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How Pauline Became “Perilous”

villain tying heroine to railroad tracks

The other day a friend asked me about my “Perilous Pauline” thing.

Because I am a) dead and b) officially a “senior,” I had to stop and think back. I know, more or less, when I adopted it for my first website, but the roots of it go back, back, back, deep into my childhood.

Let me first point out that the first “Perils of Pauline” seriously predates my arrival (I was born around the same time as Godzilla, but that’s another discussion).

In 1914, The Perils of Pauline was a melodrama film serial shown in weekly installments. It featured Pearl White as the hapless heroine, i.e., the damsel in distress. (Despite later perceptions, this Pauline was never tied to the railroad tracks.)

Fast forward to 1947, and Pauline makes it into technicolor, starring Betty Hutton as Pauline/Pearl. This film is in the public domain and you can watch it on YouTube.

Please note, that neither I, nor Godzilla, were around in 1947.

“My” Perils of Pauline made its first appearance in 1967, played to a campy high. What I remember the most about it, Pat Boone’s teeth would sparkle when he smiled—which he did a lot.

rose city rockette

My sassy sister as one of the first Rose City Rockettes.

Though this was my first (and I think last) big screen melodrama, my earliest introduction to melodrama (and hapless heroines being tied to railroad tracks) came via what is now known as the “Follies” in my hometown. Starting in 1965 or thereabouts, my hometown would put on a melodrama—with song and dance numbers between the scenes—as part of their Lovell’s Day, (eventually it became Mustang Days because we have wild mustangs in the hills around the town) celebrations.

When I was young, I loved these productions. The whole audience would cheer the hero, “ahhhh” the heroine, and boo/hiss the villain (who always had a BIG black mustache that he would twirl).

It was campy. It was whacky. It was played for fun.

When I grew up, I wanted to be IN a melodrama.

Sadly, the song and dance stuff took over (including Rose City Rockettes), and the melodrama’s were phased out before I was old enough to try out. (My little sister got to be both a Rockette and a Dollies of the Follies, but I’m not bitter that all my childhood dreams were dashed.)

dolly of the follies

And my sister as a Dolly of the Follies.

While I do not write “hapless” heroines, I think my writing style was (mildly) influenced by the sense of humor I enjoyed in those early melodramas.

Not to mention the peril. I always like peril in a story.

And my name is Pauline.

So it was kind of obvious.

Which meant it took me a while to figure it out.

But I eventually did.

So that’s the story of how I became Perilous Pauline.

Do you have any theme movies? Have you ever been a dolly or a rockette? Been in a melodrama or seen one? Does knowing the word “melodrama” make me old?

I love comments so much that I pick a favorite to receive my monthly AnaBanana gift basket ($25 value).  (And don’t forget that once a quarter I’ll be tossing in something fun from the Perilously Fun Shop!) The recipient is announced in the first blog post of the new month.

Perilously yours,

Pauline

Bringing you Perilously Fun Fiction since 1998.

Found Girl cover art

Print edition available now! Digital releasing July 20th! Click on the cover to order!