L …is for

Lucille Love, the Girl of Mystery

The episodic nature of Lucille Love kept moviegoers in suspense.

Lucille Love, the Girl of Mystery (1914), directed by Francis Ford and written by Ford and Grace Cunard (who also starred), was the first serial produced by Universal. Originally intended to be a two-reel Western, it was quickly expanded into a fifteen-part serial after the studio determined that serial pictures were the only way to compete with Pathé.

The plot centered around an old enemy who wants to exact revenge at any cost against his longtime rival. At West Point, Hugo Loubeque is in love with the woman who becomes the wife of his classmate, Sumpter Love. Hugo’s hatred of Sumpter is intensified when he is expelled from the Academy for cheating, the main witness against him being Sumpter. Knowing that his rival will have a successful career in the Army, Hugo becomes an international spy and starts plotting an elaborate revenge for what he believes is Sumpter’s betrayal.

Years later, Sumpter, now a general, is living in the Philippines with his daughter Lucille. (Mrs. Love, by then, is dead.) Lucille is in love with the general’s aide-de-camp, young Lieutenant Gibson, who has been entrusted with securing top-secret defense plans. But the Loves’ butler, in league with Hugo, steals the plans and plants evidence to implicate Gibson, who is arrested for the crime.


Overhearing a phone call between Hugo and the butler, Lucille learns of their devious plot. Knowing that Hugo will soon set sail for the United States, she determines to intervene and reclaim the secret papers, thereby exonerating Gibson. Her search takes her, by sea-plane, to the ship on which Hugo is traveling. But although Lucille is able to access the papers, the ship explodes and everyone is thrown overboard. So begins a long and exciting series of chases that take Lucille all over the world—to an island in the South Seas, to China, to San Francisco, to Mexico, and ultimately back to the United States.


Lucille’s adventures take her to many foreign countries and dangerous places.


Starring as the fearless Lucille was former stage actress Grace Cunard. After making her film debut around 1908, Cunard had found work at a number of early studios, including Biograph, Kalem, and Edison. But it was at Universal, where she was often paired with Francis Ford, that she achieved her greatest success. The two not only became one of serial film’s most popular couples; they also became a strong production team, with Ford directing some of the stories that Cunard wrote and in which she performed.

The Cunard-Ford partnership in Lucille Love reaped big rewards for the studio, which grossed over a million dollars on ticket sales and led to other successful serials on which the pair collaborated for Universal—the twenty-two-episode The Broken Coin (1915), the fifteen-episode The Adventures of Peg o’ the Ring (1916), and the sixteen-episode The Purple Mask (1916). After their collaboration ended, Cunard went on, on her own, to write, produce, direct, and perform in scores of silent films—by some accounts, as many as 150-200 total over the course of her career; and she continued to perform, albeit in significantly smaller roles, well into the 1940s.

Ads touted Lucille Love, one of a number of early productions to feature an adventurous and independent “New Woman” heroine, as a “soul thrilling story of love, devotion, danger and intrigue.” It not only established Cunard as one of the leading serial actresses of her day; it also marked a high point in her career. Yet, as Kalton Lahue has noted, the production was filled with danger, off-screen as well as on-screen. In an airship scene shot near San Francisco early in the film, one actor, Ernest Shields, fell twenty-feet onto a ledge of rocks and incurred serious injury; Cunard later suffered a fall as well, tumbling from the back of an elephant and spraining her ankle. Nonetheless, while she initially had reservations about playing a mere ingenue part (as it seemed at first, when only a few episodes had been written), she quickly grew to love the rousing role that made her a star.


Audiences were thrilled by the exciting exploits of the fearless and independent Lucille (played by Grace Cunard).




Survival Status: The serial as a whole is presumed lost. But Progressive Silent Film List reports that incomplete prints of four chapters survive; and a few episodes are known to survive in the Library of Congress Moving Image Collection.

Director: Francis Ford

Release Date: April 14, 1914

Release Company: Universal Film Manufacturing Company

Cast: Grace Cunard (Lucille Love), Francis Ford (Hugo Loubeque), Harry Schumm (Lt. Gibson), Edgar Keller (Sumpter Love), Ernest Shields (Thompson, the Butler), Eddie Boland (Government Aviator), Burton Law (Native Chief), Harry L. Rattenberry (Captain), John Ford, Wilbur Higby, Jean Hathaway, Doris Baker, William White, Lionel Bradshaw, Louise Glaum, Lew Short.

Episodes: (two reels each) The chapters are numbered, not titled.