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THE GIRL SPY

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Full Name: Nan, The Girl Spy
Nationality: American
Organization: CFA
Occupation Agent

Creator: Gene Gauntier
Time Span: 1909 - 1913

ABOUT THE SERIES

       Nan, the Girl Spy, is an agent with the Confederate Army.
       The period of time for her activity is, obviously, the American Civil War (1861-1865). Exactly when during that four-year conflict these tales take place is not said, however, since the 4th on in the series deals with Nan working to help General Stonewall Jackson and he was killed by friendly fire in May of 1963, all but the last <i>have</i> to have taken place before then and that fifth one may also have as well.
       Nan (no last name is given as far as I could find) is a young, highly resourceful and extremely brave woman almost certainly in her early 20s. She had dark hair and is quite attractive but still retaining the ability to disguise her good looks well enough to assume the disguise of a man.
       One write-up of the first adventure states that she is the "daughter of a Southern family, left motherless in early childhood, her life had become embittered by the death of her father and only brother during one of the early struggles of the great conflict. She had consecrated her entire life to the cause of their beloved Southland". [Note, that same write-up mentions the actions taking place during the "latter part" which seem to be unlikely.
       Also while that description mentions the death of her mother early in her life and yet a later adventure has her returning home from a mission to alleviate her mother's anxiety. Of course, this could be an adoptive mother.
       Though Nan is, as stated, dedicated to fighting for the South, she still has the wherewithal to fall deeply in love with a Yankee captain later on in her espionage career. It is assumed that with her new romance and the upcoming end to the War and the side on which she fought that she likely retired from the spy game.

MOVIES

Number of Movies:6
First Appearance:1909
Last Appearance:1913

       According to Wikipedia, "the Kalem Company was an early American film studio founded in New York City in 1907. It was one of the first companies to make films abroad and to set up winter production facilities, first in Florida and then in California."
       "The partners were able to lure general manager and director Sidney Olcott away from Biograph. Olcoltt eventually became the Kalem Company's president and was rewarded with one share of its stock. Kalem had no indoor studios, so most of its films were shot on location. In February 1907, the company made its first motion picture, titled The Sleigh Belle...Under the direction of Sidney Olcott, Kalem made a number of significant films, including the first adaptation of Ben Hur and the following year, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
       "In 1910 the company shot a film in Ireland, making Kalem the first movie studio to travel outside the United States to film on location. As director, Olcott headed a small team in Ireland: Kalem's leading lady and principal screenwriter, Gene Gauntier and cameraman, George Hollister."


       The mention of Gene Gauntier in the last paragraph above is significant to this series for it was Gauntier who created and wrote the movies as well as starring in them. She was truly a pioneer in the industry coming to work in the movies from the stage at the age of 23 because, according to Wikipedia according to her autobiography, "My funds were running low".


       More impressive is her statement, "In addition to playing the principal parts, I also wrote, with the exception of a bare half-dozen, every one of the five hundred or so pictures in which I appeared. I picked locations, supervised sets, passed on tests, co-directed with Sidney Olcott, cut and edited and wrote captions (when in the United States), got up a large part of the advertising matter, and, with it all, averaged a reel a week."

1 The Girl Spy: An Incident of the Civil War The Girl Spy: An Incident of the Civil War
Director: Sidney Olcott
Writer: Gene Gauntier
Actor: Gene Gauntier as Nan, the Girl Spy
Released: 1909

From Moving Picture World, Vol 4 #20, May 15, 1909.
"During the latter part of our great Civil War, when the Union Army had pushed their operations into the South Atlantic States, the general in command of the campaign was very much harassed by the miraculous way in which his plans became known to the enemy. Numerous attempts were made to discover the source of the enemy's information, but they proved futile. It was not until several years after the close of the war that he learned it was due to the daring work of a young girl spy. The daughter of a Southern family, left motherless in early childhood, her life had become embittered by the death of her father and only brother during one of the early struggles of the great conflict. She had consecrated her entire life to the cause of their beloved Southland. "


Scene 1: Nan Receives Her Orders.
Scene 2: The Wires are Tapped.
Scene 3: Nan Escapes with the Tapped Dispatches.
Scene 4: Nan Eludes Her Pursuers. A Clever Ruse.
Scene 5: Nan's Horse Found. Again Suspected.
Scene 6: Nan is Joined by Her Confederate and They Escape.
Scene 7: The Pursuit.
Scene 8: The Dispatches Delivered.

2 The Further Adventures of the Girl Spy The Further Adventures of the Girl Spy
Director: Sidney Olcott
Writer: Gene Gauntier
Actor: Gene Gauntier as Nan, the Girl Spy
Released: 1910

From Moving Picture World, Vol 6 #13, April 2, 1910.
"A war story that promises to be popular, since it details graphically what purports to be the adventures of a girl spy."


Scene I: The "Peddler" Brings a Call for Nan, the Girl Spy.
Scene II: Nan Receives Her Orders. "I'll Get It, General, or Never Return."
Scene III: Nan Arrives at the Enemy's Secret Meeting Place.
Scene IV: Nan Learns the Enemy's Plans.
Scene V: The Pursuit. A Daring Ruse.
Scene VI: Nan, Disguised as a Boy, Is Carried Through the Lines.
Scene VII: Nan's Audacious Trick.
Scene VIII: "General, I Have Succeeded."

3 The Love Romance of the Girl Spy The Love Romance of the Girl Spy
Director: Sidney Olcott
Writer: Gene Gauntier
Actor: Gene Gauntier as Nan, the Girl Spy
Released: 1910

From Moving Picture World, Vol 6 #16, April 23, 1910.
This is the fourth and last of the Kalem Company's celebrated series of productions relating the fascinating adventures of Nan, the Girl Spy. In this is shown how Fate played a trick on Nan; how she found the man to whom she entrusted herself and her future happiness in the army of the enemy she hated so bitterly.


Scene I. The End of the Battle - Nan Meets the Wounded Union Officer.
Scene II. One Mouth Later - Love's First Awakening.
Scene III. Captain Wilkins Bids Nan Farewell.
Scene IV. The Girl Spy Is Captured.
Scene V. The Escape.
Scene VI. Nan Tells General Lee of Her Failure.
Scene VII. After the War Captain Wilkins Claims His Rebel Sweetheart.


Note: though the publication mentioned this as the 4th adventure in the Girl Spy series, I can not see what movie they were meaning that I have not listed prior to this one.

4 The Girl Spy Before Vicksburg The Girl Spy Before Vicksburg
Director: Sidney Olcott
Writer: Gene Gauntier
Actor: Gene Gauntier as Nan, the Girl Spy
Released: 1910

According to Moving Picture World Vol 7 #1, July 1910
The opening scene of our story shows a Union powder wagon making its way down the road convoyed by a company of mounted Union soldiers. The route of this wagon is reported to Confederate headquarters by one of its spies. Nan, a girl frequently employed by this department of the Confederate army is called to headquarters and instructed to secure the destruction of the enemy's ammunition train just departed. Nan is fitted out with a Union uniform, mounted on a fast horse, and sent on her journey, previously provided with a forged order supposedly signed by a Union general which authorizes her to pass through the lines. Nan succeeds in getting through Union lines and quickly joins the ammunition train taking up the march with them. When night arrives the convoy goes into camp, poses its sentinels for the especial fear of danger as they note they are well within the Union lines. Nan, however, watching her opportunity, slips up behind the sentry placed over the ammunition wagon and having renered him unconscious, drags him away from the wagon and takes his place. Watching her chance Nan plants a dynamite cartridge under the wagon, lights a fuse and makes a quick run out of the danger zone... A pursuing party is sent out after the daring spy who has [performed] such a daring deed. Closely pursued by Union soldiers Nan rushes through the underbrush on foot finally reaching a nearby river where she plunges in diving under water and remains there until the Union soldiers had retired from the scene...She quickly swims ashore and takes her way rapidly to ... headquarters where she reports the successful ending of her mission then on to her home to relieve her mother's anxiety.


5 To The Aid Of Stonewall Jackson To The Aid Of Stonewall Jackson
Also known as A Hitherto Unrelated Incident of the Girl Spy
Director: Sidney Olcott
Writer: Gene Gauntier
Actor: Gene Gauntier as Nan, the Girl Spy
Released: 1911

From Moving Picture World Vol 9 #2, July 22, 1911:
This is a thrilling and beautiful picture showing the courageous ride of a pretty Southern heroine with important news of a proposed Union  attack on Gen. Jackson. The first scenes are at the girl's home. Though it is summer, there's a fire on the hearth. The Union forces arrive and Gen Shields makes the house his headquarters. The girl climbs from her beautifully furnished bedroom down a pillar of the porch and listens to Gen. Shields's commands to his officers. She then climbs back. One feels that such a young lady would hardly have been been able to accomplish this unaided. Her ride to Jackson, 100 miles away, is through a very beautifully pictured woodland. She has an exciting adventure at an inn, but reaches the Confederate general, and we catch a glimpse of a fierce battle in the distance as a closing scene. This last picture is very creditable. The picture is for the most part intelligently conducted and very commendable.
Note: IMDB marks the main character as being Nan, the Girl Spy. I have not found anything stating that but they know a whole lot more than I do so I trust them.

6 A Daughter Of The Confederacy A Daughter Of The Confederacy
Director: Sidney Olcott
Writer: Gene Gauntier
Actor: Gene Gauntier as Nan, the Girl Spy
Released: 1913

From Moving Picture World Vol 15 #10, March 8, 1913:
As the picture opens we find Captain Allison, of the Union army, out in a bit of Southern forest through which runs a telegraph line. Soon he has tapped the wire and is overhearing the communications of the Confederate commander. A glimpse of the Southern headquarters is flashed to the screen and we perceive that the operator has noticed the momentary break when the line is cut. The officers are warned and come to the conclusion that a wire tapper is at work. Nan, the girl spy, is decided upon as the best person to handle the situation without attracting too much attention and she is sent for. The remainder of the first reel is taken up with her adventure, showing how she makes a capture of the Union officer and brings him handcuffed back to headquarters. The escape of the spy is the chief incident of the second reel and it is made most dramatic. He climbs up a chimney, past the room where Nan is staying and she hears a scraping sound in the wall; but fortunately a rat runs out and leads her to attribute the noise to it. In the second story of the house the Confederate officers are discussing their plans and these the spy is enabled to overhear. One of them also hears the scraping sound and calls the attention of the others to it but is laughed at for his pains. The reel ends when the girl is in her turn captured by the Union men a few hours later. The last reel has the battle scenes and their are pictures to conjure with. The Union captain has permitted the girl to escape. The armies are on the brink of an engagement. At first the girl is merely a witness of the fighting, but there comes a time when her friends are being driven back and then she herself, dressed in the uniform that her friend had given to her, takes a part and rallies them to final victory. Just before the charge the captain is wounded and falls. In the midst of it Nan herself is hit and falls beside him. In the rest of the picture there is developed a pleasing love story whose happy ending is the picture's denouement.

MY COMMENTS

       I was absolutely delighted when fellow spy-fan and spy-blogger Johny Malone sent me an email with the initial information on this series. I had never heard of it before but once I started looking and found one of the movies available for viewing and all of them talked about in the awesome Moving Picture World trade magazine, my appreciation for this series grew and grew.
       [An aside here about the MPW issues, many of which are available on Internet Archives. Any film history fan will be mesmerized by the information contained in them. Not only do they talk about all the movies being released back in these very early days of that entertainment medium, they go on to have articles about the new sciences of lighting, staging, filming, slicing and editing, and so on. Even topics like how to set up a theater and how to get and handle advertisements and ticketing are covered. Wow!]
       In addition to my fascination with the history of the industry, what I learned in my research about the creator, writer, and star of the series, Eugenia 'Gene' Gauntier, makes me in awe of this lady who up to this moment had been totally unknown to me but who plays a major part in the success of the entire industry. To have written and starred in hundreds of short reel movies in her career is, well, worthy of another 'wow'!


       Now, the stories were okay. Nothing earth-shattering about them, per se, but I still have to press my humble appreciation to the lady who made Nan, the Girl Spy, so famous back then and now so sadly forgotten.

GRADE

My Grade: B

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