Gloria Swanson makes a movie in New Martinsville

Article submitted by: Mariana Zuelsdorf

New Martinsville Welcomed Swanson in 1925
by Ralph Conley
News-Register Staff Writer

New Martinsville was all aglow 41 years ago as announcement was made that a movie was to be made in the old town. And the star was to be none other than the great Gloria Swanson.

At that time New Martinsville was a sleepy little river town, a regular stop for the packer boats that carried not only much freight to and from the town but also a few passengers. Steelton was still and unincorporated community and Brooklyn was a town of its own with mayor and council.

Gloria Swanson arrives in New MartinsvilleThe big day arrived on August 17, 1925, when Miss Swanson, her husband and her staff arrived on a special train from New York.

"Stage Struck" was the film to be made and it depicted 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.

At that time Capt. J. Orville Noll, steamboat operator, lived in a large house at the foot of Washington St., now part of the Grandview Motel. This 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 (now the Grandview) and other 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. was transforming 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 literally packed with people and they came 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 and Chief of Police John Arnette, and his men 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 here and left August 26 in a special car attached to a train and returned to New York.

There was but one mishap during the big event here. 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.

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