Volume III: Biographies


NOBLE, John W. **

Actor, director, stage manager (1910-1912)

Thanhouser Career Synopsis: John Winthrop Noble worked with Thanhouser in several capacities from 1910 to 1912 and was well known during his tenure there.

Biographical Notes: Born in Albemarle County, Virginia on June 24, 1880, John W. ("Jack") Noble graduated from West Point Military Academy and for seven and one-half years was with the United States Army, serving in the Philippines and China, and later as an engineer in Mexico. Following his discharge, he pursued a vaudeville and stage career for four years under the management of the Shuberts and with the Liebler stock company.

His first film engagement was with Thanhouser in 1910, where he became an actor and a director. In late 1910 and early 1911 he was pictured in lobby displays showing 12 prominent members of the Thanhouser stock company. By the end of 1911 he was stage manager of the Thanhouser studio in New Rochelle. It is believed that he participated in the production of many Thanhouser films, but at the time he and most others were not mentioned in publicity. During his tenure with the studio he lived in New Rochelle at 417 Main Street. Noble continued with Thanhouser until early 1912, when he joined the producing staff of the Solax studio (according to a notice in the February 17, 1912 issue of The Moving Picture News).

In January 1913 Clarkson Potter Ryttenberg and John W. Noble formed the Ryno Film Company, with the trade name being formed by the first two letters of the surname of each principal. In a studio located at 189 Terrace Place, City Island, New York, "Dragon" brand films were produced. Ryno players included Sadie West, their first leading woman, Jane Fernley, Julia Bruns, and Glenn White. Albert Roscoe was the assistant director to Noble. In July 1913 John W. Noble made the news when he was hospitalized as the result of a premature explosion of gunpowder used in a film being made on High Island, near City Island, New York City. The Evening Standard printed the following in its edition of July 26, 1913: "John Noble, manager for the Ryno Film Company, who for two years was assistant to Lucius Henderson, a scenario director of the Thanhouser Film Corporation, this city, is said to be dying at the Fordham Hospital [words not clear] burns sustained from the premature explosion of a barrel of gunpowder which was to be used in a motion picture scene on High Island yesterday. Oliver Roscoe and Bert Williams, members of the same company, are badly burned. The wind hastened the spark of the fuse, which was timed for 20 minutes. The three men and the camera were blown into the air by the force of the explosion. Suffering agony, Noble directed the return of the company in boats to City Island."

Noble survived the ordeal. The Ryno company was short-lived, and by October 1913 Noble was directing for the Ramo Company. His first film there was based on a scene from Faust. In addition to his duties as a director, he also had an acting role in the production. The directorship with Ramo proved to be ephemeral. The December 27, 1913 issue of The Moving Picture World noted that he had joined the staff of D.W. Griffith and was a director for Mutual films, for whom he directed The Brand of Cowardice, The Awakening of Helena Ritchie, Egypt the Gypsy, and in 1914 the highly publicized Our Mutual Girl series starring Norma Phillips.

In November 1914, John W. Noble joined the B.A. Rolfe Company, where he remained for more than two years. At one time or another he was also with Biograph, Universal, Metro (The Call of Her People, The Beautiful Lie), Frohman in the summer of 1917 (The Man Without a Country), and Duplex Films (his own production of Shame). Other later films directed by him include The Power of Decision (Rolfe for Metro, 1917) and The Song of the Soul (Messmore Kendall for Goldwyn, 1920). In his spare time John W. Noble wrote short stories and plays. In January 1916 his home address was 528 Riverside Drive, New York City. In 1918 he was living in New York City and was a member of the Screen Club.

Note: His name appeared as Jack Noble in some accounts.

Thanhouser Filmography:

1911: The Baseball Bug (11-24-1911)

1912: The Poacher (3-15-1912)

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