‘Daughter of Don Q’: a serial in 12 chapters
Now this is an interesting serial. The Daughter of Don Q was released in 1946 by Republic Pictures, after the end of WWII. It’s not a western. Not a sci-fi serial. There’s no masked villain. No jungle adventure. It’s the story of a guy who wants to do away with all the heirs to a vast land fortune, so he can inherit land worth millions. The guy is Carlos Manning, an antique store owner, played by LeRoy Mason. Mason was a slick actor who appeared in many “B” movies and serials. He died of a heart attack the following year.
Carlos Manning’s chief lieutenant, a thug named Mel Donovan, is played by our old friend Roy Barcroft. Barcroft is a name well familiar to any Republic serial buff. He played in dozens of Republic features and serials. And although Carlos Manning is the chief baddie, Mel Donovan gets most of the action.
The person standing in Manning’s way is his cousin, the beautiful young society girl Dolores Quantero. She’s played by Adrian Booth (also known as Lorna Gray) who appeared in other Republic serials and westerns as well. She was Nyoka‘s nemsis Vultura in 1942’s Perils of Nyoka, and Captain America‘s sweetheart in the 1944 serial by that name.
She plays Dolores Quantero as a pretty feisty young lady, who is willing to take on an armed intruder in her home barehanded. She can’t swing a punch (women can’t seem to do that in serials, you know), but she’s pretty good at grabbing his arm and giving him a jujitsu flip.
It doesn’t look like any jujitsu that I’ve seen, but it seems to work for her. She just grabs a guy by the arm. That’s all she does. The guy she grabs, flips himself over and lands on his back on the ground. And it must be pretty effective, because this same tough guy who can withstand a couple dozen punches to the jaw in a fistfight is knocked out after a single jujitsu toss. And all she has to do is grab his arm! Wow, I just gotta learn how to do that.
As we all know, serials were really intended for adolescent males, and a female protagonist just can’t carry all the action by herself. So the poor girl is given help in the form of Cliff Roberts. He’s a crime reporter for the Bulletin, played by Kirk Allyn (Columbia’s Superman).
Roberts enters the case when he overhears a police call regarding a robbery. Someone has broken into Dolores Quantero’s home, and has rifled through it looking for something. They have no idea what he was looking for. But we know. It was a book. The family genealogy. So what’s it all about?
A couple hundred years ago…
It seems that a couple hundred years previously, Charles III, the King of Spain, bequeathed a land grant to Don Quintas Quantero and his heirs in perpetuity. This land is now part of the thriving metropolis, and is worth millions to the many heirs of old Don Q.
And just what city is this? Well, we aren’t told, exactly. But it isn’t too hard to guess. After all, it is a very large city with many skyscrapers. The land is worth millions. The city is close to the ocean, since one of the best cliffhangers takes place on the waterfront. And Spanish land grants were generally given in Southern California. So when you put it all together, it seems to spell Los Angeles.
Carlos Manning has the original copy of the old land grant, and none of the other heirs are aware of the Spanish King’s grant. Manning needs to get rid of these heirs, so he will be the only claimant when he “discovers” the grant. But he only knows a few of them. Dolores Quantero is one of the heirs. Manning can find the identity of all the heirs if he can acquire the family tree that lists all the descendants of Don Q. That’s why he wants Dolores’s book.
Dolores Quantero has the only known copy of the family tree bound into an old book. Once Manning has the book, he will know the identities of the descendants that must be eliminated. And eliminate them he will, until he is the sole remaining heir of Don Q. Then, and only then, will he produce the original land grant and become owner of a large section of the city.
With the aid of Mel Donovan, Manning successfully steals the old album containing the Quantero family genealogy. And soon the heirs of Don Q start dropping like flies. Suicides. Accidents. That sort of thing. But Dolores is convinced they are murders. She doesn’t know why her distant relatives are being murdered, but it’s just too much of a coincidence. So with crime reporter Cliff Roberts at her side, she begins to investigate the deaths. And for the twelve chapters, the two of them race around trying to find and save the innocent heirs before they are murdered.
Many of the ending cliffhangers are pretty typical. Some are of the old “he jumps out of the way just in time” type. Others fall into the “it wasn’t as bad as it seemed” category. But there were a few that I found especially inventive.
At the end of chapter two, Dolores is caught and hung suspended in a fisherman’s net, while a whale gun points at her. During a furious fistfight, the whale gun is accidentally triggered and it shoots the sharp harpoon directly for her. Now that’s a cliffhanger!
The resolution was pretty cool. Cliff Roberts whips out his pistol and shoots the rope from which Dolores and the net swing. And just barely in time, since the harpoon passes directly through where she had just been hanging. But it does bring up a somewhat troubling question. If Roberts is such a crack shot that he can hit a thin rope dead center from a distance, why can’t he hit a much thicker person during the various gun battles that rage throughout the 12 chapters? He just was lucky, I guess. And much to the relief of Dolores, I’m sure.
Another cliffhanger that I liked was “The Glass Guillotine.” A large window is shattered, and Dolores falls unconscious with her neck nicely centered in the empty frame. A large sharp shard of glass, above, is loosened and falls down at the end of chapter eleven. Even though it’s pretty obvious that in the next chapter Dolores will revive in time to roll out of the way, I still thought the concept of a glass guillotine was pretty cool.
A similar cliffhanger was used earlier in the 1941 serial Captain Marvel, but with a different resolution. Captain Marvel didn’t need to roll out of the way in time. The shard of glass struck his impenetrable skin and shattered. Obviously, the Daugher of Don Q had no such tough skin, and so a different resolution has to be used. Still a worthy cliffhangers, though.
And so it goes until the final chapter. Dolores and Cliff finally figure out why so many of the Quantero family are being killed. A fortune left to them in the form of a land grant! Here and all this time they thought there was some ancient feud going on between the Quanteros and another old Spanish family. Who’d a thunk it?
And in the final chapter…
Cliff confronts Manning, while Dolores is busy being dumped off a bridge. Manning is shot in the final fracas by one of his own henchmen. Dolores is saved from a watery death, while Donovan is pitched to his death instead. And the old land grant? Well, in a resolution stolen directly the Universal movie Sherlock Holmes Faces Death three years earlier, Dolores burns it rather than displace the thousands of people currently living on her land. And everyone lives happily ever after.
There is an unintentional (I think) laugh along the way. In one scene, Dolores has been accused of murdering Cliff. Cliff shows up and protests to the cop, “But I’m still alive.” “Yeah,” responds the policeman, “that’s your story. Tell it to Inspector Grogan.” Ya gotta love it! I guess this is one copper who trusts in the old adage, “Never assume!”
It should be pointed out that the title Daughter of Don Q is really somewhat of a misnomer. Our heroine, Dolores Quantero isn’t really the daughter of Don Q. Old Don Quantero lived back in the 17th century and Dolores is a 1946 gal, so she’s actually a distant relative of the old geezer. Maybe a great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter. But I guess that wouldn’t make for a very usable serial title. So we’ll stick with the shorter, but still technically incorrect, Daughter of Don Q.
It’s a pretty good serial. Certainly not a shining example of Republic’s best, like Captain Marvel, but a far cry from their low-budget worst, as exemplified by Man With the Steel Whip. And it’s a nice change of pace from the westerns, superheros, jungle flicks and flying serials. There’s no mention of the recently won World War, so it tends to hold up fairly well as a generic 1940’s adventure serial.
It’s short with twelve chapters and a total running time of 166 minutes. It uses the pretty-much standard 20-minute first chapter and 13-minute chapters after that. I’d recommend you spend a little time with Daughter of Don Q. It’s a fun little serial, and you can watch it on YouTube and other streaming services. You could do a lot worse!