A Number on Norma Nichols

The name of Norma Nichols (1894-1989) ought to be better known to silent comedy fans and not just because it combines the first name of a Talmadge with the last name of one of Keystone’s early directors. (It’s tempting to guess she might have been the daughter of George Nichols, but her father was J.C. Nichols, sheriff of Orange County, California). In any event, Norma Nichols was connected to almost all of the major comedy studios and acted with several of the top comedians.

Nichols was the sister-in-law of Hal Roach (her sister Marguerite was Roach’s wife) thought that wasn’t the studio where she made most of her nearly 50 comedy shorts. She started out with Mack Sennett when she was about 20, appearing in several of Charlie Chaplin’s earliest comedies in 1914, including The Property Man, Those Love Pangs, Dough and Dynamite, and Gentlemen of Nerve. Witch Roscoe Arbuckle she was in Fatty’s Jonah Day (1914) and Fatty’s Tin Type Tangle (1915), with Charlie Murray, Hogan’s Wild Oats (1915). In 1916 she went over to the Kalem Company where she worked in numerous Ham and Bud comedies. Staring in 1920 she appeared in several Eddie Boland comedies at Roach featuring Ethel Broadhurst and the Vanity Fair Girls. Then it was on to Vitagraph in 1921, where she supported Larry Semon in The Bakery, The Rent Collector, The Fall Guy, and The Bell Hop. She returned to Roach for her last film, The Man Haters (1922) with Boland. Nichols had decent roles in many of these comedies and was quite good in them, but she gave it all up to marry a doctor in 1925.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.