One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley mentioned a brand new trend:
Did you know that in all likelihood your home is ticketed and plotted and mapped and pigeonholed, that your favorite monkey tree in the front yard is spotted and what you consider the privacy of your back yard is known all about in certain quarters? Well they are.
No, not by enemies of your country. By the motion picture producers. Why, even your front door may become the front door of the handsome hero’s home, and the villain may pursue the heroine over your front lawn at any moment, your more or less humble front door and your lawn thus gaining immortality in the deathless fillums. But don’t worry. Your permission will be graciously asked and you’ll be properly paid for the use of your property.
Renting out your house wasn’t always easy money, there were horror stories too: a crowd of extras trampled a lawn and left their lunch trash all over one Hollywood home, and a Beverly Hills estate was left with a grave dug in the front yard! But she assured her readers that “in 999 cases out of 1000, however, directors are careful to see that no damage is done to property loaned them.” Furthermore, “damages, if any, are promptly repaired or paid for.”
She said that this was a new way to make films:
Once on a time the picture players, whole car loads of ‘em, used to start out and find their own locations. But now that so much of the West had been “shot,” picture directors must be more skillful in finding locations.
So that brought about the beginnings of a specialized occupation, location scout. She gave Universal Studios’ system as an example:
Take Universal City, for instance. No matter what demand may be made upon the location bureau of the production office, the sort of place desired is sure to be found catalogued, because a crowd of scouts is out all the time nosing about to find “locations,” photographing them when possible, describing them and bringing the data into the location office.
All film jobs were becoming more specialized as studios replaced independent productions. It was a more efficient way to make movies, but I bet some people missed piling into a car and looking for a nice place to shoot.
Now that independent production is more common than studio, the film office of Los Angeles, Film LA, has put together Locoscout, a database of places to film in Los Angeles. You can be a DIY location scout!
This week, after Kingsley submitted her Sunday columns, she took a vacation—her first in more than three years. She was able to go because Edwin Schallert was there. He had been a theater and music critic for the Times since 1916 until July 1917 when he joined the army to fight in World War 1. He returned to the paper in April 1919, and he got his old job back, adding films to his portfolio. This didn’t threaten Kingsley’s job: there was more than enough movie news for both of them to cover. She was back doing her regular news column on September 29th.