The American Film Company

La Mesa, California

Flying A’s western unit can first be confirmed making films in Santa Fe, New Mexico, then Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona with Frank Beal in charge. In Tucson the venture was scrapped and reformed. American then sent a second effort, under the management of Gilbert Hamilton, to try the west again. This new unit, featuring Warren Kerrigan and Dot Farley, went briefly to San Antonio, Texas before moving on to California. At each stop only a few films were made to exploit local scenery but no effort was made to establish roots.

San Juan Capistrano was used briefly but soon the cast and crew had moved inland to Lakeside. Both director Hamilton and female lead Farley had departed before the move and the new director, Allan Dwan, found Lakeside to be a fine place to produce westerns. Pauline Bush had replaced Farley and her films with Kerrigan raised Flying A to a new level. American had moved its western forces five times in seven months. But by August 1911 Dwan had moved the company once again.

La Mesa offered easier access to San Diego's modern settings and also plenty of scenery for westerns. La Mesa can rightfully be called Flying A's first western headquarters. Dwan leased property for a studio and constructed a shooting stage and film lab. No film prints were ever made at the new office. The camera negative would be developed, judged as a negative image, and sent east to Chicago with the finer points of the actors' performances still somewhat of a mystery.

The acting troupe stabilized during the La Mesa era. Kerrigan and Bush were ably supported by Jessalyn Van Trump, Jack Richardson, Marshall Neilan, Louise Lester, George Periolat and the ever-present Morrison brothers. This ensemble would create two films per week, every week, and were quite popular worldwide. But Flying A would only remain in La Mesa for less than a year. The next, and final, destination was Santa Barbara.


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