Why You Haven’t Seen Little Mickey Grogan—Yet

Let me take the Dr. Film time machine and hustle you back to 2015.  Jeff Crouse contacted me and asked if I could help restore Little Mickey Grogan (1927).  Well, you guys know me.  I’m always a sucker for a hard luck case, and I’m always overbooked.

I told Jeff that I could not restore Little Mickey because I was already restoring Little Orphant Annie (1918) and I had solid due dates to hit. Jeff told me that one of the stars of the film, Lassie Lou Ahern, wanted to see it before she died.  He’d paid for scans, and Lassie Lou had the script, which was really useful because we only had a badly translated French print.

That was the hard luck case that sucked me in.  How could I make a lady in her late 90s wait until I finished another film?  I agreed to oversee the restoration of Little Mickey, and Jeff did some GoFundMe fundraisers, and we got it.

Except for one thing.  I hadn’t bothered to look up the copyright.  I didn’t bother on purpose, because I knew that the FBO pictures (Little Mickey was made by Film Booking Office, which eventually became RKO) were never renewed.  FBO had a policy of throwing out all their old prints, so no need to renew them.

They renewed Little Mickey.  OK, time for some detective work.  Who could own this in 2017 (by this time the world had marched on).  Elias Savada, copyright genius, told me that the trail went dead after RKO’s 1955 renewal.

This gets complicated, so here’s the scorecard:

It was at this point that I contacted a lawyer.  I did this because it’s not a good idea to call a major corporation and say, “I found an old nitrate print of something you might own and in case you do own it, I don’t want you to sue me.”

So he contacted RKO General, and Little Mickey Grogan was either beneath their notice or their contempt.  But Warners got right back to us.

“We own the film,” they said.  “We want it.”

“OK, but it’s not registered with the Library of Congress.”

“It doesn’t have to be.  We own it.”

“OK, you own it and you want it.  Will  you restore it?”

“No.  It’s not important enough.”

“OK, will you let my client restore it?”

“No, we’ll sue.”

“If he restores it and send it to you, would that be OK?”

“No, it sets a bad precedent letting someone else restore a Warners film since we have our own department to do that.”

“OK, can we license it from you to release?”


“If we restore it in cooperation with an archive like Library of Congress, would you release it then?”

“No, and we won’t allow you to work with Library of Congress.  We will sue if you do.”

“So you want this film, you won’t do anything with it, you won’t restore it, you won’t let anyone else restore it, you won’t license it, you won’t prove you own it, but you claim you do.  And if anything is done with it, you’ll sue.”

“That’s correct!”


Remember, I have a 95+ year old lady who wants to see this film!  And I’ve greatly compressed the back-and-forths with my lawyer.  This took place over several months.  Amazingly, it cost about as much as mastering the DVD/Blu would have cost.

Jeff set up a second GoFundMe and a few people donated, but we got lots of complaints that it was double-dipping, and no one would ever release this film.

(By the way, if this sounds familiar, the same thing happened with King of the Kongo for different reasons.  I would get grants to get pieces of the film restored as we found better material, and finally we found 35mm and I went back to get more money.  This wasn’t actually double-dipping but rather WE HAVE BETTER AND MORE MATERIAL NOW.)

In the case of Little Mickey it was because we were covering our posterior and didn’t want Warners to sue us, so we did the, ya know… LEGAL THING TO DO.

So we elected to restore Little Mickey and we consulted Lassie Lou extensively.  She recorded a commentary for us.  Jeff made a documentary for it.  It turned out to be a better-than-average program picture, with Jobyna Ralston as the romantic lead.  Frankie Darro is pretty GOOD in it.  We paid Philip Carli to do a score…


We decided to wait Warners out until the copyright expired.  It finally did last year.  Of course, I was already hip-deep in King of the Kongo when that happened.  We ran the film at Cinecon and people loved it.  Went over better than we expected.


The coda happened some time later.  I spoke to a now-retired gentleman at Library of Congress, told him the story, and he said, “Oh, Warners never owned that.”

“But they said they did…”

“Oh, yeah, that was (NAME REDACTED, let’s call him NICE GENTLEMAN), and he knew that they didn’t own the picture.”

“Yeah, he was just following company policy.  Warners claims they own anything.”

“What about RKO?”

“They really own it, but they didn’t know and they didn’t care.  You could have released it and they would never have known.”

“What a horrible thing to do!”

“Oh, I know REDACTED NICE GENTLEMAN.  He’s a good guy.   I’ve had dinner with him.”

“Well,” I finished, “as far as I’m concerned, he’s living human slime.”

So now that we can release Little Mickey Grogan, we do intend to.  With Lassie Lou Ahern’s commentary and Jeff’s documentary.

We have two problems:

  1. I don’t have the money to afford a pressing.
  2. We don’t know all of the people who donated to GoFundMe years back.

I sure TRY to be honest, but Dr. Jeff Crouse is as honest as they come.

If you donated and we can still contact you, we will do so.  If you donated and you have not yet gotten an email from Jeff, please let me know or post in the Dr. Film page.

We’re gonna make this right and get this out.

And, for the record I violated copyright law by working on this film.  I did it to help an extremely old lady who has since passed on.  We would have missed her participation.  I’m guilty.  

But Warners has NO LEGAL STANDING to sue me.  They can bite me.

2 thoughts on “Why You Haven’t Seen Little Mickey Grogan—Yet”

  1. Happy to donate a bit more if needed. I’ve waited this ling since my initial donation.

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