Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand

 

Marilyn Slater

Looking-for-Mabel

June 7, 2015

 

In 1918 Mabel Normand was busy making movies for Samuel Goldwyn and making a wee bit of the nuisance of herself with her silly teasing of Geraldine Farrar.  Mabel and Geraldine (Jerry as her friends called her) had known each other for awhile.  Jerry was on the committee that arranged to have the Liberty Bell brought to the Panama Canal Exposition in San Francisco; according to the Moving Picture World, July 31, 1915[1]; among the folks that occupied boxes at the program were Geraldine Farrar, Blanche Sweet, Carlyle Blackwell, Mabel Normand, Raymond Hitchcock, Mrs. Raymond Hitchcock (Flora Zabelle), Mack Sennett, Owen Moore, “Diamond Jim” Brady, Barney Baruch, Fred Mace, Marshall Neilan and many, many more.

 

Geraldine Farrar[2] (February 28, 1882 – March 11, 1967) was an American soprano opera singer and film actress, noted for her beauty, acting ability, and "the intimate timbre of her voice[3]." She had a large following among young women, who were nicknamed "Gerry-flappers".

 

At the Goldwyn Studio at Fort Lee, Mabel was still a silly girl, a slapstick comedian and she was indeed over her relationship with Mack Sennett.  Jerry was married to the ‘gorgeous’ Lou Tellegen,[4] she was a 36 year old prima dona, still singing at the Metropolitan Opera, she only worked in silent movies during the Met’s off-seasons, she continued to sing until she was into her late 40s. In an article titled GERALDINE FARRAR on “Does Old Age hold Terrors for Me[5]?” She tells that she is terrifically busy that she doesn’t have time to answer.

 

Frederick James Smith was working for “MOTION PICTURE MAGAZINE”, November 1918[6] in an article title “Mabel In A Hurry” he writes about Mabel’s giddy life at Goldwyn Studios, she didn’t keep appointments[7] and was an exasperating influence on cast and crew, a very unprofessional professional but much loved but perhaps not by Jerry.

 

There is a rather grand story that Harry Carr tells in Screen Secrets[8]; of Mabel and Jerry while at Fort Lee, Mabel made it her mission in life to see that Geraldine Farrar develop a sense of social equality. After all Jerry was said to have been the mistress of Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany, back in 1903.

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“A male opera star was playing in Farrar’s picture and they playfully carried their atmosphere with them.  They used to sing little impromptu dialogue at each other. As for instance: “Good Morn-ING! how are you this mo-o-o-orn-i-i-ing?” And the tenor would reply from the balcony in front of his dressing room, “V-e-e-ry well, I THANK YOU.” Naturally this was too much for Mabel. One day the opera stars were horrified to hear another voice chiming into their duet with an outburst of song not calculated to add to the dignity of either, or the peace and harmony of the situation.”

          Jerry didn’t want visitors on her sets while she preformed. Jerry was a true prima dona. She complained to the management that Mabel stood around the scenery and rubbernecked. The management tactfully suggested that Mabel find some other kind of entertainment. Mabel insisted that she had to look at something and she didn’t know where else to look.  Whereupon all of Jerry sets were closed. Mabel was found peeking through a knot hole. The knot hole was plugged up. One day Jerry heard a noise and looked up and found Mabel. The “dreadful child” had shinned up into the rafters and was looking down at Jerry from the roof beam.

One more story this one told by Abraham Lehr[9], Samuel Goldwyn Studio’s manager, “…she (Mabel) stormed around my office the day she discovered that for Miss Geraldine Farrar we had fixed up pleated silk panels in her dressing room. Not that Mabel cared whether she had pleated silk panels, but she didn’t want Geraldine to put one over on her”.

ghgh

It was during this period that Geraldine Farrar called Number 1 West 17th Street, New York City “HOME, SWEET HOME” She was Mrs. Lou Tellegen, better known to the general world as Geraldine Farrar, better known to the cinema world as “Carmen” and “Joan the Woman”, and best known to her intimates as Jerry. 

In a series of photographs found in the PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE, April 1918.[10] There are flowers, flowers everywhere, lending the note to the scheme and adding a hospitable air.  For Farrar loves flowers; and her friends know this, and keep her surrounded with the loveliest blossoms.  Then in her boudoir, is the informal note; the restful, quiet atmosphere that aids Jerry’s imagination that soothes even while it stimulates her appearances on the stage of the Metropolitan. 

Jerry’s husband was Lou Tellegen[11] a Dutch-born silent film actor. On February 9, 1916, Tellegen married Geraldine Farrar, the Metropolitan prima dona  He had been married before to Countess Joanne de Brockere.  In August 1921, after they had lived apart for some time, Tellegen sued for separation in Westchester County. Farrar retaliated by suing for divorce in New York county. A decree was granted to her two years later. Lou married two more times in 1923 to Nina Romano. In 1930 he married Eve Casanova but while he was married he was said to have had a number of affairs.  In a book of reminiscences, “Women Have Been Kind,”[12] he named names and places and raised a storm of condemnation.

At the time of his death he had become friends with Mrs. Jack Cudahy, the widow of the meat packing heir whose mansion at 1844 N. Vine Street, was just south of Franklin. The police determined that Tellegen had stood before a mirror in his bathroom, shaved and powdered his face, then stabbed himself in the chest seven times with a pair of scissors. How he managed to repeatedly stab himself and beard the pain of thrust after thrust, mystified police. The autopsy disclosed that two of those stabs penetrated the heart.

When Jerry was told of his death[13], she told reporters: “Why should that interest me?” she snapped. “It doesn’t interest me in the least.”

ghgh

I maybe a bit hard on Jerry, but she was hard on Mabel, and Lou. He was the man she loved and who shared a lovely apartment in 1918.

 

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So let’s walk around her apartment:

 

 

ENTRANCE-HALL

The entrance-hall with its tile flooring and black and white bearskin rugs is dignified and impressive.  If Miss Farrar ever dreamt she “dwelt in marble halls”, she never dreamt she dwelt in one more lovely than this.

 

 

 

LIVING ROOM

It is but a step from the formality of the hack to the grand salon, warm with green and rose brocades and splendid Chinese rugs; and the funny Chinese dogs on either side of the fire-place are not a bit afraid of the big tiger who is stalking them from the green and gold piano

 

 

 

DINNING ROOM

On the rare occasions when Miss Farrar dines at home she does so in a room all black and gold; and she sits in a sandalwood chair and is served at a sandalwood table.  The Chinese cabinet and the bright yellow rug with dark, impressionistic figures witness her

 

 

BEDROOM

The bedroom is as it should be – simple and restful.  Can you imagine anyone not sleeping well on that creation of ivory enamel draped in satin, old blue, and rose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is not a mere couch.  It is a “day bed.”  Here Miss Farrar rests for almost the entire day before her operatic appearances, reading and relaxing.

 

BOUDOIR

In one corner of the boudoir is a companion piece to the slipper cabinet on the opposite pages.  In contains fans and such other feminine fripperies as would delight the heart of anyone with a taste for the exquisite.  It is surmounted with a collection of photographs of imitate friends.

 

 

 

 

“I am in her boudoir fair.”  It is done in French gray and the hangings are old blue and pale rose.




 

 

 



[1] Moving Picture World, July 31, 1915; Mabel Normand Source Book; Version 7 – 2015; Transcribed by Wm Thomas Sherman (see below)

 

[2] Wikipedia.org  - Geraldine Farrar  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geraldine_Farrar

 

[4] Menefee, David, “The Rise and Fall of Lou-Tellegen”, 2011 Menefee Publishing

 

[5] Motion Picture Magazine, October 1918, Geraldine Farrar on “Does Old Age hold Terror for Me?” (see below)

 

[6] Motion Picture Magazine, November 1918, Mabel In A Hurry, Mabel Normand Source Book; Version 7 – 2015; Transcribed by Wm Thomas Sherman. (see below)

 

[7] Normand, Mabel; Short, Short Story,

 

[8] Screen Secrets, October-November, 1929, Harry Carr, The Tragic Life Story of Mabel Normand, Mabel Normand Source Book; Version 7 – 2015; Transcribed by Wm Thomas Sherman.

 

[9] Mahar, Karen Ward; Women Filmmakers in Early Hollywood, 2008

 

[10] Photoplay Magazine, April 1918; HOME, SWEET HOME, with Geraldine Farrar

 

[11] Wikipedia.org – Lou Tellegen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_Tellegen

 

[12] Tellegen, Lou; “Women Have Been Kind: The Memoirs of Lou Tellegen”, The Vanguard Press, 1931

 

[13] Wikipedia.org – Lou Tellegen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_Tellegen

 

 

 

 

# 1 MOVING PICTURE WORLD

 

 

Mabel Normand Source Book

Version 7 - 2015

Transcribed by Wm Thomas Sherman

 

 Moving Picture World, July 31, 1915

The crowning event of the convention [held in San Francisco, July 13-17, 1915] was the grand ball, held in the Municipal Auditorium in the Civic Center. This event had been widely heralded, and extensive preparations made, a feature of the arrangements having been the bringing from Los Angeles of almost fifty prominent screen artists from the leading studios.  As was the case with the convention itself, the task of arranging the details of the ball devolved upon the chairman of the Convention Committee, M. E. Cory, and much of the credit for the success of this affair must be given him.

            Owing to the fact that the historic old Liberty Bell arrived in San Francisco late Friday evening, some of the plans for the ball had to be changed at the last minute and many of the dignitaries of the state and city were unable to be present until the festivities of the evening were well under way. Governor Johnson, who was to have led the grand march with Geraldine Farrar, was a member of the committee that brought the historic relic to the exposition grounds and unfortunately could not be present. Mayor Rolph was also absent, but representatives of the city government were on hand to grace the occasion.

            The gathering of screen favorites was fully up to the expectation of the ball committee, and during the early part of the evening the boxes they occupied were surrounded by eager throngs of admirers, the floor officers finding difficulty in keeping the crowd moving.

            In keeping with the exposition and Liberty Bell spirit which prevailed, the hall was tastefully decorated in the exposition and national colors, and after the commencement of the grand march the scene was further enlivened by the releasing of hundreds of colored balloons.

            The grand march was led by Carlyle Blackwell and Blanche Sweet, followed by other leading picture players, the new and retiring officers of the National League and the state and local organizations. Following this, the regular dance program began and lasted until the early morning hours. Owing to the immense size of the auditorium, and the fact that many who attended were onlookers occupying seats in the balcony, the floor was crowded at no time, and the attendance was larger than appeared to be the case. Motion Pictures were taken of the grand march by Mills Brothers. Mr.Sciaroni was in charge of the lighting and photographing. The pictures were shown at the Empress theater on Saturday evening...

            Among the player folks and film men who were present and occupied boxes were Geraldine Farrar, Blanche Sweet, Carlyle Blackwell, Mabel Normand, Raymond Hitchcock, Mrs. Raymond Hitchcock (Flora Zabelle), Mack Sennett, Owen Moore, “Diamond Jim” Brady, Barney Baruch, Fred Mace, Marshall Neilan, Ella Hall, Robert Leonard, Hobart Bosworth, Hobart Henley, M. L. Markowitz, Bessie Barriscale, Howard Hickman, Frank Keenan, W. S. Hart, House Peters, Kenneth O’Hara, Myrtle Gonzales, Mrs. Gonzalez, Sam Spedon, William Duncan, Jesse Lasky, Morris Gest and wife, C. B. De Mille, W. W. Hodkinson, wife and party, Bobbie Harron, Mae Marsh, Dorothy and Lillian Gish, Mrs. Gish, Francix X. Bushman, Marguerite Snow, Irving Ackerman, Fred J. Balshofer, Marie Empress, Art Smith, aviator; Mrs. Smith and Manager William Bastar and Mrs. Bastar, G. M. Anderson, Victor Potel and Mrs. Potel, Ben Turpin, Jesse Jackson, and Shorty Jack Hamilton...

 

 

 

# 5 DOES OLD AGE TERROR ME

# 6 MABEL IN A HURRY

Mabel Normand Source Book

Version 7 - 2015

Transcribed by Wm Thomas Sherman

 

 

Motion Picture Magazine, November 1918

            Mabel In A Hurry

            by Frederick James Smith

            This is the thrilling story of an interviewer’s giddy life. “You talk to all the stars and get paid for it,” people say, plaintively, to an interviewer. “How do you get away with it?” For their benefit, we faithfully relate our thrilling day with Mabel Normand.

            We had particularly looked forward to our chat with Mabel Normand because that star had -- perhaps we’re violating a confi­dence in telling this -- promised to “bat” our guide “over the bean” upon his next invasion of her immediate vicinity. Thus we gathered at the outset that Miss Normand was a young lady of tempestuous moods and moments.

            With fond expectations of an exciting interview prelude, we reached Goldwyn studios “somewhere in Fort Lee” at the unearthly hour of 9:30 o’clock. That was the weird hour set for the opening interview of hostilities.

            No, gentle reader, Mabel Normand had NOT yet arrived.

            We were told to go the limit in amusing ourselves till the star arrived.

            We watched the ukulele orchestra play while fifty extras ball-room danced in a scene for the forthcoming “Back to the Woods.” The actual filming would not take place until Miss Normand arrived.

            At 10 o’clock the ukuleles were still strumming idly... [Here Smith describes his looking in on Geraldine Farrar being film.]…

            Fearing that we might be one of these Irritating Influences. We wandered back to the Normand stage. 11:30 -- still no Miss Normand. The ukuleles still played, the extras still danced, the electricians still tinkered with the lights

            “Perhaps I can give you a few things of interest about Miss Normand,” said our guide. “For one thing she never keeps an appointment. If she has an appointment for four, it usually occurs to her to begin dressing for it at 4:30.”

            “Is it possible?” we murmured. Then a commotion stirred the studio. Miss Normand in decollete’, partially hidden by a dress­ing robe, dashed across the floor.

            “Lo!” she exclaimed to us en passant.

            “Lo! Rushed!...Late!...Back in a minute!”

            Which you will admit is vivid stuff for an interview.

            After a rehearsal in the ball-room set, she dashed back to us.

            “You don’t look a bit like an interviewer,” she began. This is the usual way stars have of making you feel perfectly at home. “Just back from West Virginia. Amazing up there in the mountains. Service flags out in front of every one of those quaint cabins. We hired some of the women to work in our picture. They looked so poor that I sent to the nearest town and bought them some dresses...Do you know they’re fearfully proud? Yes indeed. I had an awful time soothing their ruffled feelings and getting them to accept the clothes. I gave them some books, too. You know the stuff -- Laura Jean Libbey and that sort of book.”

            “Out of your own library,” spoofed our guide. “I’ll bet you depleted it terribly.”

            “Go on!” pouted Mabel. “You talked as if you had flat feet. I don’t read Laura Jean Libbey and you know it!”

            “No?” responded the guide, skeptically.

            “No!” snapped Mabel. Then she told us of her new maid, a woman acquired from some millionaire’s home. This staid maid hadn’t yet adjusted herself to the mazes of studio life -- or the chameleon personality of Miss Normand.

            “She told me that she had worked for several millionaires,” Mabel explained, “but I told her I wouldn’t hold that against her.”

            “Pictures are still in their infancy or something like that,” began Miss Normand. She started talking of brother Claude Normand member of 106th Machine Gun Battalion, now in France. When the presence of the screen star leaked out, Claude was the most popular lad on board his transport.

            Between scenes I picked up on other scraps of information. Mabel once lived for 30 days on ice-cream. I don’t know why -- or what flavor -- but she did. I didn’t have time to ask her. She thinks Charlie Chaplin the screen’s greatest actor. She keeps scores of dime savings banks and is overjoyed when she fills them. Indeed, she chuckled at the mere thought of cramming one of them.

            She likes flowers that are purple. She ‘fessed that she signs her letters “Me,” and when she likes a person she calls that lucky one “Old Peach.” (We expect a “Me” letter after this interview appears, but we doubt that any “Old Peach” graces its lines.)

            She has a terrific weakness for black lace stockings. She would rather do drama then comedy-drama, that is, with a smile now and then. She always carries a tiny ivory elephant for good luck.

            Which completes our stock of information gained while Miss Normand dashed from studio floor to her mirror, close to which powder and eye-pencils rested on a chair.

            It was 1:30. We had talked fully eight minutes in all the four and a half hours to the star. One’s impressions aren’t so very vivid after a piece-meal chat like this. Some one told us once that Miss Normand reminded them of a dancing mouse, whirling madly all the time but without purpose. She admitted to us that while she seemed gay most of the time, she really wasn’t. “I get terribly blue and sad,” she sighed. She does lead an exciting career.

            “Life is such a rush,” she said. We left her, while she dashed hurriedly thru a lunch brought her in a limousine. Looking back now, our clearest mental picture is of a young lady with wonderfully long lashes.

            “Good-by,” concluded Mabel. “Gimme my grape-fruit and a gas mask!”

 

 


 

# 7 BY MABEL NORMAND

Short, Short Story

I’m bad, bad, bad!

But I’ll really keep my engagement,

If there was one sprig of poison-ivy

In a field of four-leaf-clovers,

I’d pick it up.

If it was raining carbolic acid,

I’d be the dumb-bell sponge

 

# 8 TRAGIC LIFE

 

Mabel Normand Source Book;

 Version 7 – 2015;

Transcribed by Wm Thomas Sherman;

Screen Secrets,

  October-November, 1929,

Harry Carr,

The Tragic Life Story of Mabel Normand

                 

            Mabel Normand will always be remembered as the little girl who littered up the floor of her limousine with peanut shells.

            As the girl who walked down the street with THE POLICE GAZETTE under one arm and the highbrow ATLANTIC MONTHLY under the other.

            As the girl with the brain of a philosopher and the ribald tongue of a gutter-snipe.

            As the girl whose intimate friends included a woman of international notoriety, a gentle old priest, the queen of a night club, a learned judge of the Federal bench and an old Indian squaw.

            As the girl whose friends and associates absolutely adored her; whose servants would willingly have committed murder in her behalf; yet who suffered as no other girl in Hollywood ever suffered from scandal and unjust gossip.

            As the girl who all but ruined herself through self sacrifice; and met only with ingratitude.

            As the girl to whom hardship and poverty brought happiness; to whom wealth and fame brought unhappiness.

            The life of Mabel Normand is as full of contradiction as a chapter from ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

            Mabel has always been a little tomboy.

            She was born on Staten Island in New York Harbor, in 1894. Her people were miserably poor.  She “jes’ growed,” like Topsy. The little girls of the neighborhood were too tame. She played most of the time with the boys. She could “skin the cat” on the limbs of all the trees, play “one ol’ cat,” wield a shinny club, and put up a pretty good fist fight on occasion.

            Situated as Staten Island is, quite naturally the great playmate of all the children was the sea. Mabel played tag with the Atlantic Ocean from the time she could walk. It was important to her after life that she learned to swim and dive when she was a little girl. It wasn’t tame-cat swimming that Mabel did. She could do any daring stunt in the water that the boys did. Her first distinction was to win the diving championship of Staten Island.     

Another fact that was to be an important factor in her life was that in Mabel’s gang was a little French-Canadian boy. His name at that time was Louis Coti. In later years he altered the spelling to Lew Cody. He and Mabel played “prisoners’ base” and swam together, as little children. Now she is Mrs. Lew Cody.

            She wasn’t all boy, however. She had the usual yearnings of little girls for dolls and clothes.  But her family had such a direful struggle for existence that she never had money for either.

            I have heard Mabel tell how she used to stand in front of the story windows at Christmas time and look, until her little heart ached, at the dolls that some little rich girl would find in her Christmas stocking. She told me how one day she found her favorite window so frosted by the storm of the night before that she couldn’t see into the window. So she leaned against the glass and licked a peek hole through the frost with her little hot tongue.

            At the time Mabel was growing up, it was the period of girls and artists. “The Gibson Girl” upstaged the world from the covers of LIFE.

“The Penrhyn Stanlaws Girl” smiled out through a swirl of decoration. “The Howard Chandler Christy Girl” beamed from bachelors’ walls. A girl with a lovely face found her footsteps drawn to the studios. Mabel was a beautiful child--with big lustrous eyes, a face that glowed with animation and intelligence. Her figure was superb.

            Several girls of her acquaintance, among them Alice Joyce and Olive Thomas, were posing for artists: they brought Mabel along. She posed for many of the magazine covers and story illustrations. She posed for Penrhyn Stanlaws, C. D. Williams, Cole Phillips and other famous artists. She got 50 cents and hour and $5.00 for posing for photographs for front covers.

Between times, she was a cloak model. Once every season, she and Alice Joyce and several other girls went to Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia, as part of a New York fashion show.

            Mabel got to be quite famous as a model.  It was in the days of full skirts with ruffles and she won a prize offered for the most beautiful “Fluffy Ruffles” girl.

            One day she and some of the other girls were reading a newspaper in one of the studios. They saw an advertisement stating that twenty beautiful girls were wanted at the motion picture studio of the Vitagraph Company.    

At that time, Vitagraph came pretty near being the motion picture business. Under the leadership of Commodore J. Stuart Blackton, the company was beginning to reach out from little news flashes of flags waving from flag poles, cows standing in running streams, engines steaming down the tracks, and started little dramas.

            Candidates appeared in swarms. Commodore Blackton says it was no job to pick out Mabel from the swarm. She shone out in the line of waiting candidates like a diamond on a sidewalk, she was so beautiful and so adorably young.

            Her first picture narrowly escaped being her last. In order to make the tank deeper for diving, a pit filled with water and surrounded by planking was constructed inside the other tank. They didn’t know much about studio engineering in those days. Just as Mabel was getting ready to make a dive into the tank, the whole thing burst with a roar and a rush of water. Everybody on the set was half drowned and heavy planks were flung about like chaff from a threshing machine.

            After the swimming picture was finished, the rest of the twenty swimming young ladies were sent on their way.  Mabel was offered a regular job.

Her salary sounded like staggering wealth. She got $25--every week!

            At that time, there were several stars in the Vitagraph Company who were headed for fame.  Jim Corbett, ex-heavyweight champion of the world, was making some physical culture pictures with the help of Florence Turner. Anita Stewart was a lovely little girl just trying to break in.  Maurice Costello--father of Helene and Dolores--was the bright star.

            Mabel’s first picture was with Maurice Costello. It was called “Over The Garden Wall.” She played the part of a girl who disguised herself as a maid to test the affections of her rich lover.

            Mabel didn’t last long at Vitagraph. That corporation decided to stagger along without her services--owing to a typically Mabelesque incident.     

The old elevated railroad ran past the studio--right past Mabel’s dressing room. This was far too great a temptation for her tomboy heart. She used to stand in the window and kid the passengers as they went by. Some of them got sore and complained to the picture company officials, who looked very grave at Mabel.  That young lady was defiant. “What do the dirty dogs want to look in my dressing room windows for?” she demanded. The discussion led to this and that.  It finally led to Mabel’s looking for a job.

            At that time the old Biograph was getting started on Fourteenth street in New York.  A long, lean actor named David Wark Griffith was begging for a chance to direct a picture. A very much embarrassed Irishman, who had been working his way from a pick and shovel on the streets to a job singing in a chorus, was asking them if they needed a strong man. His name was Michael Sinnott; but he preferred being called Mack Sennett. A little girl from the stage was there with her mother. Her name was Mary Pickford. Blanche Sweet, a young dancer, had come to do a dance scene in a picture and had lingered on to become an actress.

            Billy Bitzer, the veteran camera-ace who photographed “Broken Blossoms,” “Intolerance,” “The Birth of a Nation” and other Griffith masterpieces, remembers when Mabel joined the Biograph company. He says she was at that time the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.

            The trouble was that she didn’t get the breaks. Her flare was for comedy and most of the Griffith pictures in those days were solemn and heavy affairs.

            The other girls, Mary Pickford and the Gishes, tried very hard to get on.  They were always experimenting with new makeups, making tests, etc.

But her job weighed very lightly on Mabel. So it can’t be said that she made a great artistic commotion in the picture world.

            In those days, Griffith was turning out a picture a week. Mabel, Mary Pickford, Blanche Sweet--and later the Gish girls and Florence Turner, were in most of them. Whenever there was a comedy bit, Mabel played it. When there wasn’t, she frequently played heavy ladies with a dark past.

            The first great adventure of her life came when Griffith brought the Biograph company out West. They found an old house in Los Angeles and played one-reel dramas.

            Mabel lived under the chaperonage of Mrs. Pickford. Mabel was still the studio tomboy. She was recognized as a holy terror.  She lived with Alice Joyce and another girl in one of the early day apartment houses in Hollywood.

            From the first, Mabel showed brilliant promise as an actress. She had a vivid sense of drama, a striking originality and an artistic sympathy. The only trouble she had was in learning the technique of the screen. She wanted to go through every scene like a whirlwind. The camera was out of breath trying to keep up. But so great is Mabel’s power of concentration and will power that she finally became noted throughout the film world for her perfect sense of time. Her screen scenes became models to be studied in that regard.

            When I first knew Mabel Normand, she was a queen.

            That was in 1916. The old Keystone comedies were then at the height of their fame. The Keystone Kops were known all over the world. The pay checks of the kops held many names afterward to be famous--Harold Lloyd, Mal St. Clair, Slim Summerville, Ramon Novarro.

            It was like a big fun factory.  There were twenty-two producing companies. When the studio automobiles drew up in front of the old Sennett lot every morning to take the comedians out on location, it looked like an army mobilization.

            Comedies fairly poured out of the studio to the market.

            It was a veritable kindergarten of genius and fame.  Nearly every girl and many of the men afterward became famous screen stars--Phyllis Haver, Mary Thurman, Gloria Swanson, Louise Fazenda, Marie Prevost, Polly Moran, Wallace Beery, Raymond Hatton, Raymond Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Chester Conklin, Ben Turpin, Mack Swain...

            Mabel was the undisputed queen.

            Everything in the Sennett lot was as Irish as Paddy’s cart. Sennett had a grand studio office built for himself with paneling made of teakwood and mahogany; and always held all his business consultations in the Turkish bath rubbing room. The big concrete studios were surrounded with old wooden shacks so that the whole effect was of Hooligan’s Flats. There were even the goats and the stray cats and dogs wandering around having free fights in the scenery. It was the breath of life to Mabel. She was never happy in any other studio.

            She was the most exasperating and the most adorable of stars. She was never there when they wanted her. Every picture was an alley fight with the director. And through it all, Mabel had about as much “side” and was about as “upstage” as an old hat. If she had any fighting to do (which she had about once an hour) she fought with Mack Sennett; she didn’t take it out on the hired help.

            I recall one day when there was an important scene to do. They were on location. One of Mabel’s girl friends drove up.  Mabel ran out to see her, climbed into the car and did not come back for two weeks.    

In the beginning, Mabel’s comedies were all made with Sennett and Fred Mace and Ford Sterling.  As the company prospered and grew to proportions, Sennett stopped acting and became an executive.

            About this time, a new comedian hove in sight. He had been a hick variety actor in Bisbee, Arizona. He got ambitious and came to Los Angeles, where he acted in little burlesque shows on Main street. His name was Roscoe Arbuckle. Sennett found him and put him into comedies with Mabel. To my mind, these pictures were the high tide of two-reel comedies. In many of them Mabel swam and dove. The success of these swimming-in-tights pictures was such that it became impossible to supply the demands of the market. They eventually led to the launching of the Sennett Bathing girls.  In these pictures, Mabel had pretty much her own way. The ideas were often her own  and the direction reflected her sure touch and daring originality.

            I don’t know why Mabel always wanted to appear as a roughneck. Even in those days she had a brilliant, thoughtful mind. She read books of heavy German philosophy that I couldn’t even pretend to understand. She wrote good poetry--and hid it. Never was there a girl of such perversity. She always took a delight in putting her worst foot forward.

            I remember when Charlie Chaplin joined the company. Sennett found him--as every one knows--acting in a vaudeville sketch called “A Night in a London Music Hall.” Mabel took a dislike to him.

            Sennett always treated every comedy recruit--no matter how famous--the same way. For two or three weeks, he let him roam around the lot--neglected, ignored--lower than the dust. It was during this lonely period that Charlie found those old shoes, the little cane and the funny derby hat in a corner of an old prop room.

            When he finally got a part, it was in one of Mabel’s comedies. She could not see him at all and did not like him.  Mabel was as Irish as the map of Dublin. I imagine it would have been a singular Englishman who could have walked into her heart.

             She and Charlie used to fight like a dog and a monkey. She did most of the fighting. She never called him by his right name. She invented the most extraordinary and diabolical nick-names for him. He didn’t like the way she did comedy and she didn’t like his brand.  His technique was entirely different from the one then in vogue.

            Money to Mabel was just something to be thrown around. She put it in a pocket that had no bottom, nothing but a hole. Compared with Charlie, Calvin Coolidge was a prodigal wastrel.

            Charlie should have been suspicious when Mabel asked him to go with Fatty Arbuckle and three or four others for an evening at a night club at Vernon. But--for once--he wasn’t. Every one ordered everything on the menu card.  When the waiter came with the check every one but Charlie was dismayed to find that he had left his pocket-book at home.  Charlie had to pay--and the bill was $40.  He would not speak to Mabel for weeks.

            Mabel had a heart of gold.  I do not believe any such generous or self-sacrificing soul ever lived in this world.  She flung both her money and her quick sympathies around as though dollars were leaves and she owned an unlimitable forest.

            Every workman on the lot adored Mabel. She used to borrow the “makings” from them and smoke Bull Durham cigarettes on the sets.  She knew all about their children and how they were getting on in the world.

            There was an old blacksmith who did all the iron work for the sets. Mabel had helped him when he stepped on a chunk of hot iron and had to go to the hospital.  When his wife was operated on, she paid all the bills.

            I happened to be wandering around the studio on the day before Christmas. The old fellow came up and, with shy embarrassment, handed her a funny little package--all rumpled up. Mabel unwrapped what was probably the most outrageously ugly soft pillow cover ever seen in the world. She threw her arms around the old fellow’s neck and kissed him twice--once for himself and once for his wife. After he had gone, she showed me the funny little uneven stitches, made by trembling, old fingers. Then she sat down and cried.

            One thing I always liked about Mabel--the wives of her men friends were also her friends. Mabel had no more inhibitions than a savage of the South Seas. But there was nothing dirty about her private life. In fact, somewhere under Mabel’s reckless swear words was a Puritan morality.

            On one memorable occasion Mabel was dining in the Alexandria--at that time the fashionable gathering place of the movie stars. A famous woman star who had just been the co-respondent in a divorce suit, came over to Mabel’s table. Mabel leaped up, flaming with anger. “Don’t you talk to me—you—” she cried. “I may not be a Sunday school character, but I never have broken up homes and broken women’s hearts. I let married men alone.”

            Dear harum-scarum Mabel! I remember once when she was coming to our house for a seven ‘clock dinner.  She arrived at 10:30 and innocently asked if she was late.

            Texas Guinan told me how she looked out on her front steps one morning in her house on Tenth street, New York, and there sat Mabel eating peanuts--like a little street gamin. At that time one of the most famous motion picture stars in the world, she had gotten lonesome and had decided to come to have breakfast with Texas.  She got there pretty early so she sat on the front steps a couple of hours.

            One of the most thundering hits in the history of motion pictures was “Tillie’s Punctured Romance.” This was the first long comedy ever made.  And it was made with misgivings.  The trade did not believe a funny picture could hold the laughs for six or seven reels.  Sennett cast it with a great triumvirate--Mabel, Fatty Arbuckle and Charlie Chaplin.  It was a record breaker!

            The exhibitors began yelling for more and Mabel was launched in “Mickey.” The making of it was one long chapter of grief.

            The story was written in the first instance by Anita Loos--later to become the author of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES.  And then the story was re-written by about everybody in Hollywood.

            There are many ways of winning the heart of a lady; but if Lew Cody won Mabel in “Mickey,” then it opens a new chapter in the art of love.

            I remember that he chased her around and around the room, kicking over chairs while the fair one yelled for help. She ended up hanging on the edge of the eaves of a roof that overlooked a precipice. And in this case it was a real roof and a real precipice. Mabel was always a star athlete and absolutely without fear.

            I don’t imagine that one thought of marriage ever entered their heads during the making of “Mickey.” All I can remember about them was the way they kidded on the sets. Mabel is the wittiest girl I have ever known and Lew is famous all over the country as a wise-cracker and story teller.

            And as in the case of Mabel, so is the case of Lew.  Behind their fooling is a wealth of sound “big” reading and genuine brain power. Anyone thinking of their courtship, will imagine it as good vaudeville, but I am willing to wager that they talk of books more than anything else.

            You could write a book about the making of “Mickey.” The adventures and mishaps were plenty. It dragged along for a year or more until everybody was disgusted and discouraged with the darn thing.

            One little scene comes to my mind that is so characteristically Mabel that I shall have to tell it.

            She had a scene with a bull dog. He took his art too seriously and--without meaning to--bit her very badly. There was a terrible commotion. Doctors were arriving with first aid and Mabel was laid out for treatment. Everybody had forgotten the dog. The poor, abashed fellow was covered with mortification. With the most woebegone expression I ever saw in a dog’s eyes, he had crawled off into a corner of a set and lay there waiting for heaven to strike him dead for his iniquities.

            It was Mabel who saw him. She flung off all the doctors and the nurses and the bandages and ran over to take the dog in her arms. “Look,” she cried indignantly, “you have broken his heart.” And she proceeded to explain to him that artists frequently fall under the spell of their art and hurt people.

“Mickey” was finally finished and, after a long period, released. It proved to be one of the greatest triumphs of the history of motion pictures. It is still known to the trade as “the mortgage lifter.”  I imagine it is still running somewhere. It brought Mabel an offer from Samuel Goldwyn of a starring job at a salary then unheard of--$3,500 a week. She took the job.

She was riding on the crest of the wave when she left the old Mack Sennett Studio to become a $3,500 a week star with Sam Goldwyn.  She went out with the tide.  She was never very successful or happy off that funny old Sennett lot.

            While she was starring for Goldwyn, it happened that Geraldine Farrar was working in the same studio.  Mabel made it her mission in life to see that the illustrious Geraldine did not lose her sense of democracy.

A male opera star was playing in Farrar’s picture and they playfully carried their atmosphere with them.  They used to sing little impromptu dialogue at each other. As for instance: “Good Morn-ING! how are you this mo-o-o-orn-i-i-ing?” And the tenor would reply from the balcony in front of his dressing room, “V-e-e-ry well, I THANK YOU.” Naturally this was too much for Mabel. One day the opera stars were horrified to hear another voice chiming into their duet with an outburst of song not calculated to add to the dignity of either, or the peace and harmony of the situation.

            Farrar was naturally nervous about being watched when she acted.  She complained to the management that Mabel stood around the scenery and rubbered at her. The management tactfully suggested that Mabel find some other kind of entertainment. Mabel insisted that she had to look at something and she didn’t know where else to look.  Whereupon all the Farrar sets were boxed in like a national bank vault. The world went very well, then--until it was discovered that Mabel was peeking through a knot hole. The knot hole was plugged up. One day Miss Farr heard a noise that seemed to come from above. She glanced up to see that that terrible infant had shinned up a balcony and was looking down at her from the roof.

            If Mabel had thrown her money around before, she poured it out in floods now.  Every rag tag in Hollywood who could think of a sob story touched Mabel.

            In the middle of her engagement she made a little trip to Paris which is still historic. One of the Paris dress makers sold her a gold gown for $10,000; she bought enough jewelry to stock a store.  Mabel still has one of the most marvelous collections of gems in the world.

            When she came from Paris--having paid all the expenses of her girl playmates, she told what a grand time she had had. This made some of her other girl friends feel so sad and neglected that Mabel took the next boat back to show them a good time, too. Returning from this trip, she encountered another sad and neglected coterie on the dock and took the next boat for the third time. Altogether, those trips set Mabel back $250,000.

            Her Goldwyn pictures were not very successful.  They were just pictures. Mabel was always essentially a comedienne and the art of comedy making is a very special talent. The Goldwyn studio just wasn’t equipped for the job.

In the end, she drifted back to Sennett‘s--I believe on an arrangement with Goldwyn.  In rapid succession she made three of the greatest comedies of her career—”Molly-O,” “Suzanna“ and “The Extra Girl.”

            “Suzanna“ was such a knock-out that Mary Pickford offered Sennett $50,000 for the story and tried to persuade him to take a vacation from his own studio and direct her in a picture. Mary told me she would rather have had Mabel Normand’s work in that picture to her credit than anything else she had ever seen on the screen.

            Providence at this time evidently decided that Mabel had been licking the buttered side of the bread about long enough. Down on her head came a series of the most singular misfortunes that ever befell a star.

            She had a personal quarrel with Mack Sennett that, I think, broke her heart. I think that Mabel had always loved this big handsome Irishman.

            For two years, then, she lived almost the life of a recluse. She had a woman companion who was half maid and half pal. Mabel read and wrote. I have seen some of her poetry. It has a remarkable quality. None of it has ever been printed. She keeps it in a locked book.

            The day that William Desmond Taylor was murdered, Mabel woke up to find herself the heroine of an international love episode.

            I have among my papers a memorandum of Mabel’s own account of her affair with Taylor. It gives a breezy idea of the way Mabel talks: “Well,” she said, “it seems like Mr. Taylor was the odd man when we went to parties and I was the odd girl going around with a married crowd--Ruth Roland, Henry King and a lot of married couples.

            “A lot of people thought Taylor was very fond of me and that I didn’t return it. Then they decided that we were engaged; then they made up their minds that I wasn’t very nice to him and that we had quarreled.

            “I never had any quarrel with him--except for instance when we were at a party or something and I would run away and pay attention to a lot of other people. Bill would say, when we were going home, that I didn’t treat him nicely. And I would say: ‘For God’s sake, why do you stand around with that trick dignity of yours? You make me sick.’

            “Bill would say: ‘Good God, don’t you know I love you?’

            “And I would say: ‘Well, then for God’s sake, don’t be melodramatic about it.’”

            Mabel was the last person to see Taylor alive. She had come to his apartment to get a book. He gave her the book: they talked for a few moments; then he took her to her limousine. He was next seen dead on his dining room floor.

            Mabel was examined and cross-examined by the detectives. She insisted that she knew nothing about the murder. She was such a delicious morsel for gossip that the papers couldn’t let her alone.  In spite of some letters that Mabel was very anxious to get back and which were afterward found in the murdered man’s riding boots, I think that it was never a serious love affair.

            Every other person connected with the affair was allowed to forget it, but some one was continually dragging the ghost of Taylor out and parading it before her.

            Years afterward, a district attorney, anxious for publicity, whooped it up again and dragged Mabel back in--when she had finally struggled back to another start in motion pictures.

            “Say,” she said, “if I have to repeat this again, I am going to set it to music to relieve the monotony.  I’ve already committed it to memory.”

            Mabel passed off the situation with gay courage, but it hurt. I have never seen a girl so crushed and humiliated.

            Mabel was ill for a long time after the Taylor murder case. Her health had been failing for a long time. All this worry--these sleepless nights--didn’t help. Her picture career seemed to have faded away. Her finances were in a terrible condition. It looked like seventeen kinds of ruin were staring her in the face.

            One thing about Mabel though; some one always seems to arrive with a net when she is falling.  In this case it was an attorney--Claude I. Parker and his brother, Ivan Parker. Some of Mabel’s most devoted friends are professional men of highest standing.

            I imagine that no attorney ever tackled a more terrible mess than Mabel’s finances. In her safety deposit box he found pay checks that had lain for years without being cashed. Her check book looked like the daily record of a charity institution.  Checks for $1,000--checks for $3,500--$2,000--$2,500...to people she scarcely knew.

            By main strength and violence, her attorney would drag Mabel into his office and she would sit like a guilty, naughty little girl while he went over her check stubs.

            “Now,” he would say, “why in the name of the seven hinges of hell did you give that woman $4,000?”

            “Oh, Mrs. Thingamobob--whatever her name is...” Mabel would say.  “Sure I gave her the money.”

            “But why?” thundered the exasperated lawyer.

            “Why, she needed it,” answered Mabel--as though that were final and satisfactory.

            Mr. Parker told me that--in spite of her scatter-brain method of making ducks and drakes out of good money--Mabel’s memory is so extraordinary that she could remember every check she had written. Her mind is like a dictograph record.

            She was finally straightened out financially. She now keeps her returned checks pinned to the stubs.  A trust fund of $50,000 has been set apart for the care and protection of her mother and Mabel herself is safely enjoying a good, sound income that is safe from all the sob sisters with itching palms. When they found they had to tell their driveling stories to a lawyer with thin tight lips, they faded away. Most of their undying friendship for Mabel also faded. One of her tragedies has been the ingratitude of the people for whom she has sacrificed herself.

            About two years after the Taylor murder, another tragedy came slamming down out of a clear sky and all but destroyed Mabel.  She was as much to blame for it as she was for the whale that swallowed Jonah.    

            It was a curious story. A love sick boy who had adored her from afar had finally gotten into her life as a chauffeur, to be near her. In the innocence of her heart, Mabel never dreamed that this quiet, subdued, polite young boy in chauffeur’s uniform was wildly, passionately in love with her.

            His name was Horace A. Greer.  Probably that was not his real name. It is known that he was also called Joe Kelly.  A rather mysterious young fellow. It was said after the tragedy that he was the son of a rich family in the east. He had, however, worked as a chauffeur for Charles Ray and one of the Spauldings.

            It was the last day of 1923.  Mabel was very ill.  She was going to the hospital the next day to be operated on for appendicitis. But after all, New Year’s night was New Year’s night with Mabel.

            Edna Purviance telephoned her to come over to her house on Vermont avenue.  “Court” was there. “Court” was Courtland Dines, a young millionaire form Denver who was a Hollywood beau at the moment.    

            Greer drove her over and left her at the door.

            “Come on, you dirty dogs,” said Mabel, bursting into Edna’s house.

            “Step into your dance and let’s go somewhere.”

            Mr. Dines, however, didn’t want to go somewhere.

            Greer, the chauffeur, went back to Mabel’s house. He worked around the house taking down Mabel’s Christmas tree. Mabel’s secretary and companion telephoned her at Edna’s house. She told Mr. Dines, who came to the phone, that Mabel ought to come home; that she was ill and had to go to the hospital the next day. “Oh, it’s early yet,” said Dines airily; “send over my Christmas package.” Mabel had forgotten to bring his present.

            The secretary put her hand over the telephone and said to Greer, “He won’t let her come home. He won’t let her leave the house.” Quietly, grimly, Greer said that he would take over Mr. Dines’ Christmas present; and went out to the car.

            Let Mabel tell the rest of the story:

            “Joe,” she said (she always called him Joe, although his name was Horace) “came in and he had the Christmas package. I noticed nothing unusual about him. I left the room. I went into Edna’s room. She had her evening gown on, but it wasn’t hooked up yet. I didn’t want the chauffeur to see Edna with her gown unhooked so I went in and said to Edna: ‘Say, you dirty dog, where’s your powder puff?’

            “Then all of a sudden I heard those terrible things. I thought they were fire crackers. I used to throw fire crackers at Ben Turpin--poor old Ben--all the time at the Sennett Company, until he threatened to quit his job. That’s what I thought they were--fire crackers. They were popping all over the house.”

            But they weren’t fire crackers. The young chauffeur had asked Mabel to come home and Dines had sneered at his anxious devotion. Greer had drawn a revolver and fired bullets into Dines until the revolver jammed. Then he drove to the police station and gave himself up.

            Dines did not die--but Mabel did. She died a thousand deaths. No one will ever know what she went through.  Edna Purviance is a slow, quiet, self-contained girl.  She had nothing to say to the reporters, so she escaped. Mabel could not help being good copy. Every reporter who worked on the case adored Mabel and would have strangled himself with his own hands to have helped her, but they just wrecked her.

            It just happened to be one of those times when Hollywood was looking for a chance to be shocked. The women’s clubs felt like passing resolutions against somebody, so they passed them about Mabel. Why they picked on Mabel is a mystery. It was a furious scandal. Mabel was the only one who was not to blame in any remote way, so naturally she was made the goat.  It just about finished her screen career.

            About three years ago, Mabel tried another timid venture in pictures. Hal Roach of the Roach Comedies collided with an inspiration. He would bring back some of the old-time stars in his comedies.  He signed Theda Bara and Mabel Normand and several others. It was an unfortunate adventure. None of them got to first base. When they got them in the pictures, nobody knew what to do with them.  So Mabel surrendered her screen career with a sigh.

            Not long after that, Hollywood spilled over the coffee cups in the morning in their astonishment at what they read in the morning paper.  Mabel had gone up the coast with a gay automobile party and had come back a married lady.  Her husband was her old school mate, Lew Cody--who in “Mickey” had been the villain who pursued her.

            Sudden?  Yes, it was sudden.  But that does not mean it was not a decision well thought out.  When Mabel and Lew started on a trip to Ventura with a gay party they apparently had about as much intention of trying to swim to China as they had of being married. But Mabel’s decisions are lightning flashes.

            Her honeymoon was a characteristically “Mabel” as her bag of peanuts and her ATLANTIC MONTHLY. She didn’t like Lew’s mansion in Beverly Hills, anyhow, it was too much trouble to move her clothes; so she lived in her house and he lived in his house and occasionally they went to call on each other. Lately, however, they moved in Lew’s house.

            Much of the time since their marriage, they have been separated by circumstances. Lew went into vaudeville and has been on the road almost continuously.  Both he and Mabel have been ill a great deal.  One time last winter when she was ill in a hospital in Altadena with her life despaired of, Lew was almost as ill in Chicago.  All they could do was send each other telegrams.

            They go out very little socially, on account of Mabel’s health; but they are most in demand of any married couple in Hollywood. Lew, in fact, is almost a professional dinner guest. I dare say that he is invited to two-thirds of the public banquets given in Hollywood. He is the most brilliant after-dinner speaker I have ever heard. And that goes even for Will Rogers.     

            Mabel would be a riot socially if she had the slightest interest in it-with her beauty, her charm and her scintillant brains.  I would give a good deal to hear Lew and Mabel both going at once as I used to hear them in the old days.

            Since her marriage, little has been heard of Mabel.  She lives in Beverly Hills, the motion picture suburb of Los Angeles.  Sometimes she goes out to parties.  She reads a lot, writes a lot, and hides her writings in a locked book.

            Twice during the last few years her life has been despaired of.  She says it is “just a cold.”  Her beautiful body is sadly wasted, but her spirit is aflame as ever. She is just as inquisitive, as eager and as keen as ever. But sometimes the Mabel that nobody knows has her hours of sorrow and despair.     

            I have a letter from Mabel that I treasure dearly because it is a side of Mabel that very few know--the sincere, sorrowful, sweet child underneath the reckless little tomboy who throws fire-crackers at the actors.  It reads:    

            “Dear Harry:

            “Somehow or other tonight I am in a very lonely mood, so I am going to write you of something that I have always intended telling you when we should meet, but I have decided that it is very selfish of me to keep it any longer.    

            “A very dear friend of mine who knows you personally and who has always been one of my most loyal and staunchest friends--something, Harry, that one cannot buy--to who I have gone with my many troubles, because you know unhappiness makes sensitive people cowardly--and whom I have never left without some encouragement and solace...” (She goes on to tell me of a hidden kindness done me by a very eminent lawyer--a kindly deed of which I had never been conscious.  She wanted me to know it--that I should ever more deeply appreciate his friendship.)

            “You know, Harry,” she continues, “there is a mystic power in the ties which friendship throws around the human heart and I am sure he is one of your truest and most loyal friends.

            “Shall we call him the judge?--and I will leave you to guess the rest.

            “Give my regards to Mrs. Carr and the family and this will be a secret just between you and me and I am happier now than when I began to write this letter.

            “Ever your friend,

               “Mabel Normand.”

            I know Mabel--all her faults and her failings and her golden virtues...and her great heart and her great soul--and I am proud of her friendship as I have been proud of the friendship of few men or women.

            She is a great actress and a great woman.