Movie-making in Ithaca: 1913 Jun 2, 2005 23:46:24 GMT -5
Post by Terry Harbin on Jun 2, 2005 23:46:24 GMT -5
Movie-making in Ithaca1913:
Essanay crew arrives in Ithaca
Essanay crew arrives in Ithaca
In May of 1913, Theodore Wharton returned to Ithaca, and established himself on the Cornell University Campus. Wharton would produce many successful two-reel films during the 1913 season.
He had successfully brought silent films first true matinee idol, Francis X. Bushman from the stage to the silver screen. Beverly Bayne was Bushman’s leading lady in the movies filmed here in Ithaca.
The Bushman family arrived in town first, and would live in the Cornell Heights just off the University campus. The house was in a convenient location at 202 Thurston Ave. right next to the Fall Creek gorge, in the home of local attorney Paul Clymer.
A glass domed stadium nearby was available for a temporary studio location. A stage was also built and dressing rooms were available inside the house. Trolley car service was running down the front street and the bustling campus life in the summer made the movie-making atmosphere complete.
Theodore Wharton had planned several college life scenarios for the filming season. He also wrote several other scripts while he was producing here.
He brought along from Essanay an assistant director/producer Archer McMackin and camera operator David Hargen as well as a property manager Al Tracey. The final cast members would arrive shortly, which would almost complete the group. Wharton planned to use the local scenery, buildings, gorges and most of all Ithacans in his film projects.
The first scenes filmed were used in a film entitled "The Hermit of Lonely Gulch." It featured the Cornell Heights area as the background, and used the lower Fall Creek falls for a dramatic photoplay. A Picturesque cabin on the island located just below the falls would also be used in the film. The island was nicknamed for years as 'Essanay Island.'
The filming in Ithaca began on June 12th and later that week a big explosion at the Portland cement works (courtesy of a director’s order) would supply the final scenes for another film, "The Whip Hand."
It was announced that a former Ithacan Robin Townley would be returning to town from Canada were he was playing in stock companies. Born in Lansing NY, to Fred and Agnes Townley he attended the Williams School of Expression.
Harry Carr, a Syracuse native who had worked with Wharton at the Edison plant in New Jersey, and at the Kalem studios, also arrived for filming. Both men would be associated in some way with Theodore Wharton right up to the end of film-making in Ithaca.
Townley and Carr both left with several other Ithaca actors in 1919, along with Leo Wharton to help establish The San Antonio Picture Company with Macklyn Arbuckle in San Antonio, Texas.
Another film, Sunlight, had its opening scenes staged in Ludlowville NY. This picture also featured slum life, many scenes were taken in the inlet area of Ithaca, children playing in the dirt, a mother bending over a washtub doing laundry, while a father goes to a local saloon.
Lansing, NY. supplied the Asbury Church and Rogues Harbor buildings for several scenes which were filmed showing people leaving on foot and in their carriages.
Some of the kids in the film (Seville and Clifford) were the children of Leonard Reulein. Leonard was a bell hop at the local Ithaca hotel, along with his twin brother Gus. Many of the movie actors stayed at this hotel. Both handsome lads would later appear in Wharton films during the 1916 season.
Edward Buck, the Ithaca chief of police would perform the part of a police chief in the picture For Old Time's Sake, a part which he
performed quite naturally. Friends of Chief Buck in Omaha when the film was released easily recognized him. Buck also continued in the movies made here until 1919.
Harry Carr often played a police officer and when needed real police were always ready to step in.
The film crew also went to Sheldrake, NY for more beautiful scenery, and the buildings there were used as background for the production of yet another film. Originally titled 'Little Ted' and later released as "A Woman Scorned" it also featured local attorney Paul Clymer, who had leased his home to the movie-makers, he portrayed a local man in a western bar taken apart by a gang of miners. In the mining camp scenes several more
Cornell Heights residents also appeared.
The young son of Mr. & Mrs. Louis Fuertes, who resided nearby on Wyckoff Avenue. Sumner Fuertes had a juvenile lead role, he would rescue Francis X. Bushman after one of the most realistic fights yet obtained by the film company took place on the edge of the Fall Creek gorge. Both actors eventually went tumbling down the falls to a watery landing and soaked was Francis X. Bushman and actor William Bailey.
Then work shifted to Geneva, NY, where a nearby railroad company was installing tracks. This would provide a natural scene that would be used in the next production "The Right of Way,"
Later filming moved to the Slaterville, NY region for scenes at the Hollister estate. A set of tracks ran through a small cemetery,located near the farm, this location was spliced together with the previous scenes of the installation of tracks.
In the film everything was very realistically portrayed and all this action was being done against the owner’s wishes. Timothy Hollister portrayed the local sheriff sent to stop the construction and the two scenes fit perfectly together in the dramatic photoplay.
The biggest highlight of the picture was the audience's reaction to a car plunging 150 feet down the Taughannock Falls. This scene startled the viewers and made for an exciting finish.
A dummy was placed in the car just prior to Robin Townley, the driver, having exited the vehicle. Some crew-members helped shove the car off the precipice. Most of the valuable parts of the car had been stripped including the exhaust and engine before it plunged off the cliff. After the scene was done and filming was completed the wreck was removed and the tires were ordered returned if in usable condition.
This was the first car thrown off of a local gorge.]
But of course this would not be the last time such an event would happen during filming locally.
For the production of "The Love Lute of Romany" a band of real gypsies was used and Robin Townley took the part of Raoul, a gypsy poet and troubadour, with affections toward the fiery gypsy chiefs daughter. A fight takes place around Beebe Lake and at points along the fall creek gorge. The cutting down of a tree that crashes down the gorge toward the gypsies fighting below was very effective.
In still another production Tony the Fiddler. A Cornell University proctor Lt. Theodore Tweston appears as an inhabitant of a border town. During the filming, actor William Bailey would be injured during a horse riding sequence. Attorney Paul Clymer and neighbor Louis Agassis Fuertes would also appear in several scenes.
In the film Bushman who plays the part of "Tony" an Italian musician whose stagecoach is held up by "Big Bill" a desperado on whom the sheriff has placed a huge reward, dead or alive. Tony is taken by force to Big Bills hideout located just below the Ithaca Falls. Tony later lulls Big Bill to sleep with his melodic fiddle playing. He then succeeds in capturing him, handing him over to the sheriff very much alive. Then he collects the reward.
The Toll of the Marshes was filmed in the Montezuma swamp and in the inlet valley.The selling of swampland as farmland leads to a dispute between two men. When again they meet at a tent city, in the west end part of Ithaca where many scenes were staged, and a furious fight takes place.
In the film Dear Old Girl Francis X. Bushman portrays a Cornell student named Ted Warren, (not Wharton) who has plans for an upcoming wedding. Beverly Bayne plays his beau, Dora Allen. Dora visits Ted regularly on the campus during the school year.
As the wedding day approaches Dora takes the train from Geneva, NY to Ithaca to meet Ted at the Ithaca Lehigh Valley Station located downtown so they can finalize their plans. As the clock tower starts chiming out the melody of "Dear Old Girl of Mine," Ted has his faithful servant played by Ithacan Eugene Gladsby take him to the train station.
Upon arriving at the station the servant gets news that Dora has been in an accident while in route to the station in her hometown. She has died and will not be arriving.
The servant can not find the strength to tell this to Ted. They both return to the campus and in the ensuing days each time the chimes toll Ted insists on going to the station to meet his fiancee and his servant obeys and takes him and returns empty handed.
After several weeks of continuing this routine Ted after hearing the chimes again slips out of the house on his own and makes it down to the station where he hears the sound of an approaching train.
In his delusion he runs on the train tracks into an on coming train. His servant arrives shortly after the train stops blowing its whistle. Looking around he notices something up ahead and he recovers Ted’s body from the sidetracks.
At home the next day as the chimes ring aloud Ted has a vision and looking towards the sky he sees the image of Dora as an angel with her arms spread open beckoning him to come join her.
He passes on and reaches the pearly gates with Dora at his side, the Cornell tower continues chiming out the melody as the scene comes to an end.
This film was so well received by the public that it was re-released in 1915 which is something that was seldom done.
Just before the film was shown locally Eugene Gladsby, who appeared as an Uncle Tom character in several of the other productions filmed here, died after an illness at the city hospital.
In tribute to him a bouquet of flowers with an Essanay Indian head on it was sent to his Center Street home.
As the filming was ending for the Essanay Company, one of the owners George Spoor visited Ithaca because he was so impressed with the quality of films that Wharton had produced.
The cost of filming without a real studio was quite high and The Essanay Company then told Wharton to find a site for a permanent studio. Around that time, Mr.Lund head of the Eclair Film Company, arrived in town and was looking for a location to stage a winter mountain film.
Then on August 22nd a contractor Leopold Wharton from the Pathe company arrived with hopes of filming in Ithaca. He also was told ‘hands off’ not while Ted Wharton was already working the area. So Ted’s brother Leopold left town without permission to film.
But the next year would see both Brothers producing films locally under the newly formed Wharton Inc. banner for the Pathe Company.
One last event was to occur and it would shake up the whole town. Bruce Bushman the son of Francis X. Bushman was leaning against the screen of an upstairs window in the Thurston Avenue house. He fell from the second story window and was seriously injured, it was feared that he would die.He fortunately survived the fall and the journey back to Chicago was only delayed until he recovered.
Bushman and Bayne would return to Ithaca in 1916 to film "The Adopted Son" for the Metro Film Company where they were now both employed.
In 1917 the popular on screen romance of Bushman & Bayne was about to be tested. They had won a popularity contest and were voted the King and Queen of the silent screen during the 1913 1914 seasons.
Then came the announcement that Bushman & Bayne had been married for many years. This would destroy both of their careers. Many of their fans had believed the on screen romance was acting and not real. Although they were adored by the public and were both heartthrobs of so many the truth would be too much for them to undo.
Theodore Wharton before Ithaca
Wharton began working for Essanay in 1911 as a writer of stage plays, something he had been doing in motion pictures since landing his first film work at the Edison Studio in 1907, as a writer.
Later he became scenario editor and studio supervisor. He had been seasoned in the theatre atmosphere having been the treasurer for the Dallas Opera house, Hopkins Grand Opera House and Hammerstein’s Victoria Theatre in NYC during the 1890’s.
He appeared on the stage with E.H. Sothern, Augustin Daly, John Drew and others until opportunity took him to Edison. He worked for Kalem in 1908 and in 1909, he built Pathes’ first American Studio in Jersey City.
Wharton must have passed thru Ithaca on his way to the Chicago Essanay headquarters after leaving Pathe' and he never forgot the beauty of the region and when a chance arrived in 1912 he came to Ithaca with a movie camera.
This was the real start of movie-making in Ithaca. Arriving in early October of 1912 he filmed the campus life, the scenery and football scenes for a motion picture being done by the Essanay Film Company from Chicago. He had little troubles capturing the needed footage and on December 6th 1912 Football Days at Cornell was released locally.
Theodore then ended his ties with the Chicago based Essanay Film Company because they would not build a special Eastern Essanay Studio in Ithaca. Wharton vowed to return to Ithaca after he completed his last film for Essanay in late 1913.
That final project would become film history’s first eight-reel epic The War of the Civilizations for the United States War Department. The film featured actual recreations of major Indian battles,and it included the famous "Buffalo Bill" Cody, who became good friends with Wharton and later would bring his road show to Ithaca.
This was the first film to be produced with preservation of it in mind, unfortunately less than 2 minutes of it survives today. It was released later as "The Indian Wars." After completion of the film, Ted Wharton would return to Ithaca to establish his own film studio. Wharton would bring lots of talent to Ithaca via the overnight train from NYC, starting in 1914.