Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 8: 1915 October Films

October 1915 saw the release of a string of rhythmically-named Falstaff comedies on Mondays and Thursdays. Cousin Clara's Cook Book, issued on October 4th, received an enthusiastic review from The Moving Picture World: "This pictures entertainingly the adventures of a book agent. At first successful, he pretends to be a maniac and thus obtains a pocketful of orders. The photography is very good and the situations contain considerable humor."

Then on the Falstaff schedule came Dicky's Demon Dachshund, Capers of College Chaps, Bing-Bang Brothers, Busted But Benevolent, Hattie the Hair Heiress, Tillie the Terrible Typist, and The Soap Suds Star. In general, the comedies were overlooked by reviewers in the trade, except for The Moving Picture World which on balance printed favorable comments.

The schedule of regular films commenced on October 3rd with The Mystery of Eagle's Cliff, a one-reel drama featuring Wayne Arey. The Light on the Reef, a two-reel drama issued on October 5th, starred Morris Foster and Winifred Kingston. "The story has no great dramatic strength but is picturesque and quite entertaining," commented The Moving Picture World. A cast consisting only of men, without a woman in sight, was a feature of The Has Been, a Western-theme film released on October 10th. The Scoop at Bellville, a two-reeler issued on the 12th, was split on the second reel with Down on the Phony Farm, the latter being an animated cartoon, an unusual format for Thanhouser.

The Long Arm of the Secret Service, a three-reel Than-O-Play released on October 16th, starred Kathryn Adams, Wayne Arey, Morgan Jones, and Robert Whittier. Louis Reeves Harrison wrote a detailed review for The Moving Picture World, which included this comment: "The story is almost purely one of plot and action, the characterization not rising to an observable height, but it is original and developed with skill." Most other reviewers ignored the film. Kathryn Adams and Wayne Arey weren't box-office idols.

In a way, the Thanhouser Film Corporation was an island all by itself in the industry, diligently turning out a stream of pictures for its spot on the Mutual program but largely ignoring the great changes which were affecting the rest of the industry, including the promotion of highly-salaried stars and the use of large-scale innovative advertising.

Most important, Edwin Thanhouser sought bargain-priced talent. Years later Grace DeCarlton, an actress who joined Thanhouser in 1915 and who was featured in numerous films, related the following in response to a reporter's question, "Did acting pay well?": Note "The leading players [at the Thanhouser studio] were paid $125 a week. That was a pretty good salary, although I didn't live in very high style.... All of Thanhouser's leading players, Wayne Arey, Robert Whittier, Florence LaBadie, Carey Hastings, Jean Eagels and myself, were paid the same, so there was no jealousy or competition. They were all very talented and we all worked well together."

Obviously, $125 per week would not bring Edwin Thanhouser the likes of Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, or other stars. As earlier noted, in Coytesville, New Jersey the Universal studio had hired a number of departed Thanhouserites, all at salaries substantially more than they earned in New Rochelle, a fact noted in print on numerous occasions by local newspapers. It became a joke that stars were born in New Rochelle but shone elsewhere. At the World Film Corporation in Fort Lee the standard salary paid to its dozen or so featured stars was $300 per week, not a munificent sum but more than double what was found in pay envelopes of Thanhouser stars.

John T. Rocks and the Flivver, a one-reel comedy issued on October 17th, was found to be pleasing by The Moving Picture World. On October 19th The Spirit of Audubon was released in two reels and included stock footage of Theodore Roosevelt among wildlife in Florida. Then followed At the Patrician Club on the 24th and The Conscience of Juror No. 10 in two reels on the 26th. His Wife, a five-reel Mutual Masterpicture first publicly screened on October 28th, was adapted from Charlotte M. Braeme's novel, My Poor Wife. Note Unlike all other Thanhouser films released in October, this one attracted the attention of numerous reviewers. The Morning Telegraph commented: "This Mutual Masterpicture commits no serious errors and rises to great heights. It is an attractive presentation of an old Irish romantic drama." Two reviews in The Moving Picture World, including one by Louis Reeves Harrison, were mixed and pointed out several flaws. The New York Dramatic Mirror, which had not reviewed a Thanhouser film for many months, found the acting of Geraldine O'Brien, H.E. Herbert, Lorraine Huling, and Theodore von Eltz to be excellent. Variety considered the picture to be rather drawn out but still of interest, particularly to women.

The Fisherwoman, released on October 31st, completed the month's schedule. The title role was taken by Inda Palmer, an older woman who appeared in minor roles in many Thanhouser films over a long period of years. Geraldine O'Brien, hired from the Broadway stage by Edwin Thanhouser, took the part of the wife and was featured in trade journal advertising for the picture. Reviewers ignored the one-reel offering.

The New Rochelle Evening Standard advised its readers on October 31st that: "Charles S. Whitman, the next governor of the Empire State, is to speak tonight in the big Thanhouser studio. He is to speak from 8:05 o'clock until 8:20. Those who are not present early will not hear him." Scheduled to join Whitman on the dais were other political figures as well as Thanhouser officials.


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