Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ben Turpin at Carl Laemmle’s IMP

IMP employees in New York celebrate the one year anniversary of their first release on October 25, 1910
            One of the more recent discoveries in the motion picture career of Ben Turpin was that he was associated with Carl Laemmle’s Independent Moving Pictures Company, or the IMP. In all my years of research, Turpin never brought up IMP nor Laemmle in his many interviews or stories over the years, however it has been known that Ben was indeed associated – though off camera – with IMP, as documented in the book, For Art’s Sake.
            However in 2008, UCLA stumbled across a print in their archives of an early IMP split reel comedy that, upon screening, starred none other than Mr. Ben Turpin! The film was The Hobble Skirt (released October 27, 1910) which, today, is one of the earliest verified instances of Turpin acting for IMP.
Years earlier I had come across a Turpin quote that I at first dismissed as fluff: “I recall once, Mary Pickford was filming a scene laid in Havana. As she poised on the edge of a boat ready to leap into the sea, the grind of the camera was halted and I was substituted in her place, attired in long curls and feminine dress, I made the leap.” Ben stunting for Mary Pickford? Why not!?! 
In September 2017 I located a rare article in the June 11, 1910 issue of The Star Press, Muncie, Indiana, on page 14, stating: "(Ben Turpin) leaves Monday for Chicago where he has contracted with the Laemmle Film Service and Manufacturing Company, to act in more films."

            Since the discovery of The Hobble Skirt and my locating the Manifest of Alien Passengers sailing from Havana on March 4, 1911 (which lists Ben and Carrie Turpin among several IMP personnel), Ben was indeed a part of IMP. And that Pickford film Ben mentioned may well be the March 16, 1911 release (unfortunately lost), The Fisher Maid. By the way, if you can’t see all the faces in the above photo, here’s a better shot of one cock-eyed participant...

                                                              Zooming in on the above pic, there’s no mistaking the mugg of Ben Turpin

   Ben Turpin waiting for a train with Owen Moore and Mary Pickford in the recently discovered film, "Their First     
   Misunderstanding," released by IMP on January 9, 1911. Photo courtesy of Christal Schmidt.


1 comment:

  1. Received this from our friend Bob Birchard:

    Minor point: IMP stands for Independent Moving Pictures Company with an "s" at the end of Pictures. I have IMP stationery from the period to prove this. "The Hobble Skirt" was "discovered" during an informal Al Joy Fan Club meeting screening unidentified and under-identified nitrate prints at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Richard Roberts first spotted Turpin. Cinecon Classic Film Festival [] put up the money for the restoration, and I personally nudged UCLA to take the film to an outside lab when the non-standard perforations on the 1910 print proved too difficult for UCLA's lab.

    Bob Birchard