Todd Gault's Movie Serial Experience

Todd Gault's Film Serial Experience: Movie serials, cliffhangers and reviews. A gallery of movie serial stars.
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"Queen of the Northwoods"; Pathe, 1929

During the days of the silent serials no hero was bigger than Walter Miller. From 1925 to 1929 he starred in twelve serials as an energetic and stalwart hero. His leading lady was usually the pretty and fearless Allene Ray. At Pathe’ Studios the super couple made ten serials together: “Sunken Silver” (1925), “Play Ball” (1925), the original version of Edgar Wallace’s “The Green Archer” (1925), the first adaptation of a Charlie Chan mystery “The House Without a Key” (1925) with Charlie pushed back to a supporting character, “Snowed In” (1926), “Hawk of the Hills” (1927), “Melting Millions” (1927), “The Man Without a Face” (1928), “The Terrible People” (1928), and “The Black Book” (1929) his final silent serial. Miller also made “Queen of the Northwoods” (1929) with Ethlyne Clair at Pathe’ and “The Mysterious Airman” (1928) for The Weiss Brothers.

With the coming of sound it look like Miller would continue playing the hero for the Saturday matinee crowd. Pathe’ stopped production when sound became the norm and Miller moved to Mascot where he played the hero in “King of the Kongo” (1929), “The Lone Defender” (1930), and “King of the Wild” (1930). Then something strange happened. He was cast as the villain in “The Galloping Ghost” (1931). Popping over to Universal he again played the villain in “Danger Island” (1931) before returning to Mascot to play a secondary hero in “The Last of the Mohicans” (1932). But the writing was on the wall with his last serial for Mascot, “The Shadow of the Eagle” (1932) where he was cast as one of twelve men suspected of being the masked villain.

It was the following year that Miller moved to Universal and began a run of villainy to rival his run as a hero in the silent days. Starting with Buck Jones’ “Gordon of Ghost City” (1933) Miller sneered, swaggered and schemed his way through “Pirate Treasure” (1934), Jones’ “The Red Rider” (1934), “Tailspin Tommy” (1934), “The Vanishing Shadow” (1934), “The Call of the Savage” (1935), and Jones’ “The Roaring West” (1935). His last two serials at Universal cast him as one of Johnny Mack Brown’s sidekicks in “Rustlers of Red Dog” (1935) and a minor role in Mack Brown’s “Wild West Days” (1937).

From there Miller moved over to Columbia Pictures, which had just started producing serials, and played the main villain in the L. Ron Hubbard penned “Secret of Treasure Island” (1938). But his tenure at Columbia was to be short lived and Miller switched studios again. This time he went to Republic and played the main henchman in “Dick Tracy’s G-Men” (1939). What looked to be the start of another long run of villainy was sadly not to be. Shortly after completing the serial Miller was working on a Gene Autry film when a fight scene he was filming proved too strenuous. Miller had a heart attack and died soon after.

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