Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 6 (1913): The Thanhouser Kid Comes of Age

Their Great Big Beautiful Doll, issued on November 23, 1913, featured the Thanhouser Twins as the owners of a doll, played by Helen Badgley. The New York Dramatic Mirror commented: "This is a pretty child story, made interesting by the Thanhouser Twins and the Thanhouser Kidlet. It is just a simple little tale of two families of children - the one rich and the other poor. One day the beautiful French doll of the twins is stolen, and the baby wandering from the poor home when the mother has gone to work, wanders out on the street. The twins happening along put the child in the doll carriage and play with her, calling her their great, big beautiful doll.

"In the meantime the house is set on fire by matches struck by the child previous to her coming out on the street, and the mother coming home is grief-stricken at the loss of her child, who is shortly restored to her arms, while the twins sob out their hearts for their great, big beautiful doll." Presumably, the fire scenes were photographed in September when the old Hannan residence was burned in New Rochelle for use in The Junior Partner and other films.

In 1910 and 1911 Marie Eline was the most important child player at the Thanhouser studio. By late autumn 1913 she had been replaced in publicity by infant Helen Badgley and the Fairbanks twins. Marie, earlier billed as the Thanhouser Kid, was now assigned to the Princess Department. Appropriate announcements appeared in the trade press. A notice in The Moving Picture World Note is typical:

THANHOUSER KID NO LONGER: Marie Eline, known since the inception of the Thanhouser Company as the Thanhouser Kid, has grown out of the freak-name class. C.J. Hite has transferred her to his Princess Films and requested that she use her real name like a regular grown-up. So it's 'Marie Eline' now for the first of the 'kids.' The little lady was about six when she joined the Thanhouser forces and is nearly 11 now, an age wherein she feels the dignity of her years. She is a featured player in the Princess, with Muriel Ostriche and Boyd Marshall. Miss Ostriche was likewise a child wonder in her time, but Mr. Marshall never acted in his youth, having been an office boy, which is real work.

Hite's proclamation went unheeded, and trade publications continued to refer to Marie as the Thanhouser Kid. Even Thanhouser's own publicity was inconsistent, and a photograph in Reel Life, December 20, 1913, was captioned "Marie Eline, the Thanhouser Kid." The young actress was thinking of other things, and her mother encouraged her to pursue her career elsewhere. In early 1914 Marie and her sister Grace departed from Thanhouser. Later, Marie was to be seen on the screen for the World Film Corporation, a company unrelated to Thanhouser, which in advertising continued to bill her as the Thanhouser Kid! In the 1920s she achieved success on the vaudeville stage.

The Blight of Wealth, released on November 25th, included a scenario with the familiar names of Jack and May. The picture, which featured David H. Thompson and Florence LaBadie, garnered poor reviews, including that in The Moving Picture World:

A two-reel film story, rather below the Thanhouser average in some respects. Important action was omitted at interesting moments, such as the duel scene, and the continental atmosphere was not well suggested. A good full-length view of the Carmania is shown. The performers did not seem to get strongly enough into the feeling of the story, which in itself lacked any great pulling power.

Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight, released to favorable reviews on November 28th, was adapted from an old poem and featured Florence LaBadie and William Russell in scenes from the days of Oliver Cromwell. Her Right to Happiness, a Princess film issued on the same day, featured the usual team of Muriel Ostriche and Boyd Marshall. The Henpecked Hod Carrier, issued on November 30th, saw Riley Chamberlin in the title role. "Anyone who pines for a good laugh should not miss Mr. Lonergan's latest comedy," suggested Reel Life in its printed synopsis.

The Legend of Provence, the first of the highly publicized Thanhouser Big Productions, was released through the Mutual Film Corporation on December 1, 1913. The New York Dramatic Mirror gave it an enthusiastic review, but the picture was largely overlooked by other trade publications. It is apparent that the multiple-reel films released through Mutual, including such releases as Moths, Robin Hood, and the present The Legend of Provence, were generally ignored in review columns.

The Problem Love Solved, released on December 2nd, and What Might Have Been, issued on the 5th, earned generally favorable reviews, as did The Little Church Around the Corner, the Princess film of the 5th. Then followed The Milkman's Revenge, issued on December 7th, with Riley Chamberlin in the role of Mrs. Grump, a crotchety old lady. A Beauty Parlor Graduate, first screened on December 9th, featured Harry Benham as Jack and Mignon Anderson as May. Reviews were mixed.

Uncle's Namesakes, distributed on December 12th, featured the Thanhouser Twins in a well-received comedy. His Imaginary Family, a Princess release of the same day, had a similar plot: a substitution of family members is made in order to fool a relative who has been out of touch for a long time. Then came Lawyer, Dog and Baby, with Sidney Bracy as the lawyer, accompanied by the Thanhouser Twins and the Kidlet. Most Thanhouser comedies were liked by the press, but this was an exception. The Moving Picture World found the film "amusing...but the film as a whole seemed to carry no particular point and does not present a very well rounded story." The New York Dramatic Mirror decried it as "a stupid attempt at humor."

Peggy's Invitation, released on December 16th, featured Marguerite Snow in the role of a poor girl who secures by accident an invitation to a fancy ball. While there she attracts the attention of a wealthy young bachelor. Miss Snow, who in life was Mrs. James Cruze, had been away from the studio on a leave of absence since May. Not revealed to the public was the reason - pregnancy - which led to the birth of the couple's first and only child, Julie. The director of Peggy's Invitation was James Durkin, new to this aspect of motion pictures and, indeed, to films in general. The Moving Picture World commented:

Marguerite Snow, a favorite screen artist, appears in this number after several weeks on vacation. She plays the part of Peggy, who attends a masquerade ball on an invitation she found in the street. The story is not very strongly handled in places, but contains an entertaining idea and holds the interest in spite of this.

Jack and the Beanstalk, released in two reels on December 19th, was split at the end of the second reel with The Bush Leaguer's Dream. Late 1913 was still the time when cast members were not often identified in credits, and reviewers sometimes made wild guesses. The identity of the beanstalk climber was given as the Thanhouser Kid by writers for The Moving Picture World and The New York Dramatic Mirror, whereas the part was played by young Leland Benham, as correctly reported in Reel Life, The Moving Picture World, and The Photoplay Magazine. The plot of the film at the end of the second reel was borrowed from The Baseball Bug, Thanhouser's 1911 film, and told of a lad who dreams that he is the outfielder the Giants had always hoped for, but then he wakes up to reality.

The Law of Humanity, the Princess offering on December 19th, was directed and filmed by Carl Louis Gregory, who was doing good work with the new division. Princess pictures were building a following with fans, and most reviewers enjoyed them as well. Assisting Gregory with the direction was Claude Seixas, who was best known as a vaudevillian who played Italian characters. Appearing on stage one evening at Loew's Theatre in New Rochelle, Seixas was impressed with the audience's enthusiasm for the films shown between acts. He was introduced to Gregory, Thanhouser's head cameraman, who hired him on the spot. However, his tenure with the studio proved to be brief.

An Orphan's Romance, issued on the 23rd, headlined Maude Fealy in a two-reel film, a departure from the larger productions in which she had been involved. Reviews were mixed. Then came His Father's Wife, released to enthusiastic reviews on December 26, 1913. Cupid's Lieutenant, the Princess offering for December 26th, featured Muriel Ostriche, Boyd Marshall, and Marie Eline. The Head Waiter, first screened on December 28th, was followed on the 30th by Thanhouser's final offering of the 1913 year, An Amateur Trainer.


Starring in the latter film was Sidney Bracy, who contended with animals, including six camels, from the Thanhouser Zoo. The aggregation of beasts was described in Reel Life, December 27, 1913: "THE THANHOUSER ZOO: A real little zoological garden is being built out to the left of the new stages. Lila Chester, prize animal lover in the Thanhouser aggregation, is altogether happy. The other Thanhouserites merely hope that the bars of the zoo hold tight. Just what kind of dumb players are being bought for the zoo the press agent doesn't state. Michael Schliesser will be wild animal manager. He was formerly in charge of animals for Hagenbeck in Germany and collected animals for the Museum of Natural History of New York, where he was a taxidermist. The camels used in Thanhouser's Joseph, Son of Jacob, were especially trained for that production by Mr. Schliesser." Note Although animals from the Thanhouser Zoo were to be used in several films released early in 1914, the menagerie soon faded from the news and apparently was disbanded. Capturing many headlines during the same era was the much larger Selig Zoo, under the auspices of the Selig Polyscope Company.


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