Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 4 (1911): Young Lochinvar

The Lie, released on September 19th, and The Honeymooners, the Thanhouser offering of September 22nd, both pleased the reviewers. Young Lochinvar, released on September 26, 1911, was derived from Sir Walter Scott's poem, Lochinvar. Many writers for the trade press omitted the unfamiliar "young" from the title. William Russell played the dashing Lochinvar, who spirits the bride-to-be (Marguerite Snow) away from the wedding party a few moments before she is to be married. Reviews were uniformly enthusiastic. This triumph was offset by poor reviews given the next release, Love's Sacrifice, screened publicly on September 29th, which concerned a girl who marries a scientist, after which he sees her in an embrace with a friend. It was quite innocent, but he didn't know this. The scenario was found to be "long, drawn out, and uninteresting" by The Morning Telegraph, and loosely constructed with unnecessary parts by The New York Dramatic Mirror.

The Five Rose Sisters, issued on October 3, 1911, told of members of a vaudeville troupe who inherit a rural farm, move to a bucolic community, are considered unworthy professional dancers, but are subsequently applauded by the townspeople when one of the Rose sisters, unobserved, sees a deacon pilfer funds from the church's coffers and exposes the crime. Reviewers considered the production to be interesting and well made.

In the meantime publicist Bert Adler developed a serious case of typhoid fever, and early in September he was rushed to Lebanon Hospital in the Bronx. For a time he was on his way to recovery, then a relapse occurred and it was feared he would die. However, he gained strength, and by October 9th The Moving Picture World could report that he was receiving friends at his hospital bedside. While he was absent from New Rochelle, Leon J. Rubenstein, a free-lance publicist, scenario writer, and motion picture producer, was hired to send out press releases and prepare advertisements. By the last week of September, Rubenstein was called away by other pressing business matters, and the Thanhouser Company hired publicist Harold Zachary Levine to perform the work until Adler was back at his desk. This finally occurred after six weeks of hospitalization and several weeks of recuperating at home.

On the first day of September 1911, in Milwaukee, John R. Freuler, owner of the Western Film Exchange Note and operator of other theatres, including the Comique, in the same town, threw open the doors of what may have been the grandest motion picture palace built up to that date. Designed by the firm of Meister & Reise and costing $80,000 to build, the Butterfly Theatre seated 1,500 and offered pipe organ as well as orchestra music to accompany films from the Independent program. Decorating the front of the pretentious edifice was a huge terra cotta butterfly measuring 27 feet from one wingtip to the other, outlined in electric lights, with the body formed in the shape of a goddess.

In September 1911 it was announced that a new Independent manufacturer, known as the Majestic Moving Picture Company, with Tom Cochrane at the helm and with the unpublicized financial backing of Harry and Roy Aitken, set up business offices in Manhattan at the 45th Street Exchange Building. Film production would take place on Long Island. An auspicious beginning was suggested by the hiring of Mary Pickford as a lead actress, with her husband, Owen Moore, as director. These two were principals in the firm's first release, The Courting of Mary, distributed by the Sales Company on November 26th. Miss Pickford, later known as "America's Sweetheart," found, as did others, that the path to success often involved jumping from one company to another at increasingly higher salary levels. Within a few years she would be America's highest paid actress. Together with Charles Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and only a handful of other players from the silent era, she would build upon her fortune and retire in wealth and luxury. Note

During the first week of October the Yankee Company, headed by its founder, William Steiner, added to its management William B. Gray, formerly associated with Spalding & Gray, music publishers, and with Kahn & Gray. Changing its name to the Comet Moving Picture Company, the firm announced that it would expand its financial base and production facilities located at 344 East 32nd Street in New York City. The Moving Picture World Note told readers that "the Comet will again soar upward.... Then every Monday and Friday thereafter for many years there will be a shower of reels of exquisite moving pictures, the equal of which has never been seen before."

The first Comet film, The Office Boy's Dream, appeared on November 20th, followed on the 24th by The Diamond Locket. In the same month, Frank H. Crane, who had been a leading man with Thanhouser for nearly two years, severed his New Rochelle connection and signed as a director for Comet. It was stated Note that the first two Comet releases under his direction would be The Late Mrs. Early, to be released on December 1st, followed by Just in Time for Dinner. As it turned out, Crane stayed with Comet only briefly, and by the following January he had departed. The Comet itself was as ephemeral as the sky object from which it took its name, and after a brilliant flurry of publicity it disappeared from view, at least for a time.

The East and the West, a Thanhouser film released on October 6, 1911, combined scenes of Japanese and American life and featured a contingent of authentic Japanese players headed by C. Taka, who took the role of dancer O San, who crosses the sea and falls in love with an American, finds that her admirer is engaged to another, and returns to Japan to seek her family's forgiveness. At the time an interest in Japanese culture was developing in America, and during the following year's Broadway season, Japanese plays would be all the rage.

The Morning Telegraph had this to say:

There is no doubt about it, if the Thanhouser Company keeps up its present rate of good productions it will soon be known the country over as a standard to go by. This offering is one of the most pleasing photodramas of the week and one which carries the spectator through a more varied environment than the average film by a big margin, opening in New York, showing a theatrical manager's office and luxurious home, thence traveling to Japan and showing a few picturesque scenes in the island of flowers, back to New York, again in the manager's office, behind the scenes at a theatre, before the footlights looking upon a stage, in a dressing room, back to Japan and back once more to the manager's beautiful country home.

The Japanese scenes are remarkably fine facsimiles of the Eastern land, the garden views at the country home are exceedingly beautiful, the atmosphere of the stage is as true to realities as in any picture play we have ever seen, and the entire story is so well sustained that it is a delight in every sense. We commend the film most highly and trust that no exhibitor using Independent pictures will miss securing it. By the bye, real Japs play the Japanese roles, doing exceedingly fine work.


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