The Thanhouser saga begins here. On March 15h, 1910, The Actor’s Children was released to the public, initiating a seven-year run of silent film productions. While later works would draw upon classic plays and novels for their stories, this one stays within territory that was closer to the creators’ own experiences: in this case, the financial struggles of being an actor. The main characters are a married couple who are relying on a new play to bring in their rent money. But when the play is canceled, the landlady rents out their apartment and kicks their kids out on the street, setting the actors on a search that naturally pays off in the end (so as not to bum out the audience.)
Watching this film, one is left to wonder if landladies of the early 20th century really were wont to treat their tenants’ children so cruelly. Luckily, the parents’ search only takes up the final four minutes of the reel, so the matter is resolved rather quickly by a few massively relieving strokes of luck. But what about the landlady’s motivations? Is she so villainous as to show zero concern for the children’s fates? Just what went down in this woman’s life that led to her becoming a total sociopath? The Actor’s Children provokes such questions while providing zero concrete answers. That’s right, cinephiles. Director Barry O’Neill truly was the Haneke of his day. Proceed with caution because this puny reel of film might just keep you awake for days on end as you engage in heated debates that will cost you multiple friendships.