Miss Madelyn Mack

Created by Hugh C. Weir
(1884-1934)

The first edition.

MISS MADELYN MACK was a later rival of Sherlock Holmes, but her creator, Hugh C. Weir, apparently knew what the public wanted. So Madelyn came complete with a faithful Watson in the form of female reporter Nora Noraker, and a coke addiction of her own — although in her case, it’s cola berries, which act as a stimulant that helps her go without sleep or food for days (perfect for working on a case). She carries them in a locket around her neck.

After graduating college, Madelyn went to work as an assistant house detective for the Niegel Dry Goods store, moving up through the ranks before deciding to strike out on her own. She opened  up a successful detective agency on Fifth Avenue, employing several operatives and a secretary. She must be doing okay — as well as her city digs (complete with a housekeeper, Susan Bolton), Madelyn has a country place north of New York City on the Hudson River.

She’s also apparently quite striking, described as “a masculine-appearing woman, curt of voice, sharp of feature, perhaps dressed in a severe tailor-made gown. I saw a young woman of maybe twenty-five, with red and white cheeks, crowned by a softly waved mass of dull gold hair, and a pair of vivacious grey-blue eyes that at once made one forget every other detail of her appearance.”  She usually dresses all in white or all in black.

She appeared in five stories in a 1914 collection titled appropriately enough Miss Madelyn Mack, Detective, and in two short  films written by Weir, The Riddle of the Tin Soldier (1913) and The Riddle of the Green Umbrella (1914). They both starred Alice Joyce, a popular actress who appeared in more than 200 movies of the silent era. Which raised the question: given that the collection came out in 1914 (and featured four stills from the first film), and the first film was released in 1913, which came first, the book or the film?

The answer, as explained in Maclean’s Magazine, which seems to have serialized many of the stories, was that “hundreds of thousands of people had been so stirred by the feats of this beautiful young detective” that Hugh C. Weir “was given the task… to put her into print.” Weir worked for a time in the film industry and, thanks to his contacts in Hollywood, several of the Madelyn Mack stories were made into short films

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hugh Cosgro Weir was born in Illinois, and worked as a reporter in there and in Ohio, before becoming a freelance magazine writer and then a screenwriter in the early days of Hollywood. In fact, his first two films were the two films featuring Madelyn Mack. Weir ran an advertising agency in 1928 and at the time of his death was the editorial director of Tower Magazines.

UNDER OATH

  • “No better piece of detective fiction has ever been presented than “The Purple Thumb.”
    from the introduction from the November 1, 1914 issue of Macleans

SHORT STORIES & NOVELLAS

  • “The Man with Nine Lives” (July 1914, Macleans; also 1914, Miss Madelyn Mack, Detective)
  • “The Missing Bridegroom” (August 1914, Macleans; also1914, Miss Madelyn Mack, Detective)
  • “Cinderella’s Slipper” (September 1914, Macleans; also 1914, Miss Madelyn Mack, Detective)
  • “The Bullet from Nowhere” (October 1914, Macleans; also 1914, Miss Madelyn Mack, Detective)
  • “The Purple Thumb” (November, 1914, Macleans; also 1914, Miss Madelyn Mack, Detective)
    NOTE: Macleans is a Canadian newsmagazine. I’m assuming the stories may have also been published in an American magazine, as well.

COLLECTIONS

FILMS

  • THE RIDDLE OF THE TIN SOLDIER
    (1913, Kalem Moving Picture Company)
    Silent
    Black & white
    Screenplay by High C. Weir
    Directed by Kenean Buel
    Starring Alice Joyce as MISS MADELYN MACK
    Also starring Henry Hallam, George Hollister Jr., Marguerite Courtot, Harry F. Millarde
  • THE RIDDLE OF THE GREEN UMBRELLA
    (1914, Kalem Moving Picture Company)
    Silent
    Black & white
    Screenplay by High C. Weir
    Directed by Kenean Buel
    Starring Alice Joyce as MISS MADELYN MACK
    Also starring James B. Ross,, Marguerite Courtot, Guy Coombs, Jere Austin

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

Leave a Reply