Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand

1924 April Movie Weekly

Would I Have Been Happier


If I Was Married?


Asks Mabel Normand



Popular screen star, who has just come East, from Hollywood,

questions pathetically the tragedy of the notoriety that

seems to shadow her public life

By T. Howard Kelly


It is one thing to win fame and riches as a slender little girl, wearing a curl that strays and strays; to stand upon the silver summits of screen success, basking in the glory of popularity and power, while from below echoes upward the applause of a cheering world. And it is quite another thing for this little girl to find herself pushed down into a lonely night-shadowed valley while from the ranging hills above comes the sound of accusation; of denouncement.

            This is the thought I find in Mabel Normand's heart as she looks back a few paces into the past and realizes how very much alone she has faced the world on two occasions when Fate lifted its finger, and leveled accusations against her that threatened to plunge the actress down into the gloom of tragedy which stalked her path. She has come to realize that fame and fortune can be empty and forlorn things when they leave you all by yourself in the hours of crisis that visit the lives of rich and poor, famous and obscure alike.

            That is why Mabel of the laugh-provoking screen funnyisms is wistfully wondering today if it would not have been better, after all, to have married as she climbed the steep hillside to success. Perhaps, then she would not have been so pathetically alone when forced to shamble back into the shadows.

            “A husband,” she mused in that childishly winsome voice of hers, “yes, maybe a husband would have check-mated the march of Fate through my life; for you must remember that everybody attributes my connection with the Taylor and Dines shooting affairs as the working of a Fate which seems to hover over me. At least, a husband could have fought for me against the hostility of a world that seems quick to turn against the person whose name is linked with scandal. And, still, thank heaven for this one thing. I can be sincerely grateful for the apparent refusal of my public to condemn without giving me a chance to defend myself,” she declared, her eyes lighted by the glow of gratitude.

            Speaking of the Dines' shooting, and how she has had to fight for herself all alone since that tragic New Year's afternoon, the little comedienne pointed out that Charlie Chaplin protected Edna Purviance in a very efficient manner.

            “But there was no one to fight for Mabel Normand,” she said sadly. Suddenly her slenderness tautened; her eyes blazed. Mabel was once more the courageous girl who has dared to go up and down the long, long trails alone, unaided and unshielded, “I'm not going to be the goat in this case. I'm not going to be led to slaughter. It isn't fair!” she cried.

            As long as girls go up against the world, and challenge it for a high place in life's gallery of fame and success, there will always be an interested audience waiting and watching to see what happens. So it has always been with Mabel Normand ever since she left a Staten Island home, her big glowing eyes filled with hopes that materialized as she learned to make millions laugh.

            She has been watched from afar, a lone solitary figure of brilliance around whom many storms have broken, only to leave her carrying on somehow after they had spent their fury. Today, as she goes before the motion picture audiences in her personal appearance tour, thousands of eyes will seek in every gesture she makes, some tell-tale evidence which will reveal the yearning in her woman's heart for the coming of a man whose love and strength can protect her from whatever strife Destiny still intends investing her future with.

            The unaccountable killing of William Desmond Taylor in his Hollywood home several years ago cast its mysterious shadows over Mabel Normand. Her name, and that of Mary Miles Minter, was on every tongue for days and days after the director was found shot to death. There were nasty insinuations...innuendo-accusations...suspicions that frightened Mabel Normand and shook her with the mercilessness of a Fate that seemed to stop only at making her circumstantially guilty of Taylor's death. Of course such things were but vague, unpleasant sounds echoing from the confusing and contradictory mess of police, newspaper and scandal theories which ran riot after the murder. They were enough, however, to throttle Mabel Normand's being just as if some giant, ruthless hand had reached out and shaken her in an iron grip.

            Now, reflecting upon the attempt to make capital of the fact that her chauffeur, Greer, shot and wounded wealthy Courtland S. Dines, the petite actress demands to know why she is always being called upon to defend herself from something...someone.

            “I have never intentionally harmed anyone. Except indirectly, I had nothing to do with the two tragedies which have brought unfortunate notoriety to me and spelled my name in red all over the world,” she said when asked if she had a vindictive nature, and wanted revenge for anything she regarded as a wrong to herself.

            Mabel Normand's own version of the gun play that occurred in Dines' apartment was published in this magazine several weeks ago, and her statements back up the reiterated contention she now makes as her innocence in the entire fracas that ended in bloodshed.

            Greer, the chauffeur who was responsible for the trigger pulling, came to her employ highly recommended by Charles Ray. He had been in Miss Normand's bedroom several times to fix electric wires and make several minor repairs. But he had never trespassed beyond the role of a hired automobile driver insofar as his relations to her were concerned, she claims, thus emphatically quashing the innuendo stories to the effect that Greer fired at Dines because he was jealous of Miss Normand.

            The comedienne traces the shooting back to an event that took place Christmas Day, when Edna Purviance and Cortland Dines, whom she claims were engaged in spite of their recent denials of this, came to her house with an organ grinder and a monkey. Mabel told her visitors she was going out to dinner, but remained with them for a little while, clowning around with the monkey. Before they all left, Miss Purviance gave a box of handkerchiefs to Mabel's housekeeper as a Christmas present. This is a detail which must be remembered she declares. The housekeeper rushed out to a store and bought a pair of brushes as a present to Mr. Dines. But the latter forgot to take them away with him.

            “On New Year's Day, Edna and Cort telephoned me to come down to his apartment. I didn't want to go, but foolishly yielded to Edna's pleading. I had arranged to enter a hospital for an appendicitis operation in a few days. Consequently I could not touch liquor of any kind.

            “My chauffeur had instructions to call me at a certain hour. Much has been said,” went on Mabel, “about his calling me earlier than I asked him to. This is where the Christmas present point comes in. Cort started joking about how he had forgotten my housekeeper's gift. I called my house and told Greer to bring it right over.

            “When Greer entered the apartment Edna was in the bathroom. Cortland Dines was with me in the one and only other room. At the moment Dines had a bottle in his hand. I didn't see the shot fired, but I do know the oil man abused my chauffeur. It must be remembered that Dines is big and husky, while Greer is a little fellow, no physical match for the other man. Greer says he was afraid that Dines would strike him with a bottle. Perhaps Cort's well-known love of brawls, which is common knowledge in Hollywood, led my chauffeur to this belief. Anyway, Greer shot, with the result that everybody knows.”

            Mabel Normand admits that the pistol used was one that a director had given her in California. But she states it would have been easy enough for Greer to have taken it from her establishment without her knowledge.

            And so, in the above way, Mabel Normand, famous first as a Mack Sennett star, and then in her own right as a star-producer, told again of the second tragedy whose shadows have seeped into her life and filled it with the bitter knowledge that fame and riches do not suffice when one walks alone in the valley, forced by Fate to fight battles that try the hearts and souls of the strongest.

            Although Mabel Normand would not say so in so many words, I cannot help but believe that down in her secret heart where she keeps a record of her tragic past; there is an answer to her self-put question regarding marriage. And that answer is:

            “Yes, I would have been happier if I had loved and married years ago. Life would have been kinder.”