The Stolen Idol, a Film and Most of the Cast, Stolen from Cinematic History!

Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Fort Wayne, Indiana, June 22, 1913

Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Fort Wayne, Indiana, June 22, 1913

The Stolen Idol, which was released in 1913, is of importance to us more than 100 years later, because of the actors who have went uncredited and unlisted for a century, regarding recognition that rightly is deserved to their names. It is with this in mind that I offer the following words of description of this movie, any production details available and mention the principals involved…

The Stolen Idol premiered on June 22, 1913; the film was the second to utilize the mystery, The Moonstone, by author Wilkie Collins as source material. As you will ascertain by reading the synopsis of the movie, this adaptation has elements of, The Moonstone.  If it were not for an advertisement, this salient point of The Stolen Idol being based on the Collins classic would forever be lost. No production updates were used by the movie trade magazines and nothing is mentioned by any modern film list making this connection. The Stolen Idol, although opening in June of 1913, was filmed in late 1912 and its release date and length, reported on in January of 1913.[1]

Lawrence_Daily_Journal_World_ Lawrence, Kansas Sat__Jun_28__1913_

Lawrence Daily Journal World, Lawrence, Kansas, June 28, 1913


This Rex Motion Picture Company production was helmed by Otis Turner, a true pioneer of film-making, who directed his first picture (is often presumed to be: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) in 1908, was about the half-way mark (of the films we know of) of his career with Stolen Idol. He died in March of 1918, depriving the more discerning audiences of the 1920’s of his particular panache and talents. As the ad stated (seen above, at the beginning of this blog), this was “Otis Turner’s Great Dramatization of Wilkie Collins’ ‘The Moonstone.’” No scenario credit is given but with director Turner and the star of the movie, Robert Z. Leonard, either (or in collaboration) were capable of writing it and with that said, I am failing to include leading-lady, Margarita Fischer in the mix who wrote as well.

The opening date of Sunday June 22, is confirmed by multiple sources such as the New York Clipper, Moving Picture News, Moving Picture World and Motography and is further established by a theater ad from the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, dated the same (please reference the image seen at the top of this blog).[2] Also the movie was seen in Chicago on June 24 at the Linden Theater, located in the Englewood neighborhood at 743 W. 63rd Street. [3] The film, a Rex Masterpiece production, had showings throughout the summer of 1913 and by Thanksgiving had basically run its course, excepting a few cities that showed the thriller in 1914 and early 1915. The film ran 1,000 feet, so therefore logged in at one-reel.[4]


The following, in italics is from the Moving Picture World, Saturday, June 14, 1913; references in (parentheses) are from the New York Dramatic Mirror, June 11, 1913.

The Stolen Idol, June 22, 1913

Professor Milton Hayes visits the interior of a temple in Egypt, steals a sacred idol and knocks down a native who tries to prevent the theft, the professor making his escape on the run. A caliph and several girls enter the temple, discover the robbery and the caliph denounces the native for his carelessness in allowing the American to steal the holy relic.

The native trails Hayes to his hotel, climbs the fire escape outside Hayes’ room and peers in through the window, seeing Hayes entertaining several friends with the story of his trip. Hayes sends a letter to a fellow American in the town, a Professor Westerly, asking him to come to the hotel and try to decipher the hieroglyphics on the idol.

Having located Hayes’ room, the native goes to Shedah, a beautiful Egyptian worshipper of the idol, and tells her of the theft. They plan to recover the idol and Shedah dresses herself as an American man. They also put a secret substance in a vase, place the vase in a satchel and Shedah takes the satchel, goes to Hayes’ hotel and rents a room, she being neatly garbed as a male American tourist.

Professor Westerly visits Hayes and discovers that the figures on the idol read: “If vandal hand ever removed, Death awaits he who disturbs my sacred resting. It is written. – KISMET.”

While Hayes is absent from his room, the Shedah gains an entrance to the apartment, removes the idol from its placed in a box, puts the vase in its place, and passes the idol out through the window to the native on the fire escape, after which she leaves the hotel.

On Professor Hayes’ return, he finds the vase and an overpowering smoke issuing from it, causing Hayes to fall dead. Professor Westerly then engages detectives to investigate the tragedy while he alone visits Shedah’s home and enters an office (of an Oriental healer) downstairs where Egyptian herbs are sold. Here Westerly finds a trap door which he opens, whereupon a native appears and stoically conducts Westerly to Shedah’s room beneath. She pretends sleep, but Westerly covers the native with a revolver, handcuffs Shedah and she gets his permission to get a shawl. She does so and touches a secret spring, opening another trap door and causing Westerly to fall through the floor (he fails to strike upon an upturned sword) into the water beneath.

Westerly swims some distance and Shedah becomes furious at the prospect of Westerly making his escape. She has the native dive down into the water (with a knife) and he and Westerly fight, the American beating the native in the natatorial battle.

Seeing that Westerly will escape, Shedah sets fire to the room above him. The smoke issuing from the house alarms the detectives waiting across the street and they run into the place. One of the officers, despite the smoke and flames, lowers a rope to Westerly and hauls him up, the two escaping from the building amid fire.

During the excitement, Shedah and the native manage to make good their escape from the burning structure. The last scene shows Shedah and the native on board a ship, bearing away with them the sacred idol to preserve it from any possible theft by seekers after Egyptian idols.


“Although we have seen pictures of this mystic, Oriental type before, this one is very well handled and holds the interest fairly well.” (Moving Picture World, Saturday, June 14, 1913)

“The melodramatic romance is rather well worked up, but the climax is weak. An outgoing steamer, apparently with the girl on board, is shown along with a view of her worshipping at the foot of the idol. A more vivid finish should have been devised. Miss Fischer makes a pretty priestess. A somewhat similar drama was recently released by a Licensed Company upon a split reel.” New York Dramatic Mirror, June 11, 1913


The Cast:

Robert Leonard         … Professor Westerly, Scientific Detective

J. L. Franck                … High Priest

Joseph Singleton       … Fakarash

Harry Tenbrook        … Hakrah

Harry Cornell             … Professor Milton Hayes

Margarita Fischer     … Shedah, the Priestess

Iva Shepard               … Nichi

And other parts (Natives, Guards, Hotel Attachés, etc, etc) attributed only as a title were unlisted including Edna Maison, whose role was not designated.[5]



Robert Leonard

Robert Z. “Big Bob” Leonard is truly a man of legendary proportions in the motion picture industry. His first appearance on celluloid was in 1908, in Damon and Pythia; his first directing assignment was, A Woman’s Folly, released in July of 1913. Writer, producer, director, actor and lawyer, Leonard was an entertainer of the people starring in and directing one box-office hit after another. Robert Zigler Leonard was a regular on the Los Angeles stage scene, and believe it or not, he was a member of the Temple Opera Company of Los Angeles, many of these appearances just prior to his first turns on film.[6] Leonard’s history with opera then makes perfect sense, with him directing the Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald operettas and that background with music affords us insight to MGM selecting him for the biopic, The Great Ziegfeld, which turned out to be a multi Oscar winner for the studio and a nomination for Best Director for Leonard.


(No likeness available)

John L. Franck

J. L. Franck, who according to the Internet Movie Data Base, only had two credits, was most often seen in uncredited roles; he appearing in the Film-industry’s era when onscreen credits were frequently not given. He was born and lived in Louisville, Kentucky, performing in minstrel-shows as a clown. He moved west, when first, Moving-Picture productions began filming on the coast of California. Mr. Franck had stints with Bison Pictures, Universal, Kalem Film Manufacturing Company, Selig Polyscope Film Company, Reliance-Majestic Studios, Fine Arts Film Company, Famous Players Film Company, Morosco Photoplay Company, Lasky Feature Play Company and the Fox Film Corporation.[7] With the exception of The Stolen Idol, Ramona, 1916, and Her Moment, 1918, the remainder of Franck’s career is hidden behind nameless characters and lost by age and deterioration.


Whos Who in the Film World, 1914 Joseph Singleton

Joseph Singleton

Joseph Edward Singleton was a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ an author, lecturer, world-traveler, a man who enjoyed walking[8], riding and swimming[9] (he was known as, The Australian Globe Trotter[10]), stage and film-actor, playwright, poet.[11] His parents were born in either England or Ireland[12] and then they moved to Australia, where Joseph was born in Melbourne, on July 9, 1878.[13] As with many of those who choose the acting life, Singleton had a floating birthdate, seen on differing official documents of the United States, with the following years making multiple appearances:  1877, 178, 1879, 1880 and 1881. He was a tallish man at 6’ 1”, a 195 pound-medium build, blue eyes and brown hair; [14] Singleton, in early Hollywood, was considered the most handsome of actors.[15]

Joseph Singleton worked in moving-pictures from 1912 through 1925, with eighty-one credits to his résumé. His first appearance on screen was in The Tarantula, 1913; other notable films for him were: Reggie Mixes In, 1916, A Girl of the Timber Claims, 1917, Treasure Island and The Toll Gate, both in 1920.


Harry Tenbrook

Harry Tenbrook

Henry Olaf Hansen was born in Norway and began his work in movies in 1909, although his first credited role was in 1911.[16] By 1912-1913 Tenbrook was gaining notoriety and praise for his performances.[17] Mr. Tenbrook’s path to Hollywood began on the east coast with the New York Motion Picture Company, then migrating west to Los Angeles, working with the Nestor Film Company, Century Film Corporation and Universal.[18]


Goodwin_s_Weekly_ Salt Lake City, Utah Sat__Apr_3__1915_Harry Cornell

Harold “Harry” Cornell:

Harry Cornell is known only for roles in the 1920’s and the 1930’s; Cornell’s work in Stolen Idol is thirteen years earlier than his previously listed first role in Who Hit Me?, which opened in 1926. Also, Mr. Cornell is missing from the cast list of the 1922 release, Horse Sense, starring Margaret Cloud, Harry Sweet and Bud Jamison, directed by Fred Hibbard.[19]



Margarita Fischer

Between 1910 and 1927, Margarita “Babe” Fischer appeared in more than one-hundred-eighty movies (her first film, There, Little Girl, Don’t Cry, 1910), with only ten of those made after 1919.[20] By the age of fifteen Ms. Fischer was an unqualified success on the west coast, first in the Fischer-Van Cleve Company co-founded by her father Johan to capitalize on her new found fame as an actress. The Fischer-Van Cleve group consisted of twenty people including their own band with uniforms and the Fischer-Van Cleve orchestra offering a daily parade and concert to promote whatever play the repertoire assembly was showcasing.[21] Then Ms. Fischer began touring with her own company featuring her name on the marquee and advertising.[22]


Iva Shepard

Iva Shepard

Iva B. Shepard is primarily remembered for her work in film from 1910 through 1918, but her roots in acting can be traced to her grandfather who was a member of the Joseph Jefferson Stock Company in 1856. Shepard spent nearly five years in stock theater, beginning with a production of Quo Vadis in 1905, in Portland, Oregon. In late 1909 or early 1910, Shepard was telegraphed with some wonderful news, that the Selig Company needed a leading-lady for a picture, right away. It seems that one of her former leading men in a stock-company recommended her and advised Selig to secure Shepard; which they promptly did.[23] It is quite clear that Shepard had been in more than two films as of July, 1910[24] when a standard paragraph and photo was distributed making mention that, Ms. Shepard had played the leading parts in many of the pictures seen throughout the country.[25] These six-to-nine-months could contain the same in number or more of uncredited roles for Iva Shepard.



Edna Maison

Edna K. Masonave (Maison) was a contralto soloist with the Edgar Temple Opera Company of Los Angeles, prior to entering the moving business.[26] She brought to the stage and to the camera an “apparently tireless vivacity” which when singing left her “vocalizations” composed; she was considered to have a phenomenal voice.[27]

She began her performances at the age of six with the Cooper Stock Company, which operated at the Burbank Theater. Her first professional operatic position was with the Tivoli Opera House in San Francisco; it was after she developed her “rich contralto voice” that the renowned contralto Estafanin Callamarini, took up teaching Edna;[28] some thought that Masonave gave Callamarini a run for first place as a contralto.[29] After a year with Tivoli, she migrated to Fisher’s Theater, playing in that stock company. It was in her next engagement with the California Opera Company that she met Robert Z. Leonard who was a member of the same opera group.[30]

Maison worked six years in Hollywood, hitting the century mark in film appearances; her first film was, The Girl Sheriff, 1912 and her final project was, The Mysterious Mr. Browning in 1918. Maison’s career was like a nova, one moment not seen the next burning bright and hot, but without enough energy to sustain the brilliant-light for very long.


The Director:

Motion Picture Studio Directory  1916

Otis Turner

Turner was a man besieged by arthritis, causing him to hunch-up, he was five-and-a-half-feet tall, broad chinned, round raced with a dark complexion, spectacles upon his pug nose and high forehead, set off by salt & pepper hair. His genesis was on stage, in touring companies, and stock theater, and as a manager of a circus. Known (even by the early 19-teens) as the “Dean of Directors,” if an actor was on Turner’s list, they were considered “in,” for he was the king bee of the Universal lot.[31] Everyone that worked with Turner referred to him as  “Daddy” or “the Governor,” and to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his passing, it was noted that he was known as the father of the motion picture industry in Hollywood; what volumes these remembrances speak of Turner’s contribution to those all important formative years in the moving pictures.[32]


By C. S. Williams


[1] Motography, January 18, 1913

[2] New York Clipper (New York, New York) June 14, 1913

Moving Picture News, June 7, 1913

Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (Fort Wayne, Indiana) June 22, 1913

The Moving Picture World, Saturday, June 14, 1913

Motography, June 28, 1913

[3] Englewood Economist (Chicago, Illinois) June 23, 1913

[4] Motography, June 28, 1913

[5] Lead Daily Call (Lead, South Dakota)  November 19, 1914

[6] Los Angeles Herald (Los Angeles, California) February 4; March 16; April 22; 28; May 5; 31, 1908

[7] Motion Picture Studio Directory, Published by the Motion Picture News, 1919

[8] Gaffney Ledger (Gaffney, South Carolina) July 30, 1909

[9] Motion Picture Studio Directory, 1916

[10] Gaffney Ledger (Gaffney, South Carolina) July 30, 1909

[11] Marion Star (Marion, Ohio) June 14, 1913 (this was a Universal Studio publicity release, which was also seen on

June 14, 1913, in two Hollywood trade magazines: Motography and Motion Picture News and also in the New

York Clipper

[12] This confusion comes from Singleton’s own statements in the US Federal Censuses of 1910 and 1920 as well as

his Naturalization Declaration of Intention

[13] Naturalization Declaration of Intention

[14] Motion Picture Studio Directory, 1916

[15] Motion Picture News, September 26, 1914

[16] Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) April 23, 1939

[17] Moving Picture World, May 18, 1912

Winnipeg Tribune (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) November 22, 1913

[18] Motion Picture Studio Directory, Published by the Motion Picture News, 1919

[19] Exhibitors trade Review, January 7, 1922

[20] Albany Democrat (Albany, Oregon) November 7, 1902

Washington Herald (Washington, District of Columbia) February 7, 1914

[21] Hood River Glacier (Hood River, Oregon) May 14, 1903

[22] Idaho Statesman (Boise City, Idaho) May 10, 1902

[23] Sunday Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) February 12, 1905

Wichita Beacon (Wichita, Kansas) July 19, 1910

Ottawa Journal (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) January 8, 1916

[24] The Wife of Marcus, March, 1910; Hugo the Hunchback, April, 1910

[25] Wichita Beacon (Wichita, Kansas) July 19, 1910

[26] Los Angeles Herald (Los Angeles, California) April 16, 1908

[27] Los Angeles Herald (Los Angeles, California) April 5; 22, 1908

[28] Marion Star (Marion, Ohio) December 6, 1913

[29] Los Angeles Herald (Los Angeles, California) June 24, 1906

[30] Marion Star (Marion, Ohio) December 6, 1913

Motion Picture Studio Directory, Published by the Motion Picture News, 1919

[31] The Parade’s Gone By, by Kevin Brownlow, Published by University of California Press, 1968, page 46

[32] Wallace Reid: The Life and Death of a Hollywood Idol, by E. J. Fleming, published by McFarland & Company, Inc.,

2007, pages 25, 122,


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