Centaur Film Company

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David Horsley met a former employee of Biograph Studios, Charles Gorman, and along with his brother William Horsley (1870–1956), they formed the Centaur Film Company in a converted store in Bayonne, New Jersey in 1907.

By 1910, their operation was producing three movies a week, including the Mutt and Jeff comedies.

"Film Stars Silent: After brief stage experience, Francis Ford, older brother of famed director John Ford, joined the Centaur film company in 1908." (by Roy Liebman)

Move to The West Coast[edit]

"However, weather conditions on the east coast made filming an uncertain proposition because camera technology at the time relied on sunshine."

"Frustrated, and realizing that California afforded the opportunity to make films year round, David Horsley moved his operations to the west coast." Company name changed to Nestor Motion Picture Company.

Nestor Studios Hollywood[edit]

In the fall of 1911 Nestor Motion Picture Company opened the first motion picture studio in Hollywood in the Blondeau Tavern building at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street. With Horsley was Al Christie, who served as general manager in charge of Christie Comedies, plus Charles Rosher, who lent his expertise as the studio's full-time cameraman.

1912 Merged with Universal Pictures[edit]

In 1912 the Horsley Brothers along with other independents, notably Carl Laemmle and his Independent Motion Picture Company, known as IMP, and Swanson and Ed Porter founded Universal Picture Company, succeeding in defeating the monopolistic hold on the industry of the Patents Company and General Film Company (the famous Latham Loop controversy).

Nestor Studio and Nestor Ranch ranch location were renamed by Carl Laemmle, becoming Universal Studios and the Universal Ranch (First Universal City) - see "Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Film History"

Nestor Studios name appeared on 844 films, from The Blazed Trail (1910) - Nestor Film Company to Ain't Nature Wonderful? (1920) distributor: Universal Film Manufacturing Company (1920)

In 1913 David Horsley sold his Universal shares and started David Horsley Productions, producing 17 films in 1916 to 1919, released by different film distributors ( Mutual Film (1915-(1916 - Triangle Distributing Corporation).

Universal Moves "The Moving Picture World"[edit]

By 1915 Universal completed the move of its operations (Nestor/ Universal ranch and studio) to the new Universal City (Lankershism), The Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street studio continued as the production location for Nestor Comedies ( Nestor production unit). In 1916 the Oak Crest/Nestor/Universal ranch is leased by Lasky. The Lasky/Famous Players/Paramountl Ranch remained as filming location until 1926.

Christie Comedies leases vacated Universal Hollywood Plant[edit]

Al Christie was employed at universal after the merger of Nestor Studios into Universal . Soon after, Al Christie became unhappy working for Uncle Carl, he left Universal to form his own production company, Christie Comedies leased part of the Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street property.

Hollywood Film Enterprises- Bill Horsley Laboratory[edit]

In 1916 William Horsley withdrew from the Universal company and set up the Bill Horsley Laboratory, later known as Hollywood Film Enterprises, Inc., devoted exclusively to the developing and printing of 35 mm. films.

From the 1930s to the 1960s, Hollywood Film Enterprises diversified its activities into the 16mm and 8mm "home movie" area. During those years, they were the exclusive distributor of Walt Disney's cartoons in 8mm and 16mm for home movie and "toy" projectors. HFE also at various times offered Walter Lantz and Hugh Harman-Rudolf Ising cartoons as well; along with home movie reels of Laurel and Hardy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, various Hal Roach and Al Christie comedies, and a Tarzan series edited from a silent era serial. They left the home movie business in the 1960s when Disney withdrew their license and started their own home movie division. The company was later known as Hollywood Film and Video, Inc.

William was David's silent partner in "David Horsley Productions" (1916 to 1919) 17 films between) 1916 to 1919 listed in the Internet Movie Data base (IMDB) and possibly the 55 films (1916 to 1919) released using "The Centaur Film Company" Name. "Centaur Film Company", as a film studio appears to have existed in Bayonne, New Jersey, until the opening of Nestor Studios Hollywood in 1912. The name used again (1916 to 1919, by David Horsley after he sold his shares in Universal Pictures.

The Centaur Film Company Name[edit]

The "Centaur Film Company" name appears on 55 films (1916 to 1919) - Pictures released by different film distributors ( Mutual Film (1915–1916 )- Triangle Distributing Corporation)

The "Nestor Film Company" name appears on 184 films (1910 to 1920) - Pictures released by Universal Film Manufacturing Company : Santa Monica Road Race (1912)

The "Nestor Film Company" was used as the name of a UnIversal Studios Production units - 660 productions - Universal Film Manufacturing Company (1912–1920

William Horsley Papers (Collection Number 540). Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

Includes photographs of Horsley, Nestor Motion Picture Company staff, and the opening of Universal Studios. Journals, including Motive Power, feature biographical accounts of Horsley.

  • Motography, vol.13 no.1, January 2, 1915. pp. 17–18. Article describing William Horsley's role in the establishment of Universal City
  • International Photographer, March–April 1934,
  • National Photographic Dealer, August 1943. Issue features William Horsley on the occasion of his 36th year in business.


  • Early Universal City - by Robert S. Birchard
  • From Silents to Sound: A Biographical Encyclopedia of Performers who Made ...by Roy Liebma- Page 114 "Francis Ford, older brother of famed director John Ford, joined the Centaur film company in 1908"
  • The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling, and the MGM Publicity Machine - Page 11 -

"In 1913 the Centaur Film Company became the first studio to relocate everything from the East Coast to downtown Hollywood."

  • New York:The Movie Lover's Guide : the Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie New York:by Richard Alleman - Page 6
  • Nickelodeon Theatres and Their Music: And Their Music: by Q. David Bowers - Page 101

" The first permanent facility in Hollywood was opened by the Centaur Film Company in 1911 and was known as the Nestor Studio."

  • The Movies of John Ford: by Thomas Augustus Gallagher - Page 37
  • Gone Hollywood by Christopher Finch- Page 3 - "Horsley's Centaur Film Company, ....., merged with Universal.. "
  • Boyle Workman's The City that Grew: by Boyle Workman, Caroline Walker, Orpha Klinker-Page 321

" BLONDEAU TAVERN FIRST David and William Horsley, STUDIO IN HOLLYWOOD operating under the name of "The Centaur Film Company"

  • Hollywood Death and Scandal Sites: Sixteen Driving Tours with Directions and ...: by E. J. Fleming - Page 2

"In 1913 the Centaur Film Company was the first studio to relocate totally to Hollywood, paying $40 a month to rent the dilapidated Blondeau Tavern"

" David Horsley's Centaur Film Company of New York. Later he worked for Universal, for Lasky and for Cecil B. De Mille"

Images Sources[edit]


  • City of Dreams: The Making and Remaking of Universal Pictures: by Bernard F. Dick - Page 34
  • Hollywood and the Rise of Physical Culture: by Heather Addison - Page 34 " Western (Coast) operation called " Nestor"
  • The Moving Picture World - Page 1457 "offices move to 46 West Twenty Forth Street, New York" - v.25 no.9 1915 Aug
  • The American Film Industry: A Historical Dictionary by Anthony Slide- Page 59
  • Bayonne by Kathleen M. by E. J. Fleming—Page 94
  • American Silent Film Comedies: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Persons by Blair Miller - Page 40
  • 1,001 Places to Sell Manuscripts By William R. by Roy Liebman - Page 233
  • The Hollywood Story: by Joel W. Finler, Bennett Finler - Page 15
  • Movies of the Silent Years by Ann Lloyd, David Robinson - Page 43
  • From Peepshow to Palace: The Birth of American Film by David Robinson, Martin Scorsese- Page 97
  • The Silent Partner: the History of the American Film Manufacturing Company ... by Timothy James Lyons - Page 53
  • Centaur Film Company; Nestor Studios: "David Horsley Productions after 1916
  • Centaur Film /Nestor Ranch: Universal Ranch: Oak Crest Ranch: Lasky Ranch: "Forest Lawn Hollywood"
  • Centaur Film Company: Francis Ford- John Ford - 1908 - working for Universal in 1912 use Nestor/Universal/ Ranch
  • Chiste Film Co. - Nestor Comedies - Universal Films (1916)

Addendum: "Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street" - First West Coast Film Studio located in the District of Hollywood "

Centaur Film Company (1911); Nestor Studios (1911 -1912) Universal Studios (1912-1915) - Nestor Comedies/Universal Films (1915-1916) - Christies Film Co. (1916) see Christies Film Co. (1916) Quality Film Company (1916) Nestor Film labs operations - 'Hollywood Film Enterprises- Bill Horsley Laboratory' - "Amalgamated Motion Picture Studios 1937."

In June of 1912, Nestor Studios became part of the newly formed Universal Film Company and Al Christie was put in charge of the comedy companies. He remained with Universal Film until January of 1916 at which time he and his brother, Charles Christie, formed their own movie studio named the Christie Film Company. The two rented facilities from Quality Pictures Corporation at Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street, the place where Al Christie had first started in Hollywood. For the first six months of operations, the new Christie Film Company made comedies under a contract with Universal Film. In July of that year, the company began producing other comedies to sell to the independent distributors and their immediate success was such that they were soon able to finance the acquisition of their studio property. Within a short time, the Christie brothers doubled their stage capacity and constructed a film laboratory equipped with the latest in technology.