Q: When did the invisible underground railroad between Hollywood and Portland first begin to see traffic?
A: We don’t know.
But in 1914, the same year Cecil B. DeMille directed the first feature length film (The Squaw Man) produced out of Los Angeles, director Henry McRae came to Portland to make a short film titled The Boy Mayor.
Portland’s boy mayor was Eugene J. Rich, who appears in the film.
From Moving Image Archive News:
The Nestor Film Company produced the film; Universal Film Manufacturing distributed it. While not the first theatrical film produced in Oregon, it depicts a striking episode in Oregon history. Portland lays claim to being the only city in the world at the time with a legalized form of juvenile government operating in conjunction with the regular municipality.
The goal of the “junior government” was to lessen juvenile delinquency among boys. Eugene J. Rich, the Boy Mayor of Portland, and his private secretary, Earl Goodwin, play themselves in the film.
During this same period, New York had a 34 year old installed in Gracie Mansion, John Purroy Mitchel, who was also known as the Boy Mayor, a title bestowed later on a similarly youthful Cleveland mayor during the 1970’s, Dennis Kucinich.
Fans of short silent films set and shot in 1914 Portland will soon be able to see The Boy Mayor. The National Film Preservation Foundation recently gave Oregon Historical Society a grant to preserve the existing nitrate print.
The Oregon Historical Society will create an optical wetgate black-and-while fine-grain negative from its 35mm nitrate print of The Boy Mayor. It will also make a 35mm color tinted answer print from the new negative preservation master. The lab will use the 35mm answer print for the transfer to digital Betacam, and will create a DVD viewing copy.
It will make viewing copies of the film available for on-site use at the OHS research library, which is open to the public. It also plans to distribute watermarked copies of the films on DVD for purchase.
The Moving Image Archive at Oregon Historical Society has its own tie to silent era Portland. Co-founded by Lewis Clark Cook, a silent era Portland filmmaker-turned-preservationist, and Thomas Vaughan, the director of OHS, the collection currently holds over 15,000 titles. Lew Cook, in fact, trained Michele Kribs, the current OHS archivist. I’m guessing Michele is the author of the grant proposal to preserve The Boy Mayor.
Thank you, Michele!
I hereby claim The Boy Mayor as an Oregon film, on the basis of Portland actors, Portland inspiration, and Portland location shooting.