Posts Tagged ‘Warner Brothers’

Correct Information Is Hard to Find

January 8, 2010

A November 27, 1949 newspaper article by Deke Houlgate discussed the problems Warner Brothers were having with a screenplay for Jim Thorpe’s biopic. Several scripts had been written and discarded but a new one, titled “All-American,” was expected from the screenwriters soon. However, he questioned how good it would be given the problems the writers faced. He wrote, “One of the present problems at the Burbank studio seems to be that the records for this famous team–records that must reach back prior to World War I—no longer exists or are easily obtainable. The Army of the United States took over the school or campus, without asking, for the use of its fledgling doctors in 1917 and scattered students plus pertinent data all the way from Lawrence, Kansas, to Riverside, California.”

Like most newspaper reporters, Houlgate had some details wrong but he did better than most. First, the Army took Carlisle Barracks back in 1918, not 1917. Second, the facility wasn’t used for “fledgling doctors” as that came later. In 1918 it was used as a hospital to treat soldiers wounded in WWI. Houlgate went on to attempt to set the record straight on some legends that unfortunately still persist:

First off, Carlisle never had an undefeated, untied season. The Indians came close to a perfect record many times but always managed to lose at least one game. Next Jim Thorpe was not the first or only All-American. Third, Pop Warner did not bring Carlisle from obscurity to fame because Bemus Pierce and Metoxen were recognized as All-Americans by Walter Camp in 1896 or years before Glenn Scobie ever coached there.

Houlgate is correct about everything in the last paragraph except that Walter Camp first recognized a Carlisle player as a first team All-American in 1899 when he selected Isaac Seneca as a halfback. He may have named Pierce and Metoxen to his second or third teams but I don’t have a reference at hand to verify that. Whether or not Camp named Carlisle Indians to his All-America teams does not mean that Houlgate’s point is incorrect. The team and its star players were indeed famous before Warner was hired to coach them.

Indian School movies

June 27, 2008

Carlisle Indian School has been of interest to Hollywood since the movie industry’s earliest days. In 1901, American Mutoscope and Biograph shot a documentary short at the school. Footage included both male and female students swinging clubs. Still photos of this type of exercise can often be found on ebay. Also included in the documentary were a military-style parade of the students including the renowned school band, girls doing a dumbbell drill, boys demonstrating gymnastics events, boys playing a basketball game, and members of the track team high jumping and pole vaulting. No, Jim Thorpe was not filmed because he was not at Carlisle at that time.

In 1913, Selig Polyscope filmed The Tie of the Blood at the school. Little is known about the film other than its main cast members. In 1915 Pathe Weekly filmed the installation of the first Indian Boy Scouts of America troop at the school. Also participating in the parade, exhibitions and ceremonies were local boy scouts and the Indian School’s Campfire Girls. And other films that I do not know about may have been filmed at the school.

Several alumni worked in motion pictures as actors, stuntmen and in other capacities. Lone Star Dietz even invested in the Washington Motion Picture Company and lost his investment. Jim Thorpe not only worked in pictures but had his life story told on film in the 1951 Warner Brothers release, Jim Thorpe – All-American. Interest in putting the Indian school on film waned but in recent years has grown.

In April 2002, Variety Film reported, “Fox 2000 has snapped up a pitch by Craig Sherman and Bob Jury on legendary football coach Glenn S. “Pop” Warner and his first season at the Carlisle Indian School.” In April 2004, Walden Media announced that John Sayles would be bringing Carlisle School to the big screen. In 2005 Steven Spielberg brought Carlisle Indian School to the little screen as part of his Into the West miniseries. And there’s more, so much more interest that Freddie Wardecker has lost count of how many filmmakers have come into his store to look at artifacts. Barb Landis at the Cumberland County Historical Society thinks that she gets at least a call a month from someone interested in doing a movie about the school or Pop Warner or Jim Thorpe or … I even ran into one of them in the Dickinson College archives last year.

The problem is that a historically-accurate film needs to be made but, despite all the talk, no one has stepped up to make it. Do you have any ideas?