Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer

Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer

Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer

Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer

Excerpt

The history of popular American cinema is punctuated by the untimely deaths of individuals who remain etched as forever youthful in the public consciousness. Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Jean Harlow, and Carole Lombard will never age, and the same is true of figures of the silent era. These include Rudolph Valentino, Wallace Reid, and two for whom the circumstances of their death overshadowed their career: William Desmond Taylor and Thomas Harper Ince.

By 1922, the public perceived Hollywood as mired in scandal following the Taylor murder case, still unsolved to this day, and the Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle manslaughter trial. Ince’s death had its nexus in an almost theatrical setting, amid a cast of starring personalities. His fortyfourth birthday took place during a brief cruise on the yacht Oneida, owned by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. The nautical counterpart of Hearst’s ranch at San Simeon, California, the Oneida had a crew of thirty-five, and was a magnet for Hollywood celebrities.

Within days of returning home, Ince was dead, on November 19, 1924.

Almost immediately, and continuing to the present, a flurry of misinformation arose that was fit to rival any of the sensationalism that was so much a part of Hearst’s early years.

The occasion allowed his many enemies and rivals to exploit, in the circumstances of Ince’s death, a fissure in the armor of the waning Hearst empire. The plans to join Hearst capital with the Ince studio had promised a windfall but also would gain for Ince the antagonism of Hearst’s many adversaries. Suggesting that the truth of Ince’s death had not been told was a convenient way to accuse Hearst of murder or . . .

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