MICKEY’S TENT SHOW (Larry Darmour Productions- Columbia Pictures released October 27, 1933)
Director: Jesse Duffy,
Cast: Mickey”Himself” McGuire (Rooney), Billy Barty, Shirley Jean Rickert, Jimmy Robinson, Marvin Stephens.
We usually stay away from the later talkie productions of Larry Darmour’s Mickey McGuire Comedies, but this one features one of those sights of weirdness that the true movie buff should have ingrained on their brain-cells just to separate them from the casual film watcher, or to make them wake up screaming in the wee hours, and that sight is an eight-year-old Mickey Rooney doing a Mae West impersonation.
Could this be it, the childhood trauma that turned Joe Yule Jr. into the charming, kindly, and well-adjusted adult we all know and love? Could eight marriages down the pike have been stopped if just this one event hadn’t happened? Yeah, probably not, but it’s a mind-boggling performance nevertheless, and makes MICKEY’S TENT SHOW one of the more interesting talkie McGuires. Some credit must be (now, now, yes it must) given to the series for having been one of the few Our Gang Xeroxes to have survived into the Sound Era. They had begun when Larry Darmour had bought the rights to Fontaine Fox’s Toonerville Trolley comic strips and unlike the previous Betzwood Film series of the early 20’s, decided to showcase the character of Mickey McGuire over all the others in the strip. The aforementioned Mr.Yule Jr was impressive at the auditions and won the part, the meglomaniacal aspects of Mickey seeming a good fit with this kid’s personality. The McGuire Comedies went out through Standard Cinema-FBO starting in 1927, and continued as a popular series into the 1930’s and FBO’s absorption into RKO Radio Pictures. RKO continued to handle the series until 1933, when Columbia Pictures picked up Darmour’s contract for one more season.
The series was definitely not on the same budget scale as the Our Gangs, Darmour apparently had Yule’s name legally changed to Mickey McGuire in an attempt to cheat Fontaine Fox out of royalties, but it did have its charms, including the other cast members like former Our Gang alumni, later burlesque stripper in adulthood, Shirley Jean Rickert, and the amazing Billy Barty as Mickey’s little brudder. Barty was a young midget (well, he liked to called “little person”) who had been raised in Vaudeville, broke into films haranguing the likes of Snub Pollard and Ben Turpin in the Weiss brother Comedies, had his own series of Joyland Comedies for Willaim Pizor in 1929-30, and then joined the McGuire Comedies and stayed until they finished in 1934. With a wild shock of white hair that made him look like a miniature elderly Spencer Tracy, Barty was a fun comic presence in the talkie McGuires, making up for some of the charm of the silent shorts lost in the transition and budget-cuts, and giving the star a run for the money in the scene-stealing department.
When the McGuire series was finally laid to rest in 1934, Mickey changed his surname legally to Rooney and went on to even greater success and as of this writing is one of the last still-surviving actors to have worked in Silent Films at all, and is amazingly still working into his 90’s. We figured that in a year when we’ve also got a Joe Yule Sr. film on tap, Slapsticon should honor both Father and Son as they essay comic book characters. It was apparently a Family Tradition.
RICHARD M ROBERTS
This forum is nearly identical to the previous forum. The difference? Discussions about comedy from the SOUND era.
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