Joseph in the Land of Egypt
The second of “Thanhouser Big Productions,” a monthly schedule, Joseph in the Land of Egypt was a true “feature” film, a new class of film which came to dominate the market by the end of 1914. A feature was an hour or more, heavily advertised, with elaborate production values, often with higher ticket prices, longer runs per theater, strongly promoted star cast and was always a drama. Thanhouser followed up on the enormous success one year earlier of THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM with a familiar Biblical story, large and highly decorated (and highly populated) sets, elaborate costumes and (something new) star promotion. Only a few “Thanhouser Big Productions” in early 1914 included specially-commissioned scores from Tams Music Library. It had been common for accompanists to improvise or use standard selections from theater and classical music, or “cue sheets” of compilations tailored specifically to the film. Beginning in 1915, the biggest features included original scores commissioned by the production studio. The performed score for JOSEPH IN THE LAND OF EGYPT is a combination of the written original music and the musician’s improvisation based on its themes. This original music is a transition to the fully-composed scores introduced in Europe and the U.S. a year later. Whether it is another Thanhouser innovation is a subject for research. As in all the other titles in this Thanhouser collection, organist Ben Model exhibits the demanding and skillful art of improvisation.