From Film International to Film Restoration
When interviewing Lassie Lou Ahern – one of the last two silent film stars still around – for a piece in Film International (13.1), Jeff Crouse learned of her desire to have her 1927 film, Little Mickey Grogan, restored. As an activist in several aspects of film culture, Crouse began rescuing the film, in which she starred alongside Frankie Darro. Crouse located a copy at Serge Bromberg’s archive in Paris and is excited to help Ahern see the film for the first time, upon his restoration. He conducted a filmed interview with her as part of the project, and how plans a 2017 DVD release. If you would like to help out, see his GoFundMe page:
“According to a report by the Library of Congress, 70% of all Hollywood silent film features made between 1912-1929 no longer exist, and today, in 2016, we find that all but two performers from that era are gone. In addition to actress-turned-film history Diana Serra Cary, whose “Baby Peggy” was one of the top box office draws in the 1920s, there is also the equally remarkable, though lesser known actress, Lassie Lou Ahern. Having just turned 96-years young, she was a versatile child star who was discovered at the age of 18 months by Will Rogers. Almost immediately, she worked with some of the biggest names in the movie world – “Our Gang”, Charley Chase, Ronald Colman, Helen Holmes, Virginia Davis, and Mary Philbin – as well as appeared in some of the leading productions of the 1920s (above all, the $2 million epic “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”). A print of her last silent film, “Little Mickey Grogan” (1927), survives in the Lobster Films archive in Paris. Lobster Films founder and CEO, Serge Bromberg, has recently consented that a full restoration of the film be done; upon completion, moreover, “Little Mickey Grogan”will be added as a title for purchase within the celebrated Lobster catalog.
“Made by FBO before financier Joseph Kennedy sold the studio to RKO in 1928/1929,“Little Mickey Grogan” is a 60-minute feature centered on a pair of street children (Frankie Darro and Ahern) who are taken in by a generous woman (Jobyna Ralston), as they, in turn, try to help a penniless blind architect (Carroll Nye) recover his sight. Meanwhile, when not dodging the police, they put on lively street shows with “Our Gang” regular Ernest “Sunshine Sammy” Morrison, allowing the young stars to showcase their accomplished dance and acrobatic skills with infectious dynamism and zest.
“A number of important aspects related to the film make it worth saving. Besides the idea of rescuing a silent film that would otherwise not be restored, they include the fact that it comes from a minor studio (FBO) from which few movies survive today. In addition, it marked the first time in which Frankie Darro, an actor whose career would continue to the 1970s, was given the opportunity to star in a picture where he quickly emerged as one of the studio’s top draws. In addition, the work of co-writer Dorothy Yost, one of many female scriptwriters of the silent era, has been the object of feminist analysis, as evidenced by her inclusion in the valuable Women Film Pioneers Project. Historically and culturally, too, the appearance of Ernest Morrison, the first African-American performer ever to land a contract in Hollywood, adds further value, especially because it was one of the rare occasions during the silent era in which he acted in a role that was not part of the Our Gang franchise. Finally, there’s the unique situation in which the film’s lead female performer, Lassie Lou Ahern, is still with us, and would dearly love to see “Little Mickey Grogan” restored before she passes.”