Today is the birthday of Mickey Daniels (1914-1970).
The nephew of actress Bebe Daniels and the son of a pair of actor parents, Daniels began his career as one of the first group of kids in Hal Roach’s Our Gang shorts in which which he appeared from 1922 through 1926. On account of his extreme amount of freckles and his toothy, animated way of laughing he was one of the best known of the early cast. Later, he starred in Hal Roach’s teenage comedy series The Boyfriends (1930-1932), a spin off of Our Gang, that also featured fellow Our Gang alum Mary Kornman, Grady Sutton, Dorothy Granger, and others. In talkies his character seemed to get stupider, and he was known for that highly disturbing high-pitched laugh that sounded something like a tropical bird.
Because he is easy to recognize, Daniels’ later career as a bit player doesn’t seem like the come-down it ought to be; it always feels more like a celebrity cameo. He walks on as the newsboy or messenger and you go, “Oh! There’s Mickey Daniels!” Features he appeared in included several of Harold Lloyd’s (Dr. Jack, Safety Last, Girl Shy), as well as the classics It Happened One Night (1934), Magnificent Obsession (1935), Eddie Cantor’s Strike Me Pink (1936), The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and Pennies from Heaven (1936). His career seems to slow down after 1937, although he did appear in a few more movies, including the bizarre all star 1940 Li’l Abner. His last picture was in 1946. After this, he left the motion picture business and worked for a couple of decades in construction.
When he died in 1970 of cirrhosis of the liver, he was working as a taxi driver and living in a hotel for transients, a fact that wasn’t uncovered by researchers (or anybody) for another two decades. A sad end (at age 56) for a guy who’d been a household word 40 years previously.
For more on Our Gang, please check out my 100th anniversary podcast episode here.