Many Wanted for New Serial–The Twisted Thread
January 04, 1917: Daily Telegram, “Many Wanted for New Serial: Soon to be Started by Balboa–Written by Pres. Horkheimer“: 2:6: “Wanted, young and middle-aged men to work extra in a new serial to be put on by the Balboa Amusement Producing Company.” So reads, in part, an advertisement to be found in today’s Telegram and which will run for a week. It shows that the Balboa company will need a large number of extra people in its forthcoming picture film and the “ad” offers an unusually good opportunity for Long Beach residents and toursists to “get into the movies.” Persons desiring such work are asked in the advertisement to call at the office to register, so they may be summoned as needed.
The new film-serial is to be The Twisted Thread, which was written by H. M. Horkheimer, president of the Balboa company. Miss Kathleen Clifford, a New York star, and her company, have been especially engaged for the production, under the direction of Frank Crane, also of New York.
Many parts of the picture will require 25 extra people in the scenes, while now and then several hundred may be needed.
Balboa, the Biggest Employer in Long Beach
January 29: Daily Telegram, 10:6: In 1917, Balboa was the largest employer in Long Beach and the greatest tourist attraction in a town already famous as an entertainment center. Balboa announced another new brand among its productions, “Little Mary Sunshine Plays,” starring Baby Marie Osborne. Baby Marie had become a world-class star. Other films that year made at Balboa featuring Baby Marie would incude Sunshine and Gold, Told at Midnight, and Twin Kiddies. Moreover, the studio announced that a new glass stage would be built.
Baby Marie and the Diando Film Company
So spectacular was Baby Marie’s success with the Little Mary Sunshine series that her parents considered forming their own film company to feature their daughter exclusively. The Horkheimers were willing to pay a superstar’s salary to keep the leading lady at Balboa; however, Mr. and Mrs. Osborne knew they had a gold mine and decided to form their own film company. In 1917, Leon Osborne and W. A. S. Douglas took over the old Kalem studio in Glendale, christening it the Diando Film Company, the name based on the “D” of Douglas and “O” of Osborne, that is–the D and O Film Compnay, with Baby Marie being the major attraction.
Left: Baby Marie, her sister, Gloria, and Mrs. Osborne in front of their Long Beach residence, 2311 Ocean Boulevard. As Marie’s fame and films spread throughout the world, the young actress earned as much as $1000 per week, and her mother became Marie’s escort, accompanying her daughter to and from the studio in high style driven by their chauffeur.
Knickerbocker Star Features: A Million-Dollar Deal
When Balboa took over the reins of Knickerbocker Star Features in February, a million-dollar contract was awarded to Balboa by the General Film Company for fifty-two Knickerbocker feature photoplays of four reels each. This was said to be the largest order ever placed in the film world for picture-plays. Many of the stories were by prominent writers and were known to countless readers who were interested in seeing them on screen. One production for Knickerbocker was to be released each week, and to fulfill this demanding contract, four companies would work simultaneously.
February 24: The Moving Picture World, “Gerneral Film Compahy Gives Horkheimer Brothers Million-Dollar Contract for Fifty-two Photoplays“: One of these Horheimer productions is to be released eachy week on the General Film program as a “Knickerbocker Staqr Feature,” beginning March 1. All the plays will be screen versions of the strongest stories appearing recently in Ainslee’s, the People’s Magazine, the Popular Magazine and other Street & Smith publications.
Such experienced technicians as Captain Leslie T. Peacocke, Dan F. Whitcomb and Douglas Bronston are doing the scenario adaptations.
To fulfill this contract four companies working simultaneously will be kept busy. One is to be headed by Bertram Bracken, who has just returned to Balboa from the East, where he directed Theda Bara and other Fox stars. Edgar Jones, late of the Metro forces, is another new director at the Horkheimer studio. The other two companies are those of Harry Harvey and William Bertram.
Among those engaged are Kathleen Kirkham, Viola Vale, Winifred Greenwood, Louise Sothern, Margaret Landis, Gloria Payton, Ethel Ritchie, Mignon LeBrun and Julian Beaubien. Male leads will be taken by Arthur Shirley, Clifford Gray, Melvin Mayo, Cullen Landis, R. Henry Grey, Lewis King and James Warner.
The four-reel feature is practically a new length production. It is the idea of H. M. Horkheimer, president and general manager of the Balboa Company, who closed the big contract while in the East recently. speaking of it, he said: “For the adequate telling of a good drmatic story on the screen, three reels are too short and five reels too long. So I have decided on four as the happy medium. The average stage play is in four acts. Exhibitors have been complaining about five-reel productions, because the most of them are padded to make the length. They want variety on their program. This is possible with a four-reel picture, which requires an hour to project. That allows time for a short comedy, some news pictures and any other novelty like an animated cartoon.”
March 10: The Moving Picture World, “Horkheimers Have Been Manufacturing Five Years,” p. 1605: H. M. Horkheimer came to Southern California in 1912. He was a showman of a varied career in all lines of the amusement business, from ticker seller for a circus to producing manager for the legitimate stage.
At the time, most theatrical men were seeking to discredit photodrama, but Horkheimer thought he saw a future for screen entertainment. On the impulse, without knowing the first thing about picture making–he hadn’t even seen a cinematographic camera up to that time–he decided to get into the business for himself.
It was just about the time when others werre plunging in. The fact that his total capital was only $7,000 did not deter Mr. Horkheimer. Having decided to become a photoplay producer he wasn’t long in finding a studio–or what had just been vacated by the Edison company under J. Searle Dawley. It consisted of one small building and a platform 25 by 75 feet which served for a stage. Under the one roof were the dressing rooms, offices, carpenter shops, laboratory property departments and the half dozen other necessary adjuncts–in miniature, of course.
On invoicing, it was found that the place was shy about everything needed to make picture. So a lot of paraphernalia was ordered. It camer to nine thousand dollars more than “H. M.” had. Did it phase him? Not a minute. He gathered together half a dozen actors, some carpenters and stage hands, a cameraman and a few laboratory assistants and began “to shoot” his first picture. All told, the first week’s payroll numbered twelve people and the operatting expense totaled about $500.
Today, after three and one-half years, the Balboa studio occupies all fours corners of the two intersecting streets where it started. A score of buildings painted uniformly green and white and surrounded by landscape gardening are required to shelter the various departments. The company roster has some three hundred and fifty names as regular employees, of which a third are players.
Not long after he got started H. M. Horkheimer found that he needed assistance. So he invited his brother, Elwood D. Horkheimer, to come west and join him. E. D. accepted and became the company’s secretary and treasurer. H. M. Horkheimer is president and general manager.
The original building was soon outgrown. So a piece of property was acquired across the street and on this a modern outdoor stage was erected and supplemented with carpenter shops, scene docks, property rooms and the like. The general offices and scenario department were housed in an adjoining bungalow. Since then the first building has been remodeled and serves now to accommodate the laboratory and wardrobe departments.
Subsequently, these quarters proved even too small. To make room for an inclosed studio the bungalow offices were moved to the third corner across the street. Adjoining thereto, a garage big enough to hold twenty cars was built. Then a papier-mâché department was added and several large warehouses. The latter give shelter to Balboa’s magnificent stock of props and furniture. This studio makes a point of owning everthing it uses. It requires a large investment, but is found more economical in the long run than renting.
For some time the fourth corner of Sixth and Alamitos streets was used to erect large sets on, which could not be provided for on the stage. But with the beginning of the new year constuction of the finest stage in Southern California was started. It has just recently been completed at a cost of $20,000. It has a hardwood floor and a system of overhead work for controlling the diffusers from a central station. This stage is 200 feet square and will be extended another hundred freet in the near future. It is flanked on one side by a battery of thirteen private offices for directors. On the other side will be twenty of the most modern dressing rooms constructible. In early spring ground is to be broken for a glassed-in studio, 150 by 200 feet, the largest int he industry.
As the Balboa plant stands today it represents an investment of $400,000. Plans have already been matured for further enlargements to be made during the coming year.
Mutual Film Corporation with Balboa Star, Jackie Saunders
March: The Moving Picture World, “Horkheimer to Make Mutual Series, Will Produce Six Five-Part Subjects Featuring Jackie Saunders“: A series of six five-part productions featuring Jackie Saunders will be released by the Mutual Film Corporation beginning March 26. This announcement comes from the Chicago offices of the Mutual Film corporation, where E. D. Horkheimer, the manufacturer controlling the services of Miss Saunders, closed a contract for the distribution of the pictures. The first release–that scheduled for March 26–is entitled “Sunny Jane.” Already completed are two others, “The Checkmate” and “The Wild Cat.”
March (continued): The Moving Picture World, “Horkheimer to Make Mutual Series, Will Produce Six Five-Part Subjects Featuring Jackie Saunders“: These dramas are of the lighter type, cheerful, sprightly and snappy–vehicles chosen for their atmosphere in the presentation of the graces of Miss Saunders. “I have chosen these plays for Miss Saunders,” observed Mr. Horkheimer, “with an eye on what the exhibitor seems to need right now. There is a flood of heavy stories, war story pictures, soggy, morbid drama. I have a notion, and a lot of exhibitors agree with me, that the motion picture audience is rather fond of amusement, that the average picture patron goes to the theater to be amused rather than to be confronted with a problem play and something to worry about.
“The great success of Charles Chaplin‘s pictures with every type of audience and with every measure of man is because he takes the curse off of worry. There is nothing to worry about and a lot of amusement in what he does. There is a lesson for the motion picutre industry in this success.
“The plays in which Miss Saunders will be seen in Mutual releases are of the pleasant character, with plenty of thrills to be sure, plenty of stuff for the patron who wants to get out on the edge of the seat and hold his breath–but at the same time nothing morbid and unhealthy in the story presented. The plots stick pretty close to realism, the drama of the life of every day, presented with plenty of pep and color. Jackie Saunders is the healthy type.
“I would like too, to ask the exhibitors’ attention for one mighty big and important factor in these Jackie Saunders-Mutual pictures.” They are clean. Just as clean as clean can be.
“I am no friend of censorship, but I am very much in favor of not giving censorship without going into the mire. Jackie Saunders herself is a good deal of a guaranty of this sort of quality. She knows, and out studio mail out at Long Beach proves, that her biggest following is among the young people, the kids and the adolescents. Youngsters of this age are the cleanest minded folks in the world. Jackie tries to present on the screen the kind of a girl they most admire.
The Jackie Saunders pictures will go out from Mutual with no “self-competiton,” since the last motion picture featuring Miss Saunders was released about one year ago.
Balboa’s Norman Manning and Upcoming Serial, The Twisted Thread
March: The Moving Picture World, “Visiting the Balboa Studios, Norman Manning Has Introduced Efficiency System at Horkheimer Brothers’ Plant“: We paid a visit this week to the studios of the Balboa Amusement Producing Company at Long Beach, California. Balboa has now one of the most attractive and elaborate studios on the Pacific Coast. We had trhe pleasure of a chat with H. M. Horkheimer, the general president, and were conducted throught he plant by Norman Manning, business manager and efficiency expert. Mr. Manning has so arranged everything around the plant that there is not a prop nor an article, however unimportant, that he cannot lay his hands on within a fraction of a second. It isn’t a matter of card indexing and filing systems, but the man actually has all these things at his finger tips and can tell any employee of the big plant where to find anything from a spool of thread to a grand piano. Almost everying in the studios is on rollers and Mr. Mannning has devised a thousand and one time-saving schemes for handling scenery and props and taking care of same. Everything is kept in tip-top condition. In the glassware department there is enough glass to fit out a five-and-ten-cent store. Not a speck of dust anywhere, and a man was polishing glasses like a first-class bartender. Mr. Manning’s pet department evidently is the automobile garage. The company owns twenty cars and sometimes hires as many more.
The Balboa Company is now working on a new Pathé serial, The Twisted Thread, and a most elaborate set has been built on the new stage. Frank H. Crane will direct the serial, assisted by Otto Hoffman and Thomas Swem, technical director. Kathleen Clifford will be the featured star, assisted by Gordon Sackville, leading man; Bruce Smith, heavy lead; Julian Dillon, juvenile lead; Corenne Grant, heavy leading woman. Additions will be made as the production proceeds and several of Balboa’s famous Beauty Squad will be given a chance to make good.
The story was written by President Horkheimer, and Chief Scenario Editor Will M. Ritchey will complete its adaptation for the screen.
First Release of Fortune Photoplays, The Inspiration of Harry Larrabee
March 17: The Moving Picture World, “The Inspiration of Harry Larrabee, First of the Fortune Photoplays“: In connection with the issuance of The Inspirations of Harry Larrabee, the initial offering of the General Film Company’s new Fortune Photoplays, the first weekly four-reel feature service, by the way, the most comprehensive advertising campaign through the media of magazines will be inaugurated in connection with an aggressive and widely conducted newspaper propaganda. The General Film Company has secured screen rights, past, present and future, to all of the stories published in Street & Smith’s famous magazines, among them being novels and stories that have caused international comment and aroused interest everywhere. Each one of the Street & Smith publications will carry weekly or monthly, as the case may be, a page devoted to the Fortune Photoplays, with results that cannnot help but make this series of four-reel features the biggest thing that has come the exhibitors’ way for a long time.
The General Film Company feels that inasmuch as the Street & Smith output reaches every grade of society, readers of every age and condition of being, there could not be found a more powerful aid to showmen than the advertising arranged for in conjunction with the general campaign. Among the publications carrying this weekly page are Ainslee’s, Smith’s, The Popular, People’s, Top Notch, Detective Stories and Picture Play Magazine. According to the publishers their output reaches more than 15,000,000 people a month, the actual circulation figures reaching above 3,000,000 copies. This huge production ratifies the belief that upon the screen the picturization of these popular stories by the best known of the world’s authors will be a record-breaking success.
Following the first release, The Inspiration of Harry Larrabee, by Howard Fielding, and which features such well-known screen names as Clifford Gray, Margaret Landis, Winifred Greenwood, Frank Brownlee, William Ehfe, Charles Blaisdell, Tom Morgan and others, will come Mentioned in Confidence, The Clean Gun, The Best Man, The Mainspring, and a long succession of equally interesting cinema masterpices. The pictures are being made at the Balboa studios at Long Beach, Cal., and heading the staff of directors are Bertram Bracken, Edgar Jones, Harry Harvey and Henry King.
Production Praised: The Twisted Thread
August 11: The Moving Picture World, p. 948: MPW discussed enthusiastically the Horkheimer’s newest serial: “Balboa studio is rapidly becoming a serial factory. The Horkheimers announce that they propose to build bigger and better serials. The Twisted Thread will mark the beginning of this new policy, and productions to follow will be constructed along lines more elaborate than before attempted. A large and well equipped single outdoor stage has just been completed and will be devoted exclusively to the building of serials. The newest ideas in filmcraft have been incorporated in the new plant.
Another New Brand: “Falcon Features” (from August 1917 to February 1918)
August 17: In addition to their new trademark, Knickerbocker Star Features, the Horkheimers splashed across the screen another brand called “Falcon Features,” employing a hooded falcon as their trademark, produced and released by General Films. Falcon Features began in August 1917 and ceased production in February 1918, when the Horkheimer’s studio stunned the industry and went into receivership. Here is a list of those Falcon Features:
|The Best Man||Brand’s Daughter||The Clean Gun||The Climber|
|Feet of Clay||His Old-Fashioned Dad||The Lady in the Library||The Mainspring|
|The Martinache Marriage||The Phantom Shotgun||TheSecret of Black Mountain||The Stolen Play|
Paramount’s First Serial: “Made at Balboa”
October 26: Variety (p. 33) thought Balboa’s Who Is “Number One”? was a magnificent film, sumptuous in the extreme. The magazine noted that the Horkheimers had spared no expense in building sets. Variety also wrote that the detail in the serial was wonderfully worked out and stated its hopes that the remainng 15 episodes would do equally well.
This was the first serial ever handled by Paramount Pictures, and H. M. Horkheimer produced the movie, whereas Anna Katherine Green wrote the story, and the film starred Kathleen Clifford and Cullen Landis.
Comique Film Corporation: Arbuckle and Keaton Arrive at Balboa
December: Yet another leasing company used the Balboa site. “Fatty” Arbuckle returned to Long Beach, the town where he had been working on stage at the Pike and also married in 1908. The Comique Film Corporation had been started by Joseph M. Schenck in the spring of 1917 to produce Arbuckle and Keaton collaborations to be released by Paramount. Their first collaboration, The Butcher Boy, was released April 23, 1917, filmed at the studios of Norma Talmadge Film Corporation in New York. Atthe end of 1917, Comique would move to Long Beach and do six movies there before moving to the Diando studios in Glendale in 1918, to disassociate itself with the negative publicity and misfortune that resulted spring of 1918 when Balboa Studios went into receivership.