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Robert W. Chambers

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Title and Credits
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The Black Secret (1919)

Runtime: (15 episodes / 31 rels)
Country: USA [1919]
Color: Black and White
Sound Mix: Silent 
Pathé Production; distributed by Pathé Exchange, Incorporated
15 episodes (two reels each): [1] "The Great Secret," released November 9, 1919 (three reels). / Standard 35mm spherical 1.37:1 format. Drama. The film is presumed lost.

Directed by
George B. Seitz 

George B. Seitz 

Written by Bertram Millhauser 
from the novel "In Secret" by Robert W. Chambers 

Cast (in credits order)

Pearl White
George B. Seitz
Walter McGrail
Wallace McCutcheon
Henry G. Sell
Marjorie Milton
Harry Semels

Pearl White and George B. Seitz

Walter McGrail

Magazine ad touting the Robert W. Chambers adaptation of "In Secret"  

Pearl White, seen here in Black Secret (Pathe 1919), episode IV, with Walter McGrail, will always be best remembered for her role in 
The Perils of Pauline.

glass theater preview slide

Continued Next Week: A History of the Motion Picture Serial - Kalton C. Lahue
Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964.  pp. 66, 190-191, 283.  Early Lahue volume focuses on silent era serials.

The Serials: Suspense and Drama by Installment - Raymond William Stedman
Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971.  pp. 17, 19, 47.  History of chapter plays includes some information on silent era serials.

The Serial Squadron website
http://www.serialsquadron.com/, 2001-2003.
Website contains ongoing updates to information on the serial chapters and the status of film prints.

Synopsis:  A young American secret service agent suspects her immediate boss of being in the employ of the enemy in this 15-chapter Pathé serial conjured up by director George B. Seitz and screenwriter Bertram Millhouser. The secret service agent, of course, was played by the company's leading star, the effervescent and seemingly indefatigable Pearl White, she of The Perils of Pauline  (1914) fame. This was Pearl's ninth serial in five years and the strain was getting to her. She left Pathé and signed with producer William Fox who launched her in a series of society melodramas that, sadly, no one wanted to see. After appearing in a final American serial, Plunder (1923), White relocated to Paris, France, where she remained until her death in 1938. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, All Movie Guide

From Motion Picture News:

Release of "The Black Secret"

Pearl White-Pathe Serial, Released Nov. 9, Incorporates New Mode of Treating a Serial Theme

PATHE asserts that an event in the history of motion picture serials and a long step forward in their production will be disclosed for public opinion on November 9th with the release by Pathe Exchange, Inc., of Pearl White's latest serial "The Black Secret," based on Robert W. Chambers' thrilling novel of adventure and mystery, " In Secret."

Mr. Chambers' popularity as a writer of " best sellers" has given the Pathe serial, " The Black Secret," a great exploitation impetus, particularly in connection with the publicity and advertising campaign which has been launched by Pathe. The serial has been tied up through the Doran Company with bookstore window displays throughout the country, it is said; and, moreover, the campaign book, prepared by the Pathe Exploitation and Serial Publicity Departments, is reported to be the most comprehensive yet issued in connection with a serial.

Aside from its author and its plot, " The Black Secret," as produced by Mr. Seitz, is said to differ radically from the serial of the past. The permanent cast contains only three persons — Miss White, the star, Walter McGrail and Wallace McCutchcon. In other words, only these three characters go all the way through the story, the others being limited in appearance to the episode in which they are introduced. One entire episode was filmed with only three people appearing before the camera, and every scene was an exterior. This is said to be the first time such an experiment was ever tried in a serial, and reviewers are reported to have stated that Director Seitz obtained the maximum of dramatic intensity by this means. In still another way " The Black Secret" departs from the ordinary serial treatment. It contains not one villain, but fifteen,— a different heavy character being employed in each episode. As the story advances, each villain is disposed of in some manner that is quite in keeping with the atmosphere of the situation in which the action occurs.


. . .
The Cambric Mask (1919)
Country: USA
Color: Black and White
Sound Mix: Silent
Release date: April 7, 1919
5 reels 
Status: LOST

Directed by Tom Terriss 

Written by Eugene Mullin and Tom Terriss 
from the novel by Robert W. Chambers

Cinematography by
Joe Schellinger 

magazine ad for the film appearing
in a March 12, 1919 magazine.
The reference to the White Riders
being the KKK is obvious.


The Cambric Mask
Director: Tom Terriss (Dir)
Release Date: 7 Apr 1919
Duration (in reels): 5
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Cast: Alice Joyce (Rose Ember)
Herbert Pattee (Robert Ember)
Maurice Costello (John Sark)
Roy Applegate (Henry Murden)
Bernard Siegel (David Creed)
Jules Cowles (Daniel Guernsey)
Martin Faust (Reggie Lanark)
Florence Deshon (Mrs. Lanark)
Summary: John Sark owns valuable land coveted by Henry Murden, who has stolen important information indicating that a railroad company wants to buy the land. Murden is the leader of a clan called The White Riders. Entomologist Sark discovers that one of the Rider's masks is made of a handkerchief belonging to his assistant Rose Ember, with whom he is in love. The mask actually belonged to Rose's father, who was forced to join the gang by Murden. When the Riders fail to convince Sark to sell them the land, they capture him and take him to a swamp to bury him in quicksand. Rose, disguised as a Rider, rides close to Sark's horse and cuts his bonds. Sark kills Murden, and when he learns that Rose was his savior, he is happily reunited with the woman he loves.
Production Company: Vitagraph Co. of America
Distribution Company: Vitagraph Co. of America
Director: Tom Terriss (Dir)
Writer: Eugene Mullin (Scen)
Tom Terriss (Scen)
Photography: Joe Schellinger (Cam)
Source Text: Based on the novel The Cambric Mask by Robert William Chambers (New York, 1899).
Authors: Robert William Chambers
Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Vitagraph Co. of America. 12/3/1919 dd/mm/yyyy LP13489
Physical Properties: b&w:

Genre: Drama

Subjects (Major): Handkerchiefs
Land rights
Secret societies

Subjects (Minor): Disguise
Live burial
Bibliographic Sources: Date Page
ETR 5 Apr 19 p. 1369.
MPN 5 Apr 19 p. 2180.
MPW 5 Apr 19 p. 126.
Wid's 10 May 19 pp. 939-40.

Cast (in credits order)

Alice Joyce .... Rose Ember
H.H. Pattee .... Robert Ember (as Herbert Pattee)
Maurice Costello .... John Sark
Roy Applegate .... Henry Murden
Bernard Siegel .... David Creed
Jules Cowles .... Daniel Guernsey
Martin Faust .... Reggie Lanark
Florence Deshon .... Mrs. Lanark

Alice Joyce and Maurice Costello

Florence Deshon

The Cambric Mask  (1919) Vitagraph Co. of America. Distributor: Vitagraph Co. of America. Director: Tom Terriss. Scenario: Eugene Mullin and Tom Terriss. Camera: Joe Schellinger. Cast: Alice Joyce, Herbert Pattee, Maurice Costello, Roy Applegate, Bernard Siegel, Jules Cowles, Martin Faust, Florence Deshon. Woman rescues her naturalist lover from a group of masked "White Riders". 

Synopsis:  John Snark (Maurice Costello ) has an estate that is about to increase in value because of a railroad being built through town. There is a battle over who will buy the property. Villainous postmaster Henry Murden (Roy Applegate) and the miserly David Creed (Bernard Siegel) both want to get their hands on it. Snark, however, wants to sell it to the father (Herbert Pattee) of his loyal assistant Rose (Alice Joyce ), providing it is kept in trust for Rose. Murden vengefully calls on the White Riders (based, apparently, on the Ku Klux Klan) to kidnap Snark. Rose's father is a member of the White Riders, but unwillingly so -- Murden has something on him and therefore controls him. So Rose hears of the plot through her father, dons the white robe of the group, and foils the plot. When Snark is saved, he admits his love for his assistant (as if it wasn't obvious enough already). The Cambric Mask was based on a story by the ever-popular Robert W. Chambers. ~ Janiss Garza, All Movie Guide

Review from the New York Dramatic Mirror, April 15, 1919
"The Cambric Mask"

Vitagraph, Alice Joyce, Directed by Tom Terriss, Story by Robert W. Chambers

Box Office Value Great

Exhibitor Comments: "Alice Joyce scored strong." Advertising advantages derived from Chambers story."
Entertainment Good
Dramatic Interest Good
Technical Handling Good
Coherence Good
Acting Good
Setting Fair
Photography Good
Atmospheric Value Fair
Quality Fairly Good

Minden, leader of a band of "White Riders," has stolen information to the effect that a railroad company wants to purchase a piece of land owned by John Sark. When Sark finds a mask of one of the Riders made from the handkerchief of his sweetheart, Rose Ember, he suspects her of complicity. But his faith in her is restored when she saves him from death at the hands of the Riders, who fail to take the property away from him.


Review from Moving Picture World,, April 5, 1919

"The Cambric Mask."
Alice Joyce Starred in Vitagraph Production with Maurice Costello Supporting.
Reviewed by William J. Reilly.

VITAGRAPH'S PICTURE, "The Cambric Mask," has elements making for popular appeal, but it suffers at the same time from too much attention to the details of a well-worn story. There is little love interest as the girl is won by the hero at the outset. The main story deals with an attempt of a band of "White Riders" to force the sale of valuable property, and the characters are whirled from one scene to another without being given a chance. Alice Joyce is featured and is likable in the comparatively few opportunities she has of displaying real personality.

Maurice Costello again seen in a Vitagraph picture, fills to good advantage the role of the strong-armed hero. The masked riders will give the production popular appeal.
Rose Ember Alice Joyce
Robert Ember Herbert Pattee
John Sark Maurice Costello
Henry Murden Roy Applegate
David Creed Bernard Siegel
Daniel Guernsey Jules Cowles

Story by Robert W. Chambers.
Directed by Tom Terriss.

The Story
John Sark is the owner of a piece of land coveted by Henry Murden, leader of the band of "White Riders," who has purloined the information that a railroad wishes to buy the property. Sark is a naturalist and has for an assistant Rose Ember. He discovers one of the rider's masks which is made of one of Rose's handkerchiefs, and this introduces a mysterious element into the love affair. The mask belonged to her father. The riders try to force Sark's hand, but are obliged to capture him. Rose, seeing Sark led away, dons a mask and riding close to his horse, cuts his bonds. Sark kills Murden, and, finding that his savior was Rose, is once more happy in his love.

Program and Advertising Phrases: Mysterious White Riders, Near Revenge, Thwarted by Daring Efforts of Heroine.
Mask of White Rider Made of Girl's Handkerchief Only Serves to Lead Here to Action
Alice Joyce Features in Role of Heroine Who Saves Lover from Death in Murky Swamp.
Maurice Costello Returns to Vitagraph in Story of Night Riders Led by Cruel Desperado.
Heroine Dons Masks of Dreaded Riders to Save Lover and Win Father to Better Life.

Advertising Angles: Play up Miss Joyce, but do not neglect to let your public know that this is from a story by Robert W. Chambers bearing the same title. Use such descriptive lines as "A romance of the white riders," "Girl's filmy handkerchief a mask of death," "Girl rides with midnight murderers to save her sweetheart's life. Stress the fact that this is a strongly romantic story with vivid action and a well-marked heart interest. Make a mask out of a fine handkerchief and display in the lobby with a card reading "Did any lady patron drop this?" Display in advance of the full billing to lead into interest in the title.

Advertising Aids: One design each one, three and six-sheets. Window cards. Lobby display, 11x14 and 22x28. Heralds. Slides. Plan book. Press sheet.
Released April 7

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The Firing Line (1919)

USA 1919 Black and White
Sound Mix: Silent
Language: English
Produced by: Universal Pictures [aka MCA/Universal Pictures] [us]
Producer: Famous Players/Lasky Corp.
Producer: Jesse Lasky

Directed by
Charles Maigne

Written by Clara Beranger 
from the novel by Robert W. Chambers

Cinematography by
Al Liguori 

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Robert Schable .... assistant director

Other crew
Adolph Zukor .... presenter


The Firing Line
Director: Charles Maigne (Dir)
Release Date: 6 Jul 1919
Duration (in feet): 5,483
Duration (in reels): 6
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Cast: Irene Castle (Sheila Cardross)
Isabelle West (Mrs. Cardross)
May Kitson (Constance Paliser)
Anne Cornwall (Cecile Cardross)
Gladys Coburn (Jessie Bradley)
R. Vernon Steele (John Garret "Garry" Hamil III)
David Powell (Louis Malcourt)
J. H. Gilmore (Neville Cardross)
Frank Losee (James Wayward)
Rudolph de Cordova
Charles Craig
Philip S. Rice (Faithful three)
Robert Schable (William Portlaw)
Jane Warrington (Virginia Suydam)
Shaw Lovett (Gary Cardross)
Summary: When Sheila Cardross discovers from an overheard remark that she is the adopted daughter of her wealthy parents, she secretly marries her childhood friend, Louis Malcourt, for his name, but remains a wife "in name only" because she cannot stand his touch. In Palm Beach she and landscape architect John Garret Hamil III fall in love, but she refuses to get a divorce because of the effect it would have on her foster parents. She finally tells them of the marriage and because they insist on a public marriage, she remarries Malcourt which causes Garry to become seriously ill. With Malcourt's consent Sheila nurses Garry to health. Malcourt, seeing their affection for each other, consults his dead father for advice through a séance. Malcourt's father advises suicide and after Malcourt's death, Sheila and Garry are able to fully pursue their romance.
Production Company: Famous Players-Lasky Corp.
Distribution Company: Famous Players-Lasky Corp.; A Paramount-Artcraft Special
Director: Charles Maigne (Dir)
Robert Schable (Asst dir)
Producer: Adolph Zukor (Pres)
Writer: Clara Beranger (Scen)
Photography: Al Liguori (Cam)
Source Text: Based on the novel The Firing Line by Robert W. Chambers (New York, 1908).
Authors: Robert W. Chambers
Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Famous Players-Lasky Corp. 27/6/1919 dd/mm/yyyy LP13897
Physical Properties: b&w:

Genre: Drama

Subjects (Major): Marriage--Forced by circumstances
Nursing back to health

Subjects (Minor): Architects
Foster parents
Palm Beach (FL)
Note: Some sources credit Irene West as acting in the film rather than Isabelle West. The film was shot in and around Miami, FL, Lake Placid in the Adirondack Mountains in NY, and at Fort Lee, NJ.
Bibliographic Sources: Date Page
ETR 19 Jul 19 p. 569.
MPN 19 Jul 19 p. 785.
MPW 19 Jul 19 p. 409.
New York Times 23 Nov 1919.
Variety 11 Jul 19 p. 61.
Wid's 13 Jul 19 p. 21.

Cast (in credits order)

Irene Castle .... Sheila Cardross Malcourt
David Powell .... Louis Malcourt
rest of cast listed alphabetically
Gladys Coburn .... Jessie Bradley
Anne Cornwall .... Cecile Cardross
Charles Craig .... One of the Faithful Three
Rudolph De Cordova .... One of the Faithful Three
J.H. Gilmour .... Neville Cardross (as J.H. Gilmore)
May Kitson .... Constance Paliser
Frank Losee .... James Wayward
Shaw Lovett .... Garry Cardross
Philip S. Rice .... One of the Faithful Three
Robert Schable .... William Portlaw
Vernon Steele .... John Garret 'Garry' Hamil III (as R. Vernon Steele)
Jane Warrington .... Virginia Suydam
Isabel West .... Mrs. Cardross

Irene Castle and David Powell

Anne Cornwall and Vernon Steele

Plot Summary: 

Sheila Cardross Malcourt shares only a loveless marriage with Louis Malcourt, but is unwilling to divorce him even to marry the man she really loves, for fear of hurting her foster parents. Instead, she stifles her feelings for Garry Hamil and strives to maintain her marriage. But when tragedy ensues, she finds herself faced with a new dilemma.

Summary written by Jim Beaver {jumblejim@prodigy.net}


Vernon Steele & Irene Castle
"We must never meet again!"
lobby card for Firing Line
starring David Powell & Irene Castle

Synopsis:  When Sheila Cardross (Irene Castle) finds out she was adopted, she marries Louis Malcourt (David Powell) just so she can have a name. But while vacationing in Palm Beach she meets landscape architect Garret Hamil (R. Vernon Steele ) and he falls in love with her. Sheila knows she has found the right man, and Malcourt offers to give her a divorce. She refuses his offer, however, because she doesn't want to bring disgrace on her adopted family. So Malcourt takes his own life in order that the lovers can be united. Today, the plot to this picture seems extremely archaic, but the Robert W. Chambers novel on which it was based was very popular in its day. ~ Janiss Garza, All Movie Guide

THE FIRING LINE 8x10 lobby card.

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The Dark Star (1919)

USA 1919 Black and White
Sound Mix: Silent
Produced by: Cosmopolitan Productions / International Film Service, Inc. [Hearst Newspapers]
Distributed by: Famous Players-Lasky Corporation
6 reels

Directed by: Allan Dwan

Written by: Frances Marion
from the novel by Robert W. Chambers

Cinematography by: H. Lyman Broening

Director Alan Dwan


The Dark Star
Director: Allan Dwan (Dir)
Release Date: 3 Aug 1919
Duration (in reels): 7
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Cast: Marion Davies (Rue Carew)
Dorothy Green (Princess Naia)
Norman Kerry (Jim Neeland)
Matt Moore (Prince Alak)
Ward Crane (French Secret Service agent)
George Cooper (Mr. Brandes)
Arthur Earle (Mr. Stull)
G. Butler Clonbough (German spy)
Emil Hoch (German spy)
James Laffey (Ship's captain)
William Brotherhood (Steward)
Fred Hearn (Rev. William Carew)
Eddie Sturgis ("Parson" Smalley)
Summary: According to tradition, some metal which had fallen from a dark star, or evil planet, was fashioned into the image of Erlik, Prince of Darkness. Secret plans detailing Turkish fortifications are hidden in the image. An American missionary in Turkey, not knowing of the plans, brings the image to America. When he dies, his daughter, Rue Carew, born under the influence of the star, who as a child played with the image and copied the plans so much she had memorized the drawings, gives the plans to her friend Jim Neeland, who secretly works for the French secret service. German spies convince Rue that Jim himself is a German spy, then follow him on board a steamer to Europe where they tie up Rue and Jim and set up explosives to blow them up with the plans. Rue, a sharpshooter, shoots off the fuse of the bomb. Later, in a Paris café, she is rescued from the spies by Jim, then the spies are killed and she and Jim are united as lovers.
Production Company: Cosmopolitan Productions; International Film Service
Distribution Company: Famous Players-Lasky Corp.; A Paramount-Artcraft Special
Director: Allan Dwan (Dir)
Writer: Frances Marion (Scen)
Photography: Edward Broening (Cam)
Source Text: Based on the novel The Dark Star by Robert W. Chambers (New York, 1917).
Authors: Robert W. Chambers
Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
International Film Service Co., Inc. 17/7/1919 dd/mm/yyyy LP13961
Physical Properties: b&w:

Genre: Adventure
Sub-Genre: Espionage

Subjects (Major): France. Intelligence Service
Secret plans
Spirit possession

Subjects (Minor): Americans in foreign countries
False accusations
Paris (France)
World War I
Note: The Dark Star was filmed at Paragon studios, Fort Lee, NJ. G. Butler Clonbough was the stage name adopted by Gustav von Seyffertitz during World War I.
Bibliographic Sources: Date Page
ETR 16 Aug 19 p. 901.
MPN 16 Aug 19 p. 1495.
MPW 16 Aug 19 p. 1019.
Wid's 14 Dec 1919.

Cast (in credits order)

Marion Davies .... Rue Carew
Dorothy Green .... Princess Naia
Norman Kerry .... Jim Neeland
Matt Moore .... Prince Alak
Ward Crane .... French Secret Service Agent
George Cooper .... Mr. Brandes
Arthur Earle.... Mr. Stull
Gustav von Seyffertitz .... German Spy (as G. Butler Clonbough)
G. Butler Clonbough .... German Spy
Emil Hoch .... Steward
Fred Hearn .... Reverend William Carew
James Laffey .... Ship Captain
William Brotherhood .... Steward
Eddie Sturgis .... 'Parson' Smalley

Marion Davies and Norman Kerry

Matt Moore and Ward Crane


Marion Davies as the pastor's daughter who inadvertently gets involved in a jewel heist of the famous Dark Star gem. A prince (literally!) saves her from ruin and recovers the stone

A fabulous jewel known as the 'Dark Star' is stolen; a pastor's daughter gets involved, falling into the depths of a spy plot concerning war plans and fortifications...

Synopsis:  This is one of Marion Davies' earliest features and it represents the worst aspects of her career. It was her second film under the direction of Allan Dwan; her first for him, Getting Mary Married , had been an amusing light comedy, just right for Davies' talents. In this melodrama, however, she just about falls on her face. The plot itself sounds pretty ridiculous, with Davies as Rue Carew, is an American girl raised in Turkey. When her missionary father (Fred Hearn) dies, she travels to the States with his effects, among them an idol containing military plans. German and French spies are after these plans. Luckily, Rue hits it off with Jim Neeland (Norman Kerry), who is working for the French. When the German spies realize that Rue knows the plans by heart, they consider her dangerous and plot to kill her. On the boat to France, they dose Neeland's soup with sleeping pills and tie him and Rue together in his stateroom with a bomb that will blow up the whole ship. Rue, although bound, manages to grab a gun and shoot both the bomb's mechanism and a pitcher of water to put out the resulting flames. The gunshots bring help, and, in spite of a few more troubles, Rue and Neeland make it to France and the bad guys are rounded up. ~ Janiss Garza, All Movie Guide

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