Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Va Va Voom" Star of the Day

Mabel Normand
Known as the "Queen of Comedy," Mabel is also noteworthy as one of the most powerful women of the silent movie era.  She was a revolutionary comedienne and actress of silent film, the "It Girl" of the early 20th century, and one of the industry's first female screenwriters, producers and directors.

Onscreen she appeared in a dozen commercially successful films, occasionally writing and directing movies as well as sometimes co-writing and co-directing with Charlie Chaplin in films in which they played the lead roles. At the height of her career in the late 1910s and early 1920s, Normand had her own movie studio and production company.

In 1912 her fame sky-rocketed when she joined the new production company Keystone Studios.  She was portrayed as a bathing beauty but quickly proved she could hold her own when it came to comedy, even when featured with leading actors like Charlie Chaplin, "Fatty" Arbuckle, Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel, and Boris Karloff.  Chaplin played his first famous "Tramp" role with Mabel Normand in the film "Mabel's Strange Predicament."  They made over a dozen films together.

However her career was rocked with scandal. In 1918, she became heavily involved in alcohol and narcotics. In 1922 another silent film star, William Desmond Taylor, was murdered. On February 1, 1922, at 7:05 pm, Mabel arrived at Taylor's bungalow and was witnessed leaving at about 7:45 pm.  She says they blew each other kisses as she left.  Moments later, Taylor was found shot in the chest with a single bullet. As she was the last known person to see him alive (and a former mistress), she was heavily questioned, but never considered a suspect.  His death is still unsolved.
In 1924 wealthy millionaire Courtland S. Dines was shot by Normand's chauffeur, with her pistol.  At the time, Dines was romantically involved with Normand's friend Edna Purviance (another silent screen star and coincidentally next-door-neighbor to William Desmond Taylor).  Some suspected jealousy or a love triangle causing the shooting.  Although the events surrounding the incident were suspicious, Normand was still not considered a suspect in the crime.  Unfortunately, these dramatic events led to her career decline.  Besides the murder scandals, she developed a recurrence of tuberculosis, and had to retire from films.  She died in 1930, only reaching 37 years of age.

She is portrayed by Marisa Tomei in the 1992 film Chaplin.  She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for being a pioneer in motion picture history.  It is located at 6821 Hollywood Boulevard.

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