Digest>Archives> May/Jun 2012

The Lost Lighthouse Movie

By Timothy Harrison


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This rare movie poster from the 1947 film Lighthouse has been in my collection for nearly 25 years. During all those years, I was able to discover only two other items from this movie and they are small lobby cards. I loaned one of those lobby cards to the Museum of Lighthouse History, which merged with the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland, Maine where it is now on display.

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As long the poster has been in my possession, I’ve been searching for a copy of the movie, but have never had any luck. It may be one of the hundreds of American movies that have been lost forever. Movie buffs estimate that there are literally scores of movies from the early 1900s through the 1950s that are missing and probably no longer exist.

In doing some research I have learned that early film stock was quite flammable, and film storage areas were often struck by fire. Other times, old film would deteriorate from improper storage and in some cases just thrown out. Apparently there are many old films that are also in storage in vaults deep under the ground that yet need to be partially or fully restored.

We do know that the plot of Lighthouse is the typical love triangle of sorts. Connie, played by actress June Lang, is smitten by lighthouse keeper Sam Wells, played by actor Don Castle. But the lighthouse keeper brushes her off and, apparently as an act of revenge, she marries the assistant lighthouse keeper Hank Armitage, played by actor John Litel.

However, living together in the close confines of a lighthouse, which is some aspects resembles Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse in Massachusetts, soon causes problems Eventually the lighthouse keeper realizes what he could have had, and starts to make advances to the assistant keeper’s wife. But, by now, she is actually falling in love with her assistant light keeper husband. In describing the movie, Les Adams wrote, “Jealously and recrimination rise nearly as high inside as the pounding surf outside.”

Most of us today probably don’t know or recall the people who appeared in the film, but they all had interesting careers. Don Castle (1917-1966), who played the lighthouse keeper, was a personal friend of Jack Warner of Warner Brothers and went on to produce the popular family favorite television show Lassie.

June Lang (1917-2005) appeared in a number of movies including the 1936 hit Road to Glory with Frederic March and Lionel Barrymore. When she married reputed mobster Johnny Roselli her career reportedly suffered a setback. However, she continued to act, appearing in a number of films.

Before his acting career, John Litel was twice decorated for bravery in World War I. He appeared in a number of respected films, including Knute Rockne, All American in 1940 and in the 1941 movie They Died With Their Boots On. In 1939 he also appeared in two of the popular Nancy Drew movies based on the books about a young girl detective.

The movie Lighthouse was based on an original story by Don Martin (1911-1985) who also adapted the story for the big screen. Martin’s writing accomplishments are too numerous to mention here, but he did write a number of the episodes of the 1950s television show Sheriff of Cochise, which was a favorite of mine.

Maybe someday a copy of the movie Lighthouse will be found or perhaps one of our readers will do some detective work and locate a copy of this long lost film. I’m sure there are many of us who would enjoy watching it. However, one thing is for certain, the movie Lighthouse is a unique part of lighthouse and film history.

This story appeared in the May/Jun 2012 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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