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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"The Black Book"; Pathe', 1929.

Allene Ray was one of the many stars who, though talented, was unable to continue her career after the coming of sound. Born in Texas, she got her start in film thanks mostly to her expert riding ability, making two films for a San Antonio producer, Crossroad Trails (1917) and Trails End (1919). This eventually lead her to Pathe Studios, who were looking for someone to take the place of departing Pearl White. Ray was the third actress they tried and became an immediate success with the crew for her atheletic ability and willingness to try anything at least once in order to get a shot. She was probably the most undemanding star in Hollywood and so well liked by her coworkers that no one would swear or, even more incredibly, smoke in front of her while working, an unheard of thing during those, long hours of stressful action film making of the twenties.

Her first serials like Way of a Man (1924) and The Fortieth Door (1924), were moderate sucesses. But it was with Sunken Silver (1925) that she hit her stride thanks to being teamed with popular action hero Walter Miller. From that moment on they were The Serial Action Team, making a string of eight popular and lucrative serials through the latter part of the decade; Play Ball ( 1925), the first adaptaiton of Edgar Wallace's The Green Archer (1925), Snowed In (1925), the first Charlie Chan film House Without a Key (1926) where Charlie is a supporting player as he was in the book, Hawk of the Hills (1927), Melting Millions (1927), Man Without a Face (1928) and Pathe's final serial The Black Book (1929).

When Pathe stopped serial production with the coming of sound, it broke up the Miller/Ray team. Miller would play a few heroes at Mascot, before settling into a long, steady career as a villain in Universal serials. Ray wasn't so lucky. Her only serial in the sound era was Universal's ground breaking first all talking serial The Indians Are Coming (1930), with Colonel Tim McCoy. It was here that audiences discovered that their favorite actress unfortunately had a high pitched, squeeky sounding voice when recorded. After making a couple of low budget films, Westward Bound (1930) and The Phantom (1931), the former Serial Queen retired from acting.

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