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SCV In the Movies | Episode 41: Ships of the Night

Uploaded 04/11/2014

Episode 41: Ships of the Night

If an early South Seas action-adventure seems unusual fare for “SCV In the Movies,” you’d be right. We don’t know where it was shot (probably Santa Monica), but it features a number of people who would loom large in SCV moviedom at the end of the silent period and beyond.

“Ships of the Night” (1928) was produced by Trem Carr, who was making films in Placerita Canyon under the Syndicate Films banner by 1929, and who in 1931 established his own movie ranch where Disney Golden Oak Ranch is now. In 1936, Carr and pal Ernie Hickson – credited as set decorator on “Ships of the Night” – moved their movie town down Placerita Canyon Road, where it eventually became Melody Ranch.

“Ships” was distributed by Ray Johnston, who distributed many of Carr’s films and briefly lived in Newhall. Watch for the pirate leader; that’s J.P. McGowan, who directed numerous films shot in the SCV in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Cinematography is by Hap Depew, who filmed many of Carr’s pictures. In sum, it’s the same people who put the SCV on the map as a location in the early years.



E.J. Stephens E.J. Stephens is a noted Hollywood historian, author, lecturer and tour guide. An Indiana native, E.J. has lived for 10 years in the Santa Clarita Valley with his wife Kimi and their two children, Mariah and Dylan.

By day, E.J. can be found in Burbank on the Warner Bros. Studios lot where he is a tour guide and an audience coordinator on Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show. When not giving tours at the studio, E.J. and Kimi host tours of their own for their Newhall-based company, Newhallywood Tours.

Early Warner Bros. Book E.J. has co-written four books on subjects ranging from the history of Warner Bros. and Paramount to Griffith Park and the Santa Clarita Valley (the latter with Kimi and Dr. Alan Pollack). The trio is currently working on another SCV history book titled “Then & Now: The Santa Clarita Valley,” scheduled to hit the shelves in early 2014.


Bill West Bill West is a movie nut who serves on the board of Friends of Hart Park, gives tours of the Hart Mansion and maintains the Friends’ website.

In his spare time, Bill writes software for Walt Disney Imagineering, where he has contributed to Star Tours, Toy Story Midway Mania, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and other attractions. Previously, he wrote software at Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Bill and Liliana Bill enjoys lounge music and he plays the drums for pickup bands. He lives in Santa Clarita with his Realtor (his wife Liliana) and their son Josh. Pets include Maya the Mutt, Luigi the Canary, and a cat whose name he can’t pronounce but is Polish for “kitty.”

© 2014 SCVTV
1 Comment for SCV in the Movies: Episode 41: Ships of the Night
  1. Len says:

    Bill, yikes competition for some and a blow over for others. Congrats Bill, very good.

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