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Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
(born Michael Sinnott; January 17, 1880 – November 5, 1960) was a Canadian-born American director and actor and was known as an innovator of slapstick comedy in film.[1] During his lifetime, he was known at times as the "King of Comedy". His short Wrestling Swordfish was awarded the Academy Award
Academy Award
for Best Live Action Short Film in 1932 and he earned an Academy Honorary Award in 1937.[2]

Contents

1 Early life 2 Keystone Studios 3 Sennett Bathing Beauties 4 Independent production 5 Move to Pathé Exchange 6 Experiments, awards, and bankruptcy 7 Later projects 8 Death 9 Filmography 10 Tributes 11 Keystone legacy 12 See also 13 References 14 Further reading 15 External links

Early life[edit] Born Michael Sinnott in Richmond Ste-Bibiane Parish, Quebec, Canada, he was the son of Irish Catholic
Irish Catholic
John Sinnott and Catherine Foy, married 1879 in Tingwick St-Patrice Parish, Québec.[3] The newlyweds moved the same year to Richmond, where John Sinnott was hired as a laborer. By 1883, when Michael's brother George was born, John Sinnott was working in Richmond as an innkeeper; he worked as an innkeeper for many years afterward. John Sinnott and Catherine Foy had all their children and raised their family in Richmond, then a small Eastern Townships village. At that time, Michael's grandparents were living in Danville, Québec. Michael Sinnott moved to Connecticut
Connecticut
when he was 17 years old. He lived for a while in Northampton, Massachusetts, where, according to his autobiography, Sennett first got the idea to become an opera singer after seeing a vaudeville show. He claimed that the most respected lawyer in town, Northampton mayor (and future President of the United States) Calvin Coolidge, as well as Sennett's own mother, tried to talk him out of his musical ambitions.[4] In New York City, Sennett became an actor, singer, dancer, clown, set designer, and director for Biograph. A major distinction in his acting career, often overlooked, is the fact that Sennett played Sherlock Holmes 11 times, albeit as a parody, between 1911 and 1913.[citation needed] Keystone Studios[edit]

Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
Studios, circa 1917

With financial backing from Adam Kessel and Charles O. Bauman of the New York Motion Picture Company, Michael "Mack" Sennett founded Keystone Studios
Keystone Studios
in Edendale, California in 1912 (which is now a part of Echo Park). The original main building which was the first totally enclosed film stage and studio ever constructed, is still there today. Many important actors cemented their film careers with Sennett, including Marie Dressler, Mabel Normand, Charles Chaplin, Harry Langdon, Roscoe Arbuckle, Harold Lloyd, Raymond Griffith, Gloria Swanson, Ford Sterling, Andy Clyde, Chester Conklin, Polly Moran, Louise Fazenda, The Keystone Cops, Bing Crosby, and W. C. Fields. Mack Sennett's slapstick comedies were noted for their wild car chases and custard pie warfare, especially in the Keystone Cops series. Additionally, Sennett's first female comedian was Mabel Normand, who became a major star under his direction and with whom he embarked on a tumultuous romantic relationship. Sennett also developed the Kid Comedies, a forerunner of the Our Gang
Our Gang
films, and in a short time, his name became synonymous with screen comedy which were called "flickers" at the time. In 1915, Keystone Studios
Keystone Studios
became an autonomous production unit of the ambitious Triangle Film Corporation, as Sennett joined forces with D. W. Griffith
D. W. Griffith
and Thomas Ince, both powerful figures in the film industry.[citation needed] Sennett Bathing Beauties[edit]

Sennett Bathing Beauties

Actor
Actor
Billy Bevan
Billy Bevan
flanked by four bathing beauties, 1920s

Also beginning in 1915,[5] Sennett assembled a bevy of women known as the Sennett Bathing Beauties to appear in provocative bathing costumes in comedy short subjects, in promotional material, and in promotional events such as Venice Beach
Venice Beach
beauty contests. Two of those often named as Bathing Beauties do not belong on the list: Mabel Normand
Mabel Normand
and Gloria Swanson. Normand was a featured player, and her 1912 8-minute film The Water Nymph may have been the direct inspiration for the Bathing Beauties.[6] Although Gloria Swanson worked for Sennett in 1916 and was photographed in a bathing suit, she was also a star and "vehemently denied" being one of the bathing beauties.[7] Not individually featured or named, many of these young women ascended to significant careers of their own. They included Juanita Hansen, Claire Anderson, Marie Prevost, Phyllis Haver, and Carole Lombard. In the 1920s, Sennett's Bathing Beauties remained popular enough to provoke imitators such as the Christie Studios' Bathing Beauties (counting Raquel Torres
Raquel Torres
and Laura La Plante
Laura La Plante
as alumnae[8]) and Fox Film Corporation's "Sunshine Girls" (counting Janet Gaynor
Janet Gaynor
as an alumna).[9] The Sennett Bathing Beauties continued to appear through 1928. Independent production[edit] In 1917, Sennett gave up the Keystone trademark and organized his own company, Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
Comedies Corporation. (Sennett's bosses retained the Keystone trademark and produced a cheap series of comedy shorts that were "Keystones" in name only: they were unsuccessful, and Sennett had no connection with them.) Sennett went on to produce more ambitious comedy short films and a few feature-length films.[citation needed] During the 1920s, his short subjects were in much demand, featuring stars such as Billy Bevan, Andy Clyde, Harry Gribbon, Vernon Dent, Alice Day, Ralph Graves, Charlie Murray, and Harry Langdon. He produced several features with his brightest stars such as Ben Turpin and Mabel Normand. Many of Sennett's films of the early 1920s were inherited by Warner Bros. Studio. Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
merged with the original distributor, First National, and added music and commentary to several of these short subjects. Unfortunately, many of the films of this period were destroyed due to inadequate storage. As a result, many of Sennett's films from his most productive and creative period no longer exist.[citation needed] Move to Pathé Exchange[edit] In the mid-1920s, Sennett moved to Pathé Exchange distribution. Pathé had a huge market share, but made bad corporate decisions, such as attempting to sell too many comedies at once (including those of Sennett's main competitor, Hal Roach). In 1927, Paramount and MGM, which were Hollywood's two top studios at the time, took note of the profits being made by smaller companies such as Pathé Exchange and Educational Pictures. So, Paramount and MGM
MGM
decided to resume the production and distribution of short subjects. Hal Roach
Hal Roach
signed with MGM, but Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
remained with Pathé Exchange even during hard times, which were brought on by the competition. Hundreds of other independent exhibitors and movie houses of this period had switched from Pathe′ to the new MGM
MGM
or Paramount films and short subjects.[citation needed] Experiments, awards, and bankruptcy[edit]

Movie theatre audience members Roscoe Arbuckle
Roscoe Arbuckle
and Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
square off while watching Mabel Normand
Mabel Normand
onscreen in Mabel's Dramatic Career (1913)

Mabel Normand, Mack Sennett, and Charles Chaplin
Charles Chaplin
in The Fatal Mallet (1914)

Play media

Silent film Love, Speed and Thrills (1915) directed by Walter Wright and produced by Mack Sennett, running time: 14:12, is a chase film in which a man (named Walrus) kidnaps the wife of his benefactor, but the so-called “Keystone Cops” are also chasing down Walrus.

Sennett made a reasonably smooth transition to sound films, releasing them through Earle Hammons's Educational Pictures. Sennett occasionally experimented with color. Plus, he was the first to get a talkie short subject on the market in 1928. In 1932, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Live Action Short Film
Academy Award for Live Action Short Film
in the comedy division for producing The Loud Mouth (with Matt McHugh, in the sports-heckler role later taken in Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures
remakes by Charley Chase
Charley Chase
and Shemp Howard). Sennett also won an Academy Award
Academy Award
in the novelty division for his film Wrestling Swordfish also in 1932.[2] On March 25, 1932, he became a United States citizen.[10] Sennett often clung to outmoded techniques, making his early-1930s films seem dated and quaint. This doomed his attempt to re-enter the feature-film market with Hypnotized (starring blackface comedians Moran and Mack, "The Two Black Crows"). However, Sennett enjoyed great success with short comedies starring Bing Crosby, which were more than likely instrumental in Sennett's product being picked up by a major studio, Paramount Pictures. W. C. Fields
W. C. Fields
conceived and starred in four famous Sennett-Paramount comedies. Fields himself recalled that he "made seven comedies for the Irishman", his original deal called for one film and an option for six more, but ultimately only four were made. Sennett's studio did not survive the Great Depression. His partnership with Paramount lasted only one year and he was forced into bankruptcy in November 1933. On January 12, 1934, Sennett was injured in an automobile accident that killed blackface performer Charles Mack in Mesa, Arizona.[11] His last work, in 1935, was as a producer-director for Educational Pictures, in which he directed Buster Keaton
Buster Keaton
in The Timid Young Man and Joan Davis
Joan Davis
in Way Up Thar. (The 1935 Vitaphone
Vitaphone
short subject Keystone Hotel is not a Sennett production, although it featured several alumni from the Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
Studios. Actually, Sennett was not involved in the making of this film.) Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
went into semiretirement at the age of 55, having produced more than 1,000 silent films and several dozen talkies during a 25-year career. His studio property was purchased by Mascot Pictures (later part of Republic Pictures), and many of his former staffers found work at Columbia Pictures. In March 1938, Sennett was presented with an honorary Academy Award: "for his lasting contribution to the comedy technique of the screen, the basic principles of which are as important today as when they were first put into practice, the Academy presents a Special
Special
Award to that master of fun, discoverer of stars, sympathetic, kindly, understanding comedy genius - Mack Sennett."[2] Later projects[edit] Rumors abounded that Sennett would be returning to film production (a 1938 publicity release indicated that he would be working with Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy), but apart from Sennett reissuing a couple of his Bing Crosby
Bing Crosby
two-reelers to theaters, nothing happened. Sennett did appear in front of the camera, however, in Hollywood Cavalcade (1939), itself a thinly disguised version of the Mack Sennett-Mabel Normand romance. In 1949, he provided film footage for and also appeared in the first full-length comedy compilation called Down Memory Lane (1949), which was written and narrated by Steve Allen. Sennett was profiled in the television series This is Your Life
This is Your Life
in 1954.[12][13] and made a cameo appearance (for $1,000) in Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955). His last contribution worth noting was to the NBC radio program Biography in Sound relating memories of working with W.C. Fields, which was broadcast February 28, 1956. Death[edit] Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
died on November 5, 1960, in Woodland Hills, California, aged 80.[1] He was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.[14] Filmography[edit] Main article: Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
filmography Tributes[edit] For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Sennett honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood Walk of Fame
at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard. He was also inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame
Canada's Walk of Fame
in 2014. Keystone legacy[edit] A line in a Henry Kuttner
Henry Kuttner
science-fiction short story "Piggy Bank" reads, "Within seconds the scene resembled a Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
pie-throwing comedy."[15] In A Story of Water, a 1961 short film by Jean-Luc Godard
Jean-Luc Godard
and François Truffaut, the directors dedicate the film to Mack Sennett. Henry Mancini's score for the 1963 film The Pink Panther, the original entry in the series, contains a segment called "Shades of Sennett". It is played on a silent film era style "barrel house" piano, and accompanies a climactic scene in which the incompetent police detective Inspector Clouseau
Inspector Clouseau
is involved in a multi-vehicle chase with the antagonists. In 1974, Michael Stewart and Jerry Herman
Jerry Herman
wrote the musical Mack & Mabel, chronicling the romance between Sennett and Mabel Normand. Sennett also was a leading character in The Biograph Girl, a 1980 musical about the silent-film era. Peter Lovesey's 1983 novel Keystone is a whodunnit set in the Keystone Studios and involving (among others), Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, Roscoe Arbuckle, and the Keystone Cops. Dan Aykroyd
Dan Aykroyd
portrayed Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
in the 1992 movie Chaplin. Marisa Tomei played Mabel Normand
Mabel Normand
and Robert Downey, Jr.
Robert Downey, Jr.
starred as Charlie Chaplin. Joseph Beattie and Andrea Deck portrayed Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
and Mabel Normand, respectively, in episode eight of series two of ITV's Mr. Selfridge. See also[edit]

Canadian pioneers in early Hollywood

References[edit]

^ a b "Mack Sennett, 76, Film Pioneer Who Developed Slapstick, Dies. Keystone Kops, Custard Pies and Bathing Beauties Were Symbols of His Movies". New York Times. November 6, 1960.  ^ a b c Academy Awards Database at Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ^ "Give Citizenship to Mack Sennett". Retrieved 2010-04-23.  ^ King of Comedy by Mack Sennett, 1954 ^ "Splashes of Fun and Beauty" by Hilde d'Haeyere, collected in Slapstick
Slapstick
Comedy by Rob King, p.205. ^ Balshofer, Fred J. & Miller, Arthur C. One reel a week, p.81. ^ Jeanine Basinger, Jeanine. Silent Stars, p.205. ^ Lowe, Denise. An encyclopedic dictionary of women in early American films, 1895-1930, p.308. ^ King, Rob. The fun factory: the Keystone Film Company and the emergence of mass culture, p.211. ^ " Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
is Naturalized". New York Times. March 26, 1932.  ^ "Mack, Comedian, Killed In Crash. Moran, His Partner in Blackface Skits, Escapes Injury in Arizona Mishap". New York Times. Associated Press. January 12, 1934. Retrieved 2015-03-22. ... injured Mack Sennett, former producer of 'Bathing Beauty' film comedies.  ^ This Is Your Life, broadcast March 10, 1954. on IMDb ^ Thomas, Bob (1954). "Sennett Takes Sentimental Journey in Past at Reunion". Panama City News, March 12, 1954. Retrieved from Looking for Mabel Normand
Mabel Normand
on 2012-02-03. ^ "Sennett Buried in Hollywood". New York Times. November 24, 1960.  ^ A Treasury of Great Science Fiction, vol. 2, Anthony Boucher
Anthony Boucher
(ed.) Doubleday & Co., 1959.

Further reading[edit]

Lahue, Kalton (1971); Mack Sennett's Keystone: The man, the myth and the comedies; New York: Barnes; ISBN 978-0-498-07461-5

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mack Sennett.

Works by or about Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
at Internet Archive Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
on IMDb Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
at Find a Grave Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
at Virtual History Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett
papers, Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

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Academy Honorary Award

1928–1950

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1976–2000

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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 51770904 LCCN: n85164243 ISNI: 0000 0001 2132 8396 GND: 119041901 SUDOC: 032917821 BNF: cb123826400 (data) NLA: 35725845 NDL: 001167938 NKC: jn20000701585 BNE: XX1163

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