George Kleine and the Kalem Company

George Kleine (1864-1931) was an early film producer, best known for founding the Kalem Company, whose stable included comedians and actors like Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew,  Ham and Bud, Rose MelvilleBillie Rhodes, Ruth Roland, Alice Joyce, Mary Pickford, and Eddie Sutherland (later to become a director), as well as writers like Sam Taylor (also later to graduate to directing), and directors like William Beaudine, Allan Dwan, and Harry Edwards.  They also released cliff-hanging serials like The Hazards of Helen and The Ventures of Marguerite. 

Kleine was a second generation optician, originally from New York, who relocated to Chicago in 1893. Like his father, he sold stereopticons and other optical devices among his products. As soon as movies were invented circa 1896, he began to sell movie equipment, as well. Three years later he obtain the exclusive right to sell Edison’s products in the Chicago area.

In 1903 Kleine began distributing Biograph films to exhibitors. This led led naturally to his forming a film studio in 1907 with partners Samuel Long and Frank Marion, two employees of Biograph. They were K, L and M : Kalem. The studio was based in New York City. Kleine was essentially the money man in the arrangement, brought in to help the new concern get off the ground. Once Kalem became profitable, Kleine sold his shares and became an independent producer. His last film was in 1928.

,For most of its life, Kalem’s production was run by studio chief Sidney Olcott who, like Lloyd and Marion, came over from Biograph. Olcott left in 1915 over a salary dispute and went on to work at Famous Players-Lasky and other studios. Kalem did not long survive his departure. In 1917, they sold out to Vitagraph. In its decade of existence, Kalem made close to 1500 films.