The Sleuths at the Floral Parade

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Article written by Mary Mallory

The Tournament of Roses Parade is going on its 122th year, and grows more elaborate and beautiful every year.  Bands, floats, cars, horses, and even celebrities take part in this festive annual event.  This year, Paramount Pictures is even entering a float celebrating its 100th anniversary, honoring “Titanic” and “Wings”, the first feature film awarded the Best Picture Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1927/1928.

Started by the Valley Hunt Club in 1890 to celebrate California’s mild winter weather, the parade was so large that the Tournament of Roses Association took over the organizing and running in 1895.  To help pay for it, the Rose Bowl football game was added in 1902.  The parade has always proceeded down Orange Grove Boulevard to Colorado Boulevard, and the route has been increased drastically since its beginning.  The early years featured carriages decorated with flowers, horse patrols with flowers, and even early automobiles festooned with colorful blooms.  The 1913 parade included such entrants as the Pasadena Municipal Band, Pasadena Board of Trade, Royal Rosarians, Melting Pot of the Nations, Michelin float, an electric car, Auto Accessory Dealers, the Elks, Campfire Girls, Boy Scouts, Cawston Ostrich Farm, Humane Society, YMCA, the Los Angeles Times, and cities like Venice, Santa Monica, Redondo Beach, Huntington Beach, San Diego, Alhambra, and the San Fernando Valley.  The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce float won first prize in Class A, a realistic steamer  ship which spouted “steam” and pelted onlookers with flowers.

Also entered in the parade was possibly the first entry by the motion picture industry.  Mack Sennett’s Keystone Company submitted a legitimate entry into the parade, a car decorated with flowers.  As the January 2, 1913 “Los Angeles Times” reported, “A great lavender car, representing a ship trimmed in pink, with a radiator covered with laurel leaves over which was worked a big letter K, was entered by the Keystone Film Company.  The captain, in white nautical uniform, was Commander Griffith (Beverly Griffith, Sennett’s chauffeur), who was assisted in his role by Mabel Norman(d) (sic).  Two British tourists in helmets, monocles, plaids, and spats were Fred Mace and Mack Sennett.”

Unknownst to the Parade organizers, Sennett entered the car in order to shoot a film, called “The Sleuths at the Floral Parade.”  According to the description in Brent Walker’s “Mack Sennett’s Fun Factory,” “A Keystone car is entered in Pasadena’s Rose Parade, with Fred and Mabel slated to ride in it, but jealous Mack locks Mabel in a closet and takes her place in the parade.”  They must have stopped along the route to film their funny business, and then continued to finish the parade.  As can be glimpsed in the photograph, Mace, Normand, and Ford Sterling sit in the car, with Mack Sennett wearing the coat and standing.  Director Henry “Pathe” Lehrman stands near the back on the right.  This would be the first and probably only film shot at the parade.

Because of security issues and grounds, it would probably be much too difficult to film today, unless captured on small handheld digital cameras.

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