Volume I: Narrative History


Chapter 8: 1915 Jacksonville

An item in The Moving Picture World, December 4, 1915, indicated that Thanhouserites were still eager to be on the spot whenever there was a fire near the studio: "Director Eugene Moore of the Thanhouser Company planned to take a spectacular fire scene at Port Chester, New York on Saturday, in which the volunteer fire department and a fair share of the townspeople were to be included, but rain forced a postponement. A sightseeing party arranged by Leon J. Rubenstein, advertising and publicity manager for Thanhouser, visited the New Rochelle studio instead and watched the making of several interesting scenes directed by Mr. Moore and George Foster Platt. Mr. Rubenstein entertained at a luncheon in Germania Hall, where the guests included Mr. Platt, Arthur Cunningham, Harris Gordon, and Mrs. Gordon (formerly Louise Bates)."

The same trade journal on December 11th printed a cartoon by Thornton Fisher, of Edwin Thanhouser looking at the Sphinx, captioned: "Maybe I can make that Sphinx act!" An accompanying note stated: "New Rochelle owes Edwin Thanhouser a vote of thanks. Mr. Thanhouser has succeeded in introducing his town to the most remote hamlets in the country. Under all titles he tells you it was made in New Rochelle. Incidentally Mr. Thanhouser possesses a profitable faculty of seeing business possibilities in the most commonplace things, a blade of grass, a stone or a Sphinx."

In early December the Mutual program Note consisted of the following:


Sunday: Reliance (2 reels), Casino (1), Thanhouser (1)

Monday: American (2), Falstaff (1), Novelty (1)

Tuesday: Thanhouser (2), cartoon and scenic (1), Beauty (1)

Wednesday: Rialto, Reliance, or Centaur (3), Novelty (1)

Thursday: Centaur (2), Falstaff (1), Mutual Weekly (1)

Friday: Mustang (2), American (1), Cub (1)

Saturday: Clipper, Than-O-Play, or Mustang (3), Beauty (1)


An announcement in The Moving Picture World, December 18, 1915, informed readers that a tag line, "DeLuxe Edition," would be added to certain films, and that Mutual Masterpictures, DeLuxe Edition, would be released at the rate of three per week, "each in elaborate five-reel featurization setting a new high standard." Forthcoming pictures included Silas Marner and The Five Faults of Flo, both by Thanhouser.

In the meantime numerous articles in local and trade papers told of progress being made at Thanhouser's Jacksonville studio. By this time the merits of the Southern city as a film making capital were well known, and numerous production companies maintained permanent facilities there or spent several winter months in that location. In the winter of 1915-1916 the Gaumont company shared local publicity notices with Thanhouser, for it, too, was setting up a Jacksonville facility, theirs in Dixieland Park, which was leased for the duration.

Unlike the situation in early 1912, when a Thanhouser crew went to Jacksonville and settled down to film making in nearby St. Augustine, by December 1915 the city offered a large pool of players with experience in motion pictures and many local businesses and suppliers who catered to the film trade. No longer did one have to rely upon the New York area, three days away by Clyde Line steamer or 30 hours by fast train, for necessities, although most studios continued to ship their exposed film north for processing. In the Jacksonville Sunday Metropolis, Note George K. Hollister, a Thanhouser cameraman who had first worked in Jacksonville with Kalem under Sidney Olcott in 1909, told of the advantages of the Southern city as a film center, noting that the unusual bright sunshine from October until April gives more workable hours than any other place profitable to go to, when one has a home office in New York. Then he compared the situation with that in Los Angeles:

When one takes into consideration that film can be shipped back to New York to be developed, and within two days the director has word that all is well or not, and contrast this with a week on the road from Los Angeles, one can see at a glance what this means to any motion picture company where so much money is expended in a production. Note Jacksonville is so near New York that it allows those in charge to go freely back and forth and keep in touch with the working staff and conditions, which spells success. The great drawback for a permanent studio in Los Angeles at this time is the constant morning fogs that very often do not lift until the best part of the morning has gone, and while it is true that we have rain here, still the heavy rain in that part of the country has flooded often the studios and sites and stopped all operations for days.

That the moving picture people are slowly drifting from their mecca of dreams in the land of the host angels may not be because the weather conditions alone are the cause, for when nature is gay with her vast mountains, her brooks and streams, where every nook seems the ideal spot, the manufacturer will stand considerable loss of time, thus paying well for the situations that mean so much to him. But let us look back to the time when that city held out to picture makers the golden egg that took them westward. What they wanted to do is get this vast business located in their city. Well, they went, constructed many studios, spent millions and started to work, and now, after they are there, what has happened? Graft, it seems, has crept into the hearts of everyone who has a home, a field or anything else that these people from the East, with all courtesy and willingness to pay for, must use at some time in their pictures. Note

Hollister went on to say that in Los Angeles one cannot use a porch or front gate even for a few moments without paying five dollars or more. The millions of dollars being spent in Los Angeles would slowly drift back to the East and South, he felt, and Jacksonville would ultimately become the home of thousands of film studio employees.

In Jacksonville The Sunday Times-Union carried a special page, "What's New at the Movies," which told not only of pictures being exhibited in the area but also of the activities at local studios.

On December 21, 1915, The Sunday Times-Union described Thanhouser progress:

The Thanhouser studio...will be as busy as a beehive within the course of a fortnight, according to the statement of George Grimmer, one of the officials of the corporation, on his arrival in the city yesterday. Next week Edwin Thanhouser, president of the company, and Lloyd Lonergan, chief of the scenario department, will arrive. The first work to be done will be five-reel features and one- and two-reel comedies, the latter of the famous Falstaff series. Note A number of the actors and actresses, as well as cameramen and technical experts, arrived in the city yesterday aboard the Clyde steamer Mohawk. Mr. Grimmer and several of the officials made the trip here over the Seaboard Air Line Railway. Other workers, officials and artists will be reaching the city within the next few days.

The Thanhouser plant here on East Eighth Street will be one of the most complete in the country when it is finished in a few days. Two stages, one of a open-air sort and the other of the latest glass and steel construction, will be used. In the old Rico Laundry building, which was taken over by the studio, a great transformation has been wrought. "I believe our people will have the most commodious dressing rooms in the country and everything arranged in convenient fashion," stated Mr. Grimmer. Showing a most accurate knowledge of the minute details of film making, Mrs. Grimmer was the companion of her husband in a trip out to the studio yesterday afternoon. She states that all connected with the Thanhouser Corporation are looking forward to the sojourn here with pleasure. Numerous members of the two companies who will first begin work here arrived yesterday and soon got comfortably located. They included Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Bauer, Mr. and Mrs. Harris Gordon, Eugene Moore, William Howell, Mr. Wirth, Mr. and Mrs. A.H. Moses and two children, Miss Barbara Gilroy, Agnes Johnston, Miss V. Hite, Miss Palmer, and niece, Sully Guard, Leo Post, Billy Sullivan, Boyd Marshall, Riley Chamberlin, Frank Johns, with Messrs. Brokaw, Alexander and Christie.

The site of the studio here was personally selected by Edwin Thanhouser, president of the company, in a visit to Jacksonville several months ago. He was taken over the city and suburbs by George E. Leonard. After a consideration of many places he chose the Eighth Street site. The plan of getting for actual production work has been hindered by the failure of necessary glass to arrive which is to be used in the covering of one of the studios.

The New Rochelle Pioneer, December 25, 1915, printed this item: "Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Thanhouser and Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd F. Lonergan are going to Florida next week to inspect the new winter plant. They will continue to Havana, where Lloyd expects to obtain some Cuban color for future scenarios."

On December 26th The Sunday Times-Union reported:

That the Thanhouser film producing companies are anticipating a great season of activity here was the statement of Edwin Thanhouser, president of the concern, yesterday afternoon. He with Lloyd Lonergan are guests of the Hotel Mason and are generally sizing up the motion picture producing facilities in Florida. Mr. Lonergan is the scenario director of the corporation, and he expects generally to look over the state with a view of using existing conditions in Florida in the themes of several contemplated plays. Two Thanhouser companies are already in Jacksonville, they being under the direction of Eugene Moore. Feature films are being produced rapidly at the present. On Friday, December 31, George Foster Platt, one of the best known directors of the country, will arrive in Jacksonville with a special company. In all the Thanhouser interests contemplate having five companies here and will be extremely busy for a number of weeks. At present certain parts of The Oval Diamond are being acted. Carpenters and technical experts have already arrived in the city. The studio on East Eighth Street is nearing completion, work being held up for some time on account of the failure of certain sorts of construction glass to arrive....

The comedy company is under the direction of William A. Howell, and the principal comedians are Riley Chamberlin, Walter Hiers and Louise Bates. The dramatic company is under the direction of Eugene Moore, with the following players: Harris Gordon, Boyd Marshall, Barbara Gilroy, Sully Guard, Inda Palmer, George Post, Ray Johnston, Violet Hite, and Mabel Warren. The technical director of the company is George Grimmer, and assistant directors are Leo Wirth and Billy Sullivan. Alfred Moses, the photographic expert, has entire charge of the negative department. Edwin Thanhouser and Lloyd Lonergan, scenario editor, will arrive today for a short stay in Jacksonville. In a few weeks two more dramatic companies will leave New Rochelle for Jacksonville. Mr. Howell, comedy director, has been in Jacksonville before, as leading man of a stock company playing here years ago. Walter Hiers, fat boy comedian, has been here three winters, his engagements being with the Majestic and Lubin companies.


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