Before there was a Hollywood film industry - as far back as 1910 - the world's film industry was centered in Santa Barbara, California.
Since those early days, hundreds of movies have been made here: the original Ten Commandments, The Graduate, Scarface, Of Mice and Men, Alpha Dog, and Pirates of the Carribean, and many others were shot on location in Santa Barbara County. Dozens of movie stars call Santa Barbara county home, and filmmakers come here regularly for business and pleasure.
For the past 26 years, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has celebrated the films of the world by feting the stars, the best current films, the writers and other industry insiders. The Festival is a celebration of us, too, the viewers.
I found this Hollywood short film, produced by MGM in 1935. It is entitled, La Fiesta de Santa Barbara. It is the MGM version of Santa Barbara's Old Spanish Days - and bears little resemblance to the authentic event. But, I think it's the perfect appetizer for the upcoming Santa Barbara International Film Festival that begins here on January 27, 2011.
La Fiesta de Santa Barbara begins with revelers streaming from the grand arch of the Santa Barbara Courthouse (I think I saw Dwight Murphy pass by on his palomino), and takes us on a Hollywood extravaganza in the guise of a Santa Barbara Fiesta.
The film is a showcase for Hollywood stars of the 30s - everyone from Andy Devine and Ida Lupino to Buster Keton and Robert Taylor to a Marx brother and Gary Cooper. Leo Carrillo, makes an appearance, as well.
The film has several - well, abominations - a few people, dressed as Plains Indians, make cameo appearances; a chorus line of cowgirls wear tiny pink fringed skirts and sport matching pink pistols on their belts; hoop-skirted "Spanish" dancers twirl and tilt in the sunshine....
And yet, there are redeeming parts, too. You'll see cowboy singer Joe Morrison sing I'm Headin' for the Last Roundup, and beautiful little Judy Garland, who sings about La Cucaracha - the little cockroach who can't go on because she has no marijuana to smoke.....
The faux Spanish dancing is terrible, the humor is absolutely abysmal - it's a fiasco of Hollywoodian proportions....but the El Paseo Restaurant is radiantly beautiful, California's finest horses are wearing their sparkling Fiesta raiment, the vintage costumes are gorgeous - and the trip back to 1935 is a historic look at the way Old Hollywood used to do things. It's fun, it's pure camp - and it's set in Santa Barbara.
The two are about to reunite again - Hollywood and Santa Barbara - for the 2011 Santa Barbara International Film Festival . Check back for more stories to come about the early days of the film industry in Santa Barbara - the stars, their movies, gossip and more.
Santa Barbara Fiesta - Part 1 - 1935
Santa Barbara Fiesta - Part 2 - 1935