Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand





 A gentleman vacationing in California with his valet rescues a girl on a runaway horse, then, upon leaving her, presents her with his calling card. After showing the card to her parents, the girl discovers that the gentleman is her fiancé by an arranged match made when she was a child. The parents write to the gentleman reminding him of his prior obligation and invite him to their home. Fearful of the outcome, the gentleman enlists the help of his valet and exchanges identities with him. When he sees who the girl is, however, the gentleman attempts to reassume his rightful position but is tied to a burning bedpost by his scheming valet. To thwart the newcomer's intrusions, the girl's foreign suitor ties her to a rock and leaves her to drown in the ocean, but the gentleman frees himself from the bed and, using an umbrella parachute, makes a daring leap and saves her from death.


Cast & Crew:

Mack Sennett, Director

Raymond Hitchcock, as Gentleman

Mack Sennett, as His valet

Mabel Normand, as Girl

Fred Mace, as suitor

Frank Opperman & Alice Davenport


Duration (in reels) 4 (or 3 reels); silent black & white

Distribution Company: Triangle Film Corp.
Production Company: Keystone Film Co.

Première: September 23, 1915; © October 28, 1915; Release Date: November 7, 1915

COPY: The George Eastman House, in Rochester, New York possesses a nitrate print


….My Valet continue

When Mabel Normand did an interview May 20, 1916 for Motography she was asked about working on “My Valet” and to quote. “Working with Raymond Hitchcock in 'My Valet' made up for all the hardships. I think I laughed straight through the 'water stuff.' Fred Mace was the villain. He took me out to a rock in the sea and tied me there. But he was so afraid of the water that he was in terror the whole time, I believe. And at last the current was so strong it swept him away, and we all had to turn in and rescue the frightened 'villyan.'"

A few months later, Mack Sennett told the Saturday Evening Post, in the September 16, 1916 issue … “Fred Mace, for instance is notorious for his nerve ordinarily; but he has an obsession – the fear of drowning.  Once we were taking picture on the shore.  Mabel Normand was on a rock and Mace was supposed to rescue her.  He stood there superb: two hundred pounds – a veritable Samson.  That was the picture.

 In the taking of it, however, along came a little wave three feet high.  Mace’s obsession overwhelmed him; he called for help, and Miss Normand – reversing the proposed order of things – had to rescue him in the presence of the entire company, which included his lady friend, who was watching from a distance.  Mace had quite a task in explaining to this lady just why he hollered for help, especially as he was in only three feet of water!”

Again, William Drew had a wonderful insight into the story of filming the screens for “My Valet.”  …”it was Mabel who ended up doing the rescuing when she came to the aid of poor Fred Mace.  Indeed, I notice in Sennett's article a contrast between his depiction of Mabel's courage and resourcefulness compared to the often hapless male comics beset with all manner of phobias.  I think, therefore, that this 1916 article, whether consciously or not, is very much in tune with the feminism of the suffrage era.  I also have the feeling that the notion of Mabel as a pathetic victim, one even Sennett sometimes indulged in later on, was essentially something that developed from subsequent years when she was beset with her various personal problems.  Here, though, she was a very confident woman in control of her own destiny--much like Mary (Pickford), Pearl (White), Ruth (Roland) and the two Helens (Holmes and Gibson).  In short, the new woman.”

I would like to read any thoughts that any of you might have on the way the press handled stories about Mabel Normand in the Nineteen-teens as compared to the post-1922 coverage. 

It is hard to believe the amount of work that Sennett was doing during this period, there are almost 70 shorts listed as being done by Keystone for Triangle most of them were only two reels long (20 to 25 minutes).  In some places “My Valet” is listed as originally planned as a 6 reel film but the Eastman House copy is only 4 reels and the debuted at the Knickerbockers on September 23, 1915 was 4 reels. As this was the first released of Keystone/Triangle and the first coupling of Mabel Normand and Raymond Hitchcock, the critics were for the most part very kind.  Mabel and Hitchy-Coo made a second shot 2 reeler together called “Stolen Magic”. In all Mabel only was in 6 Triangle productions; (1) My Valet; (2) Stolen Magic; (3) Fatty and Mabel Adrift (4) Oh, Mabel Behave (not released until 1922); (5) He Did and He Didn’t; (6) Bright Lights.         

There is a great deal of material about the fantastic funny 4 – Mack Sennett – Mabel Normand – Fred Mace – Ford Sterling in any book about the beginning of Keystone, perhaps there is less on Fred then his contribution warrants as he was dead before the end of 1917.  He made a huge number of the early slapstick comedies for Sennett. 

So who was Fred Mace?