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Nicholas Nickleby: Two reels of approx. 2,000 feet, March 19, 1912

With The Old Curiosity Shop and David Copperfield, both released in 1911, and Nicholas Nickleby, Thanhouser established itself as producer of the best Dickens adaptations in American film.

Print source: British Film Institute, 31 minutes 18 seconds.
Directed by George O. Nichols. Scenario (uncredited) based on the novel by Charles Dickens.
Cast: Harry Benham (Nicholas Nickleby), Mignon Anderson (Madeline Bray), Frances Gibson (Kate Nickleby), Inda Palmer (Nicholas’ mother), Justus D. Barnes (Nicholas’ Uncle Ralph), N.S. Woods (Smike), David H. Thompson (Squeers), Marie Eline (Wackford), Mrs. Grace Eline (Fannie Squeers), Etienne Girardot (Gryde), Harry A. Marks (Vincent Crummles).
Music by Raymond A. Brubacher (thanhouser.org/people/Rayb.htm).

Under one-man story department Lloyd Lonergan, with regular scenarist contributions by Gertrude Thanhouser, the studio developed a knack for mining even long, complicated novels for their salient events and characters and transforming them to a cinematically interesting 15 or 30 minutes.

Because of Edison’s Patents Trust pressure, distributors demanded one-reel-length pictures. Nicholas Nickleby was only the third single-release 2-reel title by Thanhouser. Thanhouser’s and others’ resistance to monopoly limitations made feature-length films (an hour or more) the norm within a few years.

There is an unusually varied flow of different sets and locations. Advanced techniques include the subtle tilt and pan of the camera in the Greta Bridge scene, the mid-action cuts to different camera positions in the “brimstone and treacle” scene, and the smooth editing of several shots, some brief, to construct scenes.

Nicholas Nickleby was one of the first productions from Thanhouser’s new Florida operation in Jacksonville, the first time an independent production company had done extensive location work for several pictures in Florida. Thanhouser would build studio facilities in Jacksonville in 1916. Some scenes for Nicholas Nickleby were done in the main studio in New Rochelle.

This film is available on DVD from Thanhouser Film Company Preservation, Inc. at thanhouser.org

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