Our Big Mistake

The ghostly Truth (Belle Bennett) rides through a gate in Flesh and Spirit (1922). The only surviving film of the United States Moving Picture Corporation, it was not produced in Wilkes-Barre as originally thought

By Dale Lockhart

This week has been full of ups and downs for our project. It turns out that we may have been mistaken in thinking that Flesh and Spirit was produced by the United States Motion Picture Corporation in Wilkes-Barre. During a recent group meeting we met up with local historian Charles Petrillo who has coincidentally been researching the same movies made in Wilkes-Barre as we have.

Charles Petrillo met up with us and gave us some astonishing information on the USMPC. It turns out that there were two of them! The United States Moving Picture Corporation also produced films around the same time as the United States Motion Picture Corporation.

It seems that after World War One, the Black Diamond comedies, supported by Paramount, ceased to exist and were replaced by Rainbow Comedies. It seems that without Paramount’s backing the Rainbow comedies were independently produced and released by the United States Motion Picture Corporation.

Charles explained to us that there were thirty eight Rainbow comedies produced between 1918, when the Great War ended, and 1920. However, Flesh and Spirit was not released until 1922 and until now it was thought that the Moving Picture Corporation and the Motion Picture Corporation were actually the same company. Petrillo researched this and found that they are actually completely different companies. The United States Moving Pictures Corporation were a Delaware company. and Petrillo believes their production studio was in the Washington, D.C. or Delaware area. This means that, sadly, Flesh and Spirit was not actually filmed in Wilkes-Barre as first thought.

This isn’t getting us too downhearted though as Petrillo also told us about a foundation that he found out about and helped contribute to, which restored silent American films found in New Zealand. He was able to show us another movie, His Neglected Wife, which was shot and produced in Wilkes-Barre.

The local lawyer-turned-historian then went on to tell us about what eventually happened to the United States Motion Picture Corporation. His research shows that the company went bankrupt in 1920. The studio was used for one movie by another company who leased the studio off the USMPC named, the Serico Production Company. The studio was then seized by the bank and, according to records; the building was razed in 1934.

This knowledge that Charles Petrillo shared with us is invaluable in our project to raise awareness for local silent films and we were amazed that someone else was researching the same topic as us. Although it seems that our main subject movie Flesh and Spirit was made in Delaware rather than North East Pennsylvania we our still more than happy that we keep finding out more and more about the United States Motion Picture Corporation.

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