34 – Rare Stock Of NW Colorado’s Silent Film Company

By Museum of Northwest Colorado

Businesses throughout Northwest Colorado in the early 1900s were pretty homogeneous. Hardware stores, sporting goods, groceries, restaurants etc. were the norm. In 1919, however, one of them definitely broke the mold: a silent film company with bonafide movie stars.
The Art-O-Graf Film Company was formed in 1919 with offices in Denver and a studio in Englewood. That same year they began a silent movie titled “Wolves of Wall Street”. In selecting a location for their outdoor scenes, Art-O-Graf settled upon a sleepy town nestled on the western slope of the Rockies: Steamboat Springs.
The Steamboat Pilot reported, “Thrilling escapes from second story windows staged at the old saloon buildings in Brooklyn (the red light district across the river from Steamboat); daring rides by Edwin (Edmund) Cobb, the leading man, in which he and his horse have rolled down steep inclines; a strike of coal miners and the blowing up of a building by agitators at Mt. Harris, are only some of the incidents in the many wild scenes which will be witnessed by the millions of people who see The Wolves of Wall Street on the theater screens of the country”.
The company must have liked what they saw of Northwest Colorado. While shooting their movie, Art-O-Graf decided to relocate their executive offices to 906 Lincoln in Downtown Steamboat (today’s Steamboat Nails).
Their next major film was titled “The Desert Scorpion” in 1920 and was shot almost entirely in Northwest Colorado including Downtown Steamboat, the Routt County Fair in Hayden, Axial Basin south of Craig, and even a cattle stampede through Hahn’s Peak! They used numerous locals as extras.
Even the premise of Desert Scorpion was centered on a very local and contentions topic of the time: a sheepherder falling in love with and impregnating a cattle king’s daughter. The “Romeo & Juliet” type of plot would have been a major taboo for both sides of the ongoing cattlemen vs. sheepherder conflicts plaguing the region.
Ultimately the company shot around 10 movies before folding in 1923. Try as we might, the museum has been unable to locate any of the Art-O-Graf movies and it’s feared they may be lost forever. So if anybody out there is a silent film buff with a knack for finding lost films, we’re all ears!