Mabel Ethelreid Normand (November 9, 1892note February 23, 1930) was both one of silent film's pioneer leading ladies and one of the pioneer women of comedy. She was the Trope Maker for Slapstick Knows No Gender.
Born in Staten Island, NY, Mabel Normand was independent, athletic, and adventurous from a young age. In 1908 she got her first job as a dress model for a magazine. By 1909, however, the young Mabel Normand had moved onto being extras in film. Being even a bit role in a film paid more than her previous job as a model, however her mother was not fond of this change of career and made Mabel go back to modeling. A few years later Mabel was coaxed back into film by her aspiring director boyfriend Mack Sennett. After her boyfriend fled to Hollywood, Mabel continued her career in New York. In 1912, Mack came back and took her with him to Hollywood, the place where her career truly began to skyrocket.
Starring in over 160 short films and over 60 feature-length films, Mabel was a profilic actress who mainly worked with Keystone Studios. Mabel Normand often co-starred with other comedic greats, Fatty Arbuckle and Charlie Chaplin.
Mabel also worked as as director, screenwriter, and producer. The first film she directed, Mickey, was stuck in limbo for two years, however Mabel used this time to heavily market the film which led to it becoming a blockbuster hit.
Unfortunately, despite all her accomplishments, Mabel Normand's reputation was, and continues to be, haunted by her numerous scandals.
In life, she was known a party girl with a drug problem. In 1922, Mabel visited William Taylor, a director friend of hers who helped get her into a drug rehab clinic, at his house. The next morning William Taylor was found shot in his house. Being the last person to see him alive, rumors began that Mabel was somehow related with his death and some even claimed that William was Mabel's drug-dealer. Mabel was ultimately not charged with the murder and the crime has yet to be solved. This one murder wasn't the only one Mabel Normand was unfortunately related to.
On New Years of 1924, Mabel and some of her friends - actress Edna Purviance (Charlie Chaplin's leading lady for eight years) and millionaire Courtland Dines - were out drinking and partying. Mabel's chauffeur was told to take her home if she got too drunk but she refused to go home. After Dines insulted her, Mabel's chauffeur (who turned out to be a former convict under a new alias) ended up shooting him dead with Mabel's own gun. The charges were ultimately dropped however the scandal ruined Mabel's career. No longer was she seen as the bright and innocent comedienne she was a few years prior.
If the previous troubles weren't bad enough, after staying in a hospital for an appendectomy Mabel was sued by another patient who said she committed adultery with her husband. The charges were unfounded, however they continued to sully Mabel Normand's already terrible reputation. Mabel kicked back this time and sued her accuser for $500K in libel. She ended up losing the suit.
In 1925 Mabel Normand went back to her home state and starred in the Broadway musical The Little Mouse. After the play bombed she returned to Hollywood the following year. Despite a new contract, Mabel's career never did recover from her scandalous past.
In 1927, Mabel's health took a turn for the worse when she contracted pneumonia and was afterwards diagnosed with tuberculosis. She spent her final year of life in a Los Angeles sanitarium. Mabel Normand died at age 38 of tuberculosis.
- Barney Oldfield's Race For A Life
- Mabel's Blunder
- Mabel's Strange Predicament
- Tillie's Punctured Romance
- That Little Band of Gold
- The Extra Girl