The Perils of Pauline is based on the silent actress Pearl White and her famous serials “The Perils of Pauline”. The film tells the story of how Pearl (Betty Hutton) went from working in a garment factory to a stage actress to a famous screen actress to the ending of her serials when the genre went out of favor.
Pearl works in a garment factory where she is none too happy. Her boss is a work horse never really giving the ladies a fair deal. One day a stage actress named Julia Gibbs (Constance Collier) comes into the factory after a dress of hers was made for a new show she will be performing that night. The owner will not allow Julia to pay for the dress with a check so he sends Pearl along to make sure Julia pays for the dress. Pearl is so excited she wants to be on the stage so bad all she wants is to be an actress. Since Julia was let getting to the theater the head of the acting company Michael Farrington (John Lund) sends Pearl onto the stage as an opening act. She sings a song called “Rumble Rumble Rumble” with such enthusiasm she nearly brings the house down.
With Julia’s help, Michael gives Pearl a chance on the stage but she keeps messing up and never performs to his standards. He is constantly yelling at her and bringing her down. While rehearsing for a kissing scene sparks happen between them and they begin to fall in love… or at least have some kind feelings for each other. The scene they rehearsed for does not go too well. Michael is furious with her but Pearl lets him have it and leaves the company. Julia standing behind Pearl leaves as well.
Julia’s agents give her a job in the movies. She is not thrilled about it but she takes it. Right from the moment she enters the set she is insulted by getting a pie in her face for the scene but the director does not tell her. Pearl is furious and trying to help her friend they accidentally walk through multiple sets including one with a lion. Pearl does not even realize she pushed a lion out of the way until the director tells her he will pay her one hundred dollars a week as an actress because of what she did with the lion.
Pearl becomes a star with her serials “The Perils of Pauline.” Every week Pauline comes close to death in a new adventure. Pearl does all her own stunts falling off of airplanes, jumping from buildings, being captured by bad guys. Meanwhile, Michael and Timmy (one of the members of the acting company) have not had it easy. The company folded and they were jobless. Pearl gives Timmy a job in her serials. Michael was working as a sideshow announcer when Pearl finds him after so long. Michael still thinks he has a chance as a serious actor and is reluctant to go into the movies. He becomes Pearl’s love interest in her shows and Timmy is the villain.
Michael falls in love with Pearl but after he becomes disillusioned with films and even Pearl he leaves her. Once again the two actors do not see each other for a long time. Michael is now a successful actor on Broadway. Silent serials went out of style leaving Pearl without a job so she moves to Paris where she is now a singer and dancer in a nightclub.
Besides Betty Hutton the cast to me is nothing really to brag about. Hutton was just incredible I seriously cannot believe the amount of energy and enthusiasm she had and put into her character. The Perils of Pauline is the reason MGM used her to replace Judy Garland in Annie Get Your Gun. If you watch the video I posted for “Rumble Rumble Rumble” you will see why they chose her for Annie. I really have nothing but love and admiration for Hutton she can go from being crazy and all over the place to being calm and dramatic the next being fantastic either way. She was the perfect example of the ideal entertainer she could literally do comedy and drama as well as musicals. I love her singing voice as well as her speaking voice.
The Perils of Pauline offers the Code-d version of the story of Pearl White. Of course the film ending has Pearl and Michael ending up together but in real life Pearl died in Paris when she retired from films after word got out her stunt double died doing one of her serials. The actress died from alcoholism and drugs. If this was made today of course we would see the sad, realistic version but this was made in 1947 at MGM so the ending had to be happy. I gotta say though I would rather see a happy ending.
The Perils of Pauline is a cute film. Betty Hutton is definitely worth sitting through the film for she is fantastic. Definitely see this film. It is available on DVD and the music numbers are available on Youtube.