Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand





The Looking-for-Mabel website


Marilyn Slater


As I hope, is clear just by the name I use for this website “Looking-for-Mabel” that I am searching for data dealing with Mabel Normand; in fact, my personal mission is to preserve the artistic and historic significance of one of films’ greatest and most important comediennes, Mabel was “Queen of Comedy” during the founding of the motion picture industry.

In 2009 one of the comedy shorts she made at Keystone in 1914 called “Mabel’s Blunder” was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry.  This means that Mabel will be preserved as a cultural, artistic and historical treasure for generations to come. There are only 25 films named each year and to have her acknowledged as being of enduring importance to American culture and to have her work preserved for all time is an enormous, colossal, gift to all who admire her. 

  Mabel Normand was one of the distinguished women of early cinema and was figured prominently in the first three episodes of the TCM 7-part documentary “Moguls & Movie Stars” so it can no longer be said that she has been over-looked by film historians, after the recognition of the National Registry, Mabel is indeed worthy of study. Not just, because she was a woman but because of her unique style and comic brilliance. She is now part of mainstream academic interest. 

        She was a great comedian but also headed her own production company and was the director of Charlie Chaplin first films. She has become known as the female Chaplin but more accurately, Chaplin was a male Mabel Normand. This is not to negate the genius that he did grow into; it is only to remind you of the beginning.

It was Mabel, who is credited with throwing the first pie on screen, even if not a factual story, it is metaphorically true. She co-starred with Roscoe Arbuckle in some of the most important comedies of the era.

Mabel was originally one of Charles Dana Gibson’s Gibson Girl. She first appeared in films under the direction of D. W. Griffith in 1910, Mack Sennett, one of Biograph Studios comic actors/directors fell-in-love with her. When Mack Sennett founded Keystone Comedy Studios, he was able to take Mabel with him. Mack Sennett may have been the “King of Comedy” it was Mabel that helped run the Studio in her light and joyful way.

It was with the ensemble group formed at Keystone where she achieved her finest moments on screen. In 1918, Mabel Normand signed a contract with Samuel Goldwyn. During the period she worked for Goldwyn, she made over 15 films. Sadly, all but 4 have been lost to the ravages of time and nitrate decay. She was one of Goldwyn’s top moneymakers and was said to have also been an object of his affection.

By 1921, Mack Sennett had wooed Mabel back to his studios. It was during this very productive period that the William Desmond Taylor death occurred. The effect of the scandal connected with multiple trials of her friend, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, the unsolved murder of her other dear friend William Desmond Taylor and other misfortunes left Mabel a shell of her former self.

After an unsuccessful try at performing on stage, she returned to Hollywood where she made a few films with Hal Roach.  In 1926, she married Lew Cody; he had played the villain in her production of Mickey, which she had made in 1917. After her marriage, Mabel had for the most part retired from films. Sound was on the horizon and the tuberculosis, which had affected her for years, ended her career. After an agonizing and prolonged period of suffering, Mabel Normand died in 1930.   

       During 2010 the New Zealand Film Archive returned one of Mabel’s comedies, Won In A Closet (Keystone 1914), which she directed and starred in while at Keystone to the United States.   Jinx, Mabel Normand parlor music was located and has been added to the collection played by William Thomas Sherman.

On this site you will find material on Mabel's life and career; I try to use primary source material whenever possible.  There is also a lot of material on the individuals, which populated her world and things are added frequently.  I am particularly pleased with the photo albums.  If you are looking for a particular topic, a search bar is available at the top of this page.  The NAVIGATION Bar is on the top of each page and has links to various sections of interest.  On the page called WHAT'S NEW, you will see the items added since your last visit.  If however, you don't find the information about Mabel, you are looking for please don't hesitate to contact me directly, if I am unable to answer your questions, I may know someone that can. .


"Looking-for-Mabel"  marilyn4mabel@yahoo.com