Mickey Rooney is one of the last surviving silent-film actors. He turns 94 years old on Sept. 23, and he just got an early birthday present: His first starring role, Mickey’s Circus, a comedy short from 1927, has been rediscovered in Amsterdam. Our old friends at the National Film Preservation Foundation are working to repatriate that film, and many others. The Los Angeles Times has the story this morning:
Long-missing comedy shorts such as 1927’s “Mickey’s Circus,” featuring a 6-year-old Mickey Rooney in his first starring role, 1917's "Neptune's Naughty Daughter"; 1925’s “Fifty Million Years Ago,” an animated introduction to the theory of evolution; and a 1924 industrial short, “The Last Word in Chickens,” are among the American silent films recently found at the EYE Filmmusem in Amsterdam.
The Siren points out that the 1925 “animated introduction to the theory of evolution” was made the year of the Scopes Monkey Trial, no less.
Another film the NFPF is looking to bring home: 1924’s “The Reckless Age,” a full-length comedy with Reginald Denny. The Spokane Daily Chronicle promises, “This picture is just packed with it” — do tell — “auto thrills, love thrills, and real fighting thrills.” Wait, fighting thrills? With Reginald Denny, so very tweedy in Rebecca?
Well, yes. Reginald Denny used to look like this. He has his own entry at an online boxing encyclopedia, and the Siren’s eyes bugged out when she saw who he was fighting (on the vaudeville stage, admittedly) in 1922.
Also in 1922 appeared the melodrama “For the Defense,” with ZaSu Pitts, which IMDB says is based on a play by Elmer Rice (who also wrote the play Counsellor-at-Law), but otherwise had been not only gone, but forgotten. It’s part of the Amsterdam trove. In preparation, you can watch the darling Thelma Todd demonstrate the proper pronunciation of ZaSu.
When all the hard word of preservation is done, the NFPF is once again looking to stream these films on their site, where we'll all be able to see them. If you want to celebrate this happy occasion by contributing to their continuing good work, the donation link is right here.