What Actually Happened between Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, and Mae Busch

Interact with your favorite SCM authors, producers, directors, historians, archivists and silent comedy savants. Or just read along. Whatever.
Richard M Roberts
Godfather
Posts: 2655
Joined: Sun May 31, 2009 6:30 pm

What Actually Happened between Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, and Mae Busch

Postby Richard M Roberts » Thu Nov 18, 2021 6:12 am

Below is an excerpt from a transcribed interview done by Kalton C. Lahue with George W. Stout on March 22, 1969. Stout (b. 1890-d. 1976) was Keystone’s first studio manager from 1913-1917, and would know all about what went on at the studio. He lived a long life working as a film executive and gave several long and detailed interviews to Lahue giving much information that the author used in his two books on Mack Sennett, KOPS AND KUSTARDS and MACK SENNETT KEYSTONE.

Yet Lahue did not use all the information that Stout gave to him, for various reasons, and this excerpt answers a big question on an important moment in the lives of Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, and Mae Busch that comedy historians have wondered and speculated about for decades, important enough that we post it here.

It gives us no pride or pleasure to do this, but perhaps it is time to set this record straight on a very sad moment in the lives of these three people that affected each of them for the rest of their days. All of the participants are long dead, and beyond the reach of any mortal retribution, self-righteousness or pity. Any brouhaha, sanctimony, or potential hysteria over the revealed facts will not change one damn thing.

Let the words stand.

RICHARD M ROBERTS


STOUT: I got along with everyone on that lot except—eh—Roscoe Arbuckle and Mabel Normand.

LAHUE: Why Mabel? Roscoe I could see-----.

STOUT: Well Mabel----because I was for Sennett you see, and she and Sennett were constantly fighting------.

LAHUE: oh---oh---hm-hm.

STOUT: ---and telephones----eh—transcontinental telephones first came in about 1916, maybe 17, and it cost----eight dollars and ninety-five cents to call New York and eh—so Sennett would call her---she wouldn’t stick around the studio or work where Mack was, so he sent her (Mabel) and Roscoe to New York to the Fort Lee studios to make pictures there and she lived at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York and eh---so Mack would call her, oh, he was desolated and she’d –just—slam---(garbled)—So he’d call her on the phone, and the minute she answered the phone, he’d say “Hello Darling” or “Hello Mabel” and “Bing!” went the phone and there’s eight dollars and ninety-five cents gone. So he’d come in and---he got very clever so he’d come into my office and say, “George, I can’t get Mabel to talk to me.”, he says, “You call her, and start talking about whether she’s got everything she wants with Roscoe and the folks back there, make her happy and so on, and before you hang up, just hand the receiver to me.”.

So I’d have a nice chat with her, she was never outwardly against me---but, eh---so we chatted for a few minutes on the phone and ----eh—just as I was about to hang up I’d just---not any goodbye or anything—I handed the receiver to Mack----so he said as soon as she heard his voice on the phone---boom!

LAHUE: So was she the high-living party-girl when she was at Keystone as she turned out to be later?

STOUT: No, no, no, she was eh—on top of the Mack Sennett Girls---I mean the way you know, not anything immoral going on on the lot there---

LAHUE: Yeah---not everything.

STOUT: In other words, we got pretty close to the point where we didn’t submit them to Sennett, they were no longer—bathing girls, because---ah—Sennett—I mean Mabel---is—the top life—and she could shut her eyes to anyone going on except Mae Busch---and ah---Mae Busch and Mabel were close friends, they had-----Ford Sterling’s wife, Anna Luther, Mae Busch and Mabel Normand were what they called “The Dirty Four”, and brother, they were around me, I’ll tell ya, they called themselves that. There was nothing that was ever spoken or printed that they wouldn’t use in their conversation and, eh—so, ah---Sennett got stuck on Mae Busch for a while, why I don’t know—so—what happened was that Sennett---I hope this doesn’t get published.

LAHUE: It won’t.

STOUT: Ah—Sennett came over to see—no—Sennett was with Mae Busch at her apartment and Mabel came---you didn’t keep the doors locked then—she opened the door and walked in there, went upstairs to the bedroom and here’s Mack in bed with Mae and she (Mabel) begins to scream and yell and Sennett got up, and oh brother, he could be really rough and brutal when he wanted to, and he threw her downstairs, she broke her arm, quite a fuss about it. The papers would want to know all about it in the morning and I had to tell them that ah---she’d had an accident and that a piece of scenery had fell on her and she’d be out of pictures for a few weeks until her arm recovered and so on------(tape runs out).


Rob Farr
Godfather
Posts: 454
Joined: Fri May 29, 2009 12:00 pm
Location: Our Nation's Capitol

Re: What Actually Happened between Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, and Mae Busch

Postby Rob Farr » Thu Nov 18, 2021 11:52 am

Wow. It’s amazing that Mabel would agree to appear in ANY Sennett film after that. Why make money for the louse, even if Mabel’s features were filmed away from Sennett’s hands-on involvement? Popular myth always put the blame on Mae Busch. Looks like she got the raw end of the deal.
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep" - Harpo Marx

Richard M Roberts
Godfather
Posts: 2655
Joined: Sun May 31, 2009 6:30 pm

Re: What Actually Happened between Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, and Mae Busch

Postby Richard M Roberts » Thu Nov 18, 2021 3:28 pm

Rob Farr wrote:Wow. It’s amazing that Mabel would agree to appear in ANY Sennett film after that. Why make money for the louse, even if Mabel’s features were filmed away from Sennett’s hands-on involvement? Popular myth always put the blame on Mae Busch. Looks like she got the raw end of the deal.


Well, Mae did sleep with her best friend's boyfriend and Mabel was apparently not too pleased with that discovery, and as far as Sennett is concerned, it's obvious that he spent the next decade or so begging for Mabel's forgiveness and trying to make amends by doing much to further or maintain her career which, however she felt about him, she let him do. He formed the Mabel Normand Feature Film Co for her and produced MICKEY which propelled her into major stardom (I've always wondered if Samuel Goldwyn ever thanked Sennett for doing that), and then rehired her after Goldwyn let her go and she had become more erratic in her personal life and basically unhireable by any of the other major studios. Sennett stood by her personally and financially until her death, and obviously carried both his feelings for her and his guilt over his actions for the rest of his life.

While I have no sympathy for what Sennett did, what happened was the terrible tragedy of a tempestuous relationship (remember that Stout says that Mack and Mabel were constantly fighting) that ended ugly and damaged all three of them, as well as polarizing the entire Keystone Studio and staff. It even harmed Mae Busch to considerable extent, certainly in the immediate as she quickly left Keystone just as her career there was blossoming, and long term in the way many of her fellow actors (especially former Keystone employees) thought about her. I spoke of this in one of my Charley Chase commentaries regarding her Hal Roach work in that, apart from one appearance in an Our Gang comedy, all of her work at Roach was with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Charley Chase, who was at Keystone at the time the events happened, would have nothing to do with her.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

Steve Rydzewski
Associate
Posts: 118
Joined: Sat Jul 11, 2009 12:12 pm

Re: What Actually Happened between Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, and Mae Busch

Postby Steve Rydzewski » Fri Nov 19, 2021 8:48 pm

Wow. Great info, Richard.

Who is the source of this interview? Next to Cliff Norton, Lahue is the man responsible for getting me into silent comedy as did Sam Gill with their great book, 'Clown Princes and Court Jesters,' so long ago now. After that I sought out all his other comedy histories.

I'd love to hear more about this. Thank you,

- SteveR

Richard M Roberts
Godfather
Posts: 2655
Joined: Sun May 31, 2009 6:30 pm

Re: What Actually Happened between Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, and Mae Busch

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sat Nov 20, 2021 6:27 am

Well, since you asked Steve, a number of Kalton Lahue's interview tapes were recently discovered by his family, who presented them to Tony Susnick, who sent them to Paul Gierucki . They are currently being restored and put together into listenable form by Paul and being annotated by Sam Gill, Myself, and other historians for some sort of online future release. Stay Tuned for further developments.

We posted the above excerpt because of it's historical importance in hopes of putting to bed some unfortunate myths currently circulating regarding the specific events.

RICHARD M ROBERTS

Elliot L. Hearst
Posts: 7
Joined: Sun Mar 06, 2016 10:21 am

Re: What Actually Happened between Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, and Mae Busch

Postby Elliot L. Hearst » Sun Nov 21, 2021 2:42 pm

I know this isn't a particularly intelligent contribution to this discussion, but . . .

WOW.

Agnes McFadden
Cugine
Posts: 78
Joined: Fri Jun 05, 2009 11:51 pm
Location: Philadelphia, PA (Western Suburbs)

Re: What Actually Happened between Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, and Mae Busch

Postby Agnes McFadden » Sun Nov 21, 2021 11:25 pm

One deadbolt on that front door could have saved a lot of problems ( or not getting cuddly with your significant other 's best friend).

Agnes
Agnes McFadden

Rift Corbitt
Posts: 18
Joined: Sat May 17, 2014 9:51 am

Re: What Actually Happened between Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, and Mae Busch

Postby Rift Corbitt » Sun Nov 21, 2021 11:35 pm

Wow!

Interesting none of that made it into "The King Of Comedy" :)

Richard M Roberts
Godfather
Posts: 2655
Joined: Sun May 31, 2009 6:30 pm

Re: What Actually Happened between Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, and Mae Busch

Postby Richard M Roberts » Tue Nov 23, 2021 12:54 am

You know, it does kinda put to bed the "Mack Sennett was gay" rumor nonsense as well.


RICHARD M ROBERTS


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 19 guests