Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

William Randolph's Hearse

A Short Stellar Career

Thomas Harper Ince was born onNovember 6, 1882 in Newport, Rhode Island. In a short but stellar career he was a silent film actor, director, producer and screenwriter. He was literally "born into the business," coming from a family of stage actors. He first appeared on the stage at age six and then worked with a number of stock companies. He made his Broadway debut when he was 15 and found sporadic work invaudeville. Discouraged with the stage, he headed to California in 1911, and turned to film.

Carl Laemmle
Carl Laemmle

In his early days in Southern California, he understudied with several well-established producers, including Carl Laemmle, before launching out on his own. Many of his early pictures were Westerns and historical dramas, which employed innovative filming techniques other producers would later copy. To accommodate the many productions he was juggling, Ince had built a city of motion picture "sets" on a stretch of land in Santa Monica called "Inceville." Here he was able to shoot many of the outdoor locales needed for his films. Inceville soon became a mecca for hopeful actors and actresses eager to enter the movie business. A number of filmdom's earliest stars, including William S. Hart and Olive Thomas, did some of their first film work there.

Ince married Eleanor "Nell" Kershaw in October 1907 and they had two sons, both of whom entered the film business. Richard Ince became an actor and Thomas H. Ince, Jr. was a writer.

In 1915, Ince partnered with D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett to create the Triangle Motion Picture Company, and three years later he founded the studios in Culver City that would later house MGM. Film and television history would be made on that lot long after Ince's death, with such classics as Gone with the Wind, King Kong, The Untouchables, Lassie, Batman and — ironically — Citizen Kane. Later, along with industry giant Adolf Zukor, Ince became one of the founders of Paramount Pictures.

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