Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 8: 1915 The Flying Twins

For the Thanhouser Film Corporation, July began with the release on the first of the month of The Flying Twins, a four-reel Mutual Masterpicture with the Fairbanks twins in the title roles. Louis Reeves Harrison reviewed the film for The Moving Picture World:

There is a sincerity in this visualization which is rarely seen in products of the kind and which deserves high commendation because it indicates a progressive tendency. It is simply the story of two attractive young girls who run away from rural life and enter upon a series of adventures while following the fortunes of a traveling circus. The girls are veritable twins, of personality most fascinating - their movements - that they have learned to think in unison, and their united individuality is of a sweet and wholesome kind. Around their adventure a story has been built, but is plainly of the kind manufactured to suit the occasion. It will do for the occasion, but taste in treatment barely saves it from the great commonplace mass written by people with more ambition and ability.

A similar amount of genuine craftsmanship shown in handling a story of theme, of purpose, of sympathetic feeling, of soul, would result in a much higher quality of production. Such stories will continue to be scarce and grow more so under present conditions. Such capable treatment is that given The Flying Twins - there is both beauty and consistency as a whole, the major part of which is embraced in the subject matter to be visualized. There is tremendous demand for this form of publication - the difficulty is to get hold of something worth publishing. That will come in time - it is bound to come - from professional authors, who nearly always have a superabundance of material far beyond their literary requirements when they learn to frame their conceptions so that they can be economically and effectively prepared for screen representation, and when authorship is acknowledged and respected in this new art as it is in the older ones. Meanwhile, there is hope in the constant development of quality in studio craftsmanship, such as is plainly shown in The Flying Twins.

Playing the part of the circus ringmaster in the film was W. Ray Johnston, who came to New Rochelle in 1914 and who married Charles J. Hite's sister Violet in May of the same year. In 1914 he served as secretary to Hite, held other positions with the Thanhouser Film Corporation, and was named treasurer of the Syndicate Film Corporation, distributor of The Million Dollar Mystery. Years later he was a founder of Rayart Pictures and, still later, Monogram Pictures. He enjoyed being interviewed by the press and often gave highly dramatized and inaccurate recollections of "the good old days" at the Thanhouser studio and elsewhere.

In July 1915 there were more personnel changes at the Thanhouser Film Corporation. Carl L. Gregory, the studio's long-time cameraman who was one of the most brilliant minds ever employed there, moved to the Metro Pictures Corporation. In the same month it was announced that he would become a columnist for The Moving Picture World. Note Joining Thanhouser were Edgar Jones, a Lubin director; William A. Howell, another director; and G.A. Beggs. However, Beggs announced at the last minute that he had accepted a better offer from a West Coast studio, and he cancelled his New Rochelle contract. Around this time several actors and actresses signed with Thanhouser, including Julia Blanc, William Morris, William Barlow, Samuel Niblack, Winifred Kingston, Bert Delaney, and Grace DeCarlton. It was announced that by the end of the month the company of stock players numbered 40 individuals, as compared to 28 when Edwin Thanhouser returned to the studio on March 1st. Note

The Silent Co-Ed, the Falstaff release of July 2nd, was found to be well pictured and quite pleasing by The Moving Picture World. Next on the schedule came Fifty Years After Appomattox, a Civil War story released on July 4th; A Maker of Guns in two reels on July 6th; and the Falstaff film, Mme. Blanche, Beauty Doctor, on the 9th. In the last-named film Harry Benham impersonated a female in the title role. Tracked Through the Snow, distributed on July 11th, featured blizzard scenes in a mountain landscape and was undoubtedly left over from the preceding winter's productions. Mercy on a Crutch, released on July 13th, was found by a reviewer to have sections of poor photography, an unusual criticism for a Thanhouser picture of the era. July 16th saw the release of two films, His I.O.U. and the Falstaff comedy, Dot on the Day Line Boat. In Old Jane of the Gaiety, issued on the 18th, Ethyle Cooke took the title role of a lady who had been in the dramatic theatre for many years and who had seen many ingenues fall prey to the enticements of stage door johnnies. When pretty Grace DeCarlton is offered a night on the town by a slick admirer, Ethyle in a series of flashbacks relates how stardust and glitter in a cabaret the night before can change to sawdust the morning after.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, directed by W. Eugene Moore and released in two reels on July 20, 1915, was adapted from Oscar Wilde's novel of the same name. P. Henry Jenkins and Mars, the Falstaff release of Friday, July 23rd, was followed two days later by His Two Patients. Next came Outcasts of Society, with Mignon Anderson, in two reels, on July 27th. In keeping with the editorial policies of the time there were few trade publication reviews of one- and two-reel pictures, as attention was focused on the larger productions. Except for Mutual Masterpictures, nearly all Thanhouser films of the time were considered to be in the filler class.

On July 20th Milestones of Life was released as a four-reel Mutual Masterpicture. Directed by W. Eugene Moore, the film featured Helen Badgley, Mignon Anderson, and others, and told how events in one's early life shape later destiny. Louis Reeves Harrison wrote an enthusiastic review of the production for The Moving Picture World. The month of July closed with the July 30th Falstaff film, Getting the Gardener's Goat, with Riley Chamberlin as the gardener. A reviewer for The Moving Picture World found it to be "a deliciously rare little notion."


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