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Film Highlights and Catalina Island

The emerging silent film industry first used Catalina as a backdrop in 1912, and it also became a location for actors to escape the noise and commotion of Hollywood. Some famous film stars marriages were also built on enjoyable visits to Catalina for golf, fishing, sailing … and courtship. When the film industry introduced the ‘talkies’ in 1928, Catalina became a glamorous retreat for the film industry that grew leaps and bounds once sound was introduced to the silver screen.

When Zane Grey moved to Catalina in 1918, the film industry was just starting to form on the west coast. That same year the famous writer formed Zane Grey Productions in Los Angeles inorder to personally see the correct interpretation of his films on the screen. Zane sold the company to Jesse Lasky, whom he worked closely with to ensure authentic adaptations of his work. Lasky’s company later became Paramount Studios where many more Zane Grey films were produced into the 1930s and 1940s. With the cooperation of the best selling novelist in the world in the 1930s, the film industry had a guaranteed box office draw that helped generate the revenue upon which the film industry was built.

The most notable film shot on location in the Channel Islands was the 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty, starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton. The film makers used both Catalina and Santa Cruz Island for their backdrops during the Pitacairn Island scenes, and the Channel itself was the seas upon which the legendary South Pacific sail took place in the film.

One of the most lasting impressions the film industry made on the islands was the 14 buffalo shipped to Catalina for a silent film western. The prospect of rounding up these massive animals was more difficult than expected once filming had ended. A decision was made to allow them to remain, and to add stock to the herd, which now numbers 400-500. While creating a romantic western silhouette on the island, the animals have unfortunately stripped large areas of the island of native vegetation and have endangered plants that are being carefully tended by scientists to prevent their extinction.

Film Celebrities on Catalina:

Charlie Chaplin

John Wayne

Laurel and Hardy

Errol Flynn

Tom Mix

John Barrymore

Other visitors - Judy Garland, Robert Mitchum, Orson Wells, Jean Harlow, Henry Fonda, Mickey Rooney, Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Johnny Weismuller, Frank Morgan, Laurence Olivier, Alive Fey, and Cecille B. De Mille.