Men of Steel
The screenplay, by Sills himself, was based on the story "United States Flavor" by Ralph G. Kirk, which had been published in the Saturday Evening Post of June 14, 1924. In the film Mills plays Jan Bokak, a fugitive wrongly accused of murder. Under an assumed name he takes a job in a steel mill. He is injured in an accident caused by labor agitators and convalesces at the home of the owner, who has taken a liking to him.
His courtship of the owner's daughter, Claire (May Allison), is interrupted by the reappearance of an old girlfriend, Mary (Doris Kenyon) who is secretly Claire's sister. At the same time Bokak's accuser, after attempting to kill him by pouring molten steel over him, ends up confessing to the murder himself.
Men of Steel was produced and distributed by First National Pictures. It was filmed at the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Company's Ensley Works and elsewhere in Ensley, with many local residents cast as extras. It premiered in June 1926 at the Mark Strand Theatre on Broadway and had a local premiere the Ensley's Franklin Theatre. When it opened in Birmingham on August 22 at the Lyric Theatre with an "augmented orchestra", Bob O'Donnell of the Interstate Amusement Company reported to the distributor that it was breaking every record for receipts with standing room only from 2:00 PM until closing with immediate plans to hold the picture over for a second week.
Sills and Kenyon were married in October 1926. He died in 1930, leaving her with a son.
John Beecher, who had worked in Birmingham District steel mills and was injured during construction of the sheet mill at Fairfield Works refers to a screening of the film in his 1925 poem "Report to the Stockholders":
"out at the open hearth
they all went to see the picture
called Men of Steel
about a third-helper who
worked up to the top
and married the president’s daughter
and they liked the picture
because it was different"
- Kirk, R. G. (June 14, 1924) "United States Flavor". The Saturday Evening Post
- "Archainbaud on Location" (May 23, 1926) The Film Daily, p. 27
- Prince, A. G. (1982) Landmarks of Ensley: Past and Present. revised edition. Ensley: Best Printing Service
- Langman, Larry (1998) American Film Cycles: The Silent Era. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0313306575
- Wright, A. J. (May 8, 2013) "Mines, Mills And Moonshine: Silent Filmmaking in the Birmingham Area, Part III" 1731 Blog Avenue (Birmingham History Center) - accessed November 8, 2013
- Wright, A. J. (November 8, 2013) "Silent Movies Made Birmingham: An Update" Discover Birmingham - accessed November 8, 2013
- Men of Steel at IMDB.com