Silent film shot in Moreau in 1916
Actress Theda Bara’s early 20th century studio biography claimed that she was born in the Sahara to a French artist and his Egyptian concubine, and that she possessed super powers.
In fact, the 5-foot, six-inch actress who died her blonde hair black to get into show business, was born Theadosia Goodman to a Cincinatti, Ohio tailor and his wife, although members of the Goodman family did change their last name to Bara after the screen star’s success.
It might be less of a stretch to picture the Davis farm in Moreau, on the bank of the Hudson River, opposite Fort Edward, where a dozen scenes for the 1916 silent film “The Serpent” were filmed, as the wildest part of Russia.
I’ll have to leave it up to your imagination, as “The Serpent,” and many of the other movies Bara was featured in, were lost in a 1937 fire at a Fox Studios warehouse.
The plot, based on the story “The Wolf’s Claw” by Philip Bartholomae, centers around the peasant character Vania Lazar, portrayed by Bara, who is out for revenge.
There was one specific, non-financial incentive that lured Fox Studios to finish up the last-minute shooting of the film locally — Snow.
The film was primarily shot at the main Fox Studios film lot at Fort Lee, N.J. and at Chimney Rock, N.C.
“The long distance telephone was pressed into service from the New York office and a search for snow was started, which led them from town to town along the Hudson River until Albany was reached. Not enough of the ‘beautiful’ was located there to satisfy the film people,” The Post-Star reported at the time. “A hasty study of the map showed Fort Edward as ‘the one best bet.’”
The cast and crew stayed at the Hotel Hudson in Fort Edward during the filming that began on Jan. 12, 1916.
“The company created much interest about the streets in their ‘native’ Russian costumes, paint and powder, and many persons journeyed to the Davis farm to see them work.”
Bara made friends while in Fort Edward that she kept in regular contact with and wrote to in 1921 about her marriage to motion picture director Charles Brabin.
Sources: The Post-Star Jan. 13, 1916, July 9, 1921, IMBd
Click here to read my most recent previous local silent film history post.