Charlie Sheen. Bill Cosby. Jim Carrey. These are a few of the recent popular Hollywood actor names to be linked to scandal. There is one famous and historical Hollywood figure who not only made headlines for her alleged outrageous behavior but who also has a tie to Boulder City.
Actress and writer Mabel Normand was fearless and funny. Known for her big heart, she was one of the most powerful females in Hollywood during the early 1900s. A real lightning rod, Normand always seemed to be involved with some type of chaos, included a murder investigation, a separate shooting using her weapon and a rape trial. Normand wrote scripts for movies starring Charlie Chaplin, and she kept Keystone Studios, under the king of comedy, Mack Sennett, running thanks to her production collaboration skills.
Normand was born in New York. She started working as a model at the age of 16 before being discovered by “The Birth of A Nation” writer and director D.W. Griffith. Griffith brought Normand out to Hollywood for the movie “Her Awakening,” which reflected upon societal class being a barrier when it comes to love.
While Normand’s acting put her across from Chaplin, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Boris Karloff on the silver screen, teaming up with Sennett to work as more than an actress is when things started to go wrong. The actress-turned-entrepreneur was put into a position of power. Paired alongside her good looks, Normand received many party invites and took part in many more wild times.
Normand formed a romantic relationship with movie director Desmond Taylor. It is rumored in many books dedicated to the silent film era’s publicity machine that Normand was addicted to cocaine and this caused turmoil in her relationship with Taylor. The actress was the last person to see Taylor alive before he was murdered by alleged drug dealers.
The murder involved an untraceable .22-caliber gun, and many people suspect Normand was involved in the director’s death. Two years later, her chauffeur shot the actress’s millionaire oil broker boyfriend with Normand’s own pistol, also a .22-caliber. And then Arbuckle became the defendant in very publicized rape and manslaughter trials involving actress Virginia Rappe, which led to Arbuckle’s films being banned. Normand co-stars in many of these films and becomes guilty of indecency simply by her association on film with Arbuckle.
Time went on, and Normand tried for a comeback. She married fellow actor Lew Cody. They lived in separate houses in Beverly Hills, California, for reasons unknown. However, in many books dedicated to the actress and her scandals, such as “Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood” by William J. Mann, the rumors were that Normand and Cody were looking for a way to move to, or at least close by, the up and coming government town of Boulder City — a place free of booze, drugs, gambling and scandal. Unfortunately, that plan never materialized as the actress passed away at the age of 37 from tuberculous.
Normand’s Hollywood legacy, scandals included, continues to live on in books and film. Academy Award-winning actress Marisa Tomei played Normand in the 1992 movie “Chaplin.” Amazon.com also has a bouquet of books about the actress, and one can find many of her movies in digital download format thanks to Amazon Prime.
Normand was never proven to kill anyone, take drugs or act as a raging alcoholic; her career was stunted by the actions of another actor, who was technically proven innocent. Yet the rumor mill kept people interested and dismayed with the actress. Moving to Boulder City may have been nothing more than a pipe dream for Normand and her husband as they looked to escape their former fame, but the desire to discover something new and what our city was about existed.
If you haven’t seen “Chaplin,” it is, again, my recommended Throwback Thursday movie, and “Mabel Normand: The Life and Career of a Hollywood Madcap” by Timothy Dean Lefler is my recommended book.
Tanya Vece is a ghostwriter and independent marketing specialist. She can be reached on Instagram @TanyaLVece.