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).
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.
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.
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.
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.