Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 8: 1915 War on Glen Island

The making of The Patriot and the Spy, a four-reel Mutual Masterpicture first exhibited on June 7th, was told in local newspaper articles. On May 7th The New Rochelle Paragraph reported:

Glen Island was the scene of two battles Wednesday night. Guns, bombs, cannons and other war apparatus were put into play by the Second Battalion of the Bronx who were engaged by the Thanhouser Company to pose for the scenes. During the early part of the afternoon Sgt. William Love, in charge of the battalion, sustained a broken rib when the saddle on which he was riding slipped and he was dashed against a tree. Those that saw the accident said that the sergeant had a narrow escape from more serious injuries. Dr. Wallach attended the sergeant, who, although suffering intensely, insisted upon going through with his night's work. Director John Harvey, during the last part of the night, made the sergeant dismount under the pretext that he wanted him to stand beside the camera and give orders to the men. Dr. Wallach was on the island ready to administer aid to the injured throughout the night.

About 150 national guardsmen and their horses took part in the picture. The men were provided with their meals on the island. They were obliged to camp out on the island so as to be in readiness for early work. The scenes were laid in the German village on the island and were supposed to portray a present day Belgian battlefield. The picture, which the Thanhouser people are taking is named The Spy and the Patriot. Note Peggy Snow and James Cruze are being featured. Note The cameramen in charge of the four reeler are Carl Gregory and William Zollinger. About 200 persons are taking part in the making of a picture. All these are going to and from the island by means of a barge which is being navigated by a rope attached to the island from the dock. The rope is pulled by the passengers to get the boat across. Mr. Harvey expects to finish the island work Thursday night. The getting of the island is another feather in the hat of Dave Keleher.

The New Rochelle Paragraph told more a week later on May 14:

Three accidents added to the excitement of the mob, who have been taking part in the war picture, the principal scenes of which are laid on Glen Island. Sgt. Frank Shaefer, of Webster Ave., the Bronx, suddenly went blind while riding his horse at about 1:30 Friday afternoon. Shaefer thought that he was struck by an electric wire while riding, but an examination by Dr. J.H. Fuchsius and Wm. I. Wallach disapproved this theory. Dr. Fuchsius thinks that the glaring lights of the flares, which are being used for the night scenes, has affected the eyes so as to bring on temporary blindness. Shaefer is now in the New Rochelle hospital, where it was said Saturday morning that the patient was resting comfortably, although his eyesight had not as yet returned.

John W. Kellette, who has turned from manager of a movie house Note to actor, had his left hand badly burned Friday morning when a bomb which he was lighting exploded in his hand. Dr. Wallach treated Kellette, after which the new movie star was taken to his home. Perry Horton had a narrow escape from serious injury when he was thrown from his horse. He landed on his head and for about half an hour was unconscious. Dr. Wallach succeeded in bringing him around. Further investigation proved that Horton had escaped uninjured. Director John Harvey put the company through some severe stunts Friday. He had the cavalry men from the Bronx jumping over the embankments into the water, making high jumps over bars and other perilous stunts. Mr. Harvey finished his labors on the island Saturday morning. Over 200 are taking part in the five-reeler which is named The Spy and the Patriot.

John William Kellette, writing as a columnist for The New Rochelle Pioneer, commented in the issue of May 15th:

Was your sleep disturbed last week? 'Twas? Too bad! But, certainly, had you known that Edwin Thanhouser, John Harvey, and Carl Louis Gregory were proving that it is possible to take picture without the aid of daylight, you'd be willing to forgive everything, wouldn't you? Well, they proved that pictures could be taken at midnight, or any other hour during the dark stretch from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m., but a lot of gunfire had to result to give the world a glimpse of the new art.

Y'see, Mrs. Thanhouser and Lloyd F. Lonergan conceived a four-reel Mutual Masterpiece [sic] with an intensely dramatic plot carrying a war setting between a home army and an army of invasion. James Cruze and Marguerite Snow had the leads, with Alphonse Ethier as the heavy, and the story was given to Director John Harvey to produce. Carl Louis Gregory had charge of the photography, but had several assistants - Henry Cronjager, William Zollinger, Lawrence Williams and Lawrence Fowler, and remarkable still pictures were secured in addition to the moving pictures. Director Harvey, however, wore out many of his chief aides by the wonderful speed at which he worked. He gained for himself the sobriquet of The Human Dynamo, for he kept continuously on the job from Wednesday morning at 8:30, day and night, until midnight. Saturday, because he was given until 11 p.m. Saturday to complete the gunfire on Glen Island. At 10:57 that night he gave the signal to cease firing.

The work necessitated the knowledge of a military expert and the service of two armies, comprising infantry, artillerymen and cavalry, and thousands of rounds of ammunition for Springfield rifles, .45 Colts, 50 calibre gatlings and iron ball cannon. Mr. Harvey had the knowledge and brought to his aid Mace Litson and Sergeant Love of the Second Battery, New York City. Almost every foot of the 64 acres of land, lake and rock of Glen Island was used as a setting. Dashing artillery, foot and cavalry charges were staged at the old fort, while bloodless battle raged at Little Germany. One can hardly estimate the labor connected with the production of a picture such as the one staged at the little island. It took five hours to convey the Gatling guns to the roof of the castle at Little Germany. Miles of wire had to be strung to get electricity to the scenes of operation, and a dozen electricians, under the direction of Mique McCurren, were on the job day and night preparing their work for the next big scene. Almost $2,200 was expended in fireworks and aerial bombs, and while viewing the "bombs bursting in air" the suggestive strains of The Star Spangled Banner seemed to reach the ear. Silhouetted against the dark background one with imagination could see thousands of soldiers bent upon destruction, and the horrors of war were ever present.

A Mechanic Street caterer fed the hungry four meals a day, or every six hours in every 24. The cost of the food alone was enormous. The horses with the New York outfit received eight quarts of oats to a meal, with bales upon bales of hay to balance the ration. The island seldom had less than three autos at work day and night in conveying property from one location to another, and the Westchester Lighting Company had a crew of men at work with a travelling transformer to give light at any part of the island. Upon Mr. Harvey's assistant fell much of the work taking care of the actor-army, arranging for food, making reports, mapping out the multitude of detail necessary to aid his chief in the production of the picture, but during lulls, when the entire camp sought a few hours' respite, Director Harvey and Carl Gregory were conferring, wide-awake, to make ready for the next scene. The army would work at any hour called upon, whether at eight in the morning to and through to eight the next morning. Mr. Harvey was in his boots for 96 straight hours, and was compelled, at the earnest demands of those dearest to him among his workers, to catch a two-hour nap, Friday evening, seated in a chair, with his back to a stone wall.

And during the entire week only six accidents occurred. Perry Horton was thrown from a horse when a saddle slipped and cracked a rib, but he continued to work. The writer of this article, after exploding unnumbered bombs, finally had a fine bunch of them explode when sparks were carried back by the wind from the Sound, and as a result he's writing this with the left index finger punching a typewriter, his right hand getting badly burned when the bombs exploded, but, as the big explosion shows in the picture and makes a great effect, it removes the regret; Sergeant Love, of the Battery, cracked two ribs when the saddle slipped on Cheyenne, throwing him about 20 feet, and while Private Schafer, of the Battery, was chasing the horse that threw Horton, he ran into overhead wires and was knocked from his horse, the wires catching him across the eyes. Pyrotechnicist Lutz received burns on his left hand, and Al Reitz strained a tendon in his left ankle. Nothing like this picture has ever been produced, and New Rochelle should feel highly gratified that again Thanhouser will make the name of New Rochelle resound throughout the world, and the thanks of art lovers certainly ought to go to Director John Harvey, who visualized the production, and the cameramen who caught the spirit and effects. The picture is booked for an early June release. The estimated cost of the production is about $60,000.

A follow-up article in The New Rochelle Paragraph, June 4, 1915, gave additional information:

At a meeting of the Board of Health, at which the full board was present, as were Mrs. W.B. Kershaw and Dr. M.D. Foster, of the advisory board, strong intimation was given that the Thanhouser Film Corporation was seriously thinking of obtaining Glen Island and for studio purposes. Note Location Manager Dave Keleher made the statement that the Thanhouser people might buy Glen Island, during his argument to the Board of Health concerning the firing of bombs and guns during the wee hours of the morning. The board was discussing the night and early morning work done on Glen Island, at the time. Dr. Jones, secretary of the corporation, and Mr. Keleher represented the Thanhouser Co. Mr. Keleher stated that the company could not commit itself to a firm policy in regard to not firing during the night season. He pointed out that this firing occurred only once in seven months, and that it may mean months longer before the night firing would again be a necessity. He said that those who were complaining should complain about thunder and lightning to the Board of Health, for these were harder to bear than the powder which Thanhouser players were shooting off. Mr. Keleher also pointed out that the salary roll of the Thanhouser Corporation is $5,000 a week, and that much of the money went to New Rochelle merchants. For this reason Mr. Keleher thought that much leeway should be given the company. He concluded with saying that a time may come when the Thanhouser Company would have to do night shooting and he hoped that no drastic action would be taken.

Dr. Hoyt, president of the board, explained that in the neighborhood of Glen Island many citizens had complained because their night's repose had been broken by the bombarding at 2 o'clock in the morning. He told how a woman who was seriously ill, and who lived in the neighborhood of Glen Island, had her life endangered by the bombarding. During the argument it was brought out that Mayor Griffing on one occasion had given the movie people a permit to bombard at night. Mr. Keleher quoted the mayor as saying, "Sure you can shoot until 1 o'clock, and as much longer as necessary." This was the night when bombarding was done until 5 o'clock in the morning. The board expressed a desire to meet Edwin Thanhouser at a future date so that some mutual agreement could be made which would be acceptable to the citizens and at the same time not seriously impede the work of the studio.

Variety reviewed the finished film:

The Patriot and the Spy is a four part feature which Thanhouser produced as a contribution to the Mutual Masterpicture list. The featured players are Alphonse Ethier, James Cruze and Marguerite Snow. The first few periods of this film go quietly along with little dramatic tension until the Thanhouser directors get busy with their war scenes and the night photography at which this concern appears to be making a specialty of in recent pictures. Note As a feature the picture does well in spots, the closing portions doling out enough blood and thunder to make up for the first stanzas. As a big, gripping war feature, with a story that has a punch and sub-climaxes of a hair raising sort, The Patriot and the Spy misses the mark. The greatest fault is with the story. Quite ordinary to be true but it doesn't make the hero do enough to please the average movie fan who has long been used to seeing Jim Cruze pull down mountains and move heaven and earth for the woman he loves in the celluloid romances.

The advance notices said that the story hinged on action in a certain Continental village far removed from busy centers where peasant folk had other things to think of than war. Blanchette (Miss Snow) marries Pietro (Mr. Cruze) much to the discomfiture of Johannes (Mr. Ethier), the rejected suitor who turns out to be a spy. Pietro is hurt when rescuing his eldest child from the path of a speeding auto. That prevents him from going to the front although Johannes departs amid great acclaim.

To make a long story short the spy frames up a deal whereby he persuades the patriot Pietro to attempt to blow up a bridge, only to be easily captured by the invaders (as the incoming army fighters are captioned throughout the film story). Pietro manages to escape. He reaches home to find Johannes forcing his attentions on his wife. He and Joey do a Hackenschmidt-Gotch bout with Joey being plunked for the count by members of his own side who fired through an open window. Here comes one of the thinnest situations of the picture, made thin through the holding of the scene and the supposition that Pietro with a small shooting iron fired time and again at six or seven soldiers who were pouring lead into the open window. The best parts of the picture are several of the battle scenes, and these keep the picture from going out with the tide. The story fails to tell much, and just what kind of a war it was was left to much imagination. - Mark


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