It’s exciting any time that film buffs are given access to rarely seen pictures from days gone by, and it’s even more exciting when those films are made available to one and all, free of charge.
Fifty-six films made by the Thanhouser Company, originally released between 1910 and 1917, are now available via online stream, free of charge.
The Thanhouser Company was founded in 1910 by Edwin Thanhouser, who had made a nice living serving as the manager of the Academy of Music Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Thanhouser decided he wanted to get into the motion picture business, and given that the film industry was then centered in the New York City area, he made his way to the Big Apple with every intention of opening a production studio in Manhattan.
Because so many producers and performers of note then lived in New Rochelle, a Westchester County suburb of NYC, Thanhouser took the train to that burg, hoping to make some connections. Instead, he met a real estate broker there who convinced him that New Rochelle was the perfect place to locate his studio. Thanhouser was convinced to buy a shuttered rolling skate rink as headquarters for his new endeavor.
Thanhouser’s theatrical experience served him well as a film maker, and New Rochelle, situated between urban and rural settings, allowed him to film on location to great effect. The municipal authorities in New Rochelle were very cooperative as well, allowing Thanhouser to shoot freely in and around town, and it showed in the pictures Thanhouser put out.
In 1912, Thanhouser sold the studio at a healthy profit to the Mutual Picture Corporation, and by 1915, they realized how key he had been to the quality of pictures the studio churned out. That spring, they brought Thanhouser back to manage studio operations, and the company’s fortunes again were on the upswing.
The year 1917 was a rough one for the movie business, with many studios laying off employees and actors. Though his studio was still operating at a profit, Thanhouser opted to get out of the movie business and build a dream home on Long Island in which to spend his golden years. The studio was leased to another production company, the Clara Kimball Young Film Corporation, and the Thanhouser Film Corporation ceased to operate.
But the films live on, and now you, Cladrite reader, can travel back in time, via the wonders of the internet, to enjoy quality cinema as it existed a century ago. We’ve included the earliest film in the collection below, just to give you a taste of the experience, but you can view all 56 pictures at Thanhouser.org. And while you’re there, you can purchase the films on DVD or show your gratitude by following the link on the web site to donate to Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc., “a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization involved in the research, acquisition, preservation and publication of educational materials related to the early silent motion picture era, with a specific focus on the Thanhouser film enterprise.”