Thomas Storey, a Story of a Story-Teller, the Expanded Version

Thomas Storey

Thomas Lorrento Sawyer Storey


Thomas Storey, if we stay with the story provided by the Internet Movie Data Base, then our tale of Mr. Storey is over. Because the aforementioned outlet and other current authorities on film state that he acquired only six credits as director, during what appears as a short career in film-making. By the by, all six of those movies that he sat in the directors’ chair, were as co-director. He wrote the stories for two flicks Man’s Best Friend, 1935 and Two in Revolt, 1936. Storey had an uncredited appearance in The Last Frontier, 1932, and was the cinematographer for The Girl of the Golden West in 1923. But this narrative does not end with that short list but uses it as a starting point…


Back Storey:

Thomas Lorrento Sawyer Storey was born on November 24, 1892, to Patrick J. Storey and Mary M. Bennett-Storey, in Flint Michigan or in Kent, Ontario, Canada, whichever story by Storey we believe. With that said Storey most likely concocted the Michigan story so that he could more easily work in films in the States. As the Storey goes, he had blue eyes, a shock of wavy dark brown hair, he was of a medium height and a slender build; he may have been older than most of his legal statements, for his birth date at his death is listed as November 24, 1888, yet for his passport it is November 1892. He married his wife Ida Ball, most probably in 1916; they had six children: Terrence (1917), Jack (1919), Thomas L. Jr. (1921) Patrick (1922), Carolyn (1933) and Ten Eyck (1934).

Thomas and Ida Storey

Thomas and Ida Storey


His family would have to endure shame and fear for in 1953 both Thomas Jr. and Ten Eyck were arrested for suspicion of attempted robbery of a bank in Van Nuys, California. The brothers admitted to FBI agents that they had tried to rob the bank. Two years later, Ten Eyck admitted that he along with another young man held up a supermarket in Sacramento.[1] Thomas Storey died on December 4, 1954, he, outliving his dear Ida by six years.


Expanding Storey’s Story: Behind, the Behind the Scenes:

Storey was already working in a film laboratory in the Los Angeles area in 1917, three years before his first work in the movies, clearly this experience assisted his entrance into the celluloid industry.

In Hollywoodland, we begin with Hearts Are Trumps, 1920, with director Rex Ingram; while John Seitz gets the only listing for cinematography, Storey was considered a co-cameraman for this project.[2] For his following omitted piece of his résumé, once again Storey was sharing photography duties with John Seitz, on another Ingram project, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1921.[3]

A position that is unknown to most modern biographers of Thomas Storey is that of laboratory expert,[4] dealing with negatives in adverse weather; Storey obviously had very specialized talents, which skills appear likely to have been developed (pardon the pun) prior to his first works in film. These special assignments that he garnered were with regards to the handling of celluloid. He and G. E. Guild in 1922 leased the David Horsely Building in Hollywood; Storey was considered an expert in color photography and Guild was experienced in the research of photo chemistry. The partners offered service directly to cinematographers; their hopes were to facilitate photographers in their creative abilities, thereby, making improvements in the standards of American cinematography.[5]

Tom Storey did such work, dealing with the laboratory end on several projects. The first film we find Storey in that capacity is on “Where the Pavement Ends, 1923, (again for Rex Ingram).[6] For The Girl of the Golden West production, in addition to his duties as cinematographer, Storey was responsible for transporting the negative of the movie.[7] The following entry which is missing from the modern sources that I am familiar with occurred later in 1923, Storey worked in Victorville California, on The Bad Man, directed by Edwin Carewe; here he is accounted with the photography crew and no other special duties were mentioned.[8] Next on our list of missing credits is one more Edwin Carewe project, the 1924 desert film: A Son of the Sahara. The film was shot on location in Algiers, and Carewe expected climate problems for the actual film-stock, therefore, he hired Storey not only as a co-cinematographer with Sol Polito, but also to take charge of the laboratory work;[9] laboratory expert is not a position that would show up on the credits-roll, therefore in that era, these men were unknown to the casual audience member, but celebrated by the movie-making community.

Another project in which Storey worked but received no credit was on Spencer Gordon Bennet’s Melting Millions, 1927; Storey was hired as an assistant to Bennet and to fill the position of casting director.[10] Following Melting Millions, Mr. Storey took the role of casting-director again, this time in, The Hawk of the Hills, 1927.[11] Storey also was the assistant-director for, The Terrible People, 1928, again working with Spencer Bennet.[12] Storey followed up Terrible People, with, The Tiger’s Shadow, in the same year; one more time as co-director with Spencer Gordon Bennet.[13] In 1932 Storey was set as the co-director with Spencer Bennet, and was given the added duty of production manager for the upcoming 1932-33 season of serials on which Bennet would work.[14]

Basically, after Man’s Best Friend in 1935, Thomas Storey, paled in memory no differently than that soft fade-out we have all seen so many times in our favorite movies. In 1936 he wrote an original story and screenplay for an upcoming western-musical starring Gene Autry, the title was, Song of the Six Gun,[15] and was to be released on July 6, 1936.[16] I have included a newspaper clipping of a theater advert from Louisiana that shows that title. Song of the Six Gun is not amongst Autry’s films but Guns and Guitars, slated as a late June 1936 release seems to fit the bill; it appears the writing credits went to the regular Autry penning-duo of Dorrell McGowan and Stuart E. McGowan, just one more credit that is left out of Storey’s story.


Hearts are Trumps, 1920



Where the Pavement Ends


Motion Picture News, May 5, 1923

Motion Picture News, May 5, 1923





220px-The_Tiger's_Shadow_FilmPoster (2)






Man's Best Friend


The_Ruston_Daily_Leader_ Ruston, Louisiana Fri__Jul_31__1936_

Ruston Daily Leader, Ruston , Louisiana, Friday, July 31, 1936



By C. S. Williams


[1] Reno Evening Gazette (Reno, Nevada) September 2, 1953

San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, California) October 23, 1955

[2] Motion Picture News, June 12, 1920

[3] Motion Picture News, July 24, 1920

[4] Exhibitor’s Trade Review, February 10, 1923

[5] American Cinematographer, April 1, 1922

[6] Exhibitors Trade Review, February 10, 1923

[7] Exhibitors Herald, May 26, 1923

[8] The American Cinematographer, August, 1923

[9] The Film Daily, October 1, 1923

[10] The Film Daily, November 12, 1926

[11] Motion Picture News, April 8, 1927

[12] Film Daily, September 25, 1927

[13] Variety, August 29, 1928

[14] The Film Daily, July 7, 1932

[15] Variety, February 19, 1936

Film Daily, February 20, 1936

Motion Picture Herald, May 9, 1936

[16] Motion Picture Herald, May 9, 1936


2 thoughts on “Thomas Storey, a Story of a Story-Teller, the Expanded Version

  1. Thank you for your research, I’m Thomas Lorrento Sawyer Storey, the third. He was born in Canada, you were right. I don’t believe he ever became a U.S. Citizen , he made up his birthplace in the U.S. to hide that fact. I also have the photos you posted, I didn’t know anyone else had seen them. If you need anything else, my father, Thomas Storey Jr. will be 96 years old this year…and still kicking ! I had forgotten about the attempted bank robbery with my Dad and Uncle Tenny…It was so many years ago…wish you would have left that out.

    • Thomas,

      I am sorry to have caused any grief or embarrassment for you and your family. I simply was following the reporting available to me via magazine and newspaper archives. Take heart, nearly all of us have something we wish would be left out of our life story. If you or you family have any further information relating to Mr. Storey’s professional life and would like to send that along I will be happy to look at it and possibly add it to the bio. If your father would like to add any pertinent thoughts or background to his father’s story I would love to hear from him. If you or he have any facts, details, explanation or refutation of the bank incident I will be glad to amend that portion of the bio.

      Thank you Thomas, it was a pleasure writing about your grandfather, a very interesting man with a interesting career.


      C. S. Williams

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