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Thanhouser Career: Actress (1911-1916)

Mignon Anderson in a newly  restored "Thanhouser Players" poster discovered in soutnern Idaho, April,1999. Courtesy Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

anderson.GIF (95226 bytes)Thanhouser Career Synopsis: Mignon Anderson was among the top several of the best known Thanhouser players. She played in many films, of which she considered A Dog of Flanders, The Plot Against the Governor, The Scientist's Doll, The Tin Soldier and the Doll, and Robin Hood to be among the more significant. She married Morris Foster, a well-known Thanhouser actor.

Biographical Notes: Mignon Anderson was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1892. Her father, who was also born in Baltimore, was in vaudeville and opera, and, later, in the insurance business. He died in New York City on September 9, 1914. Her mother was the former Hallie Howard. Mignon, one of three sisters, received her education in New York City. At the age of six months she made her first stage appearance, in the arms of Margaret Mather. As a child she appeared with Joseph Jefferson, Richard Mansfield, Julia Marlowe, Effie Shannon, and other notables. At one time she was also an artists' model.

Image Courtesy Alan BrockWith Thanhouser: Her screen career began at Thanhouser in early 1911 with work in Robert Emmet, released on March 17th of that year. She quickly became one of the company's best known leading ladies and was the subject of much publicity in her time. Film historian Anthony Slide relates that fellow Thanhouser players gave her the nickname of "Filet Mignon"!

Like other prominent actors and actresses, her personal life was of interest to countless movie fans, and even the most trivial details, especially if of an unusual nature, were apt to find their way into print. In this category was an item in The New York Dramatic Mirror, June 17, 1914, which told of her pet monkey, Mozart, who, it was said, could play the opening strains of This Is the Life on the piano!

Throughout most of 1914, and probably before then, she lived in New York City and commuted to New Rochelle daily. The New Rochelle Pioneer, October 17, 1914, told of an address change: "Mignon Anderson has at last accomplished her heart's desire—she's moved to New Rochelle from New York City, and has taken cozy apartments with her mother, on Randolph Street, near the Remington Station on the Westchester Road." At the time her mother had been recently widowed.

Romance: In 1913 Mignon Anderson was a close companion of Val Hush, a Cadillac salesman and part-time Thanhouser actor who at one time was romantically involved with Florence LaBadie. In early 1914 Mignon and another Thanhouser player, the peripatetic Irving Cummings, became attracted to each other and for a while were seemingly inseparable in their spare-time hours. The May 20, 1914 issue of The Moving Picture World announced their engagement, as did other newspapers and journals, including The Morning Telegraph, which on May 17, 1914, carried this item:

"Cupid jumped way back to New York and up to the Thanhouser studios, where he whispered into the ear of Miss Mignon Anderson and told her it was time that she and Irving Cummings were having the knot tied. She did not demur in the least, and when Cummings was asked about it he was so glad that he wanted everyone to know about it. So he said: 'Yes, Miss Anderson and I are going to be married some time next month, although the date has not been decided upon yet. The news might as well get out now as any time.' Miss Anderson is the ingenue of the Thanhouser company and enjoys national popularity. She is a petite blonde and very pretty. Mr. Cummings is a well known screen actor whose work has pleased thousands of people."

However, the union did not take place, and on April 16th of the following year she married another Thanhouser player, Morris Foster, instead.

The New Rochelle Evening Standard, April 17, 1915, told of the marriage ceremony: "Though she will always remain Little Mignon to her friends and Miss Mignon Estelle Anderson in the movies, she is now Mrs. John Morris Foster in private life. The change came last evening when Reverend Albert F. Tenney, rector of Pelham Priory, made her the bride of Morris Foster, one of the leading men of the Thanhouser Film Corporation. It was a quiet wedding at the bride's home, 25 Remington Place, as her family are in mourning. Only the immediate relatives were present. The bride was attended by Miss Katherine Breese, Providence, Rhode Island, a chum of hers, and Jay Yorke, an actor, New York City, acted as best man."

The New York Evening Mail of the same date gave the why and wherefore of the couple's wedding: "Mignon Anderson and Morris Foster, very well-known film players of the Thanhouser forces are married. So the word comes from New Rochelle. They have been on the verge for many moons, but a little jesting and the urging of a few friends, who said, 'Sure, why not?' When they had a chance to get $200 for a wedding present it made them do it, rather suddenly, on Friday. It seems that Mr. Thanhouser and Mr. Rubenstein, his publicity man, were laughing and talking with Miss Anderson and Mr. Foster just after the taking of a love scene asking them why they didn't really get married. Someone suggested that they didn't have nerve enough. Mr. Rubenstein offered to bet that they did. Finally Ruby offered the bet to Mr. Thanhouser and it was taken. Then Ruby told the couple if they would win the bet for him he would give it to them for a wedding present. Net result: Mr. Thanhouser made his young stars a wedding present of two hundred."

Their honeymoon was spent in Jacksonville, Florida. The union proved to be a happy one, and they remained in love until Foster died on April 24, 1966.

Later Years: In late 1915 and early 1916 she lived in the Orleans Hotel in New Rochelle. In March 1916 she and Morris Foster left Thanhouser to join Ivan Productions, for whom she appeared in The City of Illusion and Her Husband's Wife. In March 1916 she, her husband, and her mother were living in an apartment in New York City and were with the Vim studios there, according to The New Rochelle Pioneer. In January 1917 she went to Universal, where she remained for about a year, after which she appeared with various studios on a freelance basis.

Among her later films were the 1917 Universal releases of The Hunted Man, The Young Patriot, Meet My Wife, The Master Spy, and The Getaway; the 1918 Rolfe release for Metro of The Claim; the January 1919 Universal release of The Secret Peril; the 1920 Claremont release for Republic of Mountain Madness; the 1920 Empire State release for Peerless of The Heart of a Woman; and what is believed to have been her last film, Kisses, a Metro release of 1922. Around 1919 she and her husband were on stage with Pauline Frederick in The Scarlet Woman. In the late 1920s, Mr. and Mrs. Foster were on stage for a year with a Salt Lake City stock company.

From autumn 1916 through at least 1918 she lived or maintained a home address at 537 West 142nd Street, New York City, according to studio directories, although for part of this period she was in California. She was 5' tall, weighed 94 pounds, and had blue eyes and golden hair. For recreation enjoyed horseback riding, motoring, and tennis.

Mignon Anderson died in Los Angeles, California on February 25, 1983. At the time she lived at 123-B North Maple Street, Burbank, California, about a block from the Warner Bros. studio.

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