BRUNSWICK – The Bowdoin College Museum of Art has kicked off a series of four films from the Northeast Historic Film Archive in Bucksport to be shown over the course of the summer. They were filmed in Maine in the early 20th century and capture the “way Maine was” through satire and fictional biography.

All four silent films will be shown in the museum’s Media Gallery.

The current film on view is the melodrama “The Sailor’s Sacrifice,” circa 1909, directed by Maine’s own Larry Trimble for American Vitagraph, one of the country’s earliest film studios based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Starring Trimble’s dog Jean, who came into later fame as the “Vitagraph Dog,” and Florence Turner, the already established “Vitagraph Girl,” the film follows the trials and tribulations of a sailor, his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s family once he is purported to be lost at sea.

The 20-minute film is showing through July 6.

• “Just Maine Folk,” 1912

“Just Maine Folk” was directed by Barry O’Neil and stars Ethel Clayton and Harry Meyers, two actors from O’Neil’s stock company that made films for the Lubin Film Manufacturing Co. In the summer of 1912, O’Neil brought his company of 30 to Cape Elizabeth where they stayed for 13 weeks in little cottages on a cliff they nicknamed “Lubinville-by-the-sea” after the main studio called Lubinville outside Philadelphia. According to author Joseph Eckhardt, the company “traveled in a special train with two Pullman coaches, one day coach, and three baggage cars. Included in their luggage were three touring automobiles and ten complete sets of scenery and props.”

“Just Maine Folk” is a caricature of rural life intended for what was probably a predominantly urban viewing audience.

It is eight minutes long and will be shown from July 8-27.

• “Brother of the Bear,” 1921

“Brother of the Bear” producer Holman Francis Day is a well-known Maine writer who worked as a journalist for the Lewiston Evening Journal. He also wrote 23 novels, three books of ballads and magazine stories, as well as radio and film scenarios. In 1920-1921, Day made two dozen short films in Augusta, including “Brother of the Bear,” which includes a small role by Mary Astor when she was a teen.

Many of Day’s films can be described as “Northwood’s Adventures” with a traditional story lines that go as follows: a young man and woman fall in love, the woman is the daughter of a rich man (in “Brother of a Bear,” the owner of a lumber company) and her father wants her to marry someone of his choice who, it turns out, only wants to marry his daughter for her inheritance.

The daughter’s chosen lover must prove that he is worthy of the daughter’s love, despite the fact that he is not of the same social standing as his rival. In this way, Day’s films were typical of the mainstream early film culture described by film historian Steven Ross as “sympathetic to the hardships honest working people suffered at the hands of rapacious businessmen, exploitative employers, heartless landlords, greedy money lenders, and the idle rich.”

“Brother of the Bear” was filmed on the Kennebec River and premiered at The Strand in Gardiner. It runs about 28 minutes long and will be shown July 29 to Aug. 17.

• “Bar Harbor Movie Queen,” 1936

Boston-based itinerant filmmaker Margaret Cram (or Margaret Cram Showalter) spent a number of summers traveling to small towns in New England making “Movie Queen” films. The film casts were made of the local townspeople – this one features the newly married 25-year-old Vera Sleeper of Bar Harbor as the movie queen. The loose plot documents the movie queen on a return visit to her hometown as the whole town shows up to welcome her. The film then follows her visits to local stores whose owners invite her to admire their merchandise.

Some have speculated that the merchants were asked to pay the filmmaker a small fee to be included in the film, possibly the first example of ‘product placement.” Cram’s movies all include a scene in which the movie queen is kidnapped (with the local dignitaries playing the roles of kidnappers) and then rescued by a handsome hero.

The films were usually shot over the course of a week, returned to Boston for processing, and then projected unedited on the following Saturday night when large crowds turned out and paid the price of admission to see themselves, family and friends on the big screen.

“Bar Harbor Movie Queen,” which runs 24 minutes, will be shown Aug. 19 to Sept. 14.

Programs and exhibitions of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art are open to the public free of charge. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 5 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The museum is closed Monday and national holidays. For more information, call 725-3275.


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