One morning an incredibly nice Carole Allen of New Jersey googled “Let Women Alone,” because a friend of her mother’s, an antiques dealer, had the poster in her garage–and she came upon my blog talking about this “lost” 1920s film, part of which was shot at Princeton-by-the-Sea–an email to me, a friendly back-and-forth exchange, AND two days later, here’s the marvelous poster.
I do admit, however, that I didn’t anticipate a poster promoting “Let Women Alone” photographed on what was a very rural Coastside, to have such a sophisticated flavor. There’s no fishing boats, farmers, or artichoke fields depicted.
Here’s how it all began:
Carole Allen: I was doing a quick search for any info about this movie and was surprised to see that you had been attempting to hunt it down. While I’ve never seen it and don’t know anything about it, a friend of my mother has an original movie poster for this film in her garage (at least she did last year). If you’d like a picture of it for your archives, next time I’m out that way, I can take one for you.
It’s beautiful. I love it.
Tell me, is it for sale?
Wow, so cool. Thank you,
Isn’t it neat? I love that she’s dangling the two men and looking at the viewer. I’m sure the poster is for sale – my mom dropped it off this morning as she went to visit her sister. I’ll call her friend and ask how much – I doubt that it’s much as it is not in the best of condition and should be restored.
For more on the silent film, “Let Women Alone,” please click here
Now my efforts turned toward finding the actors who starred in “Let Women Alone.” In 1977 I wrote a letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills asking for the whereabouts of actor Pat O’Malley.
In the 1977 letter to me, the American Film Institute (AFI) enclosed a pamphlet: “FILM PRESERVATION: WHY NITRATE WON’T WAIT”
Here’s the introduction:
“When the American Film Institute was established in 1967 as a private, non-profit organization, its first priority was the preservation of American films. At the time that The American Film Institute archives program was started, it was estimate that over half of the feature films produced in the United States had been lost. Thousands of early American motion pictures, regarded by the film industry as unprofitable, were destroyed or left to crumble in their cans. What remained was in serious danger…..”
“Let Women Alone” was filmed on nitrate tape which is highly volatile, and when not stored properly, has an extremely short lifespan. “Let Women Alone” is considered a missing film.
Maybe you know where it is. The film–or even prints– could be in someone’s attic or garage, long forgotten.
If you have information on the whereabouts of the 1925 silent film “Let Women Alone”–please email me and/or contact the AFI.
(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.