Theme Month! December 2019: Inceville

Producer Thomas Ince was one of the powerhouses of the silent era. He’s considered to be one of the architects of the studio system and he deserves credit for helping to establish westerns as a serious genre. But what is he known for? His death.

This month is about examining Ince’s output as producer and director, his signature accomplishments and the quirks of his films. We’re putting Ince the filmmaker in context so that we can understand why he was such a significant figure in American filmmaking.

If this sounds a bit dry, let me assure you that Ince’s films were very much crowdpleasers. We’re going to have fun here!

Most of the Ince-produced films I have reviewed have been William S. Hart westerns and that’s not surprising as he is probably Ince’s most recognized star for modern viewers. Films like Hell’s Hinges, The Bargain and the recently restored The Gun Fighter are all fine examples of the genre.

However, Ince also made baseball pictures starring Charles Ray with titles like The Pinch Hitter and The Busher (the latter of which co-starred Colleen Moore pre-bob and John Gilbert pre-mustache). He produced The Wrath of the Gods, a variation on Madame Butterfly that starred Tsuru Aoki and Sessue Hayakawa. He produced The Soul of the Beast, which is about a circus performer and her elephant who escape into the wilds of Canada and are briefly mistaken for the antichrist.

And these are just films I have already reviewed! Civilization is famous for its ambitious scale and pacifist themes. The Italian is about the struggles of an immigrant in a new land. He scored a hit with the Blanche Sweet vehicle Anna Christie, which would later work like a charm for Greta Garbo.

We haven’t even scratched the surface of Ince’s output but that’s okay because we have all of December to do that. In the meantime, be sure to share any favorite Ince titles you might have seen, I am sure everyone would enjoy hearing about them.

I’ve selected a cross-section of Ince’s most popular output from his prime producing years in the 1910s. Not everything was shot on the Inceville property (the name for Ince’s spread) but you won’t begrudge me a good title, will you?

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4 Replies to “Theme Month! December 2019: Inceville”

  1. terrific topic! I am most interested now in Ince’s 1912 large-scale westerns filmed with the 101 Ranch ensemble of cowboys and Indians. The lead actor and director of many of these were Francis Ford.

  2. The Italian is a remarkable film that still feels quite contemporary both in subject and even in style (beautifully photographed too). Civilization too predates Gance’s J’accuse in its antiwar filmmaking ethos and spirit. Thomas Ince was one of the most forward thinking producers of early film, along with Rex Ingram I’d say.

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