Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand



The Tragic Side of Mabel Normand  

Obtaining an Interview Under Difficulties

By David Raymond

The Photo-Play World, June 1918


                "Miss Mabel Normand will pretend to be glad to see you when you call on her at four o'clock, Monday afternoon.  She will not be acting that day in her new Goldwyn picture, so the art of simulation will be lavished all on you.  Miss Normand will pretend perfectly that she is glad you have chosen to seek her out and invade the privacy of her apartment.

                "Miss Normand will act precisely as if she never had been interviewed before, and will blush and simper and beg you to publish her latest photograph.  In fact, Miss Normand will not be herself at all, for she knows that you will much prefer to write of her as an animated doll squeaking opinions someone else has thought for her, tucked in a doll's house and wearing doll's clothes, lacy and baby blue.

                "In return for this perfect interview Miss Normand makes ten stipulations, as follows:

                "1. That you do not say she owns gold furniture.

                "2. Nor that she is whirled hither and thither in a tufted limousine.

                "3. Nor that she has a dog.

                "4. That you do not mention the hundreds of letters she receives.

                "5. That you do not say she adores acting in pictures.

                "6. That you omit descriptions of her clothes.

                "7. That you refrain from saying she loves sports and all-outdoors.

                "8. That you do not advertise her tremendous war work.

                "9. That you do not credit her with interest in sociology and world politics.

                "10. That you do not reveal her passion for the works of Edith Wharton, Mrs. Humphry Ward and Joseph Conrad.

                "P.S.--In making these stipulations Miss Normand realizes she is snatching away the props of your profession, for who ever heard of an interview with out at least six of these mainstays?  However, if you still wish to come Miss Normand will be at home for ten minutes.  Moreover, Miss Normand DARES you to come.  Please sign and return, special delivery, if Miss Normand is to reserve the time for you."

                The foregoing, typed on thick creamy paper, placed in the uncertain hands of The Photo-Play World's experienced social expert, was not calculated to give him confidence in himself.  But regard for Miss Normand's originality was at least established.  The agreement signed and dispatched he found himself at the appointed time in the home of Mischievous Mabel, the Naughty Normand.  Never mind where the domicile is situated, or if the rugs are pink or blue.  Or if the effect is that of Sybaritic luxury or ascetic plainness.

                It was her home and it was good to be there.  She was seated on a settee, reading The New York Evening Post.

                "Hello!--but first excuse me for seeming to wait for you.  I know its bad form for the subject of your interview not to be heralded by a 'secretary' and a couple of maids," said the Normand, tossing aside the paper.  I saw what had been absorbing her, a drawing by Fontaine Fox.

                "I like that man's funnies," she volunteered, catching my glance.  "You don't think I READ the paper, do you?" and she trailed off into merry laughter.  "But I do like the dictionary--it looks so well among my other books.  They are dummies and the dictionary is the only real thing among them.  The cook loves to get the correct spelling of the things she makes."

                Miss Normand looked at me out of eyes which need no description to photoplay enthusiasts.  They are shadowed by lashes absurdly long and curling.  The light shines through these lashes like sunbeams filigreed under a rose-smothered pergola.  Her eyes were not a subject forbidden in her manifesto, so I am within my rights in phrasing their beauty after the mode of Elinor Glyn.

                "What are your serious interests, Miss Normand, outside the dictionary and the newspaper funnies?"

                "Men," she answered, without a moment's hesitation.  "I think they're the most serious things in the world.  Especially when they tell me how beautiful I am.  Then the pathos of their position is so acute I am moved to pity--when I want so much to smile.

                "They are also a serious problem when they explain the mistakes made by other men in doing what they themselves know they could do better--such as commanding armies, controlling food distribution and directing my screen production."  Whereupon Miss Normand glanced at the clock, a large alarm one, standing on her writing desk, and continued.

                "One feels kindly toward such men--all men, in fact"--this last with a merciful, Portia-like smile--"because they are so serious and because they are such an important element in life.  One can't escape them: they are everywhere.  Why, only this morning a man called to manicure me.  Now, that we have women munitions workers and women conductors and elevator operators, one feels that men will get their chance in professions from which they have been barred."

                "But Miss Normand," I put in, anxious to touch upon a less gloomy topic, "what is causing you to smile these days?  After your happy return to the screen in 'Dodging a Million' you must find much to make you lighthearted."

                "Nothing more delicious than my collections of sayings uttered by friends among film stars."  With this she went over to her desk.  Mabel Normand's walk is something I have long delighted in.  It is a gay, impudent kind of walk.  She does not swing along, or mince, or skip.  She saunters in the inimitable manner of the Mabel Normand.  She brought back a kid-bound book.

                "This is what amuses me most--the commonplaces voiced by people who should know better.  Take this for example.  'I think woman's highest destiny is motherhood and the home,' which was confided to me by a certain internationally famous woman.  And, 'every woman uses her sex in one way or another.'  I love that just as I love the girl who made the discovery, another experienced star.  'What is there to write of poor little me?' is one of the best in my collection.  The speaker is a girl who is always glad to give the newspapers more copy than they ever can use."

                Miss Normand closed the book with a snap.

                "No, I can't tell you who the speakers were.  That would make the remarks too funny to be good for you."

                Determined to get at the real Mabel Normand, the girl whose sober thoughts must be as interesting as her merry moods, I asked a question.

                "Nothing in the world is more vital to me at this moment than--chocolate cake," she declared.  "I am expecting a four-storied one from the only shop I trust--or that will trust me.  But there is a maddening doubt in connection with it."  I looked concerned.

                "Will it or will it not, I ask myself," she went on, "be iced on the sides as well as the top?  The sugar shortage forces economy and I have been warned to expect the worst."

                At this moment the clock burst into shrill alarm.  It wobbled over the mahogany surface of the desk.

                "Your ten minutes--" Miss Normand announced, smiling cordially and rising to her full height of five feet, "are up.  Please go.  I must be alone when the chocolate cake arrives.  With great sorrows or great joys I seek solitude.  I am not like other girls, you understand."

                There was nothing to say then; there is nothing more to say now.  Except that Mabel Normand's manner was serious throughout the interview.




To Mabel


Twinkle, twinkle little star,

Tell us, please, how old you are.

We have seen you often when

We could vow that you were ten;

Other times your girlish mien

Fixed you at about thirteen,

Gossips aft we’ve heard repeat

“Sweet sixteen” (you’re always sweet).

Now and then a wise old sage

Says “about the flapper age,”

Yet again we see a play

Where we swear you’re not a day

Over twenty-one or two,

Mabel, now we beg of you,

Be a jolly little star –

Tell us just how old you are!


Page 29

The Photo-Play World

June 1918





 This is one of Miss Normand’s sweet and most ingratiating pictures.




     This is where Mabel Normand transforms herself from Anabella

 errand girl into a woman of fashion, ready for a grand splurge.




 One of Mabel Normand’s favorite pastimes – reading abed.  Especially is this true when she is in her summer bungalow.




 No, Miss Normand did not reveal “the tragic side” in her make-believe

romance with Tom Moore in Dodging a Million




George Loane Tucker, Mabel Normand’s former director, crowns his star with a          dance cap sometimes used as a megaphone.





Urns, sweaters, sport hats and Mabel – a dashing but likely combination.