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1913 documentary showcased OKC to state, nation

Mary Phillips Published: September 27, 2013

One hundred years ago, Oklahoma City contracted with Paragon Feature Film Co. of Denver to produce a movie about the city. It would begin with a re-enactment of the Run of ’89 and end with tourists visiting city sites to show the progress of present (1913) Oklahoma City.

A review in The Oklahoman on Aug. 12, 1913, deemed the film a success.

“The motion pictures of Oklahoma City, tracing its growth since the pioneer days of 1889, were thrown upon the screen for the first time Monday afternoon at the Overholser theater and proved to be excellent. One or two scenes were out of proper sequence, but this was quickly remedied and it was announced that the reel will be perfect by Wednesday, when the picture is to be shown to the public for the first time.

“The film is to be shown all over the country in the various cities for the purpose of advertising Oklahoma City, but it is not merely an advertising scheme. The picture as executed is not only interesting but highly instructive from an historical standpoint. It shows the growth of Oklahoma City from the day the site was a mere bald prairie down to the day of the skyscraper and hundreds of speeding automobiles.”

The run re-enactment used some of the original men and women who had participated in 1889.

“This scene is full of action and spirit and some of the riding seen is worthy of some of the western movie stars.”

There were scenes of homesteaders fighting over a claim, with the soldiers intervening, and of the first post office with the original postmaster, G.A. Beidler, handing out mail as he did in 1889.

“From the pioneer days the scene changes quickly to the day of progress and plenty and shows the city as it stands today.

“As a touch of realism six pretty girl pilgrims are shown in the role of tourists taking in Oklahoma City. Will Overholser acts as driver. They are taken to the Chamber of Commerce, where they are welcomed by Secretary Brown and cheered by a great crowd of citizens. They go from there to the public schools and are greeted by hundreds of school children. At some of the handsome homes of the city they are served tea and during the drive the camera takes in all points of interest.

“The retail section with its skyscrapers is shown, the wholesale district with its busy teams and belching smokestacks. Packingtown is visited and after a view of the packing houses, a baseball game between teams from the two plants is witnessed.

“Back o the city the tourists hurry and visit all the churches, take a spin around the boulevard and take in Wheeler park and Belle Isle. One of the best scenes in the entire picture is shown at Wheeler park, where a number of boys are shown in the wading pool. At Belle Isle the swimming pool alive with swimmers and the large lake dotted with boats is shown.

“The tourists then journey to the statehouse and watch Governor Cruce receive the deeds to the tract of land upon which the new capitol is to be built. The governor is seen in the picture twice. The first time he is merely one of the crowd takes at the end of services at the First Presbyterian church.

“As a touch of comedy a fight between a rooster and a fox terrier, the property of Mr. and Mrs. R.M. Chase of Oklahoma City, is introduced into the picture. Of course these two had nothing to do with the developing of Oklahoma City, but they bring a laugh and that is justification plenty. The picture requires three long reels and Monday afternoon the trial run lasted an hour and a half.”

By Aug. 19, the costs of making the film had been paid, and for the last day’s showing in the city, the ticket price was reduced from 20 cents to 10 cents.