Neal of the Navy
Serial. Based on a story by author, William Hamilton Osborne. Released, Dec. 30, 1915, by Pathé Frères. Director: Harry Harvey. Cast: Edwin Brady, William Conklin, William Courtleigh, Lillian Lorraine, Henry Stanley.
The Fourteen Chapters: Chapter 1–The Survivors, copyright, Oct. 25, 1915; The Yellow Packet; The Failure; The Tattered Parchment; A Message From the Past; The Cavern of Death; The Gun Runners; The Yellow Peril; The Sun Worshippers; The Rolling Terror; The Dreadful Pit; The Worm Turns; White Gods; Chapter 14–The Final Goal, copyright, Dec. 30, 1915 (Filmarama, vol. 1).
Commentary: According to the Daily Telegram, this was a patriotic photoplay serial. Parts of it were filmed while the crew was in San Diego for the Panama-California Exposition. There were 2,500 marines stationed at San Diego, and the battleships in the harbor were used for the backdrop (Sept. 7, 1915, p. 12: 1). According to Nils Hanson’s favorable comments on the film in Lillian Lorraine: The Life and Times of a Ziegfeld Diva, “Initial reviews of the early episodes were excellent, and according to figures obtained from Pathé-Frères, who released the picture, Neal of the Navy was the most successful serial yet put out, having broken all booking records as of that reporting period. As the weeks went on with the release of each new episode, the former exuberance of reviewers was muted and eventually replaced with severely critical notices”(112). An explanation can be found in Wanamaker’s account. According to Marc Wanamaker, author and film historian, Harry Harvey was offered a bonus of $500 if he could make the serial in twelve weeks. He completed eight episodes in six weeks, finishing the rest before the deadline. The rapidity of production showed, and Pathé barely accepted the hastily-made episodes for lack of quality.
Summary: Variety reported that Lillian Lorraine portrayed an 18-year-old orphan named Annette and William Courtleigh a former Anapolis cadet who was thrown out of the naval academy for cheating on an exam. Of course, Neal was framed, but he must enlist in the Navy as a regular sailor. Annette has a map to “Lost Island,” where treasure is buried. Everyone wants to find it, and everyone is after Annette.
Review: Variety didn’t think much of the series and reported that the audience applauded only when the American flag was portrayed (Sept. 10, 1915, p. 21; Sept 17, 1915, p. 25; Sept. 24, 1915, p. 20; Oct. 1, 1915, p. 18; Oct. 18, 1915, p. 21; Oct. 15, 1915, p. 21; Oct. 22, 1915, p. 23; Oct. 29, 1915, p. 22).
Hanson, Nils. Lillian Lorraine: The Life and Times of a Ziegfeld Diva. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2011.
Jura, Jean-Jacques and Rodney Norman Bardin II. Balboa Films: A History and Filmography of the Silent Film Studio. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1999.
Press Clippings. Long Beach: Historical Society of Long Beach Archives, Vol. 1, 1913-1914.
Stewart, John. Filmarama. Vol. 1, The Formative Years, 1893-1919. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1975.
_____. Timeline of Long Beach Movie Studios. Unpublished manuscript. Long Beach Public Library, 1995-.
Lillian Lorraine Arrives in Long Beach:
Neal of the Navy Musical Score (inspired by the Balboa production):