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The Shepherd of the Hills -- 1919

See Credits and Review below Picture

Click Photos to Enlarge


Movies: Wright's Greatest Sorrow

Click here to read the story:

  • How and why Wright got into the movie business

  • Which movies were actually based on his stories

  • Which were based on stories he had never even seen and quickly despised.

Pictured at left are eight lobby cards (11" by 14") courtesy of Dave Hadsell



Movie Brochure, single fold, two panels each side, 10 1/2" tall, Photo courtesy Eric Tudor

Shown below are individual photos from xerox of this movie brochure.

Below is a smaller brochure (6-1/2" tall) advertising the 1919 silent movie, The Shepherd of the Hills.  In the extreme left panel we see Dad Howitt (the Shepherd) teaching Sammy Lane.  In the four left panels we see (L to R) 1. Shepherd and Aunt Molly; 2. Young Matt and maybe Sammy; 3. The Shepherd's artist son talking to Maggie, Matt and Mollie's daughter, before deserting her;  4. Old Matt or Jim Lane talking to Shepherd.

50 mm glass promo slide shown in theater before movie.  Photo courtesy Robert Lewis.
18" X 54" Poster Photo Courtesy Jim Atkins

     In June, 2002 twelve unique postcards (plus 2 duplicates) stated to be from the 1919 silent movie, The Shepherd of the Hills, were offered on eBay.  The cards were purchased by Dave Hadsell, Gerry Chudleigh and Robert McCarty, and are shown below.  These are not publicity photos, but appear to be snapshots taken for someone's personal use.  The cards are quite worn, evidently from being looked at by many people over the last 80+ years.  All the cards are real photo, AZO, divided back, in the style that AZO used from 1904 to 1918.  None of the cards has any identification on the front or back, so the descriptions are my own.  For a more complete analysis of these cards click here.

After several weeks of furious discussion among Harold Bell Wright students and one graduate student producing a documentary about the Bald Knobbers, we have arrived at the almost-firm conclusion that these photos were taken in 1918 when Harold Bell Wright and a small production crew visited Branson to begin filming the first segments of the movie, The Shepherd of the Hills.

Rick Gunter, an expert in Harold Bell Wright movies, tells us Harold Bell Wright planned to shoot the 1919 movie in the Branson area, using much local talent.  But after only a few days of filming, Harold Bell Wright returned to California, promising that he would return to Branson in a few weeks to finish the movie.  But instead of returning a few weeks later, Wright sent a letter to the Branson newspaper , announcing that his production people decided it would be too expensive to produce the movie in Branson-- so they would film it in California.  It is our belief that the photos below are from the early footage shot in Branson.  Since no copy of this movie is known to exist today, there is no way to know for sure if any of these scenes appeared in the final 1919 movie. 

If these photos are early footage from the 1919 silent movie, The Shepherd of the Hills, they may be divided into two groups: 1) candid pictures of the crew and cast eating, standing around, and riding on a boat, and 2) re-enactments of events mentioned in the book as having happened earlier.  In the book, for example, Aunt Mollie tells the Shepherd some history of the area--about the Bald Knobbers, a vigilante gang that used to roam the hills at night, but was broken up years earlier by federal agents.  This history was important because Wash Gibbs, Jim Lane and their friends had been members of the old Bald Knobbers.  In a book history can be worked into the dialog, just as would be done in a modern movie.  But in a silent movie there is no dialog, so events that happened before the beginning of the story must be acted out on the screen.  Apparently, the 1918 shoot in Branson concentrated on background events that do not actually happen in the book, but are talked about.

1.  Without a magnifying glass, the thin man to the right of the camera appears to be Harold Bell Wright.  But if you click here you can see close-ups that have convinced most students it is not.  Rick Gunter believes the man to the left of the camera is the only cameraman Wright used at this shoot, E.J. Vallejo, and the other man may be the director, G. T. Gaskell, though we have no other photos of either man to compare.

2. Cast and crew eating between takes.
3.  This photo seems to accurately represent the Edens/Green massacre committed by the Christian County Bald Knobbers in 1887. 
4. The Bald Knobber actors, apparently waiting to be called for a later scene. Note the white tassels swinging from the ends of the horns.
5. The historical Bald Knobbers were arrested or killed.  Here the two men in photo #6 arrest two men, possibly the men in photo #9, though the clothes are not exact.
6. Men in white hats and clean clothes sneak up on the bad (?) guys.   These guys, with their matching hats could be federal agents.
7. Bodies on the ground, men with guns.  Since no one has a mask on, this may be the Bald Knobbers, without their masks, fleeing and getting caught.  Or it may be lawmen discovering damage done by Bald Knobbers.
8. The Bald Knobbers help fallen comrade.
9. I see dark hats and stupid expressions.  Could be bad guys trying to elude authorities.
10. I am guessing the good guys are arresting the bad ones and rescuing a victim, perhaps from the mouth of a cave. This appears to be at or near what is now called, Bald Knobber Cave, located near Chadwick, Missouri.
11. In the book, Old Matt tells The Shepherd about his daughter who died of grief years earlier.  This could be her.


12.  The Sadie H, sister ship to The Sammy Lane.  On board are many of the same people as in photo #1 above.  Rick Gunter reports that Wright, E.W. Reynold and others took a trip down Lake Taneycomo on Saturday night, June 22, 1918.  Other crew may have taken a ride on the Sadie H.
< Reverse of postcards.  AZO with four arrows pointing up, 1904-1918.
< This stamp box, enlarged from back of these postcards, was used by AZO from 1904 to 1918.  Since the Bald Knobbers were virtually unknown outside the Ozarks before The Shepherd of the Hills was published in 1907, since these cards were printed in 1918 or earlier, and no other Bald Knobber movies have been discovered during that time period, these must be Shepherd of the Hills movie photos.
< Original Bald Knobber Mask.  "Photo courtesy Springfield Leader and Press."


< This photo of actors wearing the Bald Knobber masks by the RR track, is from another website where it is labeled, "Bald knobbers-1940."  I believe the old Shepherd of the Hills Bald Knobber masks were gotten out of mothballs about 1940, and this photo was taken at that time. Research will continue.
< This 11" by 7" ink-on-paper print of the above photo is in the Springfield History Museum.  I do not believe this photo is from the 1919 movie, The Shepherd of the Hills, because--although in real life, there was a railroad in Christian County where the Bald Knobbers wore masks like this--in Wright's story there was no railroad in the area.  The building of the railroad after the story concluded and many years after the Bald Knobbers disappeared was an important postscript to the story.  But they appear to be the same masks with the same white tassels.  Lower photo courtesy Damon Blalack.  Picture is marked on front, "O'Connor Collection."

1919, ten reels, silent, black and white, Harold Bell Wright Story-Picture Corporation, 

Reviews: A review of this movie appeared in Film Daily, August 31, 1919, but I have not yet obtained a copy of the review.  Evidently this film followed the story of the book almost exactly.  Wright was not impressed with the style of most movies of the day.  "People do not go to the theater to see scenic effects," Wright told a Los Angeles reporter after "The Shepherd of the Hills" achieved some box office success.  "They go to see a story visualized.  The story is first; everything else is incidental."  Los Angeles Evening Herald, June 17, 1919.  

Obviously he held some firm convictions about that since he named his corporation the Harold Bell Wright Story-Picture Corporation, and described this movie on the poster above as a "picturization" of his novel.

Late 1919 contracts granting local theaters the right to show the picture, said the picture commanded ticket prices of up to fifty cents and listed numbers of weeks the picture was shown in several cities, plus gross receipts in others:

The Big Ten Reel Feature Photo Play
Playing to 50 Cents Top Prices

Now the Talk of the Pacific Coast and Middle West
The Most Satisfying of any Popular Novel Ever Screened

 Los Angeles  5 weeks  Cincinnati  1 week  $6,000
 San Francisco  3 weeks  Toledo  1 week    6,325
 Oakland  2 weeks  Omaha  1 week    5,647
 Kansas City  2 weeks  De Moines  1 week    3,442
 Detroit  2 weeks  Flint, MI  3 days    2,100
 Milwaukee  2 weeks  Richmond, IN  3 days    1,827
 Chicago  3 weeks  Agoura, IL  3 days    1,856
     Elgin, IL  3 days    1,776
     E. Liverpool, Ohio  3 days    1,765

Release:  Harold Bell Wright

Production: Harold Bell Wright

Director:  Harold Bell Wright/W. T. Gaskell

Writing/Screenplay: Harold Bell Wright

Character Actor
Harry Londsdale
Catherine Curtis
George McDaniel
Dan Bailey

Availability: This is considered to be one of thousands of movies forever lost. No copy is known to exist.


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This Harold Bell Wright web site is written and produced by Gerry Chudleigh with the help of many friends.
Copyright 2000-May, 2011 by Gerry Chudleigh
Last updated 05/26/11