D …is for
Dolly of the Dailies
Based on a scenario by Acton Davies, the 1914 film serial Dolly of the Dailies (also known as The Active Life of Dolly of the Dailies) was directed by British-born actor and director Walter Edwin. It starred popular actress Mary Fuller, who had appeared as Mary in the milestone series What Happened to Mary (1912), as intrepid heroine Dolly Desmond. After delivering an excellent “graduation oration,” Dolly pens a satirical story about the members of her local Ladies’ Home Sewing Guild, which stirs much controversy and indignation. With her earnings from the story’s publication, she leaves town and moves to New York City, where she hopes to begin her new career.
Securing a suitable position, however, proves more difficult than she imagines. Turned down by The Comet, Dolly accepts a far less desirable job as a private secretary to wealthy society woman Mrs. Yorke, who engages her to ghostwrite her “Mother Eve” column. But after Mrs. Yorke is exposed and Dolly is revealed as the column’s real author, she is offered a coveted position at the paper, where she establishes herself as a star reporter and scores scoop after scoop, often at great risk to her personal safety. Her investigations take her across the entire city, where she uncovers unscrupulous dealings by a company that refuses to correct the unsanitary living conditions of its tenants; rescues a missing heiress who has been taken hostage by Tongs; assists eloping lovers; unearths bombs deployed by anarchists who hope to foment bloody violence; and solves the mystery of precious stolen jewelry. And, in the absence of her editor James Malone, she takes command of the newsroom by “keeping the telephone wires hot” and covering multiple breaking stories.
In the final episode, Dolly returns to her hometown to help save her father’s bank, which is in near-ruin largely because of lingering hard feelings caused by her earlier controversial story. But when that story, in “complete” form, is published to great acclaim as a book, the townspeople change their opinions of it and welcome their newfound fame; and, of course, her father’s bank is saved. As Dolly revels in the excitement that the book’s publication creates, Malone appears at her home to propose marriage to her. The serial ends with Dolly leaving her journalistic career to embark on a “far finer one” ahead.
The role of Dolly Desmond was ideally suited to Mary Fuller, who relished the opportunity to play another action heroine. As she later recalled in her “Extracts from the Diary of Mary Fuller,” published in Motion Picture Magazine (1914), one day “they blew me up with a Black Hand bomb.” Another day “I was pulled up a coal-hole, . . . and scrambled out with face and hands black with soot, hair down and dress torn, puffing and blowing like a grampus [dolphin].” Through it all, according to Fuller, audiences “ate her up” and could not wait for her next adventure.
Walter Edwin went on to direct a number of other films, several of which, like Dolly, focused on female characters. Gloria’s Romance (1916), for instance, featured an adventurous young woman who gets lost in the Florida Everglades, where she finds terror, excitement, and love; and in The Green Cloak (1915), a woman is accused of the murder of a man who turns out to be her husband.
One of several serials that were set largely in the news world, Dolly of the Dailies opened the door for other “girl reporter” serials and films, including the fifteen-part The Perils of Our Girl Reporters and Beatrice Fairfax (both 1916).
Survival Status: The serial was long considered to be lost, but a copy of the fifth episode was discovered in the New Zealand Film Archive in 2010 and preserved by the Academy Film Archive in 2011. The British Film Institute’s National Film and Television Archive has a copy of episode ten.
Directors: Walter Edwin
Release Date: January 31, 1914
Release Company: Thomas A. Edison, Inc., distributed by the General Film Company, Inc.
Cast: Mary Fuller (Dolly Desmond), Yale Boss (Daddy/The Office Boy), Charles Ogle (James Malone), Richard Neill (High Officer), Warren Cook (Mr. Cambridge), Miriam Nesbitt (Mrs. Cambridge), Duncan McRae (Count de Rochepierre), Charles Sutton (James Bolliver), Florence Coventry (Mrs. Winslow), Gladys Hulette, Harry Beaumont, William West, Edwin Clark, Dan Mason, Carlton S. King.
Episodes: (one reel each) 1. The Perfect Truth. 2. The Ghost of Mother Eve. 3. An Affair of Dress. 4. Putting One Over. 5. The Chinese Fan. 6. On The Heights. 7. The End of The Umbrella. 8. A Tight Squeeze. 9. A Terror of the Night. 10. Dolly Plays Detective. 11. Dolly at The Helm. 12. The Last Assignment.