The Golden God; Lubin, Las Vegas and Romaine

Golden Remembrances of: The Golden God…

 

Moving Picture World, January 17, 1914

The_Day_Book, Chicago, Illinois _Tue__Mar_3__1914_

 

Introduction…

I am writing to refute the statement[1] that appears in the plot summery of, The Golden God, 1913, on the Internet Movie Data Base, that the film was never produced. This idea that the movie has no reliable documentation of production and that it never existed, is incorrect and is based upon faulty investigation and research.

Our Golden God journey begins in June of 1913, when Romaine Fielding was looking to move the location of the Lubin Moving Picture Company western-branch studio from Silver City, New Mexico. Three Land of Enchantment cities offered their services to Lubin and Fielding. Let me include a little back-story to the first city considered, El Paso. At the middle of June of 1913, former El Pasoan and actor, Jess Robinson, was in the Sun City making arrangements for Fielding and the rest of the Lubin Company, for an upcoming location shoot in El Paso.[2]  Then on June 27, 1913  two want-ads were published in the El Paso Herald, asking for a young man and a young lady for a part in a moving picture. The ads were repeated in the Saturday, June 28, edition of the same paper.

El_Paso_Herald_Sat__Jun_28__1913_(1) El_Paso_Herald_Sat__Jun_28__1913_

 

These advertisements, no doubt placed by Jess Robinson, were a precursor of Fielding’s travels from Silver City, New Mexico to El Paso, Texas on Monday, June 30, 1913, to put the finishing touches on, A Gentleman from New Mexico. For Monday, June 30, and Tuesday, July 1, a follow-up ad was seen in the El Paso Herald, offering an open call for anyone, interested the previous, Wanted for Moving Pictures, ads, to be at the Sheldon Hotel between 8 and 9 PM, that same evening.

Gentleman from New Mexico ad El_Paso_Herald_Mon__Jun_30__1913_

 

Fielding and crew were in El Paso, to complete the story-line of A (some sources have the article as, The, instead of, A) Gentleman from New Mexico, which ends with the title character leaving New Mexico and going to El Paso.[3]

The celluloid action took in several views on Montana Street and Houston Square, with well known sites such as The Herald Building, Pioneer Plaza, The Mills Building, The Sheldon Hotel, Union Station and W. W. Turney’s residence included in the scenes. The film group was set to return to Silver City later in the week.[4]

It was in the days leading up to the Fourth-of-July celebration, that El Paso believed they had been chosen as the next western-branch studio for Lubin and Fielding.[5] Now either, El Paso and the next city to be reflected on, Albuquerque, misunderstood the attentions of Mr. Fielding or he was undecided on where to locate next, and let his compliments convey too much assurance to the local dignitaries.

The second stop for Mr. Fielding was in Albuquerque, where on July 24, he toured the city, accompanied by Joseph Barnett and H. E. Sherman of the Barnett Amusement Company, while also visiting with the Mayor of Albuquerque, D. K. B. Sellers.[6] The gracious and hospitable meeting of Fielding and the Albuquerque representatives were, inferred to be perfunctory conferences, serving to initiate the relations between the Lubin Moving Picture Company’s western-branch studio, Fielding and Albuquerque, rather than wooing the company to the environs of the Duke City. The article (found in the Albuquerque Evening Herald) related that Fielding had received instructions to go to Albuquerque after finishing up the work in Silver City; what a disappointment it must have when the Lubin-Fielding company decided for another destination.[7] I believe that those involved in the negotiations with Fielding in Albuquerque on July 24, overlooked a telltale when Fielding left earlier than expected. The manager of Lubin’s western-branch studio, the person with the final decision on relocation, had indicated that he intended to spend several busy days in the city, but Fielding left forty-eight-hours after arriving in Albuquerque.

From Albuquerque it was on to Las Vegas, New Mexico, (obviously, three-is-a-charm) where the Commercial Club (the local chamber of commerce[8]) had invited Fielding, in early July, to move the Lubin studio from Silver City, New Mexico. He met on Saturday, July 26 in the afternoon with Las Vegas banker Hallett Raynolds and the Secretary of the Commercial Club, W. H. Stark; the group of enthusiastic welcomers also included representatives of the Duncan and Browne Moving Picture Theater, Messrs. George Fleming and H. P. Browne.[9]

The party of Las Vegas VIP’s escorted Fielding by automobile to the sights most advantageous for an afternoon drive. They spent the night at El Porvenir, the accommodations there I would assume were provided either at the El Porvenir Dude Ranch or the Y. M. C. A. campground (which had just opened earlier that summer). On Sunday they took the short hike to Hermit’s Peak. Here the group of Las Vegans may have sealed the deal with their pre-planned exploit. Communication was established between fifteen people in Las Vegas, from Hermit’s Peak via heliograph (telegraph flashes from a mirror). Fielding was delighted with the experiment and said he would use a similar stunt in an upcoming film, which he was currently writing the scenario for.[10] Although time was limited for Fielding, and he was not in a position to take in very many scenic places of interest, still, he was able to see enough to convince him of the beauty of the area and commented that he was surprised that Las Vegas was not better advertised to the country. While in town Fielding did visit the Duncan and Browne Theater, and was satisfied with the screens and machines in use and felt them excellent and capable of producing high grade quality motion pictures.[11]

Romaine Fielding accepted the invitation extended by Las Vegas, and targeted a move for around August 18;[12] the Lubin Moving Picture Company Western Studio, took up residence at 920 Gallinas Street (on the north side, just east of 10th street). Fielding had the house prepared as a studio for the indoor scenes (obviously that did not work as he planned, for The Golden God, for those interiors were shot in Galveston[13]) and permanent living quarters were obtained by Fielding when he leased the Plaza Hotel, on Plaza Street and Hot Springs Blvd. (the temporary signage is still viewable on the west wall on Hot Springs Blvd.), in late August,[14] providing rooms for the eleven (his staff while in Silver City was twenty-five; eleven may be a case of misreporting[15]) cameramen, actors and actresses that made up his company.[16]

Hotel Romaine Historic Plaza Hotel, Plaza Park, Las Vegas, NM

 

During his brief stay (just over ninety days) in Las Vegas, Fielding produced, wrote, directed and starred in at least ten pictures and maybe a dozen. These films and their particulars I will take up in a future article about the history of the Lubin Company in the west and a short bio of Fielding, but for now let’s go for the Gold.

Some writers have mistakenly reported that The Golden God, began filming in the summer of 1913, but, this does not jibe with Romaine Fielding’s own account, that in September of 1913 he was shooting, The Rattlesnake, in Las Vegas, New Mexico;[17] and, His Blind Power, reached a pinnacle of scenes shot in one day, on Monday, September 29, with thirty finished milieus; His Blind Power was on pace to wrap by the end of the first week of October.[18] Originally the idea of the five-thousand-extras was set for El Paso, Texas, near Fort Bliss, as well there were plans for an additional two or three thousand for the big battle scene.[19] This bit of information was seen in the El Paso Herald, on November 10, 1913; obviously then, The Golden God, had not commenced production prior to this, as so many have detailed. Author Tim Blevins records that filming began on November 11, 1913, this according to a report from the Las Vegas Optic.[20] As to that beginning date, it is possible that Fielding may have incorporated some footage in, The Golden God, which he took at the Sena-Goke  Ranch, in Park Springs, filming several scenes at the party there on November 10; the festivities included races, bronco busting, other western sports and a dance in the evening.[21]

On November 7 (just four days before filming began on, The Golden God), Romaine Fielding addressed the newly formed University Club of Las Vegas on the subject of, The Moving Picture as an Educational Force.[22] The meeting was held at the Y. M. C. A.; the University Club membership roll, sported several notable locals, the Reverend J. L. Imhof (pastor of the First Christian Church and a regular speaker at the Christian Tabernacle), local western-poet, Phil H. Le Noir (also the Secretary of the Y. M. C. A., and he appeared to be the membership director for the new club), H. N. Northrup, O. C. Zingg, Professor Frank Carroon, G. L. Cornell and Las Vegas business leader, Colbert C. Root.[23]

Just two-weeks and two-days later, on November 23, 1913 (just eleven days of filming for The Golden God, if we accept author Tim Blevins account), after the last of the exterior scenes were in the can, Fielding left Las Vegas (despite the plea of the Commercial Club, he did not return for any further filming) with plans to spend the winter at the Lubin Galveston, Texas, studio.[24]

 

On Location…

It was a very special day in Las Vegas, New Mexico, at the end of the third week of November of 1913, when actor, writer and director, Romaine Fielding filmed what for the small town and the state of New Mexico was the largest gathering of movie-extras seen. Five-thousand men portrayed a battle on the ground (The National Guard and a hundred of the local lodge of Elks were involved in the filming[25]).

The Golden God 3Golden God and a gathering crowed of onlookers Las Vegas New Mexico, LVCCHP

 

A fleet of airplanes were simultaneously being filmed in the air while the troops of folks down below, scurried in the simulated battle;[26] biplanes, dirigibles and a monoplane were utilized for the epic battle scenes; Fielding himself ventured into the air, participating in the futuristic flying fight.[27] Maybe even more impressive (although the prognostication of air-battles was amazing) was the, War Automobile, a six-cylinder car equipped with search-lights, headlights, side-lights and was mounted with rapid-fire machine-guns; the vehicle was fitted with armament and guards, in an attempt to make the car appear as a 1950 car of war.[28]

The small but proud town of Las Vegas called for a holiday, the banks, stores, schools and the courts all closed for this unusual day,[29] and thousands more (reported to have been twenty-thousand strong[30]) visited from all parts of the state, brought in by special excursion trains.[31] Local Las Vegas, New Mexico, historian, Lynn Irwin Perrigo, wrote that $50,000 was spent on a cavalry and artillery charge through the streets of Old Town Las Vegas, we understand this to be the aggregate for the entire film, not just those scenes; Perrigo had the number of spectators at ten-thousand, not twenty-thousand, as was widely reported.[32]

 

Lost…

This is as good a point as any for me to introduce the tragic loss of, The Golden God; apparently it was never duplicated, therefore, it is lost beyond all hope. I begin this unusual story of loss by adding someone found, a member of the crew to The Golden God, that of cinematographer J. P. Nash. Nash recounted in an interview in 1930 that the reason that film was not seen was because the exterior scenes were filmed in and around Las Vegas, New Mexico, while the interior scenes were made in Galveston, Texas. Nash continued by saying that the four reels from New Mexico were lost by fire in a film vault do to some sort of spontaneous combustion and the Galveston reels were left untouched but he gave no account as to the two extant reels.[33] Nash also stated that the film had been approved, contrary to popular postulations through these many decades,[34] especially standing in direct opposition to Joseph Eckhardt’s account that The Golden God was seen by the Philadelphia Exhibitors’ Premiere, in January of 1914, but not seen after, because the National Board of Censorship condemned the film as inflammable, and refused permission to show the picture.[35]

As to the loss of at least four reels of The Golden God by fire, of this there is no definitive proof, but the fire is a matter of public record. June 13, 1914, at about 10:30 AM, a fire broke out at the one-story brick building that was divided into five compartments, which were not communicating. The vault structure, which housed between three and four-thousand reels, was adjacent to the Lubin studio, located on North 20th Street, with West Indiana Avenue at the north border, West Cambria Street at the south, and North Garnet Street as the east limit.[36] The brick walls were one-foot thick and the floor and roof were constructed of concrete. There were two prism sky-lights, each six by twenty-four inches in a one-inch thick design, for all compartments. There were no artificial lights in the facility. According to the report of the Philadelphia Fire Underwriter’s Association, the source of the fire was attributed to the rays of the sun being directed via the prism skylights into the interior of the one story brick building, focused upon an open reel of film (several cans were open) which started the conflagration that consumed four of the five film vaults at the Lubin Manufacturing Company.[37] The films not only burned but exploded and strewn flaming celluloid in all directions, even setting fire to a row of houses on Garnet Street, which was close by; nine of the homes (the houses effected were numbers 2901 to 1951) were basically destroyed before fire-fighters could extinguish the blaze. One child was injured, before being rescued by an actor from the Lubin studio.[38] The Lubin complex nearest the film-vault was quickly saturated with chemicals by the Lubin fire-fighters, and by the time the local fire department arrived they were of little help and their fire-fighting services unneeded.[39]

Of the reels lost most had already been seen but there were one-hundred new reels of film that had not been released,[40] and if we believe the testimony of J. P. Nash, at least four of the six reels of The Golden God, were among the one-hundred new unreleased reels of celluloid lost in the fire. The initial value placed on the lost reels and property damage was set at more than $100,000, but within a week, that estimate was raised to no less than a half-a-million.[41]  Besides, The Golden God and other Lubin productions lost, D. W. Griffith had negatives for The Escape and Home, Sweet Home, stored in the vault.[42]

Needless to say the residents of North Garnet Street of Philadelphia were upset, stating that they would ask the fire marshal take some kind action against the company; the residents of the those houses lost or damaged in the fire claimed that Lubin had no legal right to store the film reels in such large quantities in a residential area.[43]

It is a shame that this film is lost to us, for Romaine Fielding was such an innovator; he may have been the first to have a continuity supervisor. This detail-watcher position that Fielding created was birthed by his own obsession with minutiae being correct. His belief was that getting the small things wrong were as damaging to a film as a badly written scenario or some incompetent actors.[44] And clearly, The Golden God was way ahead of its time and it is our loss not to have this moving picture as a part of our artistic history.

The Golden God 1

 

The Gold God 2

 

 

By C. S. Williams

 

 

Side Notes:

  1. As good as the natural light is in and around the Las Vegas area; still things did not go as planned for Mr. Fielding, extras and crew. The cavalry charge scene that was filmed on the hill west of the court house had to be repeated and most film shot on Wednesday, November 19, 1913 was unusable because of faulty sunlight.[45]
  2. The budget was actually $80,000, this according to J. P. Nash[46]
  3. The first airplane seen in the Las Vegas area was flown by R. C. McMillen, hired by Romaine Fielding for aerial combat scenes for, The Golden God.[47]
  4. One of the most picturesque scenes was said to be a cavalry charge, where hundreds of pounds of dynamite and gun powder were burned in the battle sequence.[48]
  5. Al Daddy Jacoby was the stage-carpenter and an actor (The Rattlesnake, 1913; The Circle’s End, 1914) with the Lubin Motion Picture Company, and worked with Romaine Fielding; Jacoby was also somewhat of a publicity agent for Fielding, heading the campaign for Fielding as the most popular movie-star competition held by the New York Telegraph.[49]

 

[1] “Although an advertisement for this film appears in Motion Picture World on 17 January 1914, there is no reliable documentation that a film bearing this title was ever produced or distributed at this time. Most likely, the film was announced but never made or begun but never completed. It’s also possible it was completed and then released at a later date under another title.”

– Written by Jack Tillmany

[2] El Paso Herald (El Paso, Texas) June 16, 1913

[3] El Paso Herald (El Paso, Texas) June 30, 1913

[4] El Paso Herald (El Paso, Texas) June 30, 1913

[5] El Paso Herald (El Paso, Texas) June 30, 1913

[6] Evening Herald (Albuquerque, New Mexico) July 24, 1913

[7] Evening Herald (Albuquerque, New Mexico) July 7, 1913

[8] Las Vegas Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) July 28, 1913

[9] Las Vegas Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) July 28, 1913

[10] Las Vegas Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) July 28, 1913

[11] Las Vegas Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) July 28, 1913

[12] Las Vegas Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) July 28, 1913

[13] Las Vegas Daily Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) July 21, 1930

[14] Las Vegas Daily Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) September 3, 1913

[15] Las Vegas Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) July 28, 1913

[16] Las Vegas Daily Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) August 13, 1976

[17] El Paso Herald (El Paso, Texas) September 21, 1913

[18] Las Vegas Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) September 30, 1913

[19] El Paso Herald (El Paso, Texas) November 10, 1913

[20] Film & Photography on the Front Range, edited by Tim Blevins, Pikes Peak Library District, 2012, page 148

[21] Evening Herald (Albuquerque, New Mexico) November 11, 1913

[22] Las Vegas Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) October 28, 1913

[23] Las Vegas Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) October 28, 1913

[24] Las Vegas Daily Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) August 13, 1976

[25] Warwick Examiner and Times (Warwick, Queensland, Australia) March 16, 1914

[26] El Paso Herald (El Paso, Texas) December 20, 1913

[27] Monroe City Democrat (Monroe City, Missouri) January 1, 1914

[28] Motion Picture News, March 21, 1914

[29] Warwick Examiner and Times (Warwick, Queensland, Australia) March 16, 1914

[30] Chicago Daily Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) March 1, 1914

[31] El Paso Herald (El Paso, Texas) December 20, 1913

[32] Gateway to Glorieta: A History of Las Vegas, New Mexico, Sunstone Press, 1982, 2010, pages 48

[33] Las Vegas Daily Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) July 21, 1930

[34] Las Vegas Daily Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) July 21, 1930

[35] The King of the Movies: Film Pioneer Siegmund Lubin, by Joseph P. Eckhardt, Associated University Presses,  1997, pages 169-171

[36] Billboard, June 20, 1914

[37] Whitesville News (Whitesville, New York) News, September 14, 1922

[38] Billboard, June 20, 1914

Courier (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) June 14, 1914

[39] Billboard, June 20, 1914

[40] Courier (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) June 14, 1914

[41] Courier (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) June 14, 1914

Billboard, June 20, 1914

[42] Billboard, June 20, 1914

[43] Courier (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) June 14, 1914

[44] El Paso Herald (El Paso, Texas) January 31, 1914

[45] Las Vegas Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) November 21, 1913

[46] Las Vegas Daily Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) July 21, 1930

[47] Las Vegas Daily Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) August 13, 1976

[48] Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia) February 23, 1914

[49] Las Vegas Optic (Las Vegas, New Mexico) October 28, 1913

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