Movies Way Back When: Watch My Lips!

Image: A scene from “The Mexican’s Faith.” (Film Index, February 26, 1910)

Ever wonder what the actors in silent films were really saying? Sometimes people who could read lips reported that the actors’ conversations did not match the story at all.

In 1910, the Essanay Film Company spent several months in Santa Barbara filming cowboy movies.

Here’s a rare example of the real dialog that a local reporter heard as the actors were filming a scene for “The Mexican’s Faith” in 1910:

Smith: “Hello, Stick in the Mud. How’re ye coming?”

Mexican: “Nix on the frijoles. Do you own this cheese-ranch around here?”

Smith: “Sure thing. Made it myself.”

Mexican: “I want some work.”

Smith: “The deuce you do. What’ll you take?”

Mexican: “Thirty dollars.”

Smith: “Too much.”

Mexican: “Well, anything you give me then, you old tight.”

– Santa Barbara Independent, January 5, 1910

Betsy’s Way Back When book — Movies & Million-Dollar Mansions — is now available in local bookstores and at This is the seventh book in her series on the history of Santa Barbara. Learn more at​.


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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