1. What was the first movie to have an opening crawl?
  2. What was the first movie serial to summarize events in previous episodes with an opening crawl, the practice which is continued in the movies?

My answer in this question:


Includes this paragraph:

So the available evidence is that the opening crawl was used for opening credits at least as early as The Plainsman (1936), and was used in a movie serial to summarize previous episodes at least as early as the Buck Rogers (1939) serial. Thus it is uncertain whether Buck Rogers (1939) was the first movie serial to use an opening crawl to summarize previous episodes.

And I was wondering whether anyone knows the history of opening crawls and can identify the first movie serial to use one to summarize previous episodes.

1 Answer 1


Movie serials had been recapping their earlier stories with crawls at least since the 1920s. (Serials in the 1910s were usually series with recurring characters but not cliff-hanger endings.)

Here's an example of The Woman in Grey (1920) that has the text crawl up the screen to recap the previous episode. It does not recede into the distance like the Star Wars and Buck Rogers text does. You can see the opening credits and the crawl on YouTube at The Woman in Grey, chapter 7.

Here's a great article on the crawl with examples that may have inspired George Lucas.

  • Star Wars was an interesting case since it was one of the first to use this which was not a sequel and (until the prequels came out) had no previous episodes to recap. Also it was not (at least directly) based on any previously existing work such as a comic book or novel, so nobody in the first audiences could possibly have had any prior knowledge of the story or the universe in which it took place. Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 14:18
  • @Darrel Hoffman Actually, I think that the novelization of Star Wars was released before the movie, and the article cited by Bruce Calvert says that the Marvel Comics adaptation was released before the movie. I myself read articles about Star Wars in Starlog Magazine before the movie premiered. So some movie viewers probably had some knowledge of Star Wars before the movie premiered. Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 17:11
  • 1
    @M.A.Golding Fair enough, though both the novelization and comic adaptation were based on the film and released to coincide with it, rather than being a long-established pre-existing franchise like Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, et al. It's not unreasonable to assume that the vast majority of the audience at the premiere were unfamiliar with the companion pieces. Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 17:39

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