Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 8: 1915 Mutual Masterpictures

The directors of the Mutual Film Corporation were painfully aware that large profits and a great deal of publicity were going to companies which were turning out multiple-reel feature films, and they decided to jump on the bandwagon. The New York Dramatic Mirror reported on March 10th:

The Mutual Company has definitely announced the adoption of a new feature policy. Starting March 22, 1915, two features of four- and five-reel length will be released on the Mutual program every week. The features will be known as Mutual Masterpictures, Note and all the companies forming the Mutual program will contribute to the feature list.... The first release will be an American Film Company production, The Quest....

Information concerning Mutual Masterpictures and news of Edwin Thanhouser's return was carried in The New York Dramatic Mirror, March 31, 1915:

THANHOUSER STUDIO ACTIVE: Edwin Thanhouser is back in New Rochelle. You know what that means if you remember the Thanhouser organization under the regime of Edwin Thanhouser three years ago. You would know what the return of Edwin Thanhouser meant if you were to journey to the New Rochelle studio one of these days.

We made the trip last week. We left more impressed than ever with what one man can mean to an organization, and especially with what Edwin Thanhouser signifies in connection with the picture corporation bearing his name. New life has been infused into the New Rochelle studio, and work is proceeding at a pace that can promise only big things. Meanwhile, while active production of pictures is underway, reorganization of the whole plant is being effected. Soon, according to present plans, moves for expansion of the studio facilities will be underway.

Some important announcements may be expected soon in relation to the four- and five-reel feature productions which will be made as Thanhouser's contribution to the Mutual Masterpictures series. These pictures, and, in fact, all Thanhouser films, are produced under the general supervision of Mr. Thanhouser himself, who never lets the smallest detail of the studio's activities get beyond his grasp.

In addition to these Thanhouser releases, the Princess brand will be continued as the Falstaff brand, devoted to refined light comedy. It may be mentioned in passing that the Thanhouser multiple-reel features are certain to present a number of stage favorites, for Edwin Thanhouser, since his entry into the picture arena, has always upheld the legitimate stage player and director in picture work.

Assisting him at the New Rochelle studio Mr. Thanhouser has two of the best-known men in the film game in Leon Rubenstein and Lloyd Lonergan. Ruby is attendant to the publicity, among other things, while Mr. Lonergan is again in charge of the scenario department, besides the other burdens he is lifting from "The Chief's" shoulders.

The same issue of The New York Dramatic Mirror announced that Muriel Ostriche, former Thanhouser star, was the latest addition to the forces of the Vitagraph company. In the meantime she had been with World films.

The Thanhouser Film Corporation's trade paper advertisements continued to feature personal messages signed by Edwin himself. Emphasis was on the excellence of forthcoming films. Titles currently being released were those made before Edwin Thanhouser's return and were mentioned only as to title, length, and character, with little noted concerning the casts or plots. Previously announced release schedules were modified in some instances. Clearly, Edwin Thanhouser was eager to be finished with the old pictures made by the Shallenberger-Jones management and to get on with his new films.

Trade papers continued to carry news of forthcoming Mutual Masterpictures and noted that the idea was to release several such four- and five-reel features each month, with contributions being made by the American Film Manufacturing Company, the Majestic Motion Picture Corporation, the New York Motion Picture Corporation, the Reliance Motion Picture Corporation, and the Thanhouser Film Corporation. Harry E. Aitken, president of the Mutual Film Corporation, ran a series of advertisements featuring the new films. The dates of release were not emphasized, in the hope that the films would be timeless, would be in circulation longer, and would be flexible in their distribution.

For a typical Masterpicture, Captain Macklin, a four-reel Majestic feature released in April, patrons were advised: "You can see it most any day now - so watch the newspapers." Specific release dates for most Masterpictures were omitted from trade journal listings, but there were exceptions. For example, The Devil, a five-reel New York Motion Picture Corporation film, was given the release date of April 1st. Some Masterpictures were four reels and others were five reels. There were no Thanhouser releases among the Mutual Masterpictures during the month of April, for the New Rochelle studio was still releasing pictures from its earlier inventory. The impact of Edwin Thanhouser on the screen had yet to be felt.


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