Mabel Normand

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Mabel Normand
Mabelnormandportrait.jpg
BornMabel Ethelreid Normand
(1892-11-09)November 9, 1892
New Brighton, Staten Island, U.S.
DiedFebruary 23, 1930(1930-02-23) (aged 37)
Monrovia, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Tuberculosis
Resting place
Calvary Cemetery
NationalityAmerican
Other namesMabel Normand-Cody
OccupationActress, director, screenwriter, producer
Years active1910–1927
Spouse(s)Lew Cody (m. 1926–30)
 
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Mabel Normand
Mabelnormandportrait.jpg
BornMabel Ethelreid Normand
(1892-11-09)November 9, 1892
New Brighton, Staten Island, U.S.
DiedFebruary 23, 1930(1930-02-23) (aged 37)
Monrovia, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Tuberculosis
Resting place
Calvary Cemetery
NationalityAmerican
Other namesMabel Normand-Cody
OccupationActress, director, screenwriter, producer
Years active1910–1927
Spouse(s)Lew Cody (m. 1926–30)

Mabel Normand (November 9, 1892[1] – February 23, 1930) was an American silent film comedienne and actress, a popular star of Mack Sennett's Keystone Studios[2] and noted as one of the film industry's first female screenwriters, producers and directors.[3] Onscreen she appeared in a dozen commercially successful films with Charles Chaplin and seventeen with Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, occasionally writing and directing movies featuring Chaplin as her leading man[4] as well as sometimes co-writing and co-directing with Chaplin in films in which they played the lead roles. At the height of her career in the late 1910s and early 1920s, Normand had her own movie studio and production company.

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 with 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

Born Mabel Ethelreid Normand in New Brighton, Staten Island, New York, she grew up in a working-class family. Normand's mother was of Irish heritage, while her father was French Canadian.[7] 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 manufacturer's in lower Manhattan. 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, embarking upon 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 men who would later become icons such 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.[8] Most historians agree it was Normand who persuaded him to give Chaplin another chance[9] 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.[10]

In 1918, as her relationship with Sennett came to an end, Normand signed a $3,500 a week contract with Samuel Goldwyn and opened a film studio in Culver City.

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 assassinate the director. According to Giroux, Normand suspected the reasons for Taylor's murder, but did not know the identity of the triggerman.[11][page needed]

On the night of his murder, Normand left Taylor's bungalow at 7:45 p.m. in a happy mood, carrying a book he had given her as a loan. 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.[12] 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 throughout the ceremony.[13]

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.[14][15] At the time of his death, 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.

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.

In 1926 she married actor Lew Cody, with whom she had appeared in Mickey in 1918.[16] They lived separately in nearby houses in Beverly Hills. However, Normand's health was in decline. After an extended stay in Pottenger's Sanitorium she died in 1930 from tuberculosis in Monrovia, California, at the age of 37.[17] 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.[18]

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, making it a showcase for her talents on both sides of the camera.[19]

Quote[edit]

In popular culture[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 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).

Gallery[edit]

Selected filmography[edit]

YearFilmRoleNotes
1910Indiscretions of Betty
1911Her AwakeningThe DaughterDirected by D. W. Griffith
1911Why He Gave UpThe WifeCo-directed by Mack Sennett
With Fred Mace
1912The Water NymphDiving VenusAlternative title: The Beach Flirt
Directed by Mack Sennett
With Mack Sennett and Ford Sterling
First Keystone comedy
1912The Flirting HusbandDirected by Mack Sennett
With Ford Sterling
1912Mabel's LoversMabelDirected by Mack Sennett
With Fred Mace and Ford Sterling
1912At Coney IslandAlternative title: Cohen at Coney Island
Directed by Mack Sennett
With Ford Sterling and Fred Mace
1912Mabel's AdventuresMabelDirected by Mack Sennett
With Fred Mace and Ford Sterling
1913The Bangville PoliceFarm GirlWith the Keystone Cops
1913A Noise from the DeepDirected by Mack Sennett
With Roscoe Arbuckle and the Keystone Cops
1913A Little HeroWith Harold Lloyd
1913Mabel's Awful MistakesAlternative title: Her Deceitful Lover
Directed by Mack Sennett
With Mack Sennett and Ford Sterling
1913Passions, He Had ThreeAlternative title: He Had Three
With Roscoe Arbuckle
1913For the Love of Mabel
With Roscoe Arbuckle and Ford Sterling
1913Mabel's Dramatic CareerMabel, the kitchen maidAlternative title: Her Dramatic Debut
Directed by Mack Sennett
With Mack Sennett and Ford Sterling
1913The Gypsy QueenDirected by Mack Sennett
With Roscoe Arbuckle
1913Cohen Saves the FlagRebeccaDirected by Mack Sennett
With Ford Sterling
1914Mabel's Stormy Love AffairMabelDirector
1914Won in a Closet[24]Director
Alternative title: Won in a Cupboard
1914In the Clutches of the GangWith Roscoe Arbuckle and the Keystone Cops
1914Mack at It AgainDirected by Mack Sennett
With Mack Sennett
1914Mabel's Strange PredicamentMabelAlternative title: Hotel Mixup
With Charles Chaplin
(First film with Chaplin as the Tramp although the second released.)
1914Mabel's BlunderMabelDirector
With Charley Chase and Al St. John
Added to the National Film Registry in 2009[18]
1914A Film JohnnieMabelWith Charles Chaplin and Roscoe Arbuckle
1914Mabel at the WheelMabelCo-directed by Normand and Sennett
With Charles Chaplin
1914Caught in a CabaretMabelDirector, Writer
With Charles Chaplin
1914Mabel's NerveMabelDirected by George Nichols
1914The AlarmAlternative title: Fireman's Picnic
With Roscoe Arbuckle and Minta Durfee
1914Her Friend the BanditMabelCo-directed by Normand and Chaplin
With Charles Chaplin
1914The Fatal MalletMabelWritten and directed by Mack Sennett
With Charles Chaplin and Mack Sennett
1914Mabel's Busy DayMabelWriter, Director
With Charles Chaplin and Chester Conklin
1914Mabel's Married LifeMabelDirected by Charles Chaplin
Co-written by Normand and Chaplin
With Charles Chaplin
1914Mabel's New JobWriter, Co-director
With Chester Conklin and Charley Chase
1914Tillie's Punctured RomanceMabelDirected by Mack Sennett
With Marie Dressler and Charles Chaplin
1914The Sky PirateWith Roscoe Arbuckle and Minta Durfee
1914The MasqueraderActressUncredited
Written and Directed by Charles Chaplin
With Charles Chaplin and Roscoe Arbuckle
1914Mabel's Latest PrankMabelAlternative title: Touch of Rheumatism
Co-directed by Normand and Sennett
With Mack Sennett and Hank Mann
1914Hello, MabelMabelDirector
Alternative title: On a Busy Wire
With Charley Chase and Minta Durfee
1914Gentlemen of NerveMabelAlternative titles: Charlie at the Races
Some Nerve
Directed by Charles Chaplin
With Charles Chaplin and Chester Conklin
1914His Trysting PlaceMabel, The WifeWritten and directed by Charles Chaplin
With Charles Chaplin
1914Shotguns That KickDirected by Roscoe Arbuckle
With Roscoe Arbuckle and Al St. John
1914Getting AcquaintedAmbrose's WifeWritten and directed by Charles Chaplin
With Charles Chaplin and Phyllis Allen
1915Mabel and Fatty's Wash DayMabelDirected by Roscoe Arbuckle
With Roscoe Arbuckle
1915Mabel and Fatty's Simple LifeMabelAlternative title: Mabel and Fatty's Simple Life
Directed by Roscoe Arbuckle
With Roscoe Arbuckle
1915Mabel and Fatty Viewing the World's Fair at San FranciscoMabelDirected by Normand and Arbuckle
With Roscoe Arbuckle
1915Mabel and Fatty's Married LifeMabelDirected by Roscoe Arbuckle
With Roscoe Arbuckle
1915That Little Band of GoldWifeyUncredited
Alternative title: For Better or Worse
Directed by Roscoe Arbuckle
With Roscoe Arbuckle and Ford Sterling
1915Wished on MabelMabelDirector
With Roscoe Arbuckle
1915Mabel's Wilful WayMabelCo-directed by Normand and Sennett
With Roscoe Arbuckle
1915Mabel Lost and WonDirector
With Owen Moore and Mack Swain
1915The Little TeacherThe Little TeacherAlternative title: A Small Town Bully
Directed by Mack Sennett
With Roscoe Arbuckle and Mack Sennett
1916Fatty and Mabel AdriftMabelAlternative title: Concrete Biscuits
Written and directed by Roscoe Arbuckle
With Roscoe Arbuckle and Al St. John
1916He Did and He Didn'tThe Doctor's WifeWritten and directed by Roscoe Arbuckle
With Roscoe Arbuckle and Al St. John
1918The Venus ModelKitty O'BrienDirected by Clarence G. Badger
With Rod La Rocque
1918A Perfect 36MabelDirected by Charles Giblyn
With Rod La Rocque
1918MickeyMickeyDirected by F. Richard Jones and James Young
1919JinxThe JinxDirected by Victor Schertzinger
1920What Happened to RosaRosaDirected by Victor Schertzinger
1921Molly O'Molly O'Directed by F. Richard Jones
With George Nichols
1922Head Over HeelsTinaDirected by Paul Bern and Victor Schertzinger
With Raymond Hatton and Adolphe Menjou
1922Oh, Mabel BehaveInnkeeper's DaughterDirected by Mack Sennett
With Mack Sennett and Ford Sterling
1923SuzannaSuzannaDirected by F. Richard Jones
With George Nichols
1923The Extra GirlSue GrahamCo-written by Mack Sennett
Directed by F. Richard Jones
With George Nichols
1926Raggedy RoseRaggedy RoseCo-written by Stan Laurel
Directed by Richard Wallace
1926The Nickel-HopperPaddy, the nickel hopperCo-written by Stan Laurel
Featuring Oliver Hardy (uncredited)
1927Should Men Walk Home?The Girl BanditDirected by Leo McCarey
With Eugene Pallette and Oliver Hardy
1927One Hour MarriedWith Creighton Hale and 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. ^ Sherman, William Thomas. "Mabel Normand: An Introductory Biography". mm-hp.com. Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  8. ^ Chaplin, Charles (1964). My Autobiography. Penguin. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-14-101147-9. Retrieved July 29, 2010. 
  9. ^ Harper Fussell 1992, pp. 70–71.
  10. ^ Chaplin, Charles (2003 [First published 1964]). My Autobiography. London: Penguin Classics. ISBN 0-14-101147-5. 
  11. ^ Robert Giroux, A Deed of Death: The Story Behind the Unsolved Murder of Hollywood Director William Desmond Taylor, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1990.
  12. ^ "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." 
  13. ^ Giroux (1990), page 236.
  14. ^ Milton, Joyce (1998). Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin. Da Capo Press. p. 221. ISBN 0-306-80831-5. 
  15. ^ Basinger 2000, p. 92.
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ Vogel, Michelle (2007). Olive Thomas: The Life and Death of a Silent Film Beauty. McFarland. p. 9. ISBN 0-7864-2908-9. 
  18. ^ a b "Thriller and 24 Other Films Named to National Film Registry", Associated Press via Yahoo News (December 30, 2009)[dead link]
  19. ^ "A Happy Homecoming For Long-Lost Silent Films". NPR. April 16, 2009. Retrieved June 8, 2010. 
  20. ^ thinkexist.com, Mabel Normand Quotes. Retrieved December 24, 2007.
  21. ^ "Taylorology" (about William D. Taylor & era), (literateweb.com), September 2003, webpage: LitWeb-WDTaylor.
  22. ^ Staggs, Sam: Close-up on Sunset Boulevard: Billy Wilder, Norma Desmond and the Dark Hollywood Dream. St. Martin's Griffin Books, 2002
  23. ^ http://scriptline.livejournal.com/41950.html
  24. ^ 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]