Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand

The Elixir of Perpetual Springtime


































MABEL NORMAND is the personification of springtime! She has found, along with the sweet singers of melody and poetry the long sought after secret of eternal youth!


How did she discover this elixir of perpetual springtime?


She says: “I didn’t have to travel far to find it.  It is inside one, and is nothing more than the ability to see everything every day as though you saw it for the first time.  If you can do this you will always be sixteen.”


Mabel’s Conception of the World.


“To me the world is one huge playground that exists for the purpose of providing playthings to laugh over, wonder at, and at times to weep over, when they are, alas! shattered!”


The above is Mabel’s conception of the world.  It would certainly solve most of our troubles if she could only infuse the majority of mankind with her buoyant outlook upon things in general.


Mabel Normand was born in Atlanta, a city in Georgia, U.S.A., that was christened after that mythological fleet-footed damsel, who lost the most famous footrace in history through her passion for the golden apples of the Hesperides.


Her Twin Desires


When Mabel reached the flapper stage, she was a demure, brown-haired, brown-eyed young miss, with a clear complexion, and a full puckered month.  When she was in her early teens Mabel developed two ambitions.  The first was to look mature and impress people with her seriousness.  For this purpose she did her hair up at an age when most young ladies have it hanging down their backs.  Her next desire was to become an artist.


Her Unexpected Step to Fame.


Atlanta, however, gave her little opportunities of pursuing her artistic studies, so she went to New York, determined to rival Rosa Bonheur and Elizabeth Butler with pencil and brush.  Mabel, like so many aspiring genius, possessed little else in the save talent!  Talent, she soon discovered, does not go far in meeting bills.  In order to earn a living, while she pursued her artistic studies, she became an artist’s model!  Little did she think it, but this calling was destined to bring her fame and fortune, but not in the direction she originally intended.


Conspicuous on Magazine Covers.


Her beauty and freshness soon made her very much in demand, and such artistic celebrities as Charles Dana Gibson, James Montgomery Flagg, Henry Hutt, and others competed for her services.  In a short time she became conspicuous on magazine covers as a typical Gibson girl, with a chain and pearl pendant around her neck.


Her Small Earnings.


Mabel at that period used to receive 6s. 8d. for an hour’s sitting in the morning, and 6s. 8d. for an hour’s sitting in the afternoon.  On this sum she used to pay her way and study art in the intervals of posing.  One day, what seemed to be a misfortune for the ambitious young artist, proved to be her opportunity.


Not Required That Day.


The proprietor of “Collier’s Weekly,” F. P. Collier, died.  On the morning of his death Mabel presented herself, as usual, at Charles Dana Gibson’s studios at Carnegie Hall, and was told by Mr. Gibson that, owing to Mr. Collier’s unfortunate death, he would not require her services that day.  Being in want of money she went over to the Fashion Camera Studio, in Broadway, where they used to pay girls 1 pound  a pose for being photographed wearing  furs, hats, cloaks, lace collars and the like, for their photographs being used in advertisements.


Her Meeting With a Film Star.


At lunch that day she met Alice Joyce, who was then working at the Kalem Studios.  Alice took a liking to the struggling young artist, and suggested that she should go over to the Biograph Studio, where David Wark Griffith was then producing.  She preferred Art, with a capital “A,” and was quite content to struggle on earning a few dollars daily as a model, and pursue her studies to the probability of fortune on the film.


Mabel Takes Advice.


The next day Mabel met with another set back.  Gibson was unable to employ her.  She met Alice Joyce again, and this time listened to her words of wisdom.  She went over to the Biograph Studio, was introduced to Griffith, and there and then engaged by him.


First Played a Page’s Part.


The first part she played was that of a page.  For the first time in her life Mabel donned tights.  She declared that she was frightened out of her wits.  Everyone, it seemed to Mabel, had nothing to do but stare at her legs.  She was kept at the Studio until very late, and arrived at her lodgings at Staten Island tired and weary.  The next day, feeling quite fed up with things, Mabel didn’t go back to the Biograph Studios.


Reproved by Mack Sennett


She was quite unaware that Griffith had already marked her as a future screen star, and was furious at her absence.  A few in a stern voice, “That’s a pretty game you’re playing, young lady!  What a terrible thing you’ve done to Griffiths by not returning!”  What a terrible thing you’ve done to Griffiths by not returning!”


Returned to the Studio.


At first she failed to understand his meaning.  She didn’t understand that she was wanted for another scene in the film, and that it meant that she was holding up the whole production.  When Mabel discovered this she mustered up courage, returned to the Biograph and made her peace with Griffith.  She soon became known as the “little dark-haired Biograph girl,” as at that time nearly all the film actresses were blondes.


Climbing the Ladder.


Her next engagement was with Vitagraph, where she paid 5 pounds a week.  She then worked along with John Bunny, Flora Finch, and other well known stars of the period. 


The golden days of the cinema were yet to come.  One day, when Mack Sennett came to her and said “ How would you like to make one hundred dollars a week (20 pounds),  Miss Normand?”  she simply laughed and side, “Stop making fun of me, Mr. Sennett.”


Too Good to be True.


“I am not making fun,” he replied, and he sent me a contract, not for one hundred, but for one hundred and twenty-five dollars a week!  Even then she was not convinced.  Neither was her friend, Alice Joyce.  They both decided that the contact must be for twenty-five dollars and that the humorous Mack had written “one hundred dollars” for a joke (so enormous did the salary appear).  It was no joke, however.  Mack Sennett was in deadly earnest to procure the star.


She Smiles When She Remembers.


Nowadays Mabel often smiles, when she contrasts the enormous salary she is receiving from Goldwyns with the sum that seemed unbelievable wealth to her in those not so very distant days at the outset of her film career.


Now she is one of the highest paid and most popular artists on the screen.  Goldwyn’s consider her one of their greatest acquisitions, and she spends more on a single dress that formerly she used to earn in a year.


What She Prizes Most.


Her jewels are of great value, but she prizes more than anything a wonderful necklace, the links and pendant and all of which have been carved from one piece of wood by Russ Powell when he was killing time between the scenes of “The Slim Princess.  Mabel is the embodiment of life and vivacity.  She is always bubbling over with high spirits.


Can’t Sit Still Long.


It is a hardship for her to remain still for very long.  When “The Slim Princess” was being filmed Mabel astonished the producer by turning somersaults on a pile of cushions, on which she had been reclining as the attenuated heroine of the film a few minutes previously.  During intervals of filming she runs foot and bicycle races around the studio gardens.


A Novel Bait.


In one of her new Goldwyn pictures Mabel had to hide in a bath.  The fun she caused in the huge tub was prodigious, especially when she caught a fish with her toes.  Mabel is as strong as she is beautiful.  Nature has blessed her with a robust and vigorous constitution.  Health literally exudes from her.  Her eyes sparkle with the sunshine of happiness.  Her mirth permeates all those who come into contact with this princess of smiles.


What Mabel is Proud of.


She has great tenacity for work, a taste for fun, and a winning personality.  Two things Mabel admits that she is proud of.  First, her friendship with Alice Joyce.  Second, that she was the first to discover the merits of the funniest man in the world, renowned Charlie Chaplin, at the outset of his screen career.


Transcribed by Marilyn Slater

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