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Mabel Normand Not A Silent Star

Posted on March 17, 2015 at 10:20 PM Comments comments (98)

As I think you know Rudy Cecera is a Mabel Normand maven (a trusted expert in a particular field who seeks to pass knowledge on to others – he knows). Rudy has created 2 films, not one but two films about our girl and whole lot of other stuff. Recently he has been contributing to PURETIMES. His material is well researched, well written and ‘entertaining. Well worth the read.

Marilyn Slater


March 17, 2015

Mabel Normand: Not a Silent Star

: http://puretimes.net/arts-and-entertainment/mabel-normand-not-a-silent-star/

March 2015

By Rudy Cecera

"Who was Mabel Normand? Those who’ve never heard of her would obviously have no opinion, and those who have heard of her may say she was just a silent film actress. To those that know her story, the answer to this question is simply this: Mabel Normand is the most underrated person in show business history. "


Molly O' for St. Patrick's Day

Posted on March 6, 2015 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (40)

Saving Mabel Normand

Posted on February 25, 2015 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (29)


Saving Mabel Normand

By Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli 02/24/15

She was lustrous and brash, especially on gin-soaked days, lifting her skirt or offering offbeat quotes in jest. And for nearly 100 years her pioneering spirit has been diminished by tales of her alleged cocaine addiction and sordid behaviors.

Mabel Normand loved gin when gin was illegal, that’s true. She especially loved a cocktail of gin and vermouth, even if she had to get her booze from a bootlegger. The more pressured her life, the more it comforted her and the more her servants watered down the gin bottles.

Just say I like to pinch babies and twist their legs. And get drunk.

She carried a monogrammed Cartier’s flask to slip gin into her coffee.

She smoked her Turkish cigarettes through a pearl diamond studded holder.

She was lustrous and brash and often taunted the press, especially on gin-soaked days, lifting her skirt or offering offbeat quotes in jest, “Say anything you like, but don't say I love to work. That sounds like Mary Pickford, the prissy bitch. Just say I like to pinch babies and twist their legs. And get drunk.”

And perhaps such impetuous behavior by a woman in the early twentieth century sparked the ire of the men covering her career and the scandals that marked her path. Fair? Who can say?

But, one thing is certain, silent film comedienne Mabel Normand’s bawdy tale is one that has been colored by damning reportage of drug dens, dope fiends, murder, lavish parties, illicit affairs, shootings, sanitariums, furtive love and power.

Drug-crazed film queen is murder suspect. – New Orleans States, Feb. 7, 1922

…the film queen was again at a “dope party” morose and embittered, according to police… - Chicago American, Feb.7, 1922

…the film beauty may be the assassin, half-crazed with the drug she had taken…”- New Orleans States, Feb. 7, 1922

Still, to call it anything more than legend would be an egregious error, for hers was a life stained by accusation, innuendo and unsubstantiated claims. It’s a tale of he said, she said. And for nearly 100 years, her pioneering spirit and entrepreneurial talents have been diminished by tales of her alleged cocaine addiction and sordid behaviors.

“The issue of Mabel Normand’s drug addiction is somewhat contentious, since it is not confirmed by any hard evidence. Since we only know the rumor and hearsay, there’s certainly room for doubt,” says Bruce Long, author of William Desmond Taylor, A Dossier, a detailed firsthand accounting of police reports, testimony, news clippings, and inquisition transcripts about the murder of film director, William Desmond Taylor. Mabel Normand was once a suspect in Taylor’s murder. “I think she usually had a sparkling personality, was mischievous, feisty, profane, and had a heart of gold. But, she had an unpleasant side, which perhaps only emerged after she had too much to drink.”

Audacious accounts of Normand’s raging cocaine addiction continue to live on today in books, films, articles and the recently released track, Mabel Normand, by multi-Grammy Award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Stevie Nicks on her newest solo album, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault. Said Nicks in a Sept. 26 Billboard interview, “Give Mabel Normand a special listen. Mabel was an amazing actress and comedian from the '20s, and she was a terrible cocaine addict.”

In several interviews this past fall, Nicks credits her knowledge of Normand to a 1985 documentary she watched when she was at a low point with her own addiction to cocaine. “I really felt a connection with her. That's when I wrote the song.”

Was Mabel Normand merely a damsel in distress as many of her own films depicted? The beautifully saucy dark-haired flailing maiden chained to the railroad tracks awaiting rescue from the dashing Mack Sennett? Was she heroine or villain? In real life, did a disapproving media chain her to an unsubstantiated and unscrupulous fabrication? It depends on the version of the tale one chooses to believe.

According to Columbia University’s Women Film Pioneers Project, Mabel was one of the earliest silent actors to direct her own films. And she can be found in at least 167 silent film shorts and 23 full-length features. And while rarely discussed, Mabel was instrumental in Charlie Chaplin’s screen success. Mabel threw cinema's first custard pie in the face. She wrote, directed, acted, coached others and even owned her own film studio, Mabel Normand Feature Film Company, launched in 1916. And she has been credited with paving the way for women comediennes like Lucille Ball.

To really understand this tale, is perhaps to first understand the era.

It was a time of social and cultural upheaval. Women were fighting for a place in society and the right to vote. Life was faster, flamboyant and, at times, cavalier about drugs and alcohol. Coca leaf and its synthetic companion, cocaine, was legal until 1914. Right at the turn of the century cocaine was still viewed as miraculous—finding its way into tonics, elixirs, snuff tins and drinks. “Coca was a big fad and used by brain workers,” says Paul Gootenberg, a professor of history who specializes in the history of the Andean drug trade, at Stonybrook University, Staten Island.

It was the seduction of the coca leaf that lured Sigmund Freud and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to its euphoria. In a 1916 silent film, The Mystery of the Leaping Fish, Douglas Fairbanks, playing Coke Ennyday, parodies Sherlock Holmes and consumes copious amounts of cocaine.

Popular in Paris and New York, and perhaps, Hollywood at the time, was a tonic wine, Vin Mariani, actually a blend of red Bordeaux and cocaine. But he wonders if there was even enough cocaine available in the U.S. in the 1920s to support Mabel Normand’s alleged addiction. “There’s a controversy about cocaine availability at the time,” he says. “She might have been able to get it in a nasal spray.” says Gootenberg.

It is the perpetuation of Normand’s tale in stories, that Mabel’s nephew Stephen Normand, labels rumor. And he blames Stevie Nicks’ researchers for not doing a thorough job investigating Mabel’s life. “When a song has lyrics about a person who actually lived, accusing her of being a cocaine addict without proof, it is rather pathetic,” says Normand who lives in London.

After repeated attempts to contact Nicks, through her publicist about the discrepancy; calls and emails were left unreturned.

Nephew Normand backs his claims with tomes of personal correspondence and access to Aunt Mabel’s friends, her sister Gladys, and Mabel’s diaries. But for some, especially Stevie Nicks’ fans, Normand’s side of the story has no merit, and he’s been harshly criticized on several websites as a “family member in denial, a publicity hound.”

Such aspersions do not deter his reserve, he is adamant. “It is a web of hearsay, rumor and lies. Read any of these books, listen to the so-called historians, archivists who continue to rehash and rehash...,” says Normand. “They continue to use the same old rubbish...I simply ask the question, ‘Show me the facts: Where is it that documents Mabel Normand was a dope fiend?’ The answer is, they can't.”

As a young man, Stephen Normand connected with his Aunt Gladys, Mabel’s sister. And their first meeting at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal on the Manhattan side, started a two-year conversation about the family and Mabel, in particular. Initially, they met at the famous Chock Full ‘o Nuts cafe on lower Broadway for hotdogs, coffee and doughnuts, followed by a walk around Battery Park as they chatted. “We often sat on a bench to chat for a few hours,” Stephen said. “Later on, she brought gin martinis in a flask with little onions, we shared the drink in little metal cups.”

During their talks she told him all about growing up on Staten Island. “As she was the youngest, Mabel would lookout for her as her mother instructed her to do,” he said. “They often went over to Sailor's Snug harbor where their father Claude worked as a stage carpenter and scenery painter. Big brother, Claude, helping father and the girls pretending to be singing and acting on the stage.”

According to writers, Simon Joyce and Jennifer Putzi of the Women Film Pioneers Project: Even after her death, scholars have been more interested in the gossip surrounding Normand’s life and romances (including an announced marriage to Sennett in 1915 that never materialized) than her work. Scholars would do well to refocus attention on Normand’s distinctive contribution to early cinema and slapstick comedy, as well as the nature of her directorial work for Keystone.

Sister Gladys told Stephen, Mabel had a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Such was so with her implication in the murder of film director and close friend, William Desmond Taylor, and a second shooting a few years later, by her chauffeur, with her gun. Mabel was exonerated of both shootings.

The earliest news accounts of Mabel Normand’s drug-crazed life—although never mentioned by name—are traced to two young journalists, Wallace Smith, a correspondent for the Chicago American and Eddie Dougherty for the Chicago Tribune. Both assigned to cover the William Desmond Taylor killing, the reporters often sensationalized their stories, a common practice of the burgeoning yellow press at the time. In fact, so colorful and inflammatory were their stories about those involved, the Sheriff of Los Angeles County, Eugene W. Biscailuz, offered the duo bodyguards.

From Wallace Smith, Chicago American, Feb. 1922: …Half-crazed with the drug she had taken, the woman ran in a rage to her car and drove to her home. In the morning, according to the dope peddlers—remember that was part of their trade—she repented and telephoned Taylor.

"The reports and gossip of orgies and high life among the moving picture stars are exaggerated a hundred-fold, or are simply false stories based on unauthentic rumor," said Edward "Hoot" Gibson, a world champion cowboy, screen star and daredevil to a Portland, Ore. crowd at the Liberty Theater on Feb. 12, 1922. "The tales of elaborate dope parties in the studios and homes of the stars are not true, so far as I know…”

So, was Mabel Normand’s abysmal addiction to cocaine merely a fabrication of overzealous reporters?

“There are so many different rumors about her, but I give minimal credibility to the tales that Wallace Smith told about her,” says Bruce Long. “She certainly spent over a month at the Glen Springs Sanitarium. But there’s no hard proof she was there for drug rehab, or which drug(s) she used, if any. Even if she went into Glen Springs for rehab, there is less support for thinking she used drugs after that date.”

Mabel suffered from tuberculosis, her first bout at age 10. Family members say her various sanitarium stays were tied to her TB, of which she finally succumbed on Feb. 23, 1930, when she was 37.

While sexy tales of her addiction prevail, stories of her generous spirit have not garnered the same momentum. In one story, a man who worked at the film studio said his Irish mother would love to meet her. Mabel invited her to dinner at a swanky restaurant. Not knowing it was frowned upon, the woman stuffed her napkin under her chin, to save her any embarrassment, Mabel put hers under her chin. When the woman ate with her fingers, Mabel did, too.

“Mabel was generous to a fault, giving presents and money to total strangers,” says Stephen Normand. “She was very thoughtful towards her family, particularly her parents, whom she bought a well located home on Staten Island and sent an allowance monthly to ease their life.”

In criminal trials, jurors sit in judgment and must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of a defendant’s guilt. In the case of Mabel Normand, what would a jury decide? Does she sit in the shadow of doubt?

Who knows?

Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli has written for the Washington Post, the LA Times, USA Today and American Medical News, among other publications. She last wrote about gambling in high places, the state of addiction funding research and the legal status of a criminal confession in AA.


Posted on January 3, 2015 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (38)

Oscar fashions for best actress winner, sadly so many are unknown but you may have seen this image but know who some of the ‘unknown’ were….


Mabel's Studio on TV

Posted on November 11, 2014 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (153)



EYE ON LA looks into the “Mabel Normand Studio” in Silverlake district of Los Angeles on Bates. Yes, they call it “The Mack Sennett Studio”, now we know that the Mack Sennett Studio was on the other side of the hill in Edendale near Echo Park. That said, the people at ABC show us the basement of Mabel’s Studio, which was also used by William S. Hart. The pictures are wonderful even if there was some mislabeled.


Also ABC gives us a peek into the Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax, once upon a time a photo of Mabel hung on the wall but it fell down and has not been put back up.








Some of L.A.'s most exciting vintage treasures have to do with our Hollywood history! See what we found in the basement of the historic Mack Sennett Studios, and where you can see early Hollywood films at the Cinefamily Theatre's Silent Movies. Do not miss our Tina Malave's visit with the one and only Dr. Demento!



Mack Sennett Studios


Built nearly 100 years ago by Hollywood pioneer Mack Sennett for his fiancée, starlet Mabel Normand, the legendary studio in Silver Lake once again bears the name of the man who built it. Today, the state of the art studios are in high demand for commercials and music videos, like Robin Thicke and Pharrell's chart-topping "Blurred Lines" video.





Mabel in October News

Posted on October 8, 2014 at 3:10 AM Comments comments (85)

Mabel is part of the current news cycle with the release of Stevie Nicks “Mabel Normand” and of course the selection of “Mabel’s Dressing Room” comedy by Rudy Cecera at Coney Island Film Festival and the wonderful reviews of Jon Boorstin’s “Mabel & Me” No one now thinks of Pioneers of Cinema without including Mabel Normand…do you hear me smiling? But there are so many more women, think Anna May Wong and others. And yes, William J. Mann’s book on William Desmond Taylor will included Mabel’s relationship with her friend. Is all this exposure factual, perhaps not but just knowing that she is talked about is a good thing. One more item, Paul Gierucki’s collection of Mack Sennett early comedy is part of almost everyone video library, now.

Yesterday on Face Book, Elaine Mae Woo wrote a note about the PBS “MAKERS: Women in Hollywood” one of the six New Documentaries on PBS. She wrote “Attended this last night…On PBS 10/7/14, they talk about the early women pioneers in Hollywood. No mention of any Asian American women. The producer told me (Elaine) that they looked high & low for info, pics, talking heads, Nothing I( guess they never knew that Lisa See, Amy Tam, Nancy Kwan, etc. could of suggested something or someone. Take a look see or TiVo the segment. (yes, Marilyn –mention of Mabel)”

And I wrote:

It wouldn’t have been so long ago that Mabel Normand might have been overlooked because her work was in “comedy shorts”…now we understand her importance, so don’t give up, Elaine your documentary is fabulous.”

And Elaine wrote this morning:

They did about a 6 or 8 mins. segment regarding the early women pioneers. From what I can recall nothing re: Dolores del Rio, Josephine Baker, not one photo of a women of color. The film historians who were the talking heads one was a younger PHD person and the professor, I didn’t recognize her name. Maybe one of you ladies can enlighten me more on these two women film historians, Thanks


If this researches you before Tuesday (9 pm or 8/c) please turn in. I know a number of you are in Italy as is Mark Lynn Anderson (another Face Book note) For those currently attending Pordenone. “there will be an impromptu information meeting of “Women and Film History International on Thursday afternoon, October 9, at one o’clock in front of the Teatro Verdi.


2014 Daughters of Naldi - Pig 'n Whistle

Posted on September 1, 2014 at 11:05 PM Comments comments (16)


Posted on August 14, 2014 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (16)


Lisa Napoli, “Which Way LA on, Wednesday (August 13, 2014) at KCRW aired a discussion about Jon Boorstin’s “MABEL & ME”.

According to Jon Boorstin interview on NPR/KCRW regarding “MABEL & ME”, she moved and performed just the way women do, and she did it on film without being condescending and the audience loved her. Mabel was the FIRST woman to produce a feature film in America…. One point made that I need to think about is before movies there was no mass culture.


The first movie star never said a word | Which Way L.A.?

Once a model, Mabel Normand was a movie star before that term even existed....



A publicity photo Mabel didn't like

Posted on July 9, 2014 at 10:55 PM Comments comments (13)

Mabel Normand had some say as to how she would appear in publicity photos…I don’t think it is rotten…but she did.

Laurel and Hardywood - Convention Update #43

Posted on June 24, 2014 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (11)

Laurel and Hardywood - Convention Update #43


One week from today Sons will have the opportunity to venture out on the first-ever Habeas Corpus Tour. Our first stop will be the Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. Next delegates will meet with Kari Bible, cemetery tour guide and historian of the Hollywood Forever Memorial Park (formerly Hollywood Memorial Park) for a two hour walking tour of this unique cemetery. Learn more about Kari http://cemeterytour.com/ (Due to the size of our group, there will be an equally informative guide helping out too.)

Lunch will be on your own at the world famous Farmers’ Market in Hollywood. Then we will see the final resting place of the ever-popular Mae Busch before going on to Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City and if time allows Hillside Memorial Park where Trudy Marshall is buried.

Although our main focus on the tour are the Laurel and Hardy, Hal Roach co-stars, many more people of note will be pointed out. We may not get to all of the co-stars I had hoped, but I will try my best to give you the best tour possible.

Some tips on the tour:

First and foremost, be in the lobby of the Loews Hollywood Hotel at 8:45 as we will be leaving at 9:00 A. M. This trip, like all of the morning tours, must leave on time!

All of our stops are working cemeteries-we need to be respectful of the grounds and possible mourners. If a service is taking place we may not to be able to get to the graves we had hoped to visit.

The grounds and pathways may be uneven, watch your footing and holes in the grass.

Sun screen, hats, umbrellas would be a good idea. Thanks to David Webb of the Saps at Sea Tent, water will be provided.

Be sure to bring your camera! (No need for your autograph book on this one.)

And most of all, enjoy the tour!

My sights are high, below is what I hope to show you this day-no guarantee, but I will try!

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, California

Phone: 323-469-1181

Louise Emmons (1852-1935) character actress – Our Gang’s Mush and Milk

Walter Long (1879-1952) heavy – Pardon Us, Any Old Port, Going Bye Bye and Pick a Star

Otto Fries (1887-1938) character actor – Leave ‘Em Laughing, From Soup to Nuts, Pardon Us and On the Loose

Harry Bernard (1878-1940) character actor – Saps at Sea, Bacon Grabbers, Any Old Port and Perfect Day

Clifton Young (1917-1951) Our Gang actor “Bonedust” – Thundering Fleas

Bobby Dunn (1890-1937) character actor – Me and My Pal, Tit for Tat and The Bohemian Girl

Charles Middleton (1874-1949) character actor – The Flying Deuces, Pack Up Your Troubles and The Fixer Uppers

Alfalfa Switzer (1927-1959) Our Gang actor

Harold Switzer (1925-1967) Our Gang actor

Darla Hood (1931-1979) Our Gang leading lady – The Bohemian Girl

Gertrude Astor (1887-1977) actress – Mrs. Hardy in Come Clean

Eddie Dunn (1896-1951) character actor – Me and My Pal, Another Fine Mess

Harry Lachman (1886-1975) director – Our Relations

Tom Kennedy (1884-1965) character actor – Liberty, Pack Up Your Troubles

Edith Fellows (1923-2011) child actress – Our Gang, The Devil’s Brother

Forest Lawn Memorial Park Hollywood Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Dr.,

Los Angeles, California 90068 Phone: 800-204-3131

Alfred Goulding (1887-1972) director – A Chump At Oxford

Jean Parker (1917-2005) leading lady – The Flying Deuces and Zenobia

June Lang (1917-2005) leading lady – Bonnie Scotland and Zenobia

Reginald Gardiner (1903-1980) leading man – The Flying Deuces

Iris Adrian (1912-1994) character actress – Our Relations

Ben Shipman (1892-1975) attorney – This Is Your Life

T. Marvin Hatley (1905-1986) musician/composer – Oscar nominee for Way Out West and Block-Heads

Daphne Pollard (1893-1978) character actress – Our Relations and Thicker Than Water

The Chapel of the Pines, 1605 S. Catalina, Los Angeles, California 90006Phone: 323-731-5734

Mae Busch (1891-1946) actress – Sons of the Desert, Their First Mistake and The Fixer Uppers

Edgar Dearing (1893-1965) character actor – The Second Hundred Years and Two Tars

Note: James Finlayson (1887-1953) was cremated here. The following actors also were cremated here; their ashes currently are in vaultage: Gilbert “Bronco Billy” Anderson (produced Stan Laurel comedies); Margaret Dumont (1889-1965) The Dancing Masters; Wilfred Lucas (1871-1940) Pardon Us and The Devil’s Brother; Vivien Oakland (1895-1958) Scram; Philip Van Zandt (1904-1958) Air Raid Wardens and The Big Noise; Stanley “Tiny” Sandford (1894-1961) From Soup to Nuts and Double Whoopee. In addition, the ashes of Bess Flowers (1898-1984), Mrs. Laurel in We Faw Down, were scattered in the rose garden.

Holy Cross Cemetery,5835 W. Slauson Ave., Culver City, California 90230 Phone: 310-836-5500

Della Lind (Grete Natzler-1906-1999) actress/singer – Swiss Miss

Edgar Kennedy (1890-1948) character actor – Leave ‘Em Laughing and Bacon Grabbers

Art Lloyd (1897-1954) Hal Roach Studios cinematographer

Edna Marian (1906-1957) actress – From Soup to Nuts

George Marshall (1891-1975) director – Pack Up Your Troubles and Their First Mistake

Ray Bolger (1904-1987) actor and scarecrow – Victory War Bond Tour

Stephen “Horace” McNally (1911-1994) actor – Air Raid Wardens

Jimmy Durante (1893-1980) comedian – Hollywood Party

Bing Crosby (1903-1977) singer/actor – Riding High

Jack Haley (1898-1979) actor and tin man – Pick A Star

Zasu Pitts (1900-1963) actress – On the Loose

Charles Gemora (1903-1961) – The Chimp and Swiss Miss

Henry Armetta (1888-1945) character actor – The Devil’s Brother

Leo McCarey (1898-1969) Oscar-winning director – Sugar Daddies, We Faw Down, Big Business and Liberty

Hillside Memorial Park, 6001 W. Centinela Ave., Culver City, California 90045 Phone: 310-641-0707

Trudy Marshall (1920-2004) actress – The Dancing Masters

Jack Benny (1894-1974) comedian – Hollywood Revue of 1929

Thank you to the following dedicated Sons who donated to the cost of the flowers we will be placing that day:

Tiziano Medici

Tom & Bernice MacKenzie

Jayne Barnhart

Elizabeth Strong

Dave Saaf & Gary Rindfleich

Nancy and Rick Killmer

Dave Simpson

Eileen Levy and Flip Lauer

Frank Klump

Bruce Church

Bill and Mike Wills

Jim and Fran Zientara

Rick Lindner

Lee and Dee McBeath

Marcia Opal

Mary May Vereen

Sjaak Bolder

George and Taylor Mazzey

There is still limited space on this tour for interested parties.