The Million Dollar Mystery

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For the 1987 film, see Million Dollar Mystery.
The Million Dollar Mystery
Brochure for Episode 3 showing actor James Cruze
Directed by Howell Hansel
Produced by Edwin Thanhouser
Written by Lloyd Lonergan
Harold McGrath
Starring Florence La Badie
Marguerite Snow
James Cruze
Frank Farrington
Sidney Bracey
Lila Chester
Cinematography George Webber
Distributed by Thanhouser Film Corporation
Release date(s)
  • June 22, 1914 (1914-06-22)
Running time 23 chapters
Country United States
Language English
Budget $125,000 approx.[1]
Box office $1,500,000[1]

The Million Dollar Mystery is a 23-chapter film serial directed by Howell Hansel, and starring Florence La Badie and James Cruze.

Production background[edit]

The film was produced by Thanhouser Film Corporation and filmed in New Rochelle, New York. The film serial was the company's biggest success, largely due to the popularity of La Badie who performed her owns stunts. Publicity gimmicks, including a prize for the member of the public who sent in the best idea for a conclusion to the serial, were used to boost the serial's success.

The Million Dollar Mystery was the new serial project from the Chicago Tribune following the success of The Adventures of Kathlyn.[1]

The serial was released with the gimmick that the last chapter was unwritten. Twenty two chapters were written based only on the title, while the serial was left purposefully unfinished with no final chapter.

A prize of $10,000 was offered for the best suggestion (advertised as "$10,000 for 100 words").[2] Thousands of letters were received in response to this and Ida Damon, a secretary from St. Louis, won the prize.[1][3] In a further publicity stunt, the character Florence Hargreaves was actually reported missing. Details of the plot were fed to newspapers and the police as if they were real events. Seven days passed before this story was exposed as fiction.[1]

Preservation status[edit]

The film is now considered to be a lost film.[2]


The serial follows a secret society called "The Black Hundred" as they go on a trek in an attempt to obtain a lost one million dollars.


Release, sequel, and remake[edit]

  • The serial was highly successful and the stockholders received a return of 700% on their investment, receiving $1.5M at the box office for a cost of $125,000 "or so."
  • As a result, another serial already in production was changed to become a sequel to The Million Dollar Mystery. The serial Zudora was renamed The Twenty Million Dollar Mystery and changes were made to the plot halfway through its release. It was not, however, as successful as its predecessor.[1]
  • In June 1918, The Million Dollar Mystery was re-edited to six reels and released as a feature film through Arrow Film Corporation.
  • In 1927, the film was remade as a feature-length silent film starring James Kirkwood.

Chapter titles[edit]

  1. The Airship in the Night
  2. The False Friend
  3. A Leap in the Dark
  4. The Top Floor Flat
  5. At the Bottom of the Sea
  6. The Coaching Party of the Countess
  7. The Doom of the Auto Bandits
  8. The Wiles of a Woman
  9. The Leap from an Ocean Liner
  10. The Elusive Treasure Box[4]
  11. In the Path of the Fast Express
  12. (Unknown)
  13. (Unknown)
  14. (Unknown)
  15. The Borrowed Hydroplane
  16. Drawn Into the Quicksand
  17. A Battle of Wits
  18. (Unknown)
  19. (Unknown)
  20. (Unknown)
  21. (Unknown)
  22. The Million Dollar Mystery
  23. The Mystery Solved



  1. ^ a b c d e f Stedman, Raymond William. "Drama by Installment". Serials: Suspense and Drama By Installment. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 14 & 22. ISBN 978-0-8061-1695-2. 
  2. ^ a b c "Progressive Silent Film List: The Million Dollar Mystery". Silent Era. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  3. ^ Lahue, Kalten C. "1. A Bolt From The Blue". Continued Next Week. p. 6. 
  4. ^ Eckel Theatre Weekly Program, week commencing Sept. 7, 1914, Syracuse, NY

External links[edit]