This was a place where a small group of residents formed the La Jolla Cinema League, as well as where actresses like Carol Dempster retired and others worked nearby, like child star Diana Serra Cary aka “Baby Peggy.”
With so much movie history, it’s easy to see why Scott Paulson — Communications and Engagement Exhibits and Events coordinator at UC San Diego Library and La Jolla Historical Society’s silent film curator — is excited about the upcoming “La Jolla History in Motion: Devices & Wizardry in Early Cinema” exhibition, a show in which he’ll be presenting and performing.
The exhibit runs from June 8 through Sept. 8 at the Wisteria Cottage Galleries, 780 Prospect St. in La Jolla. Public hours are Wednesday-Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. It will be spread throughout the 1904 home’s many rooms and will include magic lanterns, indoor movie theater information that were part of early La Jolla movie history, work by the La Jolla Cinema League and special areas devoted to Dempster and Baby Peggy, who was a bookstore manager at UCSD, according to Carol Olten the La Jolla Historical Society’s historian.
Early Cinema League and tech
“Members of the La Jolla Cinema League wrote their own plays and experienced with cameras, filming and more in the 1920s,” Olten said. “They were quite talented and way before their time; there were about 20 local residents in La Jolla who were part of it.”
As for Paulson, he was invited by Heath Fox, the executive director of the La Jolla Historical Society, to put on this exhibition about three years ago and is looking forward to it.
“There are some engaging hands-on activities and some great surprises about La Jolla’s silent film past,” Paulson said. “There were many exciting jumps in technology during the first two decades of the 20th century, too, allowing storytellers to go from magic lanterns (gas-powered lanterns with hand-colored glass slides) to motion pictures,” he continued. “Also, having access to works from filmmakers based in La Jolla in the 1920s is something worth celebrating and worth viewing. Another bonus in this period is that there were some great opportunities for entrepreneurs: film presenters and their movie places/movie palaces is another topic we will visit in this exhibition.”
He said his interest in silent film “is based on the universality of the storytelling … there is less of a language barrier there … I enjoy performing live music for silent film screenings, too.”
Paulson studied music and linguistics at UC San Diego in the 1980s and presently works at the UC San Diego Library as an exhibits and events coordinator.
More films for moviegoers
Concurrently with the exhibition, a curated silent film festival presented by Paulson with live music will be presented in collaboration with Vanguard Culture at IDEA1 in Downtown San Diego. Entitled the Not-So Silent Short Film Fest, the three themed presentations will be held June 22, July 6, and Aug. 3.
Also, at the La Jolla Historical Society, a short film festival with live music entitled Movies by
Moonlight will be held four consecutive nights Aug. 15-18, Olten mentioned. Films by Dempster and Baby Peggy will be shown.
Funding for the exhibit project is provided by Margie and John H. Warner Jr. and by Elizabeth
Barkett. Institutional support provided by the UC San Diego Library, city of San Diego’s
Commission for Arts and Culture, and members of the La Jolla Historical Society.
“I’m so glad we are doing this exhibit as it’s the first we have done about cinema and early cinema in La Jolla and the historic movie theaters,” Olten said. “It shows that there was life before La Jolla Playhouse.”