Betty Hutton uses her manic energy and mugs her way through a biopic that doesn’t tell you a whole lot about Pearl White. She was the biggest star of serials in the nineteen teens in “The Perils Of Pauline.” The movie rushes through a lot and John Lund is really a stiff in his role. William Demarest is fun as an energetic silent movie producer.
Pearl (Berry Hutton) is working in a sweatshop run by Joe Gurt (Frank Faylen). She almost gets fired for making fun of him in front of the other employees. He tells her he won’t dock anyone’s pay if she’s nice to him. Pearl gives him a knockout punch.
Actress Julia Gibbs (Constance Collier) is part of a Shakespearean troupe that plays small towns. She has to pick up a costume and Gurt insists Pearl go with her to the playhouse and collect the money for it.
Julia gets her an audition with the Mike Farrington (John Lund) troupe. He’s a conceited jerk but he accepts her. She begins by doing sewing and ironing. She eventually ends up in a love scene with Mike that turns into the real thing. During a performance where she plays an island girl she catches a cold. That’s not conducive to playing love scenes and she sneezes and the audience has a good laugh.
Mike closes the show and makes Pearl feel like a fool. She quits and then Julia walks out. She takes Pearl to her agents office. They get a call for a dowager type to be in a movie. Julia and Pearl go to the studio and walk past several movies being filmed. Producer Mac McGuire (William Demarest) puts Julia in a scene where unbeknownst to her she’ll be hit with cream pies.
Pearl defends Julia and leads her through some sets and into one where she kicks a lion. That gets her a job in a movie with a lion and then into the serial “The Perils Of Pauline.” The cliffhanger makes her a huge star. Mike isn’t so lucky. He’s a carnival barker.
During a stunt where she has to jump on a train she runs into Timmie Timmons (Billy De Wolfe) from the old troupe. Timmie gets him back with Pearl who gets him a job as her leading man. The two end up in a balloon. They don’t know it but it’s all a publicity stunt by Mac. He plans a big wedding and reception without bothering to check with Mike. He walks out on everything.
After the war Mike is a big Broadway star and movie serials are on the way out. Pearl gets a job in Paris. Timmie is starting to go into his act when the crowd yells for Pearl to come back out. She has an idea for a spectacular entrance. It’s one stunt too many.
If you’re looking for how Pearl White became a success read a biography. If you’re a Betty Hutton fan see the movie. One highlight is the depiction of the madness of a silent film studio.