It’s About Time – Stories about Fair Haven and Sterling

    By on March 2, 2016

    In 1918, the Fair Haven Register featured an article about its movie theatre:

    “To the Public:

    Believing you are entitled to the highest class of motion picture entertainment possible the management of the Adelphia has contracted for Paramount and Artcraft pictures during the coming year—those you see advertised in your favorite magazines. We have gone to the unusual expense to provide THE BEST because patrons of the Adelphia have expressed their desire for such pictures.”

    The article entices the readers by noting that the stars are in a class by themselves, stars such as Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Billy Burke. Directors, such as Cecil B. De Mille are the “greatest wizards in the producing field. This service will begin December 14th and continue permanently. The Adelphia Theatre, Fair Haven, NY.”

    The first Artcraft picture to be shown was to be Poor Little Rich Girl, starring Mary Pickford. (Fair Haven Register, probably December 12, 1918). A year later the newspaper stated that: “a continuous performance from 3:30 to 11 p.m. on Christmas Day [will have] a special feature: The Daughter of the Gods.” It is important to note that Fair Haven did not have electricity at this time, requiring a projectionist to hand-crank the reels of film onto a projector screen.

    The theater was located in the upstairs portion of Central Hall, where various plays, lectures, etc. had been presented. Ray Milliman showed the silent movies there. Later, in about 1922, Frank Howell began his movie theater business at his own building, in his “moving picture house” that would seat 350 people. It was called The Lake Side Theater. There were no “talkies” yet, so in order to dramatize the old silent movies, Sybil Smith played the piano. By this time, Central Hall had been condemned as a fire trap since it had only one exit and the stairs were made of wood. (R.T. Sant, Trails, Sails and Rails.)

    The Adelphia showed The Little American on August 23, circa 1919. On August 2 and 3 of 1918, a year earlier, the Richardson Theater in Oswego had shown the same silent film. A balcony seat’s price was 10 cents and a lower floor seat 15 cents. (Oswego Daily Palladium, 7/30/1918.)

    Created during World War I, and directed by Cecil B. De Mille, The Little American was a patriotic war movie starring Mary Pickford as Angela, a young woman attracted to Karl, a German, and Jules, a Frenchman, both living in America, who are rivals for her affections.

    World War I breaks out, so both men return to their native countries to fight each other. Angela sails to France, in U-boat infested waters, to care for a dying aunt but a torpedo downs the ship. She clings to a floating wooden table, soaking wet hair, dramatically floating in the water, until she is rescued. By the time she arrives in France, her aunt is dead and the home is a field hospital. Angela stays and sends secret messages to the allies when she finds out information, since the Germans, including Karl, are occupying the town. Angela is caught. She is sentenced to the firing squad. Karl cannot bring himself to kill her, so he denounces the Kaiser to join Angela facing her death. The French, led by Jules, attack, freeing Karl and Angela, who return to America.

    Records at the Town of Sterling include a flyer that was apparently distributed to drum up business. It states that the film shows “stirring views of remarkable spectacular war scenes, both on land and sea… Even the most minute detail has been pronounced perfect. As a patriotic message that will strike a responsive chord in the breast of every American, this photo-play has been pronounced the most powerful of all cinema offerings.” It made for an exciting time at the movies.

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