Auburn News

Auburn Alumnus brings forgotten story back to life

In February 1927, the film Stark Love premiered in a theater on Broadway. It opened to a great critical success and a four-week run at the Cameo Theatre in New York City, N.Y. The film was one of the first silent films directed by renown filmmaker, Karl Brown. It was set in the smoky mountains of Tennessee.

Stark Love depicts a violent clash between father and son over the affections of a native girl from the smoky mountains.With a tight budget set to make this movie, Brown hoped he could use common everyday people in his film to add to its authenticity. In fact, only three people in the film were not from the mountains.

Brown found the man who would play the lead role in his film in the most unlikely of places. Brown and a colleague were in a hotel travelling on business when Brown’s colleague spotted a man in the hotel lobby whom he thought would be perfect for the lead role of Rob Warwick. That man was Forrest ‘Fob’ James, Auburn alumnus and father of future governor, Fob James Jr.’57.

James ’29, was travelling with the A.P.I baseball team, having just gone through a two-game stint with the Vanderbilt Commodores, when he was approached about interviewing to star in Brown’s film. He was a little leery at first about doing it, thinking it was all an elaborate joke, but he eventually agreed to interview, and he was given the part.

After the success of the film, James was offered a five-year contract to star in motion pictures. He was urged not to accept the contract by his mother, and he declined. He didn’t even attend the premiere of the film. Instead, James went back to A.P.I to return to his studies. He ultimately earned a degree in secondary education.

Auburn alumnus John White, an Atlanta writer and filmmaker, has taken a particular interest in the movie Stark Love as well as the short-lived movie career of Forrest James. His interest springs from a friendship he built with Carl James Sr., son of the film’s leading man. White extensively researched Stark Love for more than six years, and he has written multiple articles about the film for publication. He is currently working on a documentary about the film.

He is also working to one day have the movie re-released on DVD. Which has been a difficult undertaking, considering it was never even recorded to VHS.