I found this letter two days ago on the Rosamond photo file I got several years ago. I could not make out the signature, and googled Sulphur Mountain and Santa Paula. This is a letter from the famous director, Gaston Melies, the brother of the even more famous director, Georges Méliès.
I was in shock. I considered the thousands of hours of research I have done without receiving a dime, and now, at the bottom of the shaft of the mine I have dug for myself, I find a gem. I now owned the engine that drove my grandfather, that kept him going forward, he never giving up. Did he tell everyone around him Gaston will make a movie from his story ‘The Finding of the Last Chance Mine’, one day? If not, there were plenty more stories where that came from – a veritable mother load!
Why wasn’t I told about this letter? Why didn’t my grandmother tell me she was Bohemian Grove Wood Nymph? The sad truth now hit home. Being a writer, a gambler, a poet, a drifter, a artist, and a free spirit, are not good things to be, especially when they are associated with ‘Being a Failure’. Royal Rosamond failed to strike it big, and take his Rosy family to Hollywood where they would be rolling in doe. Instead, Mary Magdalene Magdalene was forced to make hats in order to feed her four beautiful daughters – and her husband who took the pen name, Royal. This is why Mary told him not to come home when he failed to sign that book deal with Homer Croy who wrote ‘They Had to See Paris’ starring the most famous cowboy of the time, Will Rogers. Roy Reuben Rosamond, was all washed up. He was a has-been wannabe. This prospector never saw his beautiful wife, and his four daughters, again, but for my mother, Rosemary Rosamond, who went to Oklahoma City to see the abject failure, one last time. Roy had a newspaper stand and tutored young folk in the art of poetry.
If you are a creative person, you know for every star, there are a thousand souls who did not make to the Big Tent. In biographies of famous people you notice there is a creative group that surrounds them. If you are authoring a biography, you string connections together and hang them on a tree.
Francis Ford starred in Gaston’s movie ‘The Ghost of Sulphur Mountian’. Francis is the brother of the really famous director, John Ford, who is known for his Westerns. Roy Rosamond claimed he was a real Cowboy, so did Joaquin Miller who amused the Pre-Raphaelites and European Royalty with his Western garb. This image was tailor-made for Miller by Ina Coolbrith the darling of the Bohemian Club. Then there is the Salon Jessie Fremont had in San Francisco that Mark Twain and Bret Harte attended. The Western Star is born. Now add to this the artwork of Thomas Hart Benton, and Christine Rosamond Benton, then you behold the core cultural movement in America, that left the East Coast, high and dry.
Last, but no least, is Jack London’s Last Chance Salon in Oakland, and Steinbecks ‘Grapes of Wrath’ that John Ford directed. Sprinkle in the Radical Republicans, who did battle with the folks that starred in ‘Birth of a Nation’ and what you get is gritty Westernized Socialism and a Commie Witchhunt.
I can now see my mother knew about this deal to secure her father’s story, and make sure Gaston owns the copyright. Rosemary flirted with the idea she would be a movie star, and once dated a B Actor named George. She used to show us his picture and ask;
“How would you kids have liked to have been George’s children and be born in Hollywood? He asked me to marry him. Instead, I married that SOB father of yours.”
Drats! Our story is tailor made for W.C. Fields who stepped on my aunts toes at a tennis match. This got the attention of Errol Flynn, who sent his friend over to give Lillian an invite, with phone number!
You see, it took over ten years to gather together my family history, because the women in the family had grown bitter – wrathful! Here is a video of the other man Rosemary should have married. His father owned a vast tract of Lima Bean fields in Camarillo, just east of the little town of Santa Paula where Gaston moved his movie company ‘Star Film Ranch’ in 1911. He was following a trend. Some say tis was the film capitol of California. The Rosamond household was not but twelve miles away at ‘Ventura by the Sea’. Did Gaston make a search of the local talent for his next movie?
Royal’s story appeared in West Coast Magazine. A similar story about a mine, along with ‘The Squaw Girl’, appeared in Out West magazine in 1911. There is mention of a “dramatic copyright’ which indicates Royal was writing with the movies in mind. This puts my grandfather at the epicenter of the first California Movie industry. Was he aware of the movie ‘The Squaw Man’ that Christine Rosamond’s first biographer mistakenly attributed to Roy? How much money did Tom Snyder receive for getting it wrong? That book did not sell, and was a abject failure. My daughter, her mother and aunt, and my surviving sister, backed this losing effort.
Gaston Méliès (French: [meljɛs]; February 12, 1852 – April 9, 1915) was a French film director who worked primarily in the United States. He was the brother of the famous film director Georges Méliès.
Gaston and the third and elder Méliès brother, Henri, ran the family shoe factory in Paris. They landed a contract with the French War Ministry that looked to make them both wealthy. Unfortunately, the price of leather increased sharply, and they were unable to meet their costs. The factory shut down and the Méliès lost their business.
Georges Méliès had produced films in France, which had become popular around the world. Some distributors began pirating Méliès work, especially in the United States. Georges Méliès asked his brother Gaston to go the United States and guard Georges’s copyrights.
Gaston Méliès arrived in New York City in 1902, formed the American branch of the Star Film Company, and began distributing his brother’s films. By 1903, Gaston began making films himself, mostly documentaries. The films were not successful. In the summer of 1907, Gaston Méliès returned to France take care of some business with Georges. On September 11, 1907, he married Hortense-Louise de Mirmont, an elder sister of Lucien Reulos’ wife, who was one of Georges Méliès’ first collaborators. The new couple left Paris a few days after their marriage and travelled from Le Havre to New York on the ship La Savoie, where they arrived September 28, 1907.
In need of warmer winters to allow for year round film production, Méliès moved the Star Film Company to San Antonio, Texas, and leased twenty acres including a two-story house and large barn that became the “Star Film Ranch” movie studio. He acted in two of his movies playing a priest in The Immortal Alamo (1911) and The Kiss of Mary Jane (1911).
In 1912 and 1913 Méliès travelled with his family and a film crew of over 20 people in the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, Tahiti, Southeast Asia and Japan in search of exotic subjects for his films. For the summer of 1912 and well into 1913 Gaston sent footage back to his son in New York, but it was often damaged or unusable. Gaston was no longer able to fulfill Star Film’s obligation to Thomas Edison’s company. Gaston lost $50,000 and had to cease production. He went to California, sold the American branch of Star Films to Vitagraph Studios, and then returned to Europe. He and his brother Georges (who blamed Gaston for his own financial difficulties) never spoke to one another again.
Méliès and his wife moved to Corsica in the winter of 1913. He died in Corsica on April 9, 1915 of “shellfish poisoning.” He was buried on April 14, 1915 in Saint-Vincent Cemetery in Montmartre, Paris, in a tomb belonging to his second wife’s family, De Mirmont.
Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès, known as Georges Méliès (/meɪˈljɛs/; French: [meljɛs]; 8 December 1861 – 21 January 1938) was a French illusionist and filmmaker famous for leading many technical and narrative developments in the earliest days of cinema. Méliès, a prolific innovator in the use of special effects, accidentally discovered the substitution stop trick in 1896, and was one of the first filmmakers to use multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, dissolves, and hand-painted color in his work. Because of his ability to seemingly manipulate and transform reality through cinematography, Méliès is sometimes referred to as the first “Cinemagician”. His films include A Trip to the Moon (1902) and The Impossible Voyage (1904), both involving strange, surreal journeys somewhat in the style of Jules Verne, and are considered among the most important early science fiction films, though their approach is closer to fantasy. Méliès was also an early pioneer of horror cinema, which can be traced back to his The Haunted Castle (1896).
The Star Film Company moved to California in April 1911. Gaston originally planned to relocate to Santa Barbara but chose Santa Paula instead, perhaps because the scenery was better, or perhaps because it was less expensive. In Santa Paula, he built stages across from a resort called Sulphur Mountain Springs, where the troupe rented rooms. Financially, things started going wrong for Gaston. His popular stars, Edith Storey and William Clifford moved to other companies. His California films were not as profitable as the Texas films had been. In November 1911, Gaston met with Vitagraph Studios in New York and sold fifty percent of his company, including his brothers negatives and distribution rights.
In 1917 Ford founded a short-lived independent company, Fordart Films, which released the 1918 Berlin via America with Phil Kelly, and briefly opened his own studio at Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street. At the same time Ford mentored his younger brother, collaborating frequently as writers, directors, and actors in each other’s projects; but as early as 1917, it was clear that John’s star was on the rise. Frank’s directorial style remained suitable for serials, but failed to evolve. Ford’s final known directoral credit is for the 1928 The Call of the Heart, a 50-minute vehicle for “Dynamite the Devil Dog”.
The Ford brothers were, at the best of times, critical of each other, and sometimes sharply antagonistic. Ford wrote an unpublished memoir in 1934 called “Up and Down the Ladder” which is “filled with bitter and sometimes heartrending complaints about how old-timers who had helped create the industry had been shunted aside by younger men.”
From the late 1920s, and for the next two decades, Ford sustained a career as a grizzled character actor and bit player. He is often uncredited, as in his appearance in James Whale‘s 1931 Frankenstein. Among his most memorable roles was that of the demented old man in The Ox-Bow Incident (1943).
Directed by Oscar Apfel and Cecil B. DeMille and produced by DeMille and Jesse L. Lasky, the screenplay was adapted by Beulah Marie Dix from the 1905 stage play, of the same name, written by Edwin Milton Royle.
This first screen version of the story was the legendary DeMille’s first movie assignment. It also holds the distinction of being the first feature-length movie filmed specifically in Hollywood. It was not the first to be made in the Los Angeles area, and film historians agree that shorts had previously been filmed in Hollywood, with In Old California considered the earliest. Harbor scenes were shot in San Pedro, California and the western saloon set was built beside railroad tracks in the San Fernando Valley. Footage of cattle on the open range were shot at Keen Camp near Idyllwild, California, while snow scenes were shot at Mount Palomar.
While Miller toured Europe and lived out their mutual dream of visiting Lord Byron’s tomb, Coolbrith was saddled with custody of his daughter, and the care of members of her own family, so she set up house in Oakland and accepted the position of city librarian. Her poetry suffered as a result of her long work hours, but she mentored a generation of young readers including Jack London and Isadora Duncan. After she served for 19 years, Oakland’s library patrons called for reorganization, and Coolbrith was fired. She moved back to San Francisco and was invited by members of the Bohemian Club to be their librarian.
Coolbrith began to write a history of California literature, including much autobiographical material, but the fire following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake consumed her work. Author Gertrude Atherton and Coolbrith’s Bohemian Club friends helped set her up again in a new house, and she resumed writing and holding literary salons. She traveled by train to New York City several times and, with fewer worldly cares, greatly increased her poetry output. On June 30, 1915, Coolbrith was named California’s poet laureate, and she continued to write poetry for eight more years.
The city has been featured in Hollywood media on numerous occasions. Some examples include:
On the television drama The West Wing, Santa Paula is the hometown of fictional presidential candidate Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda). In early 2005, Santa Paula Mayor Mary Ann Krause began a lobbying campaign to have Santa Paula declared Vinick’s hometown. In a publicity move for the town, city officials officially “claim[ed] Senator Arnold Vinick as a resident of Santa Paula,” in April 2005, and opened an official campaign headquarters for the fictional Republican Senator in the town’s train depot. (Santa Paula for Vinick) On October 14, 2005, NBC released Vinick’s official biography and revealed Santa Paula as the town in which he was raised. 
The Santa Paula train depot has been a location for various productions. It was one of the locations for the miniseries The Thorn Birds (1983), starting Richard Chamberlain. Dennis DeYoung, former lead singer of the popular 1970s rock group Styx, filmed the music video for Desert Moon, also the title of his first solo album, at the depot in 1984. The depot was used in the season 3 finale of Glee (2012).
Main Street and other locations featured prominently in the 1990 Winona Ryder film Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael.
Chaplin (1992) filmed throughout the surrounding area and held a casting call in town for background actors.
The majority of the 1997 film Leave It to Beaver was filmed in Santa Paula, with many Santa Paula residents being cast in minor character roles and as extras. The famous scene of Beaver trapped in the giant coffee cup had Main Street blocked off for almost a week while filming continued.
Other movies that were filmed partially in Santa Paula include The Philadelphia Experiment (1984), the Chinatown sequel The Two Jakes (1990), the Martin Short/Danny Glover buddy comedy Pure Luck (1991), For Love of the Game (1999), Bubble Boy (2001), starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and Bedtime Stories (2008) starring Adam Sandler .
The James M. Sharp House is an historical Italian villa-style house built in 1890. It is located on West Telegraph Road, just outside of Santa Paula, and has been the setting for several movies including Amityville 4 (1989) and The Black Gate (1995), and How To Make An American Quilt (1995).
Various commercials, including a Super Bowl Budweiser commercial, have been filmed in downtown Santa Paula.
Parts of The Rockford Files episode “Coulter City Wildcat” were filmed in Santa Paula.