Rip Van Winkle, a 1914 Sleeper, Starring Thomas Jefferson

Moving Picture World, November 14, 1914

Moving Picture World, November 14, 1914

 

The Jefferson name had been inexorably tied to, Rip Van Winkle since the mid 1800’s, when first Joseph Jefferson III who appeared in a different version (playing the role for fourteen years[1]) to his son’s and grandson’s productions. Joseph Jefferson appeared in Washington D. C., Australia and London as the twenty-year-sleeper. Mr. Jefferson’s first rumbles as Rip were of his own writing, using several sources from previous plays and the Washing Irving story itself. The initial Rip nap by Jefferson was seen in Washington D. C. at Carusi’s Hall in autumn of 1859. Jefferson had rehearsed and studied the part during the whole of that summer in a barn on the property of a Dutch farm-house he had rented for him and his family in Pennsylvania, in Paradise Valley, located at the foothills of the Pocono Mountains.[2]

Joseph Jefferson

Joseph Jefferson

 

In 1865 Dion Boucicault made additions and some alterations to the play and with that in hand, Jefferson placed to memory and acted out in London at the Adelphi Theatre, on Monday September 5, 1865, Jefferson was well received; this new version of Rip Van Winkle ran one-hundred-seventy nights.[3] The American fortunes truly changed for J. Jefferson on Monday, evening, September 3, 1866, when Joseph appeared as Rip at the Olympic Theatre in New York. The production met with a rave review from the New York Tribune, with especially flowery descriptions of Mr. Jefferson’s performance as the lazy Dutchman;[4] the play ended on Wednesday, October 3, 1866, completing a full month’s run on Broadway.[5] Over the next three years Jefferson toured with Winkle and then Rip Van Winkle saw a Great White Way revival in 1870, again with Jefferson in the title role and proved to be a bigger success than its forerunner; Rip opened at Booth’s Theatre on August 15, 1870 and celebrated one-hundred performances on Tuesday, November 22, 1870, but it was not yet done packing the seats. Finally, Rip fell to previous commitments and finished on Saturday, January 7, 1871; the production saw one-hundred-fifty curtains rise ending a very prosperous and popular engagement.[6] Joseph Jefferson feasted on Rip for more than two-decades, opening theaters along the way with the Dutch long-beard.[7]

In 1905 Tomas Jefferson, son of Joseph, began his Broadway interpretation of Rip Van Winkle (he and his brother Charles. had been traveling with the show since before the turn of the century and Thomas had performed an abbreviated version for vaudeville audiences in 1912-1913[8]), at Wallack’s Theatre, on Monday, October 9; the staging was scheduled for a limited run of two-weeks, closing after the Saturday evening performance on October 21, 1905.[9] T. Jefferson had toured with Rip for five years prior to the fortnight in New York.[10] By Jefferson’s own account, the Broadway audiences were cold and unappreciative, reluctant to applaud; his feeling on the matter was that the Winkle attendees thought him “presumptuous in daring to appear in the role,” for which his father Joseph had made famous and were all the more critical in their comparison of his portrayal of Rip to his father’s interpretation of the Dutch sleeper.[11] Combining the performances by Joseph and Thomas (not including Joseph III), Rip Van Winkle was portrayed on stage more 1,600 times by a Jefferson.[12]

Thomas Jefferson

 

As with the stage persona of Mr. Winkle, celluloid was inundated with the Jefferson’s, who laid claim to the first filmed version of the tale, when in 1896, Joseph Jefferson starred in the Biograph (American Mutoscope Company) production of Irving’s “sleeper” story; he is accounted by film pioneer, F. J. Marion, to have been one of the first actors filmed in a close-up.[13] This collection of 8 short films[14] was later edited into the 1903 Biograph release, Rip Van Winkle. The 1896 project was filmed on location at Joseph Jefferson’s summer residence (Crow’s Nest) at Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts;[15] his son Charles who managed a vaudeville company had three of the Biograph, Rip Van Winkle scenes in late September of 1896, playing at the Columbia Theatre, on Washington Street in Brooklyn, New York.[16]

Clipper, New York, New York, May 16,  1903

Clipper, New York, New York, May 16, 1903

 

Some eighteen years later (after the original Biograph production), Thomas Jefferson signed with B. A. Rolfe Photo Plays, Inc., to portray Rip on in October of 1914 and great effort was expended in the production of, Rip Van Winkle, filming in the Catskill Mountains (near Palenville, NY), at the locations made mention of by author Washington Irving; Thomas Jefferson had to scramble up and down the Catskills, wading through brambles, thickets and streams alike, all to re-create the wandering of Rip.[17] The film was released on November 9, 1914, this within a month after Jefferson put his John Hancock on the contract.[18]

Trenton Evening Times, Trenton, New Jersey, November 17, 1914

Trenton Evening Times, Trenton, New Jersey, November 17, 1914

Fitchburg Sentinel, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, November 18, 1914

Fitchburg Sentinel, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, November 18, 1914

Tacoma Times, Tacoma, Washington, November 21, 1914

Tacoma Times, Tacoma, Washington, November 21, 1914

Seattle Star, Seattle, Washington, January 20, 1915

Seattle Star, Seattle, Washington, January 20, 1915

 

Thomas Jefferson wore his father’s Winkle costume and even the rifle he used for the film belonged to this father, Joseph. The very gaiters seen in the Alco Film Corporation release, belonged to his grandfather, Joseph Jefferson III from his Rip Van Winkle costumery.[19]

Motion Picture News, November 7, 1914

Motion Picture News, November 7, 1914

Motion Picture News, November 21, 1914

Motion Picture News, November 21, 1914

Moving Picture World, November 21, 1914

Moving Picture World, November 21, 1914

Moving Picture World, November 21, 1914

Moving Picture World, November 21, 1914

Moving Picture World, November 7, 1914

Moving Picture World, November 7, 1914

 

Winkle Warning:

This 1914 version of Rip Van Winkle is not to be confused with the 1921 version (again starring Thomas Jefferson) which was produced by Ward Lascelle Productions and distributed by W. W. Hodkinson. Besides the star, Daisy Robinson stands in as the elder Meenie Van Winkle. The version that may be seen on YouTube is the 1921 production and not the 1914, Rip Van Winkle as it claims. I will mark the 1914 Thomas Jefferson, Rip Van Winkle, as status unknown.

The similarities between the movies are of course great considering the source material is the same. Edward Ludwig did the adaptation and Agnes Parsons the scenario for the 1921 Ward Lascelle project. There are two particular plot differences between the two versions that I will set before us:

  1. In the 1914 film, it begins with Thomas Jefferson walking into his library, taking a copy of his father’s famous stage version of Rip Van Winkle from the shelf; surrounded by the paintings of his father, Joseph Jefferson, decorating the walls of the room, Thomas begins the book, then the familiar story of Rip Van Winkle unfolds in the mind of Thomas Jefferson while reading from his father’s manuscript. The 1921 Rip Van Winkle begins with a bear licking the hand of Rip, and Rip thinking it to be Schneider the dog, his ever helpful friend.
  1. The ending of the 1914 version has Thomas Jefferson, after having finished the reading of Joseph Jefferson’s play, drinks a toast to health to a picture of his father.[20] The 1921, Rip Van Winkle ends with Rip revealing the proof of ownership to the land and house.

Winkle Miscellany:

The Five Steuarts were contracted for Winkle, although only the two oldest children Loel and Maurice are credited on the Internet Movie Data Base, this announcement was made in the middle of October, 1914.[21] The Steuarts were a family of vaudeville performers, based in Washington, D. C.[22] and were headed by Maurice Wilcox Steuart and his wife Myrtle, with their children, the eldest, Maurice (Maury), Jr., and their two daughters Loel and the baby, Eldean.

The Steuart Family, Chicago Daily Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, March 12, 1916

The Steuart Family, Chicago Daily Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, March 12, 1916

 

Some of the younger extras used for Winkle lived so far in the Catskill Mountains that they attested that they had never seen a train, which natural authenticity must have lent well to the celluloid experience in regards to the Dutch county characters of the film.[23]

The paintings which were utilized by Alco for Rip Van Winkle in the first and last scenes came from the brush of Joseph Jefferson. For those that sill remembered Joseph Jefferson in the role of Rip, either on stage or in the 1896 film and subsequent re-release in 1903, this must have acted as a vital connection, while also serving as a filmed testament to the man most responsible for bringing and keeping Rip Van Winkle at the forefront of popular entertainment for nearly half a century.[24]

Daisy (Gertrude) Robinson who had appeared as the young Meenie Van Winkle with Joseph Jefferson on stage, now played the elder Meenie Van Winkle alongside Thomas Jefferson. Henry D. Blakemore who portrayed Nick Vedder in this version of Winkle also played the part of Vedder on the boards with Joseph Jefferson.[25]

Schneider the dog was portrayed by Annie, a Russian police hound who played faithful friend to Thomas Jefferson’s Rip Van Winkle. Annie was a well-trained animal, and was able to perform such feats as, bringing food and water to Jefferson in character as Rip; this in complete view of the camera. Annie had a lengthy career as a tracker near Petrograd, Russia, and was brought to the US for this role of Schneider in Winkle. Because of her sensitive nose, one scent of a person set her off at once; therefore, any article could be retrieved by the dog. If Rip was hungry, Annie would bring food; if thirsty Annie would bring the libation for Rip.[26]

Walter Kendig was also a member of the cast, appearing as a dwarf, but which one of Hudson’s band he portrayed is unknown; Edwin Middleton not only acted as producer but directed the project as well.[27] Rip Van Winkle was not a standard black and white film, but according to Variety, was suitably tinted, with fine photography and lighting effects.[28]

Not a Storey, Story:

The credit for Frederick Story (Storey) for writing the scenario for the Thomas Jefferson, Rip Van Winkle vehicle, seems incorrect and upon further investigation this appears to be the case. Fred Storey wrote a play that was seen in London circa 1907-1908 that challenged the memories of Jefferson; the production was staged at the Royalty Theatre.[29] Storey’s name is found in the Catalog of Copyrights for Rip Van Winkle and when cross-checked on Internet Movie Data Base, Fred Storey, also starred as Rip in this World’s Comedy Stars Film Co., release; the production company responsible for the film was the Climax Company, and this Winkle was an import from the United Kingdom, with an opening date in February. The British version of Winkle ran just three-reels in length[30] and was directed by Stuart Kinder. I have been unable to find any documentary proof that Frederick Story had anything to do with the Jefferson film; his association with the Jefferson, Rip Van Winkle, appears to be a misnomer that has crept in through the intervening decades.

Fred Storey was a well-known actor, dancer, comedian and scene-painter and his stage version of Rip Van Winkle had been well-received in England. Storey was a prominent member of the Gaiety Company, during the Nellie Farren days, and was the original Dancing Dervish in, Morocco Bound;[31] he created the part of Rip Van Winkle in the Alhambra Ballet in 1900, painting much of the scenery for that production which would later be used for Beerbohm Tree’s staging of Winkle. While in the United States, prior to the turn of the 20th century, Storey was primarily associated with the burlesque theatre, but he went home to England for Rip Van Winkle; Storey would tour the states with his Winkle after the turn of the century.[32] He grew in some stature in 1908, with the upper-class of Britain, when his daughter Sylvia Lillian Storey married William John Lydston Poulette, the Earl of Poulette, thereby becoming the Countess of Poulette.[33]

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1] Moving Picture World, November 7, 1914

[2] The Empire (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) February 4, 1862

National republican (Washington, District of Columbia) November 26, 1860; March 28, 1866

The Autobiography of Joseph Jefferson, by Joseph Jefferson

Publishers in London – T. Fisher Unwin and in New York – The Century Co., page 227

[3] The Autobiography of Joseph Jefferson, by Joseph Jefferson

Publishers in London – T. Fisher Unwin and in New York – The Century Co., page 227

[4] New York Tribune (New York, New York) September 5, 1866

[5] New York Times (New York, New York) October 3, 1866

[6] New York Times (New York, New York) August 20; November 27; December 30, 1870; January 7, 1871

[7] Clipper (New York, New York) May 2, 1914

Lawrence Daily Journal (Lawrence, Kansas) January 27, 1887

[8] Morning Times (Washington, District of Columbia) January 1, 1899

Monroe News star (Monroe, Louisiana) December 19, 1912

Santa Cruz Evening News (Santa Cruz, California) January 8, 1913

[9] New York Times (New York, New York) October 8; October 19, 1905

[10] Alliance Herald (Alliance, Nebraska) October 19, 1905

[11] Winnipeg Tribune (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) October 21, 1905

[12] Motion Picture News, November 7, 1914

[13] Moving Picture World, (Letter to the Editor, dated: August 19, 1914, from: F. J. Marion, Kalem Company)

September 5, 1914

[14] Rip Passing Over the Mountain; Rip Meeting the Dwarf; Rip Leaving Sleepy Hollow; Rip’s Twenty Years’ Sleep;

Rip’s Toast to Hudson; Rip’s Toast; Exit of Rip and the Dwarf; Awakening of Rip

(source: Internet Movie Data Base) In the ad for the 1903 compilation the individual scenes are titled as

following: Rip Leaving Home; Rip Meeting the Dwarf; Exit of Rip and the Dwarf; Rip Passing Over the Mountain;

Rip’s Toast to Hudson and Crew; Rip’s Twenty Years’ Sleep; Rip’s Awakening

Advertisement source: Clipper (New York, New York) May 16, 1903

[15] Clipper (New York, New York) May 16, 1903

[16] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) September 27, 1896

[17] Moving Picture World, October 24; November 7, 1914

Motography, November 21, 1914

[18] Moving Picture World, October 31; November 7; 28, 1914

[19] Moving Picture World, November 7, 1914

[20] Moving Picture World, November 7; 21, 1914

Motion Picture News, November 21, 1914

[21] Moving Picture World, October 17, 1914

[22] Washington Time (Washington, District of Columbia) November 8, 1915

[23] Variety, October 31, 1914

[24] Variety, October 31, 1914

[25] Allentown Leader (Allentown, Pennsylvania) November 14, 1914

[26] Motion Picture News, November 7, 1914

Fort Wayne daily News (Fort Wayne, Indiana) December 29, 1914

[27] Variety, November 14, 1914

Motion Picture News, November 21, 1914

Moving Picture World, October 30, 1915

[28] Variety, November 14, 1914

[29] New York Tribune (New York, New York) February 9, 1908

[30] Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema

[31] I have not found any other evidence supporting this, Morocco Bound, claim.

[32] Record-Union (Sacramento, California) May 9, 1897

Brooklyn Life (Brooklyn, New York) September 23, 1905

Lincoln Daily News (Lincoln, Nebraska) September 30, 1910

[33] San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, California) September 3, 1908

Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) October 4, 1908

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