Volume II: Filmography







February 4, 1913 (Tuesday)

Length: 1 reel

Character: Dramatized news event

Director: Lawrence Marston

Scenario: Lloyd F. Lonergan

Cast: Marguerite Snow (as herself), Helen Badgley (herself), Marie Eline (herself), James Cruze (as himself), Justus D. Barnes (director), Mrs. Gerald Badgley (member of traveling crew)

Notes: 1. A dramatization of the January 13, 1913 Thanhouser studio fire, but not utilizing any actual film footage from the day of that event, for the camera crew had arrived too late. The action centers about the fictional depiction of Marguerite Snow's rescue of The Thanhouser Kidlet. (In real life, Marguerite Snow was at lunch in her apartment away from the studio when the fire occurred.) The picture was made to capitalize on the nationwide publicity engendered by the fire. Highly fictionalized accounts of the fire were published in various newspapers, the article from The Dayton Journal, reprinted in the narrative section of the present work, being representative. 2. No information has been found concerning the film, A Foolish Punishment, mentioned in the Dayton newspaper article. Whether this was simply a film-within-a-film, non-existent in reality, or whether such a film was planned at one time, is not known. It was reported that in actuality Sherlock Holmes Solves the Sign of the Four was being filmed at the studio at the time of the fire. 3. The title was erroneously lengthened to When the Studio Burned Down in the synopses printed in The Moving Picture World and in The Billboard. 4. The film, A Mystery of Wall Street, was originally scheduled for release on February 4, 1913, but it was moved forward to February 11, 1913 in order to permit an earlier release of the studio fire film dramatization. 5. In the creation of this film, Thanhouser may have taken a leaf from the notebook of P.A. Powers, whose studio was destroyed by fire in 1911. Snatching victory, of a sort, from the jaws of defeat, the Powers Picture Plays Co. created a film from the incident, The Powers Fire, advertised as follows: The peer of motion picture realism - The Powers Fire - in which the entire plant of the Powers Picture Plays Company was consumed by flames, at a net cost to us of $150,000, will be released on Tuesday, July 25 [1911]. 6. While this film was titled A Thanhouser Heroine in several early notices, and while this is believed to have been a working title, the final title, When the Studio Burned, was the original title conceived by Lloyd F. Lonergan, as an article reprinted below from the New Rochelle Evening Standard indicates.


ADVERTISEMENT, The Moving Picture World, February 8, 1913:

This is the last word in Thanhouser enterprises - a film on their own fire. And it is a vivid depiction, too, since it is based on the startling newspaper stories that were flashed to a thousand American cities on the afternoon of January 13, 1913. The press of the whole country, therefore, printed an advance synopsis of this film for you. We hold right to that synopsis, not even forgetting the well-worded rescue of the Thanhouser Kidlet by Marguerite Snow.


ARTICLE, The Evening Standard (New Rochelle), January 15, 1913:

Thanhouser photoplayers spent the greater part of yesterday morning in digging in the ruins of the factory and studio which was destroyed by fire on Monday. They found a number of relics of their personal property that had been lost in the fire. It is reported that Bert Adler, the publicity man, while rooting among the ruins, found a gold bracelet and an opal necklace owned by Miss Marguerite Snow, the leading woman, which she values at $2,000. The mounting of the necklace was badly discolored and some of the links were fused, but the stones are said to be as brilliant as ever. Miss Snow's entire wardrobe was burned. This consisted of about 30 dresses and costumes of all descriptions, including evening gowns and toilettes of silk and velvet, one expensive lace dress, a white satin wedding gown used in a new play, street and house dresses and costume of a working girl besides a number of expensive hats. One of the finest of the gowns arrived Monday morning and the box was placed unopened in her dressing room. Miss Snow had given a check for the dress while it was burning up.

James Cruze, the leading man, lost 14 suits of clothes, mostly stage costumes of fine material and several hats of different descriptions. Among the suits were a broadcloth evening suit with several white vests and shirts, a tuxedo suit, and a velvet smoking jacket. In the suit he had worn to the studio that morning he had $50 in bills, a diamond ring, a diamond pin valued together at $300 and a gold watch and chain. He visited the ruins yesterday morning, and the only thing he could find were the remains of his watch which were fused and had stopped at 2:10 o'clock, which was about a half an hour after the fire started.

George Barnes, one of the character men, lost 10 suits of clothes and considerable money which was in a pocket of a street suit. David Thompson, who plays heavy roles, lost about $1,000 worth of clothing and his watch and jewelry. Yesterday morning he found in the ruins a silver belt buckle belonging to Miss Lila Chester, one of the juvenile women, the silver heads of his two canes, and a diamond pin worth about $30. Miss Chester lost a valuable diamond brooch in the fire. It has not been recovered. Frank Grimmer found one of her gold bracelets in the ruins of her dressing room.

Charles Van Houten, a carpenter, found his gold watch yesterday morning in what was once the carpenter shop which was one of the hottest spots in the fire. The watch was still going though the gold case was fused and partly melted and a number plate from a telephone receiver was fused into the back. One of the things saved by Charles J. Hite, president of the company, when he and Bert Adler returned to the building before the fire got too hot was a foreign check for $1,500 which had come from England. The $2,000 automobile used for carrying the photoplayers from place to place was destroyed in the garage under the building.

While the building burned, Lloyd Lonergan, the scenario writer, sat in a house across the street and wrote a photoplay entitled When the Studio Burned. He laid out the plot and scenes while getting inspiration from the fire. Yesterday morning he wrote the play in four hours, and in the afternoon the home company began rehearsals. Lawrence Marston, the head studio director, discovered a motion picture man from a friendly firm making a picture of the film which will be used in connection with the newest play. The scene is laid in New Rochelle during a rehearsal of Sherlock Holmes [sic], the play which was being produced when it was interrupted by the fire. The play shows the members of the company making up in their dressing rooms, and an old film will be inserted showing the company leaving the building before it was burned. Then there will be a trip in an automobile, setting up the camera, the rehearsal interrupted by a messenger who breathlessly tells them that the studio is afire. This will be followed by the approach to the studio as it burned, several views of the fire and the New Rochelle firemen working on the blaze, the finding of the watches and jewelry in the ruins the next day, and the immediate reassembling of the company to resume the play.

Mr. Marston is the man who produced The Star of Bethlehem, which film was one of the two or three that were burned up. Harry Spear, studio manager, was able to save one of the small cameras used for outside work. It has a valuable high grade lens but was not loaded with film. Yesterday morning the company assembled at the building formerly occupied by Cooley and West, Union Avenue near the railroad station, and were ready for work. The regular business of the concern was resumed by telephone. Mr. Hite told a representative of The Evening Standard that he expects to have temporary quarters and to resume full operations within a week. Negotiations have been in progress for the purchase of the old site but it is not certain that they will be continued. Mr. Hite said that he intends to build in New Rochelle if possible as he will purchase land here if the price is reasonable. Otherwise he said they will have to go outside New Rochelle.


ARTICLE, The Moving Picture News, January 16, 1913:

Mr. Lawrence Marston, the producer of The Star of Bethlehem and other Thanhouser features, is busily furnishing a studio at New Rochelle and is even now at work on a picture right on the ruins of the fire, entitled A Thanhouser Heroine.


ARTICLE, The Evening Standard (New Rochelle), February 1, 1913:

When the Studio Burned, the latest photoplay of the Thanhouser Film Corporation, which was written by Lloyd Lonergan while the factory on Grove Avenue was burning down recently, will make its debut at the Thanhouser benefit at Germania Hall next Tuesday night. The reel was run for the first time in the temporary projecting room for a representative of The Evening Standard yesterday afternoon. It is one of the best pictures from a technical standpoint that the company has produced, and the story it tells is full of excitement, heroism, pathos, joy, generosity, and happy expectation.

The picture shows a part of the company starting in an automobile to make a scene for Sherlock Holmes [sic], the play which was being made when the fire broke out. The Thanhouser Kid, little Miss Marie Eline, is one of the party in the charge of Justus Barnes, who plays the role of stage director. The Kid's mother, Miss Eline, stays at the studio. Among the others left behind are The Thanhouser Kidlet, four year old Helen Badgley, whose mother is with the party in the automobile, Miss Marguerite (Peggy) Snow and James Cruze. Miss Snow, the leading woman, promises to take good care of the Kidlet.

Soon after the automobile has left, the studio catches fire and through the dense smoke the picture shows the employees, men and women, leaping from the windows. Mr. Cruze, the leading man, climbs back through a window and carries out several young women who have fainted. Miss Snow remembers that the Kidlet, who has been left in her charge, is inside. She climbs back through the smoke, disappears, and then staggers fainting to the window through which she and her little charge are lifted. The fire scene is extremely realistic and exciting. At times the actors are hidden by the dense rolling smoke.

Meanwhile a smoke begrimed employee has telephoned to the company which is preparing for an act in Odell Place. A clerk in a grocery store gets the message, races to tell Mr. Barnes, who rushes back to the telephone, hears the news, and then gets back to his company. When he tells them the studio is doomed, the Kid becomes frightened because she knows her mother was in the building, and Mrs. Badgley becomes hysterical knowing the danger of her child, the Kidlet. They speed back to the studio in the automobile and find it in ruins. The children and their mothers find each other, and there is an affecting scene. The Badgleys are homeless and are standing weeping before their ruined home when the Thanhouser Kid offers them a place in her home. The last scene shows the two children going to bed affectionately and dreaming happily of a brand new building. Lawrence Marston directed the making of the picture. The scenario was written by Lloyd Lonergan, who, recovering from a broken leg, limped out of the burning factory just in time to save himself, and, seated in the window of a nearby house, wrote the photoplay while he watched the fire.


ARTICLE, The New York Dramatic Mirror, February 5, 1913:

The blaze that destroyed the Eastern studio of the Thanhouser Film Corporation, New Rochelle, New York, has been recorded by the Thanhouser company in a picture called When the Studio Burned, released February 4. In this film the fire is shown, with many thrills inserted for pictorial purposes, among them the rescue of the Thanhouser Kidlet by Marguerite Snow.


SYNOPSIS, The Moving Picture World, February 8, 1913:

On the day the Thanhouser Eastern studio was destroyed by fire, one of the companies was many miles away, taking a scene in an important drama. The news of the accident finally reached them by telephone, but by the time they had returned to New Rochelle the building was completely destroyed. On the long trip to the studio they were prey to anxiety and the fear that friends, and relatives even, may have lost their lives. The Thanhouser Kid was one of the 'outside company,' while her mother was in the studio. As it happened the tiniest of the Thanhouser stars, the Kidlet, was in the studio, and her mother in an 'outside picture.' The mother of the 'Kidlet,' when she left the studio, had placed her child in the care of Marguerite Snow, who, when the fire swept the building, saved the little one at the risk of her own life. The Kidlet's home, near the studio, was gutted by the flames. She was given temporary refuge by the slightly older star - the Thanhouser Kid, of course - and that night the Kid and the Kidlet slept together and dreamed of the fine, new studio that was to replace the one that had been.


REVIEW, The Moving Picture World, February 15, 1913:

A series of views of the recent fire at Thanhouser's New Rochelle plant is the basis for the picture. James Cruze, Marguerite Snow, the Thanhouser Kid, and other members of this company appear in proper person, all greatly concerned over the fire. But the story interest is lacking, and the picture will serve mainly to advertise further the burning of the company's property at this point.


REVIEW, The New York Dramatic Mirror, February 5, 1913: This review is reprinted in the narrative section of the present work.

# # #


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