Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 8: 1915 Edwin Thanhouser Takes Charge

The month of March and the days of early April were busy times for Edwin Thanhouser. Imbued with a fresh new spirit, and eager to develop many ideas he had formulated during the two years he was in retirement, he lost no time in making numerous changes.

Certain former Thanhouserites who had departed during the Shallenberger-Jones management were persuaded to return. Bert Adler, Edwin Thanhouser's long-time publicity director, was not one of these, for by this time he was firmly ensconced as director of Universal's Coytesville, New Jersey studio and was making considerably more money than his earlier New Rochelle stipend. Edwin Thanhouser was not a person to offer munificent salaries, and while many satisfactions could be expressed by those who worked under his supervision, a generous salary was not one of them. Replacing Bert Adler was Leon J. Rubenstein, known as Ruby, who had been in the motion picture game since 1906. Note

A year earlier the Thanhouser Film Corporation had signed a contract with the Nichols-Finn advertising agency. While the arrangement with the Chicago firm worked well during the release period of The Million Dollar Mystery serial, by March 1915 relations had become strained. As one of his first orders of business, Edwin Thanhouser made it clear that when Nichols-Finn contract ran out at the end of June it would not be renewed. Note Leon J. Rubenstein was to handle all publicity from that point on, and a special press department would be set up in the Thanhouser Film Corporation's offices in New Rochelle.

The Morning Telegraph told about Ruby Rubenstein in its issue of March 28th:

If this were the circus business instead of motion pictures, it could be billed as the great double-barrelled, 42-centimeter come-back act, by Edwin Thanhouser, assisted by Leon J. Rubenstein, otherwise known as Ruby, who also does some of the coming back.

When Edwin Thanhouser first put his shoulder to the film wheel six years ago, he hurtled right into a fortune after three years of work, which showed him a master of production technique and organization management. When he sold out and agreed to stay out for three years it was a genuine loss to the art, but Edwin Thanhouser cared not a jot or tittle for the grind, so he hied himself to the other side of the big pond, and the Thanhouser organization ran merrily on sans the man whose name it bears. It ran very merrily, just as merrily as Edwin Thanhouser was disporting himself in Europe. But pretty soon those three years expired and Thanhouser appeared on this side of a certain Cunard circuit. Note He just merely arrived, that's all. But that was the cue for some of our biggest picture making interests to get very busy, and before Thanhouser had gotten his land-legs (Winton automobile) working, he was deluged with propositions. He looked them all over, and they were flatterers all right, but to make a tall story squatty, he got one call from his first love; and that was it. And so comes it that Edwin Thanhouser is back to day at the head of the New Rochelle organization.

Now, one of the first things he did is responsible for another come-back, and that concerns Leon J. Rubenstein, known best to the picture industry as Ruby. He was really the first man to ever push a pencil in the cause of a film, way back ten years ago. But Ruby somehow didn't stick to it for more than a few years. After holding a few of the biggest assignments he went into picture making and in a very short time became the boss of his own studio. He got in on the ground floor of the sensational film craze and had the good sense to sell out when he saw the deluge coming - the collapse of the states rights market. He read the signs correctly, sold out, and was just catching his breath and counting his money when Edwin Thanhouser determined that he wanted a man of Ruby's size. Ruby listened, took a sniff of printers' ink, liked it and moved his feet under a New Rochelle desk. Now after four years' layoff, except for the smashing publicity which he did for himself, he's doing a comeback together with Thanhouser.

Now, how big an act will they put on? Ruby does the talking: "There's a big surprise coming to those who think that Edwin Thanhouser hasn't got the old pep that brought him fame and fortune in such a short space of time. Put it down from one who has used up many thousands of dollars learning pictures, that in the new work now being turned out at New Rochelle the benefits of a leisurely tour of careful study abroad stick out like an auto on a car track. He is really ahead of his day in many respects, just as he was five years ago when he led the field. The new Thanhouser releases will all do their own talking, and when they begin to issue you will see the same old Thanhouser, plus three years' progress in thought, power, and facilities."

A visit to the plant at New Rochelle seems to indicate that some very great changes are in progress, and the old faces, familiar to the returned chief when he left his desk a few years ago, are in the main still there, while some of those who left in the interval are coming back. The policy of the concern will continue to be about the same. Mr. Thanhouser is occupying himself with picture making pure and simple, and Thanhouser quality is getting all of his attention right now.


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