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Spunky Gal, Wicked Witch, Cute Animals, Dashing Gentleman: "Mickey" Has It All
Mack Sennett and star Mabel Normand co-produced this 1918 silent comedy/melodrama which, surely, satisfied the era's moviegoers. Normand, a natural comedienne, plays "Mickey," an orphan raised by a rough and grizzled down-on-his-luck miner abetted by a corpulent, exasperated but loving woman-of-all-chores.
Back East, New York to be exact, Mickey's aunt, as impecunious as she is extravagant, skirts with ruin as she hopes her daughter will win the affections of The Decent Man. Scheming mom and grasping daughter hope an engagement will bring them real solvency.
Not too hard to guess what happens. As the piano music goes on - and on and on and on - the hero goes West to handle a mine boundary issue. He meets the sparkling Mickey and her menagerie before she leaves for the East with her miner guardian. But the seeds of love have been planted.
Mickey's been cordially invited to live with auntie under that harridan's very mistaken and soon to be blown belief that the young girl is the key to a rich mine's bounty. Finding that to be very wrong, Mickey is ordered into domestic service by nasty auntie. Yep, Cinderella story, sort of. And we all know - as did the Great War audiences - how such stories MUST end. A happy Mickey and her guy.
Sennett was a master at comedies that entertained without surprising. No dazzling or innovative cinematography here, just a guaranteed good hour and a half at the theater (or, now, in front of a TV).
Normand strayed off the reservation of both respectability and sobriety not that many years after "Mickey" when she was at the height of popular acclaim with a Goldwyn contract. Stars didn't have the bounce-back capability many seem to enjoy today and her close association with two lurid murders, neither of which she was implicated in, hastened a downward spiral already in freefall.
She died fairly young of tuberculosis, her career practically ended. But she remains alive in films that show the depth of comedic ability of a talented actress who could make audiences laugh without their ever hearing her utter a syllable. "Mickey" is one of her best efforts.
In 1970, Bernadette Peters, who just opened in a well-received Broadway revival of "Gypsy," played Mabel in "Maude and Mack," a musical about the director/star duo. The play didn't do well on the Great White Way but it's become something of a staple for amateur theatrical groups. Normand would have appreciated that.
Well worth renting or buying.
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