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
Color
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.

Throwback Thursday – The Perils Of Pauline (1914)

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.

Here’s a post from the Professor’s blog from July 2010, looking back at one of the original cliffhanging serials. As always, I’m posting this with only minimal edits, except for one major change which I will note when we get to it.

———————-

The Perils of Pauline (1914) – Silently Hanging From A Cliff

pp1Y’know, there are certain cliches that one thinks of when they think of the old movie serials: the fair damsel tied to the railroad tracks by the dastardly villain only to be rescued at the seeming last instant, the hero trapped inside a burning house, the runaway car speeding too quickly along a twisting mountain road, and, of course, the giant boulder rolling faster and faster down a hill as our poor protagonist tries to find a way to avoid being crushed. (What, you thought that was an Indiana Jones original? Sorry, nope.) Well, like they say, all cliches start somewhere, and this serial, starring Pearl White as Pauline, is where a good many of them had their beginning.

After the death of her Uncle, Pauline is set to inherit a large fortune as soon as she is married. Until then, the money is to be held in trust by her Uncle’s trusted secretary, Koerner (originally known as Raymond Owen, but we’ll get to that in a moment.) Of course her lovable but puppy doggish boyfriend says they should be married immediately, but the adventurous Pauline has other ideas. Before she settles down to the life of a housewife, she wants to see the world and have some adventure. To that end, she promises that she will marry him in a year, but first, she must travel.

Well, if Pauline’s idea is to pack a lifetime of travel and adventure into a year, I would say she certainly succeeds. Each chapter finds her in a new exotic location, and along the way she not only faces the machinations of the fiendish villain Koerner, but Native Americans, gypsies, and even pirates!

Originally 20 chapters long, The Perils of Pauline was cut to nine for international distribution, and that is, unfortunately, the only version that is known to survive today. Also, the intertitle cards in this version were somewhat badly retranslated into English from French, resulting in some odd grammar at times, and the change in name of the main villain. Nonetheless, the serial retains a charm and uniqueness that makes it still entertaining today.

A couple of other notes on this serial. Though rightly known as a cliff-hanger, the serial does not end each chapter with Pauline in some dire trouble that must be resolved at the beginning of the next. Instead, the peril is resolved within the chapter, and the draw for the next week is simply to see what kind of trouble our heroine will get into next. Also, remarkably in this day of CGI and insurance companies that are afraid to let movie stars even get breathed on very hard, it must be noted that Pearl White actually did most of the stunts in this serial herself, which adds quite a bit to the tension of the scenes.

Here’s a section from the first chapter which shows the death of Pauline’s uncle, the beginnings of Koerner’s troublemaking, and Pauline’s first “peril”, as she is trapped alone in a runaway hot air balloon. Oh, and yes, it does end with our heroine and her boyfriend trapped on the side of a cliff.

[Here’s where the major change I mentioned above comes into play. Since the time of the initial posting of this and now, a playlist has been posted to YouTube which appears to include all nine extant chapters of the serial, so I’m including it here instead of the original link.]

And the Skinny:
Title: The Perils of Pauline
Release Date: 1914
Serial
Number of Chapters: Originally 20, European Cut: 9
Tinted B/W
Starring: Pearl White
Directed by: Louis J. Gasnier, Donald MacKenzie
Distributed by: General Film Company & Eclectic Film Company

Until next time, (when we’ll be following up with the 1947 feature film which turns Pearl White’s adventures making this serial into a technicolor musical) Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

—————————–

Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Saturday Breakfast Serial 025 – Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. (1941) Chapter 15: Retribution

dtI know, I’ve been away for awhile and I kind of left you all hanging without posting the last chapter of Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. Well, better late than never, right? And, for those of you who may be just joining us, or who just want to catch up, here are the previous posts for this serial:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. And here’s the grand finale:

So what’s next? I really haven’t decided. There are several serials we could do, or it may be time to retire this feature for awhile and move something else into the Saturday slot. What do you guys think? As always, let me know in the comments.

Saturday Breakfast Serial 024 – Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. (1941) Chapter 14: Invisible Terror

dt14Okay, gang, it’s Saturday again, and time for another installment of Saturday Breakfast Serial and our ongoing chapter play, Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. And, for those of you who may be just joining us, here are the previous posts for this serial: 1, 2, 3, 4 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.

Ah, Universal. As a studio, they are perhaps best known in popular culture for their iconic early horror films. So much so that the phrase “Universal Monsters” is one that even those who aren’t film history aficionados will generally recognize as referring to the studio’s 1930s and 40s interpretations of characters such as Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf-man, etc., but the studio was built on much more than that, and one of those building blocks was their status as an early leader in the field of movie serials. As a matter of fact, Universal actually produced more serials than any of its competitors with an official total of 137, beginning with 1914’s Lucille Love, Girl of Mystery and ending with 1946’s The Mysterious Mr. M, and that number doesn’t include some of the earlier efforts made by those producers who would eventually become a part of the studio proper.

Lucille Love is actually a very interesting example of the lengths to which Universal would go both to produce and promote their films and serials.

ll1During the production of the 15 chapter serial more than 300 tribes people were brought to California from their native Society Islands (Tahiti, Bora Bora, etc.) and were housed on the Universal Studios Ranch. Also, a Chinese village was built at a cost of almost $5,000 and was then only used in the filming of two scenes.

Meanwhile the story of the film was being serialized throughout newspapers across the country, often accompanied by offers of a reward for information regarding the whereabouts of the missing titular adventuress.

Once the serial was released, it was often done so with much fanfare, including full-page color advertisements taken out in local newspapers, and individual theaters were also highly encouraged to arrange their own special promotions in order to draw more people in to see the series.

All of this publicity definitely proved worthwhile to the studio, which saw enormous ticket sales and profits from the series, as it not only had a hugely successful first run, but also was run a second time in many locals, and was even in some places re-run in a one or two chapter per day format for its second run, thus allowing the public to view the entire serial over a one or two week period, and extending the life of the serial far into 1915 and in some cases even 1916, something that was generally unheard of at the time when most serials were not considered to be main attractions, but simply something to encourage movie goers to return to the theater each week to take in the feature film.

So where would Universal go from there? Well, I guess that’s something to take a look at next time. Meanwhile, let’s see what’s in store for our master criminologist in the penultimate chapter of our own serial, shall we?

By the way, once again I should note that we’re nearing the end of this serial, and I’m looking at which one to feature next. I’m definitely open to any nominations or requests, so if you’ve got any suggestions, please let me know about them in the comments here or over on the DMM Facebook page.

Next up: wrapping up Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. with Chapter 15: Retribution, and more Universal serial history.

Saturday Breakfast Serial 023 – Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. (1941) Chapter 12: Trial By Fire And Chapter 13: The Challenge

dt12Okay, gang, it’s Saturday again, and time for another installment of Saturday Breakfast Serial and our ongoing chapter play, Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. And, for those of you who may be just joining us, here are the previous posts for this serial: 1, 2, 3, 4 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.

Since we missed last week’s installment and I’m running kid of late this week, I think we’ll skip the look at serial history today and get straight to the serial with two episodes, but don’t worry, next week we’ll definitely start looking at the serials of Universal films.

In the meantime, here you go:

By the way, since we’re on Chapter 13 today, that means we’ve only two more chapters before we reach the end of Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc., so it’s time for me to start thinking about what serial to feature next, and I’m definitely open to any nominations or requests, so if you’ve got any suggestions, please let me know about them in the comments here or over on the DMM Facebook page.

Next up: Chapter 14: Invisible Terror.

Saturday Breakfast Serial 022 – Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. (1941) Chapter 11: Seconds To Live

dt11Okay, gang, it’s Saturday again, and time for another installment of Saturday Breakfast Serial and our ongoing chapter play, Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. And, for those of you who may be just joining us, here are the previous posts for this serial: 1, 2, 3, 4 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

Last week we began looking a Columbia Pictures and their serial output which began with the 1937 Louis Weiss produced serial Jungle Menace. This week we’ll take a look at the later part of Columbia’s serial history.

One of the things Columbia was most famous for was its use of previously established heroes for its serials. Drawing from a number of sources, including comic strips and books, radio shows, pulp novels, books, and even television, Columbia produced serials with characters such as Superman, Batman, Terry and the Pirates, Hop Harrigan, Mandrake the Magician, The Phantom, Blackhawk, and even The Shadow. Though mostly aimed at the younger set, Columbia’s serial gained high praise, especially early on, with its 1938 effort, The Spider’s Web, being named the number one serial of the year by exhibitors.

col3During its later years, when its serial budget became more restricted, the studio turned more towards westerns which were cheaper to produce since they were less special-effects driven and required less in the way of elaborate set design. Another way that Columbia cut corners on their later serials was by using animation to produce their special effects instead of on-set explosions, etc.

By the 1950s, unfortunately these budget cuts had severely affected the quality of the studio’s serial output, and like its competitors, by that point Columbia had turned to reusing a lot of footage from previous serials for it’s effect and cliffhanger sequences, even bringing cast members from those older serials back to the studio to provide at least a bit of continuity between the current effort and the previously shot footage.

Despite all of this, Columbia did manage to outlast its competitors, Republic and Universal, with its last serial being 1956’s Blazing the Overland Trail.

Ok, time to get on with this week’s chapter of  Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. Here’s chapter 11, Seconds To Live:

Next time: Chapter 12: Trial By Fire, and we’ll shift our focus again and take a look at the serial output of Universal Pictures.

Saturday Breakfast Serial 021 – Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. (1941) Chapter 10: Flaming Peril

dt10Okay, gang, it’s Saturday again, and time for another installment of Saturday Breakfast Serial and our ongoing chapter play, Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. And, for those of you who may be just joining us, here are the previous posts for this serial: 1, 2, 3, 4 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

Last week we finished up our look at the serial film history of Republic Pictures, focusing on some of the features that distinguished their serials from those of their rivals. Today we’re going to begin a look at one of those competitors: Columbia Pictures.

Columbia Pictures actually began its life as CBC Film Sales corporation in 1918, and was named after its founders, brothers Harry and Jack Cohn, and Joe Brandt. In 1924, Brandt sold his stake in the company to Harry Cohn, and the brothers renamed the studio Columbia Pictures Corporation, partly in an attempt to shake off CBC’s reputation as a truly low-budget studio.

jm1Because they couldn’t afford at the time to produce their own serials, the first serial to appear under the Columbia Pictures logo was Jungle Menace, which was actually produced by Louis Weiss in 1937. The Weiss brothers, Louis, Adolph, and Max had actually begun independently producing low budget movies in 1920, under a variety of names such as Superior Talking Films, Stage and Screen Productions, Artcraft Productions, Exploitation Pictures, Consolidated Pictures, and International Pictures Corporation.

Jungle Menace was created in the wake of the success of Republic Pictures’s 1936 serial Darkest Africa, which had starred real-life animal trainer Clyde Beatty. For their serial, Columbia hired animal collector Frank “Bring ‘Em Back Alive” Buck. The serial was set in the fictional land of Seemang in Asia, and Buck played the role of Frank Hardy, a soldier of fortune who intervenes in and investigates attempts to run a rubber plantation owner and his daughter off their land. Here’s a description of the filming of one of the scenes of Jungle Menace from the autobiography of director Harry L Fraser:

The snake was in no hurry. Slowly he slithered across the girl’s body, while she screamed and struggled. He turned, looking for a spot to slip under her to make his first wrap. I motioned to the reptile crew to get ready, and a split-second later gave them the signal to move in. But now, the maddened snake fought them and did its best to coil around one of the men. Before that happened, however, I had cut, and we had a good cliff-hanger with our terror-stricken heroine to close the episode.

Here’s how the resolution of that particular cliffhanger played out in the actual serial:

Jungle Menace turned out to be such a success for Columbia that they were immediately considered rightful competitors in the serial field with the other major players, Republic and Universal.

Ok, time to get on with this week’s chapter of  Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. Here’s chapter 10, Flaming Peril:

Next time: Chapter 11: Seconds To Live, and we’ll take a look at more Columbia Pictures serials.