In the early boom years of movie-making, the world’s largest, most advanced film studio was located on the banks of the Schuylkill River here in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. This is the story of the Betzwood Film Studios and its creator, Siegmund Lubin.
Now Showing: A Partner to Providence (1914)
A Partner to Providence was originally episode 8 of a serial film, The Beloved Adventurer, which the Lubin company released in 1914 with an illustrated novel that told the story of the series. In this only extant episode, an English nobleman survives a spectacular train wreck and later prevents a young man from being falsely accused of a payroll robbery which was actually committed by his boss.
The film utilized a train wreck staged by director Romaine Fielding near Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania, for his film, The Valley of Lost Hope (now lost). It was the first on-camera train wreck staged for the movies and used two locomotives that were about to be scrapped. It represented a great financial risk for Lubin who was struggling with a changing industry and losing economic ground. He approved the $25,000 crash ($575,000 adjusted for inflation), but made sure it was captured by 12 cameras in order to catch every angle. To justify his expense, Lubin used the wreck in five different films, a move not missed by the critics. Today, the only footage of this celebrated “train smash” is to be seen in A Partner to Providence.
Background image: Cinema Odeon Firenze by Sailko [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons