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Silent Serial SensationsThe Wharton Brothers and the Magic of Early Cinema$
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Barbara Tepa Lupack

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501748189

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501748189.001.0001

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Unraveling Myra’s Mysteries

Unraveling Myra’s Mysteries

(p.131) Chapter 9 Unraveling Myra’s Mysteries
Silent Serial Sensations

Barbara Tepa Lupack

Cornell University Press

This chapter studies The Mysteries of Myra (1916). Although the Wharton brothers apparently abandoned some of the shorter pictures that they had been considering, early in the new year of 1916, they began preparations for The Mysteries of Myra. Pioneering in both subject and execution, The Mysteries of Myra aimed to avoid the hackneyed melodramatic lines of many early serials by offering instead what one contemporary reviewer called “a wonderful new theme that compels attention because of the puzzling thoughts regarding mental telepathy and spirits presented in a manner which follows authenticated scientific discoveries.” In other words, the serial purported to demonstrate the way that science had become powerful enough to “prove” the existence of the unscientific. Myra had other cultural reverberations as well. In addition to reflecting the unconventional “New Woman” type that had come into vogue in the 1910s, Myra Maynard was also emblematic of another early twentieth-century type in America popular culture: the adolescent girl as a liminal figure who, as she comes of age, uncannily mediates between the living and the dead. The scenario for the serial was written by Charles W. Goddard, a veteran of serial pictures who had scripted The Perils of Pauline and whose association with the Whartons dated back to their first Elaine serial production in 1914. On the Myra scripts, Goddard collaborated closely with American investigator of psychic phenomena Hereward Carrington, who supplied most of the occult story lines.

Keywords:   The Mysteries of Myra, Wharton brothers, New Woman, Myra Maynard, America popular culture, Charles W. Goddard, serial pictures, Hereward Carrington, occult story lines

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