Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 6 (1913): Around the Studio

Outdoor stages at the Thanhouser Film Corporation, sometime after 1912. Courtesy of the American Museum of the Moving Image/Lawrence Williams Collection (M-1-X-1)


By the end of May 1913, reviews of Thanhouser films were more favorable than those of a few months earlier. However the direction, scenarios, and overall quality of Thanhouser releases did not match the standard of 1912. It was hoped that better reviews were on the horizon, for most of the problem pictures were those taken in California, and by now the inventory of these had been nearly depleted, and most current releases were those made in New Rochelle. The Morning Telegraph, May 25, 1913, reported that the studio's scriptwriter was back at home base: "Lloyd F. Lonergan has just returned from the Pacific Coast where he was in consultation with L.J. Henderson about the organization of the Western Majestic. Mr. Lonergan was representing C.J. Hite, who is now managing director of the Majestic."

More on the subject of Thanhouser scripts was given in answer to an inquiry published in The Moving Picture World, May 31, 1913:

We fail to see where you should be offended. Thanhouser did not ask for scripts. To the contrary they lay emphasis on the fact that they do not accept them. Why should they hire a man to put rejection slips in envelopes merely because you want to offer scripts when they are trying to tell you that they do not want them? Refusing to accept the letter in the first place and returning the letter to you unopened also serves to free them from the senseless charges of stealing scripts that might otherwise be made. Send scripts where they are wanted, and if you are a writer it is your business to find out where they are wanted before they are sent.

Gordon Trent, film columnist for The Morning Telegraph, visited New Rochelle and reported: Note

Had the pleasure of being piloted through the Thanhouser studio the other day by C.J. Hite. The studio is just about finished and is complete in every detail. Even a new auto [sic; apparently a bus or other large conveyance] has been purchased by this enterprising concern. It holds about 25 persons.

The Moving Picture World, May 31, 1913, carried a full-page advertisement placed by the Majestic Motion Picture Company, signed by C.J. Hite, producing manager, which directed that all communications be addressed to the executive offices at New Rochelle, New York, although the all-year-round studios of the firm were maintained in Los Angeles.

Just think, after Sunday, May 25, there will be a steady procession of the magnificent new Majestics, with such stars as popular Billy Garwood, for three consecutive years with the world's best Independent company [Thanhouser]; pretty Francelia Billington, than whom there is none more beautiful; Fred Mace, best comedian ace of his kind in all the world of photoplay, and - we will announce THE OTHER STARS in a week or so. Yes, there will be others! But let there be mystery about them that long!

The first of the New Majestic films was Legally Right, released on May 25, followed by Life Among the Navajos, a split reel with Her Fairy Godfather at the end of the reel. Life Among the Navajos was filmed by Carl Louis Gregory, Thanhouser's key cameraman, during a 9,500-mile trip made for Majestic at Charles J. Hite's command. The journey took the photographer through Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, California, and other Western states. Gregory's long absence from the Thanhouser studio probably accounts for the poor quality of certain films made during this period, for it was his photography which had been largely responsible for the outstanding reputation achieved earlier by the firm.

More about Majestic appeared in The New York Dramatic Mirror, June 11, 1913: "C.J. Hite has finally completed the organization of his 'New Majestic' acting company. The roster of principal players is Fred Mace, Marguerite Loveridge, William Garwood, Francelia Billington, Lamar Johnstone, Ann Drew, Ernest Joy, and Dick Cummings. Of these, Mace was with Biograph and Keystone, Miss Loveridge with Biograph and Kinemacolor, Joy with Kinemacolor, Garwood and Miss Drew with Thanhouser, Johnstone with Eclair, and Cummings and Miss Billington are the 'new faces.'" Now, Miss Billington is referred to as a "new face," and her earlier work with a "small concern" - Kalem - is completely overlooked!

Hite's involvement with Majestic affairs caused concern among the Thanhouser players in New Rochelle, and well it should have, for numerous employees had been transferred to Majestic. To counter this, patently false statements were issued to the press. An account in The Moving Picture World, June 14, 1913, is typical:

ANOTHER RUMOR IS SQUASHED. The World may place its fist flat on another rumor in denying that it is the intention of C.J. Hite, president of Thanhouser, to make general transfers of Thanhouser players to the Majestic, of which he is the new producing manager. The report entered into being through the recent engagement of Billy Garwood by Majestic. Garwood had been three years with Thanhouser. Excepting Garwood, states Mr. Hite, there was one solitary other Thanhouserite to join Majestic. Ann Drew was the solitary one, as she had been engaged in Los Angeles last winter for the Thanhouser stock then there. This company was later ordered back to New Rochelle, and Miss Drew received Mr. Hite's permission to change to the Majestic forces which continued to operate in Los Angeles. Miss Drew's first Majestic work is as the favorite-girl-at-college in The Fraternity Pin, release of Sunday, June 1. Note

In New Rochelle the Thanhouser Film Corporation made a major purchase of real estate adjacent to the 46 Main Street studio. The New Rochelle Pioneer, June 14, 1913, carried an account: "The Westman Realty Company reports the sale of eight city lots to the Thanhouser Film Corporation for the I.D. Huntington estate. While the price was not made public, it is known that the property was held at about $20,000. The property purchased has a frontage on three streets, with 100 feet on Main Street, 250 feet on Evans Street and 100 feet on Huntington Place. According to Manager C.J. Hite, of the Thanhouser Company, it is the intention of the company to erect a building on the new property which will cost over $100,000 for studio purposes." This large parcel of land vastly increased the space available and made possible the eventual construction of larger facilities.

On the same date Motography carried an interesting filler:

Theatres have been named Thanhouser, so have Kids and Kidlets, but a Toledo, Ohio bulldog of that name is indeed a novelty. The hound is the property of Dorothy and Virginia Ashbrook, daughters of H.R. Ashbrook, manager of the Superior Film & Supply Company of Toledo, and may be heard barking like a two-reel feature at the Ashbrook home on Summit Street. Thanhouser is a genuine English bull, but doesn't mind being named after an American film company.

Edwin Thanhouser reappeared on the motion picture scene, but, so reports said, without any continuing interest in films. The Morning Telegraph commented: Note

Edwin Thanhouser, founder of the Thanhouser Company, is here from Europe on a short trip. He left his family in Rome and is stopping in New York City. Mr. Thanhouser arrived on La Provence on Saturday, and that evening celebrated his homecoming with a dinner at the Players' Club, which was attended by C. J. Hite, president of the Thanhouser Film Corporation, Lloyd F. Lonergan, Bert Adler, and Elmer Harris. Note He spent Sunday inspecting the new Thanhouser plant at New Rochelle. His business here is in connection with his real estate, and he states he is out of the picture game for good. Mr. Thanhouser expects to come over again next spring.

More was told in the same publication on June 22nd: "Those who know Edwin Thanhouser well are aware of his fondness for exhibitions of the manly art of self defense, so they will understand why just a few days after his arrival in this country he made a beeline for the Fairmont Athletic Club, where he had often attended fights in the days before he left the picture business and our shores. To bring the old days back he took along Bert Adler and Billy Russell of the Thanhouser players, who have influence at the Fairmont Club, and provided a ringside box. Mr. Thanhouser goes to Milwaukee next week to visit his mother, and then returns to New York and the steamer." The ship's departure date was set as July 3rd.


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