Monday, May 11, 2015

Mickey (1918)

Produced by Mack Sennett as a feature-length starring vehicle for Mabel Normand, this is less a typical Sennett slapstick comedy, and more a genteel drama with elements of humor. The plot is fairly complicated: a struggling old California miner (George Nichols) is raising the orphaned daughter (Normand) of his old mining partner, and sends her to live with her aunt (Laura Lavarnie) on Long Island in order to make a lady out of her. Her romance with a handsome young miner (Wheeler Oakman) is threatened by the advances of a slimy playboy (Lew Cody) who is only interested in her newfound fortune earned from the mine.

Normand shines in this otherwise stock melodrama plot, bringing just the right mix of humor and charm to the title role, and proving herself equally adept at scenes of broad physical comedy and intimate, tender romance.  Her performance here -- under the expert direction of comedy veteran F. Richard Jones -- is a fine demonstration of her exceptional gifts as a comedienne and the qualities that made her one of the most popular stars of the period. In his autobiography, "King of Comedy", Sennett is quite proud of the film, which he conceived as a showcase for Normand (with whom he had been romantically involved, and was clearly still quite fond of), and was made just at the time that their association -- both personal and professional -- was coming to an end.

The film is available for viewing at the Internet Archive.

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