Still shot (above) from The Human Mill
8. The Biggest Blockbuster That Never Happened Filmed In Franklin
In 1906, a Nashville historian and novelist named John Trotwood Moore wrote a book that culminated with a scene from the Battle of Franklin.
It was a bit of a dime-store novel, with gory scenes and melodramatic chivalry, but a good story, which became very popular. The Bishop of Cottontown, as it was called, caught the eye of several studio executives in burgeoning Hollywoodland, California.
The story rang reminiscent of the book (The Clansmen) that the first true blockbuster “Birth of a Nation” had been based on in 1915. A rival studio hoped to copy the success of ‘Nation’ with Moore’s story.
Metro Film Studio, the forerunner of MGM, sent director Allen Holubar and thousands of cast members to Franklin to recreate the battle and film it – an on-location filming that was unorthodox for the time.
Dubbed “The Human Mill”, it soon turned into a disaster.
For starters, once the cast and crew arrived, they realized that the field, where the battle had taken place, had been built on and developed too much for them to shoot realistic Civil War scenes. Telephone wires inconveniently would ruin many shots. However, the movie inched forward.
The blockbuster that never was ended in Hollywood, when back from the field of battle, Holubar had to stop filming because he caught Typhoid fever, ironically a disease many Civil War soldiers fell to. He died a few months later at 35. It was conjectured he contracted the illness from infected water in Franklin while filming.
Hoping to recoup what had been filmed for historical purposes, the Tennessee Civil War Commemoration Committee asked for it 1959. They were told it had burned in a fire.