Ruth of the Rockies, Lost but not Forgotten.

Exhibitors Herald August 21 1920Ruth of the Rockies Motion Picture News October 9 1920motionpicturenew221unse_1170

 

Ruth of the Rockies consisted of fifteen-two-reel-chapters, and only two of its episodes are extant, as far as we known the rest are lost. The surviving chapters are numbers fourteen and fifteen (The Secret of Regina Island and The Hidden Treasure), they are held at the UCLA Film & Television Archive, in Los Angeles; according to their records the only reproduction for preservation that has been done is for chapter 15. The official release date of chapter one of this episodic thriller was August 29, 1902.

Production had already begun on Ruth of the Rockies by May of 1920, at Astra Film Corporation Studios; formerly the facilities had been used by the Diando Film Company. Astra had just purchased the studio (located on Verdugo Road in Glendale, CA) in 1919, previously Astra had leased the Pathé Studios in Jersey City, NJ.  AFC primarily made serials and comedies; Louis J. Gasnier, founded the company in 1916 and was the President, George Baker acted as the Vice-President and George B. Seitz was the secretary of the company. Astra Film Corporation films were released through Pathé. [1] In June of 1920, Astra shipped the first four episodes of Ruth of the Rockies, for a special screening for the Pathé officials at the home office.[2]

In chapters seven and eight a hydroplane was used and those scenes were filmed in San Diego.[3] Roland made a flight in a Pony Blimp D-57 at the Naval Air Station in San Diego, this was the smallest dirigible constructed to that date and was used for several long shots and bird’s eye views for the film.[4]

Pony Blimp D-57

A Pony Blimp D-57, similar to what Roland flew in

Connie De Roo was the cinematographer for the production (and personally handled the shots at the Naval base), although unlisted;[5] De Roo had just two other credits: Headin’ South, 1918 and Flapper Wives, 1924. De Roo trained under cinematographer Hugh McClung in 1918, during the filming of Headin’ South, starring Douglas Fairbanks. [6]

The story, Broadway Bab, penned by Johnston McCulley (The Curse of Capistrano, AKA-The Mark of Zorro) had been published in All Story Magazine. The scenario was written by Gilson Willets[7] which makes perfect sense, for Willets worked on several Ruth Roland projects; Willets goes unlisted for Ruth of the Rockies, by most modern sources.

Regardless of the claims by Pathé, prior to the release of Ruth of the Rockies, that they had mapped out extensive advertising and that the campaign was wider in scope than had been employed before,[8]  the advertising was sparse, mostly just bold print, with one or two lines.

Ruth of the Rockies Suburbanite_Economist (Chicago, Illinois_Fri__Aug_27__1920_

 

The following advertising examples are the exception to the rule of ads for Ruth of the Rockies.

The_Wichita_Daily_Eagle_Sun__Dec_26__1920_Boston_Post_Thu__Oct_7__1920_

 

As with so many serials, the kiddies were offered free admission for the first chapter of Ruth of the Rockies so as to stir interest for the remaining episodes.

The_Wichita_Daily_Eagle_Sun__Dec_26__1920_(1)

 

The memory of Ruth Roland and her daring do (she suffered a dislocated back and hip during filming of Ruth of the Rockies[9]) should remain indelibly etched in our hearts and minds.  These cliffhanging serials were often the bread and butter of the studios and the exhibitors alike, as well they were the forerunners of the modern thrillers, adventure and action pictures that we so readily consume today at our local multiplex, on DVD and streaming.  Roland not only acted in the serial but was active as producer of the project, consulting with George Marshall regarding every detail of his direction.[10]

Here are two stills from Ruth of the Rockies:

Motion Picture News September 4 1920Motion Picture News August 28 1920

Oh, that we could see Ruth of the Rockies in its entirety!

 

By C. S. Williams

 

Ruth of the Rockies Episode Titles and release date schedule:[11]

  • The Mystery Trunk (August 29)
  • The Inner Circle (September 5)
  • The Tower of Danger (September 12)
  • Between two Fires (September 19)
  • Double Crossed (September 26)
  • The Eagle’s Nest (October 3)
  • Troubled Waters (October 10)
  • Danger Trails (October 17)
  • The Perilous Path (October 24)
  • Outlawed (October 31)
  • The Fatal Diamond (November 7)
  • The Secret Order (November 14)
  • The Surprise Attack (November 21)
  • The Secret of Regina Island (November 28)
  • The Hidden Treasure (December 5)

 

Two actresses performed in Ruth of the Rockies that have for decades not be accounted with that production; here they are:

Norma Nichols, who appeared in Ruth of the Rockies,[12] is either mistakenly identified as Norma Bichole or is unlisted from the casting directory by the Internet Movie Data Base. I believe the former is correct, for a similar mistake is seen in the Exhibitors Herald of August 14, 1920, where Ms. Nichols is listed as Norma Bichols.

Madeline Fairchild (the trade magazines misspelled it Fairschilds) is also unlisted for the production; as a matter of fact Ms. Fairchild seems to be missing from nearly all modern film histories.  She began with Pathé in 1919 and obviously was added to the cast of Ruth of the Rockies because of her background; she was born in a California mining camp and had considerable horse-riding talents.[13] This is the only role I can find attributed to her.

Madeline Fairchild

 

[1] The New Historical Dictionary of the American Film Industry, by Anthony Slide, publisher, Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1998, page 16

[2] Motion Picture News, June 12, 1920

[3] Motion Picture News, July 17, 1920

[4] Motion Picture News, July 31, 1920

[5] Motion Picture News, July 31, 1920

[6] Moving Picture World, February 16, 1918

[7] Motion Picture News, May 15, 1920

[8] Motion Picture News, August 7, 1920

[9] Exhibitors Herald, August 7, 1920

[10] Exhibitors Herald, May 15, 1920

[11] Motion Picture News, August, September, October Issues, 1920

Wid’s Daily, December 19, 1920

Catalog of Copyright Entries, 1920

[12] Exhibitors Herald, May 15, 1920

Motion Picture News, August 7, 1920

[13] Exhibitors Herald, August 14, 1920

Motion Picture News August 14, 1920

Who’s Who on the Screen, by Charles Donald Fox and Milton L. Silver, published by Ross Publishing, 1920, Page 319

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