Sunday, February 7, 2010


During the second half of 1908, Moving Picture World carried a number of news items on Actologue, which was a particularly active firm specializing in putting actors behind the screen. Actologue was owned by National Film Company, an exchange based in Detroit.
Acting pictures on a mammoth scale is a new move of the National Film Company, of Detroit. The “Actologue,” presenting a company of capable artists, will go forth in about two weeks’ time to demonstrate the realities in animated photography. Five companies are being rehearsed, one for the Palace Theater, Detroit; one for Cleveland, and three for the road (“Trade Notes,” Moving Picture World 20 June 1908, 527).
Actologue consisted of a number of acting companies, each with its own repertory of films. Each company could then be moved around a circuit of theaters.
The National Film Co.’s latest venture, the “Actologue,” is meeting with great success. One company opened at Cleveland June 29th, presenting “Monte Cristo” and “College Chums,” From Cleveland this company goes to the Great Southern at Columbus, where they remained a week, and from there to the Opera House at Ludington, Michigan, for a week’s engagement.

The No. 2 company, presenting “The Gentleman Burglar” and “A Lord for a Day” opens at Cleveland July 1st for the remainder of the week, and then comes to the Lafayette at Detroit in place of the Humanova.

The third company, presenting “East Lynne” and the “Curious Mr. Curio,” opens at Columbus July 6th.

The “Actologue” company, which is controlled by the National Film Co., of Detroit and the Lake Shore Film & Supply Co. of Cleveland, will play all of the houses controlled by Caille & Kunsky in the following cities: Detroit, Toledo, Columbus, Dayton, Springfield, Battle Creek, and Indianapolis. Contracts are also in force for five more companies to play the smaller towns. Fifty acting people are under contract for the various companies, and everything possible is being done to make the “Actologue” the foremost of all the talking and acting pictures (“Trade Notes,” Moving Picture World 4 July 1908, 9).
Actologue evidently had five big companies suitable for more expensive houses and a number of smaller companies that could travel doing more limited runs in smaller venues.
The National Film Company, of Detroit, apace with the times, have made rapid strides in the field of talking pictures with their new Actologues.
They have distanced all competitors in the field and have taken the largest single contract ever offered. At this time they have five companies in first-class houses by agreement with Messrs. Caille & Kunsky: The Fairbanks, Springfield, O.; the Victoria, Dayton; the Southern, at Columbus; the Valentine, at Toledo; the Lafayette, at Detroit, and several companies in smaller towns, and will shortly open at the English, Indianapolis.

They have also a rehearsal hall in the Telegraph Building at Detroit, adjoining their offices, where managers interested may see the rehearsals and overlook their subject work.

All the playlets are written by James J. Morrison, formerly stage director of the Poli Stock Company, Worchester, Mass., and recently at the Majestic, Cleveland, who likewise has the stage direction of the companies and the engaging of the performers required. They will shortly open other houses wherein they are interested and will keep this Actologue as a permanent feature of their already large exchange (“The Actologue,” Moving Picture World 18 July 1908, 45).
By August, publicity was promoting Actologue as a "fad."
An experiment is an experiment only; chance may make it a “fad.” The virtue of a fad is more to the credit of experiment than it is to the honor of the fancy, yet when experiments become fads, success must surely follow.

The “Actologue” is an experiment that has become a fad, yet a worthy fad and one that the public appreciates as a valuable adjunct to numerous hitherto either misunderstood or not understood subjects that are beautiful and interesting yet not comprehended stories.

With the appearance of the “Actologue” new interest is lent to the subjects, and the effect, in “toto,” is to present a drama in tabloid form. A drama presented by capable actors, with every detail beautifully worked out, every effect added and played in a creditable manner throughout.

The ten companies already out are meeting with unparalleled success among the best audiences possible, and The National Film Company have reason to congratulate themselves on the rapid strides they are making (“The Actologue,” Moving Picture World 8 August 1908, 103).
At the end of the summer season, National Film attempted to expand Actologue for the more lucrative fall season. This expansion carried risk: competition was more keen during the fall (as during the summer many theaters were on hiatus) and experienced actors were more expensive in the fall, since legitimate theaters required their services.
The continued success with which the Actologue Talking Picture Companies have been meeting has compelled the National Film Company, of Detroit, to enlarge upon its work to meet the Winter demand. Already fifteen companies are in active operation and their large rehearsal hall is alive and active twelve hours a day. There is no one more ably situated to handle this demand and a competent corps of workers are kept busy at all times. A repertoire of nearly one hundred playlets are now owned by them and still the work continues with a spirit that is equaled only by the insistent call for them. The gratifying results are solely the reward of merit, the result of success, and the growth indicates that the popularity is on the rise to hold a high place in amusement circles for all time to come. The reasons are apparent, carefully written dialogue prepared with a view to live and carefully trained actors with a view to please and impress and carefully worked out effects with a view to fulfill the illusion (“Talking Pictures,” Moving Picture World 12 September 1908, 195).
Reports in the Moving Picture World suggested that the programs remained popular through the fall. Nevertheless, this item carries a warning amid its positive assessment. The fact that the Lafayette Theater went back to a stock company before returning to Actologue suggests that the theater managers were not yet convinced that the entertainment would have staying power against live theater in the regular season.
That the Actalogue [sic] Talking Pictures have proven themselves a form of entertainment the public wants was strongly evidenced at the Lafayette Theater in Detroit recently. They had proven the most popular Summer attraction at that theater, and tremendous business had greeted them at every performance.

With the opening of the house for the Fall season a change of policy was installed and a stock attraction was submitted. Ten days later business forced its retirement, and upon a two days’ notice and with meagre advertisement the Actalogue was reinstated on Sunday last. The news seemed wildfire and all day long the 2,400 seats were filled with an enthusiastic crowd, who welcomed what they made old friend of during the Summer, and who have since been equally generous to show that the correct idea is never slighted by the public when it wants a highly amusing, refined and moral entertainment at prices that all may reach (No title, Moving Picture World 10 October 1908, 279).
A poem from mid-October praising the Actologue:
“The Actologue”

Art struck the chord, and lo! the resonant wire
Brought forth in concord from the golden lyre,
Symphony in synchrony where with Science lens,
Nature supplemented Art’s artistic ends.

Mystic Science picturing Art’s plays
Added the central element of soul,
And Genius smiled and found in devious ways
Its shining mantle worthy of the whole.

The World applauded and its kind applause
Was found and well bestowed, the cause—
Well done, well won, with wonder all agog
The public praise the clever Actologue.

“The Actologue,” Moving Picture World 17 October 1908, 300
Actologue continued garnering positive reviews through the end of 1908. This item comes from early December.
Another signal triumph for the Actalogue [sic] marked its initial appearance in Cleveland at the American Theater. No better sensation has ever entered the circle of the city’s theatricals. The successive presentations have been acclaimed in the papers with unceasing regularity and the Cleveland “Leader” in its magazine section of Sunday, November 22, devoted an entire page to an illustrated article of the most commendable nature, to the artistic value of the production, the excellence of the effects, the efficiency of the performers and the enthusiasm of the auditors (“The Actologue in Cleveland,” Moving Picture World 5 December 1908, 450).