Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Million Dollar Mystery

While not as spooky as The Tale of the Lost Corset, The Million Dollar Mystery is pretty cool. In 1914/15 there was a movie that ran all over the country in 22 parts. It played for 22 consecutive weeks starting in June. At the same time the story ran in print in more than 200 newspapers around the country. Also, each week William J. Burns of the William J. Burns International Detective Agency wrote a weekly column in the Movie Pictorial Weekly (a magazine) telling of the clues he would follow if he were eligible to win. And we thought cross-promotional marketing was a new thing.

The movie was a mystery about lies, deceit and international intrigue revolving around a millionaire and his lost million dollars. The movies never actually solved the mystery. There was a contest for the solution. At the end of the 22 episodes the person who wrote in the best 100 word solution to the mystery won $10,000! As we saw from the classifieds section of the SF Chronicle $10,000 was more than enough to buy a new home in a posh city like San Francisco.

When I was removing partitions and opening up closed off doorways I discovered the 2 pockets for the pocket doors leading from the foyer to the front parlor. The doors were missing, but the hardware and pockets remained. Stuffed in the back of one of the pockets were two playbills for The Million Dollar Mystery. I have Episode 2: The False Friend, and Episode 6: The Coaching Party of the Countess.

Each episode played 2 days a week at The Empire Theater here in Eureka. It was kind of interesting that when I went to look for The Empire it was no where to be found. I went down to the Clark Historical Museum to get some clues about what happened to it. I asked the curator if she had any information about theaters and to my surprise an enterprising local movie buff had written a short pamphlet on the history of movie houses in Eureka.

I thumbed through it and found The Empire Theater. As it turned out, I was now standing in it. Back in the 70s the museum expanded in to the next building. That building at one time was The Empire Theater. Most aspects of the theater where long gone, but the balcony was still there and so was the stage. It was weird that here I was holding these playbills while at the same time standing in the theater where someone must have clutched them 80 years ago dreaming of $10,000.

Click to enlarge these images

Episode 2 Front and Back

Episode 2 Inside

Episode 6 Front and Back

Episode 6 Inside

1 comment:

Kristin said...