Thomas H. Ince - Writer

Producer and Director. Nationality: American. Born: Thomas Harper Ince in Newport, Rhode Island, 6 November 1882. Family: Son of the comedian John E. Ince; brother of the directors John and Ralph Ince; married Elinor Kershaw, 1907. Career: Child actor: stage debut at age 6, and toured in vaudeville and legitimate stage plays, and also acted in some films; 1910–11—director, Independent Motion Pictures (IMP): directed some films with Mary Pickford; 1911–15—producer and director, New York Motion Pictures: set up Hollywood studio, and hired directors Francis Ford, William S. Hart (also actor), Reginald Barker, Jack Conway, Fred Niblo, and Frank Borzage; 1915–17—Director-General of the consolidated company Triangle; 1918—formed his own production company, and in 1919 member of Associated Producers, Inc.: this merged with First National, 1922. Died: In Beverly Hills, California, 19 November 1924.

Films as Director (selected list):


Little Nell's Tobacco (+ sc)


Their First Misunderstanding (co); The Dream (co); Maid or Man ; Her Darkest Hour ; Artful Kate ; A Manly Man ; The Message in the Bottle ; The Fisher-Maid ; In Old Madrid ; Sweet Memories of Yesterday ; For Her Brother's Sake (co); Behind the Stockade (co); In the Sultan's Garden ; The Aggressor (co); The New Cowboy ; The Winning of Wonega


The Crisis ; Across the Plains (+ co-sc); The Indian Massacre ; The Battle of the Red Men ; The Deserter ; Lieutenant's Last

Thomas H. Ince
Thomas H. Ince
Fight ; The Hidden Trail ; On the Firing Line ; War on the Plains ( Across the Plains ) (+ co-sc); Custer's Last Raid (co); The Colonel's Ward ; When Lee Surrenders ; The Invaders (co); A Double Reward ; The Law of the West


The Mosaic Law ; A Shadow of the Past ; With Lee in Virginia ; Bread Cast upon the Water ; The Drummer of the Eighth ; The Boomerang ; The Battle of Gettysburg (co); The Seal of Silence ; Days of '49


Love's Sacrifice (co); A Relic of Old Japan ; One of the Discard (co); The Golden Goose (co); The Last of the Line

Films as Producer:


The Clod ; His Nemesis ; A Mexican Tragedy ; For Freedom of Cuba ; A Doctor's Trouble (Balshofer); The Sergeant's Boy (Barker); The Vengeance of Fate (Giblyn); The Massacre of Sante Fe Trail (Montgomery); Sundered Ties (F. Ford); His Better Self (Balshofer); An Indian Legend (Giblyn); The Sheriff's Adopted Child (Morty); For the Honor of the 7th (Barker); Mary of the Mines (Morty and Balshofer); On Secret Service (Edwards); The Altar of Death (West); The Civilian (Balshofer); The Ball Player and the Bandit (F. Ford); His Squaw (Giblyn); Blood Will Tell (Edwards); His Sense of Duty (Barker); The Dead Pays (West); The Great Sacrifice (West)


In the Ranks (F. Ford); A Blue Grass Romance (Giblyn); The Little Turncoat (Balshofer); The Favorite Son (F. Ford); The Counterfeiter (West); The Sharpshooter (Giblyn); A Frontier Wife (F. Ford); The Iconoclast (West); The Pride of the South (King); Texas Kelly at Bay (F. Ford); The Grey Sentinel (King); A Southern Cinderella (King); A Slave's Devotion (Giblyn); An Indian's Gratitude (Morty); Banzai (Giblyn); Old Mammy's Secret Code (Giblyn); The House of Bondage (West); An Orphan of the War (F. Ford); The Flame in the Ashes (Morty); The Quakeress (West); The Green Shadow (Giblyn); The Land of Dead Things (Morty); The Greenhorn (Giblyn); The Witch of Salem (West); The Claim Jumper (Morty); The Maelstrom (Morty); The Belle of Yorktown (F. Ford); The Sign of the Snake (Giblyn); The Revelation (Balshofer); The Long Portage (Montgomery and Conway); Devotion (Clifford); Her Legacy (Balshofer); The Pitfall (Giblyn); Harvest of Sin (Edwards); A Military Judas (Hunt)


The Ambassador's Envoy ; The Harp of Tara (West); Romance of Sunshine Alley (Miller); For Her Brother's Sake (Hunt); A New England Idyll (Edwards); Divorce (West); O Mimi San (Miller); Repaid (Edwards); The Play's the Thing (Sidney); The Courtship of O San (Miller); The Adventures of Shorty (F. Ford); The Bell of Austi (West); Desert Gold (Sidney); The Squire's Son (West); The Geisha (West); Love vs. Duty (Edwards); Breed o' the North (Edwards); The Embezzler (Osborn); The Wrath of the Gods ( The Destruction of Sakura Jim ) (Barker and West); His Hour of Manhood (Barker or Chatterton); The Curse of Humanity (Sidney); The Final Reckoning (Edwards); The City (West); An Eleventh Hour Reformation (Edwards); The Gangsters and the Girl (Sidney); The Winning of Denise (Edwards); The Typhoon (Barker); The Worth of a Life (Sidney); Fortunes of War (Hunt); The Panther (Edwards); The Vigil (Osborn)


On the Night Stage (Barker) (+ co-sc); The Alien (+ d); The Face on the Ceiling (Edwards); A Flower in the Desert (Miller); The Italian (Barker); Mother Hulda (West); The City of Darkness (Barker); The Iron Strain (Barker); The Coward (Barker); The Golden Claw (Barker); Matrimony (Sidney); The Winged Idol (Edwards ?); Aloha Oe (Hamilton ?); The Painted Soul (Sidney)


Peggy (Giblyn); The Dividend (Edwards); Moral Fabric (West); The Deserter (Edwards); Civilization (West and others); Home (Miller); Plain Jane (Miller); Lieut. Danny, U.S.A. (Hamilton)


Paddy O'Hara (West); Back of the Man (Barker); The Pinch Hitter (Schertzinger); Paws of the Bear (Willat); Happiness (Storm); Princess of the Dark (Niblo); The Dark Road (Geffron)


Those Who Pay (West); Playing the Game (Schertzinger); The Vamp (Storm); When Do We Eat? (Hart); String Beans (Schertzinger); The Midnight Patrol (Willat); The Narrow Trail (Hillyer)


The Sherriff's Son (Schertzinger); The Homebreaker (Schertzinger); The Busher (Storm); Wagon Tracks (Hillyer); Behind the Door (Willat); The Woman in the Suitcase (Niblo); Alarm Clock Andy (Storm)


Silk Hosiery (Niblo)


Lying Lips (Wray); Beau Revel (Wray); Hail the Woman (Wray)


Lorna Doone (Torneur)


Human Wreckage (Wray); Anna Christie (Wray)


Barbara Frietchie ( Love of a Patriot ) (Hillyer)


Enticement (Archainbaud); Percy ( Mother's Boy ) (Neill); Playing with Souls (R. Ince)

Films as Actor:


Seven Ages of Man


Richard III (Ranous); Macbeth


The Cardinal's Conspiracy (Griffith and Powell)


The Englishman and the Girl ; His New Lid (Powell)


By INCE: articles—

"Drama and the Screen," in Photoplay (New York), September 1916.

"What Does the Public Want?," in Photoplay (New York), January 1917.

"The Undergraduate and the Scenario," in Bookman , June 1918.

"Your Opportunity in Motion Pictures," in Opportunities in the Motion Picture Industry , Los Angeles, California, 1922.

On INCE: books—

Mitry, Jean, T.H. Ince, maître du cinéma , Paris, 1956.

Lahue, H. Karlton, Dreams for Sale: The Rise and Fall of the Triangle Film Corporation , New York, 1971.

Daggett, Dennis Lee, The House That Ince Built , Glendale, California, 1980.

On INCE: articles—

Carr, Harry C., in Photoplay (New York), July 1915.

Milne, Peter, "The Method of Thomas H. Ince," and "Directors Schooled by Ince," in Motion Picture Directing , New York, 1922.

Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), January 1953.

Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), February 1953.

Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March 1953.

Everson, William K., in Cinemage (New York), June 1955.

Image (Rochester, New York), May 1956.

Mitchell, George, in Films in Review (New York), October 1960, corrections in November 1960.

In Spellbound in Darkness , edited by George C. Pratt, Rochester, New York, 1966.

Silent Picture (London), Spring 1972.

Cinema Journal (Evanston, Illinois), Spring 1979.

Mitry, Jean, in Cinema Journal (Evanston, Illinois), Winter 1983.

Cinématographe (Paris), January 1985.

Bianco e Nero (Rome), January-March 1985.

Cinema e Cinema (Bologna), January-April 1985.

Positif (Paris), April 1985.

Griffithiana (Gemona, Italy), September 1986.

Dyer MacCann, Richard, in The First Filmmakers , London, 1989.

Wanamaker, M., "Thomas Ince's Dias Dorados: Spanish Style Grandeur for a Pioneer Producer," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), April 1994.

Dumaux, S., "King Baggot and the Mystery of The Lost Mirror ," in Classic Images (Muscatine), November 1997.

* * *

Thomas H. Ince's contribution to film history is perhaps easy to define but hard to evaluate. Much of the attention he has received in recent years has come from European critics who have given him credit for the direction of Ince productions. These were actually undertaken by others, but because of Ince's showman instincts he put his name as director to all his productions through the mid-1910s, and today it is a far from easy task to assign credit. Critical praise for Ince has also come from left-wing historians anxious to find a suitable recipient for the praise which rightfully belongs to the politically unacceptable D. W. Griffith.

After a lengthy and successful stage career, Ince came to films initially as a director, and from all accounts, a not very good one (particularly if Mary Pickford is to be believed). After joining the New York Motion Picture Company, Ince embarked on a production career which was to keep him a prominent member of the film community until his death. He was a great organizer and entrepreneur, who understood the value of detailed shooting scripts and production schedules at a time when the industry was very undisciplined. Between 1911 and 1913, he produced some superb, realistic westerns, the most important of which is War on the Plains , starring Ethel Grandin and Francis Ford (who, with E. H. Allen, was probably responsible for most if not all of the direction of this and other Ince westerns). As William K. Everson has noted, "Ince was a showman, a routine director, and a mediocre editor," but his early films had a popular and down-to-earth appeal, lacking in the work of many of his contemporaries.

Ince was also a sound recognizer of talent: witness his signing of cowboy star William S. Hart and bucolic actor Charles Ray, both of whom enjoyed long careers under contract to the producer. Ince deserves credit for making Frank Borzage a director, and for the production of a number of exquisite Japanese idylls starring Sessue Hayakawa and his wife Tsuru Aoki.

Civilization was Ince's last great production, a somewhat sorry allegorical plea for pacifism, and for the next eight years Ince seemed content to turn out program pictures starring the likes of Enid Markey, Enid Bennett, and William Desmond. He does, however, deserve credit for discovering popular romantic comedian Douglas McLean in the late 1910s and for producing the first screen version of a Eugene O'Neill play, Anna Christie , which was highly regarded in its day and contains one of the best performances by its star, Blanche Sweet.

Ince died shortly after being taken ill on board William Randolph Hearst's yacht, and his death has been the subject of much innuendo and gossip. Indeed, sadly the "mysterious" circumstances surrounding Ince's death seem to hold more interest for students and scholars than the man's extraordinarily long and profitable career.

—Anthony Slide

Other articles you might like:

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: