Movies Way Back When: Where There's a Will, There's a Way

Movies Way Back When: Where There's a Will, There's a Way title=
Image: New York Public Library
Reads 1811

By Betsy J. Green

Burros (donkeys) have a reputation for being stubborn but add a little butter and they will eat out of your hand – or your pocket.

Here's how it happened. The "Flying A" folks were filming out in Hope Ranch not long after they settled here in Santa Barbara. One of the performers in their stable of actors was a trained burro.

The script called for a will to be destroyed.  The director thought about how to do this in an interesting way, and he glanced over at the burro.

"These animals eat most anything, and so why not a will? A few pieces of paper were buttered, and the burro thoroughly enjoyed them. The paper, representing the will, was then given a coat of butter and [the villain] placed it in his hip pocket . . . True to its training, the burro stepped up behind [the villain] and nipped the paper from the pocket and in view of the camera, consumed it, [the villain] turning around to see the final morsel disappear." (Motography, December 21, 1912)

Betsy's Way Back When book -- 1919 -- is now available in local bookstores and at This is the sixth book in her series of the history of Santa Barbara, one year at a time. Learn more at​.
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