Prudence the Pirate, 1916, Lost in the Celluloid Sea

Moving Picture World October 21, 1916

Moving Picture World October 21, 1916

 

Prudence Lost: Prudence is to be admired as a virtue; unfortunately, this particular Prudence is lost.

Prudence the Pirate was released on Sunday, October 22, 1916,[1] starring Gladys Hulette, accompanied by the “ugliest pub” in the world, Panthus; the dog was named Panthus because he panted abundantly.[2] The production was covered thoroughly by the Hollywood trade magazines, reporting on Ms. Hulette and particularly the ugly dog. The well rounded cast included, Flora Finch, Riley Chamberlin, Barnett Parker, William Parke, Jr., A. J. Andrews, Eric Hudson, James Sullivan and Billy Brown.[3] Hudson, Sullivan and Brown have been missing from the credits of Prudence for no telling how long, granted, that they were not actors with prolific careers, nor were they household names but they were mentioned by the Moving Picture World magazine and deserve to be remembered for their work; albeit lost performances all. William Parke directed and the scenario was written by Agnes C. Johnston.

The Motion Picture News reported that there was a “film-leader” following the title-card of Prudence the Pirate, dedicating its contents to “those tired of the materialistic, who wanted to hark back a number of years and enjoy over again their childhood dreams.” So said a short article in the Logansport (Indiana) Daily Tribune, further, more color was added to the story (whether by Thanhouser, Pathé or the local reporter I cannot discern), relating that, when “Looking at it, the walls of the theater melt into nothing, the screen becomes a mirror reflecting the humorous prank of an unconventional and winsome girl, who is so fresh, so distantly removed from anything pertaining to grease paint and wig, that you smile patronizingly  at her every action and laugh at Prue’s prank, smile at the delightful pictures of human nature that the story offers, and thrill at the climax.”[4] With that said the Daily Tribune continued with: “Justice cannot be done in relating the synopsis of the story. The touches of the author and the various scenes by the principal characters must be seen to be appreciated.”

Prudence the Pirate Glass Slide, from the Thanhouser Company Preservation, Inc., Image Gallery

Prudence the Pirate Glass Slide, from the Thanhouser Company Preservation, Inc., Image Gallery

 

It seems we have missed out on an early comedy-drama classic with Prudence the Pirate, a feminine pirate movie that is remembered in numerous blogs and books alike, yet with no cohesive history of the production written. Like unto the corpulent detective Nero Wolfe, who rarely left the comfortable and familiar confines of his home, but instead sent his assistant, Archie Goodwin to perform the leg work, I seldom leave my office for research and my Archie is the internet. Here together then are the facts I found obtainable, prudently proffered for your perusal.

Exhibitors found the film to be too “light” in its content and advertising, but Motography on October 21, 1916, said that Prudence was: “a distinctly pleasant farce with a stirring melodramatic climax. The story is a very light and proportionately diverting offering… Every time we see a picture like ‘Prudence the Pirate,’ we start right in to wonder that the producers do not give more attention to such really entertaining plays and observations made while visiting the picture theaters tell us that the great portion of the public holds to the same view. Why so many harassed heroines or stupid Cinederella’s (sic) when the likes of Prudence can be evolved by the scenario writer?” And the Moving Picture World was positive in its recounting of the film, almost glowingly of Ms. Hulette and calling the picture, “worthwhile” and that Prudence, “will make good entertainment.[5]

The action-comedy-romance was seen in Logansport, Indiana on October 22, 1916,[6] and received prominent placement in the local theater advertisement. The host theater in Logansport was the Paramount, situated at 310 5th Street; which is at the intersection of E. Market Street and Erie Avenue.

Logansport Pharos Tribune, Logansport, Indiana, October 22, 1916

Logansport Pharos Tribune, Logansport, Indiana, October 22, 1916

 

The first verifiable metropolitan play-date that I am able to ascertain for the production was on Monday, October 23, when Prudence was seen in Philadelphia at the Princess Theater, located at 1018 Market Street,[7] which sat two-doors east of Eleventh Street, with the historic Bingham House being the corner building at Market and Eleventh; this was just steps from subway station 35. The Pennsylvania state Board of Censors of Motion Pictures, reviewed the film on, October 19, and approved the movie’s content.[8]

Evening Public Ledger, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 23, 1916

Evening Public Ledger, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 23, 1916

 

On January 1, 1917, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, at 136 2nd Avenue South, at 1:00 PM, Prudence the Pirate, opened the brand new, Daylight Theatre; the venue was declared to be best, motion picture only theater in Canada.[9]

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada (unknown publication) "Prudence the Pirate" opened the new Daylight Theatre at 136 2nd Avenue South at one o'clock New Year's Day, January 1, 1917. J. Lester Kauffman of the Regal Film Corporation, one of a number of prominent men in the motion picture business in town to inspect the new theatre, declared the Daylight the finest strictly motion picture theatre in Canada. The theatre was constructed for the Daylight Theatre Company Ltd. at a cost of approximately $50,000.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada (unknown publication) “Prudence the Pirate” opened the new Daylight Theatre at 136 2nd Avenue South at one o’clock New Year’s Day, January 1, 1917. J. Lester Kauffman of the Regal Film Corporation, one of a number of prominent men in the motion picture business in town to inspect the new theatre, declared the Daylight the finest strictly motion picture theatre in Canada. The theatre was constructed for the Daylight Theatre Company Ltd. at a cost of approximately $50,000. (Source: Saskatoon Public Library)

 

The so ugly its cute pooch was found in a nationwide search for the “ugliest pup,” with scores of photos of dogs that simply did not qualify for the title submitted in response to advertising. Finally, Panthus was found in the New Rochelle, New York dog-pound. And in a plot fitting of a Tinsel-town scenario he was saved from imminent death at the hands of the warden of the dog-pound. Obviously, the personal worth of Panthus rose from rags to riches and once finished with his film work, his silver-screen-story was complete when he was adopted by his leading lady, Gladys Hulette.[10]

Film Fun, November, 1916

Film Fun, November, 1916

 

Within days after filming of the five-reel picture was started, Panthus escaped; a posse was gathered and sent out by Thanhouser Studios searching New Rochelle for the dog, and finding him some twenty-four hours later, frolicking with some boys at the local baseball field .[11] Filming was done at the Thanhouser Company studio in New Rochelle proper, and the sailing scenes were shot on Long Island Sound;[12] principal filming was in August and September of 1916.

Motography, behind the scenes October 7, 1916

Motography, behind the scenes October 7, 1916

Picture-Play Magazine, behind the scenes (rocking platform to simulate waves), January, 1917

Picture-Play Magazine, behind the scenes (rocking platform to simulate waves), January, 1917

 

After the release of, Prudence the Pirate, Ernst Luz wrote accompanying music for the five-reel flick, entitled, Prudence: Entr’ acte. Luz filed for the copyright in the middle of November of 1916, through his company, Photo-Play Music, of New York; the sheet music was prepared for both orchestra and piano and advertised as a march.[13] The piece, written specifically for Prudence, proved so popular that within two years it was being used in music cue sheets for a number of films, including: The Girl Problem, Daughter of Mine, The Love Defender, The Unknown Quantity and The Scar.[14]

Prudence the Pirate Sheet Music cover, from the Thanhouser Company Preservation, Inc., Image Gallery

 

Prudence’s Prudent Pirate Plot:

In the short, Prudence the Pirate, was a romance, about a girl who wants to be a pirate, she is helped by a crew of tramps and the butler of her aunt’s home, Meeks. Meeks hints that he had been to sea and had “seen things,” and when Prudence pressed Meeks further, he confesses that he once was a pirate. Yet, the only experience Meeks acquired at sea was as a cabin boy on a missionary ship, but he continues spinning the adventuresome yarns for Prudence. Young Prudence or “Prue” as she is known, takes what money she has and rents a schooner and christens her the “Bucket of Blood.

The Photo-Play Journal November, 1916

The Photo-Play Journal November, 1916

The Photo-Play Journal, pirate bold, November, 1916

The Photo-Play Journal, pirate bold, November, 1916

Moving Picture World, Parker and Hulette, October 21, 1916

Moving Picture World, (on the deck of the “Bucket of Blood”) Parker and Hulette, October 21, 1916

Motography, October 21, 1916

Motography, (in Prudence’s cabin on the “Bucket of Blood,”) October 21, 1916

Film Fun, (two-page fold-out of various scenes) December, 1916

Film Fun, (two-page fold-out of various scenes) December, 1916

 

To fill out her roster of crewmen Prudence attacks her aunt’s house-boat and takes Aunty and Mr. Astorbilt captive, Astorbilt bribes the crew to mutiny; Prue, becoming a prisoner on her on ship. Soon, Astorbilt emerges the man he truly was (at least underneath the veneer) instead of the high-society, reserved, effeminate gentleman he lived as. A fire breaks out on the Bucket of Blood and he saves Ms. Prudence, she surrendering her heart to Astorbilt forever.[15]

The Photo-Play Journal, watching the capture of aunty's yacht November, 1916

The Photo-Play Journal, watching the capture of aunty’s yacht November, 1916

 

Prudence Cast:

Hulette

prudence-the-pirates-1916-lost-film-files-04

Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annua..._20150417052352

Finch_CPP_FIG135_WFP-FIN011

Riley_Chamberlin

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1] Motography, September 30, 1916

[2] New York Sun (New York, New York) October 22, 1916

[3] Moving Picture World, September 30, 1916

[4] Logansport Daily Tribune (Logansport, Indiana) October 22, 1916

[5] Moving Picture World, October 21, 1916

[6] Logansport Pharos Tribune, Logansport, Indiana, October 22, 1916

[7] Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) October 23, 1916

[8] List of Films, Reels and Views Examined, Pennsylvania State Board of Censors Motion Pictures, Frank R. Shattuck,

Chairman; Mrs. Edward C. Niver, Vice-Chairman; Ellis P. Oberholtzer, Secretary; printed by J. L. L. Kuhn, 1918,

page 341

[9] Local History Collections, Saskatoon Public Library

[10] Motion Picture Magazine, January, 1917

Picture Play Magazine, January, 1917

[11] Picture Play Magazine, January, 1917

[12] Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) August 27, 1916

[13] Catalogue of Copyright Entries, 1916, Part 3: Musical Compositions

Chronicle-Telegram (Elyria, Ohio (June 27, 1917

[14] Moving Picture World, April 5; 19; 26; May 10, 1919

[15] Moving Picture World, October 7; 28, 1916

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