Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand

 Mabel and Her Prince


Marilyn Slater



Prince Mohammed Ali Ibrahim of Egypt was a spectacular figure. He traced his ancestry back to Mehemet Ali Pasha, the "Terrible Turk" who conquered all Egypt in 1805; Mohammed-Ali Ibrahim was the great-grandsons of Prince Rifaat Ibraim who drowned while crossing the Nile on May 15, 1858. As for the princes' father, he died in a car accident in Paris while still in his twenties[1].


Prince Ibrahim disregarded much of what his uncle, Egypt's King Fuad said; he didn't show much interest in Egyptian politics. There was some concern that too many of the royal males were marrying European and American women, whose marriages were ending in divorce or worse.  Ibrahim gave his family a promise that he would not bring back a wife as he set out on his grand tour.  There was an actual fear that the government was in danger because of the self-indulgences of the ruling class.  On an income of $200,000 a year, in 1920s dollars (that was ‘real money’). His interests seem to be champagne, roulette, and beautiful women, including Mabel Normand.


Prince Ibrahim of Egypt came to the United States in March of 1922 after visiting the major cities of Europe. He was young, only 22 with dark hair and dark eyes, standing 5’8”, a boxer that impressed his opponents with the ‘fearsome hairiness’ of his chest more then with his skill and yes where was all that the money.


One of his first stops in New York was Wall Street and the second day he went to the top of the Woolworth Building[2] and that night he hit the theaters.

It was in New York he found Blink (Louis) McCloskey.  Blink had derived his moniker from the glass eye he wore.  When he climbed into the ring, he would take out the fake eye and hand it to a second for safekeeping. Blink was an interesting fellow who had lost to Jack Johnson in 1918. Later he became a bouncer in a Paris café but in 1922[3], he was the traveling companion and secretary of a Prince.

The Prince brought a racecar and headed for Hollywood.  Because Ibrahim fancied himself a boxer and since Blink was a pugilist of some note, this most have been a fun trip. Blink told one reporter that his job was to “teach him (Ibrahim) boxing and help him spend his roll (money)” this sounds like an exciting adventure[4]. He found his way to the Mack Sennett Studio lot in Edendale and into the life of Mabel Normand.  Mabel was working on Suzanna and she could never resist a racecar and this one came with a rich prince in it.

 Ibrahim was spending money like a prince.  The American newspapers were running story after story of the Prince’s romantic romps, including Mabel Normand and Connie Talmadge. His uncle the king requested that he come home, in 90 days he had gone through $60,000. The White Star shipping line was the way that Princes traveled and also Movie Queens, Mabel sailed on the Aquitania, June 14, 1922.






When Ibrahim sailed home on the Olympic, he took his secretary Blink, 25 trunks and 2 racing cars. It was reported that he was called home because of the fear that he was going to marry a “movie picture star.” Ibrahim said that America had wonderful woman, Mabel Normand, Connie Talmadge, Mabel Withee, and Pearl Shepard. The women in other counties were like “Oil Cans” in comparison.   

 While in California during the tour of the area, Blink and the Prince had a grand time in San Francisco but Los Angeles (Hollywood) was not as much fun as the film stars needed to go to bed too early and the nightlife was not the sophisticated style he was accustomed to in Paris and Cairo.

Ibrahim managed to meet Mabel in Paris in July of 1922; she became a favorite companion of Prince Ibrahim. As the nephew of the Khedive of Egypt, he would have been a rather wonderful escort, and if the Prince offered Mabel his heart and hand in marriage, she turned him down with the grace and good humor, which would have him continue to think well of her.  His gifts of jewels might have turned any girls head. She frankly needed a pleasant diversion, after the death of William Desmond Taylor; she had been pestered, hassled and beleaguered by the press. In Paris she could relax, Mabel and her Prince were often seen in public together, in the restaurants of Paris and driving in the Bois, it was friendship and nothing more on Mabel’s part. There was a story that Mabel had telegrammed Ibrahim not to fall for anybody before she arrived, as our little Mabel could smell diamonds from afar[5]. “Mabel was not lured by the throne of Cleopatra.” The couple went to Deauville together, he sent her messengers bearing magnificent gifts  ¾  gold scarabs and strangely wrought perfume bottles and gorgeous shawls and rugs and talismans of costly stones[6]. Mabel returned from Europe on the Majestic about the middle of September, she stayed around New York a few weeks, visiting friends, being with her family and seeing the new shows, pictures, and then went back to Europe for an English Christmas not returning to the States until February 1923. Ibrahim stayed on in Europe, living the life of a Prince until July 1923 when he came back to find his Pearl.




Ibrahim had a weakness for beautiful actresses, the newspaper gossip columns (or whatever they were called them) were full of this young, rich, royal’s pursuit of the glorious and celebrated represented by Mabel Normand, Mabel Withee and so many others but in all fairness it was Pearl Shepard that captured Ibrahim.  He took Pearl back home with him, to ask the Khedive of Egypt, if they might marry, Pearl’s real name was Ginsburg.  There was a resounding NO.  In the American newspapers, a story ran that they were secretly married in Egypt, there is little doubt that they lived together for awhile. Pearl Ginsburg returned to America a very rich woman, she also made films in France, the best of both worlds. Ibrahim finally did select a wife who was culturally compatible and not a celebrity beauty.  


Prince Ibrahim had a talent for catastrophe.  In a magnificent bust-up near Montélimar in southern France in 1928 His Highness wrecked a brand new super-costly Farman, strewed the highway with a tonneau full of fragile young ladies, escaping unscathed.  He had gone from Egypt to Cherbourg to Washington, DC and then back to Cherbourg on a diplomatic mission, in May 1928.  He had a home in Egypt but lived in the world.


On July 29, 1929, off the coast of Norway occurred Prince Ibrahim’s, grandest bust-up. Five minutes after His Highness's famed quarter-million-dollar Diesel yacht Nazpermer ("Beautiful Lady") struck a rock, it sank.  The sea was calm and one guest on broad was Miss Margaret Woolf from Rochester, N. Y. She told Paris reporters that she was awakened by a terrific crash, which threw her out of her bunk… She ran in her nightdress out into the saloon where she found the Prince and Princess also in nightclothes… Water began coming in through the portholes, the Prince aided her out on deck, returning to get the Princess… They had told a sailor to swim with her, as the captain said that the ship was sinking so fast it was impossible to make any use of the lifeboats. They were about 200 yards from the rocky shore, she swam… The Princess, did not swim well, so was helped by two sailors, and was the last to jump.

 As they clambered ashore over the slimy rocks, most of them were almost entirely unclothed; Margaret Woolf in a torn nightdress, one sailor gave her an Arab cloak, which was wringing wet.  One of the ship's officers still wore his fez, but he had no trousers on…[7]“Oh what would our Mabel have done! Swimming and wearing silly costumes, oh what fun, she would have had and the stories she would have told to the reporters.


Ibrahim doesn’t seem to be able to stay away from the pleasures of Hollywood; in 1938, he was staying at the Ambassador Hotel and was ‘doing’ California, again[8]. 



[1] Samir Raafat,

[2] New York Times, Mar 10, 1922, Sultan’s Kin Sees City

[3] THE LOWELL SUN, By Cecil P. “Deac” Dodge,  Sept. 14, 1936

[4] The Danville Bee, Edward M. Thierry, March 13, 1922

[5] Capt. Billy's Whiz Bang, August 1922

[6] Liberty, October 4, 1930

[7] Time Magazine, Aug. 19, 1929

[8] Los Angeles, December 3, 1938,Prince From Egypt Thrilled


Mabel Normand is a fragrance called OUD SAVE THE QUEEN