Shooting San Pedro Centennial 1910-2010
2010 marks the centenary year for location shooting in San Pedro. In 1910 D.W. Griffith “discovered” San Pedro—the same year he discovered Hollywood. The film was The Unchanging Sea which he directed for the Biograph Company:
It was shot in March 1910 and released on May 5, 1910. The one reel, 13.6 minute film was shot on location in both Santa Monica and San Pedro. It appears that the village scenes may have been shot in San Pedro and the beach scenes at Santa Monica—but who knows.
The story for the film was inspired by Charles Kingsley’s poem “The Three Fishers” and starts by introducing the fisherman (Arthur V. Johnson) and his wife (Linda Arvidson).
The happy young couple live in a “fishing village” at the base of the bluffs.
The wife forlornly sees him off to sea. (“And the women stood watching them out of town. For men must work and women must weep”)
Everyone waits in vain for the fishermen to return.
Their bodies are washed ashore. (“Three corpses lay out on the shining sands”) One hundred years later a similar scene was filmed around the bend in Palos Verdes for Inception (2010) which opens with Leonardo DiCaprio washed up on a beach in PV (subbing for Japan) and “ends” with a van falling off the Henry Ford Bridge in Wilmington.
The dazed husband survives and is taken to a nearby village—but he’s lost his memory.
Years pass by. His pregnant wife gives birth to a daughter (Gladys Egan) who grows up to be a young women (Mary Pickford) and leaves home to be married.
Leaving her mother alone, still looking out across the empty sea. (“For those who will never come back to the town”)
Meanwhile, he’s still dazed and confused—living as a lonely fisherman in the other village.
One day he comes ashore at his old village.
The familiar surroundings trigger his memory.
And the no-longer-young couple is reunited.
David W. Griffith (1875-1948) was born in rural La Grange, Kentucky on January 22, 1875. At the age of 22 he sought a stage career as an actor and author. Failing to succeed in the theater he reluctantly turned to the new media of motion pictures. He was hired by the Edison Company in 1907 as an actor when he failed to sell them a story. In 1908, at age 33, he moved to American Mutoscope & Biograph Co.—still working as an actor. In August he was promoted to director (at $50/week plus a small royalty per film) after their main director fell ill. Within a year he was completing 2-3 films per week. In 1910 (2 months before he made The Unchanging Sea) he shot the first movie ever filmed in Hollywood, In Old California, released on March 10, 1910 (during its filming he was also the 1st to utter the immortal words “Lights, camera, action!”). He went on to be one of the most important (the Academy’s lifetime achievement award was originally named in his honor), prolific (over 450 shorts and over 80 features), innovative (inventing the flashback, the iris shot, the mask, the systematic use of the soft focus shot, the split screen, and false eyelashes while pioneering the technique of parallel editing), and controversial directors in cinema history. In 1915 he created the groundbreaking and racist blockbuster, The Birth of a Nation, which redefined the industry and triggered riots across the country. He was called “the Father of Film” by Lillian Gish (whom he discovered—along with her sister Dorothy, Mary Pickford, Lionel Barrymore, and other stars) and “the teacher of us all” by Charlie Chaplin. He also co-founded (with Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Pickford) United Artists in 1920. (IMDb; Wikipedia)