Gloria Swanson on location in WV

Posted by | August 19, 2011

On August 17, 1925, screen actress Gloria Swanson, her husband and her staff arrived on a special train from New York.

They were in New Martinsville, WV to film “Stage Struck,” a movie about a restaurant waitress who dreamed of a stage career and started on a showboat. The idea has been done a hundred times in films and was nothing new even in 1925. The famous Players-Lasky Co. was the producing company.

In the company of Miss Swanson were her husband, Marquis de la Falaise; Allen Dwan, director; Lawrence Astor and Ford Sterling, principals; William Palmer, engineer and a crew of 40. There were 65 bit players.

A large crowd greeted the company on its arrival at the Baltimore and Ohio station. The New Martinsville Band played and Miss Mildred McCaskey, representing the Woman’s Club, presented the star with a basket of cut flowers. Dr. W. C. Adams of the Kiwanis Club was in charge of the reception.

Gloria Swanson and the Filming of Stage StruckAt that time Capt. J. Orville Noll, steamboat operator, lived in a large house at the foot of Washington St., which was to be the home of the company while here.

Capt. Noll had also leased the Water Queen Showboat on which some of the picture was to be filmed. It was moored near the wharf.

The Noll home could not accommodate all of the personnel so many stayed at the Riverview Hotel and others stayed in private homes.

A small gas-driven launch called the “Tom” was also chartered and placed near the wharf for the use of the movie company.

Things were humming down in Brooklyn as the Phillips Lumber Co. transformed the old Clark estate, of Emich’s Park, into a picnic ground where some movie shots were to be made. Workmen hauled lumber and built a huge dance pavilion.

It was a big week in New Martinsville. Filming began on August 18 and Gov. Howard Mason Gore visited the city on August 20. A special show at the Lincoln Theatre showing Gloria in “Manhandled” attracted a capacity crowd and Gloria made a brief speech. Visitors flocked to the city from Parkersburg, Wheeling and throughout the area.

Miss Swanson was showered with gifts ranging from a huge angel food cake given her by Rev. J. G. Baugh to dozens of flower bouquets given by various organizations.

Noll, in addition to renting the movie company his palatial home, and chartering the showboat and gas launch, also owned the excursion steamer Verne Swain and it was engaged in bringing tourists to the city from Wheeling.

On Sunday, August 23, the city was packed with people who had come from throughout the Ohio-West Virginia area.

Mrs. C I Longwell gave birth to a baby daughter which was promptly named Helen Gloria, for Miss Swanson. The Magnolia Serenaders played on the lawn of the Noll home. Chief of Police John Arnette and his patrolmen S. G. Combs, A. E. Coffield, N. S. Postlethwaite and Frank Leap breathed a sigh of relief as Gloria and her company concluded production and left for New York August 26 in a special train car.

There was but one mishap during the big event. Assistant Postmaster T. G. Allen, fell into the river from the wharfboat as he tried to get a glimpse of Gloria. He was rescued by the crew of the packer Helen E., which was tied up at the local landing.

The picture was not a success and led an executive of the Famous Players Co. to remark in later years:

“About the only people who made any money out of “Stage Struck” was that guy in New Martinsville who owned the hotel and showboat.”

There have been two revivals of the picture made in talking film. Miss Swanson played in the silent version but did not play in either of the talking versions.

Source: New Martinsville Welcomed Swanson in 1925, News-Register, by Ralph Conley, Aug 17, 1966
http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~wvwetzel/Gloria.htm

Gloria+Swanson Stage+Struck Hollywood+in+Appalachia New+Martinsville+WV appalachia appalachian+history appalachian+mountains+history

One Response

  • Gary Carden says:

    While I was working for the Eastern Band of Cherokees in the 70’s, a very frail Gloria Swanson showed up in Cherokee and moved into the local Holiday Inn where
    she arranged for her personal chef to prepare all of her meals. It seems that Gloria had a keen interest in orphans and Native American children, and she had been lured to Cherokee to discuss a sizable donation to the local “Save the Children” fund. Swanson came to have serious doubts about the honesty of some of the people who had originally contacted her and suddenly vanished, along with her personal chef. Shortly before she left Cherokee, I drove a tribal member by the office of Save the Children where Gloria was holding court on the porch. The tribal member asked me why everyone was so excited by this tiny little woman.
    I said, “I can’t believe you don’t know who Gloria Swanson is!” He replied, Oh, sure, I know. She must be the one who makes those fine frozen pies.”

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