The Thanhouser Company (later the Thanhouser Film Corporation) was one of the first motion picture studios, founded in 1909 by Edwin Thanhouser, his wife Gertrude and his brother-in-law Lloyd Lonergan. It operated in New York City until 1920, producing over a thousand films.
On January 13, 1913, a fire destroyed the main facility in New Rochelle; much equipment and many costumes and negatives of films in production were lost. However, subsidiary studios that had been set up were able to meet distributors' needs while it was being rebuilt.
After Hite's death in an automobile accident, the company continued for another five years. After a period of floundering under inexperienced leadership, Edwin Thanhouser was hired to take charge, but he could not recreate the success of his earlier years. The film industry had evolved and was more competitive by this time, and although films featuring star Florence La Badie were still successful, other ventures were not. La Badie left Thanhouser Corporation in 1917, only weeks before her own death on October 13, 1917, due to injuries sustained in an automobile accident in late August. In 1920, Thanhouser Corporation was liquidated.
A still from The Actor's Children. It shows the family with the father doing some theatrical acting for the amusement of his children.
The Thanhouser Company's first release was The Actor's Children on March 15, 1910. The plot focused on a family of theater actors who struggle to pay the rent. While the parents are out, their kids are left out on the street where they dance to the music of an organ grinder. They are later rescued by a theater manager and are reunited with their parents at the theater. The film's conclusion is an example of the deus ex machina dramatic technique, which Lonergan used to conclude many scenarios. Though it was the first release, it was not the first film to be produced; the first film produced was The Mad Hermit. Produced in the autumn of 1909, The Mad Hermit would not be released until August 1910. According to Lloyd Lonergan, the first script he wrote was for Aunt Nancy Telegraphs, which was shot in December 1909 but never released.
Multiple silent-film scenes being simultaneously filmed under the glass roof of the Thanhouser studio, c. 1914. Visible are actors in costume, directors, cameramen, sets, a Klieg light, and four Pathé silent film cameras
Thanhouser produced over 1,000 silent films. Among these were:
The Cry of the Children: Selected in 2011 by the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry, which recognizes films for their cultural, historical and aesthetic significance. The Film Preservation Board described this two-reel melodrama from 1912, part of which was filmed in a working textile mill, as a "key work" in relation to the U.S. movement for child labor reform in the years before World War I. According to the Film Preservation Board, an "influential critic of the time" called it "the boldest, most timely and most effective appeal for the stamping out of the cruelest of all social abuses."
When the Studio Burned: On January 13, 1913 (three days after the release of The Evidence of the Film), the main facility of the Thanhouser studio in New Rochelle, New York burned to the ground. Most of the negatives in the studio's film library were saved. However, in the scramble to save lives, business files and the film library, none of the company's cameramen were able to set up their equipment until after the studio was a smoldering ruin. Thanks to Thanhouser's recent acquisitions of production facilities in Los Angeles and Chicago, the studio was able to produce this 14-minute fictional film about the fire. The film, which included many of the studio's stars appearing as themselves recreating their escape from the fire, was released on February 4, 1913.