Who is Mabel?

Jean Harlow, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe—before them all there was Mabel. Name: Mabel Normand. Occupation: Star. Mabel was a rebel, a dare-devil, a funny, funky angel of sex. She kidded sex while seducing every man in sight— Mack Sennett, Charlie Chaplin, Sam Goldwyn. She was a pioneer in the Hollywood that invented movies and motorcars and diamonds and gin. She was Keystone Mabel, who sassed the boys because she could outswim, out-dive, outdare any of them. At the dawn of the twenties, Mabel was the queen of silent comedy and the wildest girl in town. “My favorite outlaw,” said Anita Loos.

Then—rape, murder, drugs, booze. Scandal wiped her out. Mabel wasn’t  funny after Mabel’s friend Fatty Arbuckle became the Coke-bottle rapist, after Mabel’s lover William Desmond Taylor was murdered and Mabel was suspect, after Mabel was exposed as a drug addict, after Mabel’s chauffeur shot a millionaire playboy, after Mabel eloped with Lew Cody on a drunk. Mabel was the first of the I-Don’t-Care Girls to burn out and when she died in 1930, at thirty-eight, everybody mourned. Mabel was Hollywood and in Mabel Hollywood mourned the death of an era—the twenties, silent film, its first shooting star.

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