It was on this day, November 6, 1882, American silent film actor, director, screenwriter and producer of more than 100 films and pioneering studio mogul, Thomas Harper Ince was born. Known as the “Father of the Western”, he invented many mechanisms of professional movie production, introducing early Hollywood to the “assembly line” system of film making.
Ince wrote the screenplay for The Italian (1915), and directed Civilization (1916), both films selected for preservation by the United States National Film Registry. He was a partner with D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett in the Triangle Motion Picture Company, and built his own studios in Culver City, which later became the legendary home of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He also created the first American movies starring Asian performers, and his cinematically explored the status of women in society.
Also known for his death aboard the yacht of William Randolph Hearst, Ince officially died of heart trouble, but Hollywood rumor of the time suggested he had been shot by Hearst in a dispute over actress Marion Davies.
One of the stories surrounding Ince’s sudden and mysterious death — and believed to be the most plausible by many who knew Hearst, Ince and the others aboard the yacht that day — is that the bullet wasn’t meant for Ince but for Charles Chaplin, whom Hearst had long suspected of carrying on a secret affair with Hearst’s mistress, actress Marion Davies. Supposedly, Hearst inadvertently walked into Davies’ cabin and caught her and Chaplin in bed together, pulled out his gun, Chaplin jumped up and ran outside the cabin, Hearst chased him and fired several shots at him, missing Chaplin but hitting Ince, who happened to be standing on deck at the time.
A 2001 film directed by Peter Bogdanovich, The Cat’s Meow, tells a tale based on the rumors. Bogdanovich claims that he heard the story of Ince’s death from director Orson Welles, who in turn said he heard it from writer Herman J. Mankiewicz while they were writing Citizen Kane. In Bogdanovich’s film, Ince is portrayed by Cary Elwes. It was adapted by Steven Peros from his own play.
For more on Thomas H. Ince
1896 – Jim Jordan (James Edward Jordan) (actor: radio�s Fibber McGee and Molly; died Apr 1, 1988)
1931 – Mike Nichols (Michael Igor Peschkowsky) (Academy Award-winning director: The Graduate ; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Silkwood, Postcards from the Edge, The Day of the Dolphin; comedian: [w/Elaine May])
1946 – Sally Field (Sally Mahoney) (Academy Award-winning actress: Norma Rae , Places in the Heart ; Gidget series, Steel Magnolias, Mrs. Doubtfire, Smokey and the Bandit series, Hooper, Forrest Gump, Absence of Malice; Emmy Award-winner: The Big Event/NBC World Premiere Movie: Sybil ; The Flying Nun, Gidget, The Girl with Something Extra, Alias Smith and Jones)
1949 – Nigel Havers (actor: Lie Down with Lions, The Burning Season, Farewell to the King, The Little Princess, Empire of the Sun, A Passage to India, Chariots of Fire, Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?)
1957 – Lori Singer (actress: Fame, Born Beautiful, Footloose, Summer Heat, Equinox, Short Cuts, Sunset Grill, VR.5; musician: cellist: Bach Cello Suite #4: Sarabande)
1958 – Trace Beaulieu (actor, puppeteer: Mystery Science Theater 3000)
1960 – Lance Kerwin (actor: James at 15, The Family Holvak, The Loneliest Runner, The Mysterious Stranger, Salem�s Lot, The Snow Queen)
1966 – Peter DeLuise (actor: seaQuest DSV, 21 Jump Street, Children of the Night, Rescue Me, The Midnight Hour)
1970 – Ethan Hawke (actor: Search and Destroy, Reality Bites, Alive, Waterland, A Midnight Clear, White Fang, Dead Poets Society, Dad, Explorers)
1972 – Thandie Newton (actress: Mission: Impossible II, Flirting, Interview with the Vampire)
1972 – Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (actress: Just Shoot Me, Dirty Work, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me)
1974 – Zoe McLellan (actress: Sliders, Silk Stalkings, Diagnosis Murder, Star Trek: Voyager, The Invisible Man, Dungeons & Dragons)
1978 – Nicole Dubuc (actress: Our House, Major Dad)