Throwback Thursday – The Perils Of Pauline (1947)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back.

As promised last time, here’s a follow up to last week’s Throwback Thursday, once again from the Professor’s blog and dated July 8, 2010.


The Perils of Pauline (1947) – Any Resemblance To Personas Living Or Dead…

pp2aSo Tuesday we took a look at the 1914 serial The Perils of Pauline which was one of the first cliffhanging serials and starred Pearl White as the eponymous Pauline, and I figured today it might be fun to take a peek at a film that could be considered sort of a follow-up.

By 1947, the popularity of the serial film was beginning to fade, as television began to move into peoples’ homes, and attendance at the Saturday matinees, at which these shorts had become a staple, had seen a sharp decline. As a matter of fact, just a year before, Universal had shut down its serials department (along with it’s B-pictures unit) to concentrate solely on feature films. This was the beginning of a change not only in the way films would be produced, but in the way that the public saw the movie-going experience and what they expected when they went to their local theaters.

Nonetheless, there was still, at the time, a certain fondness for the serials, and this certainly factored in to Paramount’s decision to produce this somewhat lavish musical very loosely based on the life of one of the first stars of the passing era.

Understand, when I say “loosely based” on the life of Pearl White, I don’t just mean the writers and producers shuffled some of the events of her life around and combined some of the people she met into one for the sake of cutting down on the number of characters or to make it easier to follow. Instead I mean (as the subtitle above indicates) it really should have one of those “Any resemblance…” notifications at the beginning.

pp2bTake, for instance, the first song and dance number in the film – the Sewing Machine Song which shows Pearl working what is basically a sweatshop in Brooklyn while waiting for her big break. The only problem with this is that the real Ms. White was from a farm in Missouri and began performing with the local Diemer Theater Company during her second year of high school. Then, in 1907, at age 18, she went on the road with the Trousedale Stock Company, working evening shows then eventually joining the company full time, touring through the American Midwest. That same year she married fellow actor Victor Sutherland, but they soon separated and eventually divorced.

Of course, that same opening number also shows that this film isn’t in any way intended as a serious biography of Miss White, but instead is to be a showcase for the humor and talent of Ms. Hutton, and when taken on that level alone, it truly succeeds. Hutton, perhaps best known for her role as Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun, has an energy and an  irresistible charm that overwhelms any plot issues or historical inaccuracies, and almost threatens to overwhelm her co-stars, especially the in comparison rather bland John Lund who simply doesn’t seem able to keep up with his frenetic co-star.

In the end, The Perils of Pauline showcases that old adage that sometimes one simply can’t let the facts get in the way of telling an entertaining story.

Here’s a quick scene from early in the film which shows Pearl getting her “big break”:

And here’s the Skinny:
Title: The Perils of Pauline
Release Date: 1947
Running Time: 96mins
Starring: Betty Hutton
Directed by: George Marshall
Produced by: Sol C. Siegel
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian


Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.


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