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

Univ. Pr. of Kentucky. Feb. 2023. 640p. ISBN 9780813196831. $50. BIOG
In the dawning years of cinema, actress Pearl White (1889–1938) was hailed as the Queen of the Serials. In this exhaustive biography, film historian Drew (Speaking of Silents) traces her life and career from her impoverished Missouri childhood where, at the age of 13, she began performing in local plays and in the circus. Leaving high school without graduating, she joined a stock company and toured for many years. A vocal cord injury compelled her to seek work in silent cinema in which she excelled. A scene where she rescued a woman and child from a burning building impressed her bosses, and she was soon cast in a succession of serials, including the wildly popular The Perils of Pauline, beginning in 1914. She performed many of her own stunts too. In 1919, she began to appear in more dramatic roles, before she retired from the screen in 1923 and lived the rest of her life comfortably in France. She died from liver failure at the age of 49 in 1938.
VERDICT Sometimes there’s too much detail, but this is a well-researched biography that covers White’s life and offers a good assessment of the silent-film industry.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing