Ben Bolt

Ben Bolt


Production still from Ben Bolt
Still from Ben Bolt. (IMDB).

This is the first known "feature" to be filmed, at least partially, in Rhode Island (New London, Connecticut, was another location). The silent, black-and-white, four-reeler, produced by the Solax Film Company, was released November 28, 1913.

A summary on IMDB describes the plot thusly: "Ben wins the hand of a prosperous merchant's daughter by finding the father's lost trading ship, but not before a rival suitor lays several traps along the way."

The film seems to have been based—very loosely—on a popular 1843 poem of the same name by Thomas Dunn English, which was turned into a song and recorded by a number of artists prior to 1913. The maudlin poem has an old codger prodding his friend, Ben Bolt, to remember their long-ago childhood, and how all the places they remember are changed, the buildings fallen down, their friends dead.

The poem and the song begin with the lines:

Don't you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt,
Sweet Alice whose hair was so brown,
Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile,
And trembled with fear at your frown?

Alice was the name of the "prosperous merchant's daughter" from the movie. In the last line of the poem the narrator describes Ben as "Ben Bolt of the salt-sea gale," implying he had been a sailor. Those few lines were apparently enough upon which to hang an entire forty-minute tale.

No copy of the film is known to exist.

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