Pearl White (1889-1938) is the archetype of the damsel-in-distress. Her classic serial "The Perils of Pauline" paved the way for the imagery and stereotypes of the charicature for generations to come.
She was a talent stage actress when she was approached in her early 20's to star in her own short films and serials. Athletic, she did her own stunts in many films, including "Pauline". She was a brilliant business woman, and amassed a considerable wealth outside her on-screen performances.
As injuries from her years of filmmaking nagged her, she turned to the bottle for solace and died at the young age of 49 from cirrhosis.
Although "The Perils of Pauline" is noted as the true advent of the damsel-in-distress character type, the series itself is actually fairly light when compared to some of the serials that followed. Although the melodramatic appeal lives on, "Pauline" is referenced in many other films such as "Beach Blanket Bingo." The identically-titled movie released many years later with Betty Hutton portraying White in a largely-fictionalized biography barely had any such-damsel scenes. In fact, the cover art for the movie contained a much more vivid depiction of bondage than either that movie or Pearl White's serial had. A majority of White's serial has been lost. It is believed that only 9 of the 20 chapters currently survive.
- The Perils of Pauline (1914) Serial - In the first chapter, White is tied hand and foot and OTM gagged and left in a burning building to be rescued. In the second chapter, she is bound and gagged again, and hidden in a small cave. In the fifth chapter, both her and leading man Crane Wilbur are both bound and gagged as water flows into the room. Harry (Wilbur) manages to free himself and White.... just in the nick of time!