Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Actress Pearl White became an international sensation with 1914's The Perils of Pauline, the fifth serial chapter play ever made.  At one time she was the most popular star in silent films, edging out Mary Pickford.  Her fresh and wholesome good looks, her blonde hair (a wig), her willingness to do her own stunts (soon curtailed by the studios after she gained immense popularity) -- all combined to make her a success.  Doing her own stunts took its toll, however, as she took to alcohol to dull the pain of her many injuries.  A failed attempt to move beyond serials to major films also added to her alcoholism (as did two failed marriages and a dalliance with drugs designed to curb her alcoholism) and she died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 49.  Despite all this, White was a successful and savvy businesswoman

White followed The Perils of Pauline with The Exploits of Elaine, a thirteen-part serial based on the popular Craig Kennedy novel by Arthur B. Reeve.  Craig Kennedy, Scientific Detective, was created by Reeve in 1910 and went on to star in numerous collections, novels, films, and in a 1951 television series.  As the serial appeared in sections on the movies screen, Reeve was publishing the novel serially in newspapers, releasing the book version only after the public had seen the entire thirteen chapters of the serial.

White plays Elaine Dodge, a woman who seeks the help of Craig Kennedy to find the man who killed her father -- the man known only as "The Clutching Hand."  Naturally, each episode ends with a cliffhanger, but it's hard to beat the cliffhanger on Chapter Ten where Elaine is killed.  Yep.  Killed.  Dead.  Shuffled off this mortal coil.  Finito.  Exited the building.  Lifeless.  (But fear not, Intrepid Viewer, it is not for nothing that Craig Kennedy is known as a "scientific detective.")

Kennedy is played by Arnold Daly, a stage actor and producer who introduced many of George Bernard Shaw's plays to the American public.  Daly went on to play Kennedy two more times, in The New Exploits of Elaine and The Romance of Elaine (both 1915).  Daly went on to portray detective Ashton-Kirk in three films.  He died in an apartment fire in 1927 at age 51.

The serial also features Creighton Hall, Raymond Owens, Sheldon Lewis, Edward Arden, Bessie Wharton, and Riley Hatch.  Look closely and you may also see Lionel Barrrymore -- he's supposed be in there somewhere.

The Exploits of Elaine is viewed by some as a far better picture than The Perils of Pauline.  It was entered into the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1994.  It was supposedly the favorite film of Czar Nicholas II.  White's weekly salary for Elaine was twelve times that she received earlier that year for Pauline

The link below takes to the infamous Chapter 10, "The Life Current," mentioned above.  I wasn't able to find the complete serial online, but this should give you an inkling of the full work.


1 comment:

  1. I have only seen bits and pieces of THE PERILS. Looks like fun.