Undine ~ Universal 1915

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Undine 1915
Motion Picture News, Feb. 12, 1916
Undine 1915

UNDINE is the subject and title of an early silent film made on Santa Cruz Island in 1915. According to folklore, Undine was a female water spirit who could acquire a soul by marrying a human being. If, however, her lover proved unfaithful, she had to return to the sea. The legend is the subject of Baron de La Motte-Fouqut's 1909 novel, Undine, illustrated by Arthur Rackham.

Undine was filmed, in part, on Santa Cruz Island in 1915 and 1916. It was directed by Henry Otto (1877-1952) and produced by the Universal Film Manufacturing Company, later Universal Studios. The film starred James Cruze (1894-1942), William Russell (1884-1929), Ida Schnall (1888-1973) who played Undine, and Marguerite Snow (1889-1958), to whom Cruze was married for a time. Survival status of the film is unknown.

In the News~

October 21, 1915 [SBMP]: “When Henry Otto stepped off the train here yesterday morning he was given a remarkable reception by former associates… Mr. Otto, with thirty-six Universal players, left shortly after for the islands on the Sea Wolf, where several days will be spent on scenes for Undine, a five-reel production.”

October 22, 1915 [SBDNI]: “Another crowd of Universal players arrived this morning from Los Angeles to film the big storm Undine, which is being filmed on Santa Cruz Island. The members coming today compose the cast: Miss Schnall, who ranks among the very top-notch players, takes the lead, while Carrie Larkin Fowlen as the witch, is playing opposite her. One of the stunts will be a dive of 100 feet from a rock. This Miss Schnall will take in one of the most beautiful parts of the play. As she rises to the surface 25 mermaids will gather in the water about her. Mrs. Rice will act as the fisherman’s wife, and Mr. Jackson, the fisherman, while Mr. Gerard is to play one of the heavy parts. Gerard played with the famous Pavlowa in filming The Dumb Girl of Venice, which this afternoon is being shown at Los Angeles to a select gathering for the first time. W. M. Granville rates as one of the greatest camera men in the world in taking pictures for the Universal on the island.”

October 27, 1915 [SBMP]: “The play, Undine, is directed by Henry Otto, formerly with the American Company in this city, is expected to be something exceptionally fine in its way. Mr. Moulter alleges that its production will cost at least $15,000. It is mostly in a seashore setting, and it will show the finest bits of Santa Cruz Island scenery. Cueva Valdez makes an important part of the picture, a fact that will be easily understood by all who have seen that wonderful feature of the island, by many considered the most beautiful spot on the island shores except the Painted Cave...”

October 29, 1915 [SBMP]: “Captain Ira K. Eaton returned on the Sea Wolf yesterday afternoon from the camp of Universal actors at Pelican Bay, the company having been engaged there and at other points along the island shores...”

November 1, 1915 [SBDNI]: “The Universal company of motion picture people, who have been working at and around Santa Cruz Island for many days under the direction of Henry Otto, formerly director with the American Film Company here, will be through their island sea ‘stuff’ this week, according to Captain Ira Eaton of the Sea Wolf, who was here today for supplies for the company. There are now about 26 workers at the island. The party numbered 46 at one time. The piece being filmed is a mystical sea story with mermaids and fairy characters.”

November 6, 1915 [SBMP]: “Sunday evening Captain Ira K. Eaton returned in the Sea Wolf from the camp at Pelican Bay, which had been the headquarters of Henry Otto’s company of Universal actors for nineteen days during the production of Undine, a great marine photoplay. Seven members of the company, the last detachment of the party, came back to the mainland on this trip and returned to their homes in Los Angeles by train.”

January 24, 1916 [LAT]: “Foxy Little Fox. When Henry Otto and Fred Granville were at the Santa Cruz Islands, filming Undine, they caught one particular fox which Granville named "Otto" because it was such an artistic looking cuss. The other day said artistic looking cuss bit Granville, who now has him chained up tight. Otto appeared in one of the scenes, and Otto declares the animal bit Granville for letting the hero take the scene away from him. "Sometimes it's nice to be a mere fox with primeval instincts," signed the leading woman.”

February 5, 1916 [Motion Picture News]: “Bluebird Photoplays, Inc. offer as the third release in their new series, Undine, a spectacular production, in five reels, inspired by the fairy tale of the same title, written by de La Motte-Fouqut. The producer, Henry Otto, found that the scenario submitted by Walter Woods did not follow the written tale very closely; a fact that was greatly to the advantage of the screen production, for the original story could not well be exactly translated to pictures. There is enough of the tale appropriated, however, to keep the theme intact. Director Otto took his large company, headed by Ida Schnall, who plays Undine, to Santa Cruz Island, California, where beautiful and natural settings of forest, seashore and ocean were at hand to provide scenes for some wonderful photography...”