Widely considered to be the first major comedienne, and perhaps cinema’s first comic star, actress Mabel Normand was rambunctious and non-conformist while exuding an ineffable charm and gentleness on screen. She rivaled her contemporaries Charlie Chaplin and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle as one of early Hollywood’s top box office draws, while more often than not starring alongside both. After starting her film career with D.W. Griffith at the Biograph Company, she rose to stardom under the direction of Mack Sennett at Keystone Studios. She became a box office star with films such as At Coney Island (1912) and The Bangville Police (1913).
Increasing her stature and creative power, Normand began directing a number of films, including Mabel’s Blunder (1914) and Caught in a Cabaret (1914), starring Charlie Chaplin. She also had the distinction of starring opposite Chaplin in his first-ever appearance as the Tramp, Mabel’s Strange Predicament (1914). In 1916, the actress formed the Mabel Normand Feature Film Company with Adam Kessel and Thomas Ince. By this time, she had signed a contract with Samuel Goldwyn’s studio, but began suffering personal setbacks from which she never fully recovered professionally until her death from tuberculosis in 1930.