100 Years Ago Today: Art-O-Graph Film Company Makes Movies in Colorado

Steamboat Pilot, March 26, 1919

The Art-O-Graf film company, a Denver-based movie studio, was owned by filmmaker/producer/actor Otis B. Thayer (1863–1935), with offices in downtown Denver and studios in Englewood, CO.

From 1919 – 1924, Art-O-Graf was known for producing low-budget Westerns during the Silent Era of films. Art-O-Graf shot many of their mountainous exterior scenes in Steamboat Springs, including the film in today’s article, Wolves of the Street, which was filmed in 1919 and released in 1920.

Promo poster for Wolves of the Street
Art-O-Graf, Denver City Directory Listing, 1920

Art-O-Graf wasn’t Otis Thayer’s first attempt at running a film-making company. Previous enterprises include the Cheyenne Motion Picture Company, Columbine Film Company, and the Colorado Motion Picture Company, among others. Nor was Wolves of the Street his directorial debut. Far from it, in fact, as Thayer has 81 film directing credits to his name.

Art-O-Graf promotional tent for their film, Miss Arizona

Thayer loved Steamboat Springs as a backdrop for his Westerns. He once said, “God made the vicinity around Steamboat Springs especially for the taking of moving pictures.”

True to his word, the mining scenes in Wolves of the Street were filmed at the rugged and picturesque Fish Creek Falls, just outside of Steamboat. Also, at least one of the street scenes was filmed at the corner of 9th and Lincoln Ave, near where the iconic F. M. Light & Sons store is located today. Thayer even had plans to build a second studio in Steamboat, but there’s no indication that happened.

On the set of Wolves of the Street in Steamboat Springs, 1919
Denver Public Library, Western History Department

Thayer’s love for shooting film on location in Colorado almost killed him in 1920. According to The Motion Picture World periodical, Thayer nearly drowned while wading into the Gunnison River looking for the perfect set location. The river was higher than he thought, and while trying to extract himself he got stuck in quicksand. Luckily, his crew was able to rescue him.

Otis Thayer
Otis B. Thayer, Director/Producer/President of Art-O-Graf

1920 was a particularly busy year for Thayer, aside from almost dying, for he also directed and released the film, The Desert Scorpion, which like today’s film, starred Ed Cobb and Vida Johnson. He paid the actors by the week, so he might as well get his money’s worth out of them.

Image result for "wolves of the street" 1920 movie
Ed Cobb (left) from Wolves of the Street, 1919

Edmund Fessenden Cobb (1892–1974) had 665 acting credits between his roles in shorts and feature length films. Most of his roles were in Westerns. Typically he played a grumpy fellow, as indicated in the set of his mouth in the picture above. In 1934, he starred in the first horror-western called The Rawhide Terror, which devolved from a 12 part serial into a disastrous, unwatchable B-movie. After this release, Cobb was relegated to bit parts.

Ed Cobb in profile
fromA Biographical Dictionary of Silent Film Western Actors and Actresses by Katchmer, 2002

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