Hollywood 2

To be continued…

The suspense of the serials brought families into the movie theatres week after week and established a regular audience. This trade advertisement for The Perils of Pauline highlights the serials’ pulling power.

As motion pictures found their feet, the serials served as a bridge between the two-reelers and feature-length movies. They were the by-product of a newspaper circulation battle where this week’s episode was synchronised with syndicated newspapers and nickelodeons. 

Do you remember those Saturday morning serials that always ended in a cliffhanger? Even though the cliffhanger was not employed in this serial, What Happened to Mary is widely regarded as the first of the genre. Released in 1912, the serial starred Mary Fuller and ran for twelve episodes.

What Happened to Mary (a statement, not a question) also appeared in The Ladies’ World magazine . It was adapted for the stage and published as a novel. The basic plot involved action, adventure and peril for the heroine.

Sadly, Mary Fuller’s star waned and from 1917 she struggled to obtain roles in film or on stage. Nervous disorders plagued her life and effectively brought an end to her career.

📸 Miriam Nesbitt, Mary Fuller and Marc McDermott in What Happened to Mary.

The Adventures of Kathlyn, released on December 29, 1913 was a thirteen episode adventure serial, which starred Kathlyn Williams (pictured) as the heroine. 

The second serial ever made, The Adventures of Kathlyn is widely regarded as the first of the cliffhanger serials that became popular over the next decade. The serial idea was ‘borrowed’ from newspapers and magazines, and adapted for film.

Chapter One of The Adventures of Kathlyn featured a situation ending, but future episodes concluded with a sensational action sequence or stunt, held over to the following week to heighten suspense.

These serials were often tied-in with newspaper serials, boosting the newspapers’ circulation figures. For example, the Tribune announced a 10% increase in circulation as a result of The Adventures of Kathlyn’s success.

The serial craze of early Hollywood asked actors, and especially actresses, to risk life and limb. Professional stuntmen had yet to arrive on the scene, so the stars did their own stunts. 

The two most popular serial queens were Ruth Roland, in Ruth of the Rockies, and Pearl White in Pearl in Peril. 📸 Ruth Roland in The Timber Queen, 1923.

1920s – 1960s