Volume III: Biographies


Thanhouser Personalities .

Introductory Comments

The following biographical sketches of Thanhouser personalities emphasize the positions the individuals played in Thanhouser's history and development from the inception of the Thanhouser Company in 1909 until the end of the Thanhouser Film Corporation's activities in 1918. Many personalities had notable achievements before or after their involvement with Thanhouser, but these are mentioned here only in passing.

The number of actors and actresses, including bit players, employed by Thanhouser over the years exceeded the 3,000 mark. An advertisement for the 1914-1915 serial, Zudora, stated that 1,000 people were in its cast! The identities of bit players and people hired just for the day, or for a brief stint, may never be known. The following compilation lists names, prominent and obscure, that appeared in various news articles, publicity releases, advertisements, and in scrapbooks and records preserved by those once associated with Thanhouser.

The identification of the person as an actor, executive, etc. refers to the position held with Thanhouser; positions early or later with other companies may have been different. Some individuals joined the Thanhouser staff and were with the company for a long time. Others were hired to play bit parts in just one or two films. In addition to human players, certain other "actors" are listed from the animal world, examples being The Thanhouser Poodle and the disruptive reptile known as "Poison Fang."

During the time that Thanhouser was making films in New Rochelle, it was customary, in the days before refrigerated air conditioning, to close New York City theatres for the hot summer months. During that time numerous actors and actresses went to the motion picture studios in the New York area and worked in films for the summer. Thus, certain Broadway players worked for Thanhouser in New Rochelle on an intermittent basis.

Scenarios (scripts) were written by Thanhouser staff members as well as by freelance writers. In still other instances, a film may have been taken directly from a published story, with Thanhouser crediting the author as a scenario writer, although no specific scenario was ever written by that person, apart from the original story. Lloyd F. Lonergan, Philip Lonergan, Virginia Tyler Hudson, Clinton H. Stagg, and Agnes Christine Johnston were on the Thanhouser staff at one time or another, but most other scenario writers did their work on a freelance basis.

If a name appears in parentheses, this notes one of three things, as specifically explained in the individual biography in question:

(1) The person has been identified with Thanhouser by a modern film historian, but the present author cannot verify such connection in contemporary records.

(2) The person was in a film made by another company and distributed by Thanhouser and was never directly employed by Thanhouser. Certain players in the Reliance film released by Thanhouser, McCarn Plays Fate, are in this category.

(3) A seemingly authoritative contemporary review, article, or other trade source associates the person with Thanhouser, but this has not been verified elsewhere by the author. Such individuals may or may not have been with Thanhouser.

In the early days of Thanhouser films, particularly before 1913, when cast listings were not given to reviewers on a regular basis, writers for various publications would sometimes guess at the identities of the personalities on the screen. Such guesses, which were aplenty in The Motion Picture Story Magazine in particular, are not listed here. Sometimes more authoritative sources would erroneously mention a Thanhouser connection. These are not listed. In some instances such misattributions were corrected. In this category is Doris Pawn, who is listed in the 1916 edition of the Motion Picture News Studio Directory as having played in Thanhouser's Trey of Hearts. The only trouble is that Thanhouser had no involvement with this production. However, the 1918 edition of the same work revised the listing and noted correctly this time that Pawn played in Universal's Trey of Hearts. Pawn's biography is not given in the present compilation. Similarly, Lottie Briscoe and Noah Beery were mentioned as having worked for Thanhouser, but as these connections cannot be verified, they are omitted from the present listing.


Dates With Thanhouser

The dates mentioned in the headings are dates for which the person is known to have been with Thanhouser, combined with dates for which Thanhouser films featuring the person were released. It is possible that certain individuals may have been there earlier or later as well. A film in which a given player appeared might be released after the person involved had left Thanhouser. Thus, if an actor joined Thanhouser and worked on a film in the autumn of 1915, and then left Thanhouser before the end of that year, but the film in which he appeared was not released until 1916, the span of his Thanhouser involvement is stated as 1915-1916. The films of Nolan Gane were released posthumously well into the summer of 1915, months after he had died. If it is not known when an individual was with Thanhouser, a question mark appears in the heading.

After 1917, certain Thanhouser films, including Inspiration, The Million Dollar Mystery (serial), and Zudora (serial) were reissued by other companies. The dates of these post-Thanhouser reissues are not included in the date spans for which a given player was with the Thanhouser studio in the following listing.


Thanhouser and Other Mutual Companies

From the second half of 1912 until the summer of 1914, Charles J. Hite, president of the Thanhouser Film Corporation, often interchanged or "loaned" players between companies and brands in which he had an interest, including Thanhouser, Majestic (in particular), Apollo, and Reliance.

In addition, at one time in 1913 certain Majestic and Apollo (a division of Majestic) films were being produced at Thanhouser's New Rochelle studio. As a result, certain accounts have stated that one player or another was "with Thanhouser," when in actuality he or she was with Majestic or some other company which was utilizing the Thanhouser studio, but never appeared in a Thanhouser film. A separate appendix lists Majestic players during this period and indicates whether they are known to have appeared in Thanhouser films. Majestic players who did not appear in Thanhouser films are not listed in the following biographies, nor are other Mutual players or other employees who had no specific Thanhouser connection.

Similarly, beginning in the summer of 1917, Thanhouser leased studio facilities in New Rochelle to the Clara Kimball Young Film Corporation (also known as the C.K.Y. Film Corporation). Some of the films made there utilized certain former Thanhouser players, but as Clara Kimball Young and her associates had no connection with the Thanhouser Film Corporation, personalities from her organization were not surveyed for inclusion in the present work.


Life Dates

Birth and death dates are taken from a variety of references old and new. In numerous instances, the references differ, and in instances in which the present author is uncertain, the variable dates are given. Although many sources were consulted, film historian Billy H. Doyle in particular was helpful in this regard.


Spelling of Names

The spelling of the names of certain players was erratic in trade journals and publicity. For example, Arthur Bauer often appeared in print as Arthur Bower, the "e" was often omitted from the surname Warde, Will Cowper used the stage name Will Cooper; in Thanhouser's own publicity the surname of Wayne Arey appeared as Aery, Avery, and even Eyrie; John Adolphi's name was often spelled as Adolfi (and, in later years, he himself used the Adolfi spelling).

Bert Adler, who prepared Thanhouser publicity notices from 1910 to 1914, was very careless in his spelling, as were writers for Reel Life, the magazine of the Mutual Program. Often in the same issue of the latter publication, the name of a player would be spelled two different ways. As examples, in 1916 in Thanhouser advertisements, the first name of Frances Keyes appeared several times as "Francis," and the surname of Riley Chamberlin appeared frequently as "Chamberlain." No one seemed to know for sure whether Irene Farrington's nickname, which was "Reenie," should be spelled that way, or whether the somewhat more traditional, but inappropriate in this instance, Rene (or accented as René) or Renee should be used. Variant and erroneous spellings are noted under various biographical listings.

In the following listing, names are indexed under the real or stage name preferred and used by the person while he or she was working with Thanhouser.


Stage and Screen Work Elsewhere

It is significant to note that the vast majority of leading players associated with Thanhouser during the early years (1909-1912) began their careers on the stage. Many of these persons went from the stage to Thanhouser without working for any other film company in the meantime. In instances in which players worked for multiple companies before or after Thanhouser, these other companies are listed in chronological order if this can be determined; otherwise, they are listed as per trade directories (such as the Motion Picture News Studio Directory, 1916 and later), which are not always chronological. Such directories often included obsolete and incorrect information and are far from unimpeachable sources.

Sometimes a player's recollection of which films he or she played in for a particular company does not correlate with the sequence of films released for that company. In addition to memory lapses, an explanation in certain instances may be that an actor or actress may remember the first film in which he or she played, which might not necessarily have been the first film released featuring that person.

In nearly all instances, just a few films are listed from the person's career with studios other than Thanhouser. For roles played in films produced by these companies, the titles selected are primarily from contemporary directory listings and represent what the person considered to be his or her most significant roles; the opinions of later historians may differ. In instances in which an individual played in films outside of the 1909-1918 Thanhouser era, such films are not mentioned or are mentioned only selectively. Many personalities went on to achieve greater success elsewhere, later than the 1909-1918 Thanhouser period under study, but unrelated films after 1918 are outside of the scope of this book.


Thanhouser Filmographies

Titles listed in the Thanhouser Filmography for each person represent films in which a given individual is known to have participated. Many Thanhouser stock players were in films continuously for a period of several years, but if they did not play major roles, they were not credited in publicity. For example, Janet Clendenning Henry stated in an interview in 1914 that by then she had played in over 300 pictures, and yet she appeared in publicity only for a few. Thus, her filmography given here represents just a tiny fraction of the films in which she appeared. The same situation applies to certain other players as well, particularly to players who played minor roles or bit parts.

If the author has encountered no specific attributions for a particular player, then no Thanhouser filmography is given. The present author has not made guesses or presumptions.


Sources of Information

Sources of information include various trade journals, fan magazines, New Rochelle city directories, stage and screen directories, and other references listed in the bibliography, sources (especially contemporary newspapers) specifically quoted in the following biographical listings, and individuals mentioned in the credits for this book.


New Rochelle Directory Listings

Address listings are given for certain Thanhouser-related players and employees, as they appeared in Turner's and Richmond's directories, which were surveyed for the years 1909 to 1918. It was sometimes the instance that individuals were dropped from the directories, even though they still lived in New Rochelle. If, for example, it is stated that a certain player was at a given address in 1914 and 1915, and again in 1917, this is noted. However, it is reasonable for the reader to assume that the person was also there in 1916 but was not listed in the directory. However, only the specific dates given in the directories are listed in the present volume; no assumptions are made.

Although directories bear specific year dates such as 1909, 1910, etc., the actual time a given person was at a specific address may have been only part of a year. All that is known with certainty is that at the specific day the directory information was provided by the person, or taken from other sources (such as voter and tax lists), the person is believed to have lived there. It may also be the case that certain listings were not updated on a timely basis. Further, as the directories were distributed early in each year, the information was for the most part gathered the year before or early in the year in question. Thus, a listing in a 1910-dated directory may represent where an individual lived the year before, in 1909.

From time to time, streets in New Rochelle were renumbered. In many instances, the numbers in effect for a given address during the 1909-1918 period are different from the same numbers today. In most instances in which two or more unrelated Thanhouser employees shared the same address at the same time, the address was that of a boarding house or apartment building.


Player Ratings

The author has assigned ratings to actors and actresses (but not to other employees) based upon the frequency of appearance of their names in publicity and reviews pertaining to Thanhouser films. Those who were leading players at Thanhouser for an extended period of time, are indicated by three asterisks (***), those who were secondary in importance have two (**), and those who were rarely mentioned or who played unimportant roles (even though they may have been at Thanhouser for a long period of time) have one (*).

Of all Thanhouser players, Florence LaBadie was the most important. Among other top players were Mignon Anderson, Helen Badgley (The Thanhouser Kidlet), Harry Benham, James Cruze, Marie Eline (The Thanhouser Kid), Madeline and Marion Fairbanks (The Thanhouser Twins), Maude Fealy, William Garwood, Muriel Ostriche, William Russell, and Marguerite Snow. The assignments are necessarily arbitrary, but it is hoped that their use among the hundreds of names to follow will aid the reader in quickly determining the status of players.


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