Category Archives: Novels

ST. ELMO and “The Passion of Miss Augusta”

Filmmaker Robert Clem pays tribute to Augusta Evans Wilson and ST. ELMO in his film THE PASSION OF MISS AUGUSTA.  The film premiered September 12, 2013, in Mobile, Alabama.  I haven’t seen the movie, but I’m looking forward to viewing the DVD.  (I’m listed as one of the co-producers in the credits.)

“The Passion of Miss Augusta” is part drama, part documentary.  The film begins as a silent film version of ST. ELMO then fast-forwards to the 1950s with the main characters in modern dress.  As you watch the trailer (above) notice the differences between the silent and modern-day versions.

Augusta Jane Evans Wilson (1835-1909), America...

Augusta Jane Evans Wilson (1835-1909), American novelist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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ST. ELMO: What’s in a Name?

ST. ELMO, by Augusta Evans Wilson, is my favorite novel.  The book, published in 1866, was so popular that towns, dogs, children, and cigars were named in honor of it.  The novel opens in a village at the bottom of Lookout Mountain. While the story is fiction, the village is real.  Augusta Evans Wilson visited Lookout Mountain and had friends in Chattanooga, so she chose the village at the foot of Lookout Mountain for the setting.  The village is now a subdivision called St. Elmo.

My dream of visiting St. Elmo came true last week when I was passing through Chattanooga.  I took photos of just about everything with St. Elmo written on it, including buildings and street signs.  The main attraction in St. Elmo is the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway.  The original railway was built around 1895.  The current railway was finished in the 1980s.  It has all the thrill of a rollercoaster and more because it goes up and down the side of Lookout Mountain.

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For more information about the village and it’s connection to the ST ELMO novel, I recommend CHATTANOOGA’S ST. ELMO, by Gay Morgan Moore, and ST ELMO YESTERDAY AND TODAY: “The Story of a Community,” by Jeffery C. Webb.

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John Gilbert in CAMEO KIRBY (Fox, 1923)

ConteCristoIDontKnowI’ve had this photo of John Gilbert for several years.  His name is on the front beneath the image with no mention of a studio or a photographer.  The back of the photo is blank.  I think this was a publicity shot (for MONTE CRISTO (1922) perhaps?).

Hats Off to Silent Films

Rudolph Valentino and Nita Naldi in Cobra.

Rudolph Valentino and Nita Naldi in Cobra. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Logo I created for the Twilight Saga Wiki

Logo I created for the Twilight Saga Wiki (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To read my endorsement of silent films, see my post  “The Twilight Saga: To Stare or Not to Stare?”

ST ELMO: Poster of the Film in Color

English: Barbara LaMarr

English: Barbara LaMarr (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A publicity picture of actress Bessie Love

A publicity picture of actress Bessie Love (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BarbaraStElmoinColor

Poster probably used to advertise the 1923 Fox film version starring John Gilbert (“St. Elmo), Bessie Love (“Edna Earl”), Barbara LaMarr (“Agnes Powell”), and Warner Baxter (“Murray Hammond”).

Augusta Evans Wilson’s Grave

AEWsgrave Augusta Jane Evans Wilson is my favorite novelist and her fourth novel, ST ELMO, is my favorite novel.  That’s why I made a pilgrimage, so to speak, to Mobile, Alabama, in the 1990s.  I wanted to learn everything I could about this brilliant writer, whose main character, “St. Elmo,” inspired Margaret Mitchell’s “Rhett Butler.”

Although Augusta was born in Columbus, Georgia, she spent most of her life in Mobile.  I visited the house in which she wrote ST ELMO, found her portrait in the Mobile Infirmary (which she helped found), and took photos of her grave.  Her friend T.C. De Leon wrote her epitaph, which is still decipherable on her grave.  (He also wrote a brief biography of Augusta called BIOGRAPHICAL REMINISCENCES OF AUGUSTA EVANS WILSON.)

 

ST. ELMO’s Legacy

Augusta Jane Evans Wilson (1835-1909), America...

Augusta Jane Evans Wilson (1835-1909), American novelist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I started this blog in part to pay homage to my favorite novel, ST. ELMO, and my favorite novelist, Augusta Evans Wilson.  If it were not for ST. ELMO, I may not have discovered John Gilbert, who played the leading role in the film adaptation.

 

John Gilbert was a versatile actor, who could play the role of a “good guy” as easily as that of a “bad guy.”  I’ve heard that he preferred playing bad guys.  ST. ELMO was a vehicle for John Gilbert to display his ability to play both.  He starts off as a bad guy, but for the love of a woman, turns into a good guy.

 

Below is an excerpt from page 40 of the ST. ELMO novel in which the maid is describing “St. Elmo‘s” character to the protagonist, Edna Earl.

  “Listen to me, child, for I like your patient ways and want to give you a friendly warning . . . . Whatever else you do, be sure not to cross ‘Mass Elmo’s path.  Keep out of his way, and he will keep out of yours, for he is shy enough of strangers, and would walk a mile to keep from meeting anybody; But if he finds you in his way, he will walk roughshod right over you–trample you. . . .  He hates everybody and everything. . . .  He is like a rattlesnake that crawls in his own track and bites everything that meddles or crosses his trail . . . Above everything child . . . don’t argue with him!  If he says black is white, don’t contradict him; and if he swears water runs upstream, let him swear and don’t let him know water runs down . . . .  Everybody is afraid of him, and gives way to him. . . . I would rather put my head in a wolf’s jaws than stir him up.  [He is a] “sinful, swearing, raging devil.”

ST. ELMO is still in print.  Filmmaker Robert Clem is in the process of filming a ST ELMO remake or docudrama.  It is called THE PASSION OF MISS AUGUSTA.