Mabel Normand was a silent screen film star whose lustrous brown eyes, physical perfection and face that glowed with animation and intelligence naturally caught the attention of Hollywood studios. But it was her fun-loving, mad-cap sense of humor that audiences fell in love with, shooting her to major stardom.
Normand started her career at Biograph Studio where she met director Mack Sennett, a pioneer of slapstick comedy, under whose direction she was destined to achieve world-wide fame. She became the queen of the Sennett lot, among such young talent as Gloria Swanson, Charles Chaplin, Wallace Beery and others. Normand dove and swam in many films with grace and ability, a skill she acquired on Staten Island. The success of swimming girls clad in tights was tremendous and led eventually to the Mack Sennett Bathing Girls, of which she was most prominent.
Her athleticism, sense of fun and good looks were the perfect fit for silent films, where Mabel's expressive physical comedic abilities made for madcap fun. She played the lead in "Tillie Punctured Romance," one of the truly great comedy hits, and its success led to "Mickey," in which Lew Cody, the young French-Canadian of Staten Island, played the villain, and whom Normand married, and was a childhood friend.
Known as the "Fluffy Ruffles Girl," for modeling in full skirts and ruffles at a fashion show, Normand also modeled for Cole Phillips, Penrhyn Stanlaws and other noted artists who sketched her charms for magazine covers and illustrations. She was paid from 50 cents an hour to $5.
The sparkling muse's charmed life took a twisted turn of scandal in 1922, from which Normand had difficulty recovering, with the murder of William Desmond Taylor, a prominent Hollywood director whom Normand had visited the night before to borrow a book. In the fuss and flurry of the nationwide sensation, her pictures were banned in some places. Speculation about the matter would recur throughout her life.