​Almanac: Mack Sennett

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Mack Sennett with an interloper in "The Extra Girl" (1923).
Keystone Studios

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: January 17th, 1880, 136 years ago today ... the birthday of silent film pioneer Mack Sennett.

A bit player and director in Hollywood's early days, Sennett launched his own studio in 1912, the Keystone Film Company.

Nobody's idea of an art film studio, Keystone specialized in slapstick comedies.

Sennett's 1913 film "Bangville Police" blazed the trail for the famed Keystone Cops -- bungling officers who starred in a series of short films.

In the 1914 film "A Thief Catcher," one officer sporting a mustache is Charlie Chaplin.

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Charlie Chaplin also served on the Keystone Cops police force, in "A Thief Catcher (1914).
Keystone Studios

Many other stars of the silent era were on the Keystone roster, including Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Mabel Normand, who appeared as newlyweds in the 1916 film, "Fatty and Mabel Adrift."

Unfortunately for Sennett, once his stars became big names, he lost them to other studios.

And over time, he also lost his audiences, as they grew tired of his formulaic slapstick.

Broke by the 1930s, Sennett was not entirely forgotten. In 1938 he was awarded a special Oscar, honoring him as the "master of fun ... the discoverer of stars."

Mack Sennett died in 1960 at the age of 80.

But the studio complex he built lives on. But its current occupant may sound familiar: The CBS Studio Center!


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