Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand

 

DELIGHTFUL DELIGHT EVANS

 

by

Marilyn Slater

“Looking for Mabel”

April 23, 2012

 

There once was a delightful baby daughter born to Mr. & Mrs. Joe O. Evans on Fulton Street, in Fort Wayne Indiana, the year was 1902.  When DELIGHT EVANS was very young (7 or 8) she was a veracious reader but her literary interest didn’t stop with the satisfaction of a well written story, she began to correspond with the authors she liked. 

 

Delight had a large circle of friends; in 1913 a letter from Christine Richens was sent to Delight. It was one of the first ‘Aero’ mail letters spent from Lock Haven, PA to Delight’s home in Fort Wayne, IN; it was a poem at the bottom of this page.

 

 

She was determined to become involved in the movies from a very early age; the 13 year old, Delight entered the “Beauty and Brains” contest in November 1915 conducted by the Photo Play Magazine, in conjunction with the World Film Corporation.  At the time she was a student in the Fort Wayne High School, and one of the city’s popular young ladies.  She had always taken an active part in school activities, writing for the school paper, “Caldfon,” and manifesting her literary tastes in numerous ways.  She was also a devoted student of music and had shown decided talent.

 

She was a lover of dramatics and it was her ambition to become part of the movies, which led her to enter the contest.

 

The Photo Play Magazine’s proposition was to send eleven young women to the studios at Fort Lee, New Jersey across the river from New York City, where they will be given a thorough tryout as film actresses.  All of their expenses were to be paid on the trip and if they showed any talent they would be given contracts for a period of not less than one year at regular salaries.

 

According to “The Fort Wayne Daily News” from November 23, 1915, “The contest authorities state that no efforts will be spared to make film stars of these young women.  Miss Lillian Russell and William A. Brady are among the judges of the contest.

 

The eleven contestants would be entered from all classes of people both the high and the low and the contestants were judged solely by their ability according to a communication received from the Photo Play Magazine.”  At this point Delight was not able to make her mark in the movies.    

 

By the age of 15, she was writing articles and sent one off to the editorial office in Chicago of Photoplay Magazine.  Her story was purchased and she received her first check with a letter saying if she ever found herself in Chicago the editor would like to speak with her.  Like the excited 15 year old she was it wasn’t long before she had talked her mother into taking her to Chicago and we can imagine what the editor thought when the teenage girl showed up at his door.

 

“I am Delight Evans,” she said “I came as soon as I got your letter.”   He may have thought it was a joke that she had written the article he had published but Douglas Fairbanks was stopping at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago. He told Delight to go and see if she could get an interview with him and come back to the office.

 

The girl went. When she returned the publisher motioned for her to seat herself at his typewriter.  He asked her mother to step outside, than told the girl to write her story.  She surprised him and gave him a story he liked well enough to buy. A story that “Doug” said was the best interview ever written about him.  And Delight Evans was offered a job then and there.  She accepted, and in a few years made a name for herself as an entertaining writer on the movies.

 

Her first contribution to Photoplay Magazine was in the 1915 October issue. December 1917, Delight was in Chicago associated with the editorial department of the Photoplay Magazine.  After being part of the editorial staff in Chicago it wasn’t long before she received a merit promotion that was announced May 22, 1919 that she would be relocating to New York City, to take up a larger field of work.

 

One of the movie stars that Delight had the ‘delight’ of interviewing was you guessed it, Mabel Normand.  In a full page article titled “A Few Impression” Delight wrote:

“Trying to get to see Mabel Normand, alone is like trying to interview the Sphinx, with a party of Cook’s Tourists around.  Mabel was late, of course, interesting women are always late.  But Mabel wasn’t only late; she mistook a minute for a rubber band, and stretched it into an hour.  I stood there in the Ritz, watching the world go by, that part of the world that causes race suicide among fur-bearing animals, prosperity among jewelers and distress among husbands – their own and others people’s.  Finally, Mabel came – a little girl, and the thing that strikes you most about her, is her childish, eager, pouting mouth – it gives her an “Alice-in-Wonderland” look that her eyes, a little deeper and browner and sadder than you’d expects contradict and she wore one of those S.R.O. dresses – you know: Standing Room Only. 

“Listen, look” – she made me think of one of Booth Tarkington’s seventeen-year-old ladies.  “There’re some people waiting to see me.  I told ‘em I’d be here – we’d better go.”  We rode through the park and even a traffic cop said “Hello” to her.  She talked – “Happiness,” said Mabel, “is simply a state of mind.  I’ve never lost my mind.  When things go wrong with you – kid yourself.”

I think if someone dared her to play it, she’d “jazz” Juliet.  I fell for Mabel.  You would yourself.

 

 

It must have been a pretty wonderful summer for Delight’s parents to visit their little girl in New York in July 1922, warm but wonderful. Delight was by October 1922 the associate editor of Photoplay Magazine.

 

Screenland had the “Delight” of an editor in her early twenties by October of 1923.  And it is an interesting fact that her first telegram of congratulation came from Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.

 

The people of the celluloid world came to know her and value her friendship and advice.  Mary Pickford referred to her as the “Delightful Delight Evans.” The Gish girls, Dorothy and Lillian became her warm friends.  D. W. Griffith asked her to write titles for his pictures, something her magazine contract prevented her from doing.  Eric von Stroheim listened to her describe Frank Norris’ novel, “McTeague,” and the result was his film version, “Greed.” 

 

Herbert Cooker in 1930 wrote Hollywood Murder Mystery” using Hollywood as the authentic background; he was assistant publicity manager of First National Pictures and was a contributor to several magazines.  His wife, by the way, was DELIGHT EVANS of Screenland Magazine.

 

Herbert Crooker died January 22, 1960 in New York at the age of 66; he had retired in 1957 to write and sail, becoming the well-respected author of “The Boatman’s Almanac.”  Herbert had been an advertising and publicity man for Hollywood studios and at one time Eastern publicity manager for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

 

October 23, 1932 in The Times – Picayune; Delight described George Raft in a chapter from his post-“Scarface” period, as:

 

Not since Valentino have I seen an actor’s dressing room like Raft’s.  Pretty women, one a blonde beauty well known to Broadway; a hovering secretary, solicitous friends – I believe Raft will be the greatest personality draw in motion picture if he is given the right stories, a male Garbo”!

Delight was always ambitious and by 1938; she had a national radio program “Food Secrets of the Movie Stars,” she was still editing Screenland but was on air every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. She wrote the book.

 

1946 August 30; in a article found in The Evening Independent Hollywood written by Nat Dallinger about a picture of Greta Garbo grabbing the hem of her floor-length skirt and holding it over her face and running away, which got Garbo a lot of publicity.  Delight Evans gave the story a full page and an editorial pointing out that only criminals hid their faces from a camera and that the boys who covered Hollywood with a 4x5 box camera were able, competent craftsmen who were only trying to make a living.  Her criticisms were valued and often feared.