State of the Arts
Nowadays, a Hollywood film set in Vermont is just as likely to have been shot in, say, Romania. But back in the grainy, early days of cinema, in 1916, when the national Progressive Party made a film called A Vermont Romance, the state was the star.
The Center for Media and Democracy  will screen A Vermont Romance on June 6 in conjunction with Preservation Burlington . Executive Director Gweneth Langdon calls it “the oldest film set in Vermont.”
The 38-minute film tells the tale of a farm girl who moves to the big city — that’s Burlington. Once there, “she forgoes the love of her life to marry a wealthy man,” says Meghan O’Rourke of Channel 17/CCTV, who runs the monthly movie night.
Marge Allard of Preservation Burlington explains that the film was made by Vermont Advance newspaper, an organ of Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party, with the aim of upping its subscriptions. The paper held a statewide contest for loyal readers, with movie roles as prizes: “They just knew that people wanted to be in a movie, because movies were big stuff then.” The shooting took just two or three days, with locations ranging from Rutland to South Hero to Burlington’s Battery Park.
After the 1916 election, party and paper “both went down the tubes,” Allard says, and the film was lost. Rediscovered in 1966, A Vermont Romance followed a circuitous path from its owner to WCAX-TV to a film archive in Maine. Allard got her copy, now on DVD, from “someone who copied it because her grandmother was in it,” she says.
Among other oddities, the film features a 10-minute tour of a local bakery — probably a sponsor. “This is not a masterpiece,” warns Allard, who’ll be on hand to comment on the film. “But it does have scenes of Vermont back then.”