Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Wives of the Prophet

“Businessmen to aid in valley movie” “Eighteen movie stars... will descend upon Harrisonburg” “Headed by Miss Alice Lake, the noted metro star...”[1] 

Harrisonburg and the Massanutten Caverns saw their fifteen minutes of fame in 1925 when J.A. Fitzgerald, film director, decided the Massanutten caverns would be a beautiful place to film the movie The Wives of the Prophet, a story about a religious sect in the mountains who expected a prophet to come and lead them all, and select a wife. 

Scenes from the movie were filmed in the Massanutten Caverns but the main wedding scene was filmed in Luray Caverns. The original plan was to film the entire movie at Massanutten Caverns, but even when large spotlights were brought in, there wasn’t enough light for the cameras. It is still common myth around Harrisonburg that the entire movie was filmed at Massanutten. 

The cast and crew brought in publicity, both for themselves, Harrisonburg and their philanthropy. During the course of the movie J.A. Fitzgerald and his crew held a movie ball at Friddle’s Grill in Harrionsburg to raise money for the “cripple children’s fund.” This ball was a way to invite the locals in to socialize with the movie stars and get a larger scope of attention for the movie. 

Local men of note created a film company and planned to film Colossus next. 

This was the first and last movie filmed in the Massanutten Caverns, but they might be ready for a comeback. For more information on The Wives of the Prophet and Massanutten caverns in general you can look at Cheryl Metz’s new book Massanutten Caverns, Gem of the Shenandoah: A History, now at the Massanutten Regional Library. 

[1] Daily News-Record, July 18, 1925 Front Page; August 13, 1925 Front Page; August 17, 1925 Front Page

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