Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 6: 1913 Robin Hood

Robin Hood, made in four reels by Thanhouser and distributed under the Mutual Film Corporation label, was distributed in two installments, with the first two reels released on September 23rd, followed by the remaining two a week later. William Russell took the title role and was supported by many other players. As with the preceding Mutual release, Moths, few reviews of this film ever appeared.

Activities continued apace at the New Rochelle studio. Not only did Thanhouser turn out three films a week for its own schedule, but a four-reel picture was now due each month for the Mutual Film Corporation. In addition, Thanhouser players also had to do extra duty in films for Majestic. The quality of Thanhouser's own productions was diluted by the additional work done for these other brands. Majestic continued to produce pictures in Los Angeles and at the Thanhouser studio in New Rochelle. At the Eastern facility Fred Mace, recently transferred from California, was making comedies under the direction of John Adolphi, utilizing scenarios written in many instances by Philip Lonergan, who was also writing for Thanhouser. Elizabeth Lonergan, sister of Philip and Lloyd, was also a scenario writer for Majestic.

Muriel Ostriche, the actress apple of Charles J. Hite's eye, was lent to Majestic in an effort to pep up their program. One of her several films under that label, A Mixup in Pedigrees, was reviewed as follows by The Moving Picture World: Note

Muriel's father begins an investigation of the family trees of her two lovers, Brown and Revere. One of them is descended from a royal family and the other is the son of a farmer who was hanged for stealing hogs. The stenographer mixes up the names and an amusing situation results. There is considerable originality in this.

The Thanhouser release schedule continued with The Official Goat Protector, issued on September 26th, featuring Riley Chamberlin and that new actor discovered on the street, John "Babe" Wallace, he of "Eat at Donnelly's" fame in the May release of Why Babe Left Home. The September release was reviewed by The Moving Picture World: "There is a good comedy idea in this film, wherein Riley Chamberlin as the girl's miserly guardian keeps a shotgun and goat to frighten away her wooers. How the three friends disguise themselves as policemen to steal the goat makes a breezy little yarn of more than average merit."

The Farmer's Daughters, issued on September 28th, featured Muriel Ostriche and Jean Darnell as the daughters of a man of the soil. The New York Dramatic Mirror commented:

A Nebraska farmer, experiencing great difficulty in getting hands, gained these two hard-up college boys to work on his farm, offering them, as inducements, the privilege of courting his two daughters. When the girls hear about it they indignantly make up as a scrimpy pair of rubes and await the arrival of the "rah rah" chaps.

On sight, the boys start to run, but are held up at shotgun by the girls, who demand that they first work out their railroad fare. After being forced to do the farm chores all week, by Sunday they are too tired to spoon with the two frumps. In the afternoon the girls remove their homely make-up, dress up in their glad clothes, doll up, and seat themselves on a neighboring fence. The boys, catching a glimpse of the two "peaches," approach, flirt with, and recognize them, and when the farmer arrives claim they'll never leave the farm. No small share of credit for the success of this little farce is due to the two girls delineating the farmer's daughters, for it is unusual that pretty girls are willing to sacrifice their vanity and appearance by putting on homely make-up to be recorded on the screen. It marks an exhibition of feminine courage. The boys ran a close second in this smile provoker.

Life's Pathway, issued on September 30th, was directed by Thomas N. Heffron and combined the talents of the Thanhouser Twins with Florence LaBadie and Muriel Ostriche. Reviewers complained of the plot. Immediately following on October 3rd was The Twins and the Other Girl, also with the Thanhouser Twins. Again, trade observers found the plot lacking in strength. Louie, the Life Saver, issued on October 7th, was the first of the films taken at Cape May the preceding August. Reviewers liked the comedy.

Next came The Daughter Worth While on October 10th, with Mignon Anderson, who was to recall: Note

It seems that every time there is a chance to flirt with death I get the chance. In The Daughter Worth While, for instance, I raced a Jersey Central express train in an automobile. I had never driven a car before and took only a few lessons preparatory to the experience. I drove the machine at a rate of 75 miles an hour at times, and at every turn I feared something or someone would cross my path. I was nearly prostrated on several occasions when I heard the machine click dangerously, but I realized that my safety lay in keeping my nerve, and I won the race but felt more joy over getting my feet on the earth without a broken head than I did over the victory.

A Deep Sea Liar, issued on October 12th, was another Cape May story. Reviewers found the plot disappointing. Thanhouser's October 14th film, The Plot Against the Governor, with James Cruze and Mignon Anderson, was photographed at the New York State Capitol in Albany, at Sing Sing Prison, and at New Rochelle. Perhaps to encourage reviewers to comment likewise, Thanhouser's official synopsis began: "Of the many good plays Mr. Lonergan has produced, The Plot Against the Governor is unquestionably one of the very best." Happily, the critics seemed to agree. A Peaceful Victory, issued on October 17th, starred Florence LaBadie, William Russell, and Marie Eline. The first "social problem" Thanhouser film in a long time, the production told of a bitter strike which was settled amicably when the factory owner, inspired by his daughter's sympathy with the suffering workers, came to realize the plight of the poor.


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