Parts 13 in a History of Film Series by Larry Telles
It took over a year for the decline inside Essanay to cause its doors to close. It wasn’t any one thing that caused the problem, but a multitude. Marguerite Clayton, Broncho Billy Anderson’s leading lady left for the Chicago studio. Spoor continued to not allow Anderson to make feature films in Niles. Roy Clements who had directed the Snakeville Comedies left for Los Angeles. Victor Potel went with him. Roy was replaced by Wallace Beery.
With the departure of studio’s biggest moneymaker, Chaplin, Essanay signed French comedian Max Linder. His clever pantomime was often compared to Chaplin’s. Linder failed to match Chaplin’s popularity in America.
Anderson appeared tired of the film business and left Niles for Los Angeles in January, 1916. On February 16, 1916 the Niles studio received a wire from Chicago telling them to stop work and close the doors. George Spoor continued to work in the Chicago studio until March, 1918. It became too much for him.
In a last-ditch effort to save the studio, Essanay joined in a four-way merger orchestrated by Chicago distributor George Kleine in 1918. Kleine’s new combine, V-L-S-E Incorporated, was an amalgam of the Vitagraph, Lubin, Selig, and Essanay companies.
George K. Spoor continued to work in the motion picture industry, introducing an unsuccessful 3-D system in 1923. He was obsessed with the project and put his remaining fortune into the project. Spoor and Johan Berggren were ready to promote it in 1930. However, it was too late. They encountered the “talkie” revolution and the Great Depression. Spoor died in Chicago in 1953. G. M. Anderson became an independent producer, sponsoring Stan Laurel in a series of silent comedies. Anderson died in Los Angeles in 1971.
Next Issue: Part 14 – The Rise of the Studio – Selig Polyscope