Mabel Normand Loved Speed
“I couldn’t think of anything prettier than Mabel Normand behind the wheel of that car” Mack Sennett
In 1914, while she was filming Tillie’s Punctured Romance with Charlie Chaplin and Marie Dressler, the Movie Pictorial,
FIAT STUTZ BEARCAT
The article states this rivalries ran even to motor cars, Mabel’s Stutz Bearcat racing against Marie’s Fiat with a scheduled demonstration at
At the end of the year and the release of Tillie's Punctured Romance, Picture & Picturegoer in a
On one of her solo trips, the story from Photoplayers Weekly,
While on the East Coast, she also drove her own cars, perhaps not racers, but the story told by Wil Rex for the April Picture Play, 1916 called "Behind The Scenes With Fatty And Mabel" tells of what a wonderful place Fort Lee was. “…that magic
In the morning, Mabel met Wil at the ferry houses in her racing motor, to drive him up to the Keystone-Triangle Studios – ‘one of the largest glass-enclosed film factories in the East.’ He writes that the adventure began on reaching one of the most dangerous spots for a motorist, the hill at
Mabel ended up in traffic court only once that I could discover--that was for going the wrong way on the street in
While the newspaper ran story after story about the Taylor killing, Mabel was living in Altadena away from the press but the Los Angeles Times ran a story about Mabel tooling her heavy limousine up a steep grade on
Mabel’s 1914 Stutz Bearcat was priced new: $2000. The top speed was thought to be only 45+ mph. It used a huge 4-cylinder, T-head engine made by Waukashaw. Each cylinder had over 100 cubic inches. Known as the first sports car in the scant-body and scant-comfort idiom, the Bearcat was designed by Harry Stutz to be a masculine machine from the drawing board. There was a rumor that he designed clutch springs so stiff that supposedly a woman could not operate it. If Mabel could drive it, this statement was proven untrue.
Mabel’s 1916 Mercer was a high-quality motor but was produced only in small numbers. Talented designers and race drivers contributed their efforts to focus on the Mercer's quality by creating competition during the many road races during that period.
The result was one of the most acknowledged sports cars of the decade: the 1910 Type-35R Raceabout, a stripped-down, two-seat speedster, designed to be "safely and consistently" driven at over 70
"Gasoline Row" in "The Van Nuys News" for Friday,
Dan Sutton, the local Buick dealer, announced that Anna Q. Nilsson, now a Van Nuys resident, had been given a new Buick coupe as a Christmas present by her husband.
"In the Buick yards they have a Mercer roadster of ancient vintage that formerly belonged to a noted moving picture actress who has a record for speeding. The old boat is pretty well knocked to pieces but is still full of speed and good for 70 miles even in its junked condition, so they say."
Mabel Normand owned a Mercer in 1914 and we could speculate why the name of the film actress of the Mercer at Dan Sutton dealership was withheld, which is always fun. January 1924 was during the whole mess of the Cortland Dines shooting. The newspapers were full of Mabel, but it was negative publicity and obviously wouldn’t have added anything positive to the story about Anna Q. Nilsson's new Buick. As long as the speculation is just speculation, wouldn’t it be delightful if someone had restored Mabel's little Mercer? It is such a classic style. At one point, Mabel’s custom-built Mercer Runabout with a "dressing table and makeup mirror that folded into her car door" was on display at the Hollywood Museum of Autos, according to Sam Peeples’s, "Madcap: The Story of Mabel Normand, Part I," Classic Film Collector.
There are a number of pictures of Mabel with her various automobiles (cars/motors/machines/cyclecars). She seems to have had a weakness for speed….can one have a weakness for speed?
There is a lovely story told by Mack Sennett to Cameron Shipp in the book, “King of Comedy.” Mack was making money at Keystone and spending it, too. One of the purchases he made was a $6,000 red Fiat which Mabel borrowed and stripped the gears on a drive to
…”Miss Normand, who couldn’t drive anything more complicated than a small nail, clapped her big brown eyes on the new Fiat and decided I was the boy next door after all.
‘Can I drive it, Mack? Please! You know me, I’m as careful as an old lady, and when I hit people I practically almost never maim them permanently. Mack, I’ve just got to drive that big automobile.
I couldn’t think of anything prettier than Mabel Normand behind the wheel of that car…. Mabel returned four hours later, her big eyes were as innocent as a small girl’s and she came over and sat on my desk and swung her legs and rumpled my hair and grinned at me…Mack, the damnedest thing, you do have an exceptional talent for picking bum automobiles. That Fiat’s insides just weren’t any good and I hadn’t got even to Santa Monica before there was some terrible egg-beating noises and some weak kind of put-put-puts and the car stopped…She was the most gorgeous thing you ever saw, and what did I need with a Fiat?”
In Mack Sennett’s 1919 Will, one of the clauses states that his two Packards should be given to Mabel (along with jewelry, personal things and a nice trust).
William M. Drew, the film historian and Pearl White biographer, about ten years ago wrote a particularly insightful article called The Speeding Sweethearts of the Silent Screen (1908-1921). In his article he draws the parallel between the social development of the women’s movement and the movement of women in automobiles. There is a lot of Mabel in it, too.
There were Airplanes (aeroplanes) too, anything fast and powerful anything with horsepower, even horses were of special interest to Mabel. Julia Benson, Mabel’s companion and friend, hated to ride in the car with Mabel driving as Mabel would drive with her foot all the way to the floorboard and the speedometer as far to the right as the needle could go. If Julia ended up riding with Mabel, it was only with her rosary clutched tightly in her hand.
This photo is of the 1914 crash in Santa Monica, California during the
300 mile Roadrace, just 2 days after this crash the same car
won the 400 mile Roadrace.
Teddy Tetzlaff on San Vicente Blvd., Sant Monica
March 5, 1922, Mabel attended the Beverly Speedway Races. Tommy Milton won in his Durant-Miller. It was a 250-mile race with an average speed of 110 mph. according to June 1922, Capt. Billy's Whiz Bang, Mabel Normand attended the races at the (Beverly) Los Angeles Speedway the following Sunday (March 5, 1922), where she giggled all afternoon with a group of girl friends, went down into the auto pits to talk with the drivers and pretty generally enjoyed herself.
March 5, 1922, Mabel attended the Beverly Speedway Races. Tommy Milton won in his Durant-Miller. It was a 250-mile race with an average speed of 110 mph.
according to June 1922, Capt. Billy's Whiz Bang, Mabel Normand attended the races at the (Beverly) Los Angeles Speedway the following Sunday (March 5, 1922), where she giggled all afternoon with a group of girl friends, went down into the auto pits to talk with the drivers and pretty generally enjoyed herself.
It was a four turn banked oval made of 2-by-4s by Jack Prince. The wood was inexpensive and eliminated the dust connected with racetracks. The track was only one and quarter miles and the banks were 37%, it had a 70,000- seat stadium.
It was the site for a number of airplane programs, not just racecars. Mabel must have loved it. The
ONCE UPON A TIME