Aspects of American Film History Prior to 1920

By Anthony Slide | Go to book overview

8. THE THANHOUSER COMPANY

Ragtime, the novel by E. L. Doctorow which has been described as one of the most important literary works of our time, begins in the city of New Rochelle, but today's readers of the book are probably unaware that New Rochelle had two other, earlier claims to fame. The first was that--in the words of the George M. Cohan song--it was "only forty-five minutes from Broadway," and, thus, a popular place for vaudevillians to live. The city's other claim to fame was as the site of the studios of the Thanhouser Company.

Thanhouser is not the best known of the early film companies. Few of its productions have survived, and they do little to gain the company a reputation for artistic achievement. Almost all of its players have long been forgotten, and only one of its directors, James Cruze, has any reputation, and that reputation is questionable, with only two of his later features-- Beggar on Horseback ( 1925) and Old Ironsides ( 1926)--appearing worthy of unconditional praise.

So obscure is Thanhouser that there is even doubt as to the correct pronunciation of its name. Mignon Anderson, the sole surviving member of the Thanhouser Company, states emphatically that it was pronounced "Fanhouser," while Ethel Grandin, who roomed with Thanhouser star, Florence La Badie, claims it was pronounced "Tanhouser." What is not in question is the name of its founder, Edwin Thanhouser.

In 1909, Edwin Thanhouser was a veteran of twenty- five years in the theatre. For many years, he had successfully conducted his own stock company in Milwaukee, presenting a record number of 3,500 performances without closing his theatre. He was also the first theatre manager in America to produce Ibsen's Pillars of Society in English. Thanhouser's theatrical ventures had helped him amass a considerable amount of money, which he decided to invest in motion pictures.

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Aspects of American Film History Prior to 1920
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Dedication iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • 6 - Mr. Edison and the Edison Company 63
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - The Evolution of the Film Star 1
  • 2 - Comediennes of the 'Teens 7
  • 3 - Child Stars of the 'Teens 16
  • 4 - Ethel Grandin 27
  • 5 - Forgotten Early Directors 36
  • 7 - Katherine Anne Porter and the Movies 65
  • 8 - The Thanhouser Company 68
  • 9 - The Paralta Company 79
  • 10 - The O'Kalems 87
  • 11 - Early Film Magazines: An Overview 98
  • 12 - The First Motion Picture Bibliography 105
  • 13 - Film History Can Also Be Fun 122
  • Appendices 135
  • Source Material 149
  • Index 153
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