Bizzare things about Eastern: The silent film

Imagine you are watching a movie and you begin to see images of a place you recognize; familiar buildings and landscapes flash across the screen, and you are astonished as you realize you’ve been in the building where this movie was filmed.

This is what happened to an Eastern alumnus who saw the film Oh! Johnny! at a film festival at Montgomery County Community College several years ago. She proceeded to contact Eastern’s communications office and let them know of her discovery.

The film was a “comedy-western filmed partly on location on the Charles Walton Estate,” according to the communications office. Oh! Johnny! was released in 1918 and had scenes from the movie filmed at Eastern’s campus, specifically in the Walmarthon now known as Walton Hall and in the areas surrounding it.

“The scenes were inside Walton when it was still a private residence, so it looks like a house,” said Linda Olson, executive director of communications for Eastern. “There were people swimming in the lake, and you can recognize the terrace because there are people dining at a party in a scene.”

The movie is a silent film that chronicles the love story between a cowboy, Johnny, and a woman, Adele, played by actors Louis Bennison and Virginia Lee.

“There is one scene where they are driving from the train station and there is nothing around,” Olson said. “It was very country looking.”

The movie was shown by Professor Joseph Eckhardt at a film festival, which was focused on films by the Betzwood Studio.

“The negatives, still in their original cans and packing crates, were purchased by the Beztwood Archive at MCCC and sent to the Museum of Modern Art (in New York) for conservation and restoration,” according to Eckhart.

The Betzwood Studio was a production company located in nearby Valley Forge, which according to an article from the Main Line Times, was “one of the largest film production facilities in the world at the time, and the most advanced film processing plant.”

Eastern received a tape of the movie and now both the communications and admissions offices have copies.

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