A Movie Was Shot In Beaumont County
By Judy Linsley
Lights! Camera! Action! It was 1924, and movie time in Beaumont. The Athenian Motion Picture Company was coming to town to make "Beaumont's own movie."
The Beaumont Enterprise described the plot of "Youth's Dream" as being "about a dream two small children have after falling asleep in a park on their way home from school." The children were a boy and a girl, of course, and the dream outlined their future together.
Screen tests, held at the Kyle Theater, were open to the public. The cast was a large one, so director Meyer Schlom wanted "as many as can crowd on the stage."
The night of the screen tests, over 150 aspiring actors and actresses "from all walks of life" showed up and "smiled, frowned, laughed and cried" as cameraman Milton Athens cranked away. "Some of them were ludicrous, a few good; most fair," noted the Beaumont Journal. "The glaring lights seemed to get on their nerves." Added incentive to these nervous hopefuls was the promise that if anyone showed enough talent, his or her screen test would be sent to California.
The heroine's role went to Bertha Roland, an 18-year-old telephone company employee. She doubtless cinched the role when she modeled a one-piece bathing suit, quite daring for the 1920s. Luther Mila, a stenographer with the Smyth Lumber Company, got the male lead. He was described as having "a good profile, attractive features, and a good deal of grace and carriage for an amateur."
Interior scenes were filmed each night on the Kyle Theater stage after the showing of the feature film. The audience was allowed to stay and watch, since there was no sound in the movie. The newspaper reported that during filming of the love scene, the audience "thoroughly enjoyed" the "long, resounding kiss" that actually took up ten feet of film and required several rehearsals. No one said whether Bertha and Luther enjoyed it as well.
Exterior scenes were shot all over town-Magnolia Refinery, the port and turning basin, ship yards, hotels, downtown streets. One exciting fight scene between hero and villain was shot on the roof of the Kyle. After a struggle, the hero "nonchalantly" tossed the bad guy off. The Journal remarked "plenty of excitement for the lucky man who wins the 'heavy' role."
Once completed, "Youth's Dream" premiered at the Kyle, later moving to the People's Theater. Along with the movie, audiences saw films of a baseball game between the Rotary and Round Table clubs, a movie "ball" atop Hotel Beaumont, an "educational film" showing Beaumont Laundry operations, and the screen tests for "Youth's Dreams." Particularly notable was the speed with which the movie was made-two weeks. Auditions were on June 16, and the movie opened at the Kyle June 29.
After its local showing, "Youth's Dream" simply disappeared. Its stars never made it to Hollywood. History is continually being uncovered, however. Perhaps someday, in some moldering movie archive, a movie history buff will find a dusty, brittle copy of "Youth's Dream."
- The Kyle Theater, location for the thrilling fight scene in the movie "Youth's Dream," made in Beaumont in 1924.