Volume II: Filmography


Thanhouser Filmography - 1914


Thanhouser Players

In 1914 The Photoplay Arts Portfolio of Thanhouser Moving Picture Stars, which incorporated "official" information provided by the studio, featured the following personalities, who can be considered among the more important at the time: Mignon Anderson, Helen Badgley (The Thanhouser Kidlet, who was especially important in 1914), Arthur Bauer, Harry Benham, Sidney Bracy, Riley Chamberlin, Irving Cummings, James Cruze, Madeline and Marion Fairbanks (the Thanhouser Twins), Frank Farrington, Morris Foster, Nolan Gane, Carey L. Hastings, Florence LaBadie, Muriel Ostriche, Marguerite Snow, and David H. Thompson.

Most publicity in news releases and advertising was reserved for an actress not on the preceding list: Maude Fealy. She was featured in many of the Thanhouser Big Productions, four reels in length, which were released through the Mutual Film Corporation, rather than through Thanhouser's normal weekly release schedule. One planned Big Production, The Fall of Khartoum, apparently was never issued, and is indexed in the following filmography under December 31, 1914.

The elusive "Miss Beautiful," not otherwise identified, appeared in several films. In actuality she was the actress also known as Adele Rey, whose real name was Evelyn Prevost.

Bert Adler, Thanhouser's publicity director, who had produced advertising and publicity since the first film was released in 1910, was transferred by President Charles J. Hite to be his special assistant. Jay Cairns became the new publicity director. From the summer of 1914 onward, Thanhouser advertisements, as prepared by Cairns, were less imaginative than before, and fewer human-interest items and news tidbits were distributed to trade publications.

During the period 1910-1912, young Marie Eline, known as The Thanhouser Kid, was the Thanhouser player most often mentioned in advertising and publicity. In 1913 she remained prominent, but not the brightest star in the Thanhouser constellation. At the end of 1913 she was assigned to the newly-formed Princess Department, after which time she was no longer known as The Thanhouser Kid. By early 1914 her attention drifted away from films. She was on stage in vaudeville for a short time and then went with another film company, for whom she played in just one picture, Uncle Tom's Cabin.


Production Companies

Most Thanhouser films released in 1914 were produced in or near the New Rochelle studio. There were exceptions, however:

Bahama Islands: For a two-month period, ending on June 10, 1914, Carl Louis Gregory, Thanhouser's senior cameraman, was in Nassau, Bahamas with the Williamson brothers. He shot some 20,000 feet of film, which was processed by Thanhouser for the Submarine Film Company, and which saw release under at least two titles: The Terrors of the Deep and Thirty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Yellowstone National Park and the West: For part of August and September 1914 a production company went to Colorado and Wyoming. Carl Louis Gregory directed the group and acted as cameraman. Leading players were Mignon Anderson and Morris Foster, with John Lehnberg acting in character parts. Visits were made to Yellowstone Park, Wyoming, and Colorado. With the permission of the Secretary of the Interior, the troupe staged several dramatic films in Yellowstone, being the first film makers to ever do so, according to published reports. In addition, six one-reel scenic films were produced from footage taken there. Although Thanhouser may have been the first company to make dramatic films in Yellowstone with official permission, numerous other companies had filmed Yellowstone's scenic wonders earlier, The Great Geysers of Yellowstone, released by IMP on August 24, 1912, was one of many examples.


Film Length, Character, and Type

Throughout the industry in 1914, emphasis was on so-called "feature" films; subjects of two or more reels, which were billed as being something special. All too often, a producer would extend a one-reel subject to two reels, or even more, by simply retaining footage that a year earlier would have fallen to the cutting room floor. The poor quality of certain features was decried in editorials in The New York Dramatic Mirror and elsewhere.

However, some features attracted deservedly wide attention. Among these were the epic Cabiria, made in Italy and released by Itala, Tess of the Storm Country, starring Mary Pickford, Salomy Jane, and several others. In the Thanhouser camp, a number of so-called Thanhouser Big Productions, most of which starred Maude Fealy, met with an enthusiastic reception, but none was a nationwide sensation.

Most acclaim directed toward Thanhouser in 1914 was for the serial, The Million Dollar Mystery, which made its debut on June 22nd. When all was said and done, the episodes had been serialized in over 200 newspapers, and the film earned over $1 million, a record for a serial. Florence LaBadie, James Cruze, and certain other players who were busy acting in The Million Dollar Mystery were thus appeared in very few films on the regular release schedule. Among the serial offerings of other producers, The Perils of Pauline, the Pathé released through Eclectic, and starring Pearl White, drew nationwide attention. Toward the end of the year, Pathé's next serial, The Exploits of Elaine, was announced. Famous Players, The Lasky Feature Play Company, and the related new Paramount concern achieved instant success in the industry, and by December 1914 Paramount promised better films, better theatres, and higher box-office prices.

Most regular Thanhouser releases were of one-reel length, but during the year a number of two-reel pictures were seen on the program. Princess films, which early in the year featured Muriel Ostriche (for whom the Princess Department was formed in 1913) and Boyd Marshall, and which in 1913 had been comedies for the most part, changed their nature to a mixture of comedy and drama, and other players were given the leading parts. Box office receipts dropped, and in late December, Muriel and Boyd were brought back, much to the delight of their fans.

Trade paper notices suggest that most single-reel Thanhouser films released during 1914 met with an indifferent reception with professional reviewers, if not with the public. In one curious situation, The Moving Picture World printed a biographical notice concerning Lloyd F. Lonergan, stating that he had written the scenarios for nearly every Thanhouser film from day one, and that this was the reason for the excellent products of that company. However, in the same issue, and issues of the same period, reviewers for the magazine condemned many more Thanhouser films than they praised! The explanation is that the publication almost never criticized any person associated with a leading film company or advertiser in the magazine, except in a film review.


Synopses and Reviews

The Bioscope, a British trade journal, printed reviews of various Thanhouser films. Numerous glimpses are given of film production quality, especially from the viewpoint of British audiences.

The Morning Telegraph, a New York City newspaper, ran reviews in its film section, but after about March 1914 such reviews were for the most part little more than abbreviations of the plot synopses provided by Thanhouser. In the vast majority of instances after March, it is evident that if a reviewer actually saw the film, he had little original to say concerning it. Several episodes of The Million Dollar Mystery and Zudora serials were reviewed, and are reprinted elsewhere in the present study; some of these reviews embody critical commentary.

The Moving Picture World was the primary motion picture trade publication in 1914, and it carried more Thanhouser news than any other periodical, except Mutual's house organ, Reel Life. Synopses of nearly all Thanhouser and Princess films were printed, and reviews were printed of most. In addition, the weekly journal printed many Thanhouser news releases. The synopses, with some variations, were essentially printed as submitted by Thanhouser's publicity department. Reviews were for the most part brief and, on balance, more critical than in earlier years.

The New York Dramatic Mirror printed reviews of many Thanhouser films and of scattered Princess films. In keeping with earlier reviews in that publication, the comments were particularly observant and, at times, sharply critical. The oversights, errors, and omissions of directors were often mentioned, as were poor or indifferent photography, implausible scripts and scenes, "overacting," and other deviations from the acceptable norm. Praise was frequent, but not fawning or obsequious. The fact that Thanhouser was a constant advertiser, especially during the first half of the year, seems not to have affected the editorial stance of the publication, quite unlike the situation with certain other trade journals. However, during the last half of the year, when only a few Thanhouser advertisements were placed, the number of Thanhouser films reviewed dropped to just an occasional release. Except for reviews of a few introductory episodes, The Million Dollar Mystery serial was largely ignored.

Reel Life, the weekly house organ of the Mutual Film Corporation, devoted a portion of each issue to news about Thanhouser players and synopses of various Thanhouser and Princess films. Cast members were listed, although these listings were sometimes at variance with the listings printed in outside trade publications. The spelling of cast members' names was often atrocious, and it is an understatement to say that a good proofreader would have been of benefit there. The news printed in Reel Life often appeared "after the fact," and on several occasions, Reel Life readers were led to believe that players were new to the Thanhouser studio, when, in reality, they had been there for several months and, in fact, their employment with Thanhouser had been mentioned earlier in outside trade publications. Reel Life printed a tremendous amount of information, and today it remains the best single source for Thanhouser information for the years in which Thanhouser was a part of the Mutual Program.

The New York Star carried several reviews by Elizabeth Lonergan, who was the sister of Thanhouser scenario writers Lloyd and Philip Lonergan. These reviews were typically review and synopsis combined.

Variety, the weekly magazine of show business, carried only a few Thanhouser reviews in 1914; for Dope and several serial episodes.


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