William James Hannon


William James Hannon, often referenced simply as W. J. Hannon, was a successful businessman and venture capitalist. In the mid 1910’s, he became a seminal figure in the organization and development of New Orleans’ short-lived film-production industry. He did so through his work with the Diamond Film Company who centered production in New Orleans and its environs.

Hannon’s Beginnings in Business

Prior to founding Nola, W.J’s father, William Morgan published a book entitled “The Photodrama – Its Place Among the Fine Arts.” [1] . William Morgan financially and organizationally spearheaded the founding of Nola Film Company in 1915, the first film production enterprise to be centered in New Orleans. Nola, while only financially solvent for two years, made the step of building a highly modern, industry-standard studio in the Bayou St. Johns area. This became pertinent when, two years after the collapse of Nola, W.J. became substantively involved in a film production enterprise. Following in his father’s footsteps, W.J. became one of the major investors in Diamond Film Company. General Film Company was the national distributor of Diamond-made films. It was a part of the Edison Trust. When the trust lost a series of court battles, in which independent film makers sued the trust for violating anti-monopoly laws, it was disbanded and General Film Company was sold to Lincoln and Parker Film. After less than a year, this film company filed for bankruptcy. Despite Diamond’s attempts to file charges against General Film Company, the bankruptcy took its financial toll on the company. [2]

Diamond’s announcement was issued in August of 1917, the same summer the W.J. Hannon began his business venture by traveling to New York to select the biggest directors to jumpstart the Company [3] . Hannon continued to make successive trips to New York in order to improve Diamond’s reputation. His biggest success came almost a year after the company’s origins in July of 1918. Hannon negotiated the booking of several Diamond comedies to play in Loew’s Theaters. Few were booked on the national Loew’s circuit, but a number became regulars at Loew’s Crescent City Theater in New Orleans and other Southern cities. Hannon’s greatest achievement at Nola was achieved in fulfilling what his father could not do: finding distributors. In the same trip to New York. W.J. Hannon was able to sign seven comedies with General Film Company, a national distributor that would put Diamond on the map as a nationally recognized company [4] .

Hannon’s Last Days at Diamond

Unfortunately, Diamond Film, while it succeeded in making a number of well-received films, met the same eventual fate as Nola Film Company, collapsing after two years under the weight of unarbitrated divisions of profits. After original investments being made, principally by Hannon, Diamond met financing trouble and issued an ad which would allow people to buy shares making the company public [5] . After these problems were solved, Diamond came under fire a year later. Hannon was integrally involved in Diamond’s dissolution process, as his claim as a creditor led to Diamond being placed under a receivership, the first step in its road towards eventual bankruptcy. Hannon claimed that the Company owed him more than $3,000. In addition, Diamond was indebted $40,000 in manufacturing costs of films that were never picked up in Hannon’s negotiations with General Film Company [6] .

Following the underreported lawsuit and settlement, the hard work of both W.J. Hannon and his father William Morgan Hannon, lost the hope of succeeding with their original investment. This began with the sale of furniture at the office of Nola Film Company, and later Diamond as well. The largest blow to Hannon legacy was the the loss of the studio on Bayou and St. John. Described as one of the most equipped and high-tech in the country, the studio was now under receivership sale and auction, far from what William Morgan had planned when making his original investment [7] .

Works Cited

  • Hannon, William Morgan. In The Photodrama; Its Place among the Fine Arts, New Orleans: Ruskin Press, 1915.
  • Poole, Ed E., and Susan T. Poole. “Silent Era of Louisiana Filmmaking.” In Louisiana Film History: The First Hundred Years (1896-1996), p. 25-26. Harvey, LA: Learn About Network, L.L.C., 2012.
  • “Big Film Company Organized Here,” Times-Picayune, August 5, 1917, 52
  • “Diamond Comedies Growing Popular,” the Times-Picayune, July 14, 1918, 37
  • [Advertisement], Times-Picayune, February 3, 1918, 14
  • “Receivership Threatens Diamond Film Company,” Times-Picayune, March 29, 1919, 15
  • [Advertisement], Times-Picayune, July 12, 1919, 11

This page was last modified on 24 February 2013, at 09:56