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The Dorn-Severini Historic Photography Collection: Dorn Films

While the films discussed on this page were not a part of the transfer to Monmouth University, it's still a fascinating piece of the Dorn story that we'd like to share! 

A Romance of Red Bank (1933)

By Madison Kutschman 

As noted on the Dorn Family page of this libguide, Daniel B. Dorn and Daniel W. Dorn, Sr. worked for Fox Movietone News, capturing local and regional events in the 1920s and 30s. The Dorns also made 35 films romanticizing and promoting local towns.  Within these films, the Dorns highlighted local businesses, schools, churches, and civic groups. Since Dorn used local residents as actors, many people came from surrounding areas to view the film as they were able to see familiar faces as the lead roles.

One of these films, A Romance of Red Bank is a film about a young couple who fell in love and got engaged. While planning their wedding, they shop in downtown Red Bank, and visit places around the town such as the police and fire station. 

James Stokes was 15 years old when he played the male lead. He commented the film was a "full-length advertisement for the town." Residents and businesses could pay the Dorns $50 to have their stores and business featured within the film (that would be about $849 in 2020). 

While most of these films have been lost, about five to ten minutes of this film remains. 

 

A Romance of Freehold (1931)

Annamarie Maneates

Another one of these Dorn films was titled A Romance of Freehold. It was first shown at Freehold New Jersey's Liberty Theatre in 1931. Again, this film attempts to use the popular medium of moving pictures as a way to advertise local businesses, schools, and landmarks. While doing so it also gives insight to the lives of the people during that time period. The film acts as a portal into the history of what these townships were like during the time in which they were made.

In this film, Dorn uses a couple by the names of Francis Cahill and Virginia Carey, whose romance unfolds throughout the area. Francis, who is new to town, is introduced to Virginia. When they meet she offers to show him around each by driving through different areas locally. As their romance progresses they eventually buy a home and get married in order to start a family. In the film you can see places like Freehold High School, the Dutch Reform Church, Saint Peter's Church, several food places, dance studios, clothing stores, etc. 

Amazingly, the film has been digitized and you can view it today, here. Viewers will note how far motion picture technology has come! 

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