Old Studio's Silents Survive
Thanhouser Film Corp. is long gone, but the grandson of its founders will
present three works at the Silent Movie Theatre.
Between 1910 and 1917 the Thanhouser Film Corp. of New
Rochelle, N.Y., produced more than 1,000 films, of which only 187 are known to exist
today. Thanhouser launched several notable screen careers, including that of
actor-turned-major-Hollywood-director James Cruze, and strived to maintain high production
standards. Tonight at 8, Ned Thanhouser, grandson of company founders Edwin and Gertrude
Thanhouser, will present at the Silent Movie two Thanhouser one-reelers and a 68-minute
feature provided by the Library of Congress.
"Only in the Way" (1911) is a familiar 12-minute
morality play with a clever psychological twist. When a wife gives her husband the
ultimatum "Either your mother or I must leave this house!" she does not realize
the impact sending the woman to a home for the aged will have on her own little lame
daughter (spunky Marie Eline). It will be followed by "The Evidence of the Film"
(1913), rediscovered only last year on the floor of the projection booth in a Superior,
Mont., theater. Directed by Thanhouser and Lawrence Marston, it represents one of the
earliest instances of a movie that depicts filmmaking itself. When a boy messenger
(William Garwood) is accused of stealing $20,000 in bonds, he is saved by his sister
(lovely Florence LaBadie, the studio's biggest star). LaBadie plays a film cutter who
comes across some footage of her little brother inadvertently walking into a location shot
and being knocked down by the real-life villain, who quickly substitutes the letter
containing the bonds with one filled with newspaper shreds. Both these one-reelers are
made with skill and economy in authentic settings.
One of Thanhouser's last productions before it and other
film companies fell victim to a post-World War I depression, the 68-minute "The
Unfortunate Marriage" is an ambitious adaptation of Wilkie Collins' "The Woman
in White." LaBadie is effective in dual roles, that of a distraught mental-asylum
escapee and her virtual double, an heiress whose fortune-hunting husband (Richard R.
Neill) will play the uncanny resemblance between the two women to his own dastardly
advantage. This melodrama was already pretty Faustian by 1917, but Thanhouser's cast and
crew, most notably cameraman William M. Zollinger, give it their best. The film, directed
by Ernest C. Warde from Lloyd F. Lonergan's script, has considerable style and brooding
atmosphere amid handsome settings. "The Unfortunate Marriage" was released July
1, 1917, and LaBadie died at 29 the following October from injuries sustained in a car
accident. (323) 655-2520.