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Silent Serial SensationsThe Wharton Brothers and the Magic of Early Cinema$
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Barbara Tepa Lupack

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501748189

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501748189.001.0001

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Taking a Parallel Path

Taking a Parallel Path

Chapter:
(p.32) Chapter 2 Taking a Parallel Path
Source:
Silent Serial Sensations
Author(s):

Barbara Tepa Lupack

Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9781501748189.003.0003

This chapter discusses how Leo Wharton got into the film industry. Leo's earliest documented stage appearance was in 1893, in the play The Fairies' Well. After a few years of itinerant acting, Leo was able to secure steadier employment at the Hopkins Grand Opera in Saint Louis, where his brother Ted was already performing. As part of Colonel Hopkins's theatrical company, Leo assumed various stage roles in the popular daylong “continuous performance” programs that Hopkins pioneered, which combined live drama and between-the-acts vaudeville. Leo's first known (and first credited) film appearance was in the title role of Lincoln in Abraham Lincoln's Clemency (1910), a photoplay produced by Ted Wharton for Pathé. The role not only garnered good reviews for his sympathetic performance and even for his resemblance to the revered figure whom he was portraying; it also led to an offer as a director for Pathé, the studio for which Ted was then working. There, Leo began directing similar shorts, such as the period historical drama The Rival Brothers' Patriotism (1911). Since early movie audiences seemed especially fond of marital comedies, Leo produced several shorts in 1913 that revolved around wedding-day complications. While these and other short pictures that Leo produced for Pathé were often predictable in their plotting and formulaic in their execution, they were nonetheless popular with audiences and profitable for Pathé. Moreover, they established his reputation in the industry.

Keywords:   Leo Wharton, film industry, Hopkins Grand Opera, stage roles, continuous performance, vaudeville, Pathé, film shorts, marital comedies, short pictures

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