Suspense (1913 film)


Film still
Directed by Phillips Smalley
Lois Weber
Written by Lois Weber
Starring Lois Weber
Val Paul
Distributed by Universal Film Manufacturing Company
Release dates
  • July 6, 1913 (1913-07-06)
Running time
10 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent

Suspense is a 1913 American silent short film thriller directed by Phillips Smalley and Lois Weber. Weber also wrote the scenario, and stars in the film with Valentine Paul. The film features early examples of a split screen shot[1] and a car chase.

The Internet Movie Database lists Lon Chaney as having an unconfirmed and uncredited brief role,[2] however this is disputed.[3]

A print of the film is preserved at the film archive of the British Film Institute.[4]

External video
MoMA Celebrates 1913: Lois Weber and Phillips Smalley’s Suspense, Museum of Modern Art[4]



A servant leaves a new mother with only a written letter of notice, placing her key under the doormat as she leaves. Her exit attracts the attention of a tramp to the house. The husband has previously phoned that he is working late, the wife decides not to ring back when she finds the note, but does ring back when she sees the tramp. Her husband listens horrified as she documents the break in, then the tramp cuts the line. The husband steals a car and is immediately pursued by the car's owner & the police, who nearly but not quite manage to jump into the stolen car during a high-speed chase. The husband manages to gain a lead over the police but then accidentally strikes a man smoking in the road, and checks that he is OK. Meanwhile the tramp is breaking into the room where the wife has locked herself and her baby, violently thrusting himself through the wood door, carrying a large knife.

Lon Chaney connection

The film has been asserted as Lon Chaney's earliest extant film based on a brief scene in which a similar individual appears on camera. Jon C. Mirsalis writes "Some Chaney fans have doubted that it is actually Chaney in the film, but close examination of a high quality 16mm print clearly showed that the Hobo is played by Chaney."[5] The documentary Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces states that his film debut occurred after his wife's suicide attempt in April 1913 and "his earliest films were made at the first studio to open in Hollywood, Nestor."[6] Though, well-known Chaney scholar, Michael Blake's A Thousand Faces: Lon Chaney's Unique Artistry in Motion Pictures does note that the possibility exists of Chaney performing in a role during a period of unemployment in 1912, but notes that he rejoined the Clarence Kolb and Max Dill's company in San Francisco, California in September 1912.[7] Blake specifically dismisses Chaney's appearance in Suspense in his book, A Thousand Faces: Lon Chaney's Unique Artistry in Motion Pictures.[8]


Suspense was released on July 6, 1913 by the Rex Motion Picture Company.[9]

A print of the film is preserved at the film archive of the British Film Institute.[4]


  1. Langman, Larry; Finn, Daniel (1994). A Guide To American Silent Crime Films. Greenwood Press. p. 264. ISBN 0-313-28858-5.
  2. "Internet Movie Database: Suspense". Retrieved 2008-06-09.
  3. "Silent Era: Suspense". silentera. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
  4. 1 2 3 " Louis Webber and Phillips Smalley: Suspense". Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
  5. "Suspense (1913)". Lon Mirsalis, Jon. Retrieved 29 August 2014. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces (DVD). Warner Home Video. 2000.
  7. Blake, Michael (1997). "A Thousand Faces: Lon Chaney's Unique Artistry in Motion Pictures". Vestal Press. pp. 18–30. Retrieved 4 September 2014.
  8. Blake, Michael (1997). "'A Thousand Faces: Lon Chaney's Unique Artistry in Motion Pictures'". Vestal Press. p. 30.
  9. "Moving Picture News (Jan-Jun 1913) (Jan-Jun 1913)". Cinematograph Publishing Company. 1913. p. 868. Retrieved 4 September 2014.
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