Volume 2: Filmography

 

INSPIRATION

 

November 18, 1915 (Thursday)

Length: 5 reels

Character: Drama; Mutual Masterpicture No. 47

Director: George Foster Platt

Scenario: Virginia Tyler Hudson

Cameraman: Lawrence E. Williams

Cast: Audrey Munson (the artist's model), Thomas A. Curran (the artist), George Marlo, Bert Delaney, Carey L. Hastings, Ethyle Cooke, Louise Emerald Bates

Notes: 1. Audrey Munson, a model who had posed for Adolph Weinman, Daniel Chester French, and other well-known sculptors, was tapped by Edwin Thanhouser to play the leading role in this picture, in which she appeared nude - a daring innovation for Thanhouser at the time. 2. Perhaps because of this film, W. Stephen Bush wrote an article for the January 1, 1916 issue of The Moving Picture World, "Nudity on the Screen," which suggested that although nudity had a rich tradition among ancient peoples, in today's society it would be best if nudity on the screen were avoided. 3. In October 1918 this film was reissued on a states rights basis by Arrow, under the title of The Perfect Model.

 

ARTICLE, The Moving Picture World, October 30, 1915:

"From the quiet lanes of New Rochelle comes the news that an art sensation is due in moving pictures. Edwin Thanhouser has engaged Audrey Munson, who is known in the world of the palette brush and claypile as 'The Venice of Washington Square,' also as 'The Panama-Pacific Girl' and 'The Exposition Girl.' Miss Munson has done some startling work among painters and sculptors, and Edwin Thanhouser considers her the logical subject for a new kind of film production which he has long had in mind. Not content with causing stage celebrities to migrate '45 minutes from Broadway,' he has now saddened the hearts of the Washington Square soft collar and flowing tie contingent by snatching from their midst 'Divine Audrey,' and he promises that in Inspiration, which is the title of her first release, he will give the pro- and con-ers of motion pictures something to talk about. But the supports of things filmic need have no fear - for the fine Thanhouser ideal is a lofty one, and he can be trusted to the most delicate task carte blanche."

 

ARTICLE, The Morning Telegraph, November 14, 1915:

"THANHOUSER DOES NOT ADVOCATE NUDITY. Producer Repudiates the Published Statement That He Approves of Nude in Pictures. The following letter has been received from Edwin Thanhouser, president of the Thanhouser Film Corporation:

"'Nov. 8, 1915. Editor, The Morning Telegraph: There has appeared in several of the trade papers an interview with me, which interview has been wrongly captioned, insomuch as it conveys the impression that I advocate the nude in moving pictures. The original caption of this interview, as submitted by our publicity department, was 'Inspiration, a Study in Thanhouser Ideals,' and any change in that tends to create the impression that I advocate the nude in moving pictures is wrong and should be corrected. I wish to state that our five-reel Mutual Masterpicture Inspiration was viewed and passed on by the National Board of Censorship without a single alteration will indicate that it is an example of the kind I stand sponsor for, and that must speak for itself. Yours very truly, (signed) Edwin Thanhouser.'"

 

ARTICLE, Reel Life, December 11, 1915:

"'Inspiration has created a sensation and we have booked return at the Savoy Theatre for two days,' wires Charles E. Kessnick, manager of the Atlanta, Georgia branch. Mr. Kessnick assures the home office that the picture is in great demand and fills the house in which it is shown to capacity two to three days running."

 

ARTICLE, Reel Life, December 18, 1915:

"INSPIRATION. Ben B. Lewis, manager of the Old Mill Theatre in Dallas, Texas, a house owned by E.H. Hulsey, one of the most progressive exhibitors of the region, writes to the Dallas office:

"'It gives me great pleasure to inform you that yesterday, our opening day with your picture, Inspiration, was one of the biggest days we have had since the Old Mill Theatre opened under the present management. I am very glad to give you this expression, not only because the picture has unusual value as a money-getter, but because it is a picture which has all the money-getting qualities and yet is absolutely free from any suggestion of vulgarity or indecency and as a consequence pleases the patrons and makes friends for the house....'

"In Oklahoma City a women's organization has added to the drawing power of Inspiration by resolving against it for about a half a column of pure reading matter. In Detroit there was some debate about it, meanwhile the picture proceeded to do a record business. There is no question but that Miss Audrey Munson appears entirely without the aid of a wardrobe, but no critic has dared to reflect on himself by charging that the picture was in the least suggestive. As a film seer we should promise the Inspiration a long, eventful, prosperous life."

 

ARTICLE, The New Orleans Item, December 27, 1915:

"'I didn't think it was possible to do the business we did Saturday and Sunday with Inspiration in such a small house as the Dreamworld Theatre,' spoke Herman Fichtenberg, owner of the Fichtenberg string of theatres, 'but I will say that there is absolutely no chance of ever taking in more money in this house in one day than we did yesterday, for we played to absolute capacity from opening until closing time, and could not have played to another 50 people - all of which goes to show that a good picture, well advertised, will go over big.' It is true that the adjective 'beautiful' hardly described Inspiration, or Audrey Munson either. So wonderful are the nude poses in which Munson appears, which are the same that have made her famous the world over as a sculptor's mode, that the audience is held tense. In her particular scene she is seen posing for the famous statue of Evangeline, for French - the completed model appears in a vision to her - the light fades and the body and flesh are there instead."

 

ARTICLE, The Evening Standard (New Rochelle), January 22, 1916:

"The motion picture made by Thanhouser and entitled Inspiration is of one the most famous art models but it is not appreciated in New Rochelle. The picture was to be shown yesterday at the North Avenue Theatre. Before the doors were opened a committee of clergymen and others asked Charles Jahn, manager of the theatre, if they might have a private view of the picture before the regular performance to which Mr. Jahn assented. What happened inside the theatre is not known but the committee left by a side exit and Mr. Jahn appeared in front of the theatre and announced that Inspiration would not be shown. Great was the disappointment among those awaiting admittance. There was much criticism and many complaints as well as uncomplimentary remarks. One man who looked as if he might be an artist remarked with a shake of his head 'honi soit qui mal y pense.'

"Last spring at an exhibition of paintings by the women artists of New York a painting by Mrs. Harry W. Watrous entitled The War Zone, which was partially draped, was refused a place in the exhibition hall of the local public library. Recently the same painting was accorded high honors in an exhibition given by the Professional Women's League in New York City. There are plenty of places where New Rochelleans can find nude pictures and nude statuary if they wish to see it. Schools are supplied with copies of art works and histories and mythologies contain copies of paintings and sculpture that would be even more shocking than The War Zone or Inspiration. In the Metropolitan Museum of Art are many paintings and sculptures at no attempt at drapery, and students go there because of the refining influence of art. In the public libraries may be found pictures and books containing pictures of nude art but in these places the same thing which shocks in New Rochelle is considered education.

"C.A. Jahn, the manager, makes the following statement. 'The North Avenue Theatre is at the present time the only theatre in New Rochelle showing Thanhouser pictures, and I show most all of them, the exception being a few of the smaller 1,000 foot subjects. I have a contract for the exclusive showing of all special Masterpictures by Thanhouser and Inspiration was one of them.' Inspiration has been shown in over 100 theatres in and about New York City and has not been objected to before. If it has been objected to in any other locality I would appreciate knowing the name of such place.' Inspiration was made by Thanhouser in New Rochelle. The scenes were taken in the studio here and in the streets of New York City. Are the people of New Rochelle ashamed of them? Many of our residents have seen this picture at Loew's Circle Theatre at 59th Street and can see nothing objectionable. I would be glad to hear the comments of public opinion in regard to this picture.'"

 

ARTICLE, The Evening Standard (New Rochelle), January 28, 1916:

"New Rochelle Getting Well Advertised: New Rochelle is getting well advertised on account of some objection being made to showing the Thanhouser picture, Inspiration. Frank Egan in a letter to the New York World says. 'It is difficult to understand New Rochelle morals when it permits motion pictures to be manufactured within its limits which it will not permit to be shown there because of the pictures being 'suggestive and likely to be harmful to young men and women.' Seemingly according to New Rochelle ethics it is perfectly proper for New Rochelle to manufacture suggestive pictures to show to young men and women elsewhere but is decidedly wrong when the same pictures are shown to the young folks in the very town where they were made.'

"The White Plains Argus gets quite satirical in discussing the matter in its leading editorial in a recent issue under the head of 'Poor Audrey' as follows. 'Well, they're at it again in New Rochelle. It attacks some people there seemingly with regular spasms. Not many months ago there was much ado in certain circles over a painting that some residents of the Huguenot city desired to present to the public library of the town which is celebrated because the trolley cars run there from Mt. Vernon, because it is a neighbor to Glen Island and because it is claimed to be only 45 minutes from Broadway. We did not see the painting but there were those who did and were so displeased by what they saw that very likely they went back for another look. Said picture of controversy showing one female was objected to by a solemn and mournful committee of censors. If we can believe what the newspapers tell us. Some might not believe the daily Argus. All the worse for them. However the committee while admitting that the female was not just unclad enough to name her as a sister of September Morn, nevertheless yea and verily they observed 'who can tell what this woman might do if permitted to tarry in the sacred portals of the library.' She was not permitted to tarry. She received no cordial welcome for fear that she might of a sudden take a notion, a bare notion be it said, to rival the renown of the maid who blossomed into fame one September day just as the blushing sun stared with shocking and pleased surprise over the hills that rise along the French coast. 'It pays to rise early,' quoted Mr. Sun on that occasion.'

"'Say we wonder if any New Rochelle censors have cast their eyes toward the posters on the billboards of their city whereon are advertised the allurements of the Ballet Russe at the Century Theatre. Maybe not. Anyway a committee of censors appeared at a New Rochelle picture house during Friday at last week and made the demand that no more in the city where the Huguenots came ashore would be shown the five-reel drama entitled Inspiration. This picture depicts the struggle for a place in the world made by Miss Audrey Munson, best known artist model in America, and who, because she posed for so many statues and pictures at the Panama-Pacific Exposition has come to be styled the Panama Pacific Girl.'

"'Miss Audrey seems likely to lose her hard earned reputation with some of the good people who dwell about 45 minutes from Broadway, if pictures continue to be shown like several of those that form such a prominent part in the program of Inspiration, all representing how she became the artist's inspiration. 'We cannot' said a minister who acted as a spokesmen for the group of censors, 'say that this picture is exactly immoral.' Yet he was of the opinion with his associate censors or critics that the youth of the burg should not be suffered to gaze upon the film portraying the shapely Audrey in the artist's studio posing there so innocent like to inspire Mr. Artist. And posing too with that original costume worn by the wood nymphs of mythology. Those damsels who considered themselves so appropriately attired when they were all fixed up with a smile and plain sunshine and who never heard of and much the less cared about bargain counter skirts that had been marked down from $4.85 to $3.98.'

"Albany Journal: 'At New Rochelle a self-constituted committee consisting a woman and four clergymen demanded a private view of the photoplay Inspiration, and having seen it decided that nobody else in New Rochelle should be permitted to see it. The manager who was about to exhibit it to the public yielded to the committee. A member of this committee explained that 'our unanimous opinion was that although Inspiration was not immoral it was highly suggestive and harmful to those between the ages of 16 and 20 years.' The Albanians who saw Inspiration when it was shown in the city some weeks ago will wonder what mental process could produce such an opinion. Wasn't the suggestiveness in the minds of the censors rather than in the picture?'"

 

ARTICLE, Reel Life, April 8, 1916:

"The most phenomenal record ever attained by a motion picture production has been established in Los Angeles, California, by the five-part Mutual Masterpicture Inspiration, with beautiful Audrey Munson in the leading role. This wonderful film, depicting an artist model's life, played two solid weeks at the New Garrick Theatre, where all former attendance records were shattered. For a film to create a furore in Los Angeles is unprecedented. The most severe critics of motion pictures in the whole world are the theatregoers of that city, which is known as the 'Movie Capital of the United States.' So many studios are located there that the citizens have become captious and demand more than they do anywhere else. Familiar with the producing end of the motion picture industry, they demand only the very best in pictures. Nine showings of Inspiration were given every day, or 126 showings for the two weeks. At every performance the house was crowded to its utmost. The seating capacity of the New Garrick is 1,000, making 126,000 persons who saw this wonderful photoplay. The official census for Los Angeles, given in the 1916 World's Almanac, is 319,198. Consequently, 39.8% of the entire population saw Inspiration, or more than one for each three residents."

 

ARTICLE, The Long Beach Press, May 3, 1916:

"Unquestionably the most artistic picture ever filmed is at present being shown at the Laughlin Theatre. Inspiration is the picture's name, and Miss Audrey Munson, the most famous model in the world, is the heroine. This picture has been discussed both pro and con. The greatest masters of art and the most critical censors have pronounced it 'a work of art.' Inspiration is a story, an artistic story, showing life in an artist's studio. It is a wonderful story well screened and acted throughout. It has superb settings and is magnificently presented. It is in five parts, and the interest throughout is never allowed to weaken. Audrey Munson, the famous artists' model, says that every woman, young or old, can obtain a perfect figure by following a few simple forms of exercise."

 

ARTICLE, The Cleveland Leader, July 12, 1916:

"Inspiration, the latest Thanhouser release, featuring Audrey Munson, famous artist's model and poser in the all together, may be said to be more of a publicity stunt rehearsing the past achievements of the principal actor - or actress - than anything else. There is a wisp of a story which serves to introduce Miss Munson in various poses, revolving about the efforts of a sculptor to find an ideal model in order to realize his dream of a group to be entered in a contest for a fountain. Three friends start out to find such a person. As they confine most of their efforts to cabarets and the streets they meet with little success until one, by chance, runs down Audrey, who has been turned out of her boarding place and is seeking work. She proves the ideal, poses for the sculptor, and he is successful. Meantime, she falls in love with him, but as he loves a rich girl, she takes herself out of his life. Then realizing that the model is his ideal in love the sculptor searches until they are reunited.

"One entire reel is given over to the making of a life cast, which, while interesting as a matter of physiological and scientific demonstration, advances the plot not a whit. Another reel is devoted to a resume of famous groups and statues for which Miss Munson posed, while the story itself affords little action. Miss Munson poses. The rest of the company act. The photoplay is pleasing, and many effects most artistic. Inspiration opens at the Strand Thursday for a half week."

 

ARTICLE, The New York World, January 22, 1917:

"The display in a motion picture theatre at Ossining yesterday of the film called Inspiration, in which Audrey Munson poses undraped while a sculptor moulds her form in clay, resulted in the arrest of Manager Louis Rosenberg of the house, charged by Village President A.W. Twigger with showing an improper film. The complaint was based upon the fact that the two-year-old son of Mrs. Grace O'Neill was in the theatre, and the arrest of Rosenberg was brought about by several prominent women of the neighborhood, who have appointed a censorship committee of their Civic League.... Dr. Anna Voorhis, who saw the picture exhibited, said later: 'The picture represents the model's figure being prepared for the sculptor's plaster of Paris cast. I saw enough and got all the 'inspiration' I wanted.'..."

The Evening Sun, New York City, reported on the same event the same day, noting, in part: "Many of the wealthiest women of Westchester County compose the Civic League. One of them is Mrs. Frank A. Vanderlip, wife of the banker. They say Miss Munson, as she appears in the picture quite innocent of garments, is 'shocking, disgusting, and scandalous.'

"Chief objection is made to the picture because of a scene in which a sculptor is shown making a plaster mould about Miss Munson's nude form. The Column of Progress shaft at the San Francisco World's Fair was posed by Miss Munson for Isadore Konti, the sculptor. When asked for an expression on the trouble over the picture, Konti said: 'To object to the nude is simply stupid. Nude pictures are found in all the noted art galleries.'"

 

SYNOPSIS, Reel Life, November 6, 1915:

"The classic tale of Pygmalion and the statue, Galatea, which he first fashioned with his own hands, then grew to love, and at length persuaded the gods to imbue with the breath of life, has been the subject for the art of countless poets, of artists and of sculptors, even of modern playwrights, who have garbed its ancient beauty in modern atmosphere and characterizations - frequently with modern satire. Its theme was the underlying theme for the play Pygmalion, by Bernard Shaw, presented in the United States last season by Mrs. Patrick Campbell. Under the title Inspiration, the ever interesting tale has come to life again in a motion picture.... But instead of being located in ancient Greece, where the gods appeared in visible forms to the people on earth, the setting for Inspiration is laid in New York - the New York of to-day, brilliant, gay, fascinating. It is in New York's Bohemia, among its artists, and the tale is of an American girl who became a famous artist's model. This is the story, as told on the screen:

"In the presence of a group of his wealthy young friends - the type of men who find the freedom and unconventionality of Bohemia much to their tastes - a young sculptor remarked that he needed only one thing to make of the statue on which he was working the achievement of his career. 'And that is - ,' queried one of the youths, evidencing unusual interest in the artist's work. 'A model - the sort of a model such as I have only dreamed of. But there is none such. She would have to be my inspiration as well as a perfect creature whose grace of body and beauty of face would be the ideal for which I must strive in my work. I am afraid I am doomed to eternal disappointment.'

"Several days later the young artist and his friend were members of a motor party. As they drove through the triumphal arch in Washington Square, they ran down a girl, a very pathetic, unhappy-looking little girl, with large brown eyes and blanched features. As she was struck, she crumpled in a heap on the pavement. The men picked her up. She came to herself, and stared at them in wild confusion. 'Let us take you home,' said one kindly.

"'No, no,' she answered, half-hysterically. 'I cannot go home. I must find work today. I will lose my room if I do not.' The man had an inspiration. He bundled her into the car, then drove her hastily to the studio of the sculptor. The artist was at work with a chorus girl model - one of the many which his rich young friends had sent to him, in their desire to help him attain his ideal. He did not enthuse over the newcomer. 'She can't be worse than I have,' he told his friends aside, and promised to try her.

"When the crumpled, brown-eyed girl, with a new light in her eyes, brought by the fact that she at last had work, took her position on the modeling stand of the young sculptor, the next day, she unconsciously fell into the pose of the girl of his dreams. Daily the rough clay grew into a work of great art. The hours passed like minutes. The fame of the new model grew. At first she would not accept other offers She was happy only when posing for the young genius - whom, known only to herself, she had grown to love. He urged her to, and at length, grown unhappy, because she thought her sculptor loved one of the wealthy girls who came often to his studio, she consented.

"Her first pose was for the statue of 'Evangeline,' by Daniel Chester French, which has been placed before the home of the immortal Longfellow in Cambridge, Mass. There followed many more by other famous artists. Then came orders to the members of the artist's colony to make pictures and statuary to adorn the buildings at the Panama-Pacific Exposition. The beautiful girl was in great demand. She divided her time between posing for the 'Ascending Night' of Adolph Weinman; the figures of 'The Fountain of Eldorado,' by Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney; the 'Genius of Creation,' by Daniel Chester French; the 'Court of Four Seasons' and the 'Spirit of Spring,' by Piccirilli, and countless others.

"All the time she remained true to the man who had first discovered her. She posed for him until he finished his wonder work. Then, feeling that he needed her no longer, she disappeared, leaving him a note, stating that she had gone forever. With this, the man awoke to the love pulsing within his own heart, and after weeks of weary waiting and searching, she came back to him, back again to be his own, his inspiration, his Galatea. He found her in a miserable heap, weak and sick, at the base of the Maine Monument, at Columbus Circle, where he had gone to look on her features in the cold stone of the statue. The story of the achievements of the model in Inspiration is the story of Audrey Munson, the famous model, who, herself, plays the role. She is known as the 'Panama-Pacific Girl.' The love tale which is woven in, so the pretty model declares, is merely the figment of a scenario writer's imagination. But, even if that is true, it is a beautiful story, is it not?"

 

REVIEW, The Morning Telegraph, November 7, 1915:

"Inspiration presents a decided novelty, for it is the first moving picture in which the nude figure of a woman has been used for artistic reasons only. Undraped figures in both painting and sculpture have always been accepted as a matter of course, but in moving pictures any suggestion of the nude has always caused more of a sensation. There have been several other pictures which have approached the difficult subject, but Inspiration treats the matter with the frankness that is only found in studios. In fact the film avoids the sensational by presenting the illustrated art lectures. Audrey Munson is the model who poses in the pictures. Miss Munson is one of the most famous models in America, and figures for which she has posed may be seen on various monuments in New York and many of the groups of the San Francisco Exposition. Miss Munson's classic beauty and her remarkable poise absolutely remove every suggestions of the objectionable.

"Perhaps the most interesting part of the film is that which shows the making of a plaster cast from a living model. Miss Munson is completely encased in heavy plaster which is allowed to dry on her. The cast is then removed with knives and used as a mould. The entire process is a great strain on the model, for she is obliged to stand the great weight of the plaster for over an hour. A slight story has been built around Miss Munson. It is the one of the artist who seeks everywhere for a woman who will not only be a perfect model but who will also be an inspiration for his work. He at last meets the right girl, and his work wins countless prizes. But he thinks of her as only as object of art, while she falls in love with him. But realizing that he does not care for her she resolves to pose for him no more. So she leaves without telling him where he can reach her. The artist soon learns that he loves the girl and not the beauty, and, after a long search, finds her and tells her of his love.

"George Foster Platt, who directed the picture, has used the utmost delicacy producing the picture, and it would have to be a very prudish person who could find any serious objection to the film. The story is too insignificant to sustain the interest for five reels, but the many beautiful poses of Miss Munson will do more than make up for the lack of a good plot. The picture will attract more than usual interest and the delicate and attractive way that a difficult subject has been filmed will no doubt receive the praise it deserves."

 

REVIEW, The Moving Picture World, November 13, 1915:

"Audrey Munson plays an artist's model in an interesting five-part picture produced by Thanhouser for the Mutual Masterpicture Service. This story is slight and conventional, although many of the scenes in which Miss Munson appears are much out of the ordinary. In the third reel the audience sees the entire process of perpetuating the young woman's graceful lines in a plaster cast."

 

REVIEW by Linde Denig, The Moving Picture World, November 13, 1915:

"Presenting a conventional, but reasonably diverting story, Inspiration, a five-part Thanhouser production released on the Mutual Masterpicture service, depends very largely upon the interest aroused by Audrey Munson's playing of an artist's model. The picture is not in the least unusual in theme - the sculptor seeks, finds and eventually marries the ideal model for his masterpiece - the treatment, however, is enough out of the ordinary to excite comment. Moreover, it may be noted in favor of Inspiration that it possesses an artistic, and at times, even an educational value. Good taste has been displayed in the handling of scenes that might easily become coarse.

"Considering the production reel by reel we find that the first two reels present the conventional predicament of a young sculptor who dreams of finding a perfect model to inspire his work; but meanwhile is forced to put up with poor substitutes. His three friends search the streets for the perfect woman and return with Audrey, who is soon recognized by the artist as the incarnation of his beautiful and innocent dream girl. So much for the first two reels. Reel three offers something different, something brand new to photoplays; for we see each step in the difficult process of molding a plaster cast on a human figure, Miss Munson supplying the figure. These scenes are undeniably novel, interesting, and, of course, a bit daring. When this operation has been completed and Miss Munson's graceful lines have been perpetuated, the story is continued along orthodox lines, telling how the model, despairing of winning the love of the sculptor, wanders off and is found at the end of a discouraging search, during which the artist visits all the famous pieces of statuary for which she had posed. The picture is finely staged and contains many clever bits of photography. The cast is adequate, although Thomas A. Curran is hardly the type for an artist in whom spiritual inspiration is supposed to be uppermost. Virginia Tyler Hudson wrote the scenario."

Note: The preceding review completely overlooks the raison d'etre for the film: the nude exhibition of Miss Munson's anatomy!

 

REVIEW, Variety, November 5, 1915:

"For art's sake. At last true art has stepped into the motion field and it is all due to Audrey Munson, the Panama-Pacific model who has gained much fame about of late owing to her shapely figure. This notoriety evidently prompted Edwin Thanhouser to secure the model and to star her in this five-reeler, Inspiration, which is to be released as a Mutual Masterpicture. When it comes to nude posing Inspiration has anything in the line of picture entertainment beaten to a frazzle. Hypocrites caused comment with its nude figure flitting here and there in a semi-seeable manner, but in this there is no doubt one is seeing the real thing. There is a bit of a story. It is trivial, however. It is about an artist unable to get a satisfactory model. His friends find a country girl who never posed before. She needs the money. She is capable from the minute she starts and immediately wins fame for the sculptor. There is a bit of love mixed in with the model and artist being joined at the altar. After all the posing that girl did that boy took no chance whatever when he married her, for there was nothing hidden from him. It is one nude pose after another. Miss Munson is always the central and bare figure. The picture has an educational trend as well as being artful. This will make some dizzy, but bookers should get busy. It's a cuckoo."

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