Mabel Normand and female comedians?

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misspickford9

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Mabel Normand and female comedians?

PostSun Jan 11, 2009 8:38 am

You know I've always been vaguely interested in her but I've finally seen enough that Im pretty extremely interested. I havent seen enough to be an authority but it seems...theres a lot of Mabel in Charlie (though he'd probably not like to admit it...Charlie was Charlie's boss LOL!)

I've heard there was never a biography done on her; then amazon turned up to very long ago pricey results (early 90s, mid $40). Has anyone ever read them? Are they any good?

Also what films of hers would you recommend seeing? So far I've only seen a handful of Keystone shorts that though I cant remember the names but they didnt impress me (she was basically the pretty girl while the loonies acted around her). Then I seen "Tillie's Punctured Romance" and I loved that. I also seen a few of her Fatty shorts and I thought they were good. I hear Mickey is wonderful, but what about her later stuff?

Also on the topic am I missing out on other female comedians? To me it seems there was really her and Mary (and Mary never gets the credit). People say Marion Davies but I thought she was an extremely second rate Pickford meets weird female Harold Lloyd. I've heard Dorothy Gish was quite good but I havent seen anything of hers. Anyone else of note Im missing?
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boblipton

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PostSun Jan 11, 2009 9:00 am

Well, Volume Four of THE SLAPSTICK ENCYCLOPEDIA -- which is a set everyone should have -- is all about the comediennes, and a fine bunch they are. If you're speaking of individual ladies, Roach tried out several, although none really clicked until he teamed up Zasu Pitts and Thelma Todd for 'The Girl Friend' series -- a great combination in most of their shorts. Gloria Swanson, despite the fact that she hated the slapstick she did at Keystone, did some great comedy work for Alan Dwan in MANHANDLED and STAGE STRUCK. And Gale Henry -- her THE DETECTRESS is in SLAPSTICK ENCYCLOPEDIA -- provided a lot of chuckles through the early thirties, particularly in the shorts she did with Charley Chase. For something a bit more elevated, you should search out Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew. While most of the stage business is his, the straight man -- or, in this case, woman -- makes the movies.

I'm sure the Silent Comedy Mafia will chime in with many other examples.

Bob
New and vigorous impulses seem to me to be at work in it,[the cinema] and doubtless before long it will drop all slavish copying of the stage and strike out along fresh paths. -- Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree
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Peter Kalm

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PostSun Jan 11, 2009 9:21 am

I have the DVD, What Happened to Rosa (1920) from Grapevine Video. It also includes 2 short films, one with Fatty Arbuckle.
I also really enjoyed the movie Chaplin (1992) where Marissa Tomei plays Mabel Normand. From the film as well as from what I have read she was a difficult person to work with and died young, possibly because of her problems with drinking and drugs.
Mabel normand also directed many movies at a time when the vast majority of directors were men.
Dorothy Gish starred in many comedy films but unfortunately few of them survive. The poor survival rate of her films was discussed on this forum previously.
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Re: Mabel Normand and female comedians?

PostSun Jan 11, 2009 9:25 am

misspickford9 wrote:You know I've always been vaguely interested in her but I've finally seen enough that Im pretty extremely interested. I havent seen enough to be an authority but it seems...theres a lot of Mabel in Charlie (though he'd probably not like to admit it...Charlie was Charlie's boss LOL!)

I've heard there was never a biography done on her; then amazon turned up to very long ago pricey results (early 90s, mid $40). Has anyone ever read them? Are they any good?

Also what films of hers would you recommend seeing? So far I've only seen a handful of Keystone shorts that though I cant remember the names but they didnt impress me (she was basically the pretty girl while the loonies acted around her). Then I seen "Tillie's Punctured Romance" and I loved that. I also seen a few of her Fatty shorts and I thought they were good. I hear Mickey is wonderful, but what about her later stuff?

Also on the topic am I missing out on other female comedians? To me it seems there was really her and Mary (and Mary never gets the credit). People say Marion Davies but I thought she was an extremely second rate Pickford meets weird female Harold Lloyd. I've heard Dorothy Gish was quite good but I havent seen anything of hers. Anyone else of note Im missing?


I think the bio you're talking about is by Betty Fussell. If you're interested in Betty Fussell you'll find it well done. If you're interested in Mabel Normand, not so much. There is a new bio of Mabel in the works.

Agree to disagree on Marion Davies, I think she's remarkable. I've laughed more during Davies' films than I have at the annoyingly yclept "Big Three" combined.

Fred
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Arndt

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PostSun Jan 11, 2009 11:10 am

Both WHAT HAPPENED TO ROSA? and THE EXTRA GIRL are available in very nice editions in Chris Snowden's Unknown Video series http://www.unknownvideo.com/. They are very funny films and all the humour is down to Mabel.
"The greatest cinematic experience is the human face and it seems to me that silent films can teach us to read it anew." - Wim Wenders
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PostSun Jan 11, 2009 4:37 pm

In our 2007 Biennale I curated a tribute program to Normand, with a lot of help from Steve Massa. A shorter version of this was also taken over by the Giornate del Cinema muto in Pordenone.
At this link you can read about our program, and it also links further to an article Steve wrote for our progam booklet.
http://www.filmmuseum.nl/website/exec/f ... 2e50616765

Mabel has her own Keystone films, in which Chaplin also appears. However, these films now get restored because of Chaplins presence in them; like MABEL AT THE WHEEL, MABELS BUSY DAY etc.
It is definitely worth while to see some of her feature films like HEAD OVER HEELS and MOLLY O. Then we have THE FLOOR BELOW which was shown in LA in the summer of 2007. (And hasnt really been shown since, unfortunately).

As far as the other ladies go: I'd love to see more of Louise Fazenda and Dot Farley. I also suspect Dorothy Devore to be a good comedienne, but I havent seen enough.
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PostSun Jan 11, 2009 4:51 pm

I found WHAT HAPPENED TO ROSA? kind of creepy. If I hadn't known anything I'd have thought it was a nice mildly funny film, but knowing about Normand's history every time she's on screen I can only think how sick she looks.

Having said that, the scene with the dummy legs is a scream.
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PostSun Jan 11, 2009 7:48 pm

While I've seen plenty of fine comedy performances by actresses, there seems to be very few who restricted themselves to the genre, unlike their male counterparts. More often, once they achieved stardom, they seem to have alternated between dramatic and comedic roles. Such seems to be the case with Davies, Moore, Pickford, Swanson and a host of others.

One of my favorite female comedians not previously mentioned is Marie Dressler. While I haven't seen any of her films, Beatrice Lillie is another name that seems to have achieved critical acclaim in comedy. And from what I've seen of the stills, Baby Peggy also looks like she had a real flair in the field.
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Steve Massa

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PostSun Jan 11, 2009 10:19 pm

There were tons of funny women, stars and supporting players, in silent comedy who always get overlooked. A few that haven't been mentioned yet in this thread are Alice Howell, Fay Tincher, Polly Moran, Anita Garvin, Dot Farley, Babe London abd Dale Fuller. There are many more.

Steve
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Tommie Hicks

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PostMon Jan 12, 2009 1:37 am

Also there's Polly Moran, Alice Day, and Wanda Wiley (what became of her...Anyone?).
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Paul E. Gierucki

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PostMon Jan 12, 2009 3:40 am

William Thomas Sherman's MABEL NORMAND SOURCE BOOK is fascinating, and available for free at the author's website:

http://www.angelfire.com/mn/hp/

There is also a major Mabel Normand restoration project in the offing.
Stay tuned.

-- PG
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PostMon Jan 12, 2009 7:39 am

Another popular funny lady was the lovely and spunky Dorothy Devore. I know that some of her films exist but do we have anything on DVD?
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PostMon Jan 12, 2009 7:49 am

GETTING GERTIES'S GOAT is, if I recall, on Chris Snowden's estimable Christie dvd, and KNOW THY WIFE is on SLAPSTICK ENCYCLOPEDIA.

Bob
New and vigorous impulses seem to me to be at work in it,[the cinema] and doubtless before long it will drop all slavish copying of the stage and strike out along fresh paths. -- Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree
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Re: Mabel Normand and female comedians?

PostMon Jan 12, 2009 3:16 pm

Frederica wrote:Agree to disagree on Marion Davies, I think she's remarkable. I've laughed more during Davies' films than I have at the annoyingly yclept "Big Three" combined.

Fred


Wow, "yclept"...now there's a twelve-dollar word. I had to look it up, even.

After seeing THE RED MILL, THE PATSY and SHOW PEOPLE, I like Davies just fine, but she's no Charlie plus Buster plus Harold, or even one third.
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PostMon Jan 12, 2009 4:38 pm

I think Marion Davies was a major minor talent. She couldn't do everything, but she had a few things she could do exquisitely well- a truly gifted mimic and very sweet. I once saw a clip of "Enchantment". She doesn't actually do anything but walk down a stairway but for those few moments she's radiantly beautiful, touching and vulnerable. You just want to take her arm and protect her. (From what I hear that clip is the best part of the film)
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Re: Mabel Normand and female comedians?

PostMon Jan 12, 2009 4:42 pm

WaverBoy wrote:
Frederica wrote:Agree to disagree on Marion Davies, I think she's remarkable. I've laughed more during Davies' films than I have at the annoyingly yclept "Big Three" combined.

Fred


Wow, "yclept"...now there's a twelve-dollar word. I had to look it up, even.

After seeing THE RED MILL, THE PATSY and SHOW PEOPLE, I like Davies just fine, but she's no Charlie plus Buster plus Harold, or even one third.


Different strokes.

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Re: Mabel Normand and female comedians?

PostMon Jan 12, 2009 4:50 pm

Frederica wrote:
WaverBoy wrote:
Frederica wrote:Agree to disagree on Marion Davies, I think she's remarkable. I've laughed more during Davies' films than I have at the annoyingly yclept "Big Three" combined.

Fred


Wow, "yclept"...now there's a twelve-dollar word. I had to look it up, even.

After seeing THE RED MILL, THE PATSY and SHOW PEOPLE, I like Davies just fine, but she's no Charlie plus Buster plus Harold, or even one third.


Different strokes.

Fred


Well everyone is entitled to an opinion; Im not saying she was necessarily untalented just I dont think she was THAT great like a lot of people make her out to be. I wouldnt put her in any tops list :p. Thanks for the other names guys! Jeesh compared to the men women didnt fair very well in memory did they? This is the first Im hearing most of these names but even I knew who Charley Chase or Ben Turpin were when I barely knew anything bout silents!
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Re: Mabel Normand and female comedians?

PostMon Jan 12, 2009 4:55 pm

misspickford9 wrote:Different strokes.

Fred


Well everyone is entitled to an opinion...


Gosh, thanks.

Fred
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Re: Mabel Normand and female comedians?

PostMon Jan 12, 2009 5:16 pm

misspickford9 wrote:After seeing THE RED MILL, THE PATSY and SHOW PEOPLE, I like Davies just fine, but she's no Charlie plus Buster plus Harold, or even one third.

and

Well everyone is entitled to an opinion; Im not saying she was necessarily untalented just I dont think she was THAT great like a lot of people make her out to be. I wouldnt put her in any tops list :p. Thanks for the other names guys! Jeesh compared to the men women didnt fair very well in memory did they? This is the first Im hearing most of these names but even I knew who Charley Chase or Ben Turpin were when I barely knew anything bout silents!


Well, count me in the very firm Davies was talented and I suspect we may be miss-categorizing her.

She is best remembered today as a comedienne, for which I feel she is one of the "tops" and yet, like Connie Talmadge and or Dorothy Gish, she was very capable of performing (and being very touching) in more dramatic roles.

Davies was a very good all-round performer, she had presence and like many a star of the era, sometimes rose or sank by the material and/or director (as an example, Valentino comes to mind Four Horsemen v Blood and Sand). I also think she made the talkie transition very nicely. Some of the material may be less than stellar, but I've rarely found her to be anything less than pure pleasure at her best and less so when she's not.

My .02
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PostTue Jan 13, 2009 12:05 pm

Marion Davies and Dorothy Gish are prime examples of stars that I would really like to see more of. I've really enjoyed the few films of each that I've had a chance to see, but I've seen far too few of their films to form any kind of judgments about their careers. I can only say that I loved Davies in The Fair Co-Ed and Gish in The Black Shawl and I really, really wish those movies (and the rest of their work for that matter) could be seen more easily. Many of the actresses mentioned in this thread suffer from the same general unavailability of their work.

I'm very fond of Clara Bow, especially as a comedienne. Mantrap in particular is a personal favorite.
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PostTue Jan 13, 2009 4:58 pm

Helen wrote:I can only say that I loved Davies in The Fair Co-Ed and Gish in The Black Shawl and I really, really wish those movies (and the rest of their work for that matter) could be seen more easily.


Presumably you mean THE BRIGHT SHAWL? I liked that movie a lot, but I'd like to see it again -- I was rather bowled over by the visuals to the point where I still am not quite sure what to make of it, though I liked it a lot. Another Marion Davies film that's not too hard to find is QUALITY STREET -- it's an extra on the "Captured on Film" documentary disc. It's either a comedy with dramatic bits or a drama with comedic bits, but she pulls both off quite well, and any film with a reasonably big role for Kate Price is worth seeking out.
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PostSat Jan 17, 2009 10:18 am

Oops, yes, I did mean The Bright Shawl. Just goes to show it's been too long since I saw it!
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PostMon Jan 19, 2009 3:59 pm

What do you think of Carol Dempster? I hadn't seen her in anything before Pordenone festival this year. There I saw SALLY OF THE SAWDUST and the SORROWS OF SATAN and I was pleasantly surprised.
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Re: Mabel Normand and female comedians?

PostTue Jan 20, 2009 2:37 pm

Frederica wrote:
......I think the bio you're talking about is by Betty Fussell. If you're interested in Betty Fussell you'll find it well done. If you're interested in Mabel Normand, not so much. There is a new bio of Mabel in the works.......
Fred


Freddy, man you got that right about Mrs. Fussell's book, 'Mabel - Hollywoods First I Don't Care Girl' (1982)

Hey how come no-one has mentioned a certain Marie Dressler in this thread?
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PostTue Jan 20, 2009 3:12 pm

Because no one cares?

Bob
New and vigorous impulses seem to me to be at work in it,[the cinema] and doubtless before long it will drop all slavish copying of the stage and strike out along fresh paths. -- Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree
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Re: Mabel Normand and female comedians?

PostTue Jan 20, 2009 3:15 pm

silent-partner wrote:Hey how come no-one has mentioned a certain Marie Dressler in this thread?


I did, about post #8 in this thread. Another one I've been thinking about is Bebe Daniels, though I'm not sure how many of her comedy features still exist.
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PostTue Jan 20, 2009 3:18 pm

boblipton wrote:Because no one cares?

Bob


Oh, snap!!!! (in the parlance of current day)

Mentioned before but there are some cute stories by Coy Watson Jr. in the book 'The Keystone Kid' in regards to Louise Fazenda. Good book both for content of an early kid growing up in an area that was also growing and for the pictures of a place that no longer exists.
Last edited by silent-partner on Tue Jan 20, 2009 3:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostTue Jan 20, 2009 3:21 pm

Well, short of John Mirsalis chiming in, I just checked my listings for ones I've seen, which means reasonably available: 44 of the Harold Lloyd shorts. Once she left Lloyd, I see

WHY CHANGE YOUR WIFE
THE AFFAIRS OF ANATOL
MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE
MISS BLUEBEARD
FEEL MY PULSE

after that, we're into the talkie era.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Tue Jan 20, 2009 8:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
New and vigorous impulses seem to me to be at work in it,[the cinema] and doubtless before long it will drop all slavish copying of the stage and strike out along fresh paths. -- Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree
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PostTue Jan 20, 2009 8:14 pm

I like Bebe Daniels. However what immediatly sprang to mind was "Why change your wife" and her cat fight with Gloria Swanson. THAT was about as fantastic as the Laurel and Hardy short that basically used the phrase 'ass backwards' over and over again.

Marie Dressler wasnt in many silents was she? Didnt she go back to theatre for that time? However I did like her in Tillie's Punctured Romance. She was a natural and hilarious at that! I love that movie, a shame its so crude in technicals though (but it was made before Birth wasnt it? So they can be forgiven).
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PostTue Jan 20, 2009 9:34 pm

From what I've read, Dressler did not go back to the stage after her initial success in films. In 1917, she appeared in support of striking chorus girls and was blacklisted, which put her out of circulation for the better part of a decade.

Then, one of Marie's former publicists found a suitable film property in The Callahans and The Murphys and successfully pushed it onto MGM. However, backlash from temperance societies over the gin guzzling characters killed the picture shortly after preview showings.

The rights were picked up by Christie Comedies, who eliminated the drinking and reteamed Marie with Polly Moran in a remake, The Callahans. The film was a huge hit. Marie and Polly starred in four more silents and one talkie before the stock market crash forced the overextended Christie brothers to release Marie.

By that point, she was getting offers for featured roles in major productions such as The Divine Woman and The Patsy, which would eventually lead to starring roles and a Best Actress Academy Award, for Min and Bill.
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