Today is the birthday of Cecile Arnold (Cecile Laval Arnoux, 1893-1931).
There is much sketchiness in the actress’s background and apparently she wasn’t that sure of the facts herself. My details come from Brent Walker’s excellently researched book Mack Sennett’s Fun Factory, which says that her birthday was July 9, 1893. Other sources say the month was April and/or the year was 1891 or 1895. And she was born in either Louisville, New York or St. Louis. Frankly I don’t much care, and if you do, look elsewhere!
Having grown up in St. Louis and Fort Worth, Arnold reportedly became a Ziegfeld girl at one point, although I can’t find her in that context on IBDB. It may well have been under a different name. She used many various professional names over the years besides the one we know her for from her films, including Cecile Arley, Cecile Arnole, “Peaches” Arnold, and Cecele Arno, which is the name she used when she was in the chorus of the 1916 Al Jolson show Robinson Crusoe, Jr.
What’s especially interesting about that Broadway credit is that it occurs after she had already broken into films. What I would like to know is the circumstances of how she got into film. She pretty much started near the top — her first role in Charlie Chaplin’s The Property Man for Mack Sennett in 1914. She immediately began getting lots of great roles, many of them in Chaplin comedies (she is particularly memorable as a vamp in The Face on the Bar Room Floor). After Chaplin left Keystone, she continued to support the likes of Mack Swain (“Ambrose”) and Syd Chaplin (“Gussle”) in no less 50 comedies until 1917 (with that brief interlude in the middle to take some stage work). Granted — she was beautiful — that’ll get your foot in the door. Did she romance either Sennett or Chaplin? Does she have additional stage credits under yet another pseudonym we don’t know? Did Sennett, who had also been in Broadway choruses, know her from his theatre days? They were both part French; was that a connection? Or was it just luck, luck, luck?
Whatever it was, she rather blithely through it away after less than four years. For love! She married Frank Reynolds, an actor and A.D. at Keystone, who then got drafted, necessitating a move away from Hollywood. Then they got divorced! She then moved to the Far East, and married a British banker. She died in 1931 of influenza, like something out of a Somerset Maugham story.
To learn more about silent and slapstick comedy please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc