Mack Sennett, actor turned director-producer-mogul.
The first movie book I ever read was Mack Sennett’s autobiography King of Comedy
, borrowed from my local library.
I’ve bristled ever since when other people have claimed that title, but Turner Classic Movies is setting things right by devoting four Thursdays in September to Sennett films. That’s not as simple a task as it might seem: for all his fame and influence in the silent era, his movies have been scattered and shamefully neglected. Of the thousand films he produced, only a few hundred are known to exist today.
Enter Paul Gierucki and Brittany Valente of CineMuseum. These two dedicated film buffs and historians, who brought us the valuable DVD collection Industrial Strength Keaton, have scoured the archives and private collections of the world to restore 100 films to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Mack Sennett’s Keystone comedy studio. According to their press release, “These long neglected classic comedies will finally receive a desperately needed restoration in the HD format. Titles, intertitles and missing footage will be replaced, images lightly cleaned and stabilized, original tinting and toning will be restored and newly created scores by some of the best musicians in the industry will ensure that these wonderful films will once again be seen as originally intended.”
Seventy-six of their restorations will debut on TCM; the entire collection will be showcased on DVD and Blu-ray later this year.
The Keystone Studios in Edendale (now Glendale) circa 1917; courtesy of Steve Rydzewski
Stars include Chaplin (of course), Mabel Normand, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Harry Langdon, Andy Clyde, Ben Turpin, Gloria Swanson, Ford Sterling, Chester Conklin, Louise Fazenda, Carole Lombard and W.C. Fields. Many a stalwart screenwriter and director learned his trade working for Mack Sennett, from Frank Capra to Darryl F. Zanuck.