Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 8: 1915 Changing Faces at the Studio

On September 4, 1915 The New Rochelle Pioneer announced that Eugene McCarthy, Bobby Newman, Charles F. Manning, Harry Stilwell, Harry Marks, and Charles Van Houten, formerly of the Thanhouser studio's property and carpentry departments, went to Universal at Coytesville, New Jersey, with McCarthy being promoted to studio manager, and Harry Stilwell as Jack Harvey's property man. "All joined the Universal banner under large increases in salary," the newspaper commented, another of that journal's allusions to the modest compensation Edwin Thanhouser paid his employees. A number of other Thanhouserites had gone to Universal recently, including Harry Benham, Sidney Bracy, and John William Kellette, where they worked under studio manager Bert Adler, Thanhouser's former publicity director.

In the meantime new faces were arriving at the Thanhouser Film Corporation in New Rochelle. The New York Dramatic Mirror reported on September 15th:

With the great expansion of operations at the Thanhouser studios, Edwin Thanhouser now announces additions to his staff which more than justify his reputation as a connoisseur of ability. This time he has reached out into the literary field, and on his magic thumb came two plums, the persons of Virginia Tyler Hudson and Clinton H. Stagg, both headliners in the newspaper and magazine world.

Hudson and Stagg were put to work writing scenarios, which for much of the past half year had been the work of the indefatigable Lloyd F. Lonergan.

The Moving Picture World announced on September 18th that Edwin Thanhouser had hired two directors from the legitimate stage: Eugene Nowland and William Parke.

On September 11th, The New Rochelle Pioneer printed several Thanhouser items. One told of another instance in which Thanhouser took advantage of a local event to create a film scenario: "Eighty pounds of dynamite were exploded in the construction of an artesian well on the property of W. C. Hubbard, in Larchmont, on Tuesday, which was taken advantage of by the local studio, which intends writing a play around the incident."

More significant was this item in the same issue: "Edwin Thanhouser, president of the local film corporation which bears his name, expects to leave within a few weeks for the South for the purpose of finding a suitable site for a temporary studio which will be built for one branch of the local company this winter. Mr. Thanhouser has discovered that it is quite impossible to have more than five directors use the local studio at one time, especially in inclement weather."

More specific news about Edwin Thanhouser's plans for a Southern facility appeared in The Miami Herald on September 19th: "Edwin Thanhouser, head of the Thanhouser Film Corporation of New York City [sic], has notified the Chamber of Commerce he will arrive in Miami today to investigate the advantages the city has to offer as a location for motion picture studios. Mr. Thanhouser has written letters to the Chamber of Commerce relative to building a studio here and now states he will give the city his personal inspection."

A variation of the same story was carried in Variety, September 24, 1915: "Edwin Thanhouser left last Saturday for Miami, accompanied by his wife, to arrange for the building there of a winter studio for the corporation bearing his name."

On September 18, 1915 The New Rochelle Pioneer told of a potential rival to Thanhouser:

ANOTHER MOVIE CO. COMING. Through the office of J.C. Gleason & Son, of 221 Huguenot Street, the Christian Becker factory building and a large plot of ground on Hudson Park Road have been leased to the Colored Laboratory, Inc., for a period of five years. The concern, which manufactures motion picture films in color, expects to begin alterations in the interior of the building at once and as soon as this work is completed the New York City plant will be moved to New Rochelle.

Leading the industry in output at the time was Universal. An advertisement in The Moving Picture World, September 11, 1915, noted that the company had 42 directors working but needed 10 more immediately.

Edwin Thanhouser had his own expansion plans, as reported in The New York Dramatic Mirror, September 22nd:

In a statement recently Edwin Thanhouser of the Thanhouser Film Corporation announced the future plans of that company for many new productions to be released on the Mutual program. Among other things he said: "We will produce a three-reel Than-O-Play every three weeks, and I plan to have each of these productions represent the very utmost in motion picture work. I have engaged the Baroness DeWitz, a member of the Swedish royalty, Note for a special production to be released soon. This play I believe will indicate my aim to furnish exhibitors with the highest standard of motion pictures regardless of cost. I have in preparation at the present time a series of feature productions that I believe will prove a vital interest to exhibitors. They include subjects of great educational importance which have been woven out of real human experiences. Many novelties will appear in these forthcoming releases which I believe will be found exceptionally interesting. Exhibitors may look forward to many big Thanhouser releases in the Mutual's new $8 million dollar program, and I am sure that they will agree that the consistent high quality of Thanhouser productions will prove a big box office attraction.

A forthcoming event was described in The Morning Telegraph on September 26th:

Every year New Rochelle puts on its happy clothes and welcomes the screen stars into its peaceful domain. The entire staff of the Thanhouser Film Corporation takes this little way of meeting their confreres in the industry, and all the performers and directors in and around New York City also take this way of having a mighty good time. This year it will be in Germania Hall, New Rochelle, on Thursday, September 30. Needless to say, all the Thanhouserites will be there, but so will the members of other companies.

The grand march will be lead by Mignon Anderson and Morris Foster, the Thanhouser newlyweds. The ushers will be the Thanhouser Twins and the flower bearer the Thanhouser Kidlet. Among those who are glad they will be there are Pearl White, Harry Benham, Maude Fealy, Gladys Hulette, Jack Harvey, John Adolfi, Florence Turner, Ethel Grandin, Paul Panzer, Louise Emerald Bates, William Garwood, Jack Noble, Sidney Bracy, Marguerite Snow, Mary Miles Minter, Wally Van, Edith Storey and numerous others. Arrangements are in the hands of John Lehnberg, the well known character actor. Edwin Thanhouser and the full executive staff will be present to help the festivities along.

What happened at the Thanhouser ball was related by The New Rochelle Pioneer on October 2nd:

The largest number of people that has ever attended an affair given by employees of the Thanhouser Film Corporation were present at Germania Hall, Thursday night, for the grand annual ball, given under the direction of John Lehnberg and Gordon Hollingshead. The affair was a most pronounced social success. The music for dancing was provided by Grimmer's orchestra. That the dancers greatly appreciated the fine playing of the musicians was evident from the complimentary expressions heard from those who danced to their music.

During the evening the Fairbanks twins, assisted by Boyd Marshall, rendered vocal selections and recited. The grand march was led by Morris Foster and his wife, Mignon Anderson, followed by Mr. and Mrs. M. Perry Horton, and many out of town guests, several of them being former stars of the local studio. The event undoubtedly was the best of its nature ever conducted by Mr. Lehnberg.


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