G …is for

The Green Archer

Adaptations of novels and stories by best-selling British author Edgar Wallace were popular in both the silent and sound film eras. British silent versions alone numbered nearly twenty and included such titles as The Man Who Bought London (1916), the first of Wallace’s stories to be adapted to film, The Four Just Men (1921), and Melody of Death (1922).


A poster for The Green Archer.

American filmmakers also looked to Wallace’s writing for the subjects of their productions. The Terrible People (1928), for example, was an adventure serial in which an heiress is menaced by a gang of criminals who seem to have returned from the dead; and in another serial, The Mark of the Frog (1928), based on the story “The Fellowship of the Frog,” a crime ring headed by the hooded “Frog” terrorizes New York in search of a missing treasure. Among the finest adaptations of Wallace’s work, however, was the ten-episode The Green Archer (1925), based on the 1923 hit novel of the same name. The supernatural mystery, whose film rights were purchased for $1,500 by Pathé, was adapted by legendary screenwriter Frank Leon Smith and directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet. Notably, Smith Americanized the story, which was originally set in an ancient castle in Britain, by moving the location to the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. But to maintain the atmosphere of the original, he added another interesting twist: the old British castle has been disassembled, transported to the U.S., and recreated stone-by-stone by eccentric self-made millionaire Abel Bellamy. Having acquired his fortune through corrupt and mysterious means, Bellamy harbors a dark and devious secret that is not revealed until the end of the film.

Valerie Howett (Allene Ray), daughter of Bellamy’s neighbor Walter Howett, is convinced that Bellamy is somehow tied to the disappearance of a woman she believes is her birth mother. So she and her father, who has a longstanding grudge against Bellamy, rent a cottage on his estate, which—it turns out—has a passageway to the castle that allows Valerie to explore her hunch. She is not, however, the only character who is interested in the mystery of the castle: nosy reporter Spike Holland and handsome captain of the state police, Jim Featherstone (Walter Miller), Valerie’s love interest, are also intent on exposing Bellamy’s criminal past. So is the wealthy philanthropist John Wood.


The identity of the mysterious Green Archer is not revealed until the final episode.

The castle, it seems, is haunted; and in transporting it to New York, Bellamy has also transported its ghostly inhabitant, the “Green Archer,” a masked figure who ominously serves as a harbinger of death. Since the Archer usually appears just as the various characters get close to unraveling the mystery, he proves to be an especially menacing presence.

Horror and supernatural devices keep the plot moving efficiently: locked doors mysteriously fly open, and the vicious dogs Bellamy has acquired are found dead in the yard, their hearts shot through by arrows. The suspense is enhanced by the way that Bennet maintains the secret of the archer’s identity.


In one episode, it seems certain that the archer is a man—possibly Police Captain Featherstone, who has sustained a puzzling injury. In another episode, the evidence points to a woman—possibly Valerie, who is seen carrying a bow. Just as likely, it is Bellamy’s duplicitous secretary Julius Savini or even Bellamy himself, trying to ward off unwelcome and prying visitors to his property. Even the ads for the film exploited the mystery. One promotional poster used the tagline: “The foreboding shadow of the grim Archer—the twang of the bow—and green feathered Death speeds to its mark!” Another teased moviegoers: “Is the charming girl who lives near by, the Green Archer? Is it her father? Is it her father’s friend? Is it the handsome captain of the state troopers who is in love with the girl?” The revelation that the archer is actually philanthropist John Wood, son of Bellamy’s late brother, whom Abel had wronged (and, according to Hulse, Valerie’s long-lost brother), provides a real surprise.

One of the most compelling aspects of the serial was the fact that, despite its supernatural story, it did not go overboard on stunts or outrageous coincidences. Rather, as Kalton Lahue noted, Bennet produced a picture that depended on skillful development for its effects. Using several castles in the Hudson River Valley for authentic location shots, he also built a replica in Pathé’s Long Island studio and even hired professional archer Earl B. Powell to supervise the archery sequences and lend veracity to the plot. Moreover, the serial boasted fine performances by Allene Ray and Walter Miller, one of early film’s most appealing pairings. Nicknamed “the King and Queen of the Silent Serial,” the two appeared together in ten classic serials and became audience favorites.

The serial, which Pathé promoted as a mystery “as great as any Sherlock Holmes ever had to solve,” was extremely profitable for its producer Pathé and hugely popular with movie audiences—so popular, in fact, that it was remade as a serial in the sound era as The Green Archer, by Columbia Pictures. Today, many film scholars consider the 1925 version to be among the best silent serials ever produced.

Allene Ray and Walter Miller became one of the most popular pairs in early serials.

A promotional recording featured the voices of co-stars Ray and Miller.



Survival Status: The film no longer exists in complete form. The third, fourth, and fifth chapters are extant, preserved in UCLA’s Film & Television Archive. A minute-long promotional record made by the film’s stars Allene Ray and Walter Miller can be accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGlbNUQSY_s.

Directors: Spencer Gordon Bennet

Release Date: December 6, 1925

Release Company: Pathé Exchange, Inc.

Cast: Allene Ray (Valerie Howett), Walter Miller (Jim Featherstone), Burr McIntosh (Abel Bellamy), Frank Lackteen (Julius Savini), Dorothy King (Gay Savini), Stephen Grattan (Walter Howett), William R. Randall (John Wood), Walter P. Lewis (Cold Harbor Smith), Wally Oettel (Spike Holland), Tom Cameron (Butler), Jack Tanner (Creager).

Episodes: (two reels each) 1. The Ghost of Bellamy Castle. 2. The Midnight Warning. 3. In the Enemy’s Stronghold. 4. On the Storm King Road. 5. The Affair at the River. 6. The Mystery Ship. 7. Bellamy Baits a Trap. 8. The Cottage in the Woods. 9. The Battle Starts. 10. The Smoke Clears Away.