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Thanhouser films. New Rochelle was "Hollywood" before Hollywood.

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Thanhouser films. New Rochelle was "Hollywood" before Hollywood.

January 04, 2011 - 14:05
10 comments

The Thanhouser website. Features some very interesting history of the company that was a pioneer in the silent film era. New Rochelle was home to the studio for most of its existence in the early 1900's. Thought some might enjoy.

http://www.thanhouser.org/research.htm

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Yet we don't recognize it. We need to do more as a community to promote it.

Robert Cox's picture

And I mean "you" plural but also "you" as in Jerry.

I have created for you a web site that gets over 35,000 readers a month-- and growing. That's my "gift" to you. Now you are more than welcome to research a piece of New Rochelle history and write about it and have access to a readership you could not hope to create on your own. I will even arrange for it to be distributed to the millions of readers of Google News.

It's easy. Go to the New Rochelle Library and brows through the Doctorow section of the Library. Pick a story that you fancy and write up 300 words on the topic (or more if you like). Use the account you already have and publish what you find.

Why talk about how "we" (meaning someone else) should do more to promote the history of New Rochelle. You have the power to do it yourself. Just do it.

I'll take you up on that.

Robert Cox's picture

Looking forward to see which subject you choose.

I hope you will inspire others.

There are many great New Rochelle stories to tell.

Lou Gehrig, one of the most historical American figures of the past century, bought a house on Meadow Lane with his first Yankee salary and spent most of his baseball career living in New Rochelle until later moving to Larchmont and Riverdale where he eventually died from the fatal disease named after himself. He had two residences between the Meadow Lane house and Circuit Road apartment where legends like Babe Ruth would visit frequently but we don't seem to recognize this either. There is an alternate naming of Meadow Lane on the street signa but other than that you would never know he kept a boat in the Davenport harbor and played stickball with the kids in New Rochelle, NY.

I'm always amazed at the references to Thanhouser Films being produced in New Rochelle. Certainly that Studio was important in its day, during the infancy of movies. The company existed from 1909 to 1917.

But one would have to be 93 to have been alive when their last film was produced, and therefore there is virtually (or actually) no one alive who actually saw their films when they were new, and very few people currently alive who have ever seen their films, and very few people alive who have ever heard of Thanhouser Films.

Of course, Thanhouser Films was important in its day, although obscure when compared to major studios that then existed.

And the fact that Thanhouser Films is an ancient company, doesn't bother me, as art can maintain or increase in importance with age.

So what amazes me, is while there is all this boosting in New Rochelle, for the obscure, mostly forgotten Thanhouser Films, I only rarely read of another Film Studio that produced in New Rochelle, from 1929 to 1968, Terrytoons.

All Babyboomers and their parents surely are aware of the cartoons produced by Terrytoons, such as Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle and Tom Terrific. That same New Rochelle studio was also used by Firehouse Films until the late 1990's or early 2000's, and the same building, at 38 Centre Ave is currently the location of Best Buy Foods aka Viva Grande, and is immediately next to the historic Trinity-St Pauls Church on Huguenot Street.

If you look at Terrytoons' building, you will observe that all windows had been bricked over long ago, as was necessary to control lighting for the many cartoons produced there over 40 or more years.

I'm not sure why you saw the need to create a competition between Thanhouser and Terrytoons. My post was titled New Rochelle was Hollywood before Hollywood. This was the period of Thanhouser films. Terrytoons started in new Rochelle at the beginning of the depression just as the film industry headed west. Thanhouser films released over 1000 titles before the industry moved to the West coast, they employed hundreds of people and some of the industries first and most famous cameramen were in their employ. There is a huge following and new found appreciation for silent films. There is a global effort to locate many titles that are lost and countries like Russia and Poland have just sent dozens of films back to the USA. If you type in Thanhouser into youtube you can see some of their films. Terrytoons certainly had popular characters but Thanhouser was world famous at the time, respected in the industry that it played a major role in developing and produced the first million dollar grossing film in history.

My point is that although New Rochelle's Thanhouser might have been a pioneer in the film industry close to 100 years ago, New Rochelle's Terrytoons was a pioneer in the film animation industry going back to the 1920'a, as well as a pioneer of animation on Television in the 1950's.

While New Rochelle has every reason to be proud of the relatively obscure Thanhouser films, what mystifies me is that New Rochelle never seems to promote the better-known, just-as-historic, Terrytoons, a studio whose films are fairly well known to Baby Boomers and their parents.

I had earlier responded to another posting regarding famous New Rochellians, where I posted my own list. I am pretty knowledgeable on New Rochelle history, and referred to Terrytoons in a similar positive spirit. Awareness of Terrytoons needs boosting in New Rochelle.

Many people drive by Terrytoons' building, and buy groceries within it, every day with little awareness of its historic importance. If we are not careful, one day it will be torn down, like so much else in downtown New Rochelle has been, and perhaps replaced with another unneeded 40 story building.

I didn't intend to offend you, and appreciate your posts regarding Thanhouser as well as your comments on Terrytoons.

As a kid I remember the Terrytoons float in the annual Thanksgiving day parade. Those were good times in New Rochelle. Not sure who the Mayor and coucil was that sold the city's soul to Macy's but the downfall could probably be traced back to them. Hopefully we can get things going here again.

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