Monday, September 2, 2013
YEAR 1940: THE DRAGON LADY
Not counting the character's appearances in a 1937-43 film serial, where her voice was contributed by Agnes "Bewitched" Moorehead, the first live appearance of Milton Caniff's "Dragon Lady" was in a 1940 film serial, "Terry and the Pirates."
Unfortunately, though actress Shiela Darcy had the looks to pull off the glamorous role, the script and direction for the serial were thoroughly routine. The Dragon Lady was not a wily Chinese bandit, but a stereotypical high priestess in a remote Oriental kingdom called "Mara." The titular Terry and his friend Pat are seeking Terry's lost father when they get mixed up with a bandit gang seeking to plunder Mara.
The Dragon Lady barely has a reason to exist in the serial. Her one action consists of giving the order to have one of the good guys executed, under the false impression he's there as a bandit. Actress Joyce Bryant, playing the main heroine of the serial-- one given the name of another Caniff character, "Normandie Drake"-- has no more in common with her namesake than Shiela Darcy's version of the Dragon Lady. But the Drake character gets into the thick of the action a bit more, for what that's worth.