The answer is a surprising, or perhaps not so surprising, YES.
|Anna Case 1922 Publicity Photo|
|Pearl White 1922 Publicity Photo|
In 1922 New Hampshire schoolchildren were asked, "Whom do you most wish to resemble when you grow up?" Answers depended upon the age and gender of the children. The most common answer among third and fourth grade girls was "teacher". No other response, out of 26 classrooms full of students, received more than one vote, not even "mother". Boys of the same age invariably answered "father".
|Anna Case and Pearl White share the motion picture bill on a Sunday in 1919|
Seventh and eighth graders showed greater sophistication, with the boys opting for Lincoln, Roosevelt and Washington, while 34 classrooms of girls were split evenly between opera diva Anna Case and silent screen star Pearl White! The consternation that ensued led to the student survey being written up in several educational journals, along with the directive that educators and parents be wary of the power of the motion picture to mold young people! This even as the movie industry was touting their product as a tremendous educational resource.
Pearl White made her name initially with the immensely popular 1914 series "The Perils of Pauline". The twenty installments introduced audiences to the "serial" concept, and gave us the term "cliffhanger", denoting the suspenseful ending of each film, which often had Miss White, who performed her own stunts, literally hanging from a cliff!
Anna Case made her one and only foray into full length feature films with the 1919 melodrama "The Hidden Truth". The film now being lost, it is unknown whether or not Miss Case was called upon to perform any particular stunts, although she was commended at the time for the fine horsemanship she displayed in the western scenes.
|Anna Case on horseback in "The Hidden Truth"|
It seems quaint now that hands would be wrung over idolization of an opera singer or the highest paid Hollywood actress. But it does say something about the immense visual power of the moving image. Especially in the case of Miss Case, where students' exposure was limited to that one movie from three years prior, and perhaps a few Edison records.
|Pearl White is "Up In the Air", 1914|
The motion picture had the ability to create, for perhaps the first time, an icon to rival Mom and Dad. And Teacher, too.
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