Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand


In 1918 Mabel Normand was busy working at Fort Lee for Samuel Goldwyn and it looks like Mack Sennett was of disposing of the Keystone assets.  


In the weekly independent trade paper, EXHIBITORS HERALD I found an article in the January 12, it was reported that 16 of Keystone-Mack Sennett comedies were sold to “Hiller & Wilk, Inc., they included “Fatty and Mabel Adrift; “He did and He Didn’t” and Bright Lights. These were all made during the Triangle period.


A week later it was announce that “Mickey” was sold to Western Imports in a separate deal.  In the article a reference is made that “the picture has been over two years in the making…”






This simple reprint has stimulated some brilliant information from the Keystone researcher, Brent Walker regarding the complex business dealing of the Aitkens Bros., “shenanigans” (don’t you adore that word!)  I just love knowing people that know stuff:



June 9, 2014


This started on Face Book:


Wm Thomas Sherman So what should we think, Sennett was feeing sour grapes on losing Mabel to Goldwyn (and wanted to put her behind him), or was he in need of, money to offset the failure of Triangle Corp.? Will need to further look up some dates.


Marilyn Slater I think it was for the money in 1918, he wanted to become Mack Sennett Comedies and make movies on his own. What he sold was what was of value of the Triangle stuff, plus Mickey, which he knew was worth money.


Brent Walker These were all extended parts of the divestitures from the agreement of .The previous June, when Sennett broke from Triangle and relinquished the Keystone name and rights. These were Harry Aitken's transactions with the properties he controlled. It sounds like controlling interest on Mickey had long since been wrested from Sennett (when Aitken bought out Kessel & Baumann), so he had no control over what Aitken did at this point (though was probably consumed with making his Paramount comedies).


Marilyn Slater Both articles are interesting as they list the films sold in 1918, without saying why, Sennett was selling off the material. The article didn't refer to Triangle, Kessler & Baumann or the Aitken Bros. Sennett became the face of both deals. Hiller & Will got 16 comedies. And Western Imports got Mickey. Yes, you're right we know this now, thanks to books like yours but in 1918 was the whole deal in print...the people that needed to know, knew but perhaps not the exhibitors.


Brent Walker Part of Aitken's operation (for which he was later sued by a lot of ex-partners and investors a few years later) was that he operated a lot of different fictitious business names, or those he acquired, so was able to hide money. Western Imports and Hiller & Wilk were some of his, as was W.H. Productions. The only one of the reissue companies of Keystones that I've heard Sennett had anything to do with was Tower (though can't confirm any of these without seeing business records, etc.) I know initially with MICKEY, there were four entities that each had 25%: Sennett, Nympco (Kessel & Baumann), Keystone and Aitken/Triangle. However, K&B sold out their company to Aitken, so suddenly he had controlling interest...so while Sennett may have still had a percentage by the time the film was released, Aitken had all the control of the distribution.

So in effect, I'm pretty sure, even though these articles sound like one company selling to another, they are really Harry Aitken selling to himself.


Actually, to correct myself about Tower (this got me curious to re-read the details of the Aitken suit in Lahue's Dreams for Sale), Tower Film Corp. also was an Aitken company. So Sennett had nothing to do with these sales in 1918. I'm pretty sure Broadway Films is also Aitken.


The only real significant that came out of all of Aitken's shenanigans was that after the lawsuit was settled and they were looking for any of Aitken's assets that could be sold for money to satisfy Aitken's creditors, the 1915 footage that became Oh Mabel Behave! was sold off to Photocraft, who released it. However, I'm sure that didn't please either Mack or Mabel to have an old film released right around the time they had Molly O in the theaters.