The Perils of Pauline (1914 serial)

The Perils of Pauline
Perilsofpauline.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Written by
CinematographyArthur C. Miller
Distributed byGeneral Film Company & Eclectic Film Company
Release date
  • March 31, 1914 (1914-03-31)
Running time
20 chapters (total of 410 minutes)
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent

The Perils of Pauline is a 1914 American melodrama film serial produced by William Randolph Hearst and released by the Eclectic film company, shown in bi-weekly installments, featuring Pearl White as the title character, an ambitious young heiress with an independent nature (in the time before women could vote in the United States) and a desire for adventure. Before Pauline will agree to marry Harry (Crane Wilbur), who proposes marriage to her on the tennis court, she says that she wishes to be allowed to embark upon activities of her choice for a year and then write about them afterward. She proceeds then to plan to ride in a balloon, fly an airplane, drive a racing car, ride in a horse race, go on a treasure hunt, act in a motion picture, and tour a submarine, among other things, and frequently ends up in trouble after being assaulted by henchmen of Raymond Owen (Paul Panzer), her scheming adoptive father's secretary, who wants to dispose of Pauline and gain her inheritance for himself. Owen hires the disreputable Hicks (Francis Carlyle) who owes Owen money, and later Gypsy king called Balthazar to sabotage Pauline's plans, or kidnap or murder her and often Harry ends up coming to her rescue when she is trapped on a cliff or tied up in a house set afire, but as the series goes on she is also shown to be able to extricate herself from various predicaments as well. Finally, after she ends up trapped on an abandoned ship being used for target practice by the Navy and is genuinely terrified by the experience, Pauline decides she has had enough of adventuring and agrees to marry Harry, Owen is drowned by a sailor he has refused to allow to blackmail him, and all is well.

Despite popular associations, Pauline was never tied to a railroad track in the series, an image that was added to popular mythology by scenes in stage melodramas of the 1800s, in serials featuring the resourceful "railroad girl" Helen Holmes in her long-running series The Hazards of Helen and other railroad-themed cliffhangers such as The Girl and the Game. The images of Holmes' railroad adventures were blended in the public mind with Pearl White's cliffhanging adventures, probably because White became the bigger celebrity and was so better-remembered.

The serial had 20 episodes, the first being three reels (30 minutes), and the rest two reels (20 minutes) each. After the original run, it was reshown in theaters a number of times, sometimes in re-edited versions, through the 1920s. Today, The Perils of Pauline is known to exist only in a condensed, reformatted 9-chapter version (approximately 214 minutes), released in Europe in 1916 by Pathé Freres.[1]

In 2008, The Perils of Pauline was selected by the Library of Congress for the United States National Film Registry, as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

  1. ^ Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "1. The Girls 'Who Is That Girl in the Buzz Saw?'". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.

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