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Inceville: Film Pioneer Thomas Ince's Studios

Thomas InceLibby Motika in The Palisadian-Post:

“Once there was a city spread out idyllically on the slopes of Santa Ynez Canyon [between Santa Monica and Malibu] with sweeping views of the sea. The streets were lined with houses of many types, from humble cottages to mansions, and the buildings were fashioned after the architecture of many lands.

“But as ephemeral as Atlantis, this city appeared and then disappeared in 12 short years. [Unless I missed something, the article goes on to say that Inceville was destroyed in 1922. That would make 10 short years.]

“This was the creation of American silent film producer/director Thomas Ince, who in 1912 built a city of motion picture sets on several thousand acres of land in and around the hills and plateaus of the canyon, where he was able to shoot many of the outdoor locales needed for his films.

“It was here at Inceville, now Sunset [Boulevard] at Pacific Coast Highway, where in 1913 alone, Ince made over 150 two-reeler movies, mostly Westerns, thereby anchoring the popularity of the genre for decades. It was at Inceville where many of the filmmaker's innovations were developed, such as the shooting script, which included stage direction, dialogue and scene description for interiors and exteriors.”

Ince moved to Washington Boulevard in Culver City in 1915 and built the Triangle studios, which three years later were acquired by Goldwyn Pictures, and in 1924 were turned into the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. Following Goldwyn's acquisition of the Triangle lot, Ince moved down the street and built what eventually became the David O. Selznick studios.

Throughout the years, among those who filmed at Ince's former Culver City studios were Cecil B. DeMille, Pathé, RKO, Desilu (Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's company), and more recently, Sony. Not too long ago, Sony sold the Culver Studios, as they're currently known, to a group of investors.

Thomas Ince died of heart failure in 1924. Following Ince's death, wild rumors about his “mysterious” demise have been circulating. The most popular tale has newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst accidentally shooting Ince – Trigger Happy Hearst was aiming for Charles Chaplin, who was supposed to be having an affair with Marion Davies who happened to be both Hearst's lover and a very good comedienne.

Peter Bogdanovich's The Cat's Meow (screenplay by Steven Peros, from his play) took the sensationalistic route. Cary Elwes played Ince, Edward Herrmann was Hearst, Kirsten Dunst was (an absurd) Marion Davies, and Eddie Izzard was (an even more absurd) Charles Chaplin.

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