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Mack Sennett Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Trade Mark (1)  | Trivia (18)  | Personal Quotes (16)  | Salary (2)

Overview (5)

Born in Richmond, Québec, Canada
Died in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA
Birth NameMichael Sinnott
Nickname The King of Comedy
Height 6' 2" (1.88 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Mack Sennett was born Michael Sinnott on January 17, 1880 in Danville, Quebec, Canada, to Irish immigrant farmers. When he was 17, his parents moved the family to East Berlin, Connecticut, and he became a laborer at American Iron Works, a job he continued when they moved to Northampton, Massachusetts. He happened to meet Marie Dressler in 1902, and through her went to New York City to attempt for a career on the stage. He managed some burlesque and chorus-boy parts. In 1908, he began acting in Biograph films. His work there lasted until 1911; it included being directed by D.W. Griffith and acting with Mary Pickford and Mabel Normand. By 1910, he was directing.

In 1912, he and two bookies-turned-producers--Adam Kessel and Charles Bauman--formed the Keystone Film Company. Sennett brought Mabel Normand with him and soon added Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, Chester Conklin Al St. John, Slim Summerville, Minta Durfee and Charles Chaplin (who was directed by Sennett in 35 comedies during 1914). He told Chaplin, "We have no scenario--we get an idea, then follow the natural sequence of events until it leads up to a chase, which is the essence of our comedy." To the slapstick chase gags of the Keystone Kops were gradually added the Bathing Beauties and the Kid Komedies. In 1915 he, Griffith and Thomas H. Ince formed Triangle Films.

Comedy moved from improvisational slapstick to scripted situations. Stars like Bobby Vernon and Gloria Swanson joined him. In 1917, he formed Mack Sennett Comedies, distributing through Paramount--and later Pathe--and launching another star, Harry Langdon. When Sennett returned to Paramount in 1932, he produced shorts featuring W.C. Fields and musical ones with Bing Crosby. After directing his only Buster Keaton film, The Timid Young Man (1935), he returned to Canada a pauper. In 1937, he was awarded a special Oscar--"to the master of fun, discoverer of stars... for his lasting contribution to the comedy technique of the screen."

Mack Sennett died at age 80 on November 5, 1960 in Woodland Hills, California, and was interred at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. For his contributions to the motion picture industry, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan < stephan@cc.wwu.edu> (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous)

Trade Mark (1)

Frantically wild comedies that observed no physical reality while the characters descended into chaos in improvised story lines and situations. Many of the films featured the antics of a group of wildly incompetent policemen known as the Keystone Kops, who would arrive in overloaded cars that they would often leave destroyed while they contributed to the mess they were sent to stop. This group has come to be regarded as the trademark of Keystone Studios and one of the key images of silent comedy. Many of the Kops later became respected comedy directors themselves, such as Del Lord, Malcolm St. Clair, Edward F. Cline, A. Edward Sutherland and Erle C. Kenton.

Trivia (18)

He always considered himself a comedian and often appeared in his films. His actors, on the other hand, thought he was terrible on camera and always tried to dissuade him from appearing.
Was an inveterate chewer of tobacco, resulting in stained teeth.
His off screen pseudonym was Walter Terry.
Portrayed by Robert Preston in the Broadway musical "Mack and Mabel" (1974). Book by Michael Stewart, music and lyrics by Jerry Herman.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945." Pages 986-992. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
Departed from Triangle Film Corporation and Keystone Studios in 1917.
Formed Keystone Studios in August 1912 with Adam Kessel and Charles Bauman. The company was originally a production subsidiary of the New York Motion Picture Company.
Oddly, he and key competitor Hal Roach, were both distributed by the same company, Pathe. This arrangement worked to the detriment of both producers while lining the pockets of the French firm, which was able to play the comedy short giants off each other for years. By the time Pathe's U.S. fortunes declined considerably in 1925, Sennett was in far worse shape than Roach, who had valuable reissue rights to Harold Lloyd's library, and the wildly popular "Our Gang" series gained him a lucrative distribution deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Lloyd, his former associate, jumped to Paramount). Sennett had far less to fall back on. Although he had a well-deserved reputation for discovering talent, being able to keep them under contract was another matter. His inability to hang on to major stars became the stuff of legend. Equally problematic, his comedy style was seriously outdated by the mid-'20s and his most promising recent star, Harry Langdon, quickly departed in an ego-driven rage. Sennett's studio would be sold off in a 1933 bankruptcy and morph into Herbert J. Yates' Republic Pictures (also see Nat Levine, W. Ray Johnston and Trem Carr). Sennett would essentially end his professional career as a producer for Paramount's shorts division, working on Bing Crosby's earliest efforts along with a handful of W.C. Fields' classic early talkie quickies. Sennett's treasured studio property is, as of this writing, the heart of CBS' Studio Center in the San Fernando Valley.
Won an Honorary Academy Award in 1937 for his great influence on film comedy.
Was the first producer to hire Charles Chaplin, Fred Mace and Ford Sterling in the movies, and while both Mabel Normand and Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle had worked in front of cameras before Keystone was established--Mabel at D.W. Griffith from 1910-12 and Roscoe at Selig from 1909-10--it was during their employment at Sennett that they rose to stardom. However, Sennett eventually lost every one of them because they could never agree on compensation.
According to "The History of Sherlock Holmes" (E-GO Enterprises, c. 1975), Sennett played the role of Sherlock Holmes in 11 films from 1911-13.
Co-founder/Treasurer of Associated Producers, Inc., formed in 1919.
Founder/President of Mack Sennett Comedies, a production company, formed in 1917.
Founder/President of Mack Sennett Productions, a production company, formed in 1922.
Interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, CA.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6710 Hollywood Blvd. on February 8, 1960.
He was posthumously awarded a star on Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto, Ontario, in 2004.
Jerome Robbins honored Sennett by using his bathing beauties and Keystone Kops in The Bathing Beauty Ballet from the Broadway musical "High Button Shoes" in 1947, which in turn was caricatured by artist Al Hirschfeld with the title "The Mack Sennett Ballet".

Personal Quotes (16)

[in the 1950s] What happened to the laughter? It used to be so much of it.
Pioneers are seldom from the nobility. There were no dukes on the Mayflower.
The joke of life is the fall of dignity.
We never make fun of religion, politics, race or mothers. A mother never gets hit with a custard pie. Mothers-in-law, yes. But mothers, never!
[on his comedy technique] It's got to move!
I called myself the king of comedy, but I was a harassed monarch. I worked most of the time. It was only in the evenings that I laughed.
Anyone who tells you he has invented something new is a fool or a liar or both.
[on Harry Langdon] He was a quaint artist who had no business in the business.
It is infinitely easier to do comedies with men than with women. The latter are inclined to giggle and generally destroy the value of what they are attempting to put over by being too obviously frivolous. Men, on the other hand, take their work seriously and give it the attention it really requires.
The public is steadily getting harder to please, particularly so far as comedies are concerned. The time is past and almost forgotten when you could be sure of a laugh by merely making one of your actors walk up behind another and suddenly push him down or trip him, or do any one of the scores of stunts the old slapstick comedian was able to get away with.
The more Keystone comedies I make, the more convinced I become that comedy is an art, and a high one at that. If those who are inclined to scoff at me will try their hand at directing just one of those comedies they designate as anything but art, I am pretty certain they will concede me my point.
We have no scenario--the chase . . . is the essence of our comedy.
All creative intellectual work consists of the development of individuality. The very essence of motion picture making is to encourage originality. To bring out individual characteristics. The famous stars of the stage, film and literature have been great because, at some point, they differed from every one else. They had a flavor all their own.
There is no form of American industry which experiences such rapid and sensational changes as the motion picture business. There is no other business that has made such enormous strides in so short a time.
There is no American who, as a boy, has not dreamed of caving in the helmet of a cop with a mighty swat that will send it around his ears. Most of us have never gotten over the feeling. Nearly every one of us lives in the secret hope that some day before he dies he will be able to swat a policeman's hat down around his ears. Lacking the courage and the opportunity, we like to see it done in the movies.
[on D.W. Griffith] He was my day school, my adult education program, my university . . . [but] he was an extremely difficult man to know.

Salary (2)

The Lonely Villa (1909) $25
Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955) $1,000

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