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Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive, with funding from The Packard Humanities Institute, The AFI/NEA Film Preservation Grants Program.

The Argonauts of California–1849

The Argonauts of California–1849 (1916)
March 18, 2013 - 7:30 pm
Jere Guldin, UCLA Film & Television Archive.

The Argonauts of California–1849  (1916)

Directed by Henry Kabierske

Spurred by favorable weather, an assortment of local landscapes, and a desire to escape litigation by the Motion Picture Patents Company, many unlicensed independent filmmakers moved their operations west to California to make their movies. While a number of studios would eventually set up facilities in Hollywood, there were several geographic challengers to tinsel town’s supremacy in the state—one being the small town of Monrovia, located in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles. 

With the support of the Monrovia Chamber of Commerce, businessman Rufus M. Francisco formed the Monrovia Feature Film Company in 1915, and the studio began shooting its first feature film, The Argonauts of California-1849, the following year. A twelve-reel gold rush drama written by Winfield Hogaboom (based on the 1911 book California: Its History and Romance by John Steven McGroarty), Argonauts was shot in the nearby foothills with a cast of relatively unknown actors and actresses, augmented with over a hundred extras brought in from Los Angeles.

Helmed by Henry Kabierske (whose previous experience consisted of organizing live theatrical pageants (including the Mission Play, an elaborate pageant interpreting the history of the California Missions), The Argonauts of California portrays the discovery of gold at Sutter’s mill, and the subsequent adventures of a party of New Englanders who brave the arduous journey to stake their claim in California. The trip is predictably a dangerous one, and the settlers are challenged by death from both the rugged terrain and restive Native Americans. Once arriving at their destination, they find life in Hangtown a rough-and-tumble existence, fraught with the menace of claim jumpers, outlaws, and the occasional melodramatic love triangle. 

The Monrovia Feature Film Company would make one more feature in 1916 (The Daughter of the Don, also directed by Kabierske) before going out of business in the face of modest box office returns and various lawsuits. Kabierske directed one final film (The Vigilantes) before dying of a paralytic stroke in 1918. 

UCLA Film & Television Archive’s preservation of Argonauts began in the 1980s from multiple deteriorating and incomplete nitrate prints; the best material was selected from the surviving elements and coherently reorganized with—among other resources—an incomplete shooting script. For this festival screening, a new 35mm print has been created with improved timing and the addition of tints found in the original materials.

Steven K. Hill 

Monrovia Feature Film Company. Producer: Edward L. Grafton. Screenwriters: Winfield Hogaboom, Elizabeth Baker Bohan. Cinematographer: Victor Scheurich, Alex Scheurich. With: Grant Churchill, Gertrude Kaby, Dorothy Barrett, Emma Kost, Ethel Smith.

35mm, b/w and tinted, silent, approx. 120 min.

Preserved from multiple 35mm nitrate prints. Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, Richard Simonton, Jr.  

Musical accompaniment will be provided by Robert Israel.

Preceded by

Preservation funded by The Packard Humanities Institute

Broncho Billy's Wild Ride (1914)

Directed by Gilbert M. “Broncho Billy” Anderson  

True to form, “Broncho” Billy dodges the law in order to rescue the girl from the villains. 

The Essanay Film Manufacturing Company. With: Gilbert M. “Broncho Billy” Anderson, Marguerite Clayton, True Boardman, Carl Stockdale, Victor Potel.

35mm, b/w, silent, approx. 12 min.

Preserved in cooperation with Archive Film Agency from a 35mm nitrate print. Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory.