A Thief in the Dark, Premiered May 20, 1928 Now with an Advertising Slide not seen since When?!


Thief in the Dark slide from the Glenn Ralston collection at the Lilly Library of Indiana University


Thief in the Dark 1928 2

A Thief in the Dark, a Fox Film Corp., mystery-circus-comedy-romance,[1] is another of that not too rare breed of “lost film (or “status unknown” at best),” and belongs to that ignominious sub-class of “late-silents-lost,” maybe better put: “out-of-sound, out-of-mind.” These “late-silents,” made their debut and were whisked out of the collective film-goers memory by the onslaught of synchronized-sound and talkies.

It seems that the advertising budget was close to nonexistent, few display ads were seen and most announcements were confined to just a few lines. What articles and reviews were written, were positive, but were not enough in number to overcome the lack of sound and marketing dollars. It does beg to mention that at least on some occasions Thief was accompanied by an orchestra, [2] instead of the obligatory organ or piano.

Director Albert Ray had the helm for Thief, and per his idea that the number 13 was his lucky charm, he wanted to begin filming on the 13th of the month (which he did for Thief also), and started off Thief’s opening scene with 13 actors on set. Leading lady Doris Hill picked up on the unusual superstition and wore a black-cat stickpin in several scenes in the flick.[4]

Harry Oliver was hired for the production as Art and Technical director because of his unique experience with illusions, having been a backstage hand for magicians Harry Houdini and Harry Kellar. Oliver and the rest of the Fox art and technical team built thirty sets, each with a “trick’ up their sleeve;[5] by all accounts Oliver’s sets were topnotch and an integral player in the film.

There appears to be some confusion as to who was the writing partner with director Albert Ray, some going with Andrew Bennison, others Kenneth Hawks; the titles were written by William Kernell and scenario by C. Graham Baker. A Thief in the Dark was six reels, 5,937 feet or about 54 minutes long and starred George Meeker, Doris Hill, Gwen Lee, Marjorie Beebe, Michael Vavitch and Noah Young. Horace Hough was the assistance-director; the film’s editor was Jack Dennis and the cinematographer Arthur Edeson.

Unfortunately for us like a thief in the night, A Thief in the Dark has been stolen, by who or what? The answer can be varied: time, deterioration or maybe reclamation, turning our Thief into someone else’s ‘quick’ silver.


Thief in the Dark George Meeker

George Meeker

Thief in the Dark Doris Hill

Doris Hill

Thief in the Dark Gwen Lee

Gwen Lee

Thief in the Dark Marjorie Beebe

Marjorie Beebe

Thief in the Dark Michael Vavitch

Michael Vavitch


Thief in the Dark Noah Young

Noah Young


Thief in the Dark The_Capital_Times_ Madison, Wisconsin Thu__May_24__1928_

Thief in the Dark The_Post_Crescent_ Appleton, Wisconsin Mon__Jun_11__1928_Thief in the Dark Freeport_Journal_Standard_ Freeport, Illinois Thu__Aug_2__1928_ Thief in the Dark Lebanon_Daily_News_ Lebanon, Pennsylvania Mon__Jul_2__1928_ Thief in the Dark The_Escanaba_Daily_Press_ Escanaba, Michigan Fri__Apr_12__1929_ Thief in the Dark The_Ottawa_Journal_ Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Thu__Jul_19__1928_ Thief in the Dark Fitchburg_Sentinel_ Fitchburg, Massachusetts Thu__Oct_18__1928_Thief in the Dark The_Indianapolis_News_ Indianapolis, Indiana Sat__Jul_14__1928_

Thief in the Dark Film Daily May 20 1928Thief in the Dark Reading_Times_ Reading, Pennsylvania Mon__Oct_1__1928_



By C. S. Williams


[1] The Hamilton Evening Journal (Hamilton, Ohio) Saturday, June 6, 1928 / Our Town (Narberth, Pennsylvania) Saturday, June 23, 1928

[2] Medicine Hat News (Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada) Saturday, December 15, 1928

[3] The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin) Thursday, May 24, 1928

[4] The Warren Tribune (Warren, Pennsylvania) May 16, 1928

[5] The Hamilton Evening Journal (Hamilton, Ohio) Saturday, June 9, 1928


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