The Woman Who Dared: The Life and Times of Pearl White, Queen of the Serials

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n the early days of motion pictures - before superstars, before studio conglomerates, before even the advent of sound - there was a woman named Pearl White (1889-1938). A quintessential beauty of the time, with her perfectly tousled bob and come-hither stare, White's rise to stardom was swift; her assumption of the title of queen of American motion picture serials equally deserved. Born the youngest of five children in a small, rural Missouri farm town, White left high school at only 15, taking on jobs to help keep her family financially afloat, work that included small parts in plays for a local stock company.

At 18 she began a three-year stage career with the Trousdale Stock Company, touring on the road and sinking her teeth into leading roles in productions such as Jane Eyre. As she continued to build her professional repertoire, White joined the Powers Film Company in New York and made her film debut in 1910. Her reputation for fearless performances and her penchant for doing her own stunt work soon set her apart from her female colleagues.

It was that same daring attitude that would put her on the map internationally as an actress. From flying airplanes to swimming across rapid rivers, to racing cars in serials like The Perils of Pauline (1914), White was undaunted by the demands of her onscreen career. She would go on to star in popular serial classics such as The Exploits of Elaine (1915), Pearl of the Army (1916), The House of Hate (1918), and The Lightning Raider (1919).

As active socially as she was professionally, White would also translate her audacious spirit outside of her career by playing a part in the early feminist movement. Her projection of a positive image of bravery on screen served as a model for suffragettes battling for women's rights in the US. William M.

Drew's The Woman Who Dared: The Life and Times of Pearl White, Queen of the Serials, is the first full-length biography of this pioneering star. A study in film and female agency, Drew delves into the cultural impact of Pearl White's work and how it evolved along a concurrent trajectory with the social upheavals of the Progressive Era.

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