West of the Water Tower (1924)

Melodrama | 6 January 1924

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HISTORY

The 11 Aug 1923 Motion Picture News reported that West of the Water Tower began shooting early in the month. Two months later, the 14 Oct 1923 FD noted that the film was nearly completed “except for a few retakes.”
       Famous Players-Lasky Corp. originally signed actor Glenn Hunter, current star of the Broadway stage play Merton of the Movies, to reprise the role of “Merton” in the film adaptation of the same name (1924, see entry), but decided to first feature him in West of the Water Tower, an adaptation of Homer Croy’s controversial best-selling novel, because he could not leave New York City for Hollywood, CA.
       To promote the production, Famous Players-Lasky arranged an old-fashioned hayride on 28 Sep 1923 for magazine and newspaper writers that began at New York City’s Carnegie Library at Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street (now the New York Public Library) and ended behind the Paramount Long Island Studio in Long Island City, where a set for “Main Street, Junction City, Kansas” had been built. The hayride host was novelist Homer Croy, who explained that as a boy traveling between his Missouri farm and the nearest town in a horse-drawn wagon, he always marked the town’s water tower as the demarcation between rural tedium and urban excitement. He picked the name Junction City because it sounded Midwestern, and Kansas because it was a Midwestern state without a real Junction City. The story’s delicate subject matter, as well as the similarity of his characters to some of the people from his boyhood, prompted him to remain anonymous when the novel was first published, ... More Less

The 11 Aug 1923 Motion Picture News reported that West of the Water Tower began shooting early in the month. Two months later, the 14 Oct 1923 FD noted that the film was nearly completed “except for a few retakes.”
       Famous Players-Lasky Corp. originally signed actor Glenn Hunter, current star of the Broadway stage play Merton of the Movies, to reprise the role of “Merton” in the film adaptation of the same name (1924, see entry), but decided to first feature him in West of the Water Tower, an adaptation of Homer Croy’s controversial best-selling novel, because he could not leave New York City for Hollywood, CA.
       To promote the production, Famous Players-Lasky arranged an old-fashioned hayride on 28 Sep 1923 for magazine and newspaper writers that began at New York City’s Carnegie Library at Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street (now the New York Public Library) and ended behind the Paramount Long Island Studio in Long Island City, where a set for “Main Street, Junction City, Kansas” had been built. The hayride host was novelist Homer Croy, who explained that as a boy traveling between his Missouri farm and the nearest town in a horse-drawn wagon, he always marked the town’s water tower as the demarcation between rural tedium and urban excitement. He picked the name Junction City because it sounded Midwestern, and Kansas because it was a Midwestern state without a real Junction City. The story’s delicate subject matter, as well as the similarity of his characters to some of the people from his boyhood, prompted him to remain anonymous when the novel was first published, and only after its sensational success was he publicly identified. One of the riders on the press junket, writing for the Jan 1924 Motion Picture Magazine, described having lunch on the set of West of the Water Tower. Several blocks of streets, curbs, and sidewalks lined with stores and buildings represented Junction City, and the writers ate at the Owl Lunch wagon, one of the props, which dispensed hot dogs, potato chips, pie, and coffee. The visitors watched a scene between Glenn Hunter and Ernest Torrence, who played his character’s father. The 15 Sep 1923 Motion Picture News explained that Paramount hired fifty carpenters to build the set instead of taking the production on location to a small town because Hunter had to be at Broadway’s Cort Theatre every night to perform in Merton of the Movies. The 200-yard-long street featured “the Pastime Pool Hall, the Poland China Hog Association headquarters, the Commercial House, the drug store,” and other small town shops. The sidewalk was concrete, and the water plugs and electrical lights actually worked. The carpenters also built a water tower.
       The 8 Sep 1923 Exhibitors Trade Review described one of Glenn Hunter’s hectic seventeen-hour days balancing his stage and film careers. He arose at 6 A.M. to shoot exterior scenes in Flushing, NY, then rushed to the Cort Theatre in Manhattan for the evening performance of Merton of the Movies, then rode to Douglaston, Long Island, Queens, to film late-night scenes. Two months later, the 10 Nov 1923 Exhibitors Trade Review noted: “All that remains to complete West of the Water Tower is an atmospheric shot of Maryville, MO, the town which Homer Croy wrote about in the novel.”
       Book publisher Grosset & Dunlap was set to include Croy’s West of the Water Tower in its list of new “photoplay editions” featuring scenes from a Paramount motion picture on the covers and inside, according to the 22 Dec 1923 Moving Picture World. During 1923 alone, Paramount teamed with Grosset & Dunlap and A. L. Burt & Co. to produce nearly twenty of these promotional “tie-in” books, including Emerson Hough’s The Covered Wagon and another Homer Croy novel, His Children’s Children.
       The film opened on New York’s Broadway at the Rivoli Theatre with a full orchestra, musical numbers, and a short Pat Sullivan cartoon called “Felix Out of Luck.” Reviews were mostly glowing. The 19 Jan 1924 Exhibitors Trade Review called West of the Water Tower “strong in human interest, presenting with striking fidelity to life the small town atmosphere, with all the village love of gossip, petty jealousies and readiness to believe the worst of and condemn those who violate conventional rules.” The reviewer remarked upon director Rollin Sturgeon’s ability to “steer clear of the censor rocks” and handle the subject matter so that “the ultra-moralists” had nothing “to get agitated about.” However, a dissenting reviewer in the Apr 1924 Motion Picture Magazine felt that those who read Homer Croy’s book would find the story “emasculated of all its dramatic quality.” In particular, the film was too easy on Glenn Hunter’s “Guy Plummer,” who was “not painted with such virtuous qualities” in the novel, because “he has an affair with another girl—a girl almost neglected in the film.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Exhibitor's Herald
12 Jan 1924
p. 43.
Exhibitors Trade Review
8 Sep 1923
p. 665.
Exhibitors Trade Review
10 Nov 1923
p. 1099.
Exhibitors Trade Review
12 Jan 1924
p. 42.
Exhibitors Trade Review
19 Jan 1924
p. 21.
Film Daily
20 Aug 1923
p. 1.
Film Daily
28 Sep 1923
p. 2.
Film Daily
14 Oct 1923
p. 4.
Film Daily
6 Jan 1924
p. 6.
Motion Picture Magazine
Jan 1924
p. 49.
Motion Picture Magazine
Apr 1924
p. 52.
Motion Picture News
15 Sep 1923
p. 1350.
Motion Picture News
11 Aug 1923
p. 677.
Motion Picture News
12 Jan 1924
p. 171.
Moving Picture World
22 Dec 1923
p. 720.
Moving Picture World
12 Jan 1924
p. 135.
Screen Opinions
1-15 Feb 1924
p. 159.
Visual Education
Mar 1924
p. 86.
DETAILS
Release Date:
6 January 1924
Production Date:
early August--October 1923
Copyright Claimant:
Famous Players-Lasky Corp.
Copyright Date:
9 January 1924
Copyright Number:
LP19800
Physical Properties:
Silent
Black and White
Length(in feet):
7,432
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Junction City, Kansas, drugstore clerk Guy Plummer and Beatrice “Bee” Chew, daughter of wealthy lawyer Charles Chew, fall in love and want to get married. However, Guy’s father, the Reverend Adrian Plummer, is against their relationship because Bee’s father is an atheist. Guy promises his dad that he will stay away from Bee, but confesses to Pastime Pool Hall operator Cod Dugan that the separation is agony for him. Anxious to deliver a blow against the self-righteous preacher, Dugan drives Guy and Bee to a neighboring town and arranges for them to be married by a justice of the peace. The couple keeps their union a secret until Bee shows signs of motherhood and leaves town. When Guy begs Dugan to get the long-promised certificate of marriage from his friend in order to prove the marriage, the poolroom owner tells him the ceremony was a joke. Townspeople ostracize Bee and Guy, and Rev. Plummer, who confesses to his son that he once committed the same “sin,” resigns from his pulpit. When her father dies, Bee returns to Junction City with the baby to settle the estate. Because of his oratorical gifts, Guy successfully pleads to the state’s highway commission for a new highway to come through Junction City, and the news alerts the justice of the peace in the next county to Guy’s predicament. The squire delivers the missing marriage certificate, thereby acquitting Guy and Bee--and the baby--of any wrongdoing. Guy and Bee are blissfully united, with the blessings of his father and their fellow ... +


In Junction City, Kansas, drugstore clerk Guy Plummer and Beatrice “Bee” Chew, daughter of wealthy lawyer Charles Chew, fall in love and want to get married. However, Guy’s father, the Reverend Adrian Plummer, is against their relationship because Bee’s father is an atheist. Guy promises his dad that he will stay away from Bee, but confesses to Pastime Pool Hall operator Cod Dugan that the separation is agony for him. Anxious to deliver a blow against the self-righteous preacher, Dugan drives Guy and Bee to a neighboring town and arranges for them to be married by a justice of the peace. The couple keeps their union a secret until Bee shows signs of motherhood and leaves town. When Guy begs Dugan to get the long-promised certificate of marriage from his friend in order to prove the marriage, the poolroom owner tells him the ceremony was a joke. Townspeople ostracize Bee and Guy, and Rev. Plummer, who confesses to his son that he once committed the same “sin,” resigns from his pulpit. When her father dies, Bee returns to Junction City with the baby to settle the estate. Because of his oratorical gifts, Guy successfully pleads to the state’s highway commission for a new highway to come through Junction City, and the news alerts the justice of the peace in the next county to Guy’s predicament. The squire delivers the missing marriage certificate, thereby acquitting Guy and Bee--and the baby--of any wrongdoing. Guy and Bee are blissfully united, with the blessings of his father and their fellow townspeople. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Domestic


Subject

Subject (Minor):
Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.