Birthday: March 4, 1889
Died At Age: 49
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Pearl Fay White, Miss Mazee
Born in: Green Ridge
Famous as: Actress
Spouse/Ex-: Victor Sutherland, Wallace McCutcheon Jr.
father: Edgar White
mother: Inez White
Died on: August 4, 1938
place of death: Neuilly-sur-Seine
U.S. State: Missouri
Who was Pearl White?
Pearl White was an American stage and silent film actress who is best remembered for her daring stunts in different films. She is commonly known as the ‘Peerless Fearless Girl’ and ‘Heroine of a Thousand Stunts’. She began her career on the stage when she was a six year old child and went on to act in silent films as well as several serials. She is most reminisced for her part in ‘The Perils of Pauline’; in this series she performed her own stunts until she was obliged to use a stunt double because of frequent injuries. Since she was brought up on a farm, she grew up to be reasonably sporty, and this helped her immensely in performing her own stunts, much to the amazement and admiration of both her directors and audiences. At one point of time, she was the most famous female star in silent films. She holds a prominent place in American film history and played a crucial role in the development of cinema and women's contribution in it. In the later stage of her career, she attempted more melodramatic roles but the films failed at the box office. She retired to France, where she died 15 years later at the age of 49.
Childhood & Early Life
Pearl White was born on March 4, 1889, in Green Ridge, Missouri, to Edgar White and Inez White. Pearl’s father was a farmer and Pearl had four brothers and sisters. She lost her mother at the age of three.
The family then moved to Springfield, Missouri in search of better fortune but did not have much success. In order to help her family, she started her stage career at the age of six, playing the role of ‘Eva’ in ‘Uncle Tom's Cabin’.
She became a circus equestrienne at the age of thirteen; however, a spinal injury compelled her to leave the job.
She joined the Diemer Theater Company when she was in high school and performed plays with them at night.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Pearl White left high school at the age of 18 and joined the Trousedale Stock Company to perform in their evening shows. She also continued her day job. Soon, she joined the Company full-time and traveled around the American Midwest.
For some time, she sang American songs and travelled to South America where she performed in casinos and dance halls. In 1910, she suffered some throat problem because of which her voice weakened.
She played small roles for many years before being noticed by the Powers Film Company in New York. She debuted in films the same year, featuring in a series for Pat Powers in the Bronx and refined her skills at physical comedy and stunt work.
In 1910, she was offered a role by Pathé Frères in ‘The Girl from Arizona’. The next year, she worked at Lubin Studios and other independent studios.
From 1912 to 1914, she worked with Crystal Film Company for a number of slapstick comedy shorts. Later, she took up work with Eclectic Film Company, a subsidiary of Pathé. She starred in the film serial ‘The Perils of Pauline’ directed by Louis J. Gasnier. The serial was immensely successful and made her famous.
Over the next five years, she delivered bigger hits such as ‘The Exploits of Elaine’ (1914-1915), ‘The New Exploits of Elaine’ and ‘The Romance of Elaine’ (1915), ‘The Iron Claw’ (1916), ‘Pearl of the Army’ (1916-1917), ‘The Fatal Ring’ (1917), ‘The House of Hate’ (1918), ‘The Lightening Raider’ (1919) and ‘The Black Secret’ (1919-1920). She performed dangerous stunts in these serials.
By 1919, she became weary of film serials and wanted to perform in dramatic roles. The following two years, she performed in ten drama films for Fox Film Corporation but failed to deliver hits.
In 1924, she made her final film, ‘Terreur’ in France (released as ‘The Perils of Paris’ in USA). The next year, she performed in the ‘London Review’ at the Lyceum Theatre in London.
She retired from films in 1924 and invested her wealth in a nightclub, a resort casino, and a stable of ten race horses.
Continue Reading Below
Pearl White starred as the protagonist in 1914 serial, ‘The Perils of Pauline’. The story contained extensive action delivered perfectly by her.
From 1914–1920, she delivered big hits like ‘The Exploits of Elaine’ (1914-1915), ‘Pearl of the Army’ (1916-1917), ‘ ‘The House of Hate’ (1918), ‘The Black Secret’ (1919-1920), etc. wherein she performed dangerous stunts like racing cars, swimming across rivers, flying airplanes, etc.
Awards & Achievements
She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6838 Hollywood Blvd.
Personal life & Legacy
Pearl White was married to actor Victor Sutherland from 1907 to 1914 and to actor Wallace McCutcheon from 1919 to 1921. She had no children.
After her retirement, she got involved with a Greek businessman, Theodore Cossika. Together, they bought a home in Egypt and travelled to far off lands.
She died on August 4, 1938 at the age of 49 due to liver failure from severe alcoholism. She was buried in Cimetière de Passy.
She left most of her wealth to Theodore Cossika. The rest she willed to her father, nieces, and nephews, and donated $73,000 to charities.
She is a significant figure in the progression of American cinema. Her works are mostly considered lost; ‘The Perils of Pauline’ exist in an abridged nine-reel version and ‘The Exploits of Elaine’ is preserved at the United States National Film Registry.
She is remembered as the ‘Peerless Fearless Girl’ and ‘Heroine of a Thousand Stunts’ for performing dangerous stunts in numerous film serials.
She met her first husband Victor Sutherland at the Trousdale Stock Company.
Around 1914-1915 she was the most popular silent film female star.
Her second husband, Wallace McCutcheon Jr. suffered mental problems and finally committed suicide.
While performing stunts she suffered many injuries and depended on alcohol to reduce her chronic pain. In 1933, she was hospitalized for alcoholism and became addicted to her treatment medicines.