Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand

For Looking for Mabel this was a productive year, 2010 began on the euphoric high from the end of 2009 with the naming of Mabel Normandís film Mabel Blender (Keystone 1914) to the National Film Registry.   

In the spring, the production of the independent-movie Madcap Mabel was finished (which I worked on as technical adviser and the producer allowed me to hold the West Coast premiere here in California).

TCM contacted me about including Looking for Mabel material in its Moguls and Movie Stars seven-hour documentary for which I received on-screen credit in episodes 1 and 2. 

Recently the New Zealand Film Archive returned one of Mabelís comedies, Won In A Closet (Keystone 1914), which she directed and starred in while at Keystone. Russia has named only ten of the over 200 silent American movies they planned to make available; Molly O (Sennett 1921) was found there some years ago, and so it is possible that there might be more Mabel. 

Because Mabel co-starred and directed a number of Charlie Chaplinís Keystone comedies, with the release in 2010 by Flicker Alley of the Chaplin at Keystone, a 4-DVD boxed set we now have high quality copies of Mabel and Charlie playing together and it includes the UCLA restoration of Tillieís Punctures Romance, the first comedy feature. 

During the past couple of years a writer has been researching and polishing a stage play where Mabel presence scenes from her life to set the record straight; itís A Staged Talkie with Silent Pictures. I was told just this week that it is now completed. 

For years I thought I had all the Mabel Normand parlor music but in 2010 another piece was located ("Jinx") has been added to the collection played by William Thomas Sherman so it can be heard again. There are now eleven that are recorded and perhaps there are more to come. 

One of the exciting projects is a definitive collection of the best movies of Mabel Normand from film archives around the world, re-mastered on a new DVD multi-disc set. The announcement of the DVD set was made in September at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. I hope it will includes a number of features that Mabel Normand made for Sam Goldwyn that are now known to exist: When Doctorís Disagree has been located in Belgium; The Floor Below is in Holland; Head Over Heels was found awhile ago in the USA, and we all have What Happened To Rosa.   The Normand Collection DVD set is being compiled by Paul Gierucki of CineMuseum. It should be a grand collection. 

For me, the most satisfying is a full-blown documentary on the contributions of Mabel Normand to the movies. The work is ongoing, the script is fantastic, the images are magnificent, and the production group is brilliant (not just because it includes me).  

There is documentation that Mabel Normand started seriously working in the flickers a hundred years ago; the film historian, William M Drew has created an online documentary detailing the first hundred years of movie history and he let me help. 

It would be remiss not to mention 2 long awaited books, which although not about Mabel are important to the research of her time at Keystone; Mack Sennett: Fun Factor and the final analyst of Chaplinís last comedy of 1914 in La Naissance de Charlot.   

There are books, plays, scripts -- all in process in 2010 and next year . . . more and more.