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I sure wish someone would restore the prints and create new soundtracks for
these silent gems. This one, Mickey, a Mabel Normand - Mack Sennett comedy,
is virtually screaming out for a restoration. It was extremely popular when
it first came out in 1918, and a song "Mickey" sold a million sheets, and
was recorded by many of the orchestras and singers of the day on 78 rpm
It's great fun, with Mabel (Mickey) playing a country miner's daughter who is sent East to live a privileged life in Great Neck, Long Island. Only the aunt who takes her in discovers that Mickey's mine is failing and so the poor girl is made a servant.
There is a sweet romance that brightens up the action, fight scenes, and a rather risque sequence where Mabel runs through the woods and dives from a rock into a lake stark naked. Definitely made before censorship came in!
Mickey is a great feature to watch if you are interested in what made Mabel Normand such a great star in her day. Drama queens in the silents are a dime a dozen, but true comedy stars, especially female, are rare and should never be forgotten.
The adventures of a gold miner's daughter, Mickey stars Mabel Normand,
who was one of the biggest film stars of the teens and 20s. In a series
of episodes that are loosely connected, Normand plays a Cinderella-like
character who goes to live with a relative (Laura La Varnie) but when
it's discovered the gold mine is a bust, she is made a maid in the
household. But she catches the eye of the old lady's daughter (Minta
Durfee) and is eventually sent back to the country just as the mine
strikes it big. The suitor (Wheeler Oakman) follows her. The plot seems
to stray here and there without much narrative thread. At one point, a
lecher (Lewis Cody) is chasing Mabel around a mansion, and then we're
off to the horse races. But while the episodes are tacked together,
Mabel Normand holds the viewer's attention throughout the 90 minutes.
This film was co-produced by Normand and Mack Sennett. George Nichols, Minnie Devereaux, Tom Kennedy, and Edgar Kennedy co-star. And yes Minta Durfee was famous for being the wife of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, a famous co-star with Normand in many short films. And the music by Neil Moret (who died in 1943) is absolutely great. I hummed the songs for days and learned to play them on the piano.
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
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.
'Mickey', as all Mabel Normand films, has her at the centre of
attention from the beginning till the end. The camera, the action, the
entire plot, are all attracted to her like magnets. And Normand is
excellent in this film, establishing her status as silent era's first
lady of comedy.
And we do have a great comedy. Full of suspense, 'Mickey' is never tiring, never boring. We are to witness the adventures of a mine-owner young girl, who cares for mining as much as donkeys care for belts being pushed down their throats. She is a mischievous child who, even when she is brought in the rich household of her aunt in the East, never tires to be a child. Yet it is remarkable what love can do.
The supporting cast is all first rate, with Wheeler Oakman, George Nichols, Minnie Devereaux or Laura La Varnie, all delivering some great comedic performances that seem to be untouched by the axe of time. But they are all there for Normand, who does everything from jumping nude into the water to riding horses and some impressive high altitude stunts. She was one of a kind, and 'Mickey' is there to prove it.
Mabel Normand gives a very lively, engaging performance that makes
"Mickey" an entertaining movie with several other strengths. The
supporting cast all help out as well, and the story effectively moves
back-and-forth between the backwoods and the big city. It combines
comedy and melodrama effectively, and while it contains mostly familiar
elements, it's the kind of movie that is quite enjoyable to watch.
The role of "Mickey" gives Normand some good material to work with, and as always she is sympathetic and charming. Part of the story is set in a mining settlement, where Mickey is right at home, and part of it moves into high society, where she is ill at ease. Both settings are believable and make good backdrops for comedy, and both are also used to bring things out about Mickey and the other characters.
The supporting cast, which includes Wheeler Oakman as Mickey's suitor, has its own comic moments, and Minta Durfee gives an effective performance as the snobbish society girl who is Mickey's romantic rival.
While none of the components of "Mickey" are especially imaginative or innovative, they are all of good quality. It all fits together to make an enjoyable movie.
Mack Sennett had a strong reputation for producing wild, violent, fast-
paced slapstick that often got its laughs without even a superficial
attempt to make sense. He got that reputation for the simple reason
that it's true. However, it's interesting to see how when Sennett knew
he had on his hands a comedian whose laughs come from subtleties or
reactions rather than fast antics, he knows to slacken the pace. That
was true with many of the brilliant Harry Langdon shorts he would
produce later, and it is true here in "Mickey" with Mabel Normand.
Mabel is the star and it is she on which the movie turns. She steals every scene she appears in and has infinite screen magnetism, with her attractive, fascinating face, constantly changing expression, and childlike and uninhibited yet somehow ironic manner. The greatest moments of comedy come in little bits of performance, as Mabel comes up with many ingenious ways to hide dust she has swept up, or simply can't resist eating cherries off a cake.
That said, there are not actually a lot of scenes of overt comedy in this film, and sometimes when there is overt comedy it comes out as a digression or bit of broad slapstick that is well-executed but has a different feel -- the battle in the country store (which looks a lot like the one Arbuckle worked at in "The Butcher Boy") over Mable's dog or the animal the scurries up her pantleg. It's not actually an uproariously funny film, but doesn't usually try to be, and it's always pleasant.
The plot is simple and of a kind that has spawned infinite variations. Mabel is a rough-hewn girl from a miner town who loves playing with animals and skinny dipping (from a very wide angle); she is sent to her rich aunt and becomes involved in a kind of love square through no fault of her own. It's really as much melodrama as anything else, but it comes off. There are plenty of twists, especially as the end draws near, involving who is rich and who is poor when; these remain able to keep the interest, and make a kind of commentary too, intentional or not, on the true insignificance of wealth.
This has been cited as the first feature-length comedy starring a single comedian rather than an ensemble cast, but even so it feels fairly developed as a form, with decent pacing and plot developing in two places at once. This is a simple story well told, and really made by its star, who is well showcased.
Mable Normand is forever remembered for her comedies for Mack Sennett.
These two-reel films were fun but also quite short and were done
strictly for laughs. "Mickey" was a major change for Ms. Normand, as
now she was making a full-length film and one which was more of a
melodrama. In fact, it's very much a style film that Mary Pickford made
famous from the late 1910s through the 1920s--playing a very young lady
who, by the end of the film, has found love and happiness.
Mickey is a young tom-boy (Normand) who lives with her father's old mining partner. It seems her father died and this man has cared for her for many years. However, as she gets older, he realizes he's not much good teaching her how to become a lady and he sends her off to live with her aunt. As for the aunt, she only wants Mickey because she learns she owns a mine. When she discovers the mine isn't productive, she makes Mickey a servant in the home--much like Cinderella. But, just after the aunt gets rid of Mickey, she learns the mine has finally paid off and Mickey is rich--and suddenly she DOES want Mickey to live with her! Well, in the meantime, there is a man who has fallen for Mickey--and he cannot find her in order to propose. But the aunt decides to sic her no-good son on her and he proposes to Mickey. Can the old boyfriend find her before it's too late?!
While this film is a VERY predictable old fashioned melodrama (aside from the bizarre horse race sequence near the end--I did NOT see that coming), it's a NICE predictable old fashioned melodrama! Sure, you can figure out what's going to happen long before it does, but the film is so well made and enjoyable you don't really mind. Sweet and quite charming. It's sure a shame that Mable's career and life were cut so short--I would have loved to see more films like this one.
By the way, I think parts of the end of this film must have been missing. That's because there are very few intertitle cards early in the film. Yet, near the end, there are several with extensive exposition--like it's filling in for gaps in the film.
** 1/2 (out of 4)
When Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand's personal relationship took a hit (two stories are out there), he tried to bring some peace by forming the Mabel Normand Feature Film Company, a separate division of Keystone. This new studio only turned out one film but it was a hit for the studio even after a disastrous production. In the film Normand plays Mickey, a poor girl helping her uncle in a worthless mine. Feeling she's all grown up, the uncle sends her to New York to live with an aunt hoping that she will turn the young lady into a woman. MICKEY is pretty predictable from start to finish and I even though some of the 74-minute running time dragged in spots. Still, it's easy to see that everything going on was just done so that Normand could shine and I think she does just that. There's no question that it's Normand who makes the film worth seeing due to her very strong performance. She's pleasant no matter what situation is in front of her. It could be the early tomboy stuff in the mines, the scenes where she's trying to figure out you don't sweep dirt under a rug or the scenes where she must make decisions for the rest of her life. Mabel is clearly the star of this picture and without her the bland story would have killed any shot at an entertaining movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
That's how Mack Sennett described her. She was very beautiful but also
extremely talented. This was the first and only feature that was
produced by Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand's production company. It was
made in 1916 but not released, surprisingly until 1918. It was a huge
hit but by then Mabel had already signed with Samuel Goldwyn.
Mickey (Mabel Normand) is a young tomboy whose gruff old guardian (George Nichols) owns a gold mine. All the animals and most of the town love Mickey. The proprietor of the general store doesn't like her dog and when he is bitten threatens to shoot the dog. There is a funny sequence as Mickey tries to hide the dog (probably Teddy, the Keystone dog) under the bed in a room that Herbert Thornhill (Wheeler Oakman) has just taken.
Mickey's guardian is determined to send her to distant relatives in New York so she can become a lady. Unbeknown to him they are not wealthy and are eyeing Mabel's mine with greed. They have sent Herbert down to evaluate the mine and welcome Mickey with open arms thinking she is rich. Minta Durfee (wife of Fatty Arbuckle) plays Mickey's cousin, who is also making a play for Herbert.
When they find out she is poor they put her to work as a skivvy. After a hilarious scene where she borrows an evening gown and cuts a caper with cousin Reggie (Lew Cody) she is sent home. No sooner has she left than a telegram arrives telling that gold has been found in the mine!!
The aunt then kidnaps her off the train. There are some hilarious parts. Mabel looks very fetching - whether down at the mines or in society. Her scenes with the animals are very cute - whether rescuing a cute kitten, hanging out with her faithful hound or being bothered by a pesky squirrel. There is a nude swimming scene, which would have been very risqué at the time. There is a big horse race at the end, there is a romantic interest (Wheeler Oakman) and a dashing cad (Lew Cody, who would marry Mabel years later).
The DVD I have is from Unknown Video and has (although I am not quite sure) original organ music played by Bob Vaughn featuring the song "Mickey". I would heartily recommend this movie.
Dogs love her, cats love her, jackasses love her and squirrels love to
run up her pants legs. Well, who can blame them, right after a scene
where she is shown diving nude.... with a suitably long lens of course.
There is nothing terribly novel about this Cinderella story of a movie, but it is all carried off with a great deal of charm. Mabel even gets to cut a few capers, instead of simply looking charming while the comedians around her make a mess of things. She's not a great physical comedian, but she is a fine actress and under the direction of comedy *wunderkind* Richard Jones, she gives a fine performance, as does just about everyone in this movie.
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