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Starstruck by Stage Struck

Hollywood Comes to New Martinsville

By Susan M. Doll

Sternwheeler "Water Queen"
The Water Queen, a real-life sternwheeler owned by J.O. "Captain" Noll of New Martinsville, was the location for many scenes in Stage Struck. Electrical wires, camera tripods, and flood lights are visible in this picture of the boat.

On most hot August mornings during the 1920's, the people of New Martinsville could be found going about their daily business on Main Street or sitting on their front porches, waiting for a cool breeze off the Ohio River. But August 17, 1925, was no ordinary day. The majority of New Martinsville's 5,000 residents crowded the platforms and sidewalks at the train station on North Avenue, awaiting the arrival of a special B&O train from New York City. The train carried a full cast and movie crew from Hollywood's Paramount Pictures, arriving in town to shoot a motion picture called Stage Struck starring Gloria Swanson.

More than 75 years have passed since Gloria Swanson and the movie crew stepped off the train, yet there are still those who recall with great relish the movie star's visit, and the town as a whole has not forgotten the occasion. Photos from the production of Stage Struck line the walls of the Court Restaurant, a fixture on Main Street for decades, where a lively group of regulars recently gathered to talk about their town's brush with stardom. Their genuine openness and friendly manner reveal the secret of New Martinsville's appeal, both then and now.

You can read the rest of this article in the Spring 2002 issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.