COBWEB CORNERS: Movie time in the 1920s

By Mel McFarland

       A couple of weeks ago, I talked about Alexander Film. The Library Channel on cable shows some of the old commercials
       Alexander filmed around here in the '50s and '60s. I found an article about some that I doubt anyone in this area has seen!
       Anyone ever hear of the W.W. Smith Production company? The company operated out of the unusual cinema center, Tulsa, Okla. They used quite a few of the small towns in the state to film exterior scenes for early day westerns, such as "So This Is Arizona?" Yes, that was a little western filmed in, of all places, Colorado. This was just after they filmed three westerns here in El Paso County. The names are probably new to you: "Gold Grabbers," "Trails End" and "Cross Roads." At the time these were not high budget films; each cost $30,000.
       The mountains and prairies in this area provided the scenery, but the interiors were done in Tulsa. Many of the films done here by the Smith company used the mountains west of Manitou. I have heard that some of the filming was also done in the Cheyenne Canyon and Rock Creek vicinities. At the time of this article, W.W. Smith was filming in Red Rock Quarry (now a featured part of the city's Red Rock Canyon Space) south of Garden of the Gods. This quarry was once the source of most of the red sandstone that was used in the construction of many important buildings in the area. Most of the buildings at early Colorado College were built using this stone.
       The Smith company was just putting the finishing touches on its film, "Gold Grabbers." Some of the actors featured in these films were Genevieve Berte, Virginia Lee, Franlyn Farnum, Shorty Hamilton and Al Hart. Have you ever heard of any of these? Well, it seems that history has skipped over the classic westerns from Tulsa and their stars.
       At the same time a local concert featured the music of local composer Bert Kibler. Oh, you have never heard of him either, and you probably never heard his march named "The Chamber of Commerce"! Or you could have gone to the lecture by Charles Bowman Hutchison on on western song birds, including demonstrations of the bird calls.
       This was all happening right around here in the 1920s.