What Happened to Mary (1912)

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Often referred to as America's first serial, the incredibly popular What Happened to Mary was actually 12 self-contained one-reel melodramas featuring Mary Cuyler (Mary Fuller), a young foundling whose foster-father (Charles Ogle) had been promised 1,000 dollars if he can marry her off to one of the local young men. In the first installment, "The Escape From Bondage," poor Mary manages to extricate herself from this humiliating situation and the following 11 chapters detail how she made a life for herself in the Big City despite the machinations of a dastardly villain (William Wadsworth). Each of the 12 stories were first published in Ladies World, arguably history's first movie tie-in, and the Edison Company produced the series with funding from the magazine. Walter Edwin and J. Searle Dawley shared directorial duties and the series also featured Marc MacDermott as the hero, Miriam Nesbitt as a spy, Carey Lee, Arthur Housman (later Hollywood's favorite onscreen drunk), Benjamin F. Wilson, and Edna Flugrath, the older sister of screen actresses Viola Dana and Shirley Mason. Mary Fuller became a major star as a result of this series.