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.