Some things start just like that…
Despite my very busy schedule, I’m going to try and track me down a copy of The Perils of Pauline, the 1914 serial featuring Pearl White (I guess that was not her true name1).
Fact is, you see, I’ve been told in detail how movie serials were a phenomenon in ’40s and ’50s American cinema, by yet another expert that apparently failed to check out Wikipedia to get the full story.
I heard that and thought… but what of Pauline?2
The premise of the story was that Pauline’s wealthy guardian Mr. Marvin, upon his death, has left her inheritance in the care of his secretary, Mr. Koerner, until the time of her marriage. Pauline wants to wait a while before marrying, as her dream is to go out and have adventures to prepare herself for becoming an author. Mr. Koerner, hoping to ultimately keep the money for himself, tries to turn Pauline’s various adventures against her and have her “disappear” to his own advantage.
Fact is, The Perils of Pauline is such a seminal work, such a standard basic plot for adventure and pulp, that it’s been redone, reprised, remade, parodied and rebooted for something like fifty years (I just found out there’s a Perils version from 1967), and then has become a repository of a number of standard narrative tropes.
Everyone, but everyone, from Popeye to The Avengers (the one with Peel and Steed) has lifted the “heroine tied to the tracks” scene from Pauline.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So now I’m going to try and rewatch it.
Granted, it’s a silent serial from 1914. Sure, only 9 episodes3 survive of the original 20.
But what the heck, one can’t forget Pauline.
Might become a nice series of Sunday media posts…