Michael Sinnott was born to Irish immigrants. At 17, his parents moved to East Berlin, Connecticut, and he became a laborer at American Iron Works, a job he continued when they moved to Northampton, Massachusetts.
He happened to meet the actress Marie Dressler in 1902 and through her, went to New York to try for a career on the stage. He managed some burlesque and chorus-
In 1912 he formed Keystone with Adam Kessel and Charles Bauman. The company was originally a production subsidiary of the New York Motion Picture Company. He brought Mabel Normand with him and soon added Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, Chester Conklin Al St. John, Slim Summerville, Minta Durfee, and Charles Chaplin. He told Chaplin: "We have no scenario-
To the slapstick chase gags of the Keystone Kops were gradually added the Bathing Beauties and the Kid Komedies. In 1915, he and Griffith and Thomas H. Ince formed Triangle Films. Comedy moved from improvisational slapstick to scripted situations. Stars like Bobby Vernon and Gloria Swanson joined him.
He was the first producer to hire stars Charles Chaplin, Fred Mace and Ford Sterling in the movies, and while both Mabel Normand and 'Roscoe "Fatty' Arbuckle' had worked in front of cameras before Keystone was established -
In 1917, he formed Mack Sennett Comedies, distributing through Paramount and later Pathe. Oddly, Sennett and his key competitor, Hal Roach, were both distributed by the same company, Pathe. This arrangement worked to the detriment of both studios while it lined the pockets of the French firm, which was able to play the comedy short giants off each other for years. By the time Pathe's U.S. fortunes declined considerably in 1925, Sennett was in far worse shape than Roach, who had valuable re-
When he returned to Paramount in 1932, he produced shorts featuring W.C. Fields and musical ones with Bing Crosby. After directing his only Buster Keaton film, The Timid Young Man (1935) he returned to Canada a pauper.
In 1937, he was awarded a special Oscar -
The Little Teacher (1915) (short)