The Forgotten Cinema of Jack Boyle

September 21, 2015 at 10:53 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

In January 1924, a number of newspapers and magazines carried items similar to this announcement featured in the January 5, 1924 edition of MOTION PICTURE NEWS:

Filming has just begun on [The Virtuous Crook], which is a composite crook drama of two magazine stories.  Raymond L. Schrock made a screen adaptation from two stories, one by Jack Boyle and one by Richard Goodall.  Rex Taylor wrote the scenario from Schrock’s adaptation.

No mention was ever made of precisely which Boyle story Raymond Schrock drew his inspiration from, and no film reference works connect Boyle with any production titled The Virtuous Crook.  However, the February 23, 1924 issue of UNIVERSAL WEEKLY carried the following item:

The name of Herbert Rawlinson’s current Universal attraction has been changed from its working title of “Virtuous Crooks” to “Stolen Secrets.”  This picture was made from a story by Richard Goodall and was directed by Irving Cummings.

Why sole credit for the film’s source material was given to Richard Goodall after the production’s name change is unclear.  It’s possible that the scenario was rewritten, deleting the elements relating to Boyle’s story.  But no such overhaul of the production was reported in any of the film trade magazines of the time.  After January 1924, all mention of Boyle’s name was simply dropped from the items publicizing the production, leaving us with a mystery.  Is Stolen Secrets, in part, the work of Jack Boyle?

What can be said for certain is that Universal Pictures did release Stolen Secrets on March 10, 1924 (barely two months after the commencement of its production was announced).  It starred Herbert Rawlinson and Kathleen Myers, and THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE CATALOG OF MOTION PICTURES provides this description of its plotHerbert Rawlinson:

Noted criminologist Niles Manning captures a gang of crooks by posing as a super criminal — a mysterious man called “the Eel” — when the mayor’s daughter, Cordelia, believing that he really is a
crook, enlists his assistance in ridding the city of its criminals.  Romance develops between Cordelia and Manning.

While the elements of crime and the underworld are certainly consistent with Boyle’s work, the story itself does not resemble any specific tale from his canon.  Still, given that the film’s story was reportedly written by a scenarioist from an adaptation that its producer constructed from unrelated stories by Boyle and Richard Goodall, a great many alterations could have been made between the source material and the final film.  Ultimately, it will probably never be known which of Boyle’s stories sparked Raymond Schrock to conceive The Virtuous Crook, but cinema historians should not let it be forgotten that Jack Boyle played a part in the genesis of the film.

JBF  9/21/15

Universal Weekly 1-5-24

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