Mabel Normand

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Mabel Normand
Mabelnormandportrait.jpg
Born Mabel Ethelreid Normand
(1892-11-09)November 9, 1892
New Brighton, Staten Island, New York, United States
Died February 23, 1930(1930-02-23) (aged 37)
Monrovia, California, United States
Cause of death Pulmonary tuberculosis
Resting place Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles
Nationality American
Other names Mabel Normand-Cody, Mabel Fortescue
Occupation Actress, director, screenwriter, producer
Years active 1910–1927
Spouse(s) Lew Cody (m. 1926)

Mabel Ethelreid Normand (November 9, 1892[1] – February 23, 1930) was an American silent film actress, screenwriter, director, and producer. She was a popular star and collaborator of Mack Sennett in his Keystone Studios[2] films and, at the height of her career in the late 1910s and early 1920s, had her own movie studio and production company.[3] Onscreen, she appeared in 12 successful films with Charles Chaplin and 17 with Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, sometimes writing and directing (or co-writing/directing) movies featuring Chaplin as her leading man.[4] Throughout the 1920s, her name was linked with widely publicized scandals, including the 1922 murder of William Desmond Taylor and the 1924 shooting of Courtland S. Dines, who was shot by Normand's chauffeur using her pistol. She was not a suspect in either crime. Her film career declined, possibly due to both scandals and a recurrence of tuberculosis in 1923, which led to a decline in her health, retirement from films, and her death in 1930 at age 37.[5][6]

Early life and career height[edit]

1917 trading card
1918 portrait
In A Little Hero (1913, Dutch language edition). Collection EYE Film Institute Netherlands.
Mabel's Strange Predicament (1914), the first film in which Chaplin plays the Tramp

Born in New Brighton, Staten Island, New York, she grew up in a working-class family. Normand's mother, Mary "Minne" Drury, of Providence, Rhode Island,[7] was of Irish heritage, while her father was French Canadian.[8] Her father Claude Normand was employed as a cabinet maker and stage carpenter at Sailors' Snug Harbor home for elderly seamen. Before she entered films at age 16 in 1909, Normand worked as an artist's model, which included posing for postcards illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson, creator of the Gibson Girl image, as well as for Butterick's clothing pattern manufacturers in lower Manhattan. For a short time, she worked for Vitagraph Studios in New York City for $25 per week, but Vitagraph founder Albert E. Smith admitted she was one of several actresses about whom he made a mistake in estimating their "potential for future stardom."[9] Her quietly effervescent lead performance, while directed by D. W. Griffith in the dramatic 1911 short film Her Awakening, drew attention and she met director Mack Sennett while at Griffith's Biograph Company. She embarked on a topsy-turvy relationship with him; he later brought her across to California when he founded Keystone Studios in 1912. Her earlier Keystone films portrayed her as a bathing beauty but Normand quickly demonstrated a flair for comedy and became a major star of Sennett's short films. Normand appeared with Charles Chaplin and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in many short films as well as Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel, and Boris Karloff.

She played a key role in starting Chaplin's film career and acted as his leading lady and mentor in a string of films in 1914, sometimes co-writing and directing or co-directing films with him. Chaplin had considerable initial difficulty adjusting to the demands of film acting and his performance suffered for it. After his first film appearance in Making a Living, Sennett felt he had made a costly mistake.[10] Most historians agree it was Normand who persuaded him to give Chaplin another chance,[11] and she and Chaplin appeared together in a dozen subsequent films, almost always as a couple in the lead roles. In 1914, she starred with Marie Dressler and Chaplin in Tillie's Punctured Romance, the first feature-length comedy. Earlier that same year, in January/February, Chaplin first played his Tramp character in Mabel's Strange Predicament, although it wound up being the second Tramp film released; Chaplin offers an account of his experience on the film in his autobiography.[12]

She opened her own company in partnership with Mack Sennett 1916. It was based in Culver City and was a subsidiary of the Triangle Film Corporation. She lost the company in 1918 when Triangle experienced a massive shake up which also saw Sennett lose Keystone and establish his own independent studio.

In 1918, as her relationship with Sennett came to an end, Normand signed a $3,500 per week contract with Samuel Goldwyn.

Scandals[edit]

Taylor's murder[edit]

Photoplay Magazine, 1921
Who's Who in the Film World, 1914

Director William Desmond Taylor shared her interest in books, and the two formed a close relationship. According to author Robert Giroux, Taylor was deeply in love with Normand, who had originally approached him for help in curing her cocaine dependency. Based upon Normand's subsequent statements to investigators, her repeated relapses were devastating for Taylor. According to Giroux, Taylor met with federal prosecutors shortly before his death and offered to assist them in filing charges against Normand's cocaine suppliers. Giroux expresses a belief that Normand's suppliers learned of this meeting and hired a contract killer to murder the director. According to Giroux, Normand suspected the reasons for Taylor's murder, but did not know the identity of the man who killed him.[13][page needed]

According to Kevin Brownlow and John Kobal in their book Hollywood The Pioneers the idea that Taylor was murdered by drug dealers was invented by the studio for publicity purposes.[14] There is no evidence that Normand was an addict, despite the fact that this is often repeated as if it were established fact.

On the night of his murder, February 1, 1922, Normand left Taylor's bungalow at 7:45 p.m. in a happy mood, carrying a book he had lent her. They blew kisses to each other as her limousine drove away. Normand was the last person known to have seen Taylor alive. The Los Angeles Police Department subjected Normand to a grueling interrogation, but ruled her out as a suspect.[15] Most subsequent writers have done the same. However, Normand's career had already slowed, and her reputation was tarnished. According to George Hopkins, who sat next to her at Taylor's funeral, Normand wept inconsolably.[16]

The Dines shooting[edit]

In 1924, Normand's chauffeur Joe Kelly shot and wounded millionaire oil broker and amateur golfer Courtland S. Dines with her pistol.[17][18] At the time of the shooting, Dines was romantically involved with Normand's friend (and frequent Chaplin co-star) Edna Purviance. Purviance was also the next door neighbor of William Desmond Taylor.

The Roscoe Arbuckle trials[edit]

Normand's co-star in many films, Roscoe Arbuckle was the defendant in three widely publicized trials for the rape and manslaughter of actress Virginia Rappe. Although Arbuckle was acquitted, the scandal destroyed his career, and his films were banned from exhibition for decades. Since she had made some of her best works with him, much of Normand's output was withheld from the public by default.

Later career and death[edit]

Photo by Fred Hartsook, ca. 1918

Normand continued making films and was signed by Hal Roach Studios in 1926 after discussions with director/producer F. Richard Jones, who had directed her at Keystone. At Roach she made the films Raggedy Rose, The Nickel-Hopper, and One Hour Married (her last film), all co-written by Stan Laurel, and was directed by Leo McCarey in Should Men Walk Home?. The films were released with extensive publicity support from the Hollywood community, including her friend Mary Pickford.

Crypt of Mabel Normand, at Calvary Cemetery

In 1926, she married actor Lew Cody, with whom she had appeared in Mickey in 1918.[19] They lived separately in nearby houses in Beverly Hills. However, Normand's health was in decline due to tuberculosis. After an extended stay in Pottenger Sanitorium, she died on February 23, 1930, from tuberculosis in Monrovia, California, at the age of 37.[20] She was interred as Mabel Normand-Cody at Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles.

Legacy[edit]

Mabel Normand has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contributions to Motion Pictures at 6821 Hollywood Boulevard.

Her film Mabel's Blunder (1914) was added to the National Film Registry in December 2009.[21]

In June 2010, the New Zealand Film Archive reported the discovery of a print of Normand's film Won in a Closet (exhibited in New Zealand under its alternate title Won in a Cupboard), a short comedy previously believed lost. This film is a significant discovery, as Normand directed the movie and starred in the lead role, displaying her talents on both sides of the camera.[22]

Cultural references[edit]

Movie theatre audience members Roscoe Arbuckle and Mack Sennett square off while watching Mabel Normand onscreen in Mabel's Dramatic Career (1913)
Mabel Normand, Mack Sennett and Charles Chaplin in The Fatal Mallet (1914)

Fictional portrayals[edit]

Normand is played by actress Marisa Tomei in the 1992 film Chaplin opposite Robert Downey, Jr. as Charles Chaplin; by Penelope Lagos in the first biopic about Normand's life, a 35-minute dramatic short film entitled Madcap Mabel (2010); and by Morganne Picard in the motion picture Return to Babylon (2013).

In 2014, Normand was played on television by Andrea Deck in Series 2, Episode 8 of Mr Selfridge and by Kristina Thompson in the short film Mabel's Dressing Room.[26][27]

Selected filmography[edit]

Some of her early roles are credited as "Mabel Fortesque".[28]

Year Film Role Director Co-Star Notes
1910 Indiscretions of Betty
1910 Over the Garden Wall
1911 Fate's Turning D. W. Griffith
1911 The Diamond Star
1911 A Tale of Two Cities William J. Humphrey
1911 Betty Becomes a Maid Betty
1911 Troublesome Secretaries Betty Harding Ralph Ince
1911 Picciola; or, The Prison Flower Theresa Girhardi
1911 His Mother
1911 When a Man's Married His Trouble Begins
1911 A Dead Man's Honor Helen
1911 The Changing of Silas Warner
1911 Two Overcoats
1911 The Subduing of Mrs. Nag Miss Prue
1911 The Strategy of Anne
1911 The Diving Girl The Niece
1911 How Betty Won the School Betty's Rival
1911 The Baron Mack Sennett
1911 The Squaw's Love D. W. Griffith
1911 The Revenue Man and the Girl D. W. Griffith
1911 Her Awakening The Daughter D. W. Griffith Harry Hyde
1911 The Making of a Man D. W. Griffith
1911 Italian Blood D. W. Griffith
1911 The Unveiling D. W. Griffith
1911 Through His Wife's Picture Mack Sennett
1911 The Inventor's Secret Mack Sennett
1911 Their First Divorce Case Mack Sennett
1911 A Victim of Circumstances Mack Sennett
1911 Why He Gave Up The Wife Henry Lehrman
Mack Sennett
Fred Mace
1911 Saved from Himself D. W. Griffith
1912 The Joke on the Joker Mack Sennett
1912 The Eternal Mother Mary D. W. Griffith Edwin August
Blanche Sweet
1912 Did Mother Get Her Wish? Nellie Mack Sennett
1912 The Mender of Nets D. W. Griffith Mary Pickford
1912 The Fatal Chocolate Mack Sennett
1912 The Engagement Ring Alice Mack Sennett
1912 A Spanish Dilemma Mack Sennett
1912 Hot Stuff Mack Sennett Mack Sennett
1912 A Voice from the Deep Mack Sennett
1912 Oh, Those Eyes Gladys Mack Sennett
1912 Help! Help! Mrs. Suburbanite Mack Sennett Fred Mace
1912 The Water Nymph Diving Venus Mack Sennett Mack Sennett
Ford Sterling
Alternative title: The Beach Flirt
First Keystone comedy
1912 The Flirting Husband Mack Sennett Ford Sterling
1912 Mabel's Lovers Mabel Mack Sennett Fred Mace
Ford Sterling
1912 At Coney Island Mack Sennett Ford Sterling
Fred Mace
Alternative title: Cohen at Coney Island'
1912 Mabel's Adventures Mabel Mack Sennett Fred Mace
Ford Sterling
1913 The Bangville Police Farm Girl Henry Lehrman Fred Mace
the Keystone Cops
1913 A Noise from the Deep Mabel Mack Sennett Roscoe Arbuckle
the Keystone Cops
1913 A Little Hero George Nichols Harold Lloyd
1913 Mabel's Awful Mistakes Mabel Mack Sennett Mack Sennett
Ford Sterling
Alternative title: Her Deceitful Lover
1913 Passions, He Had Three Henry Lehrman Roscoe Arbuckle Alternative title: He Had Three
1913 For the Love of Mabel
Mabel Henry Lehrman Roscoe Arbuckle
Ford Sterling
1913 Mabel's Dramatic Career Mabel, the kitchen maid Mack Sennett Mack Sennett
Ford Sterling
Alternative title: Her Dramatic Debut'
1913 The Gypsy Queen Mack Sennett Roscoe Arbuckle
1913 Cohen Saves the Flag Rebecca Mack Sennett Ford Sterling
1914 Mabel's Stormy Love Affair Mabel Mabel Normand
1914 Won in a Closet[29] Mabel Normand Alternative title: Won in a Cupboard
1914 In the Clutches of the Gang Roscoe Arbuckle
Keystone Cops
1914 Mack at It Again Mack Sennett Mack Sennett
1914 Mabel's Strange Predicament Mabel Mabel Normand Charles Chaplin Alternative title: Hotel Mixup
First film with Chaplin as the Tramp although the second released.
1914 Mabel's Blunder Mabel Mabel Normand Charley Chase
Al St. John
Added to the National Film Registry in 2009[21]
1914 A Film Johnnie Mabel George Nichols Charles Chaplin
Roscoe Arbuckle
1914 Mabel at the Wheel Mabel Mabel Normans
Mack Sennett
Charles Chaplin
1914 Caught in a Cabaret Mabel Mabel Normand Charles Chaplin Writer
1914 Mabel's Nerve Mabel George Nichols
1914 The Alarm Roscoe Arbuckle
Edward Dillon
Roscoe Arbuckle
Minta Durfee
Alternative title: Fireman's Picnic
1914 Her Friend the Bandit Mabel Mabel Normand
Charles Chaplin
Charles Chaplin
1914 The Fatal Mallet Mabel Mack Sennett Charles Chaplin
Mack Sennett
1914 Mabel's Busy Day Mabel Mabel Normand Charles Chaplin
Chester Conklin
Writer
1914 Mabel's Married Life Mabel Charles Chaplin Charles Chaplin Co-written by Normand and Chaplin
1914 Mabel's New Job Mabel Mabel Normand
George Nichols
Chester Conklin
Charley Chase
Writer
1914 Tillie's Punctured Romance Mabel Mack Sennett Marie Dressler
Charles Chaplin
Feature-Length film
First feature-length comedy
1914 The Sky Pirate Roscoe Arbuckle
Minta Durfee
1914 The Masquerader Actress Charles Chaplin Uncredited
1914 Mabel's Latest Prank Mabel Mabel Normand
Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
Hank Mann
Alternative title: Touch of Rheumatism
1914 Hello, Mabel Mabel Mabel Normand Charley Chase
Minta Durfee
Alternative title: On a Busy Wire
1914 Gentlemen of Nerve Mabel Charles Chaplin Charles Chaplin
Chester Conklin
Alternative titles: Charlie at the Races
Some Nerve
1914 His Trysting Place Mabel, The Wife Charles Chaplin Charles Chaplin
1914 Shotguns That Kick Roscoe Arbuckle Roscoe Arbuckle
Al St. John
1914 Getting Acquainted Ambrose's Wife Charles Chaplin Charles Chaplin
Phyllis Allen
1915 Mabel and Fatty's Wash Day Mabel Roscoe Arbuckle Roscoe Arbuckle
1915 Mabel and Fatty's Simple Life Mabel Roscoe Arbuckle Roscoe Arbuckle Alternative title: Mabel and Fatty's Simple Life
1915 Mabel and Fatty Viewing the World's Fair at San Francisco Mabel Mabel Normand
Roscoe Arbuckle
Roscoe Arbuckle
1915 Mabel and Fatty's Married Life Mabel Roscoe Arbuckle Roscoe Arbuckle
1915 That Little Band of Gold Wifey Roscoe Arbuckle Uncredited
Alternative title: For Better or Worse
1915 Wished on Mabel Mabel Mabel Normand Roscoe Arbuckle
1915 Mabel's Wilful Way Mabel Roscoe Arbuckle Roscoe Arbuckle
1915 Mabel Lost and Won Mabel Mabel Normand Owen Moore
Mack Swain
1915 The Little Teacher The Little Teacher Mack Sennett Roscoe Arbuckle, Mack Sennett Alternative title: A Small Town Bully
1916 Fatty and Mabel Adrift Mabel Roscoe Arbuckle Roscoe Arbuckle
Al St. John
Alternative title: Concrete Biscuits
1916 He Did and He Didn't The Doctor's Wife Roscoe Arbuckle Roscoe Arbuckle
Al St. John
1918 The Venus Model Kitty O'Brien Clarence G. Badger Rod La Rocque Feature-length film
1918 A Perfect 36 Mabel Charles Giblyn Rod La Rocque Feature-length film
1918 Mickey Mickey F. Richard Jones
James Young
Feature-length film
1919 Jinx The Jinx Victor Schertzinger Feature-length film
1920 What Happened to Rosa Rosa Victor Schertzinger Feature-length film
1921 Molly O' Molly O' F. Richard Jones George Nichols Feature-length film
1922 Head Over Heels Tina Paul Bern
Victor Schertzinger
Raymond Hatton
Adolphe Menjou
Feature-length film
1922 Oh, Mabel Behave Innkeeper's Daughter Mack Sennett Mack Sennett
Ford Sterling
1923 Suzanna Suzanna F. Richard Jones George Nichols Feature-length film
1923 The Extra Girl Sue Graham F. Richard Jones George Nichols Feature-length film
1926 Raggedy Rose Raggedy Rose Richard Wallace Carl Miller
Max Davidson
Feature-length film
1926 The Nickel-Hopper Paddy, the nickel hopper F. Richard Jones
Hal Yates
1927 Should Men Walk Home? The Girl Bandit Leo McCarey Eugene Pallette
Oliver Hardy
Feature-length film
1927 One Hour Married Jerome Strong Creighton Hale
James Finlayson

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ Monush, Barry (2003). Screen World Presents the Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors (Illustrated ed.). Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1-55783-551-2. Retrieved July 29, 2010. 
  2. ^ Harper Fussell 1992, pp. 50–52.
  3. ^ Harper Fussell 1992, pp. 71–73.
  4. ^ Harper Fussell 1992, pp. 64–70.
  5. ^ cite magazine article Films in Review September 1974 Mabel Normand A grand Nephew's Memoir Normand, Stephen
  6. ^ Ward Mahar, Karen (2006). Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood. JHU Press. p. 131. ISBN 0-8018-8436-5. 
  7. ^ Rhode Island State Census, 1875
  8. ^ Sherman, William Thomas. "Mabel Normand: An Introductory Biography". mm-hp.com. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  9. ^ Smith, Albert E. in collaboration with Phil A. Koury, "Two Reels And A Crank", Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1952.
  10. ^ Chaplin, Charles (1964). My Autobiography. Penguin. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-14-101147-9. Retrieved July 29, 2010. 
  11. ^ Harper Fussell 1992, pp. 70–71.
  12. ^ Chaplin, Charles (2003) [1964]. My Autobiography. London: Penguin Classics. ISBN 0-14-101147-5. 
  13. ^ Robert Giroux, A Deed of Death: The Story Behind the Unsolved Murder of Hollywood Director William Desmond Taylor, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1990.
  14. ^ Brown low and Kobal, Kevin and John (1979). Hollywood The Pioneers. New York: Alfred A Knopf. p. 111. ISBN 0394508513. 
  15. ^ "Press Film Star For Taylor Clew; Police Conduct 'Long And Grueling' Examination, Working on Jealousy Motive. Mabel Normand Speaks Tells Reporters Affection For Slain Director Was Based on Comradeship, Not 'Love.'". NYTimes.com. New York: New York Times. February 7, 1922. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 29, 2010. A motion picture actress was subjected to what the police termed a "long and grueling" examination at her home here tonight in an attempt to obtain a clew to the murderer of William Desmond Taylor. 
  16. ^ Giroux (1990), page 236.
  17. ^ Milton, Joyce (1998). Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin. Da Capo Press. p. 221. ISBN 0-306-80831-5. 
  18. ^ Basinger 2000, p. 92.
  19. ^ McCaffrey, Donald W.; Jacobs, Christopher P. (1999). Guide To the Silent Years of American Cinema. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 84. ISBN 0-313-30345-2. 
  20. ^ Vogel, Michelle (2007). Olive Thomas: The Life and Death of a Silent Film Beauty. McFarland. p. 9. ISBN 0-7864-2908-9. 
  21. ^ a b "Thriller and 24 Other Films Named to National Film Registry", Associated Press via Yahoo News (December 30, 2009) Archived January 6, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ "A Happy Homecoming For Long-Lost Silent Films". NPR. April 16, 2009. Retrieved June 8, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Taylorology" (about William D. Taylor & era), (literateweb.com), September 2003, webpage: LitWeb-WDTaylor.
  24. ^ Staggs, Sam: Close-up on Sunset Boulevard: Billy Wilder, Norma Desmond and the Dark Hollywood Dream. St. Martin's Griffin Books, 2002
  25. ^ http://scriptline.livejournal.com/41950.html
  26. ^ Spicer, Megan (2 January 2014). "Darien yard transformed into Keystone lot for short film". Darien News. Bridgeport, CT. Retrieved 1 August 2016. 
  27. ^ Hennessy, Christina (3 June 2014). "Darien-filmed short spotlights cinematic pioneer Mabel Norman". Hearst CT News Blogs. Retrieved 1 August 2016. 
  28. ^ Denise Lowe (2005). An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in Early American Films, 1895-1930. Psychology Press. p. 406. ISBN 978-0-7890-1843-4. 
  29. ^ Kehr, Dave (June 6, 2010). "Trove of Long-Lost Silent Films Returns to America". NYTimes.com. New York: New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 29, 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]