Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 6 (1913): To Cape May

During the third week of August 1913, the so-called Cape May Company of Thanhouser players was sent to the New Jersey resort of that name, a seaside area which had been a favorite summer vacation spot for Lloyd F. Lonergan for many years. Now, Lonergan led a contingent of players, including Florence LaBadie, William Russell, Charles Hite's sister Violet, and the Benham family, consisting of Harry, Ethyle, and young Leland. Carl Louis Gregory went along as the photographer, accompanied by his sister Fannie, an actress for the studio. During the next two weeks six films were produced there. Although Charles J. Hite stayed at home, on the weekend in the middle of the players' sojourn he paid a visit, coming by sea on board The Dividend. The players returned Monday evening, September 1st. Note

Harry Benham, Florence  LaBadie, Violet Hite, an unidentified woman, Ethyle Cooke Benham, Lloyd F. Lonergan, and Charles J. Hite taking a break

from location shooting at Cape May, New Jersey in August 1912. Carl Louis Gregory estate, courtesy of Ralph Graham, M.D. (X-50)


On Wednesday, August 27th, a three-hour program was given at Loew's Theatre in New Rochelle, to benefit St. Joseph's parish school. Among those on stage were Marie Eline and Helen Badgley, the latter giving an imitation of Eva Tanguay, the "I Don't Care Girl." Note

As a promotional device, The Motion Picture Story Magazine printed full-page advertisements titled: Note "THESE SIX PICTURES IN COLORS FREE." Patrons subscribing for one year received images of Thanhouser actress Muriel Ostriche and five players from other companies: J. Warren Kerrigan, Ruth Roland, Earle Williams, Blanche Sweet, and Crane Wilbur.

The New York Dramatic Mirror carried this item on September 6th:

The Reliance Company has now moved its studio to the newly acquired Clara Morris estate at Riverdale, on the Hudson, and according to Mr. H.E. Aitken, who in addition to his many other activities is president and general manager of the company, elaborate arrangements are being made for larger and better productions. George W. Lederer, the well known theatrical producer, is now associated with the Reliance and will stage some large and expensive features.

J.P. Dunning, formerly vice president of the Corn Exchange Bank, who has recently become associated with Mr. Aitken, is also very active in the company at the present time. Mr. Ritchey is treasurer of the company and still active in its affairs, but his outside interests have been so pressing as to demand a great deal of the time formerly given to the Reliance. Mr. Aitken, who is also undertaking the active management of the Majestic Company, of which he has been president since its organization, also announces that Fred Mace is coming east to work at the Reliance studios, where he will, however, produce pictures for the Majestic. Note This move has been made for the purpose of affording Mr. Mace better support and assistance in the productions in which he is featured.

Although Reliance was not far away, it seems that Charles J. Hite kept his distance and was not a major factor in its management. Conversely, Harry E. Aitken, who was a Thanhouser stockholder, kept his distance from New Rochelle. Majestic was another matter entirely, and in the last half of 1913 many Majestic films were produced at Thanhouser's New Rochelle studio. This was confusing to trade papers and local papers alike, and many notices misidentified this Majestic player or that one as being with Thanhouser films. Not helping to clarify the situation was the continual borrowing of Thanhouser players to act in Majestic productions.

Early in September, Moths, adapted from Ouida's novel of the same name, featured Maude Fealy and was released by the Mutual Film Corporation. Motography in September 1913 told of the picture: "It develops that Sapho, which Florence Roberts has been working on at the Majestic Los Angeles studios, and Moths, a Maude Fealy film made at the Thanhouser plant at New Rochelle, are special enterprises of the Mutual Film Corporation. In the case of each feature the particular producing organization merely acted for the Mutual in making the film. Sapho is in five reels and Moths in four. Leading man to Miss Roberts' film is Shelly Hull, well known to Broadway, and leading man to Miss Fealy's film is William Russell, of Thanhouser note."

Publicity arrangements for the film apparently were overlooked by Mutual, for little editorial mention was made concerning it. However, more than any Thanhouser-made film to date, the feature was heavily advertised in the trade papers. There was no specific release day assigned to the feature, and distribution was on a negotiated basis through the various Mutual exchanges. Orchestration was available for the film, advertisements noted. The music, actually a piano score, was arranged by E.A. Price and others at the Tams Music Library, New York City, and provided to theatres by Mutual. Scores were also furnished for certain subsequent multiple-reel films released by the Mutual Film Corporation.

The first regular Thanhouser release in the month of September 1913 occurred on the 2nd. The Veteran Police Horse told of an animal which served the New York Police Department with distinction for many years, after which he was sold to a cruel taskmaster. His former caretaker from the police recognizes the horse, buys him, and sees to it that he spends the remainder of his years in green pastures. The Morning Telegraph liked the film, but The Moving Picture World found that "the sidewise jerking of the camera added nothing to the picture and was very hard on the eyes of observers of the film," and The New York Dramatic Mirror considered the story "disconnected."

His Last Bet, issued on September 7th, was advertised as having an all-male cast. Taming Their Grandchildren, Thanhouser's September 9th production, featured the Thanhouser Kid and Kidlet and, as usual for films featuring the pair, was favorably reviewed.

The Message to Headquarters, distributed in three reels on September 12th, received mixed reviews. The Morning Telegraph gave it the ultimate accolade: "A more thrilling photo-play has never been placed on the screen." In sharp contrast The Moving Picture World found that "overacting is indulged in almost to the point of burlesque." Redemption, released on September 16th, was found by the trade press to have a weak plot. Flood Tide, issued on the 19th, featured Marie Eline, Muriel Ostriche, and W. Eugene Moore, Jr., all of whose acting was praised by reviewers. Next came When the Worm Turned, on September 21st, followed by An Unfair Exchange, starring the Thanhouser Twins, on the 23rd. Reviews for the latter were enthusiastic.

During the month a near miss was reported by The Moving Picture News: Note "It is not generally known that little Helen Badgley, the Thanhouser Kidlet, would have been a passenger on the Bar Harbor Express that was wrecked by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad last week, with a great loss of life, if the baby in the charge of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Zimmerman, of the Thanhouser studios, had paid a visit to friends in Portland, Maine, from Saturday to Monday. They intended leaving Portland by rail Monday night on the fatal train, but Mr. Zimmerman reached the ticket window too late to secure accommodations, and even the winning smile of the Kidlet didn't move the man at the window. Every berth had been booked by the crowd returning to New York from the Labor Day holiday. So the Kidlet and her escorts took the train to Boston and left there on the midnight express for Manhattan. While in Boston Monday evening the baby photoplayer was accorded a reception by Manager Alland and attachés of the Pastime Theatre."

On another subject, The Moving Picture World printed the following in its September 13th issue:

I presume that Bert Adler, official scribe for the Thanhouser Company, got a little tired pushing his Ford home every time he invited anyone for a ride, while the other folks rode both ways, so he bought another car. This time its an Overland roadster, and the fellow that sold it to him is pretty sure that it will carry him both ways, the same as the regular automobiles do.

A week later the same trade journal printed an advertisement of the Trade Circular Addressing Company, Chicago, which claimed it had a mailing list for sale of 17,522 moving picture theatres in the United States and Canada, 648 film exchanges in the United States, and 49 manufacturers and studios in the United States. The list had been compiled by using city directories and telephone books.

The Morning Telegraph, September 21st, reported a new facility at the Thanhouser studio:

The modern moving picture studio is incomplete if it hasn't a lunchroom, judging from the lunchroom installations of late at the big producing plants. Now it's the restaurants of New Rochelle that are meeting studio competition. Of course Thanhouser is the offender. A very complete restaurant service has been opened and a spacious room built on the property to the left of the studio that the concern recently bought. One strong reason for the Thanhouser lunchroom is the winter. It's approaching and the regular New Rochelle restaurants are quite a little distance from the picture plant. Only a few of the Thanhouser players have automobiles, and to save them a walk on bleak days the studio eating emporium was created.

From time to time Edwin Thanhouser sent letters and postcards from Europe to The Moving Picture World. The issue of September 27th reproduced a photographic postcard and supplied a caption: "Edwin Thanhouser, Mrs. Thanhouser, and their son Lloyd ascending the Jungfrau in Switzerland in the very center of the Eiger Glacier. What is the famous producer thinking about? Here are his own words on a postal card to a member of the staff of The Moving Picture World: 'Below us are the green foothills; above and about us the towering drifts of snow and ice. Fine to contemplate on a hot August day. Amidst such scenery I am acquiring too much moving picture inspiration for an idle man.' How long can a man with dynamic energy added to inspiration keep idle?" Aha! An omen of things to come? Only on June 15th he had been quoted by The Morning Telegraph as saying he was out of the picture game for good. Perhaps the Telegraph had spoken - or written - too quickly!


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