Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 8: 1915 Social Responsibility

The Six-Cent Loaf, a two-reel film with a social responsibility theme, released on June 8th, starred Florence LaBadie as a little factory girl. A review in The Moving Picture World must have reminded some readers of The Cry of the Children, starring Marie Eline, released three years earlier: "A two-reel subject with some very entertaining features. One of these is the views of a bread factory in action. The story concerns a poor girl who is unable to buy bread for her brother and sister after the raise in price. She enters the factory and steals a loaf, is caught and faints away. Her condition leads the president to reduce bread to its former price. The effect of the picture is excellent, as it strongly illustrates the hardships work upon poor people by a high food price."

His Guardian Auto, the Falstaff comedy of June 11th, starred James Cruze and Marguerite Snow and was the last Thanhouser film to include the famous couple. Next came Through Edith's Looking Glass on June 13th, split with Bud Blossom. The release of June 15th, The Country Girl, was adapted from David Garrick's 18th century play of the same name, an instance of Edwin Thanhouser drawing upon his knowledge of classic stage productions. Then followed In the Valley on June 18th, the Falstaff film Ebenezer Explains on the 18th, split with Little Herman, Note and, on June 20th, The Two Cent Mystery, starring Helen Badgley, the Thanhouser Kidlet.

Which Shall It Be? was issued on June 22nd and was taken from an old poem which related the dilemma of an impecunious couple who decided to trade one of their seven children to a childless neighbor who offered a house and land in trade. The parents reviewed their sleeping children one by one and realized that no matter how poor their family was, the children were priceless. Tears were aplenty among theatre audiences, according to a recollection of Edwin Thanhouser. Note The Stolen Anthurium, the Falstaff film of June 25th, was billed as a horticultural comedy. Riley Chamberlin took the lead role. Innocence at Monte Carlo, issued on June 27th, was followed by Crossed Wires on the 29th.

During this time Edwin Thanhouser's films received good reviews on balance, but not without occasional comments pointing out weak stories, inconsistencies, or other flaws. The studio was turning out pictures which seemed to be about average for a long-established company of its era. Unlike the situation in 1910 and 1911, Edwin Thanhouser in 1915 was not hailed as an innovator or a producer of pictures of extraordinary merit. For the time being he continued his belief that stage players, who could be hired inexpensively, could be taught to perform before the camera and would be as good as the high-priced motion picture stars featured by his leading competitors. For scenarios he again depended upon Lloyd F. Lonergan. While Lonergan was a skilled wordsmith and could claim The Million Dollar Mystery and other box office victories, it is apparent that the Thanhouser Film Corporation would have benefited if it had used outside script writers as well. In the meantime the Thanhouser contributions to the weekly Mutual program were earning satisfactory revenues. All seemed to be well in New Rochelle, and in Edwin Thanhouser's fertile mind were many ideas for expansion.


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