Wanted: Photographs, information on ‘Salisbury’s Hero’

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 9, 2016

By Frank Thompson
For the Salisbury Post

Back in 1925, a movie was made in Salisbury. This two-reel comedy was shot in May of that year on the streets of the city — the new high school, then under construction; the firehouse, the offices of the Salisbury Post, local homes and churches.

The entire cast was composed of citizens of Salisbury.

Today, no traces of “Salisbury’s Hero” survive, except for a few newspaper articles on microfilm in the public library. The film itself is gone and, as far as I can determine, no photographs remain.

I hope I’m wrong about that last item. I am writing a book about the silent era of filmmaking in North Carolina. I’ve traveled to libraries, archives and historical societies all over the state (including Salisbury) and have gathered nearly 4,000 pages of research and more than 300 photos from the films made here. But I haven’t found one single still from “Salisbury’s Hero.”

“Salisbury’s Hero” was the brainchild of an industrious traveling filmmaker named Don O. Newland. He traveled from town to town, across several states, with a single script (in North Carolina, he also made “Durham’s Hero” and “Wilmington’s Hero”).

Enlisting the aid of city newspapers, he would cast the parts with local people, engineer exciting public events, and shoot “interiors” on the stage of local movie theaters (the Capitol in Salisbury) between features.

By the time he was finished, Newland had made sure that everyone in town not only knew of the film but was excited about it.

Many official photos were taken by the movie company and the Salisbury Post, which co-sponsored the film. And since the location filming was highly publicized and sometimes attended by thousands of people, it is logical to think that there were many snapshots taken of these exciting events.

My hope is that the people of Salisbury will check their attics and photo albums. There may be pictures there that you couldn’t quite identify or which seemed to make no sense – a car crash, a parade of bathing beauties at the Country Club, a gaggle of babies parading cutely for the camera.

Your great-grandparents or great-great grandparents might have been movie stars.

The cast included:Alice Lentz, Mrs. R. M. West, E. Younce, B. Strachen, Franklin “Fritz” Smith, Mrs. Walter McCanless, Dorothy Thorne, and a Mr. Kizziah.

Yes, even though he played the titular “Hero,” the Post never refers to him as anything other than “Mr. Kizziah.”

If you have photographs or any information about the people in the film, I hope you will contact me at thompsonesque@gmail.com. Or check in at my website: http://www.thecommentarytrack.com.

“Salisbury’s Hero” is a lost film from nearly a century ago. I would like very much to make sure it survives, at least, in memory.