Joe Jenkins
Created by Paul Rosenhayn (1877-1929)

I get mail...

Dear Kevin;

I have discovered that my grandfather, Leon Rains, who was an (American born) opera singer in Germany from 1899 to about 1917, also acted in film in Germany. He played a number of roles but claimed "His chief vehicle was a series of (screen) plays called Joe Jenkins, the American Detective." (Musical America, 2 Oct 1920, page 33). I would like to learn more about this series, the character he portrayed, the books (if any) the screenplays were derived from, and whether or not any copies of the films are still extant. As an aficianado of this genre, I suspect you might be able to provide me with leads to substantive information or sources.

Rains made some films with a Danish company, probably in Germany, called Aarhus (Musical Courier, 21 Oct 1920, p.38) And I believe that these films, although about a fictioanl American character, were shown in Germany even after we entered the war. Rains stated this in one of the interviews I've read of him. I wonder if the original stories, if they were in book form, would have been pulp fiction?

Thanks for taking my case.

Looking forward to our collaboration.

Sincerely,
Richard J. Riley

Okay, here's what I've found out.

It turns out that JOE JENKINS was essentially a Sherlock Holmes clone, albeit an American one, who appeared in several collections of short stories by German pulp writer (and later screenwriter) Paul Rosenhayn. They were published in the early decades of the twentieth centruy, and a couple of them were even translated into English and published by Doubleday.

It seems likely that these were the inspiration for the films. According to A Second Life: German Cinema's First Decades (1996) by Thomas Elsaesser and Michael Wedel, "During the war years the (German) domestic market was flooded with home-made detective films featuring gentlemen investigators with Anglo-Saxon names like Joe Deebs, Harry Higgs and Joe Jenkins."

NOVELS

  • Elf Abenteuer des Joe Jenkins (1916; translates as "Eleven Adventures of Joe Jenkins")
  • Joe Jenkins: Detective (1929)
  • Joe Jenkins/ Case Book (1930)

SHORT STORIES

  • "The Amati"
  • "The Day of Reckoning"
  • "The Diamond Necklace"
  • "A Film Shot"
  • "The Green Light"
  • "The Hotel Murder"
  • "The House in the Shadow"
  • "The Lady with the Cigarette"
  • "The Louis XV Snuff-Box"
  • "The Man at the Window"
  • "The Mysterious Visiting Cards"
  • "The New Partner"
  • "The Paladin"
  • "Professor Bargstedt Speaking"
  • "The Registered Letter Mystery"
  • "Smoke on the West Wind"
  • "The Stage Box Murder"
  • "Stalls for Two"
  • "The Stolen Photographs"
  • "Through the Door"
  • "The Unseen Guest"
  • "A Voice in the Night"
  • "When the Dead Return"
  • "The White Orchid"

FILM

  • JOE JENKINS, THE AMERICAN DETECTIVE
    (1910's-20's?, Germany?)
    Starring Léon Rains as JOE JENKINS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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