Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 6 (1913): A Confused Schedule of Releases

Thanhouser, like other manufacturers, announced its program several weeks to a month or more in advance, in order that its films could be listed by name in schedules in The Moving Picture World, The Billboard, The New York Dramatic Mirror, and elsewhere. The fire necessitated the rescheduling of several previously-announced Thanhouser releases, a situation which caused considerable confusion to the trade, for some printed schedules were not corrected, others were revised, and others were partially corrected. The Girl Detective's Ruse, originally scheduled for January 21, 1913, apparently was one of the films for which the release prints were destroyed in the flames, for it was taken from the program and moved forward to April 29th. Her Fireman, earlier scheduled for January 24th, was moved to fill the January 21st slot. Into the vacancy created on February 24th was dropped The Floor Walker's Triumph. A film produced by the West Coast Company while on the way to California, The Pretty Girl in Lower Five, originally scheduled for release on January 17th, was moved to February 18th, and a comedy, Napoleon's Luck Stone, was substituted. These and other rearrangements were done under great duress during a very trying period, with the result that news releases and synopses were sent out for some films but not for others.

The day after the January 13th fire, The Tiniest of Stars, a one-reel drama featuring Marie Eline and Helen Badgley, the Thanhouser Kid and Kidlet respectively, was distributed by the exchanges. The film had been shipped by Thanhouser several days earlier. Next came Napoleon's Luck Stone, on the 17th, a film which had been substituted for The Pretty Girl In Lower Five, earlier listed on the schedule. Little about Napoleon's Luck Stone ever reached print. No synopses were carried in the leading trade publications, for such synopses were typically submitted weeks in advance, and here was a last-minute substitution. Likewise, few reviewers commented on it, although a brief notice was carried in The Moving Picture World.

From this point through the next month or two the release schedule was rearranged to reflect problems arising from the fire. Fortunately, all negatives for yet-to-be-released films were saved, with the exception of Sherlock Holmes Solves The Sign of the Four. However, hundreds of release prints of forthcoming films were destroyed, and these had to be redone at the Carlton Motion Picture Laboratories, the Mutual-affiliated firm which regularly issued films under the Reliance label.

On Sunday, January 19th, The Commuter's Cat, a comedy featuring Marie Eline, Eda von Luke, and William Garwood, was released to good reviews. Split on the reel with it was a filler, A Few Million Birds, which featured views of California pigeon and ostrich farms - the first product of Thanhouser's Western Company to reach the screen. This footage may have been taken by Carl Louis Gregory when he was in California making arrangements for the leasing of the studio before the players arrived.

Her Fireman, released on January 21st, was next on the schedule. Marguerite Snow played the actress who was rescued by "her fireman," William Garwood. Marie Eline took the role of a little boy waif. In The Motion Picture Story Magazine each month The Answer Man gave replies to inquiries, taking his responses from notes compiled on index cards. Her Fireman was a favorite with him, or perhaps with his readers if he didn't make up the questions, but in any event, over a period of many issues he mentioned this film again and again, sometimes stating that the title role was played by James Cruze and other times attributing the role to William Garwood. This particular writer never let the facts get in the way of turning out column after column of commentary. However, nearly all of what he wrote was fascinating to read, and it is obvious that the Answer Man had a wide-ranging knowledge of many different subjects.

The Floorwalker's Triumph was released on January 24th, followed on the 26th by Her Nephews From Labrador, a film which featured Billy Noel and Ed Brady, known to New Rochelle residents as "human polar bears," who were seen in an icy swim sequence filmed in Hudson Park. The film told of two Labradorians, transplanted to New York, who had trouble keeping cool in weather than was "only" zero degrees outside. They go skating attired in bathing suits, and to cool off decide to take a swim. W. Ray Johnston, who was to be prominent in Thanhouser affairs the next year, in 1914, stated that he appeared in this film, but this is questionable. Johnston was one of those individuals, not rare in the motion picture industry, who in later years enjoyed regaling listeners with distorted tales of his accomplishments. There was room at the end of the reel, and Los Angeles the Beautiful was appended, a short filler which depicted scenic attractions of the City of the Angels.

The Dove in the Eagle's Nest, directed by Lawrence Marston and featuring Marguerite Snow as the Dove and James Cruze as the Eagle, was produced in New Rochelle in late December 1912 and was released on January 28, 1913. The Moving Picture World reviewed it:

This two-reel offering of the good old days is of the Robin Hood and his merry band sort. The Eagle is a bandit who inhabits a castle with his band and pillages wealthy merchants. The setting is well arranged, but the parts are not overly well cast. There is no particular pull upon the observer's interest in the first reel, but the action in the second comes up nicely and makes the whole offering a pleasing one. The galley slave's escape was especially good. The love story is well handled.

Psychology of Fear, a drama issued on January 31st, cast David H. Thompson in the role of an eye specialist. His Uncle's Wives, released on February 2nd, depicted the dilemma of an American artist, engaged to be married, who unexpectedly receives a legacy from his uncle in Constantinople: a half dozen wives. While The Moving Picture World considered it to be "well pictured and rather entertaining," The Moving Picture News, which rarely had deep criticisms to make about anything, scored the film in a scathing commentary about industry conditions: Note

Never before in our memory have so many complaints been heard of the inactivity of the studios. Actors whose services in the past have been constantly in demand for motion pictures are encountered in and around Exchange Alley looking for employment. In answer to the inquiry, "Why are you idle?" they remark with a degree of bitterness: "Oh, they want us to work for next to nothing!" It is reported as a fact that in one studio, where people of experience and training were formerly paid a fairly liberal compensation for their services, actors have given way to tyros and inexperienced outsiders, furnished by an obscure agent located in a prominent office building (housing the representatives of many companies), at the munificent rate of $2.50 per diem, which is distributed as follows: $1 to the actor, $1 to the general manager of the film company, and 50 cents to the agent above referred to.

In view of these conditions, is it any wonder that one must perforce see such silly and inane drivel as a recent Solax release, The Mystery of a Lost Cat, and a Thanhouser, My Uncle's Wives? [sic]. When we recall the very excellent output of the latter company in the past, it seems strange that a stage director of national importance, Note whose deft hand has been recognized and applauded in many notable productions, should fail to show better results than are evidenced by many recent Thanhouser releases.

At the end of His Uncle's Wives was a short filler filmed in California, probably by Carl Louis Gregory while he was waiting for the Thanhouser players to arrive from the East. Seven Ages of an Alligator, photographed on an alligator farm, told of the saurian beasts from egg to old age. "Okeechobee," said to be 500 years old, was among the creatures shown.


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