A few weeks back, I wrote a post about movie pioneer William Selig. If there’s one thing that history has taught me it’s that behind every pioneer is some guy (or gal) that was an integral part of their success. That person often goes unrecognized… and then dies tragically. The invisible man to William Selig’s pioneer was Francis Boggs.
Boggs met Selig while working in theaters in Chicago during the nineteen-aughts. He began writing and directing films for the Selig Polyscope Company in 1907. One really cool thing that he was involved in was the Fairylogue and Radio-Plays: a presentation of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books using live actors, magic lantern slides and film!! Around this time Boggs began to travel to different locations in the U.S. to shoot scenes for his films. He made the trip to California (his home state) a couple of times to shoot films including The Count of Monte Cristo and In the Sultan’s Power (one of the first dramatic films to be shot entirely in Los Angeles).
In the fall of 1909, Boggs set up a satellite office in a rented bungalow on Allesandro Street in Edendale (now Glendale Blvd in Echo Park). Soon after, Selig joined him out here and this location became the permanent home of the Selig Polyscope Company, the west coast’s first major motion picture studio.
On October 27, 1911, one of the studio’s janitors, Frank Minematsu, went postal and shot Boggs four times. Selig himself tried to grab the gun away from Minematsu and was shot in the arm. Boggs died instantly. He was one of the fathers of Los Angeles’ film industry and created almost 200 short films, but he is remembered mostly for his death. It was one of the first scandals in an industry that was just beginning to take shape.