Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mabel Normand, 1895-1930

Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914)

Today marks the birth anniversary of Mabel Normand, one of the earliest female comic stars. Those who know silents better than I do can probably come up with names of other comic actresses who were a hit even before Normand, but not by too many years. Normand's career took off at a young age when she worked with Mack Sennett at Biograph. Sennett is probably best known for the Keystone Kops, but he also helped launch the careers of Normand and Charlie Chaplin. As you can see above, Normand and Chaplin worked together in several movies, mostly shorts of course, since features weren't too common at the time. Or, at least, what we would consider features with a reasonable running time.

Tillie's Punctured Romance was a success, and with Mabel's success in a series of two-reelers co-starring Fatty Arbuckle, she wanted to do another feature, which resulted in Mickey, which also seems to be on Youtube in its entirety. Actually the runtimes of the Youtube videos differ by a couple of minutes, but I'm not certain how much of that is down to differing frame rates. At any rate, the stuff is all public domain so there's absolutely no problem re-linking it here.

Unfortunately, Normand's career ended badly, in a possible murder or suicide case involving her lover, actor William Desmond Taylor; then there was another case involving her gun, her chauffeur, and a millionaire. Oh, and she partied hard too, making her a difficult person to work with on her movies. That partying eventually caught up with her, as she caught tuberculosis and died at the age of 34.

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