Daredevil Jack (1920)

Genres - Western  |  
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Celebrated prize fighter Jack Dempsey was a natural for serials, and industry leader Pathé dutifully cast him in this 15-chapter Western adventure co-starring cowgirl Josie Sedgwick and directed by a young W.S. Van Dyke. The story was the usual chapterplay predicament: A dying father gives his young daughter, Glory (Sedgwick), a bracelet with a gem that contains a partial direction to an underground lake of oil. The other half of the secret is in the possession of James Meeney (Frederick Starr), a gangster who may or may not be working with the girl's greedy stepfather (Herschel Mayall) and brother (Albert Cody). Enter Jack Derry (Dempsey), whose father (Carl Stockdale) is wrongfully imprisoned for a crime actually committed by Royce Rivers (Lon Chaney), a desert rat in league with Meeney. Everything, of course, is cleared up in the final chapter, "The Triple Chase," as Jack not only proves his father's innocence but also wins the affection of the newly oil-rich Glory. Promised a bonus if he could complete each chapter within a week, director W.S. Van Dyke earned a lifelong reputation for speed and efficiency (as well as the nickname "One-Shot Van Dyke") by working his cast and crew furiously but without skimping on quality. On the verge of major stardom, Lon Chaney did double duty in Daredevil Jack as a supporting player and as Dempsey's makeup man, and according to Dempsey, performing the latter duties with "a feather-like touch." Daredevil Jack was a major hit for both Pathé and Jack Dempsey, whose fame skyrocketed as a result.