In films from 1911, Joseph W. Girard excelled in roles calling for single-purposed authority: police chiefs, military officers, western marshals. Girard continued playing such parts into the talkie era, usually in such serials as The Clutching Hand (1935), SOS Coast Guard (1938), The Spider Returns (1940) and Captain Midnight (1942). Because his later characters sometimes seemed trigger-happy and a bit slow on the uptake, Girard often appeared to be, in the words of film historian William K. Everson, "that most inefficient of police inspectors, who in picture after picture displayed the dull wits that suggested he was long past the retirement age." There was nothing dull-witted, however, about the actor's brief and convincing appearance as General Pershing in Sergeant York (1941). Some sources have confused Joseph W. Girard with James W. Gerard, the former American ambassador to Germany who appeared in the 1918 film My Four Years in Germany.