Thank you so much Kennebec Historical Society for highlighting this labor of love brought to us by local film restoration aficionado Ed Lorusso of Belgrade. The Augusta Colonial Theater was honored to partner with Lorusso to bring these important time capsules from Maine’s history back into the historic venue where many originally premiered!
Both the Kennebec Journal and Sun Journal featured the Colonial Theater’s upcoming Silent Movie Festival. See the June 11, 2023 Kennebec Journal link below to read the article in its entirety, see photos, and even a short movie clip.
An advertising card for the June 16 and 17 Silent Film Festival displayed in front of the Colonial Theater on Water Street in Augusta where the movies will be shown. Steve Collins/Sun Journal
AUGUSTA — In the early days of movies, when the spotlight had not yet firmly focused on Hollywood, film crews sometimes settled in unlikely places to make moving pictures.
They made cowboy flicks in Philadelphia, dramas in Ithaca, New York, and “north woods” stories in Maine.
Eleven black-and-white movies shot in the Pine Tree State between 1910 and 1925 will be featured at the Silent Film Festival next weekend at the historic Colonial Theater in Augusta.
Six of them were made nearby, featuring scenes in Augusta, the Belgrade Lakes, the Kennebec River and nearby forests. One even cast former Gov. Percival Baxter in a bit part after he grew curious watching some moviemaking taking place next door to the Blaine House.
“I tried to do as many Maine-oriented films as possible,” said festival organizer Edward Lorusso of Belgrade, a film historian, writer, producer and composer who gathered the movies for the festival.
The Augusta area films “are coming back to the theater where they probably made their debut,” Lorusso said.
To continue reading the article in its entirety, see photos, and even a short movie clip, see the June 11, 2023 Kennebec Journal’s link below:
Between 1919 and 1921, Augusta saw a flurry of filmmaking thanks to a former cowboy star and a writer from Vassalboro.
Edgar Jones had spent a good portion of the early 1910s as a Western star for the Lubin Manufacturing Company, a movie studio in Philadelphia that closed down in 1916. Jones eventually came to Augusta to form his own movie studio and brought with him a stock company of actors and a movie crew. By 1919 he started to churn out the 2-reelers (which ran 20-30 minutes) he called “North Woods” stories. For most of the close to 40 films, Jones starred in as well as directed and produced them.
He eventually brought in Holman Day to write and adapt his popular Maine stories for the movies. Eventually Day ousted Jones from the company with the backing of local businessmen and took over production, changing the company’s name from Edgar Jones Productions to Holman Day Productions. Jones and most of his company left Maine, but Day was not a businessman and ran the company into bankruptcy within a year.
Six films from this period are known to survive … four from Jones and two from Day … and they are remarkable. Along with highlighting Augusta, Belgrade, local lakes and forests, and the Kennebec River, these films have solid stories, good acting, and surprisingly good production values. The films take full advantage of the area’s natural scenic beauty as well as all four seasons.
Of the actors who appear in the surviving movies, film buffs will likely be familiar with Evelyn Brent and Mary Astor, but others like Huntley Gordon, Ben Hendricks, Bradley Barker, and Carlton Brickert continued their careers well into the talkie era. Even the forgotten Edna May Sperl had a career beyond Maine.
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