Classic in the Carolinas: Lost silent film based on Elkin, NC

Comet Over Hollywood is doing a mini-series of “Classics in the Carolinas.” I’ll be spotlighting classic movie related topics in South Carolina (my home state) and North Carolina (where I currently live and work).

Elkin, North Carolina is a small town of roughly 4,000 people.

It also is the setting of a silent film made in 1915, and the film is currently lost.

Clara Kimball Young in "Heart of the Blueridge"

Clara Kimball Young in “Heart of the Blueridge” scanned from the book the film was based on.

The film “Heart of the Blue Ridge” is based off a book written by Waldron Baily, a former Elkin mayor.

Baily, originally from Mount Kisco, N.Y., moved to Elkin in 1896 and started Baily Manufacturing Company, according to the history book “Elkin” by Elkin native Jason Couch.

“I called it ‘my Elkin,’ because we all came to love it so,” Baily said in his autobiography published posthumously in 1958.

Baily became mayor in the late 1890s until he moved back up North in 1903, Couch said

“And I, a Yankee…was elected with only two votes over the other fellow,” Baily wrote.

Baily wrote “Heart of the Blue Ridge” book in 1915 after he left Elkin. The book was based off the Stone Mountain and Elkin areas.

The silent film based on the book was released in October 1915 starring Clara Kimball Young as Plutina, Chester Barnett as Zeke and Robert Cummings as Dan Hodges.

Unfortunately, the film is currently lost.

“Like the overwhelming majority of silent features, it likely remains lost,” said Ihsan Amanatullah of the National Film Preservation Foundation in San Francisco, C.A.

Clara Kimball Young as Plutina in "Heart of the Blueridge." Photo scanned from the movie version of the book.

Clara Kimball Young as Plutina in “Heart of the Blueridge.” Photo scanned from the movie version of the book.

Though the film is about North Carolina it was filmed in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

The story follows Zeke (Barnett) and his sweetheart Plutina (Young) and their life in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Zeke is a moonshiner who betrays other moonshiners, which angers the community; causing him to leave the mountains.

But when he hears Plutina is kidnapped, Zeke returns home to rescue her.

The film was re-released in 1917 under the name “Savage Instinct.”

“My characters were all from life with of course a fictional build-up,” Baily said. “It was made into a movie starring the beautiful Clara Kimball Young in the only rough part she ever played.”

Young was married to James Young, the director of “Heart of the Blue Ridge,” but the couple divorced in 1919.

“Heart of the Blue Ridge” was the last film Young made under the direction of her husband James Young, according to Stanford University.

Chester Barnett and Clara Kimball Young in "Heart of the Blue Ridge" scanned from the movie version of the book.

Chester Barnett and Clara Kimball Young in “Heart of the Blue Ridge” scanned from the movie version of the book.

Young was a popular star of the 1910s acting in films such as “Camille” (1915), “Eyes of Youth” (1919)—with Rudolph Valentino early in his career—and “Hearts in Exile” (1915). In 1914, she was polled more popular than Mary Pickford, according to Stanford University.

Young began in films in 1909 and her last movie was “Mr. Celebrity” in 1941 playing herself. She died in 1960 at the age of 70.

Barnett began in films in 1912 to 1920 and he died in 1947 at the age of 63.

Baily also wrote three other North Carolina based novels including “The Homeward Trail” in 1916 about Croatian Indians, “When the Cock Crows” in 1918 based on Beaufort, N.C. and “June Gold” in 1922 about Bogue Inlet.

“The story which I wrote (“Heart of the Blue Ridge”) will live on and on through the years,” Baily said.

*I originally a variation of this story wrote this in March 2012 while I was working for the Elkin Tribune in Elkin, NC.

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