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Thomas H. Ince Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (24) | Personal Quotes (4)

Overview (3)

Born in Newport, Rhode Island, USA
Died in Beverly Hills, California, USA  (heart failure)
Birth NameThomas Harper Ince

Mini Bio (1)

Thomas H. Ince was born into a family of stage actors. He appeared on the stage at age six and worked with a number of stock companies, making his Broadway debut at 15. Vaudeville work was inconsistent, so he was a lifeguard, a promoter and part-time actor. His stage career was a failure but by 1910 he joined Biograph, and after one film, Carl Laemmle's Independent Motion Pictures hired Ince as a director. Ince went to Cuba to make films out of the reach of the Motion Pictures Patent Company -- the trust that attempted to crush all independent production companies and corner the market on film production -- but his output was small. In 1911 he joined the New York Motion Picture Corp. [NYMPC] and headed to California to make Westerns. Ince insisted that all scripts be thoroughly planned out before filming began, which would give him the opportunity to film several scenes at the same time with assistant directors. One of those directors was Francis Ford, the brother of John Ford.

In 1912, NYMPC and other independent studios merged to form Universal Pictures. Ince built a city of motion picture "sets" on a stretch of land in Santa Monica Mountains called "Inceville" where he shot many of the outdoor locales for his films. At the end of 1912, Ince hired William Desmond Taylor to act in his film Counterfeiters (1914). In 1913 Ince made over 150 films, mostly Westerns and Civil War dramas. He would also employ directors Frank Borzage, Fred Niblo, Jack Conway, and Henry King. In 1914 Ince hired William S. Hart as an actor who could also direct his own films. Ince made the epic The Battle of Gettysburg (1913) and thereafter concentrated on longer films as he moved from director to producer. He employed thousands of technicians and made movies on an assembly-line method. In 1915 he joined D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett to form the Triangle Motion Picture Company built in Culver City on Washington Boulevard (now the site of Sony Pictures). Fortunately, Hart was a profitable star who kept the company afloat. In 1916 Ince produced and directed the anti-war film Civilization (1915), which cost $100,000 and returned $800.000. Always looking for new talent, Ince signed Olive Thomas, the rising young star of the Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic, to star in his films.

At the end of World War I, Ince broke with Triangle and joined his nemesis Adolph Zukor to form Paramount/Artcraft and built yet another studio in Culver City which had a southern mansion facade of Mount Vernon (and later was bought by David O. Selznick). Ince developed a series of comedies pairing Douglas MacLean and Doris May, and their first picture, 23 1/2 Hours' Leave (1919), was successful. When William S. Hart's contract ended, however, he left the company and Zukor forced Ince out of Paramount/Artcraft. In December 1919 Thomas Ince, Mack Sennett, Marshall Neilan, Maurice Tourneur, Allan Dwan and other directors joined to form Associated Producers, an independent film alliance. 'Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle' had been approached, but he had no desire to join the group. In 1922 Associated Producers merged with First National. On February 1, 1922, Paramount director William Desmond Taylor was shot to death in his bungalow and one of the suspects, although never a serious one, was Mack Sennett, who stated that he spent the night at the home of Ince.

In 1924 Ince was one of several Hollywood people aboard the yacht of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst when he suddenly fell ill. Ince was rushed aboard a train bound for Del Mar where his wife, her son, and a physician met him and accompanied him home where he died. The Los Angeles Times supposedly released the headline "Movie producer Shot on Hearst yacht!" but other papers including the New York Times said that Ince died of heart failure. One of the stories that sensationalized Ince's sudden death said that Hearst shot Ince and that the bullet wasn't meant for Ince but for Charles Chaplin, whom Hearst had long suspected of carrying on a secret affair with his mistress, actress Marion Davies. Supposedly, Hearst inadvertently walked into Davies' cabin and caught her and Chaplin in bed together and fired several shots, missing Chaplin but hitting Ince. Another rumor circulated that columnist Louella Parsons was also on board that day and witnessed the shooting, although other sources say Parsons was in New York at the time. Supposedly, in exchange for keeping quiet, Hearst promised Parsons a lifetime job as the Hollywood reporter for his newspaper chain (she was already employed by Hearst in 1923 as a reporter). Ince biographers have disputed the Hearst conspiracy and argued that Ince had been ill for some time with ulcers and had suffered from angina with a previous heart attack.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Spouse (1)

Elinor Kershaw (19 October 1907 - 19 November 1924) (his death) (2 children)

Trivia (24)

Younger brother of John Ince, elder brother of Ralph Ince. Father of Thomas H. Ince Jr..
He was taken ill while on board William Randolph Hearst's yacht on November 18, 1924. Also on board were Marion Davies, Charles Chaplin, among other celebrities.
Inceville, located where Sunset Boulevard reaches the Pacific Ocean, is named for him. It was in Inceville that he established his first studio, before moving his studio to Culver City.
Built his Culver City studio in 1918. After his death, it was sold to Cecil B. DeMille, who later sold it to RKO, when it became known as RKO Culver. The studio was leased to David O. Selznick in the late 1930s. Gone with the Wind (1939) was filmed there, razing a number of old DeMille sets for the burning of Atlanta sequence. When Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz bought RKO in 1956, the lot became Desilu Culver. In the mid 1980s, Grant Tinker and Gannett Corp. bought the lot. They sold it to Sony in 1991, who in turn sold it to PCCP Studio City Los Angeles, who now operates it under the name The Culver Studios. The studio is now rented by all the major studios for both film and TV work.
Co-founder and President (1920-21) of Associated Producers Inc., formed in 1919.
Owner of production company Thomas H. Ince Corp.
Owner of production company Thomas H. Ince Productions.
Seeing a short film with Tsuru Aoki, a Japanese actress living in California, Ince realized the potential advantages of casting Asian players in Hollywood films. This was during a time when white actors wearing eye makeup were portraying Asians, due to the strong anti-Asian sentiment among the American public. This would remain the norm in American film for decades to come. When Aoki met Ince, she introduced him to another Japanese stage player, Sessue Hayakawa. Ince hired both Aoki and Hayakawa for a series of films that proved popular and gained even more notoriety when the Japanese couple fell in love and married as Ince stars. Some of the Aoki-Hayakawa films were Far Eastern stories, but others cast them as Native Americans.
To maintain his status as a safe investment, by the early 1920s he had to conceal the deteriorating state of his health, as he was suffering from ulcers and angina.
Contrary to the portrait of him in The Cat's Meow (2001) as a washed-up producer lucky to make a film a year, in the year before his death in 1924 15 of his movies were released and, at the time of his death, he had nine more before the cameras that were completed posthumously.
By 1920 he was starting his own independent firm, hoping to lavish more time on fewer movies. Instead, he had to juggle arrangements constantly, releasing through a variety of distributors and having to be sure they actually paid what he was owed in ticket sales. To help lower overhead on his studio, his facility was available for rental by other independents, but this often meant he had to guarantee their loans and provide creative input. To secure bank loans to make his own productions, he had to use completed films as collateral. Hollywood had adopted his model of a producer-centered team of writers and directors, but in turn the role of an independent became ever more tenuous as the studio system took shape.
It was while working as a lifeguard in 1902 in Atlantic Highlands, NJ, that he became convinced that money could be made by staging vaudeville in the town's seaside pavilion. He was wrong.
He created a second production unit in 1912 under the direction of Francis Ford, who later said that Ince had no scruples in claiming credit for the script and direction of pictures that turned out better than expected.
Made more than 150 films in 1913.
His films were praised for their sharp cinematography and his use of newly developed technology. The new Bell and Howell turret camera was employed nearly exclusively on all his films after 1912.
HIs differences with contractee William S. Hart resulted from the producer's reluctance to give a fair share of the star's enormously profitable films. However, they ultimately parted company after an argument over Hart's horse Fritz the Horse, which Ince thoroughly disliked.
After the death of Wallace Reid from drugs, Ince capitalized on the incident by casting Reid's widow in the anti-drug film Human Wreckage (1923), one of the first films to use psychedelic sets.
There are no known surviving prints of his first feature, The Battle of Gettysburg (1913), released as a five-reeler in December 1913 by Mutual, although a very detailed script still exists. It is notable for its inclusion of specific dialogue, directions for actors' facial expressions and camera directions for the eight cameras that were used to film the epic. Although he would go on to produce other features, this is likely the only one he personally directed.
In 1915 he participated in the formation of Triangle Film Corp., which merged his production unit with those of D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett. Their objective was to stop the growing power of Paramount's Adolph Zukor. Among the stars they put under contract were Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, DeWolf Hopper Sr., Constance Collier, Douglas Fairbanks, William S. Hart, Raymond Hitchcock, Frank Keenan, Billie Burke, Willard Mack and Dustin Farnum.
Is portrayed by Cary Elwes in The Cat's Meow (2001).
After his death little care was taken to preserve his films. The original negative for Civilization (1915) was sold for $750 in 1929 and what is generally considered his best comedy, 23 1/2 Hours' Leave (1919), was sold to its star, Douglas MacLean', for only $1000. Many of his other titles were trashed while many others decomposed with no effort to preserve them.
According to Brian Teves' biography, "Thomas Ince: Hollywood's Independent Pioneer" (2012, University Press of Kentucky), Ince died of a heart attack and had been suffering from ulcers. For years his health had been deteriorating, although many were not aware of the gravity of his condition. Teves refutes many rumors, including Ince's so-called mysterious cremation: Both Ince and his wife Elinor were Theosophists who preferred cremation and had arranged for it long before his death. Teves adds that Elinor did not "suddenly depart" the country after her husband's death but in July 1925, about seven months later. Also, Teves documents that Louella Parsons did not gain her position with publisher William Randolph Hearst as part of a "hush money" deal to keep quiet about Hearst's alleged killing of Ince but that she had been the motion picture editor of the Hearst-owned New York American in December 1923, and her contract was signed a year before Ince's death.
According to the New York Times (December 11, 1924), the San Diego District Attorney announced that Ince's death was caused by heart failure and no further investigation was necessary. Despite the fact that Charles Chaplin 's valet said that Ince's head was "bleeding from a bullet wound", The Los Angeles Times (November 21, 1924) reported that during Ince's funeral his casket remained open for one hour so that friends and studio employees could have "one last glimpse of the man they loved and respected". No one reported any bullet wound.
In a conversation with journalist/screenwriter Adela Rogers St. Johns, Marion Davies disputed the rumor that William Randolph Hearst killed Ince because he allegedly made a pass at her. Davies, who was Hearst's mistress, said that Ince was a very ambitious man who would not jeopardize his relationship with Hearst by flirting with her. Said Davies: "Why would [Ince] take such a million-to-one chance? Ince was devoted to his wife and family. If he cheated he was damn discreet about it. No, no--I could still recognize it when a man gave me the eye and Tom Ince didn't. Moreover, I would not have given it back to him, so why would [Hearst] get mad enough to murder him? It's plain silly." From Adela Rogers St. Johns, The Honeycomb (1969 Doubleday & Company, Inc.), page 192.

Personal Quotes (4)

My first picture contained 53 scenes, and it was freely predicted that I would be fired for wasting so much time and film. Around the studio I was generally designated as "one of those New York guys that know all about the picture business". My salutatory was a comedy. I believe it was three days in the making.
Primarily the director must know life, but he must know too how to project life, not in narrative form, but by selected dramatic moments, each of which builds toward a definite crisis or climax that will bring a burst of emotional response from the audience . . . He is the personification of every character in his drama as he directs each scene, carrying the story development so closely in his consciousness that he is a dozen persons at once . . . But, above all else, a director must excel in coaxing, cajoling and spurring his actors to heights of artistry.
When the film was cut and assembled, I would turn my attention to stories and would work until midnight writing scenarios for the following day. With my wife's help, I managed to keep my production up to par . . . Life was fraught with many discouragements and anxieties for those who were engaged in the early motion picture industry. There were many disheartening problems and setbacks. Each step of the way had to be tries, mistakes in judgment and execution, the results of experimentation, had to be corrected, and new ideas tried out.
Personally, I count the years I spent on stage before I became a director and then a producer as the greatest single factor contributing toward whatever measure of success I have achieved.

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