Actor, Director, Producer, and Screenwriter. Known as the "King of Comedy," he is remembered as the innovator of slapstick comedy in films, noted for their wild car chases and custard pie warfare. Born Mikall Sinnott in Danville, Quebec, Canada to Irish immigrant farmers, his father worked as a blacksmith. At the age of 17, his family moved to Connecticut and later to Northampton, Massachusetts. Attracted to the entertainment world, he moved to New York City, New York where became an actor, singer, dancer, clown, set designer and director for the Biograph Company. Around 1912 he moved west and with financial backing from Adam Kessel and Charles O. Bauman of the New York Motion Picture Company, he founded Keystone Studios in Edendale, California, the first totally enclosed film stage and studio in history. It was there that many important actors started their film careers, including Marie Dressler, Mabel Normand (his first comedienne, with whom he had a long romantic relationship), Charles Chaplin, Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle, Harold Lloyd, Raymond Griffith, Gloria Swanson, Ford Sterling, Andy Clyde, Chester Conklin, Polly Moran, Louise Fazenda, The Keystone Cops, Bing Crosby and W.C. Fields. He developed the "Kid Comedies," a forerunner of the "Our Gang" films, and in a short time his name became synonymous with screen comedy. In 1915 he assembled a bevy of girls known as the Sennett Bathing Beauties to appear in provocative bathing costumes in comedy short subjects, in promotional material, and in promotional events like Venice Beach beauty contests, and continued to appear until 1928. In 1917 he gave up the Keystone trademark and organized his own company, Mack Sennett Comedies Corporation. During the 1920s his short subjects were in much demand, with stars like Billy Bevan, Andy Clyde, Harry Gribbon, Vernon Dent, Alice Day, Ralph Graves, Charlie Murray, and Harry Langdon. In the mid-1920s he moved over to Pathé Exchange distribution. He made a reasonably smooth transition to sound films, releasing them through Earle Hammons's Educational Pictures. Occasionally experimented with color, he was the first to get a talkie short subject on the market, in 1928. In 1932 he was nominated for the Academy Award for Live Action Short Film in the comedy division for producing "The Loud Mouth" and the same year he won an Academy Award in the Best Short Subject (Novelty) for his film "Wrestling Swordfish." In November 1933 he was forced into bankruptcy as a result of the Great Depression. His last work was as a producer-director for Educational Pictures where he directed Buster Keaton in the short comedy film "The Timid Young Man" (1935) and Joan Davis in the short western comedy musical film "Way Up Thar" (1935). He then went into semi-retirement, having produced more than 1,000 silent films and several dozen talkies during a 25-year career. In March 1938 he was presented with an honorary Academy Award for his lasting contribution to the comedy technique of the screen. He appeared in "Hollywood Cavalcade" (1939), a thinly disguised version of his romance with Mabel Normand. In 1949 he provided film footage for, and appeared in, the first full-length comedy compilation, "Down Memory Lane", written and narrated by Steve Allen. In 1954 he was profiled in the NBC television series "This is Your Life" and made a cameo appearance in "Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops" (1955). He contributed to the radio program "Biography in Sound," broadcast on February 28, 1956. He died at the age of 80. In 1974 playwright Michael Stewart and composer Jerry Herman wrote the musical "Mack & Mabel" that chronicled the romance between Sennett and Mabel Normand. He was also a leading character in "The Biograph Girl," a 1980 musical about the silent film era. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to films. In 2004 he was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.
Bio by: William Bjornstad
BELOVED KING OF COMEDY