Movies Way Back When: A Frightening Discovery

Image: A scene from “The Lure of the Mask” (Reel Life, May 8, 1915) (Courtesy)

Dateline: June 1915

“Excited Italian Finds Sword, Then Trouble. Santa Barbara Police Thought They Had Murder Mystery on Hands. An excited Italian recently rushed into a Santa Barbara, Cal. police station and, placing a shining two-edged sword on the lieutenant’s desk, his eyes showing the terror he was laboring under: ‘I finda theese in de woods. De blackhand, I tinka, is guiltee.’

“Then began one of the liveliest little mystery chases the police of that city have participated in for some time. The trail finally led them to the woods, just outside the city, where one of the bluecoats had the Italian point out the spot where he found the sword. Not 10 feet away from the spot, lay the scabbard to which the sword belonged.

“While the search was under way, Irving Cummings and Harold Lockwood, members of the cast of “The Lure of the Mask” [a silent movie being filmed in Montecito] . . . came up all out of breath and asked if a sword had been found.

“They explained that they had fought – for film purposes only – a duel near where the sword was found, and that, on departing, they had forgotten all about it. The explanation was accepted, and Santa Barbara and the excited Italian resumed their ordinary occupations.” – Tribune (Great Falls, Montana), June 27, 1915

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Written by bjgreen

Betsy J. Green is a Santa Barbara historian and author. Her books are available in local bookstores, and at (Shop local if you can.) Learn more at

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