Credit: Betsy J. Green
Credit: Exhibitors Herald, May 1919; photo shows = Julius Furthman (left) and “Flying A” star William Russell.

Address: 1935 Santa Barbara Street

A “Flying A” Writer’s Home

The American Film Company employed hundreds of people while it was active here in the 1910s, so I wasn’t surprised to find another house with a connection to the Flying A. Last year, I wrote about a home that had been owned by a man who oversaw vehicles at the studio, and whose wife worked in the accounting department. What was surprising this time was finding someone who was in the early stage of a long and distinguished career.

The Flying A was located in Santa Barbara from 1912 to 1921 and made more than one thousand movies. The studio employed actors and actresses, as well as folks who worked behind the camera. Julius Furthman, this home’s resident in the late 1910s, was in charge of the studio’s story department. He wrote the screenplays for more than a dozen Flying A films. 

This home, on the corner of Mission and Santa Barbara streets, is just a few blocks from the studio. I wonder how many actors and actresses visited or lived in this home? This is a large home, and Furthman was single when he lived here.

Credit: Ken McKaba

Furthman moved to Los Angeles in 1920, as the Flying A was beginning to close down. He married actress Sybil Seely, who had been Buster Keaton’s leading lady in a number of films. The best man at their 1920 wedding was William Russell, one of the leading actors in the Flying A. After their marriage, Sybil retired from the movie business, but Furthman continued writing. 

According to the Internet Movie Database website, “Furthman became one of the most prolific, and well-known, screenwriters of his time, and was responsible for the screenplays of some of Hollywood’s most highly regarded films.” He wrote the screenplays for 120 movies, including such classics as Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), To Have and Have Not (1944), and The Big Sleep (1946). Furthman was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay of Mutiny on the Bounty.

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A Prairie-style Home

This home was built in 1906 for Dr. David A. Conrad and his wife Marie. The estimated cost was $4,000 — an above-average price at that time. The home’s spacious backyard was not part of the original property. This home’s architectural style is a type of Prairie style called American Foursquare. This style is characterized by a square shape with a hipped roof (pyramid shape), wide eaves, and no curves or fancy trim. The second-story windows are placed up under the eaves. This style was most common from 1905 to 1915. Last year, I wrote about another Prairie-style home on East Mission Street.

Credit:  Betsy J. Green

North County Connections

In the 1920s, another doctor lived in this home — Dr. Samuel Robinson. In addition to his work in Santa Barbara, Robinson owned a sanitarium at Lake Zaca, north of Los Olivos. It’s interesting to note that the Flying A film studio had used Zaca Lake for some of their movies, including the 1915 production of The Zaca Lake Mystery featuring an outlaw named “Slippery Joe.”

Another interesting homeowner lived here from the late 1920s to the 1940s. Alden March Boyd and his wife Margaret Alexander Boyd, apparently used this as a town home when they stayed in Santa Barbara. Their main home was on a large ranch north of Ballard. In 1885, Boyd had purchased 157 acres there and planted 5,000 olive trees. He called his property Rancho de Los Olivos. A couple of years later, when the railroad reached that area and it became a town, the town founders decided to name their municipality Los Olivos after the ranch. The Boyd’s ranch home was moved into Los Olivos in 1988, and now stands at Nojoqui and Alamo Pintado streets.

Credit: Betsy J. Green

The home’s current owners are Ken and Elaine McKaba. Ken told me that the home is “warm and wooden and full of wonderful spirits.” Continuing, he shared “[I]t has been an amazing place to raise our two kids. Elaine decorates it for each holiday — she’s famous for Halloween — we love seeing the neighbor kids come by year after year.”

Please do not disturb the home’s residents.

Betsy J. Green is a Santa Barbara historian, and author of Discovering the History of Your House and Your Neighborhood, Santa Monica Press, 2002. Her website is

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