Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 6 (1913): Midsummer Releases

On the Thanhouser release schedule on July 22, 1913 was When Darkness Came, followed by The Top of New York on the 25th. The latter featured James Cruze and Marguerite Snow in a scenario about which The New York Dramatic Mirror commented:

This is all very obvious from beginning to end, and told in narrative fashion, with little (if any) incidental action to sustain interest. It is strictly polite drama, however, and will prove acceptable on that score, and by virtue of good acting and photography, to high class audiences.

Willie, the Wild Man, issued on July 27th, drew an enthusiastic review from The New York Dramatic Mirror:

A young man at a summer hotel has lost all of his money at poker, and his father refuses to send him more. He is about to leave the place when he is offered the lately vacated position of Wild Man, the duties being to frighten the guests once in a while and thus make their existence less irksome. He gladly accepts.

A millionaire and his daughter [played by Mignon Anderson] arrive at the hotel. Willie [Harry Benham] frightens the daughter so that she faints, so he doffs his bushy hair and whiskers and brings her to. She recognizes him as a college chum of her brother's. Later they fall in love, but the millionaire (ignorant of his work), of course, refuses to consider him. So the next day, when the millionaire is on his way to the train, Willie swoops down on him, beats him with a club, gags him and ties him to a tree, and then, returning to his cave, puts on civilized clothes and rescues him. The father is so grateful that he gives him his daughter. To complete their happiness, the young man's father sends word that he will take him in as junior partner if he will swear off poker. Harry Benham, supported by a competent cast, is excellent. This film, save that it has been marred by undue "quickening" in one or two scenes (thus giving it a farcical twist), is true comedy and is one of the few truly funny pictures made in the past 10 years.

Concerning Little Dorrit, released in two reels on July 29th, The Moving Picture World commented:

A two-reel production of the famous Dickens story, with Maude Fealy in the leading role. She gives this a charming impersonation, but the dramatic values of the story were not brought out at all adequately. The first reel was given up entirely to developing the atmosphere and setting, which it succeeded in doing very nicely, but in the second reel the incidents which should have been worked up strongly were almost glossed over, so that very little impression is made upon the observer. The banquet scene is fairly good, but the finding of Arthur in the prison was weakly led up to and the love interest lacked feeling.

In a separate review in the same publication Louis Reeves Harrison found the scenario too dated to be of interest to a modern audience and suggested that Thanhouser post this notice in its studio: "Drama must reflect the period in which it is produced." Taking a different view were writers for The Morning Telegraph and The New York Dramatic Mirror, who liked the film.

It was Charles J. Hite's hope that Maude Fealy's films would become standard features and remain in circulation for a year or more, and to this end King René's Daughter, Little Dorrit, and subsequent pictures featuring the actress were later advertised separately in notices bearing the Mutual Film Corporation signature and the Masonic Temple Building, 71 West 23rd Street, New York City address.

In the Nick of Time, Thanhouser's August 1, 1913 offering, suffered from a weak plot, according to reviews. Next on the list was Proposal by Proxy, starring Harry Benham as the shy suitor, which was split on the reel with the longest-titled Thanhouser subject ever produced: The Two Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Landing of the Huguenots at New Rochelle (a sharp contrast to the shortest titles issued by the studio, She and Sis). The film showed exercises in connection with the celebration, including at least two automobiles filled with Thanhouser players in a parade. On hand to watch the filming was Dr. Wilbert E. Shallenberger, whose visits to the studio were becoming increasingly routine.

The Thanhouser release of August 5th, The Protectory's Oldest Boy, featured an uninteresting plot and was condemned by reviewers, the notice in The Morning Telegraph being typical: "There is little if any plot to the story upon which this picture is based. It treats of a little newsboy who was ill-treated by his parents and was rescued and placed in a protectory. One of the principal scenes of the picture shows the children at drill." Marie Eline was the newsboy, a favorite role. On the end of the reel was The Wild West Comes to Town, not a Thanhouser film but a Majestic release! Obviously, Hite was not expending great effort to keep the two studios apart. It is believed that the film was a documentary showing Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. The New York Dramatic Mirror considered the photography to be inferior.

The Girl of the Cabaret, starring Marguerite Snow in the title role, was issued on August 8th and garnered mixed reviews. Oh! Such an Ocean, a comedy released on the 10th, featured Charles J. Hite's yacht, The Dividend. Again, reviews were mixed. The Missing Witness, first screened on the 12th, included local attorney Jacob Ruskin as the defense lawyer. Reviewers found the plot average and the photography good. The Motion Picture Story Magazine commented: Note "Talk about realism - Thanhouser recently had a real lawyer play the part of a lawyer. Next they will be getting real angels, ghosts, pickpockets, etc."

The Lie That Failed, released on August 15th, featured Florence LaBadie in a scenario in which the villain was killed by a falling meteorite - the first flagrant deus ex machina device used in a Thanhouser plot in many months. As part of a review The New York Dramatic Mirror commented: "For the success of this little climacteric incident we must look to the director. He has managed the falling meteor, which, striking the earth, crushes the scheming husband to death in an exceptionally clever way." Most reviewers liked the picture. The following Thanhouser film, Waiting For Hubby, a comedy with Riley Chamberlin, was released on August 17th to excellent reviews. Likewise, The Spirit of Envy, released on August 19th, with Mignon Anderson as the foolish wife, garnered enthusiastic comments. It had been a long time since Thanhouser had received a series of favorable notices. Perhaps Lloyd F. Lonergan, the photographers, and others at the studio were getting back on track.

The Medium's Nemesis, issued on August 22nd, earned mixed reviews. The issue of Reel Life dated the next day, August 23rd, carried a full page article and synopsis of a Thanhouser film titled Cranston's Hallucination. Whether this film was released by another studio, or whether it was scrapped, or what happened to it is unknown - a mystery. An Unromantic Maiden, released on August 24th, again featured Hite's yacht, The Dividend. The scenario told of an American girl marrying a titled foreigner. Note The New York Dramatic Mirror found the main part of the film "rather dull," but the ending "laughable."

The Ward of the King, with Florence LaBadie in the title role, was issued on August 26th. The scene was set in Louis XIV's France. Reviews were mostly favorable. The Spartan Father, released on August 29th, featured W. Eugene Moore, Jr. as the director and lead actor. "This is one of the best films of the week," gushed The Morning Telegraph.

Frazzled Finance, from a scenario by Philip Lonergan, was distributed on August 31st and saw Muriel Ostriche as a pretty young milliner who comes to town, to the delight of all the bachelors and the distress of all the single women. Reviewers were delighted with it, except for the photography, which The Moving Picture World found "somewhat hazy in places."


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