Mabel Normand

The Life and Career of a Hollywood Madcap, 2d ed.


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About the Book

American silent film actress Mabel Normand (1892–1930) appeared in a string of popular movies opposite stars like Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle before dying of tuberculosis at 37. Her brief but remarkable career—which included directorial and writing credits and heading her own studio and production company—was eclipsed by scandal when police connected her to the unsolved 1922 murder of director William Desmond Taylor.Tracing her life from humble beginnings on Staten Island to the heights of world superstardom, this book highlights Normand’s substantial yet largely overlooked contributions to film history and popular culture.

About the Author(s)

Timothy Dean Lefler is an author, artist, teacher and co-designer of The Beach Boys Historic Monument in Hawthorne, California. He lives in Rancho Cucamonga.

Bibliographic Details

Timothy Dean Lefler
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 251
Bibliographic Info: 88 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8758-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5039-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  vi
Preface  1
Introduction  3
1 • Hello Mabel 5
2 • Over the Garden Wall 7
3 • Staten Island Girl 10
4 • Venus Model 13
5 • The Griffith Touch 17
6 • Hide and Seek 26
7 • Keystone Mabel 31
8 • The Fun Factory 37
9 • Mabel at the Wheel 48
10 • Tillie 52
11 • Ice Cream for Breakfast 55
12 • Mabel in Close Up 61
13 • The Clock Strikes 12 66
14 • New Woman 70
15 • Mabel Inc. 75
16 • Goldwyn Girl 84
17 • Mickey 94
18 • Mabelescent 99
19 • Back to Mack 110
20 • Gates of Babylon 117
21 • Different Names 122
22 • Her Story 126
23 • The Edge of Murder 129
24 • Fatal Tales 136
25 • Sail Away 143
26 • To Live Through Pain 148
27 • Final Frames 156
28 • A Tender Goodbye 166
Epilogue  171
Appendix A: Filmography  173
Appendix B: Last Will and Testament of Mabel Normand  193
Appendix C: Transcript of Coroner’s Inquest, William Desmond Taylor Murder Case, February 4, 1922  194
Appendix D: Transcript of Mabel Normand’s Testimony at Arraignment of Horace Greer, aka Joseph Kelly, January 22, 1924, Los Angeles Courthouse  199
Appendix E: How to Be a Comedienne  212
Appendix F: Mabel’s Clothes and Possessions  215
Chapter Notes  223
Bibliography  235
Index  237

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Lefler’s affectionate reappraisal recognizes Mabel Normand, the silent film actress, screenwriter, director, and producer, as the holder of many firsts…this retrospective shows Normand as exuberant, flirtatious, bookish, and generous…enlightening”—Library Journal

• “Lefler writes, ‘the time for a reassessment of [Normand’s] life and career is overdue.’ His detailed, carefully researched account fits the bill and is written with the enthusiasm of a devoted fan…The book’s epigraph features Normand’s own words, ‘I had no precedent, nothing to imitate. I had to create my own standard of fun.’ This lively and entertaining biography tells just how she did it.”—Booklist

From the first edition:

• Winner, Best Biography—Southern California Book Festival

• “Offers a great deal of insight, understanding, and appreciation to one of cinema’s most significant pioneers. Lefler’s book is deep, enlightening, informative, and fulfilling. One of the finest books ever written on an actor or filmmaker…most passionately recommended”—Examiner

• “Very welcome…[this book] has set a new standard”—Silent-ology

• “A worthwhile introduction…a look at the great early comedian”—The Huffington Post

• “The book takes us back to the silent film era and one of its major though short-lived comedy stars…Lefler outlines the basics of her film career from her first “shorts” in 1910 through her final films in 1927”—Communications Booknotes Quarterly