In August 1919, Shipman and a friend challenged a wager that a woman was incapable of driving an automobile through the desolate Mojave Desert. Joseph Walker filmed Shipman's adventurous drive in a S.X. Arrow as a commercial for the car maker. A local newspaper (apparently the Los Angeles Examiner ) chronicled the drive as follows: "[The S. X. Arrow] was driven over rocks, through sage brush, up and down timbered slopes and over declivities until it seemed as though everything in the car would be smashed to atoms. The car was tilted at such angles that the daring girl drivers had to be lashed to the seats to prevent them being thrown from the car."
After winning the $1000 bet, Shipman was quoted as saying, "I have proven that woman is on a par with man in driving a motor car, as she is in every other walk of life. The ability is there. All she needs is the experience--the physical training--the freedom from restraint."
She then used the experience to write Something New, a "comic epic," using a Maxwell (instead of the usual horse) for an escape across the desert from villains. Shipman was criticized for being a leading star who "stooped" to advertise a commercial object such as an automobile. (Image how shocked those critics would be today to see the movies' common and lucrative use of brand names, from cars to soft drinks to sunglasses.)
On a break filming six-reeler, Something New, Shipman sits on the back of the Maxwell, apparently making revisions to the script.
Nell Shipman Archives, Boise State University.
- The Doctor's House
- Joseph Walker
- Sam Goldwyn