The Vintagent Classics: The films that inspired us.

The Hazards Of Helen: Episode #26, The Wild Engine (1915)

Run Time: 13:40
Producer: Kalem Company
Director: J.P. McGowan
Key Cast: Helen Holmes


J.P. McGowan was born on February 24, 1880 in Terowie, South Australia as John Paterson McGowan. He was a director and actor, known for The Hurricane Express(1932), The Hazards of Helen (1914) and Hills of Missing Men (1922). He was married to Katherine Evangeline and Helen Holmes. He died on March 26, 1952 in Hollywood, California, USA.


The spunky Helen (Helen Holmes) is our hero as a telegraph operator at a remote location along a railroad. Informed of the danger of an engine run wild on the same track as an approaching excursion train, Helen mounts a motorcycle and speeds down the track to warn the passengers of their imminent peril. Nearing a river trestle under repair, she hurtles into the water; undaunted, she swims to the opposite bank and flags down the excursion train in the nick of time.

The Wild Engine is episode #26 in the American film serial The Hazards Of Helen based on a novel by John Russell Corvell and the play by Denman Thompson. The series was adapted to the silent screen by W. Scott Darling, and a total of 119 episodes were produced between 1914 and 1917 by the Kalem Company. At 23.8 hours it is the longest of the film series format.

Episodes 1-48 were directed by J.P. McGowan and starred Helen Holmes, while the remainder were directed by James Davis and starred in by Helen Gibson. Unlike the cliffhanger serials of the era, The Hazards of Helen is actually a film series made up of near autonomous single reel twelve-minute melodramas.

Both Helen Holmes and Helen Gibson (who changed her first name to suit the role) performed their own stunts, and are recognized as revolutionizing the industry.


Courtesy Of: Archive.Org. Public Domain. Copied at 18fps from the Republic Collection at the Library of Congress.

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