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Mabel: Hollywood's First I-Don't-Care Girl
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Mabel: Hollywood's First I-Don't-Care Girl

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  89 ratings  ·  14 reviews
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Paperback, 273 pages
Published December 3rd 2005 by Limelight Editions (first published April 1st 1992)
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Sep 09, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Mabel: Hollywood's First I-Don't-Care Girl" was the only biography I could locate on silent comic Mabel Normand. While I admire Betty Harper Fussell's attempt, the end result left me frustrated. She also inserts herself into the biography in a way that left me feeling distracted. Like many, I have always been fascinated by Mabel Normand's work as well as her life off screen. She was a powerful female comedian at a time when that was a rarity. She also directed films and helped nurture talent. ...more
Dick Baldwin
Jul 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those iinterested in actors, Hollywood , and true crime stories
Looking over Fussell's catalog of writings one sees a paucity of books relating to film. They are mostly books on food, with several devoted to the history and growing of corn. I can understand why -- it certainly isn't easy putting together an authoritative biography on a mostly obscure personality who died some fifty years before the onset of research. Eyewitness accounts are few, if any ... public records are spotty ... and what's left are the host of inaccurate press releases, other books ...more
Madison Grace
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
Being a big fan of Mabel Normand, I was excited when I found out that there has been a biography written about her. I read some mixed review both on here and on Amazon, but I was willing to read it anyways, because even if it was terrible, it would be about Mabel, right?

Yes and no. This book is called "Mabel: Hollywood's First I-Don't-Care-Girl" but it should have been called something like "My Walk With Mabel", because that's what it's about. It about the author, Betty Harper Fussell,
It's got to make for a monumental headache for a biographer to take a subject like Mabel Normand, whose own short lifetime was packed full of rumor, scandal, mystery and everything else, and try to sift through it all to find the truth. The film magazines of the time are no help, since a few grains of fact easily became the core of a mountain of PR fantasy. Bad information is repeated over and over, even into the internet era, where it is so easy to access historical documents that prove what a ...more
Bob Schnell
Betty Fussell delivers an unusual biography of silent film star Mabel Normand that is entertaining and proof again that truth is stranger than fiction. That is, when truth can be found. It seems that even in retirement, people connected with the film industry sometimes can't tell the difference between truth and what the studios wanted everyone to believe.

Mabel Normand lived fast and died young but her surviving body of work shows her to be a comic on par with her male counterparts, Charlie
Jan 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
This was an alright biography. While it was interesting to learn about Mabel, the author kept going back and forth with timelines. Each chapter started with her, she just had to put herself into each darn chapter. Just different from other biographies I’ve read.
Jan 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, movies
3.5. Review coming soon...
Apr 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Normand truly pioneered a type of slapstick comedy that few women were able to pull off (perhaps only Lucille Ball). Her career began during the development of narrative scripted Hollywood films and continued into the 1920's. It was then that her career was impacted by two of the biggest scandals of the era. First, co-star Fatty Arbuckle was accused of raping Virginia Rappe, a starlet of dubious reputation who died a few days after a wild party hosted by Arbuckle in San Francisco (he was ...more
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is both a conventional biography of Mabel Normand, and a story about the author's attempt to uncover the facts of Mabel's life, and her interactions with the surviving people who knew her. (The book was researched in the late 1970s and published in 1982.) The latter part is rather sad and creepy, especially Mabel's grand-nephew, who was born after Mabel had died, whose "I AM MABEL NORMAND" proclamation rather implies that his connection to his late great-aunt is not quite what it ...more
Jon Boorstin
Feb 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: early-movies
This fine book is as much about the problems of biography as much as it is about Mabel Normand. An early film pioneer, the first Queen of Comedy, muse, lover, protege and victim of Mack Sennett, Mabel is a particularly elusive subject, and Fussell does an honest job of presenting what she thinks she knows and what she'll never know. It's tantalizing, because we want to know more than we can. But the very imprecision is instructive -- it reminds us how little we can know of the past, and this era ...more
While there was some interesting information about the birth of Hollywood, and of course about Mabel Normand, I never felt like I was getting a true sense of her from this book. The writing style was a little jarring in that the author would interject herself into the story at random times saying that her relative lived near someone who was part of the story and so on. Also, names mentioned briefly in much earlier chapters would appear again without explanation so that you had to go back and try ...more
Olive Thomas
Sep 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was so sad when I finished this book this morning. It was that good. It approached Mabel from so many different aspects. People that knew her, people that thought they knew her, people that wanted to know her, and Mabel herself. I thought the author took a very complicated approach. She included everything, including her own personal search for Mabel. It made for a fascinating read. Very different from anything I've read before. I think Mabel would have loved this book. You never really found ...more
Karen Jones
Mar 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
A good biography of Mabel Normand, one of Hollywood's first stars. She had an interesting life, being involved indirectly in one of Hollywood's first scandals-the murder of director William Desmond Taylor.
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Betty Harper Fussell is an award-winning American writer and is the author of eleven books, ranging from biography to cookbooks, food history and memoir. Over the last 50 years, her essays on food, travel and the arts have appeared in scholarly journals, popular magazines and newspapers as varied as The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Times, Saveur, Vogue, Food & Wine, ...more