The Sun Valley neighborhood of San Rafael, Ca. was the location of the California Motion Picture Company (CMPC), a pioneer of feature-length films specializing in films about the early history of California. The studio complex was built in 1912 by George E. Middleton, a prominent San Francisco automobile dealer for the purpose of shooting promotional footage of the automobiles he was selling. He determined that his pretty wife, actress/singer Beatriz Michelena could star in movies made by his company and Middleton starred Michelena in 11 features for the San Rafael studio between 1914 and 1917. Michelena was talented but her demands for star treatment brought heavy expense to productions that continued to lose money and in 1916 CMPC filed for bankruptcy. Middleton and Michelena bought out the company in 1917 and renamed it Michelena Studios, finally closing for good around 1920 due to lack of profits and the rise of Hollywood. Today, almost 100 years later, the studio site where there once were cowboys and stagecoaches is now a quiet residential neighborhood with houses and trees.
© Joseph Greco