Musical Monday: The Perils of Pauline (1947)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
The Perils Of Pauline (1947) – Musical #127

Paramount Pictures

George Marshall

Betty Hutton, John Lund, Billy De Wolfe, William Demarest, Constance Collier, Frank Faylen

Biographical film about actress Pearl White, who rose to fame during the silent film era in serial where she is constantly in danger.

-The height of the real Pearl White’s career was from 1910 to 1924. She died at age 49 in 1938 in France.
-Actors who performed in real Peril’s of Pauline films were featured in this movie such as; Paul Panzer who was in The Perils of Pauline (1914); Creighton Hale who was in The Exploits of Elaine (1914); William Farnum who played in Riders of the Purple Sage (1918).
-Edith Head designed the costumes for the films. Head copied costumes for Pearl White’s films for historical accuracy, according to Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer by Jay Jorgensen
-Louis J. Gasnier, who directed The Perils of Pauline (1914), was a technical advisor on this film.

-Betty Hutton dressed in a Dorothy Lamour like fashion
-The Pearl White film montage

Betty Hutton in Perils of Pauline

Notable Songs:
-“Rumble, Rumble, Rumble” performed by Betty Hutton
-“I Wish I Didn’t Love You So” performed by Betty Hutton
-“Papa Don’t Preach to Me” performed by Betty Hutton

My review:
As we all know, most classic film biographical films are largely fictional. The musical biopic is no exception.

But fact or fiction, “The Perils of Pauline” is a really fun film and this is largely because it’s leading lady: Betty Hutton.

Photo of the real Pearl White

The film follows the rise to fame of silent serial star, Pearl White and the title is inspired by White’s films. In the film, White is a seamstress who joins a traveling play group and then gets into films. However, the real Pearl White began acting as a child, making her film debut at age 6 in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was riding horses in a circus at age 13, and in plays at age 18. White was 21 when she made her first film short in 1910: “His Yankee Girl.”

White’s film career spanned from 1910 to 1924. When sound was introduced in films, she was told that her voice wasn’t right, but by this time she was living in France-performing and running a resort.

In the film “Perils of Pauline,” we see a delightful montage of White making films and performing stunts. This great fun and exhibits how White did her own dangerous stunts for a time (until Pathe decided they had to stop risking the life of their top star). The film also shows her move to Hollywood and nightclub life.

Due to production codes, however, this 1947 film had to sanitize and omit the fact that Pearl White had a substance abuse problem to ease her pain of a back injury she got while performing one of her stunts. This injury pained her for the rest of her life, until White died at age 49 in 1938 of cirrhosis of the liver.

The film does show White injuring her back, but does not attribute it to something that happened during her film work. Perhaps because Hollywood didn’t want to point the finger of blame at themselves while making this movie.

Betty Hutton and John Lund in Perils of Pauline

I think Betty Hutton was the perfect actress to play Pearl White. While their only appearance similarity is that Hutton and White both have blond hair, Hutton has the energy to keep this film moving. Pearl White had to be played by an exuberant star who wasn’t soft and sweet. Hutton plays her wonderfully. Without her, this film would be rather bland, particularly because John Lund is the leading man. While Lund is acceptable, he isn’t a very dynamic actor.

I also think it’s a fun touch that actors who performed in films with the real Pearl White were included in this movie (see the photo below this review).

The music in this musical is great fun, but I don’t think it’s time period appropriate. The song “Rumble, Rumble, Rumble” is a hip boogey-woogey song, which doesn’t seem to fit in the early 1900s.

If you are looking for something informative about actress Pearl White’s life, this film may not serve much of a purpose for you. I would suggest heading to the library or performing a Google search. But if you’re a Betty Hutton fan or looking for a musical that will make you smile, “Perils of Pauline” is a good bet.

Ernie Adams, Snub Pollard, Francis Mcdonald, Max Asher.
Bert Roach, Paul Panzer, George Marshall. Betty Hutton, Louis Gaznier, William Farnum, Creighton Hale.
Monte Brice, Kit Guard, Dick Lamarr, Jim Finlayson, Chester Conklin, Heinie Conklin, Hank Mann, Eddy Featherstone.

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