Friday, 29 August 2014
Ah the Golden Age of Moving Pictures! In lights, the names of the greats shone from every cinema marquee: Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn... Donald Duck. How we laughed! How we thrilled! How we left our little lives behind for the so-short span of a movie reel and dreamed of life on Rodeo Drive. But little are we aware of the tortured lives behind the faces of the screen gods and goddesses. Some fared better than others, but many succumbed to the temptations of fame.
Thus it was with Tinsel Town’s most famous couple. The King and Queen of Hollywood; Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Rumours had been surfacing for years about Mickey’s occasional peccadilloes and the philandering ways of many of the original Rodent Pack, long before Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra cleaned it up, changed the name and made it relatively respectful. Mickey, in his wild days was a force of nature, hanging out in the teeming sewers and gutters of Dreamland and it took all the ingenuity of Disney Studios to keep the world’s press sweet.
But in the end there was nothing they could do to keep the news of Mr & Mrs Mouse’s impending divorce from the front page and as surely as encore follows curtain call, the case entered the public consciousness for a few intense weeks in 1954. Presses were held for the latest bulletins from the Los Angeles County Court and finally, sixty years ago to the day, the final arguments were heard.
Judges back then were little different from judges of today – old, slow, hard of hearing and lacking in common worldly experience – and after a long lunch at the Brown Derby, courtesy of Walt Disney himself, Justice McDuckula was in no mood for frivolity. He approached his summing up with a furrowed brow and an air of deep incredulity as he gazed out upon the public gallery, an audience whose noisy bombast he had had to quell on more than one occasion.
He fixed the assembled throng with a gimlet eye and waited for silence before launching into his summing up. “We are assembled here,” he quacked, his voice like an angry hive of high-register bees, “to consider the petition of one Mr M. Mouse of Malibu Beach.” The judge continued: “Having heard the evidence and pleas from both sides I am minded to say that a more frivolous suit it has rarely been my misfortune to hear.”
“Your honour!” interjected Mickey’s council
“Objection overruled!” growled the judge and settle back into his theme. “As I was saying, I have heard the case and weighed up the circumstances and I cannot find it in my conscience to grant a divorce on the skimpy basis of mere cosmetic appearance. Beauty is more than just skin deep.”
“But, your Honour…”
“Silence in court!” barked McDuckula “You will hear my verdict. I will not – and I repeat – will NOT, grant a divorce on the grounds of the plaintiff’s objection to the fact that his spouse of many years has buck teeth!”
A murmur began and rippled through the assembly. A few titters sprang up and died before the beady gaze of the judge… and then Mickey Mouse himself indicated that he wished to speak. The judge indicated with a weary gesture that he may. Mickey got to his feet, waited for silence then addressed himself to the bench.
“Your honour,” he said, “I bring this action, not on the grounds of Minnie’s dental work, which, by the way, is impeccable for a rodent, but because...” and here he paused a second, taking a deep breath before continuing. “I'm telling you she’s fucking Goofy!”