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Mack Sennett (1880-1960) was born Michael Sinnott in Danville, Canada. He began acting in films at Biograph studios in mid-1908, and by late 1910 he was directing Biograph shorts. He left Biograph for the newly formed Keystone in 1912. In 1915 Keystone was incorporated into the newly created Triangle Film Corporation, functioning as an autonomous unit within Triangle. In 1917 Sennett gave up the Keystone trademark and organized his own company, Mack Sennett Comedies Corporation. His films were released first through Paramount, then through Associated Producers and Associated First National. From 1923 to 1928 Pathé released his films; from 1928 to 1932 the films were released through Educational, and he returned to Paramount in 1932. Due in part to heavy losses in the 1929 stock market crash, a change in public taste, and the advent of sound films, Sennett was forced into bankruptcy in November 1933. Sennett became an active member of the Academy in 1929. He received two short subject nominations in that category's first year of existence; one in the comedy division for producing "The Loud Mouth" (1932), and the other in the novelty division for producing "Wrestling Swordfish" (1931). He received an Oscar for the latter. In March 1938 Mack Sennett was presented with a Special Academy Award "for his lasting contribution to the comedy technique of the screen." Sennett is best remembered as the man behind the Keystone Kops, the custard pie, and the Sennett Bathing Beauties.
The Mack Sennett papers span the years 1914-1933 and encompass 41 linear feet. The collection consists of production files, story files, biography files, subject files, financial files, contract files, and scrapbooks. The production files contain script material, company forecast sheets, daily report sheets, suggested subtitles, inserts, cutting room sheets, preview notes, telegrams regarding title clearance, main title and subtitle sheets, complete production reports, dialogue sheets, final synopses, press and publicity material, and press clippings. A synopsis from "Mabel's Strange Predicament" (1914), dated January 10, 1914, is the earliest identified production record. There is no material from Sennett's Biograph period and little early Keystone material. There is a useful nine-page list of Keystone releases (the dates on the list are "finished" or "shipped" dates, not theatrical release dates) from March 1913 to February 1917. From mid-1915 to 1933 the collection contains material on nearly all of the films that Sennett produced, with the major exceptions being "Tillie's Punctured Romance" (1914), "Mickey" (1918), and "Married Life" (1920). Items of particular interest include complete production reports dating from September 29, 1916, to August 7, 1918; assistant director's daily report sheets and company forecast sheets from February 1926 to December 1927; a script clerk's notebook for "The Extra Girl" (1923); and a complete set of parts for the orchestral score for "Suzanna" (1923).
The story files contain story material for films that were photographed but not released, films that were not produced, or films that cannot be identified as produced films. In addition, there are synopses of popular books and plays from the turn of the century, many of which were used as the basis for films developed at other studios.
The biography files consist of biography cards, studio bios, press releases, and clippings. The biography cards list professional name, real name, address, height and weight, birthplace and date, schools attended, nontheatrical occupations, married/children, stage experience, and "date first came to Sennett studios."
Within the subject files, a correspondence file (1915-1919) contains a six-page letter from Charles O. Bauman to Sennett regarding the formation of Triangle and the need to get Charlie Chaplin back under contract "regardless of cost." The same file contains telegrams to and from John A. Waldron and Mack Sennett during the tumultuous transition from Triangle to Paramount in June and July of 1917. Several in-house publications are represented, including the "Mack Sennett Weekly," the "Mack Sennett News Bulletin," "News from the Mack Sennett Studios," and the "Mack Sennett-Pathé Studio Revue." Publicity Department records, including advertising, correspondence, and publicity releases, document that department's activities during the Pathé releasing years.
The financial files contain account ledgers (payroll and general, covering 1917-1933), balance sheets (1917-1919), and audit reports (1920-1928). The audit reports contain a list of completed photoplays and often include the cost of producing the film. The employment-idle time file (1917) contains weekly reports of when stock-and-guarantee people did not work and offers a fascinating glimpse into who was working at the studio, when they were working, and how often they were working. Other files include rental billings for Paramount-Sennett pictures in 1933, income tax returns (all are corporate, except one personal return for Sennett circa 1915), and real estate contracts and leasing agreements (both corporate and personal, 1914-1932).
The contract files are an excellent source of information for pay scales. They also help document who was working for Sennett and when. For example, William Beaudine's contract, dated February 1, 1933, provides irrefutable evidence that Beaudine directed for Sennett in 1933 under the assumed name of William Crowley. Chester Cooper Conklin's one-page Keystone contract, dated April 29, 1915, is one of the earliest. There are distribution contracts with Allied Producers and Distributors, Associated Exhibitors, Associated First National Pictures, Associated Producers, Famous Players-Lasky, First National Pictures, Keystone Film Company, Sol Lesser, Paramount Pictures, Paramount Publix, Triangle Film Corporation, and United Artists. The contracts cover both domestic and foreign distribution. There are no contracts dealing with either Educational or Pathé; however, in the Mack Sennett, Inc.-Audit Reports file is a summary of Pathé contracts in the report dated December 31, 1928. There are various other contractual obligations with banks, theaters in the Los Angeles area (in which Sennett had a financial stake), and in areas ranging from processing to publicity.
Four oversize scrapbooks contain clippings for "The Crossroads of New York," "Molly O'," "The Good-Bye Kiss," and "Hypnotized."
Gift of Mack Sennett, 1951.