Volume 2: Filmography

 

AN AMERICAN IN THE MAKING

 

April 22, 1913 (Tuesday)

Length: 1 reel

Character: Educational-documentary

Cast: Harry Benham, Ethyle Cooke, Leland Benham

Locations: Ellis Island in New York Harbor; the Gary, Indiana works of the United States Steel Corporation; the National Tube Works in Lorain, Ohio

Note: Thanhouser expected to release this film in January 1913, but no specific date was announced, although The Moving Picture World, December 28, 1912, contained mention of it in an article about the Benham family. Complications resulting from the Thanhouser studio fire delayed the release until April 22, 1913.

 

ADVERTISEMENT, The Moving Picture World, April 26, 1913:

From the 'greenhorn,' fresh from the 'old country,' you stay with him while he seeks and lands an American job, an American wife and American happiness; also is shown the ingenious American safety devices that protected him while he was in the making.

 

ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, May 24, 1913:

A BIT OF THE 'YELLOW.' To the Editor, Moving Picture World, 17 Madison Ave, N.Y.

Dear Sir:

I want to bring your attention to an instance of yellow journalism by a Chicago 'yellow.' The story is attached. [Note: The Chicago Examiner is the newspaper referred to.]

The moving picture was taken at the steel works, is a so-called industrial film, and illustrates the operation of the various safety devices. There is a very slight story in it to keep the spectator's interest strong. In the first place, the correct title was An American in the Making. Of course, the 'yellow' did not care to get the title of the picture correct. Neither Mr. Gleason nor his daughter insisted on changes in the announcement made in connection with this film, and the film does not tell 'the story of the superintendent of the Gary mills,' and it does not 'show that the superintendent has a beautiful daughter of marriageable age' and 'portray the winning of his daughter by a man who rises from the ranks of factory life.' As a matter of fact the film merely tells the story of an immigrant who gets a job in the steel works and is enabled in time to buy a little house and marry a young school teacher. The whole attached article is an injustice to Mr. Gleason and his daughter, who were not mentioned even remotely in the film.

Very truly yours,

Thanhouser Film Corporation, Charles J. Hite, Pres.

 

The offending article follows: 'MOVIE' COURTSHIP STIRS GARY: MILL CHIEF'S DAUGHTER IS WON. Superintendent Gleason Angry When Men Think His Child Is Film Story Heroine. Thousands of steel workers are weaving romances in their dreams as the result of a series of moving pictures which were on display in Gary yesterday. Samuel W. Gleason, superintendent of the Gary steel mills, is wondering what his daughter, Mary Louise, will say when she gets back from California and finds that a majority of workmen believe that she is the heroine of the strong arm, true heart, bound to [indistinct word here - Ed.] courtship. The moving picture, entitled A Man in the Making, is rapidly making Mr. Gleason angry. His friends believe that he will insist upon changes in the announcements made in connection with the roll of film.

The movie tells the story of 'the superintendent of the Gary mills,' and Mr. Gleason happens to be the superintendent. They show that the superintendent has a beautiful daughter of marriageable age. Mr. Gleason has a daughter who just fills the bill. Then the movie portrays the winning of this daughter by a man who rises from the ranks of factory life. This Mr. Gleason thinks is a little too much, especially as the steel workers see the pictures are inclined to accept the pictures as recording actual events. Meanwhile, Miss Gleason and her mother are on the Coast in complete ignorance of the thrilling scenes through which the steel workers think the young woman has passed. The mill scenes, the office scenes displayed in the movie as being real, it is puzzling the superintendent how to suppress the belief among his workmen that the remainder of the scenes are real. In the movie the young Frenchman of noble family comes to America and starts a new career in the Gary mills. He promptly falls in love with the daughter of the superintendent. To make himself worthy of her he is pictured as going to the National Tube Works at Lorain and there making such a success that he returns to Gary as an official in that company and marries the girl.

 

ARTICLE, Reel Life, February 14, 1914:

THE MOTION PICTURE IS ESPERANTO: Through a talk to the New York Theatre Club at the Hotel Astor, New York City, January 27th, C.J. Hite, President of Thanhouser, goes down in film history as the first manufacturer to address a public body in defense of the motion picture. Mr. Hite has felt much resentment at recent attacks on the pictures and it was this feeling that induced him to try out as a public defender of the screen play before an organization widely known for its interest in the regular stage. President Hite made the point that the motion picture was the real Esperanto, since it spoke a language all could understand. He said: 'That the moving pictures are a factor of education is so evident that it hardly requires discussion. They are the ideal objective method of teaching, the simplest and easiest way of conveying knowledge to the observer, irrespective of his educational attainments, regardless of age, race, or stage of civilization. Inasmuch as a story told in moving pictures can be understood by all races without interpretation, they might be considered a universal language; in fact they are Esperanto. They are in keeping with the age of rapid transit by facilitating the conveying of information. Can you not step into your neighboring theatre and there be amused with scenes which divert the tired brain from its everyday strain and tension; see an interesting theme in fiction; read a beautiful poem, take a trip across the continent, abroad through darkest Africa; through the Holy Lands, through the frigid regions and torrid countries; up in the clouds over the cities; down in submarine depths, and be surrounded by fish and animal life and wonderful coral formations; with perhaps a sermon propounded all in the space of an hour, besides actually seeing what would physically be impossible to see in a lifetime in any other way?

'Did you ever stop to think while you were watching the moving scenes on the screen in your endeavor to understand them before they pass beyond your vision that the attempt greatly develops the faculty of perception, thus making the watching of motion pictures more than a pastime - a brain developer?…. It is a proven commercial possibility that we can illustrate and convey an argument for the good of humanity and forcibly present it in pictures, which can be exhibited daily to a half million people, and in a manner that carries conviction. It accounts for the dominance of them. About a year ago the United States Steel Corporation came to us and requested us to prepare a story in moving picture form, with the idea of circulating the same through our theatres, which would show the human side of this great company. They wanted to convey to the public in general that they had a heart; that they were interested in the education, health and safety of their employees. It resulted in the following story.

'A brother in America writes to Bela in Poland that he has a job for him. He arrives at Ellis Island, is tagged to Gary, Indiana, the home of the steel trust, and there met his brother, who shows him this wonderful plant and had him lined up for a job, where he starts in on the commonest kind of jobs, is promoted from one position to another until it brings him in contact with all the dangerous mechanical devices in places where his life is jeopardized, but at each turn in this road of progress through the plant where his life is endangered a safety signal is displayed, calling his attention to the danger of injury. He attends night school, and we complete the story of our hero with respect to the U.S. Steel Corporation by marrying him happily to his little American night school teacher, with a scene in their cottage at the table with their family.

'At the present time the Department of Labor is working on a series of motion pictures which are to be an argument intended to educate and impress both capital and labor with the folly of strikes. This is only one of the great problems of vital interest to humanity in which motion pictures may be made a great factor in bringing contentment and happiness to all races. Educational institutions, after having realized its great values, are rapidly adopting the objective kinetic method of training. Thus the method will be universally adopted, sciences can be more easily propounded and since it is a universal language, arguments between factions, people and nations can be discussed and decided on the screen; thus tending to avert and possibly averting wars, thus improving and spreading civilization in a manner which will raise the standard of all races.'

 

SYNOPSIS, The Moving Picture World, April 26, 1913:

This story deals with a young Hungarian emigrant, whose brother in America writes to him, telling of the many wonders of the New World. The young man finally comes to America and secures employment as an unskilled laborer in the Gary works of the United States Steel Corporation. He works hard, attends night school, gradually learns the language and ways of the country, and becomes a skilled laborer and marries. His happiness as the prosperous head of a family is shown, and also the interest in which the great corporation takes in its employees and their willingness to advance those who are ambitious and competent. The many safety devices which have been installed at great expense to prevent laborers from being injured are shown, and the new laborer is seen as he is instructed in his duties.

 

REVIEW, The Moving Picture World, May 3, 1913:

This film, as announced at the beginning, was gotten up to aid the work of the National Social Betterment Association. It shows a young Italian immigrant arriving in this country. His brother meets him at the Ellis Island dock and the later scenes show him at the model factory city - Gary Indiana. The picture then shows many of the devices used to protect workmen, such as goggles to protect the eyes in the steelworks, guards attached to saws, belts, etc. For six years he is seen happily married, with his son going to a model school. Such a film as this makes an interesting novelty and distributes valuable information concerning industrial matters.

 

REVIEW, The Moving Picture News, April 26, 1913:

An American in the Making is most excellent and instructive, showing the inner workings of the manufactories of the United States Steel Corporation, the safety devices for the protection of workmen, etc. The story treats of a young emigrant who gets a start in America, and being guided into the right channel, is molded into a fine American citizen, his first work being with the United States Steel Corporation.

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