Movie 15min

The Star of Bethlehem (1912)


+ 9 images
Director Lawrence Marston
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8,000
Biblical Drama Birth of Jesus Black and White Christmas Drama Herod the Great Jesus Christ Shepherds in the Field Short Silent Film St. Joseph St. Mary The Adoration of Infant Jesus The Wise Men

Thanhouser's ambitious Star of Bethlehem was one of the first steps toward true feature-length films (more than two reels long). It appeared the year before the Italian epic Quo Vadis? was viewed in the U. S., and two years before the first Hollywood feature, The Squaw Man. The original negatives were destroyed in the Thanhouser studio fire just three weeks after its first release.

Preparation of this epic was one of the last duties of Edwin Thanhouser before leaving the studio that bore his name. He had sold it to Mutual in April of 1912 and continued to work as studio manager until he "retired" in November, 1912, only to return in 1915. Thanhouser's biggest production up to that point in time, the film required a one-month shooting schedule, employed a cast of 200 (including forty principals), and cost a hefty $8,000. Special effects alone took a full week's work.

Thanhouser studio's flair for sumptuous costumes, crowds of actors, and rich staging is evident in this epic. Some of the larger scenes reportedly were filmed with two or even three cameras shooting from different angles. The ratio of two-and-a-half feet of film exposed per foot of film used is modest by today's standards, but was extravagant for 1912.

Source: Thanhouser Company Film Preservation, Inc.

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Florence La Badie - Mary
James Cruze - Micah/Joseph
William Russell - Herod
Harry Benham - Angel Gabriel
Justus D. Barnes - Gaspar, a Magi
Charles Horan - Melchior, a Magi
Riley Chamberlin - Balthasar, a Magi
Harry Marks - Scribe
N.Z. Wood - Scribe
Lawrence Merton - Scribe
David Thompson - Pharisee, rabbi
Edwin Thanhouser - Producer
Lloyd Lonergan - Writer
Lawrence Marston - Director
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Has promise, but sadly the rest is gone

It shows that a third of the movie that was preserved after the studio lost the original copies of the movie is not the whole story. The focus is primarily on the three wise men following the star, as well as Herod. Although it kind of makes a whole, it is screaming for more. It's not enough of a movie for wise men pointing at a shiny, very close, star, and following it. As we see from some surviving images, the original movie contained the much larger story, and at the pace of the surviving 15 minutes, one can easily imagine it to be three times as long. There are hints of the marriage between Mary and Joseph on the cover of Photoplay Magazine from December 1912, and another picture shows them entering the stable. As it stands, it is sadly lacking, although it shows lot of promise.