"Little Mickey Grogan" Restoration

$5,565 of $14.8k goal

Raised by 69 people in 8 months
Jeff Crouse  HENDERSON, NV
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.

In March, 2015, there was a successful GoFundMe campaign to raise money to obtain a digital copy of the print from Paris, as well as to pay an entertainment lawyer to do due diligence in determining the holder of the film’s copyright. Forty-nine individuals contributed $1,610 toward these ends. In this second, and final, crowdsourcing campaign, monies will be raised to complete the restoration in every aspect, including a planned screening of the film at Pordenone in Fall, 2017.

Here’s an itemized cost breakdown regarding the budget for what promises to be a quality restoration:

Contrast correction: $250
Dirt removal: $1,250
Stabilization: $250
Titles rearted and reinserted: $125
A film out: $4,000
Music Score: $3,000
Travel cost to Pordenone : $5,000
3% GoFundMe processing fee on $15,000: $450
Unexpected cost overruns and/or emergency costs: $500

TOTAL: $14,825

What can contributors expect to find in the finished Lobster Films dvd of "Little Mickey Grogan"? Well, besides the restored film, there will also a bonus track featuring an informative 50 minute interview with Lassie Lou Ahern, talking about her gorgeous career in silent pictures. In addition, there will also be Criterion Collection-style liner notes about the film that locate the film culturally, historically, and aesthetically within its time period. And, what’s more, everyone who contributes to this project will, like those who donated to the March, 2015 GoFundMe, see their names featured in the closing credits as those who made this restoration possible.

Working on this project besides Serge Bromberg and Lobster Films is well-known restorationist Eric Grayson.
Producing this work is Jeffrey Crouse, a film historian at Nevada State College, who is has written extensively on Lassie Lou Ahern and Diana Serra Cary.

Please help us save and preserve "Little Mickey Grogan" for future generations.
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Update 33
Posted by Jeff Crouse
1 month ago
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As many of you know, David Shepard passed away on the evening of January 31st. Alongside Kevin Brownlow, Shepard was not only a silent film historian, but the greatest film preservationist alive. His Blackhawk archive had a long-standing partnership with Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films. Bromberg, as you recall, owns the only known copy of "Little Mickey Grogan" and so you begin to understand Shepard's link to this restoration project. Moreover, Shepard reached out to me, unsolicited, to support our efforts here, by providing an introduction for me to approach film critic Leonard Maltin. This directly led to Maltin himself very enthusiastically endorsing our "Little Mickey Grogan" project on his well-read blog. So I'm writing to thank Shepard, wherever he might be in the life to come, for his generosity and assistance. His death has been a huge blow to the silent film crowd. RIP, fellow silent film lover and scholar.
David Shepard
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Update 32
Posted by Jeff Crouse
2 months ago
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We're moving along, and have some good news to share. Thad Komorowski has just completed doing the image clean up -- and now we're off to the next stage! This involves Eric Grayson substituting the French intertitles for the original English ones. It's super handy that Lassie Lou possessed the original 1927 script, as this helped immensely. Let me say that again. I did much of the translation, but for the bits I had trouble interpreting I had the help of two French speakers, both of whom are film experts. One of them is Professor Jo Meuris, a Montreal transplant to Nevada State College where she heads animation. The other is Loïc Arteaga, a silent film restorationist in Paris who just recently graduated with his PhD in Cinema. Like with much of life, it takes a village to do a film restoration project. Our special thanks to Eric, Jo, and Loïc for their assistance. A big thank you, too, to Thad. We are so lucky to have them!
Loic Artega
Jo Meuris
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Update 31
Posted by Jeff Crouse
2 months ago
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Update:

Step 1 , that of stabilizing each frame of "Little Mickey Grogan's" six reels is complete, and now this restoration has moved to Step 2. This second stage, a most important one, involves cleaning up the image by removing dirt and scratches found on this 90-year old film. For this part of the process, we've hired a top specialist in this field, Thad Komorowski. Here's some information about him, courtesy of his web page:

"Thad Komorowski is a lifelong devotee to the arts and sciences, be it through his work as a journalist, reporter, restoration artist, or animation historian. Whether you need thought-provoking commentary, a cultural news piece, a snappy new comic, or a stunning film restoration, Thad K. is your one-man answer.

Always expert, critical, and analytical, Thad spent several years of research working on his first book, Sick Little Monkeys: The Unauthorized Ren & Stimpy Story, which was published in 2013 and garnered unanimous praise from critics, artists, and fans alike. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Ithaca College and a Master’s from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Currently he wears a variety of hats: you can hear his arts and entertainment reports regularly on WBGO News (88.3 FM, Newark), see his digital restoration work on upcoming classic film Blu-Ray releases (including the Criterion Collection), and read his scripts in the IDW Publishing line of Disney comic books."

For more information about him and his work, see: http://www.thadkomorowski.com/

This restoration/preservation process only works with the best, and I appreciate that Thad, with his busy and demanding schedule, is part of what we're doing!

All best,
Jeff
Thad Komorowski
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Update 30
Posted by Jeff Crouse
2 months ago
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Update: The image stabilization work is nearly complete with Audrey and Cinnamin working diligently through the holidays to do this. Next: everything will go to the de-dirting process. When we move to this 2nd stage, I'll alert everyone.

Say, as this is the close for the 2016 tax year, I want to make a pitch regarding those who might be interested to contribute to this restoration. Lassie is thrilled that her movie restoration/preservation dream is out of the station and proceeding at an impressive clip. If you haven't made a donation to this worthy endeavor, please consider doing so.

Thanks!

All best to everyone,
Jeff
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Read a Previous Update
Glory-June Greiff
3 months ago

Go, Audrey! Knowing something about this work, I applaud your stamina!

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Glory-June Greiff
3 months ago

SO very happy to see this going forward!! Onward, Lassie Lou!

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$5,565 of $14.8k goal

Raised by 69 people in 8 months
Created July 21, 2016
Jeff Crouse  
RS
$25
Richard Stibbons
1 month ago
$100
Sara Hermann
1 month ago

So wish this project to be successfully completed!

PM
$100
Peter McBain
1 month ago

Happy to donate to a cause preserving yet another silent film.

BC
$100
Byron Caloz
3 months ago

Art needs to be preserved. It is the physical embodiment of creativity and communication. Movies as an artform even more so, with writing, costuming, music, acting, design all rolled into one. This movie, in particular has multiple reasons from an historical aspect. Beyond this, everything I have heard is that it is an entertaining movie. All art and all movies need to be preserved, but this is not always possible. It is possible for this film, and I want to make sure that restoration happens and do my part.

JD
$25
Jack Dougherty
4 months ago

I hope we can get this to the goal. What a lovely lady.

DN
$20
David Nelson
5 months ago

Good luck with the project , i hope to donate more when i can , keep the faith

JS
$10
John Seal
5 months ago

Lassie Lou's testimonial sold me on the project. Let's do this!

MT
$50
Maurice Terenzio
5 months ago
$100
Anonymous
5 months ago
CV
$10
Christopher Voelker
5 months ago
Glory-June Greiff
3 months ago

Go, Audrey! Knowing something about this work, I applaud your stamina!

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Glory-June Greiff
3 months ago

SO very happy to see this going forward!! Onward, Lassie Lou!

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