When we think of action movie stars, we often picture muscle-bound men like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone. However, the first female action movie star paved the way for women to kick butt on the big screen. Her name was Pearl White.
The Early Years
Pearl White was born in 1889 in Green Ridge, Missouri. She began her career as a vaudeville performer and then transitioned to silent films in the early 1900s. It wasn’t until 1914 that she got her big break in the serial film “The Perils of Pauline.”
The Perils of Pauline
“The Perils of Pauline” was a 20-part serial film that followed the adventures of a young woman named Pauline who constantly found herself in perilous situations. Pearl White played the lead role and quickly became a household name. The film’s success led to several sequels and cemented Pearl’s status as an action star.
One of the reasons for “The Perils of Pauline’s” success was Pearl White’s willingness to perform her own stunts. She was often seen climbing buildings, jumping from moving trains, and even diving into water from great heights. Her fearlessness made her all the more appealing to audiences.
Pearl White continued to make films throughout the 1920s and early 1930s before retiring from acting altogether. However, her impact on cinema cannot be overstated. She paved the way for actresses like Sigourney Weaver and Uma Thurman to take on physically demanding roles in action films.
Although Pearl White is not as well-known today as some of her male counterparts, she has received recognition for her contributions to cinema history. In 1995, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame for her pioneering work in action films.
Pearl White may not have had the same level of fame as some of her male contemporaries, but she was a trailblazer nonetheless. Her fearlessness and willingness to perform her own stunts paved the way for future generations of female action stars. So the next time you watch an action movie with a female lead, remember to thank Pearl White for making it possible.