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.


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
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.

Here’s A Very Different Jurassic World – The Lost World (1925)

lw1In celebration of Jurassic World which is out and I’m sure heating up the multiplexes and will make somewhere around $241,549,387,320,148,824 this weekend before you even account for the overseas box office totals, I offer you this early stop motion dinosaur adventure.

The Lost World was produced in 1925 by First National Pictures and directed by Harry Hoyt. It is,, of course, based on the book by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and features stop-motion animation by the wondrous Willis O’Brien who would go on to create the effects for King Kong.

Fortunately, since the movie is now in the public domain, it’s easy to find for download if you wish, or you can just watch it right here.


When A House Falls Silently, Twice – The Fall Of The House Of Usher (1928)

Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of The House of Usher has been the subject of a number of filmic adaptations over the years, and while most fans of horror films consider Roger Corman‘s 1960 take to be the go-to version, I’d like to submit a couple of other, much earlier versions for your consideration.

Surprisingly, the year 1928 produced not one, but two different takes on Poe’s iconic tale, one American, and the other French..

usher1First up is the American version, directed by  James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber and starring Webber along with Herbert Stern and Hildegarde Watson. Employing a number of different camera tricks and techniques, including prismatic shots and words which flow and float across the screen, this truly avant-garde take provides quite a unique, almost surreal take on Poe’s story and uses its scant 12 minute running time quite effectively.

usher2At the same time, in France, director Jean Epstein was producing La Chute de la maison Usher. The film was co-written by Luis Buñuel, whose own directorial career would ultimately eclipse that of Epstein. Much longer than Watson and Webber’s take, clocking in at 63 minutes, this version does provide much more background and delves deeper into its characters, while remaining quite atmospheric throughout.

The version I’m presenting here retains the original French intertitles without an English translation, but really for a story like this, no translation is, I think, needed.

I really have no explanation as to why 1928 proved such a popular year for adapting this particular Poe tale, but the fact that it did is quite interesting because it provided a very interesting Halloween double feature, along with an intriguing look at how different directors can take the same story and make two completely different films from it.

Howl(oween) At The Moon With The Oldest Survivng Werewolf Movie – Wolf Blood (1925)

wb1Predating Universal’s The Wolf Man by sixteen years, George Cheesebro and Bruce Mitchell directed Wolf Blood in 1925. While it’s not actually the first werewolf movie – that distinction supposedly goes to 1913’s The Werewolf, but since that film is considered lost, this is the earliest surviving werewolf movie. (By the way, Cheesbro also stars in the film as protagonist Dick Bannister.)

One of the  most interesting things about the film is the actual origin of the werewolf. Instead of the (now) familiar trope of being infected with the curse by being bitten by another werewolf, instead Bannister, a logger, is attacked by a rival logging gang and left for dead. When none of his crew will step up to provide blood for a transfusion, the doctor treating him decides the best course of action is to use wolf blood instead.

Perhaps that’s not the best idea after all…


Which Actor Portrayed Sherlock Holmes The Most Times In Films? The Answer May Surprise You!

He has that rare quality, which can only be described as glamour, which compels you to watch an actor eagerly even when he is doing nothing. He has the brooding eye which excites expectation and he has also a quite unrivaled power of disguise. My only criticism of the films is that they introduce telephones, motorcars and other luxuries of which the Victorian Holmes never dreamed.

Those were the words used by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself to describe the actor whose name is the answer to the question in the headline above.

sh_ellie-norwood_ACDFrom 1921 to 1923, Stoll films actually produced a total of 45 silent short (approximately 30 minute) films and two feature-length films starring Eille Norwood as the famous detective. These silents were actually produced as three series of 15 films each year (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Further Adventures…, and The Final Adventures…), and the two features (The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Sign of Four) were released in 1921 and 1923, respectively.

The films proved to be incredibly popular not only with movie goers, but also with critics, especially since they (with perhaps the unfortunate exception of The Hound) tended to stay very close to the source material. Again, though, even Doyle enjoyed the Baskerville adaptation, stating that

On seeing him [Eille Norwood] in The Hound of the Baskervilles I thought I had never seen anything more masterly.

Unfortunately, it appears that only four of these short films are still extant today, and they only seem to have been released as part of a couple of low quality public-domain-Holmes devoted discs, meaning that they haven’t been given anything like the kind of loving restoration they deserve. Nonetheless, I’m embedding three of them below in order to give you at least a taste of one of the few adaptations of the canon that even the character’s creator lavished such praise upon:

The Dying Detective

The Devil’s Foot

The Man With the Twisted Lip

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Here’s The Earliest Known Appearance of Sherlock Holmes On Film – Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900)

As we approach the return of the world’s greatest detective in one of his latest incarnations – the BBC’s Sherlock, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Doctor John Watson – it seems perhaps appropriate to take a look at his earliest film appearance, 1900’s Sherlock Holmes Baffled.

Mutoscope,_1899_(bis)This 30 second short was originally produced for penny arcade machines known as Mutoscopes, which were patented by Herman Casler in 1894 and marketed by the American Mutoscope Company. This particular film was produced by the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company in 1900, though its copyright was not actually registered until 1903.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the Mutoscope was atually developed as a competitor to Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope.The device can be seen in the picture at the right. The idea was that the viewer would drop their coin into a slot on the machine which would then turn on an internal light and by turning a small crank and looking into the viewfinder, the viewer could watch the associated film. In a way, it’s perhaps a bit misleading to call this a film per se, since it was not designed to be projected on a screen and actually consisted of individual image frames printed onto flexible cards attached to a circular core which revolved with the turn of a user-operated hand crank, however, since it was originally shot on film at a frame rate of 30 frames per second, the designation still stands. (Perhaps in cases like this, the more accurate term would simply be “motion picture”.)

As far as the actual film itself, according to Wikipedia, the director and cinematographer of Sherlock Holmes Baffled was Arthur W. Marvin (May 1859 – 18 January 1911), a staff cameraman for Biograph. The identities of the actors portraying Holmes and his adversary are unknown, and the film was assumed to be lost for many years, until it was rediscovered in 1968 as a paper print in the Library of Congress by Michael Pointer, a historian of Sherlock Holmes films. Again, quoting Wikipedia

Because motion pictures were not covered by copyright laws until 1912, paper prints were submitted by studios wishing to register their works. These were made using light-sensitive paper of the same width and length as the film itself, and developed as though a still photograph. Both the Edison Company and the Biograph Company submitted entire motion pictures as paper prints, and it is in this form that most of them survive. The film has subsequently been transferred to 16 mm film in the Library of Congress collection.

maxresdefaultObviously, due to its short running time, there is no actual development of either of the characters involved, and the film really seems to only exist for the purpose of showing early bits of camera trickery, especially the disappearance/reappearance of Holmes’ adversary. As far as the identification of the central character as Holmes, well, that basically comes from the film’s copyright title card and its marketing.

Nonetheless, the film does have a certain distinction in being the first identified film portrayal of the character and by extension, also the first detective film.

Anyway, here it is, the world’s first taste of Sherlock Holmes as a film character.

(BTW, I need to give a special shout out here to Fritzi over at Movies, Silently for initially bringing this wonderful short film to my attention. If you’re at all a fan of the silent film era you should definitely be checking out her terrific blog as she has an obvious love for the genre and is consistently posting a lot of great content there. So, thanks, Fritzi, for all you do.)