OTD: Québec-born Mark Sennett releases first ‘Keystone Studios’ movie

On today’s date in 1912, Québec’s Mack Sennett released Cohen Collects a Debt, the first film from his newly formed Keystone Studios based in Los Angeles.

Released in combination with The Water Nymph as the first half of a single reel offering, it was filmed at the new studio in Edendale (present-day Echo Park, Los Angeles).

Sennett was already well-known in silent-screen circles, where he had worked alongside fellow Canadian actors Marie Dressler and Mary Pickford.

Before the end of 1912, Hoffmeyer’s Legacy – also directed by Sennett – was released and introduced the “Keystone Cops,” humorously incompetent officers who featured in many of Sennett’s slapstick comedies. The Keystone Cops eventually played in thousands of films throughout the prolific director’s career, which saw 35 comedies featuring Charlie Chaplin released in 1914 alone.

But the good fortunes didn’t last, and in 1935, after directing a Buster Keaton movie, Sennett declared bankruptcy and returned to Canada a pauper.

Sennett eventually died at the age of 80 on Nov. 5, 1960, in Woodland Hills, Calif.


While Canada Post has honoured other Canadians in Hollywood, who went south to fulfill their big-screen dreams; however, Sennett has yet to be commemorated on a Canadian stamp.

A 1994 stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service, however, celebrates the Keystone Cops as part of the “Silent Screen Stars” series. The 29-cent stamp (Scott #2826) features a cartoon depiction of four of the befuddled policemen.

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