Volume II: Filmography





March 19, 1912 (Tuesday)

Length: 2 reels

Character: Drama

Director: George O. Nichols

Cameraman: Carl L. Gregory

Scenario: From the novel by Charles Dickens.

Locations: New Rochelle; Florida

Cast: Harry Benham (Nicholas Nickleby), Mignon Anderson (Madeline Bray, object of Nicholas' affection), Frances Gibson (Kate Nickleby, Nicholas' sister), Inda Palmer (Nicholas' mother), Justus D. Barnes (Nicholas' Uncle Ralph), N.S. Woods (Smike), David H. Thompson (Squeers, the schoolmaster), Isabel Madigan (Mrs. Squeers), Marie Eline (Squeers' son, Wackford), Mrs. Grace Eline (Fannie Squeers), Etienne Girardot (Gryde), Harry A. Marks (Vincent Crummles, theatrical manager), Louise Trinder (Mrs. Crummles), Grace Eline (Crummles' youngster), Will Morgan (Crummles' child), George Moss (Madeline's father), John Ashley (Lord Frederick Verisoft), Reginald Carrington (Sir Mulberry Hawk), Carl LeViness (The Tragedian), Harry Blakemore and John Maher (Cheeryble brothers), Victory Bateman (Miss LaCreevy), Walter Thomas (Mr. Pluck), Carl Grimmer (Mr. Pyke), Mikhail Mitzoras (Lenville), John Harkness (Benvolio, in play), Ethyle Cooke (Juliet, in play), Eleanor Rose (Lady Capulet, in play)


BACKGROUND OF THE SCENARIO: Nicholas Nickleby, one of the great Dickens classics, and his third novel, was first published as The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby in monthly installments, beginning on March 31, 1838, then as a complete book in October 1838. Nicholas and his sister Kate - mostly with Nick's efforts - overcome the typical malevolent characters created by Dickens, and in the end each gets a fitting marriage partner. Charles Dickens' biography is discussed under the entry for the film, The Old Curiosity Shop, released on January 20, 1911.


ARTICLE, The Moving Picture News, February 24, 1912:

"The work of the Thanhouser Company in reproducing and elucidating by means of the moving picture films many of the great works of literature and drama is worthy of more than a passing notice. Already their David Copperfield has found a place in many educational institutions throughout the country, and they have unwittingly, it may be, given inspiration to many to replenish and refresh their store of literary and dramatic knowledge. A few days ago an interesting case was cited to me which will serve well to illustrate the point. A young man told of how his father and mother, being religiously inclined, were in the habit of severely denouncing the theatre. 'However,' said he, 'since the moving picture has come in vogue they have taken a strong liking to this form of amusement, and now my mother calls regularly at the store every afternoon, about an hour before dinner, and she and my father go to the picture show. 'Lately,' he continued, 'the exhibitors have been advertising ahead the dates and titles of the pictures that are coming, and one day when I came home I found my mother quietly rummaging in the bookcase. I asked her what she was looking for and she said that she was looking up her Shakespeare. Said she, 'I am going to see The Tempest at the moving picture show, and I feel that I must brush up on it before I go.

"It will be remembered that Thanhouser was the originator of this film, and now he is offering to the public another wonderful production, Nicholas Nickleby, one of the Dickens masterpieces. The dramatizing and working out in pictures of this touching story by the Thanhouser Company is simply splendid. The marvel is, where did they find the appropriate settings outside of England? To tell the story of Nicholas Nickleby here would be superfluous, for is not every single literary effort of Dickens a household picture? 'Tis surely sufficient to say that the characters are as Dickens' people always will be, unique, and original, and extreme in type, and that the sentiment, and atmosphere and individual personality has been studied, cherished, and maintained by Edwin Thanhouser and his splendid company of actors and actresses in such a manner as to leave but little room for criticism. This production will no doubt be perpetuated, and form for an indefinite number of years a supplement to the textbooks of English literature."


SYNOPSIS, The Moving Picture News, March 9, 1912:

"Nicholas Nickleby was the son of a country gentleman who died leaving his family destitute. The son, his sister Kate, and their mother went to London, hoping that the father's brother, Ralph, would aid them to secure a livelihood. Ralph, a money lender and a miser, was indifferent to the claims of those of his own blood, but the beauty of Kate impressed him and he thought that she might be of assistance to him in his business life. To get the girl in his power, he sent Nicholas to Yorkshire, as assistant to a schoolmaster, Squeers, promising to care for his mother and sister. With Nicholas out of the way, he planned to use the girl to lure rich men to his home and loan them money on his terms. The girl, however, was too high-minded and pure to lend herself to any such scheme, although for some time she did not believe that her uncle was to blame. In the meantime, Nicholas found that the 'school' was a den of infamy, the pupils neglected, starved, and ill-treated, and Squeers a drunken, brutal, ignorant tyrant. For the sake of his mother and sister he stood it as long as he could, but finally the cruelty of Squeers to a poor drudge, Smike, aroused his just indignation. He thrashed Squeers soundly, and left the school forever. Returning home, he finds his uncle, who is reviling the two helpless women and telling them that he will force them to obey his commands. Nicholas enters just in time, declares he will protect his mother and sister, and orders his ungrateful and heartless uncle from the house. In addition, he promises Smike that he will have a home with them for the rest of his life.


"Nicholas Nickleby, after his lively but unfortunate experiences at the school of Wackford Squeers, returns to London determined to make a home for his mother and sister. He fails to find work, and his uncle Ralph offers to see that the women are cared for, if Nicholas will go out into the world and shift for himself. Nicholas, with no prospects, consents and leaves London, accompanied by the faithful Smike. At a roadside inn the wayfarers fall in with Vincent Crummles, a theatrical manager, who offers them employment. They gladly accept, and in his new vocation Nicholas quickly achieves fame. He arouses the jealousy of other members of the company, and one of the men plots to 'take him down a peg,' but the vigorous tactics of Nicholas bring the scheme to naught and adds new laurels to his credit. In the meantime, Nicholas' sister Kate has been exposed to insult in the home of her uncle and he does not defend her. His clerk, Newman Noggs, who has kept a watch over her, warns Nicholas and he comes back to London posthaste. Immediately after his arrival, Nicholas, by chance, meets Sir Mulberry Hawk, who has annoyed his sister with his attentions, and Nicholas successfully defends her honor. Nicholas secures employment with the firm of Cheeryble Brothers, his employers being two kind-hearted men, who, finding that he is honest, able, and industrious, gladly aid him to success. At their establishment Nicholas meets Madeline Bray, with whom he falls in love. He is able to prevent her from being united to a worthless old miser who has her father in his power and in the end wins her love."


REVIEW, The Morning Telegraph, March 24, 1912:

"Though the filmed production of Dickens' story is in reality little more than a series of animated tableaux with explanatory subtitles, it is nevertheless so well staged, so accurately costumed, so creditably acted, as far as the photoplay allows in its short presentation of the story, that it takes rank among the notable offerings of the day. It is in two reels, both of which are exceedingly interesting. The first begins with the start of the Nickleby family in London on an old-fashioned stage coach, shows their arrival before Ralph Nickleby and his fast associates, the introduction of Squeers and his scholars at Saracen's Inn, and the start of Nicholas and his arrival at the Hall, where he begins his duties as assistant teacher, the introduction of Smike and Fanny, the cruelty of Squeers and the final leaving of Nicholas, followed by Smike.

"The second part takes up the story with the poverty of the Nickleby family after Nicholas is unable to find employment, and his second departure from London, the insults his sister and mother are forced to endure at the home of Ralph Nickleby, Nicholas' meeting with Crummles and his company of players, his success as an actor and his final home coming when he receives word that his mother and sister need him, including his stop at the inn, when he defends his sister's name, fighting with his relations' friends, his finding employment in the business firm, his meeting with Madeline (though they are not introduced and their courtship is largely a matter of jumping at conclusions), the attempt to force Madeline to marry Gryde, and the final prevention by Nicholas, who carries her off at the critical moment, following the sudden death of his sweetheart's father, ending with a happy picture of the wedding breakfast. The scenes are very well chosen, being taken in Florida, a rather odd fact, all things considered, but one wherein the makers are open to congratulations on the results obtained. It is well worth seeing and the Dickens lovers will enjoy it to the full."


REVIEW by W. Stephen Bush, The Moving Picture World, March 9, 1912:

"I think that within this centennial year we will add a complete cinematographic set of Dickens to the Library of Motion Pictures and I venture the prediction that the Thanhouser edition will surpass all others in merit and popularity. This is no hasty judgment. The Thanhouser David Copperfield created a new standard in the filming of Dickens, and this standard alone can serve as a basis for comparison of Nicholas Nickleby. To tell the story of Nicholas Nickleby in 2,000 feet of film and tell it entertainingly, with no loss of its humor and pathos, and to give that swiftness of action so necessary to the successful photoplay, seemed plainly and simply impossible. The Dickens' wizards of New Rochelle have, however, achieved the humanly impossible and in these days the features have placed a wonderful production in the hands of the Independent exhibitor. Through the medium of these pictures millions who have never read a line of Dickens will shake with laughter and feel the dint of pity, even to the shedding of the 'gracious drops.'

"Is Squeers in the picture and do we see the Squeers' pupils? Yes to both questions. The boys get their 'brimstone and treacle' treatment in full view of the audience. The opulent meal of Squeers consumed before the popping eyes of the 'scholars,' is there, likewise the tankard of ale, likewise a cup of water for the boys. Fanny Squeers? Yes, yes, she is there, even to the 'remarkable expression of her right eye.' Her flirting with young Nickleby would get a laugh from a set of graven images in a Chinese temple. Mrs. Squeers and Wackford are there, too, the Thanhouser Kid (venia sit verbo) as Wackford. What can I say to do justice to the Thanhouser characterization of young Nickleby, of Crummles en famille and of the dear chubby Cheerybles. The sister of Nickleby is taken by an exceedingly clever artist. Gryde is simply startling in point of appearance, acts superbly, and leaves a profound impression. Newman Noggs is just what Dickens meant him to be, while the Thanhouser Ralph Nickleby lives up to the description in the book in every inch of his personality and every bit of his acting. I must not forget Smike; he too helps sustain the general standard of excellence.

"Little will the spectators of this great feature realize what special art was required to give them such a delightful performance. While they cannot help feeling that these pictures are very different indeed from the ordinary production they can have no idea of the difficulty of the Thanhouser task. Dickens is just full of pitfalls to the film maker. The desire to bring in all that appeals to a lover of Dickens is fatal, for it begets confusion and bewilderment. Take for example the figure of Mrs. Nickleby. In the picture she is changed somewhat and justly relegated to the rear. The ghastly features, such as the end of Gryde and Ralph Nickleby, have been omitted entirely - with great wisdom. The same Dickens eye that created the characters, selected the scenic settings and superintended every little detail from coach and whip to the old fashioned knocker on the door. The very first scene carries us into Dickens land, where we pleasantly sojourn for something like three quarters of an hour. So clear has the producer made the story of Nicholas Nickleby that every child can understand it even if every subtitle were taken out. Emphatic praise, I know, but well deserved in this instance. I hope that they will never lose the magic key, with which, in the Thanhouser studio, they unlock with such ease the door to the temple of Dickens' fiction."


REVIEW, The New York Dramatic Mirror, March 27, 1912:

"No lover of Dickens can fail to witness this film without living anew the joys that this great character-builder must need give to all who can sympathize with the humor of the viewpoint, for the characters appearing on the screen more than live up to the expectations of his fondest imaginations, and the entire history of the delightful picture recalls most vividly to mind the story and remarkable suggestion of the time depicted. As an illustration of the famous novel, it is a remarkably artistic achievement and one exhibiting most heartfelt sympathy with the story and characters as well as care in every detail that distinguishes the best motion picture production. It would be very hard, indeed, to single out any of the character portrayals as better than others; each one is so careful and thoroughly suggestive of the role. Harry Benham is very satisfying as the impetuous and determined young Nicholas, while Justus Barnes is equally convincing as a crafty and crabbed Ralph Nickleby. The characterizations of Smike and Squeers are likewise most pleasing and true as enacted by N.S. Woods and David Thompson, but the entire cast is a most praiseworthy one from the Crummles to the Squeers, including Marie Eline, as Wackford, who found it hard to keep fat cheeks. Nicholas' adventures appear in surprising fullness in the short time allotted to them, and his quarrel with his uncle, Squeers' school, his theatrical experiences with the Crummles, and his clerkship with Cheeryble brothers which leads to a subsequent love affair with Madeline Bray are all graphically depicted to the end, where 'never were there such a beautiful dinner since the world began.'"

# # #


Copyright © 1995 Q. David Bowers. All Rights Reserved.