Volume III: Biographies


POWELL, Francis ("Frank")

Director (1913)

Thanhouser Career Synopsis: Francis ("Frank") Powell was a newly-hired director at Thanhouser's Los Angeles facility in January 1913, but it is not known if he produced any Thanhouser films.

Biographical Notes: Early in his career Francis (who was nearly always known as Frank) Powell was a stage director for Augustus Thomas, later joining Kirk LaShelle in the same capacity for three years. Later, he directed Ellen Terry in Europe for about two years. Frank Powell then returned to the United States, where he acted in and directed films, primarily comedies, for Biograph for a two-year period from about mid 1909 to mid 1911. His wife at one time, Eleanor Hicks (life dates: 1886-1936), was an actress for Biograph circa 1910-1913. Powell then went back to Europe and worked for Pathé in London, where he produced historical and romantic dramas. He became ill, resigned from Pathé in London, and went on a tour of Europe to regain his health. During this time he worked briefly for Pathé in Paris and visited other film studios in France, Germany, and elsewhere. Returning to America, he was engaged by P.A. Powers. The Moving Picture World, June 29, 1912, noted that he was with the Powers Motion Picture Company, "and is now organizing a stock company to produce big subjects in the way of dramas and strong extra reel features. Mr. Powell is energetic and works at top speed, being particularly partial to exterior pictures with picturesque settings, and the Powers management expects great things with him as present plans mature."

According to an article in The Moving Picture World, January 18, 1913, Frank Powell was with Thanhouser's California stock company at the time. He was designated as "one of Thanhouser's famous directors," although the fame, as it was, came through his reputation in the trade for his earlier Biograph and Pathé work. The February 15, 1913 issue of the same periodical reported that he had left Thanhouser and was at liberty. Apparently, his Thanhouser tenure was fleeting, indeed so brief that in later interviews he rarely mentioned his Thanhouser experience. While working for Thanhouser in Los Angeles he was engaged to produce Royal brand films for Mutual, a plan which was never carried out. Whether he ever produced films under the Thanhouser label is unknown. Around this time he worked again for P.A. Powers, after which he returned to another former employer, Pathé, and directed for their American division in New Jersey, where he was situated in the summer of 1914.

In late 1914 and early 1915 he was with William Fox's Box Office Attractions Co. The November 20, 1915 issue of The Moving Picture World stated that Powell had just joined Equitable (which released through the World Film Corporation). The same periodical, in its issue of April 8, 1916, stated that he had resigned from Equitable. On October 14, 1915 Frank Powell was married to Jane Miller, of Jackson, Mississippi, a former Mardi Gras queen and daughter of the Mississippi state treasurer. It was announced that they had purchased the Teller estate in Bayside, Long Island and planned to live there.

The October 1916 edition of the Motion Picture News Studio Directory contained the following biographical account, which gives additional information concerning his wide roving in the field: "Frank Powell, president and director, Frank Powell Productions - Stage career: First with Eugene Blair in A Lady of Quality. Three years as stage director for Augustus Thomas in The Education of Mr. Pipp. Two years as stage director for Ellen Terry in her English tours. Stage director for Fannie Ward in Lady Bantock, etc. Screen career: Biograph (acted in and directed comedies), Pathé (directed in Paris and London), Kleine (Officer 666), American Pathé, Fox (director, The Children of the Ghetto, A Fool There Was, The Witch, The Fourth Estate, The Stain, Princess Romanoff, From the Valley of the Missing, The Chain Invisible, The Corsair, The Ghost, Jane Shore, The Other Sister, etc.), now at work on the first feature of his own, starring Creighton Hale, Linda Griffith, and Sheldon Lewis. Address: Times Building, New York City."

In November 1916 the Frank Powell Producing Company became a separate corporation from Frank Powell Productions, Inc. and announced that it would release through the Mutual Program. The 1918 edition of the Moving Picture Studio Directory gave his address as Bayside, Long Island, New York, and stated that he was directing for Goldwyn the movie version of Rex Beach's novel, Heart of the Sunset.

Note: He was listed as Frank Powell in most publicity notices and as Francis Powell in a lesser number of others.

# # #


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