Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mack Sennett Bathing Beauty

 (Note: This post has been revised several times since it was originally posted. I didn't want to delete the original text, because it shows the process. But be sure to read the comments also, because they are more informative than the post itself. I was fortunate enough to have two Mack Sennett experts comment on the post and provide input and the final answer to the identity of this bathing beauty.  Thanks to and for their valuable assistance. Check out their websites if you are a fan of Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, and retro glamor. )

Yesterday I was reading a very interesting post about Phyllis Haver over at Tattered and Lost Ephemera.  It was interesting enough that I felt compelled to check out my own Mack Sennett card. Could it be Phyllis? Phyllis Haver was one of Mack Sennett's bathing beauties. Sennett was known for his early keystone cops movies and also the bathing beauties, which provided the doughboys of World War I with pin-up pictures.

Sennett gave up the Keystone trademark in 1917 and started his own company, Mack Sennett Comedies. Here's the card I have:

There's nothing on this card to tell me which one of the bathing beauties she might be.  The nose doesn't look right for Phyllis Haver, but she could be Marie Prevost. It's hard to tell, but I think it's Mabel Normand. Here's a picture of Mabel. What do you think, same person?
Mabel Normand
Mabel Normand Pictures
O.K., so here's a little bit about Mabel. She was born in 1892 and starred in her first movie, Indiscretions of Betty, in 1910.  After that, she starred in more than fifty movies, many with Fatty Arbuckle and Charlie Chaplin. What's most unusual about Normand is that she eventually opened her own studio and produced her own pictures, something women just didn't do in those days.

Normand was linked to rumors of drug use and  a number of scandals, including the murder of William Desmond Taylor in 1922; he was murdered within minutes after she left his home. She was not considered a suspect in that crime or the murder of amateur golfer, Courtland Dines. He was killed with her gun, but it seems her chauffeur did it.  Ahem. Mabel Normand had recurrent bouts of tuberculosis and died from TB at the age of 37. Although her life was short, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

We think today's Hollywood stars live lives full of scandal, but it seems that the scandals and tragedy from the days of black-and-white films were much more dramatic. Just take a look at what happened to all of the various stars of the Little Rascals and Our Gang. Marie Prevost, another Mack Sennett bathing beauty, died of alcoholism and extreme malnutrition at the age of 38. They found her face down on her bed with lots of little bites from her dog's unsuccessful attempts to wake her.

Maybe it's time for the rest of us to take a moment to rejoice on the many benefits of not being famous.

(Edit from 3/12/10: Although this does look like Mabel, it seems it is someone else. If you have any ideas, let me know. Edit from 5/19/10. See the comment from joltenjoeswife below. We have an answer: the bathing beauty is definitely Myrtle Lind.)


  1. I think you're right on the mark Christine - the dress she's wearing in the second photo is stunning! When I clicked on her name, I noted she died of TB - aren't we fortunate that TB, though still around, isn't a common cause of premature death? Now I have to find out more about Sennett!

  2. She's lovely. I have no idea who she is but I'm going with your choice of Mabel Normand. Love the clothes and hair.

    And speaking of the sad lives of the Our Gang kids, did you see the post I did about Alfalfa? All because I found a photo that reminded me of the little fellow. This was at my vernacular photography blog:

  3. I can't believe she showed her legs like that!

  4. I think you may be right about the identity - what a crazy life Mabel led . . . and as for the two murders, I wonder if men thought twice about dating her after that?

    On a different note, I hope your ginger cake was a success!


  5. What a treasure that card is, and I loved your post on my beloved Mabel Normand. I have a bio on her somewhere around here, and she was a tabloid queen before we had real Hollywood tabloids.

  6. She is a beauty. I think the scandals were kept under wraps more back then. Today the stars can't hide anything because they are always followed by photographers. Great postcard.

  7. Hey, I LOVE Tattered and Lost and have been following her blog for quite a while. I adore vintage emphemera. Nice blog you have, here! I'll be back!

  8. Just tripped down the page, you have a great blog! Thanks for the vicarious introductions. -Jayne

  9. My two cents…. one – the Bathing Beauty card is by EVANS of LA stamped MACK SENNETT COMEDIES. The very pretty girl is not Mabel Normand, Mabel was not part of the studio at this point in her career, she had her own studio and production company in 1916, a year before Sennett started decorating his comedies with the Bathing Beauties It was in 1917 that the first Mack Sennett Comedies were released. Mabel had signed with Samuel Goldwyn. She was never a Bathing Beauty, they came after she left. Of course she did return in 1921 to work for Sennett but only made 3 features…and now to my second cent - the second photo is of Mabel Normand from a Samuel Goldwyn production of The Slim Princess (1920), sadly this is a lost film. I did an article about it at Looking for Mabel it is at

  10. thank you so much for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. i always enjoy hearing from new visitors.

    the postcards were great, and me personally, i would not want to be famous...i would prefer to choose who i get my attention from!

    warm smiles,

  11. O.K., well it looks like this is not Mabel Normand, so I'm afraid I don't know who it is.

  12. As my area of special interest is Mabel Normand, and I put my two cents in already about the Evans Bathing Beauty card perhaps you will indulge me a dimes’ worth (ok a Dines’ worth) Courtland Dines was NOT KILLED at the New Year’s Day open house that he held with his ‘girl friend’ Edna Purviance, January 1924. Dines recovered and went home to his family in Denver. Mabel’s chauffer was an escaped criminal and had taken Mabel’s gun from her dresser, Dines refused to press charges. This incident damaged Mabel and Edna as they were both involved with the William Desmond Taylor shooting; Edna was WDT next door neighbor and Mabel had just left his apartment before he was shot. In 1924, both of their films were banned in a number of states. Sadly, Mabel was having health problem, it had been ten years since she wowed her fans, frolicking and romping with Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle and the great and glorious Charlie Chaplin.

  13. The bathing beauty in the photo is Myrtle Lind.

    Here is a link of her in a different pose.

    For about a month I've been a little obsessed with Mack Sennett's Bathing beauties and have gotten pretty good at identifying some of them.

    I really enjoy your blog, so much great stuff.

  14. Great that I finally found this web site. I am so excited. 25 years ago I came across an album filled with original movie stills from the 20's and 30's of hollywood stars and starletts. In this mix there are several Mack Sennitt post cards and it seems from the blogs many of you enjoy this era of Hollywood. Well I have taken pics of these stills and have posted them on this link and if you schroll down you will find several pages of Mack Sennitt and his Beauties. Enjoy



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