What Happened to Mary?

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What Happened to Mary
What Happened to Mary (1912) - 1.jpg
Still with Miriam Nesbitt, Mary Fuller, and Marc McDermott
Directed by Charles Brabin
Written by Horace G. Plympton
Starring Mary Fuller
Marc McDermott
Distributed by General Film Company
Release date
  • July 26, 1912 (1912-07-26)
Running time
12 1 reel episodes
Country United States
Language Silent (English intertitles)
Title card from an episode of the serial. Note that there is no question mark present in the series title.

What Happened to Mary (frequently erroneously referred to in various texts as "What Happened to Mary?" — but the title was a statement, not a question) is the first motion picture serial made in the United States.[1] Made by Edison Studios, the action serial consisted of twelve one-reel episodes released monthly beginning July 26, 1912 to coincide with the serial story of the same name published in McClure's The Ladies' World magazine. What Happened to Mary was performed as a stage play and published as a single-volume print novel, so is an early example of a multiple-media marketing campaign. The scripts was written by Horace G. Plympton and directed by Charles Brabin. The star of the serial was Mary Fuller.[citation needed]



This serial came to be after the editor of The Ladies' World, Charles Dwyer, met Horace G. Plimpton, manager of Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope Company. He was interested in the concept of the story and the plan for an installment each issue. A few days after the meeting he suggested making a film version of each installment. The parallel release of magazine and serial installments should support each other.[2]

The cover of The Ladies' World (1912) advertised "One Hundred Dollars For You IF You Can Tell 'What Happened to Mary" The first chapter of the story was printed in that issue with a competition. The closest correct guess at the events of the next twenty minutes of the story, in 300 words or less, would win $100. This was won by Lucy Proctor of Armstrong, California with the answer that Mary is rescued by a young man in his car. This solution was printed in the September 1912 issue.[2]

Although they would later become synonymous with the medium, and though the heroine did participate in perilous action sequences, no chapter-ending cliffhangers were employed in this production. A sequel (which did include a question mark in its title) was released in 1913 called Who Will Marry Mary?[2]

Chapter titles[edit]

  1. The Escape from Bondage
  2. Alone in New York
  3. Mary in Stageland
  4. The Affair at Raynor's
  5. A Letter to the Princess
  6. A Clue to Her Parentage
  7. False to Their Trust
  8. A Will and a Way
  9. A Way to the Underworld
  10. The High Tide of Misfortune
  11. A Race to New York
  12. Fortune SmilesSource:[3]

The stage version featuring Olive Wyndham as Mary was produced prior to the release of the published 1913 novelization which incorporated material from the play, the film, and the Ladies' World stories.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Robert K. Klepper, Silent Films, 1877-1996: A Critical Guide to 646 Movies, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers (2005) - What Happened to Mary? (1912) - Google Books pg 136
  2. ^ a b c Stedman, Raymond William (1971). "1. Drama by Instalment". Serials: Suspense and Drama By Installment. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 3–8. ISBN 978-0-8061-0927-5. 
  3. ^ "What Happened to Mary?". The Progressive Silent Film List. silentera.com. Retrieved January 2, 2009. 

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