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Betzwood Films

The Bank Cashier (1912)

One of the earlier of the Betzwood westerns, the film features Edgar Jones with the first of his two co-stars, Clara Williams. Jones is the employee of a bank and the banker’s daughter playfully locks him in the vault for fun, but then can’t reopen it. She rides off to get help. Meanwhile, thieves try to rob the vault and find Jones the verge of suffocation. However, when he shoots at them, they lock him in again and he resumes suffocating. Clara finally arrives with her father, who knows the combination, and Jones is rescued just in the nick of time. Of course all is forgiven and he marries Clara anyway.

Lubin Manufacturing Company, 1912. Starring Edgar Jones and Clara Williams.

The Bravery of Dora (1912)

An elderly father and his daughter Dora discover Juan falling down by the side of the road and bring him back home to recover. Described as a half breed in the inter-titles [for unknown reasons], we are given to understand that Juan is half Mexican. The film seems to be set during the later Mexican Revolution, specifically in American territory in the Mexican Border War, which was fought between independence fighters, federals, and the various U.S. armed forces. Soon a U.S. Army division finds refuge in Dora’s family home, and there is a shoot-out with Mexican forces, in which the Mexicans prevail. Juan refuses to shoot at the Mexican side, citing mixed loyalties. Soon he is captured by the Mexican soldiers who nonetheless brand him a traitor and sentence him to death on the morrow. Dora hatches a plot to rescue Juan, as they have become attached, and helps him to escape. Juan races off to the US forces, who race back to the scene, saving Dora and her father who has now become a replacement for the missing Juan in punishment to Dora. According to the added titles, at the end Juan saves the day and wins Dora for his own.

Lubin Manufacturing Company, 1912. Running time: ~17 minutes. Produced by Siegmund Lubin. Featuring Earl Metcalfe, Edna Payne and E.J. Phillips.

In the Service of the State (1912)

Synopsis:  “Joseph” (Edgar Jones), despondent over the loss of his family in a train wreck, recklessly takes on a dangerous assignment as Sheriff and goes in search of a deadly outlaw. He soon finds virtuous “Molly” (Clara Williams), who is harboring a dark secret in the woods—her outlaw father, Burt Hawkins.  Joseph shoots him. Molly marries him anyway.

Leading the cast in these first Betzwood westerns were Edgar Jones and Clara Williams, both of whom were hired in 1912. Lubin had seen Jones performing in a western play in New York, decided that he looked like the cowboy in a Remington painting he owned, and hired Jones on the spot. Jones had no previous film experience. Clara Williams came to Lubin from the Essanay Company where she had appeared in a number of westerns. She was a skilled “female rough rider” and her riding abilities were used as often as possible in her pictures. Williams eventually went on to appear opposite famed cowboy star, William S. Hart, in the legendary classic, Hell’s Hinges.

Director Francis J. Grandon came to Lubin from Carl Laemmle’s Independent Motion Picture Company early in 1912. By virtue of his commanding personality, he was soon assigned the task of managing Lubin’s most unmanageable troupe—the cowboys. A skillful and experienced filmmaker, his films are better constructed and more coherent compared to other Lubin films of the time. He did not stay with Lubin long, however. When Lubin sent Grandon and his company to California in the winter of 1912-1913, Grandon abandoned cast and crew to take a job with Universal. Clara Williams went with him, also ending her association with Lubin.

Lubin Manufacturing Company, 1912. Directed by Francis J. Grandon. Starring Edgar Jones and Clara Williams.

Juan and Juanita (1912)

Wilbert Melville made just a few films at Betzwood in December 1912 before Lubin sent him to California to found the Lubin West branch studio in Los Angeles. Melville had only months before made films in Texas and Arizona near the Mexican border and “Mexican” films were his specialty. Unfortunately, he had a tendency to feed into the routine stereotypes of the day and his Mexican characters are often unsavory and even cartoon like. This is probably why Lubin assigned Earl Metcalfe to work with him. Metcalfe specialized in playing unsavory characters and his acting was often “over the top.” Here Mexican bandits hold up a train and Juan saves the day by catching the crooks. Juanita is his reward.

The only surviving print of this film turned up in Holland nearly twenty years ago with Dutch intertitles. The spectacle of Dutch-speaking Mexicans holding up the Pennsylvania Railroad comes close to being surreal. The Archive has two video copies of the film, one with the original Dutch intertitles and another with translations inserted by the technical staff of Montgomery County Community College. The purchase of the Dutch  video copy, from the Museum of Modem Art, was made possible by a generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

Lubin Manufacturing Company, 1912. Directed by Wilbert Melville. Starring Earl Metcalfe and Edna Payne.

The Renagades (1912)

An unhappy couple living in the West during prospecting times are burdened with difficulties, chief among them are the husband’s abusive tendencies, attacks by wigged Indians, and then her temptation to leave, to take up with a younger and kinder prospector (Edgar Jones).

Lubin Manufacturing Company, 1912. 14 minutes. Featuring Edgar Jones, Clara Williams.

Library copy: DVD transfer of VHS copy of Betzwood Archive 16mm film print, as restored by the Museum of Modern Art from an original 35mm print found in the Netherlands. The inter titles were in Dutch and had to be translated and reinserted. The film ends before there are credits, and the final scene is lost. There are no credits of responsibility remaining on the film. Credits source: Joseph Eckhardt, Lubin scholar.

The Sheriff's Mistake (1912)

Synopsis: Secret Service agent, “James” (Edgar Jones), is looking for “Big Bill,” a bandit who has just held up the stage coach. “Nellie” (Clara Williams), a ranchman’s daughter, hears a description of the outlaw and mistakes James for the crook. She points the accusing finger and the posse locks him up. Then she discovers the truth and has to catch the bandit herself. James puts the handcuffs on Nellie in the end and they live happily ever after.

Lubin Manufacturing Company, 1912. Starring Edgar Jones and Clara Williams. Scenario by Geraldine Harrison Grey. Directed by Francis J. Grandon