It is odd think that Keystone Mabel, also known as The Keystone Girl, appeared on the cinema screen for just three years, between 1912 and 1915. We might increase this time span, slightly, by including her time with the Biograph comedy unit, in which she served as the prototype for the later Keystone Girl. However, there was also a precursor for the prototype, in the ‘Betty’ that Mabel played in comedies alongside John Bunny, at the Vitagraph studios in 1911. Like the Keystone Girl, Betty was vivacious, effervescent and fashion-conscious. She lacked, however, the complexities and subtleties of the later Mabel, and was, let’s say, overly-bubbly, causing one critic to observe “There’s a lot of hugging and kissing going on in those pictures.” He was, naturally, right, but Betty blew onto the early screen like a whirlwind, and captivated the movie-going public, as well as the acting fraternity. The future King of Comedy, Biograph’s Mack Sennett, watched the Betty pictures with great interest, and it is a matter of record that he was made Biograph’s comedy director, just after Mabel arrived at Biograph, in around August 1911. In the first instance, D.W. Griffith, the director of drama down there, recognised that Mabel had talent, but her dark looks were what initially attracted him, and consequently, he put her into ‘bad girl’, tragic, and vamp roles. While many of the golden-haired actresses, like Mary Pickford, shied away from such parts, Mabel almost revelled in them, although, being ‘bad’, she always died before the last scene. Mack Sennett was watching her closely, noting her zany and somewhat outrageous personality around the studio.
In particular, he noted that you could always find her at the centre of a knot actors, a knot which he found impossible to penetrate, as he makes clear in his memoirs. Mabel had a magnetic personality. Almost as soon as Mack was made comedy director, he went to Griffith and sought Mabel on a shared basis. Griffith had no option but to agree, for he did not have continuous work for all of his girls. The likes of Mary Pickford and Blanche Sweet, could hang around for days on end, without being put before the camera. As for Mabel, she was not at all pleased, about working with the clumsy oaf Sennett, who possessed little in the way of social skills, and was not well-liked, and even despised, by most of the Biograph actresses. He also had some odd ideas about comedy, and thought he could base his entire film portfolio on cops being kicked in the derriere and hit over the head with clubs. As it turned out, Sennett possessed an inane knack for knowing what would work on celluloid, and what would not. His later success was to come by using this ability and imposing it, by closely supervising his actors. Supervision was also a major strategy utilised by D.W. Griffith, and Sennett was nothing, if not a willing disciple of the movie genius. What supervision meant was laying out strict parameters for a film, and the way an actor performed within that film. The overall director need not direct every scene, but he would need to brief the actors and proxy director, on what he required. In this article, it will be argued that it was close supervision that created the Keystone Girl from Mabel / Betty and a lack of close supervision that ended the time of the Keystone Girl. We start by looking at Mabel’s concept of a motion picture.
Getting Mabel Onboard.
It seems that Mabel had thought that she was well and truly rooted in dramatic films under D.W. Griffith, and as she later told it, she was shocked when Griffith agreed to share her with Sennett. She had no interest in Mack’s crazy notion of comedy, but she went along with his ideas. This is where Mack’s supervision came in, and, rather than presenting Mabel as a crazy slapsticker, he made her the pivot, the fulcrum, or Queen Bee of his pictures. She was only slightly dizzy, and not as ‘dippy’ as some people think. This prevented Mabel from tarnishing her reputation as a serious actress (to a point), and gave her some way to express her acting talents. Moving on to Keystone was a different story. Away from Griffith and Biograph, she’d be a sitting duck, a foil, for the excesses of Mack Sennett and his company of clowns. The record, however, shows that Mabel did join Keystone and leave New York behind – almost 3,000 miles behind. This could only have happened, despite the lure of being the sole leading lady, if Mabel had been assured that the move would not harm her career. The assurance, we can assume, was that Mabel would be given dramatic outlets in the comedies, and that, eventually, they would shoot wholly dramatic pictures, alongside the comedies. The well-known arguments arose between Mack and Mabel, when Mabel was constrained in her drama, and the actual dramatic films never materialised. In other words, Mabel was being closely supervised, to ensure she did not drift too far from involvement with the ‘kick ass’ type of comedy. From what Sennett stated in his autobiography, Mabel would always try to circumvent the restrictions imposed by the agreed script, and Mack would have to intervene. From late 1913, Mabel directed the films she appeared in, and it seems possible that some knockabout comedians actually complained to Sennett, about what she was doing. It is entirely possible that they considered their performance was being diluted, by what they might have deemed ‘dramatic showboating’. Henri Lehrman (the ‘fake Frenchman’) was certainly one of these, as was George ‘Pops’ Nichols, although to a lesser extent, perhaps. Lehrman, we know, was the snitch that always ran to the boss with stories about other actors [Sennett’s memoirs]. Furthermore, it is clear that Sennett gave himself roles in the films, cameo and otherwise, that would enable him to keep an eye on proceedings. When things first came to a head in the Fall of 1913, Mack presented Mabel with ‘Mabel’s Dramatic Career’ in which she could be as tragic and dramatic as she liked – within reason of course. In the last scene of the picture, Sennett added something for the vaudevillian who was about to arrive at the studio. The details of that have been covered in previous articles, but the vaudevillian’s name is well known. It is Charles Spencer Chaplin.
Slapstick Isn’t So Bad.
By the time that Chaplin came to the studio, Mabel had received her dose of artistic freedom, as far it existed in those days. From what we can gather, from various statements, and a telegram to Sennett by Keystone big boss, Charles Baumann, Sennett “hated Chaplin’s guts.” [Sennett’s Private Papers: Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences]. Someone else, however, thought that he would be of use. We are talking, of course, of Mabel Normand. Chaplin was a newcomer to motion pictures, and had no idea as to how films were made [his memoirs], and this made him someone she could befriend,. Charlie says he detected this, when he first met her. Mabel made a point of befriending theatre people, like the Arbuckles. Her old friends at Biograph had mainly been stage artists, and Mabel knew that Keystone was a hostile environment for thespians. She had plans to take Chaplin under her wing, but she probably had an ulterior motive. Being a new actor on the block, Charlie would, perhaps, put up with more of her ideas than the old timers, like ‘Pops’ Nichols. After just one outing with Charlie, however, in ‘Mabel’s Strange Predicament’ Mabel suddenly decided to abandon the tramp, no doubt because he was given the opening scene to himself, during which he fell about, drunk, in a hotel lobby (his forte as well as his father’s). There was a two-month hiatus in the Mabel/Charlie relationship, although it is likely that the top management wanted them as a team. Due to a very important two-reeler being readied, it seems the two had to be brought together, perhaps by order of Charles Baumann himself . Mabel had little use for a knock-about comic in this picture, and surely Charlie did not want to be in a film with a heroine, and especially one denoted by the press as ‘The Queen of The Movies’. Furthermore, he had always resented being cast as a villain. Charlie went on strike, was nearly beaten to death by the crew, and soon forced to comply with Mabel’s wishes. To be brief, Chaplin made good from this experience, and he became Mabel’s favourite, or ‘prize’ as Chester Conklin later put it. In their films, Mabel let Charlie slapstick as much as he wanted, while he did not complain about her exercising her abilities as a tragedienne in the comedies. In fact, he would later utilise Mabel’s combination of melancholy and mirth in his own pictures. It is curious to note, nonetheless, that Mabel indulges in more slapstick in the Chaplin films, than she would ever do again. Was this a quid pro quo situation? We will never know for sure, but her knowledge of motion pictures, derived from none other than movie genius D.W. Griffith, would have secretly irked the little limey, who had bombed in the legitimate theatre (although he did meet ‘the most beautiful girl in the world’, Marie Doro). Eventually, bohemian Charlie left Keystone, leaving a vacuum to be filled. Sennett had tired of the tales he’d heard of Mabel and Charlie ‘stealing’ company cars for trips downtown, and hours spent together in Mabel’s dressing room, when they should have been on set. “They’re in love” Henri Lehrman told Mack, according to Mack’s memoirs, and love meant only one thing to Mack – that they might run off together. Now Chaplin was gone, Mack would wreak his revenge on ‘The Queen of The Movies’.
1915 proved a difficult time for Mabel. Mack was out to show that he did not need her. He brought in wriggling broads, that he called the Bathing Beauties – pretty girls, scantily clad, and with wicked eyes. Then he put her with Roscoe Arbuckle, who had become a veteran slapsticker, over the previous two years. Mack made it plain – there would be ass-kicking, there would be mallets over the head, but there would be no more melancholy or sad endings. Roscoe and Minta Arbuckle sympathised with her, as did thespian Raymond Hitchcock and wife, when they arrived, during that year. Mabel was in a bad place, but whether she conspired with the new management, ‘Triangle’, to move out of Keystone, we do not know for sure. History recalls that, on New Year’s Eve 1915, Mabel, Roscoe, Minta and Al St. John’s mounted the train, and headed east. Their destination was the Triangle and New York Motion Picture studio at Fort Lee, New Jersey. There they would make films, expected to be standard Keystone fare. However, the film ‘He Did And He Didn’t’ turned out to be a unique comedy. A semi-drama, it ended up with Roscoe and Mabel trying to kill each other. With a nod of respect to Sennett, they gave it a happy ending – it all turned out to be a Dallas-like dream. This was Mabel turning the tables on The King of Comedy, but there was more to come. In early March, the company arrived back in California – minus Mabel. What was happening? Nobody knew. Then, newspaper and magazine articles began to appear:
[Source: ‘Mabel Normand: A Sourcebook to Her Life and Films.’ by Wm. Thomas Sherman].
Panic ensued in the Triangle camp. Mabel must not go to Chaplin or Keystone’s former distributor and current enemy, Mutual! No one knew where Mabel was, but somehow, the bosses arranged that she would have her own company, The Mabel Normand Feature Film Co, and it would have its own studio, down in Hollywood, two blocks from her former mentor D.W. Griffith’s Fine Arts studio. One suspects a conspiracy here – either Mabel conspired with Triangle boss, Harry Aitken, and Kessell and Baumann against Sennett, or vice versa, we cannot tell, but Mabel reappeared in L.A. a few weeks later, as gay as a wisp (as Mack Sennett later told it). The studio was the new building erected by Sennett on Fountain Avenue, but under the Triangle rules, he was barred from interfering in the new company, although he he had been allotted 25% of the shares (see endnote). Thomas Ince would be supervisor, and would arrange the director. If Mabel smelled a rat here, then she ought to have, for Ince was busy with big pictures,to follow up on ‘Civilisation’ and all too soon, he bailed, and Sennett stepped in. The Queen (and she was Queen, now, of all she surveyed) could probably have screamed, but there was no turning back, this was show business and no show, no business. Then rows began over the choice of director. Sennett brought in four, including George Lane Tucker, and they were all rejected by Mabel. She’d heard of a new super-kid on Alessandro Street, F. Richard Jones, and she demanded him. Mack was against it, for he was now wary of putting young guys with Mabel. In the end, though, Mabel won out, and the result was the acclaimed film-of-the-century, ‘Mountain Bred’ or ‘Mickey’ as it was to become. Was this Mabel’s greatest picture? Probably. It was a dramatized comedy, and although the Keystone Girl was still recognisable within it, there were some new aspects to her character. Jones had walked a tightrope between Mack and Mabel and come up with the goods.
The Advent of The Goldwyn Girl.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) ‘Mickey’ languished eighteen months before release, by which time the Triangle corporation had blown apart, spewing its constituent parts onto the streets of L.A., Fort Lee and New York. Due to the problems, Mabel was left languishing, after completing her film. Perhaps, held on a retainer by Triangle or Keystone, Mabel considered the situation to be dire enough for her to sign with a company that was months away from its first picture, Goldwyn Films. Mabel was called to New York by Sam Goldwyn in March 1917, and so, Triangle continuing to falter, she arrived in Manhattan, ready to go. Then something happened, and Mabel went cold on the Goldwyn deal. What the something was, we do not know, but the signing of a second star, Mae Marsh, might have caused her to have second thoughts. Again, she called journalists to her hotel room, and announced that she was available to the highest bidder. Mack Sennett, reading of Mabel’s defection, immediately sent lawyers to negotiate with her. Sam was furious with Mabel, and just as immediately, sought a court injunction, preventing her from working for any company, except Goldwyn Films. If he lost Mabel, his studio would not get off the ground, and his backers would withdraw their funding. We will miss out the shenanigans that ensued, between Mack, Mabel and Sam, but it is sufficient to say that Mabel was soon in Florida, making films as The Goldwyn Girl. Now what, or who, was the Goldwyn Girl. Well, the Goldwyn Girl, was nothing like her Keystone antecedent. Mabel, to some extent, was (professionally) out of control.
Sam was not a hands-on producer like Mack, and left day to day studio business to his supervisor, Abe Lehr, or “Abe Leer” as Mabel called him. Mabel changed directors as often as she changed Parisian frocks, and once more locked horns with George Loane Tucker. George kept at it this time, but, as with all directors, appeals for Sam to intervene fell on deaf ears. He wined and dined Mabel, spent hours conversing with her in the dressing room, and clearly was only interested in her friendship. If that meant a $3,000 dressing room overhaul, or time off water-skiing on Long Island, then so be it. In fact, he formed the opinion that Mabel knew the movie business inside out, and could be left to write and direct her own pictures. This was obviously true, but what pictures would she produce? Comedies, yes, but not comedies as the public knew them – Mabel was no Buster Keaton, producing films by linking endless gags together on a reel. We might describe Mabel, as an ‘anti-gagster’, her time with D.W. Griffith having given her a passion for higher things than slapstick. The Griffith in her, overtook the Keystone, and, although she thought she was being, shall we say, ‘culturally comedic’, the pictures had become flat, and her friends thought she’d lost her spark, and become ‘commonplace’. Here’s the crazy thing, though. The public still raved about Mabel, and could not get enough of her Goldwyn pictures. If they thought a film was lacklustre, then they forgave her, on the certainty that the next one would be better. The effect of the release of ‘Mickey’ while Mabel was at Goldwyn, blew Mabel from Queen Of The Movies to Goddess Of Hollywood. As big stage-star Madge Kennedy told it:
“We were all queens at one time or another, but Mabel was different, she was a goddess”.
‘Mickey’ of course, was the film that pitched Griffith’s ‘Birth Of A Nation’ off top spot, as the world’s biggest-selling picture. What did DWG think about that? Unfortunately, we will never know. Naturally, the motion picture was then rising to great heights, and Mabel rose with it, but it has to be said that Sam Goldwyn was a master of publicity, and Mabel received her fair share of that publicity, as the film industry burgeoned. For every film that Goldwyn brought out, so came a ton of memorabilia, and in-house events, while magazines produced pop-out, paper Mabel film characters that could be tricked out with paper fashions.
On Jack Pickford’s visit to the studio, Sam brought Jack and Mabel together for their first public get-together since their Biograph days, seemingly a thousand years ago. Sam made a big thing of brother Claude Normand coming to the studio, fresh from the Somme trenches, riding his new Indian motorcycle. The public loved the photos shot of Jack and Mabel on the bike. They got so close that an English magazine ran a ‘Jack and Mabel’ cartoon strip, in which Jack and Mabel appeared almost as an item. The world had gone Mabel crazy. In terms of art, however, where did Mabel now stand? With no strict supervision, Mabel had, professionally speaking, dared to walk on water. From what we can see, from the surviving fragments of the Goldwyn films, she had attempted to make dramatic films that had some comedy, within the parameters of the drama. Now, contrary to what many might think, and especially those that have not seen her films, Mabel’s comedy was subtle, and she relied, for comic effect, on ultra-fine facial expressions, and in particular on changes (often lightning fast) of facial expression. In the Goldwyn films she also utilised subtle hand gestures. We might put forward the hypothesis that, in the Goldwyn films, there was no counterbalance to Mabel’s subtlety and dramatics. In other words, she needed a slapsticker, a foil, off which to ‘bounce’. Chaplin, obviously, had Edna Purviance, and he fully understood that without her, he (the melancholic comedian), was nothing. Mabel’s idea that she could go it alone with comic drama, produced films that were not really that funny overall, although she herself did produce some laughs.
A Sennett Girl Again.
In spite of everything, the Keystone in Mabel was dying. Sam, for his part, was also running into trouble, even though he was making money from Mabel’s films. His ex-theatrical stars weren’t doing so well. People like Charlie Chaplin, were horrified at the films Mabel was appearing in – although they made money now, they were not commercial enough to carry Mabel forward in her career, should the current gravy train end. This, it seems, is what Chaplin told Sam. Sam responded by docking $1,000 a week from her pay, and putting the cash into war bonds – Mabel would not end up on the streets during his watch. However, Sam knew he was going bankrupt. Mabel was a very valuable young lady, an asset, and loaning her out to other studios at a large fee, seemed to make sense. Mack Sennett wanted Mabel back. He had no female star that could hold her own in the area of big feature films – and Mack wanted features, badly. He wanted to hold his own, not against Keaton and Roach, but against the big boys, the Adolph Zukors, the Laskys and the Louis B. Mayers of the industry. Mabel was his passport to that end. It is stated, by Mack Sennett, that $30,000 changed hands, and Mabel was freed to make one picture for Sennett Comedies. What did Mabel think about that? It seems she was not exactly euphoric, and we can imagine that she preferred Goldwyn to control-freak Sennett. In fact, Mabel even offered Sam $50,000 to help him out, which Sam graciously declined. For his part, Sennett did all he could to bring Mabel onside. In his autobiography, Mack states that he promised “to make the films she wanted”, and assured her that he could make films bigger and better than any man alive. Mabel was, it seems, incredulous. The King of Comedy was bound to reassert control, although the resources he proposed to put at her disposal, were colossal. Mabel signed for $3,000 a week and 25% of the net profits of one film. The standard ‘artist supplies costumes’ clause was deleted, and Mabel demanded a dressing room furnished to high standard, with a marble bath installed. A limousine was to be sent daily, to waft her into the studio. Was Mabel grateful? Probably, but she felt a certain contempt for Mack. While she did not treat him with outright disdain, she was very formal with him, as Sennett states in his memoirs. She had never called him Mack, but instead used his real name, Michael. Now he was Mister Sennett.
Mack was true to his word, and poured in cash to the tune of above a quarter-million dollars to ensure success [he says]. He also gave Mabel exclusive use of director F. Richard Jones, which undoubtedly made her more amenable. What Sennett did not do, was to give Mabel free reign over the content of the new film ‘Molly O’. The King’s idea was to release Mabel from some of the chains that had held her to the Edwardian Keystone Girl. Actresses were beginning to show more flesh in their pictures, and be more daring in the portrayal of their intimate (screen) lives. If Sennett had showcased Mabel’s derriere in the old films, well, it was now seemly to put a camera up her skirts. Tame stuff, really, but Mabel was very conscious of damaging her reputation, to the detriment of her career (her public knew nothing of her raucous social life, and thought she spent her time talking to her roses, and sipping tea with the vicar). However, she could now actively pursue her leading man, and be shown leering at the guy from around a corner. And, some guy was her leading man – none other than hunk and heart-throb, Jack Mulhall. Way back at Keystone, things had been different. Mabel was never the pursuer, she always had one love, no matter how many guys chased her, and how many ‘ideal’ suitors father brought to the house. Sometimes, though, Mabel was fickle, and played one lover off against another. We might suppose that this appealed to the young girls in her audience, whilst not initiating any particular disgust in their accompanying mothers, and it does appear that Mabel was among the first to bring females, in any number, to the wicked movie houses (her avowed interest in the suffragette movement, might also have helped here). There are, in ‘Molly O’ many attempts to bring drama and melancholy into the scenes. This, however, is fairly well controlled, and we might suspect Sennett’s hand intervening here. When Mabel becomes tragic, you can almost see Sennett cringing on the set, but he allowed plenty enough of it through. In terms of box office receipts, Molly O’ almost matched ‘Mickey’ which was quite an achievement in 1921, when the competition was becoming extremely fierce. Apart from anything else Griffith’s ‘Way Down East’ and ‘The Flapper’ starring Olive Thomas, were still roaming the world’s cinemas.
Following ‘Molly O’ Mabel’s life became very complicated. Mabel signed for another Sennett picture ‘Susanna’ but at Sennett’s New Year’s party, Mabel arrived with someone called William Desmond Taylor. In contravention of producer/employee etiquette, Mabel left early with her man. Taylor had a butler, by the name of Peavey, and when Taylor turned up dead a few weeks later, Peavey pointed the finger at Mabel. Taylor had been a director and ‘fixer’ at Paramount studios, and Peavey told the coroner that Mabel was annoyed at Taylor’s reluctance to get her into Paramount. Here is proof that Mabel wanted out of Sennett Comedies, and, as soon as ‘Susanna’ was completed, she left for Europe. In the surviving portion of ‘Susanna’ we see little of the girl in ‘Molly O’ but a hint of the old Keystone Girl. Very cute, and the man-hunter is somewhat contained. Following the crescendo of criticism, in the aftermath of the Taylor scandal, it was impossible to present Mabel as anything other than a rather elderly ingenue. Mabel did one last film for Sennett, ‘Extra Girl’ made in 1923. The ingenue here, is overlain with a veneer of melancholy and tragedy, so intense that it would make an ancient Greek theatre-goer cry. The film was Mabel’s saviour after Taylor, and aptly followed the story of a (sweet of course) girl, lured to Hollywood by the dream of stardom, where she gets fleeced by villains. As usual, the film has a happy, married, ending. The final inter-title says:
Not exactly Mabel, but it helped stop some flak. Extra Girl, then is a curious mix of the old Keystone Girl, and elements of the Molly O’ girl, woven together, with a bit of magic by F. Richard Jones. It is worth noting that there are a few freshly-enhanced facial expressions here, two of which were later used by someone at the Hal Roach studio. Mabel, as we know, made her next and last films with Roach, but we need not go there. Well, perhaps we do need to go there to finish off the story.
In 1926, Mack asked Mabel to come to Allesandro Street for discussions about a new picture. Mabel went along, but, although her presence caused quite a stir among the young actors and actresses (all childhood Mabel fans), she declined the offer. Instead, she went to Mack’s arch-enemy, Hal Roach. Hal, at that time, was signing ‘fallen stars’ on a pittance, and had signed Theda Bara at $50 a week. However, he had to pay a pretty penny for Mabel. The studio supervisor was none other than F. Richard Jones, and her screenwriter/director, surprisingly, Stan Laurel. There can be no doubt that Jones had much to do with Mabel’s pictures, as Stan would have been as nervous as hell (he’d never worked with ‘the greats’). Jones might have been a fine director, but he was constrained, it seems, by the writ of Hal Roach. Hal produced funny films, but they were just that, funny films. Ninety-per-cent of his pictures were of the gag and slapstick variety, and he rarely, if ever, ventured onto the ground that Mabel trod, at least prior to 1937.
Hal was as Irish as Mack and Mabel, but he never understood where they were coming from (Mabel labelled him ‘that thick-necked Mick’). Even with the help of Dick Jones, Mabel never managed to quite pull it all together, as in the Sennett films. There are glimpses of the later Stan Laurel in Mabel’s performance in ‘Raggedy Rose’. Whether this was the way Mabel was going, or Stan or another director, steered her in that direction, we don’t know. However, Stan watched closely, especially when Dick was on set. Many years later, he said he’d learned everything from Jones. He couldn’t say it, but he also learned from Mabel. Remember Stan’s’ hair scratch’ and the ‘dumb face’ – they’re pure Mabel. As for Roach, he took a lot of abuse from Mabel and the ‘girl-gang’ she brought to the studio, and, unsurprisingly, Hal was not sorry to see her go. The conclusion on the Roach year is that Mabel was supervised, but in the wrong way, due to the imposition of the Roach formula, which made all his pictures pretty much alike, regardless of who was in them. In a way, Roach was a gag counter, and Mabel was most unsuited to his studio. Hal is credited with the statement “Mabel’s talent was for a comic situation rather than sustained narrative” which is just the sort of thing we might have expected him to have said, although totally and deliberately misleading (or perhaps he hadn’t seen her feature films).
Summing it all up.
The Keystone Girl was a product of her time. To Mack Sennett, she was entirely necessary to his scheme, but it was probably Mabel that first thought that The Keystone Girl had a limited shelf-life. Whether she also thought that Mack would agree to transforming her into a more dramatic character we do not know, although it seems clear that The King made constant attempts to restrain her dramatic excesses. Mabel’s idea seems to have been to combine comedy and drama in equal measure, which, we might say, was an unworkable notion. You can have a drama with some comedy, and you can have a comedy with some drama, but you cannot have the two in equal quantity, otherwise you are in a kind of no-man’s land, which, naturally, no audience would comprehend. Sennett had an innate understanding of what people wanted, and he knew that what they wanted was slapstick and short, sharp situation comedy. That was 1911 to late 1914. Thereafter, like Mabel, he thought something different should be added. More special effects were needed, more modern machines, and a troupe of pretty girls clad in bathing suits. In late 1916, having partly complied with Mabel’s wishes in Mickey, he foolishly let her walk away. Too late did he realise that, regardless of his crazy clowns and wriggling beauties, he had nothing that could take the fight to the big studios, or tweak the nose of his old master, D.W. Griffith. Some luck, and a wad of dollars, secured Mabel from Sam Goldwyn for ‘Molly O’ in which he allowed Mabel a large measure of freedom, but made sure that some of the Mabel of old came through in the film. After Roach, it was left to Sennett to proclaim “Mabel, I could have made great films for you, greater than any man alive!” Quite possibly, he could have.
Endnote: Sennett contract with Kessell and Baumann for the Mabel Normand Picture Company (MNFFC).
[Source: Mabel Normand: A Sourcebook Her Life and Films]
King of Comedy by Mack Sennett (1954).
Behind the Screen by Samuel Goldwyn (1923).
Mabel Normand: A Source Book to her Life and Films by Wm. Thomas Sherman (2006)
When the Movies Were Young by Linda Griffith (1925).
The Man Who Invented Hollywood: The Autobiography of D.W. Griffith. Edited and Annotated By James Hart. 1972.
Mabel Normand’s Own Life Story by Chandler Sprague. Los Angeles Examiner (February 17, 1924)
Looking For Mabel Normand: http://www.freewebs.com/looking-for-mabel/.
Charles Chaplin: My autobiography by Charles Chaplin (1964).
The Dream That Came True in Motion Picture Magazine (Dec. 1916).
Dreams for Sale: The Rise and Fall of the Triangle Film Corporation by Kalton C. Lahue. 1971.
Mabel Normand Says Goodbye, by James R. Quirk, Photoplay May 1930.
The Life and Clowns of Mack Sennett by Simon Louvish (2003).
The Dream That Came True in Motion Picture Magazine (Dec. 1916).