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Ned Thanhouser Hosts Silent Film Festival

Ned Thanhouser taking questions from the audience after the films were done being shown.
Ned Thanhouser taking questions from the audience after the films were done being shown.

New Rochelle's own Thanhouser Company recently hosted a Silent Film Festival at the New Rochelle library which featured three of the company’s recovered films from the 1900s.

Ned Thanhouser, the president of the Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, began the event by giving the audience a brief outline of what would be shown. He also introduced Ben Model who has performed 18 songs for some of the company’s silent films. Model was there to accompany the films on the piano.

There were four films shown in total at the event. “The Star of the Sideshow” (1912), “Cymbeline” (1913), and “Clarence Cheats at Croquet” (1915). These films were all set between 1909 and 1917.

The last film shown was a documentary in the process of being made based on the Thanhouser Company, created and narrated by Ned Thanhouser.

Thanhouser Company created over 1,000 films in New Rochelle in the 1900s, and with Ned Thanhouser’s hard work, he’s been able to uncover 157 of the films so far.

The films had many recurring actors, as the company liked to stick with familiar actors in their cast. There was the “Thanhouser Kid”, and one of their most well-known actresses, Florence LaBadie.

Afterwards, the audience was encouraged to give feedback on the documentary they saw, and in return received a pack of post cards with various actors from the Thanhouser films on the front.

“It’s fun to go and see American history in action,” said New Rochelle resident Heath Windcliff.

Thanhouser continued to take questions from the audience, as well as give more background to how he became the president of the Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, and how he took over the Thanhouser Company in 1985

He had been led to believe that his grandfather had gotten rid of his copies of the movies, but other companies who had been given copies of the films still had access to them.

“I got on the phone and called the Library of Congress who directed me to Black Hawk Films,” said Thanhouser.

Attendees were encouraged to ask questions ranging from the company’s past to where Thanhouser can see it going in the future. Thanhouser said that the company is always working to uncover more of the lost films.

Diane Steinfink, an active member of the New Rochelle community, as well as a lover of the arts, came to the event out of curiosity.

“[The films] were each a little different. I thought it was very interesting,” said Steinfink. “To have the speaker, and someone who was involved. That’s what brings it alive.”

Thanhouser.org is the home of the Thanhouser Company Film Preservation which is selling many of the movies are being sold as DVDs for fans of silent films made through the Thanhouser Company.


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