100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

The First Movie Serial

In early 1912 the editor of THE LADIES’ WORLD magazine Charles Dwyer had an idea he wished to discuss with Horace G Plimpton, manager of Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope Company. Dwyer wanted to have a magazine series run through a number of installments with a parallel release of a film version of the story. The magazine segments and film installments would support each other.

A script was written by Horace G Plympton and the film was directed by Charles Brabin who made 12 “two-reelers” about 10-12 minutes in length each. It was titled WHAT HAPPENED TO MARY – pronounced as a statement, not a question. The star of the serial was 23 year-old Mary Fuller who had been acting in films since 1907.

On July 26, 1912 the very first movie serial was shown when the first episode of “WHAT HAPPENED TO MARY : The Escape from Bondage” premiered. On the same day the August 1912 issue of THE LADIES’ WORLD came out with Mary Fuller on the cover by Charles Dana Gibson with the first chapter of the story inside. It also featured a contest – “One Hundred Dollars For You If You Can Tell ‘What Happened to Mary.”

August 1912
“What Happened To Mary
cover art by Charles Dana Gibson

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