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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 photograph series of the Mack Sennett papers spans the years 1912-1933 and encompasses 84 linear feet. The series consists of over 50,000 photographs and negatives. Sennett’s initial donation to the Academy in May 1951 included the bulk of photographs and negatives contained in the collection, but material prior to 1915 was sparse. In 1992 the Margaret Herrick Library acquired a group of Keystone Film Company photograph albums from 1912, 1913 and early 1914, all of which were added to the collection. In addition, several Triangle Keystone publicity photograph albums from 1915 and 1916 were dismantled and integrated into the collection as loose prints. The photographs are grouped into motion picture production photographs, biography photographs, and subject photographs.
The motion picture production photographs span the years 1912-1933 and consist of scene stills and publicity portraits. The material is arranged alphabetically by film title, and more than 800 films are represented. There are also many off-camera, set reference and location reference photographs. Titles range from "The Beating He Needed" (1912), the earliest title in the collection, to "The Barber Shop" (1933), one of the last films Sennett produced. There is virtually no photographic material for films featuring Charles Chaplin.
The biography photographs are arranged alphabetically by name and contain files on nearly 300 actors, directors, writers, and other studio personnel who worked for Sennett, including the Mack Sennett Bathing Beauties. The files are rich in material depicting Sennett stars such as Mabel Normand and Ben Turpin, as well as those who worked briefly with Sennett early in their careers, such as Gloria Swanson and Carole Lombard.
The subject photographs consist mostly of casting and reference photographs. The casting photographs consist of hundreds of portraits submitted to the Sennett studio, primarily during the 1920s, by men and women hoping to break into motion pictures. Most carefully noted their names, addresses, phone numbers, and special talents on the reverse. The reference photographs include images of automobiles, trucks, airplanes, animals, and theaters. There is also a group of photographs depicting exterior views of the Sennett studio over the years.
Gift of Mack Sennett, 1951.