Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand

By Marilyn Slater, October 12, 2014



Tom Ince acquired the services of the Miller Bros. Wild West 101 Ranch and Circus, which made quite the impact the winter of 1914/1915 in Venice, California.  There were 300 horses plus buffalos, cowboys and Indians to work in films.  They added atmosphere to the westerns being shot in Inceville, a location near the beach at the base of Sunset Boulevard.

 As part of the deal there were 50 or more Indians that every morning left Venice and journeyed to Inceville and at sunset hiked back to Venice.   



Oh how I wish I could express in words, the poetry that I hear in my soul!  The American indigenous people had been pushed from their native land to the very edge of the continent; they hiked along the ocean at sunset only to wake at sunrise to walk through communities, while people looked out windows and saw 50 Indians marching by. There is a powerful image here. To stay in their buckskins and feathers and out of the white man’s suit, to ride the horse and not the car; they played “Cowboys and Indians” and we have movies that help us remember the winter journey along the Pacific. The very sunset of their lives.  



Did they see the freedom of the tide or was it a wall of fear? As the fiery sun set in water was there a real need“to drown in fire-water?” 


The American frontier was officially declared dead after the census of 1890, the real people and events that populated the frontier fell from view; disappearing into the imagination with the creation of the Wild West mythology.





There is an article about "Ad" (Adam) Kessel and the early filmmaking in southern California at Looking-for-Mabel…



or turn again to Thomas Ince: Hollywood’s Independent Pioneer by Brian Taves.