Where, or where is the Gloversville movie?

Shine theater management graciously sacrificed one day’s revenue from the Hippodrome Theater to present the Kiwanis Club’s Gloversville documentary. (Photo courtesy of Peter Betz)

Recently at Gloversville’s downtown ‘Twilight Market’, local accountant and Gloversville history buff Tobin Cash stopped at the Fulton County Historical Society’s tent and asked if I had any idea of the whereabouts of what he called “The Movie of Gloversville,” an entirely local effort, he explained, that was produced in 1940 by the Gloversville Kiwanis Club, of which he’s a long-time member. Knowing nothing about this forgotten segment of our old times, I decided to research it.

On Sept. 26, 1940, the Leader Republican briefly reported on a Kiwanis Club “Ladies Night” dinner meeting at Brower’s Restaurant, 15 Forest St., given by the Kiwanians for themselves and their wives. The speaker of the evening was Ruth R. Richie, “business manager for the company planning to make a movie of Gloversville life.”

Ms. Richie spoke regarding “the phases of activity here that would be included in the film.” There followed an accordion concert, which the polite Kiwanians probably endured stoically, because the offending perpetrator was one of their own, thus proving that sometimes a little deafness can be an asset.

It appears this Gloversville movie project had already begun before the Leader Republican’s article, because only a few days later, the Oct. 1 Morning Herald gave a lengthy resume of filming activities. In part, it stated, “Cameraman Robertson added considerable footage to the movie of Gloversville Sunday when he visited nine of the city churches and filmed the congregations, choirs and ministers. Another interesting sequence can be called ‘Wings Over Gloversville’ when the cameraman took to the air in one of Alton Smith’s new Taylor Craft planes and flew over the city, filming public buildings, parks, homes and people.”

He also ranged beyond Gloversville, as the Herald’s reporter noted, “The Mayfield Yacht Club proved an interesting spot, where sailboats, motorboats and trim yachts were filmed as they cut the waters of the Sacandaga Reservoir.”

Other filming locations included public schools, the YMCA, 4-H Club, library, police and fire departments, and a session of the City Council. Filming continued throughout the week.

Although the article mentions only the Liberty Dressing plant, many local factories were included. Other scenes to be captured that week by the seemingly tireless cameraman included Nathan Littauer Hospital, the Boy Scouts, Eccentric Club, post office, drum and bugle corps, “and other groups.”

As the Kiwanis Club contained leading community businessmen, the project was well-organized by a committee headed by Edmond LaPlace, Kiwanis president and owner of the Wayside Furniture Store on South Main Street.

If one asks what was the point if it all, the project probably served several purposes. It was certainly a testament to community pride: it may also have had showings beyond the county to lure more businesses to locate in Gloversville, and most immediately it was a Kiwanis fund-raiser. One wonders whether the Kiwanians of 1940 realized they were creating a time capsule in motion, or as we call such efforts today, a documentary. Such a film of course has to be edited to produce a coherent story line. Exactly how this was accomplished so quickly and by whom seems not to have been worth reporting, but for those old times, the film proceeded to completion very rapidly.

The Oct. 10 Leader Republican headlined, “City Movie Started Today at the Hipp: Preview Last night.”

It reported that the night before, “A preview of the movie was shown at the Wayside Furniture Store through the courtesy of Edmond LaPlace.”

It explained that any profit from showing the lengthy, two-and-a-half-hour film would go “for the benefit of underprivileged children’s work here, supervised by the Kiwanis Club.”

Regarding the film content, the Leader’s reporter rhapsodized, “Movie patrons will see themselves and their friends. They will see folks coming from work, the churches they attend; they will see themselves at their play and at their labors, and hundreds of feet will be devoted to the aerial view.”

Starting at 1 p.m., the ‘Movie of Gloversville’ was shown continuously throughout the day, with a special showing “at the time when children will be excused from their classes.”

Just how patiently a theater full of grade school children endured such a lengthy film that showed scenes they were already familiar with wasn’t mentioned.

Regarding sound, the Leader merely stated, “A whole corps of local commentators provide the narration during the course of the showing.”

The film was inexplicably accompanied, “by Mrs. Kate Hawkins at the piano” whom the narrators on the sound track must have had to outshout, unless she played very softly.

Since the primary purpose of the film was selling tickets to aid underprivileged children, did it work?

Yes. The Oct. 25 Morning Herald quoted Kiwanis Treasurer Harry Goodamote as saying that while the film cost approximately $500 to make, ticket sales above that amount allowed them a profit of $169, actually $2976 in today’s economy.

Today such a documentary, amateurish or not, made almost 80 years ago, would be an invaluable historical treasure, but does any print of it still exist, either complete or in parts?

Answering this question is Mr. Cash’s quest. Regarding the original film, Mr. Cash related that the Kiwanis Club for many years retained it in their office, but when the building housing their office burned down circa 1950, everything was lost. It is his hope that more than one copy exists, but if so, where?