Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 8: 1915 September Films

Thanhouser's September schedule consisted primarily of one-reel films, punctuated by an occasional larger release. First on the list was Biddy Brady's Birthday, a Falstaff comedy issued on September 3rd. The idea of alliterative titles for Falstaff pictures had caught on, and subsequent comedies for the month were named Pansy's Prison Pies, Weary Walker's Woes, Superstitious Sammy, Bessie's Bachelor Boobs, Simon's Swimming Soul Mate, Con the Car Conductor, Gustav Gebhardt's Gutter Band, and A Perplexing Pickle Puzzle. Falstaff one-reelers were generally ignored by reviewers, except for The Moving Picture World, which gave the month's productions average to slightly above average marks. Clearly, Falstaff comedies gave little competition to the slapstick antics of Charlie Chaplin.

From the River's Depths, released on September 5th, was from a scenario by Gertrude Thanhouser, who must have been pleased with this review in The Moving Picture World:

An unusually good one-reel drama, picturing the way in which an escaped convict palms himself on a banker as the son of an English gentleman. The girl discovers a secret and the reel closes with some stirring scenes of a melodramatic character. Well constructed and absorbing in plot.

The Bowl-Bearer, issued in two reels on September 7th, was from a scenario by Emmet Mixx, who was to prepare scripts for several other Thanhouser films. The Mother of Her Dreams, released on the 10th, featured Ethyle Cooke in the title role and Madeline Fairbanks as the orphan who dreams of her. Out of the Sea, distributed through the exchanges on September 12th, treated a favorite Thanhouser theme: the circumstantial evidence question. Helen's Babies, adapted from a story by John Habberton, was issued in two reels on the 14th and told of a bachelor uncle who was in charge of two mischievous boys while their parents were on vacation. The Twins of the G.L. Ranch, a one-reel offering of September 19th, showcased Madeline and Marion Fairbanks. The Dead Man's Keys, the two-reeler of September 21st, again addressed the circumstantial evidence question.

The first of the three-reel Than-O-Plays was toward the end of the month. George Blaisdell reviewed the film for The Moving Picture World:

The Thanhouser Company will release on September 25 A Disciple of Nietzsche, a three-reel subject. It marks the introduction to picture-goers of another brand, the Than-O-Play, which in three reel length will be issued every third week. The script of A Disciple of Nietzsche was written by Phil Lonergan. The story is of a follower of the German writer who is so impressed with the idea of the survival of the fittest, of the rights of the strong against the weak, that he attempts to put these principles into effect in his own household. Marshall Welch has the role of the disciple who prevents his daughter from befriending a weaker sister. Mr. Welch at times betrays a tendency to act. Florence LaBadie is the weaker sister. To her go the honors of the picture. Lorraine Huling is the daughter who befriends a girl weakened by the strain of poverty, in turn to be the recipient of the benefactions of the daughter of the disciple.

Harris Gordon is the ex-convict and crook who nearly succeeds in winning the hand of the rich girl and whose character is exposed by the weaker sister waxed strong. Mr. Gordon's work is well done, but he has not the physiognomy that goes with the portrayal of a convincing crook. The strength of A Disciple of Nietzsche lies chiefly in its denouement. In there the story reaches a point of real interest. As revelatory of the beliefs of a widely quoted German, the picture may be said to be educational: in subtitles are extracts from Nietzsche's work, which set forth in brutal candor matters that may well serve as the basis for later discussion, heated and otherwise.

Then followed The Miracle on September 26th, The Road to Fame in two reels on the 28th, and on the 30th the four-reel Mutual Masterpicture, The Price of Her Silence, starring Florence LaBadie and Mignon Anderson.


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