During the five short years the Whartons made movies in Ithaca, NY (1914-1919) newspapers were rife with war stories, pandemic tragedies, true spy tales, and terrorist plots being carried out on the open seas; nonetheless, The Ithaca Journal, still found time to chronicle the gaiety and mischief of the merry pranksters that made up the cast and crew of Wharton, Inc.
The Ithaca Journal was the public’s conduit to the Whartons: when the brothers closed Renwick Park to the community, the outcry was heard from Danby to Dryden. After much was made in the editorial pages and letters column, the Whartons agreed to make the park public once again.
Feuds between established film folk and the Whartons were legendary: some were imagined, others’ local lore. When Louis J. Selznick stated that, “Less brains are necessary in the motion picture business than any other,” before the Wheeler legislative committee investigating film industry practices, an irate Leo Wharton “took pronounced issue” with that statement.
More often the daily shenanigans of the troupe captivated readers for days on end. Allegations of immoral behavior were printed and quickly squashed by the brothers’ Wharton, but there’s no denying that having a movie studio in the small university town was newsworthy and kept Ithacans at the edge of their seats. Whether the news was fact or fiction seemed to be secondary: the mingling of stars and locals held an allure that often clipped the national news on parade.