Dec 02 2017 Exclusive: Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand at the 1914 Vanderbilt Cup Race

These are the only known film scenes of the 1914 Vanderbilt Cup Race held in Santa Monica, California.

These clips were used as the background for the Mack Sennett-produced slapstick comedy "Mabel at the Wheel" starring Mabel Normand, Ben Turpin and newcomer Charlie Chaplin.  The film marked Mabel Normand's debut as both an actor and director. 

A total of three minutes of the actual 1914 Vanderbilt Cup Race were used as part of the "Mabel at the Wheel".  A previous published edit of the film included only 90 seconds of the race scenes. Note the spectators in the background watching the slapstick acting of Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Harry McCoy and Chester Conklin.


Howard Kroplick

New York Dramatic Mirror Review (1914)

The bright particular star who carries the lead [in Mabel at the Wheel] is Charles Chaplin. Long acquaintance with the speaking stage, and a naturally funny manner of appearing, have made him, in the three months' experience that he has had in motion pictures, second to none. Mabel Normand carries the female lead with her usual bright success. This is a Keystone comedy, having said which you proceed to qualify with all the adjectives standing for funny, burlesque, grotesque, farcical or screaming that you can think of, and leave with the fear that you have not done it justice. Yes, there is no sense in it, as usual."

1914 Santa Monica Course

Film clips

The grandstand and pits on Ocean Avenue.

Charlie Chaplin and Chester Conklin in front of real spectators. Chaplin played the villain and had only three month's film experience.

Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin. Normand also served as the director for the film.

Driver Harry Grant's #1 Isotta and driver Barney Oldfield's #7 Mercer. Note: the pit for winner Ralph DePalma's #12 Mercedes. Oldfield finished second to DePalma. 

Driver Gil Anderson in the #3 Stutz

Two racers at the "Death Curve" at tjhe corner of Ocean Avenue and Wishire Boulevard.

Check out the trolley.

Great shot of a race car's exhaust.

Driver Dave Lewis in the #6 Mason.

Driver Spencer Wishart's #2 Mercer and Eddie Pullen's #4 Mercer.

One of the racers overturned at the "Death Curve". 

Courtesy of Ariejan Bos. See below comment.

A wonderful crowd scene.

One of the racer's takeing a checkered flag.

Two actors hamming it up.

The unedited Mabel at the Wheel (23 minutes). Check out producer Mack Sennett in the grandstand.


Dec 02 2017 Richard Sloan 10:02 PM

Great to see this film.  Early Chaplin in spats and chin whiskers, too!

Dec 02 2017 Gregg Hammond 11:45 PM

The man with the walrus mustache in the stands is Chester Conklin, not Ben Turpin. Turpin worked with Chaplin in 1915 at the Essanay Studio. Ben Turpin did not work for Mack Sennett until the mid-1920s. The large man that Chaplin sticks with a pin in the first shot is Mack Swain, another Keystone regular. He was in several of Chaplin’s later films, including “The Gold Rush” in 1925.
Howard Kroplick

Gregg, great catch! You are 100% correct.

Dec 03 2017 Ariejan Bos 8:19 AM

It is a very nice movie indeed, fiction mixed with facts. If the movie shows images of the 1914 Vanderbilt Cup race is questionable. Part of the images come from the American Grand Prize, which was run 2 days later (on February 28th). This is indicated by the famous accident at 19.41, where John Marquis’ Sunbeam (with nr. 14) crashes after taking the bend too fast. This moment is captured in one of those iconic photos of racing accidents.
Interesting also is that Mabel’s car with nr.4 is a 1913 Stutz racer (compare with the Earl Cooper’s Stutz on, link The actual nr. 4 during the race was Eddie Pullen’s Mercer. Wasn’t the movie shot during the practice days before the actual races? And then mixed afterwards with images of the real races of course.

Dec 05 2017 Tom 6:56 PM

Fabulous stuff, and that nice California weather!

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