The United States Motion Picture Corporation was an early American independent film studio that produced comedic films on the East Coast. It existed during the "transitional" period before the Hollywood studio system centralized film production. The United States Motion Picture Corporation made one reel silent films in the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, area from 1916 through 1919.
Incorporated in New Jersey on March 2, 1915, The United States Motion Picture Corporation established its main office in the Savoy Building in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Its studios were located across the Susquehanna River in Forty Fort, Pennsylvania, on Slocum Street near Wyoming Avenue.The company's studio, established in Forty Fort by the summer of 1915, was a glass and steel building that looked somewhat like a greenhouse, designed to allow maximum light for filming
The United States Motion Picture Corporation was founded by James O. Walsh, who was its president, Fred W. Hermann, who was the vice president, and Daniel L. Hart, who was its treasurer and is also listed as its scenario editor in one newspaper account. Hart, an award-winning playwright, would later serve as the mayor of Wilkes-Barre from 1920 to his death in 1933.
Between October 2, 1916 and November 12, 1917, the United States Motion Picture Corporation produced and released twenty-seven Black Diamond Comedies. "Black Diamond" referred to anthracite coal, deposits of which had made Wilkes-Barre and the surrounding area a center of the mining industry and contributed to the region's wealth. The one-reel silent films were the first comedies distributed by Paramount Pictures, which was then based in New York. Paramount advertised these comedies widely in 1917, sometimes alongside those of Fatty Arbuckle, another Paramount comic artist. The films often followed a comic character named Susie, portrayed by USMPC’s leading lady Leatrice Joy, through mishaps and blunders. The films' advertisements that appear in The Moving Picture World magazine note the use of comic special effects with stop action and film speed experimentation.
After the company ended its contract with Paramount Pictures in 1917, USMPC released six additional one-reel comic films as Unique Comedies, which were distributed by the Arrow Film Company of New York. These include "His Neglected Wife," which also stars Leatrice Joy and other actors who appeared in Black Diamond Comedies.
The United States Motion Picture Corporation also released Rainbow Comedies, one-reel comic films distributed by the General Film Company, in 1918 and 1919.These films often starred Lillian Vera and Eddie Boulden and were directed by Joseph A. Richmond.
The United States Motion Picture Corporation stopped producing films in 1919. The company's studios in Forty Fort, Pennsylvania were subsequently used by the Serico Company, which filmed its serial A Woman in Grey in 1920.
Three films produced by the United States Motion Picture Corporation are known to survive, the Black Diamond Comedies films Her Fractured Voice and Susie Slips One Over, and the Unique Comedies film His Neglected Wife.
The Prelinger Archives digitized its print of Her Fractured Voice and made it available online.The film features scenes of downtown Wilkes-Barre, including images of the original fountain in the city's Public Square.
Film prints of Susie Slips One Over are held at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library in Los Angeles also holds a poster for the film.In 2012, The UCLA Film and Television Archive deposited a DVD of the film with the Luzerne County Historical Society archive in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Only one print of the United States Motion Pictures Corporation films released under the Unique Comedies title is known to exist, His Neglected Wife starring Leatrice Joy. The film was discovered in a vault in New Zealand and was returned to the United States for restoration at George Eastman House in 2010.The film features images of the historic Hotel Sterling in Wllkes-Barre, which was torn down in 2013. Charles Petrillo, a historian in Wilkes-Barre, sponsored this restoration and has ensured that a DVD copy of the film will be placed at the Luzerne County Historical Society archives for further study.
On October 26, 2012, King's College and the Luzerne County Historical Society cosponsored a screening of the films Her Fractured Voice, His Neglected Wife, and Flesh and Spirit. The films were shown with live musical accompaniment at the King's College Burke Auditorium.
First National Pictures was an American motion picture production and distribution company. It was founded in 1917 as First National Exhibitors' Circuit, Inc., an association of independent theatre owners in the United States, and became the country's largest theater chain. Expanding from exhibiting movies to distributing them, the company reincorporated in 1919 as Associated First National Theatres, Inc., and Associated First National Pictures, Inc. In 1924 it expanded to become a motion picture production company as First National Pictures, Inc., and became an important studio in the film industry. In September 1928, control of First National passed to Warner Bros., into which it was completely absorbed on November 4, 1929. A number of Warner Bros. films were thereafter branded First National Pictures until July 1936, when First National Pictures, Inc., was dissolved.
Bray Productions was the dominant animation studio based in the United States during the years of World War I.
Elsie Jane Wilson was a cinema actress, director, and writer during the early film era. She took part in the productions of the silent film era and starred in over thirty films. Between the years of 1916 and 1919, Wilson was credited for writing two films and directing eleven films. She was best known in the genres of dramas and comedy dramas.
Leatrice Joy was an American actress most prolific during the silent film era.
Mutual Film Corporation was an early American film conglomerate that produced some of Charlie Chaplin's greatest comedies. Founded in 1912, it was absorbed by Film Booking Offices of America, which evolved into RKO Pictures.
Lois Wilson was an American actress who worked during the silent film era. She also directed two short films and was a scenario writer.
Fred J. Balshofer was a pioneering silent film director, producer, screenwriter, and cinematographer in the United States.
Frank Powell was a Canadian-born stage and silent film actor, director, producer, and screenwriter who worked predominantly in the United States. He is also credited with "discovering" Theda Bara and casting her in a starring role in the 1915 release A Fool There Was. Her performance in that production, under Powell's direction, quickly earned Bara widespread fame as the film industry's most popular evil seductress or on-screen "vamp".
Bobby Vernon (born Sylvion de Jardin was an American comedic actor in silent films. He later became a writer and comedy supervisor at Paramount for W. C. Fields and Bing Crosby, when the sound era arrived. Blue-eyed with medium brown hair, he stood five feet and two-and-a-half inches, making him perfect for juvenile comedy roles. His comedies were popular with children.
Vivian Martin was an American stage and silent film actress.
Lule Warrenton was an American actress, director, and producer during the silent film era. She appeared in 81 films between 1913 and 1922. She was born in Flint, Michigan and died in Laguna Beach, California and was the mother of cinematographer Gilbert Warrenton.
William C. Foster was a pioneer of cinematography.
New Brooms is a 1925 American silent romantic comedy film, directed by William C. deMille, and starring Bessie Love, Neil Hamilton, and Phyllis Haver. It was produced by Famous Players-Lasky and distributed by Paramount Pictures. It is based on Frank Craven's 1924 Broadway play of the same name.
Susie Snowflake is a lost American silent film released by Paramount Pictures on June 25, 1916. The picture was directed by James Kirkwood, Sr. and filmed by cinematographer Ned Van Buren. Susie Snowflake was written and adapted for the screen by Shannon Fife and introduced to American filmgoers, actress Ann Pennington.
The Rainbow Princess is a lost American silent film released by the Famous Players Film Company on October 22, 1916. The picture was directed by J. Searle Dawley and filmed by cinematographer H. Lyman Broening. The Rainbow Princess was written by Shannon Fife and marked actress Ann Pennington's second appearance on celluloid.
A Sister of Six is a 1916 American silent Western drama film produced by the Fine Arts Film Company and distributed by Triangle Film Corporation. The film was directed by brothers Chester M. and Sidney Franklin. This was Bessie Love's first starring role.
Nina, the Flower Girl is a lost American 1917 silent drama film produced by D. W. Griffith through his Fine Arts Film Company and distributed by Triangle Film Corporation. The film starred Bessie Love, an up-and-coming ingenue actress. It also marked the final acting role for Elmer Clifton, who was by then moving on to directing full-time.
Her Scrambled Ambition was an American silent short comedy film produced by United States Motion Picture Corporation under the name Black Diamond Comedy. The film starred Leatrice Joy, and was released February 1, 1917 by Paramount Pictures.
The Heiress at Coffee Dan's is a 1916 American silent comedy-drama film produced by the Fine Arts Film Company and distributed by Triangle Film Corporation. It starred Bessie Love and was directed by Edward Dillon.