Back when Mickey Rooney died, I intended to watch Mickey’s Movies (1928). I knew I had a nice print of the film, but when I went to find it, it simply wasn’t there. That was the point I realized the film collection had grown too large to remain unorganized and uncatalogued (at that point, it was something like 450 titles). It spurred me to smarten-up in that regard, but even after systematically going through every reel, Mickey’s Movies continued to elude me. It wasn’t until about six weeks ago that it reappeared. It wasn’t hiding anywhere unusual — it was just mixed in among some other 16mm two-reelers — and for the life of me, I can’t explain how it escaped noticed for so long.
I’ve said before about the two reel comedies that Educational put out, that they’re really one reel of actual story and another of pure filler. Mickey’s Movies is quite similar in that regard, but it at least makes some effort to mix the two together.
The Mickey McGuire series was one of the countless Our Gang rip-offs floating around in the late ‘20s. Its star, Mickey McGuire (Mickey Rooney), is the leader of a gang of poor kids who get into various comic scrapes.
Mickey’s Movies begins with a nigh-incomprehensible jumble of scenes that veer wildly from building a clubhouse to fishing to some kind of kid-run carnival to puppies chasing chickens. In isolation, all the components more or less make sense, but don’t ask me to explain how one relates to another. About five minutes in, we arrive at the meat of the film:
Mickey and the gang stumble upon a movie shoot. The Superba Film Company are taking a western scene, the villain and the hero are fighting, and the director — Mr. Von Sonatime — is not having it. “Rotten!! Terrible!! Awful!!” he screams as he throws his hat to the ground. A PA follows him with a steady supply of fresh hats.
Superba seems to have requisitioned the Scorpion Club (the Mickey gang’s hideout) as a dressing room. This will not do. Mickey sets the guard dog on the film company and chases them into the lake. After appointing himself as the new director, Mickey begins shooting the film himself, adopting the same mannerisms of Von Sonatime, including hat-tossing.
After a good ten minutes of well-plotted action, the film begins to dip back into random nonsense, but at least now it’s all thematically connected to filmmaking. Little Chocolate (Hannah Washington), Mickey’s right-hand gal, has been assigned to hat duty. As Mickey goes through more and more hats, she has to find some way of keeping up. At the end, she’s got a hat Gatling gun from somewhere that buries Mickey in hats and brings the film to a close.
If edited down to one reel, I would whole-heartedly recommend Mickey’s Movies. I don’t, as a rule, go in for kid comedies, but this one at least was cute and entertaining. But the random additional footage mixed in really drags it down. If, from market demands, you simply had to pad it out to two reels, I think I prefer Educational’s method of front-loading all the filler in the first reel and letting the second reel stand on its own.
When I pulled up this film’s IMDb page, I saw that it got a review from the late, great F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre. MacIntyre was a divisive figure. His shtick was to find lost films (or what he thought were lost films) on IMDb and write reviews of them, claiming to have seen them through various secret and slightly nefarious channels. His reviews, in reality, were based on contemporary plot synopses, publicity stills, and his own healthy imagination. Some saw him as nothing more than a liar, while others appreciated his work as a kind of performance art. I liked him, but I suppose it helps that I always knew it was pretend. A deeply disturbed person in real life, but that’s neither here nor there.
Anyway, Mickey’s Movies…
My rating: Meh.