Thanhouser Classics Volume One:
The Early Years (1910 - 1912)
A review by Robert Klepper
A Silents Majority Featured Video

Copyright 1996 by Robert Klepper. All rights reserved

Only In the Way (1911) is the first featured short film in this video series. Marie Eline (1902? - 1981) (a highly successful child actress billed as the "Thanhouser Kidlet") plays a girl whose beloved grandmother is scorned by her selfish daughter, who convinces her husband to put her in a nursing home so that she won't be in the way. The little girl runs away and leaves a note which says, "Grandma was in the way and I guess so am I. I am going to live with her." This makes the mother realize how selfish she has been, and the family is reunited as a result of the girl's demonstration of love for the grandmother. A truly heart-warming film. This is the first time since its original release 85 years ago that this film has been available outside of the archives.

Get Rich Quick (1911) is among the few films that have managed to be freed from the iron grip of the Museum of Modern Art. It stars Harry Benham (1884 - 1969), Marguerite Snow (1889 - 1958), and Marie Eline ("The Thanhouser Kidlet"). This is the story of a couple who are lured into a scam operation called the "Utopia Investment Corporation" and gain a great deal of wealth by dishonest means. Marguerite Snow plays the wife. Marie Eline plays the daughter of a poor widow who loses all of her money in the scam. Marguerite Snow, who started in films at Thanhouser, went on to become a favorite heroine of action serials. She also starred in Thanhouser's 1911 version of She.

The Coffin Ship (1911) is a film that was acquired from the Nederlands Filmmuseum in The Netherlands. The original titles of this print were in German. To preserve the integrity of the film, the German titles are shown and downsized in a corner of the film, making way for the English translation. The Coffin Ship marks the video debut of matinee idol William Garwood (1884 - 1950). Garwood was one of the screen's top matinee idols in the early 1910's, but faded into obscurity by the 1920's. An essay on Garwood appears in Billy Doyle's Ultimate Directory of Silent Screen Players. His chronic alcoholism is probably what lead to his demise in the motion picture industry, and also caused his death at age 66. This film shows him at his handsome best, playing a ship captain who falls in love with Mary, the daughter of a wealthy ship builder. Mary, played by Marguerite Snow, marries him secretly, much to the disapproval of her father. While on a cruise ship the couple is traveling on, disaster strikes. Watch and find out what happens next.

Cinderella (1911) is a film that has circulated in the public domain video market, but the prints didn't have any music and were missing some footage as well. Edwin Thanhouser acquired this beautiful, pristine and complete print from the British Film Institute. If you have the other video version, you can throw it away as it pales in comparison to this release. This version of Cinderella was released just before Christmas in 1911, and stars Florence LaBadie (81k jpg). Miss LaBadie was at the top of every movie magazine's popularity contest of the 1910's. She was the first of the really big female stars to die at the height of her career, having been killed tragically in a car accident in 1917 at age 29. Miss LaBadie is especially appealing and beautiful in this adaptation of Cinderella, in which she plays the title role as the waif who is victimized by her step-sisters and step-mother. Her luck changes with the arrival of her fairy godmother. The special effects in the magic sequences are simple, but effective. The experience of this delightful film is greatly enhanced with the excellent music score provided for this edition. Anyone who enjoys this fairy tale can't afford to miss seeing this, the earliest known surviving film adaptation of this well loved story.

The final selection on this first volume is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which was filmed in 1911 and released in January, 1912. This film was based on the Thomas Russell Stover stage adaptation of Stevenson's novel, and stars James Cruze, Florence LaBadie and Marie Eline. One thing I learned by reading the fascinating, informational program which comes with this collection is that James Cruze did not play both parts in this film, as has been credited to him. He played the Jekyll character, and some sequences of the Hyde character. Harry Benham also played the Hyde character in some sequences as well! This second of nine silent screen adaptation of the famous tale has stood the test of time, and is highly enjoyable to watch 84 years after its release.

Thanhouser Classics Volume One: The Early Years (1910 - 1912) (Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc., 1996). B & W. 65 minutes. The print quality is very good. The musical selection are specifically composed organ scores, by Andrew Crow. Thanhouser Classics Volume One: The Early Years (1910 - 1912) is available on video as part of the Thanhouser Classics series, from Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc..