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Filmmaker Leslie Zemeckis Unleashes Her Latest Documentary "Mabel, Mabel, Tiger Trainer"
A Defining Act of Rejection for Mabel Stark Becomes a Call of the Wild
From performing dangerous feats as a stunt double for Mae West during Hollywood's Golden Age, to working in the circus as a sexy blonde cooch dancer, it wasn't until Stark locked eyes with a 400-lb tiger that she found her true calling. In that instant she knew that she wanted to train the big cats, a skill reserved exclusively for men, and something she was told no woman could ever do. Circumventing the chauvinism of her time, Stark clawed her way up the circus hierarchy. Before long she was a superstar in the steel arena, one of the most famous and highly regarded tiger trainers in the world.
"When I first started researching Mabel Stark I thought it was going to be a story about courage," states Zemeckis. "I discovered however, that her story was really a love story. She loved her tigers so much she would give her life for them."
Stark's rise to stardom was not without sacrifices, and after multiple failed marriages she increasingly took solace in the company of her cats. Using only positive reinforcement, she continued training the exotic "stripes," and during her thirty-year career at Jungleland in Thousand Oaks, she transformed the suburban theme park into a world-famous Southern California attraction. Although her body was broken and scarred from numerous attacks by her beloved tigers, it was the scars from her childhood that never healed.
Zemeckis is joined by executive producer Robert Zemeckis, producers Jacqueline Levine and Sheri Hellard, associate producer Donnalee Austin, and the film's narrator, Oscar-winning actress Melissa Leo. The documentary, released to coincide with Women's History Month, continues Zemeckis' career-long exploration of influential but lesser-known women of history.
In addition to theatrical and home video distribution, there will be a special screening at Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills on March 8 – International Women's Day! In addition, The Museum of Modern Art in New York City will present an invitation-only screening on March 27.
As a historian of American pop culture, Zemeckis continues bringing to life the stories of marginalized women. She wrote, produced and directed the critically acclaimed documentary "Behind the Burly Q," a Showtime documentary revealing never-before told stories of women from the golden age of burlesque, and her most recent hit, the award-winning documentary "Bound by Flesh," chronicles an important part of American entertainment from a bygone era, delving into the world of circus and carnival life in the early part of the 20th Century.