Thunder Mountain (1925)

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Although the theme of this melodrama -- based on the John Golden play Howdy Folks -- was serious, the film also had some entertaining comic relief courtesy of ZaSu Pitts and Otis Harlan. Sam Martin (Leslie Fenton) grows up in the Kentucky hills with a preacher (Alec B. Francis) as his closest friend and father figure. The young man goes away and gets an education, and when he returns home, he wants to build a school so that others can learn, too. He goes to the miserly Simon Pace (Russell Simpson) for a loan, but is turned down. Azelea (Madge Bellamy), a circus queen, winds up in the rural township when she deserts the show and she and Martin fall in love. She tries to get the money from Pace by dancing for him, which causes a scandal. Pace is murdered, and Martin is thought to have committed the crime. The townsfolk prepare to mete out justice by hanging Martin, but the preacher saves him by dynamiting the mountainside and claiming that the explosion is an act of God. The real killer confesses, and Martin gets to build his school and marry Azelea.