Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand


Mabel Needs Mending

Marilyn Slater

Looking for Mabel

November 3, 2009


The Mender of Nets” is a classic D.W. Griffith, Biograph melodramatic story, which shows the Santa Monica Bay in Southern California in its undeveloped splendor and Mabel Normand before her comic genius was captured by Mack Sennett’s Keystone comedies in all her brilliances.


In this 16 minuets, Johann Gottlob Wilhelm ('Billy') Bitzer the cinematographer found Mary Pickford and Mabel Normand fighting for the affection of Charles West before his camera, Bitzer took breathtaking pictures. Mary really doesn’t fight with Mabel, as she is the “mender.”  The whole film is available on the internet. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5g6th_the-mender-of-nets_shortfilms






The opening title cards reads 1910 but it was made during the 1912 season of the Biograph Company in California.  WDG had already developed a powerful command of the cinematic language, which is represented in “The Mender of Nets” by his impressive use of a series of cross-cuts to create and provoke the suspense.

The story is of the loves of a young fisherman (Charles H. West), the first love, the girl dishonored (Mabel Normand) and the more virtuous love (Mary Pickford).  When Mabel finds that Charles wants to move on and their relationship has ended, Mabel isn’t ready and her brother ( I can’t locate his name) wants to kill Charles for the humiliation of Mabel.  Mary understands that Charles has an obligation to Mabel and pleads for Charles’ life.  Mary, the Mender, convinces Charles to return to Mabel and Mary returns to mending her father’s nets. The actor playing Mary’s father was Charles Hills Mailes  http://looking-for-mabel.webs.com/marypickford1910.htm


Mender of Nets

Biograph Company
Director: D.W. Griffith
Cinematography by G.W. Bitzer

Release Date:
February 15, 1912 (USA
Genre: Romance
USA: 16 min (16 fps)



It maybe that when the listing of Arthur Johnson as supporting Mary Pickford in “The Mender of Nets” the copy-writer was just mistaken and the actors do look a lot alike, at the time the original actors were not identified.  In 1912, Arthur Johnson was not working with D. W. Griffith in California, so Charles West, did the deed.

   Arthur Johnson