Thanhouser Classics Volume Three:
Edwin Thanhouser Returns (1914 - 1917)
A review by Robert Klepper
A Silents Majority Featured Video

Copyright 1996 by Robert Klepper. All rights reserved

Upon the untimely death of Charles Hite in 1914, Edwin Thanhouser was re-hired to manage the Thanhouser Studios. The three films included in this volume of the series represent the films produced during this time period.

From the British Film Institute, Crossed Wires (1915), also known as A Telephone Tragedy, is the first selection. This is a mystery-suspense two reeler about an older woman who is murdered just after writing her will. Once she realizes she has been poisoned, she tries to telephone for help. She reaches the police station, and is able to utter only the words, "I'm dying, poisoned - Will Drake." The telephone operator mistakenly transfers the call to a wrong number, where she finishes the statement saying that Will Drake (her nephew played by Morris Foster, 1889 - 1969) had warned her about Susan (housekeeper played by Ina Hammer), who was the guilty one. Due to the error, all the police had to go on was Will drake, whom they assumed was the guilty party. Drake is arrested for murder and convicted. Flo Drake (his sister played by Florence LaBadie {81k jpg}) determines to prove her brother's innocence. Watch to find out if justice is served, or if justice is miscarried. [It is ironic that Inda Palmer (1853 - 1923), who played the murdered woman, died under mysterious circumstances. In November, 1923, her skeleton was found, and it was roughly estimated that she had been dead since April, 1923.] This is a good mystery film with a smooth narrative, and very polished compared to most of the other films from the time period.

The Soap Suds Star (1915) comes from another rare print supplied by the Museum of Modern Art. It is a delightful comedy about a laundress and an actor who make it big on the vaudeville comedy circuit, but who are relegated back to the laundromat when their attempt at Shakespeare fails. This film gives an interesting historical look into what vaudeville of the 1910's was like. It stars Carey Hastings as Sophie, and Reginald Perry as the husband. As "lost players" Miss Hastings and Mr. Perry have slipped between the cracks of time. There isn't any information available on either performer.

The World and the Woman (1916), obtained from the George Eastman House, marks the official video debut of the legendary Jeanne Eagels. I was shocked to see that her film debut still existed at all, and elated to see that it was coming out on video. In this new video release of The World and the Woman, Eagels plays a down-on-her-luck new York prostitute. James Palmer, a wealthy playboy, invites Eagels' character, Mary, to a party in a posh restaurant and offers her a job in his country estate as a servant. At first she turns down the job, but changes her mind and sees it as a way back into society. While working at the estate, she befriends the neighbor's daughter, played by child star Ethelmary Oakland, who also makes her video debut with this series. All is well until Palmer (played by Thomas A. Curran, 1879 - 1941) returns home, and makes it known to Mary that bedroom pleasures are also part of the job. Mary, having found renewed faith in God when the little girl convinced her to go to church, resists with all her might, and is saved only when guests walk in on them. Looking for solace, she returns to the home of the girl's parents, whom she became friends with in church. They take her in, and Mary once again finds happiness and self-worth. The girl falls over a railing one night, and through her faith in herself, Mary helps the girl to overcome her paralyzing injuries through faith and prayer. She finds that she is able to help many other people as well, and becomes a renowned faith healer in the community. Then come the skeptics, and people who threaten to expose her past. The second half of the film contains many interesting twists and turns, and keeps us glued to the television screen waiting to see what happens next.

Miss Eagels was a successful stage actress who was perhaps best noted on the stage for her portrayal of Somerset Maugham's Rain. She made only eight films - five from 1915 to 1917, and three in the late 1920's, just before her death from drug addiction in 1929. [Depending to which source you read, the age of death fluctuates from 35 to 39.] Miss Eagels was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for the 1928-29 film season for her talkie debut, The Letter (Paramount, 1929). Currently, only one print of The Letter is known to exist, and is help hostage in an archive, inaccessible to the public. Man, Woman and Sin (M-G-M, 1927), in which Eagels co-starred with John Gilbert, is known to exist in some private collections, but M-G-M has never released it on video.

The World and the Woman shows us Jeanne Eagels at her very best. Just by her acting, one can see the difference as she transforms from a prostitute with no self-esteem to a woman who realizes her ability to love herself and others. Miss Eagels gives the performance of a lifetime, and in this film, one can see why she was such a highly renowned actress. In the final shots especially, Eagels is breathtakingly gorgeous! Seeing this film on video would compare to finding a long-lost print of London After Midnight (M-G-M, 1927). Most of us never anticipated having a chance to see on of Jeanne Eagel's early films, when she was at her best before alcohol and drugs destroyed her. This film is one not to be missed! Highly recommended.

Thanhouser Classics Volume Three: Edwin Thanhouser Returns (1914 - 1917) (Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc., 1996). B & W. 111 minutes. The print quality is very good. The musical selection are specifically composed organ scores, by Andrew Crow. Thanhouser Classics Volume Three: Edwin Thanhouser Returns (1914 - 1917) is available on video as part of the Thanhouser Classics series, from Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc..

Copyright 1996, by Robert Klepper. All Rights Reserved