“The Picture You Will Never Forget”
Director: F. Richard Jones, James Young
Cast: Mabel Normand, George Nichols, Wheeler Oakman
Synopsis: Mickey, an orphan who has been brought up in a mining settlement, is sent to New York to live with her aunt.
Comedienne Mabel Normand made her bid for Mary Pickford’s position as America’s Sweetheart with Mickey, her first feature, under the direction of F. Richard Jones and James Young, and it’s a pretty dull affair. It does probably feature the only recorded scene of a leading lady holding a cat by its tail, however, which must earn it some position in cinematic history (blink and you miss it — it happens while she’s being berated by her guardian (George Nichols) after he has descended into a well that he believes she has fallen down). While Normand might have been an accomplished comedienne, she was certainly no Mary Pickford. Even her comic touches in this movie fail to achieve the endearing impression they are clearly intended to do, possibly because she was in a pretty bad way mentally while filming was going on. Long-term lover Mack Sennett, she had just discovered, was cheating on her with Mae Busch, and it may well have been around then that her mental deterioration began.
Normand plays the eponymous Mickey, an orphan raised by Joe Meadows (Nichols), who has been prospecting a mine for years without luck. He feels it’s about time Mickey got herself some breeding, and so he writes to her distant city-dwelling cousin Mrs. Drake (Laura La Varnie) asking her to teach her the ways of genteel city ladies. Mrs. Drake’s a bit of a money-grabber, so on hearing that Mickey’s the heiress to a mine, she’s only too happy to take her in. However, when she learns that the mine has yielded nothing in years she puts Mickey to work in the household as a maid. Mrs. Drake has high hopes of marrying her daughter off to Herbert Thornhill (Wheeler Oakman, one of those silent stars who ended up appearing un-credited in bit-part roles when the talkies came in), but when Herbert catches sight of Mickey, whom he previously met while checking on his mine in California, Mrs. Drake’s plans begin to go awry.
Mickey is a pretty dull affair, and wholly predictable until the last fifteen minutes or so when all of a sudden she’s participating in a horse race in an attempt to ensure her suitor’s ill-advised bet pays off. Normand is appealing, although I can’t see why everyone raved about her being a beauty. Maybe it’s simply because tastes change as the years pass, but she looked rather plain to me, with round eyes and a weak chin. Anyway, the movie would be almost insufferable without her, and is probably of interest only to silent movie fans.
(Reviewed 20th March 2013)