Rediscovering our local history in early cinema
In 1916, members of the Santa Cruz community were desperately trying to participate in the film industry, and they succeeded when they attracted Willis L. Robards, owner of a studio in Santa Paula, California. Wanting to relocate, Robards found exactly what he needed to shoot his next film, a community eager to demonstrate that they had what it took to make films.
Santa Cruz was no stranger to working with film companies, boasting the likes of Tom Mix, Bronco Billy Anderson, Marshall Neilan, Beatriz Michelena, and Mary Pickford. There was even a Film Studio built and ready for Robards to take control of.
Mothers of Men gives a rare glimpse of the Santa Cruz community. Local leaders and a cast of 500 local extras appeared in the film, against a backdrop of locations that can still be found today. It is also a record of a lost Chinese center that was displaced in the later development of the downtown area.
It is exciting to find such a time capsule of our local history and rediscover when our Bay Area community lent its voice to an important cause of the time. When Mothers of Men was released, Robards was commended by the National Woman’s Party and the Woman Suffrage Party and would continue to pick up endorsements thru 1921 from the League of Women Voters, the Business and Professional Women’s Association and The Women’s Club.