Did you know Cape Girardeau had its own movie? I had forgotten about it, until Fred Lynch reminded me recently.
The show was called -- fittingly enough -- "We're in the Movies." Sponsored by the Southeast Missourian, the silent 16mm movie was filmed in color in Cape Girardeau in just a week's time, beginning on April 28, 1940. On May 15, 1940, 3,762 Girardeans crammed into the Broadway Theatre in four showings to watch themselves and their neighbors on the big screen.
The plot seems a bit anemic, but what the movie lacked in story telling was more than made up in volume, as hundreds of people appeared in the show.
According to a Missourian article, director Bob Marshman chose a veteran actor to play the important role of Farmer Corntassel. Casey V. Ransom, a Cape Girardeau grocer, had appeared on the stage for 22 years as a comedian, playing to audiences in "every state in the Union, in Canada and Old Mexico," before retiring here.
Marshman explained the plot:
"Farmer Corntassel, on his way to Cape Girardeau in his battered and outmoded automobile, its creaking sides bulging with Mrs. Corntassel and their 14 little Corntassels, has to give a 'lift' to a thumb-waving Gary Owens, eminent movie director whose car has broken down on his way to Cape Girardeau, where he is bound to select a likely girl for a Hollywood movie contract."
Other primary members of the cast were also Cape Girardeau residents:
Probate Judge Jack O. Knehans -- Gary Owens, the director
Celeste Perkinson -- Mary, the exotic blond bound for stardom
Jimmy Thompson -- Joe, Mary's fiance, who doesn't want her to be a movie star
Mrs. E.A. Reissaus -- Mrs. Farmer Corntassel
A.S. Reed -- Lizette, who does her best to catch the eye of the director
Arnold Roth -- Mr. Smith, a typical business man
Mrs. E.G. Moore -- Mrs. Smith, wife of the typical business man
Nancy Claire Mosley and Joe McNeely -- Children of Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Mayor Hinkle Statler -- Himself
As shooting progressed, Marshman and his expert cameraman, Bill Moore, filmed at Cape Girardeau tourist spots and at a variety of industries, public buildings, business houses and residences.
Scenes were shot at Roth Tobacco, Superior Electric, Frisco passenger station, the homes of C.A. Himmelberger, E.G. Moore, and Judge I.R. Kelso; First National Bank, The Missourian Building, Buckner-Ragsdale store, Marquette Cement, Hotel Marquette; Centenary United Methodist, First Presbyterian, St. Vincent's, and First Baptist churches; Rigdon Laundry, Lueders Studio, Central Packing, Ruh's Market, the Alvarado, Colonial Tavern, Clemens Jewelry store, Old Lorimier Cemetery, Teachers College campus, Groves Motor; Lorimier, Central High, Trinity Lutheran, St. Mary's, and St. Vincent's schools; Riverside Lumber, the shoe factory, Colonial Tavern, Dolly's Hat Shop, Bartels Mercantile, the Federal Building, Southeast Missouri Telephone Co., Fort D, and Marquette Lake.
A May 16, 1940, wrapped up the story of Cape's own movie:
A search online for "We're in the Movies" reveals several motion pictures by the same name filmed in towns in the Midwest, including St. Clair, Marshall, and Ann Arbor, Mich.; Batavia, Ill.; Perrysburg, Ohio, and Tell City, Ind. All were made by the John B. Rogers Producing Co., of Fostoria, Ohio. It is my guess that the company had a set script that was re-written slightly for each town filmed.
While I'm sure the Cape Girardeau movie had a happy ending, it's doubtful we'll ever know for sure. As far as I can determine, no copy of the film has been preserved.
Still, perhaps the movie's actors and actresses are still around. Maybe they'll write in and tell us of the time they were in Cape's own movie.