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Exporting Perilous PaulinePearl White and the Serial Film Craze$
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Marina Dahlquist

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037689

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037689.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 31 July 2021

“The Most Assassinated Woman in the World”

“The Most Assassinated Woman in the World”

Pearl White and the First Avant-Garde

(p.99) Chapter 4 “The Most Assassinated Woman in the World”
Exporting Perilous Pauline

Christina Petersen

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines the evocation of Pearl White's star persona by avant-garde theorists and filmmakers ranging from Sergei Eisenstein to surrealist Robert Desnos. The avant-garde's reactions to White fall largely along movement lines. At once the embodiment of a low-culture narrative mode and a spectacular star object who transcended any particular plot line, White's pejorative status as “the most assassinated woman in the world” may have been more revealing than Jean Epstein originally intended. Whereas Epstein decried White's constant near-death experiences and numerous last-minute escapes as unrealistic pulp fiction, surrealists celebrated her as a “marvelous” apparition. This chapter compares the reactions of adherents of surrealism and impressionism to White and considers how Desnos and the surrealists attempted to transpose the “love and poetry” of her films into their own filmmaking practice. It suggests that White's legacy aside from international stardom exerted an influence upon the avant-garde movement, and that her influence had revolutionary potential for challenging the status quo.

Keywords:   surrealism, Pearl White, Sergei Eisenstein, Jean Epstein, surrealists, impressionism, Robert Desnos, filmmaking, avant-garde movement

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