60. If you do not and would like copies i can make a few . Thanks again for the picture…Frank
Inez Burns soon learned that she had been framed double-crossed by Walter and Gloria Shannon–the people Inez had given shelter to in her Fillmore Street flat.
Testifying before the new grand jury, the Shannons were to be the “star” witnesses against Mrs. Burns. Inez’s charges that the Shannons wanted to “shake her down” for $35,000 fell on deaf ears.
But Inez Burns did not go down easily.
Defended by former police commissioner Walter McGovern during three sensational trials, resulting in two hung juries, the 62-year-old Burns was finally found guilty at the third trial.
A devastating witness against Burns was the “chic brunette” who jumped over her backyard fence wearing a fur coat over her nightgown.
Mrs. Lavina Queen, who had been a year-long fugitive, appeared in court to testify in detail about her role not as a patient but as an anesthetist at the Burns’ establishment.
Inez Burns was sentenced to three years at Tehapachi Women’s Prison in 1948.
She pleaded guilty in a second case in 1952 and was sentenced to a term of two to five years at the California Institution for Women at Corona.
She also served eight months for income tax evasion , resulting in the loss of all of her property, including the Atherton where granddaughter Caroline Carlisle and her parents lived.
The good times were over for Inez L. Burns but she often reminded her granddaughter, “I was the best humanitarian for womankind. You don’t know how many homes I’ve saved.”
Both Joe and Inez Burns died on the Coastside at a hospital in Moss Beach; Joe in 1975 and Inez six months later in Janaury 1976.
Special Note: Inez Burns had a daughter who was sheltered and carefully kept away from her mother’s professional life. This daughter attended the best private schools on the Peninsula and went on to live a privileged life elsewhere.