Mutual Film

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Mutual Film Corporation
Industry Film studio
Fate Dissolved
Founded March 1912[1][2]
Defunct December 31, 1918
Headquarters Edendale, California
Key people
John R. Freuler (1872–1958)
Harry E. Aitken (1877–1956)
Roy Aitken (1882–1976)
Subsidiaries Keystone Studios Comedies
Majestic Studios/Reliance-Majestic Studios
New York Motion Picture Company
(and its subsidiaries:Kay Bee Studios, 101-Bison Company, Broncho Film Company, & Domino Film Company)
Signal Film Corporation
Vogue Films, Inc.
Lone Star Film Company
American Film Company
Advertisement (1916)

Mutual Film Corporation was an early American film conglomerate best remembered today as the producers of some of Charlie Chaplin's greatest comedies. Founded in 1912, it was absorbed by Film Booking Offices of America, which evolved into RKO Pictures.

Founding[edit]

Mutual Film Corporation was formed in 1912 by a group of American businessmen including Harry E. Aitken. The releasing and distribution company had numerous subsidiary production units, including Keystone, famed producer of comedies. Mutual is celebrated for signing Charlie Chaplin in 1916; he produced some of his best comedies while working for the company.,[3]:996 although he also felt that the mandated tight production schedule led to those same films to become increasingly formulaic. As a result of this concern, Chaplin went with First National Pictures to have a contract that allowed him to have more flexibility production schedules so he could focus on making better films. [4]

Mutual originated with the partnership behind Western Film Exchange, founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in July 1906 by Harry and Roy Aitken and John R. Freuler. In 1910, Freuler would also form a partnership with Chicago film distributor Samuel S. Hutchinson, founding a production entity known as the American Film Manufacturing Company.[5]

In early 1912 when, with the Shallenberger brothers (Wilbert E. and William Edgar), Crawford Livingston, and others as investors including Charles J. Hite, the President & CEO of Thanhouser Film Corporation, joined Freuler and Harry E. Aitken in the formation of Mutual Film.[6]

As 1912 progressed, the company included auxiliary units such as Keystone Studios Comedies, the Majestic Studios (which would later become the Reliance-Majestic Studios through Harry Aitken's partnership with D. W. Griffith), and the New York Motion Picture Company.[7] In 1915, the workers of Keystone Studios, Kay Bee Studios (a subsidiary of the New York Motion Picture Company) and Reliance-Majestic Studio left Mutual, along with the Aitken brothers, to form the Triangle Film Corporation. Now as complete owners of the former Reliance-Majestic Studio, by 1917 the conglomerate operated as the distributor for four subsidiary studios in California, three of which were in the Los Angeles area and the other in Santa Barbara. They were Signal Film Corporation, Vogue Films, Inc., Lone Star Film Company and American Film Company. Vogue Films, Inc. operated a studio at Santa Monica Boulevard and Gower street in Los Angeles producing two-reel comedy films exclusively. Among the other subsidiaries of the New York Motion Picture Company were: 101-Bison Company, Broncho Film Company, & Domino Film Company.

Legal cases[edit]

In 1915, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio that motion pictures were a form of business, not an art form, and therefore not covered by the First Amendment.[8]

Shortly after this decision, cities began to pass ordinances banning the public exhibition of "immoral" films, concerning the major studios that state or federal regulations would soon follow. This ruling remained in effect until Joseph Burstyn, Inc v. Wilson in 1952 which declared that film was a legitimate artistic medium with free speech protections.

Productions[edit]

In 1916, Charlie Chaplin became the highest paid entertainer in the world when he signed a contract with Mutual for a salary of $670,000 per year. Mutual built Chaplin his very own studio and allowed him total freedom to make twelve two-reel films during this fruitful twelve-month period. Chaplin subsequently recognised this period of film-making as the most inventive and liberating of his career, although he also had concerns that the films produced were increasingly formulaic during the length of his contract.

During 1916 and 1917, the Lone Star Film Company had Charlie Chaplin working at their studio at 1025 Lillian Way, in Hollywood. Charlie Chaplin moved on to found United Artists in 1919 with Mary Pickford, D. W. Griffith, and Douglas Fairbanks. In 1918, Mutual Film Corporation ceased production. Like many other companies established at this time, Mutual was eventually absorbed by larger corporations, in this case Film Booking Offices of America and later RKO Radio Pictures.

With the exception of the Chaplin films, most of the Mutual shorts and feature dramas are lost to time and decomposition.

Selected filmography[edit]

A Little Hero (1913), silent animal movie with Mabel Normand with Dutch language intertitles. Collection EYE Film Institute Netherlands.
Charlie Chaplin in The Property Man (1914)
Poster for His New Profession (1914)
Poster for The Count (1915)
Ad for Treason (1918)
Year Title Notes
1913 A Little Hero
1913 The Grand Military Parade
1913 An Accidental Clue
1914 The Cocoon and the Butterfly
1914 Our Mutual Girl
1914 The Life of General Villa
1914 The Property Man
1914 The Face on the Bar Room Floor
1914 His New Profession
1914 Sweet and Low
1914 Fatty's Wine Party
1914 Leading Lizzie Astray
1915 The Devil
1915 Father and Son
1915 The Straw Man
1915 The Deathlock
1916 Fighting the War
1916 The Other Side of the Door
1916 Johnny's Romeo
1916 Father and Son
1916 The Folly of Fear
1916 At Twelve O'Clock
1916 The Turn of the Wheel
1916 The False Clue
1916 Within the Lines
1916 His Guardian Angel
1916 When the Tide Turned
1916 Grouchy
1916 His Uncle's Ward
1916 Admirers Three
1916 Uncle Sam's Defenders
1916 The Pawnshop
1917 Pardners
1917 Rehabilitated
1917 Queen X
1917 The Greater Woman
1917 The Wildcat
1917 Mary Moreland
1917 Bab the Fixer
1917 The Beautiful Adventure
1917 Please Help Emily
1917 The Serpent's Tooth
1917 Souls in Pawn
1917 The Girl Who Can Cook
1917 The Girl from Rector's
1917 The Railroad Raiders
1917 Daughter of Maryland
1917 American Maid
1917 Her Second Husband
1918 Who Loved Him Best?
1918 Her Husband's Honor
1918 Treason

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bowers, Q David (April 2005). "Chronological Biography of Gertrude Homan Thanhouser" (PDF). Retrieved 16 February 2018. 
  2. ^ Marco Scollo Lavizzari (2004). "Mutual Film Corporation". Enciclopedia del Cinema. Retrieved 16 February 2018. 
  3. ^ Katz, Ephraim (1998). The Film Encyclopedia (3rd ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 0-06-273492-X. 
  4. ^ Brownlow, Kevin; Gill, David (1983). Unknown Chaplin. Thames Silent. 
  5. ^ "Silent Era : Progressive Silent Film List". Silentera.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  6. ^ "Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc". Thanhouser.org. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  7. ^ "Silent Era : Progressive Silent Film List". Silentera.com. Retrieved 27 December 2017. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Robert S. Birchard, "Silent-Era Filmmaking in Santa Barbara" Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2007 ISBN 0-7385-4730-1

External links[edit]