Evidence of the Film, The (1913)

US / 14 minutes / bw silent / Thanhouser, Mutual Dir: Edwin Thanhouser, Lawrence Marston Pr: Edwin Thanhouser Cast: William Garwood, Marie Eline, Florence LaBadie, Riley Chamberlin.

Evidence of the Film - 1 the ultimatum

This interesting little one-reeler—a thematic precursor of, among other movies of noirish interest, items like Close-Up (1948) and BLOWUP (1966)—was lost until 1999, when a copy was found on the projection-room floor of a cinema in Montana. In 2001 it was added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry.

Crooked broker Henry Watson (Garwood) receives an ultimatum from his client Mrs. Caroline Livingston (uncredited): return the $20,000’s worth of her bonds that he holds or face criminal proceedings. He cooks up a swinish plot, filling one envelope in private with torn-up newspaper and another, identical envelope in front of his clerk (Chamberlin) and secretary (uncredited) with Mrs. Livingston’s bonds. He then has the clerk call a messenger to take the envelope to Mrs. Livingston.

Evidence of the Film - 2 Watson schemes

Watson (William Garwood) schemes . . .

We’ve already learned that the extremely youthful messenger boy (Eline, in fact a girl) has a big sister (LaBadie) who works at a movie studio—circumstantial evidence later suggests it’s the Thanhouser studio. As he strolls through the streets to his destination, the boy pauses to watch a movie crew at work filming a group of actors. At this point Watson approaches, “accidentally” knocks the boy to the ground and, under cover of helping him up, swaps the real envelope for the dummy.

Evidence of the Film - 3 the messenger is up but limping

The messenger boy (Marie Eline) is up but limping.

The substitution’s discovered at Mrs. Livingston’s house, of course. She suspects Watson, but he produces his clerk and secretary as witnesses that the envelope did indeed contain her bonds. Accordingly the child is fetched before the judge, and then despatched to jail.

Evidence of the Film - 4 Mrs. Livingston makes her complaint

Mrs. Livingston (uncredited) makes her complaint.

A few days later, however, the big sister is editing the very same movie that her little brother saw being filmed when she comes across a sequence showing Watson doing the devilish deed. From there it’s but a short step to having her brother freed and the dastardly broker arrested in his stead.

Evidence of the Film - 5 the boy phones his sis . . .

The boy (Marie Eline) phones his sister . . .

Evidence of the Film - 6 . . . who is horrified

. . . and she (Florence LaBadie) is horrified.

Evidence of the Film - 8 what she discovers . . .

What she discovers . . .


Evidence of the Film - 9 . . . and what she shows to the cops

. . . and what she shows to the cops.

The chapter titles are as follows:

• The Dishonest Broker Plots to Outwit his Client
• The Moving Picture Company at Work
• The “Dummy” Package is Given to the Messenger Boy
• The Broker Has Witnesses to Prove his Innocence
• Some Days Later. The Evidence of the Film
• The Detectives See the Picture
• The Innocent is Freed

A friend of Mary Pickford (who engineered her first screen break, a bit part in D.W. Griffith’s In the Window Recess [1909]), Florence LaBadie was an extremely prolific actress, making over 180 movies—most of them shorts by today’s standards although of good length for the era—between 1909 and her death in 1917, aged just 29, after an automobile accident. Marie Aline was similarly prolific as a child actress, mainly for the Thanhouser studio—which promoted her as “The Thanhouser Kid”—but later for other companies. Her final movie came in 1919, after which she did stage work, often with her younger sister Grace.

Evidence of the Film - 7 the sis at work in the cutting room

The sister (Florence LaBadie) at work in what is presumably the Thanhouser cutting room.

The Evidence of the Film is available for streaming, along with many other Thanhouser silents, here; compilation DVDs of the movies are also available from the Thanhouser site. There’s a shot-by-shot analysis of the movie here.

7 thoughts on “Evidence of the Film, The (1913)

  1. Wow John, your impassioned and fascinating report here really has me intrigued. And at 14 minutes I can see it won’t be all that difficult at all to navigate! Thanks so much for the historical framing and the meticulous outline of the film’s narrative structure. Apparently then, this was quite a find!

  2. Pingback: Allan Fish Online Festival Day 10: Silent French short “Tragic Error” by Louis Feuillade | Wonders in the Dark

  3. Pingback: Erreur Tragique (1913) | Noirish

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