One benefit of having two shipping locations here in the Low Country, Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC, is that we are located in an area that has been active in film production dating back to the early 1900's and the beginning of the film industry. One film of particular interest is an early Rudolph Valentino feature film titled "Stolen Moments". Originally planned as a vehicle to stardom for world renowned opera singer Marguerite Namara, this was burgeoning star Rudolph Valentino's last villain role before superstardom in the film to follow just months later, "The Four Horseman Of The Apocalypse". "Stolen Moments" would be edited down from six reels to three to capitalize on Valentino's new fame. No surviving print of its full length is known to exist though eArtFilm has acquired a rare British 3 sheet from the 1922 British release, an original press book and other memorabilia from the film. The film was edited by "Gone With the Wind" producer David O. Selznick in 1922.
"Stolen Moments" was filmed at two places that are now on the National Registry of Historic Places, on the grounds at Greenwich where once a magnificent mansion stood, which were acquired by, and are now part of, Bonaventure Cemetery. The other location was the former Hotel Ponce de Leon now part of Flagler College. We began scouting, and documenting, film locations back in 2009 when we began posting "then and now" pics.
Greenwich was a Savannah mansion that rivaled Biltmore House in Asheville, N.C. in both size and architectural style. Though smaller than Biltmore in size, it might well have been the second largest private residence in the U.S at that time. On the night it burned down, there were fourteen servants in the house. Though it has been said that both Mary Pickford and Francis X. Bushman, two other major silent era stars, both shot a film at Greenwich preceding "Stolen Moments", we have been unable to identify the Pickford film. This film is unknown to the Mary Pickford Foundation as well. The Francis X. Bushman film, "The Wall Between", is the focus of a forthcoming project of ours. Note that we are finishing a short film on Greenwich which will be released on our YouTube channel later this month.
The City of Savannah Dept. of Cemeteries website says it best: "Greenwich Plantation, with it's manicured gardens of ancient statuary, exotic plant specimens, and an elegant white marble fountain, was once considered the most magnificent, privately owned estate in the entire South." Much of "Stolen Moments" was shot at Greenwich but, unfortunately, this magnificent mansion was destroyed by fire in 1923 just a few years after filming. The statuary, the fountain and the pond exist to this day and appear in the film. The statuary, some of which you'll see below, now resides as part of the Telfair Museum collection. The elegant white marble fountain is background in a scene with Marguerite Namara.
"Stolen Moments" was the last film in which Valentino played a villain and was released in December 1920. It was released less than three months before he would become an international celebrity with the release of Rex Ingram's "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse"in 1921. Production of "Stolen Moments" was expedited so he could return to LA for filming. American Cinema Corp., which made "Stolen Moments", was near bankruptcy and needed to capitalize on Valentino's new found fame so, in 1922, the film was reedited to highlight Valentino. Valentino had another film released three months after "Stolen Moments" titled "Camille" co-starring the excentric Nazimova. It was the first film to play at Savannah's Lucas Theatre; also having the distinction of being one of the first air-conditioned movie theatres in the U.S.
The entire "Brazil" sequence in this film was shot in the main courtyard of the old Ponce De Leon Hotel now Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL. It's now on the National Registry of Historic Places along with Bonaventure Cemetery with its annexed grounds of Greenwich.
Through the magic of cinema, Valentino's house appears next door to Vera's mansion. In reality, it is several miles away. Vera is obviously a distance runner and in a dress and heels to boot. Valentino (far left pic below in top hat) arriving back “at home”. In a second, he’ll turn and take a high step up. Notice the height of the step in the today pic (see middle pic).
Gene Gauthier and has father stroll to the fountain in the middle of the plaza right before Gauthier’s fight with Valentino.