Tuesday, April 15, 2014
A salute to the late Mickey Rooney, who audaciously tried taking a comic strip character's name for his own, but did not get away with it.
Below is one of the TOONERVILLE FOLKS comedy shorts, based on the newspaper comic panel by Fontaine Fox. It stars a wee Mickey Rooney. He's the tough ne'er do well tyke "Mickey 'Himself' McGuire" in MICKEY'S LUCK (1930).
Sure. it's similar to the Our Gang shorts, and you don't need me to tell you who Mickey is. He's the bossy one in the big black hat (see above drawing), the one moving the plot along.
There were 55 live-action two-reelers made, straddling the silent and sound eras, from 1926 to 1936.
Mickey's real name was Joe Yule, Jr. In the early silent shorts, he was billed as Mickey McBan and then Mickey Yule before settling on the same name as the bully from the feature, Mickey "Himself" Maguire. And that was okay for a decade, while filming these movies.
By the 1930s, at the same time he was shooting the TOONERVILLE series, he was in another series based on a cartoonist's creation. He was the voice of OSWALD, THE LUCKY RABBIT for Disney,
With parts in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and MANHATTAN MELODRAMA, it was time to move on. Besides, he was getting a little big to play Maguire.
In 1936, he left these shorts to do other roles. The first Andy Hardy movie, YOU'RE ONLY YOUNG ONCE, was a year away, and after that, in 1938, his scene-stealing role as Whitey Marsh with Spencer Tracy in BOY'S TOWN.
But the syndicate threatened him with a legal suit. The name of "Mickey 'Himself' McGuire" was one of the characters in the Toonerville Folks comic strip before he had it, of course, and he could nor formally appropriate it. And so he changed his name for good this time, from Mickey McGuire to Mickey Rooney.
On an odd note, the popular panel was known by a couple of names too. In some papers it was Toonerville Folks, and in others Toonerville Trolley. The panel (it was always a panel, not a strip.) ran in up to 300 newspapers from 1913 through to 1955.
The Mickey Rooney live-action shorts were the "middle" movie series. The live-action series was bracketed by animated films. The first time that the Toonerville panel was brought to life in the movies was in a series of silent animated shorts from the Betzwood Motion Picture Studio between 1920 and 1921. The final time that the series was in the movies was Van Beuren Studio's production of "Toonerville Trolley" in 1936.
One of the featured players in these live-action pictures was Billy Barty, who played Mickey's brother Billy McGuire. He was three years old when he appeared in his first one. He's six here in MICKEY'S LUCK. Mickey Rooney is ten years old:
Child Star Delia Bogard Interview (1989)
Via Barry Conrad. Delia Bogard starred, along with Rooney and Barty, in the Mickey McGuire series:
Posted by Mike Lynch at 10:05 AM