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January 4

January 4, 1936 – Mickey’s Polo Team is released to theaters.

The Movie Stars versus The Mickey Mousers

A good example of the popular culture of the 1930s, Mickey’s Polo Team was released to theaters on January 4th. It was directed by David Hand, produced by Walt Disney Productions, and released by United Artists. The short features Mickey leading a team called “The Mickey Mousers,” against a team called “The Movie Stars”, featuring popular 1930s celebrities Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Harpo Marx (riding an ostritch), and Charlie Chaplin. The referee is famous leading man Jack Holt, and the audience features prominent 1930s entertainment stars. One of the running gags of the short is Hardy trying to stay on and control his horse, which shows off an example of Laurel and Hardy’s slapstick comedy.

Characters from the Silly Symphonies and Shirley Temple

The short also has characters from the Silly Symphonies, including The Wise Little Hen (The Wise Little Hen), The Flying Mouse and his mother (The Flying Mouse), King Midas and Goldie (The Golden Touch), Peter and Polly (Peculiar Penguins), Ambrose and Dirty Bill (The Robber Kitten), two bunnies (Funny Little Bunnies), and Cock Robin with Jenny Wren (Who Killed Cock Robin?).

From top left going clockwise: Charles Laughton, Eddie Cantor, Greta Garbo, W.C. Fields, and Harold Lloyd.

Many famous personalities were caricatured in this short:

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were an acclaimed double act in early Hollywood, mostly known for their slapstick comedy.

Harpo Marx was a member of the famous family comedy act, the Marx Brothers. Harpo never spoke, but communicated through whistling or blowing a horn – the ostrich Harpo rides in the polo match acts as his horn in this short.

Jack Holt, the referee, was Columbia Pictures’ most reliable leading man, because of his rugged personality. He was well known for staring in three Frank Capra action films: Submarine in 1928, Flight in 1929, and Dirigible in 1931.

Shirley Temple was a superstar in the 1930s, known for her work in the films Bright Eyes (featuring her signature song “On the Good Ship Lollipop”), Curly Top, and Dimples.

Charles Laughton was a British film actor, known at the time for his portrayal as the titular character in The Private Life of Henry VIII, which the animators capitalized on as they drew him.

Eddie Cantor was a Broadway star and singer turned Hollywood actor, known for his hit songs “Makin’ Whoopie” and “If You Knew Susie.” Cantor became a leading man after his work in the 1930 film Whoopee!

W.C. Fields was an American actor, known for his comic persona of a alcoholic egotist with contempt for dogs, women and children, yet was still seen as a sympathetic character to audiences. His films include David Copperfield, Alice in Wonderland, and The Fatal Glass of Beer, written by Fields himself.

Harold Lloyd was a popular silent film actor, ranked alongside Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin as the most popular and influential comedians in the silent era. The scene he’s most well known for is from Safety Last! in which he hangs from the hands of a clock above the city streets; this is a prime example of his daredevil physical feats.

Greta Garbo was a Swedish actress who was an international icon during the classic period of Hollywood. Her most well-known films were Anna Karenina and Camille.

Edna May Oliver was an American character actress, known for usually playing waspish spinsters. She is best known for her roles in Alice in Wonderland, A Tale of Two Cities, and David Copperfield.

Clark Gable was an American actor, known at that point for his role in the Academy Award winning film It Happened One Night, as well as his role is Mutiny on the Bounty. Nicknamed The King of Hollywood, Gable was also known for his ears, which were often caricatured by the likes of Disney and Warner Brothers.

This short is interesting for seeing what was popular in the 1930s. Polo was a popular sport with the Hollywood crowd, and Walt Disney was a fan, using the game to venture into Hollywood society. Although most of these actors would not be known by members of the general public these days, the people featured were huge stars. To be featured in a Disney short must have been seen as a form of flattery, or at least a sign that a star has “made it.” It’s a charming piece that gives the modern viewer insight to the cultural landscape of the 1930s in Hollywood.

If you are interested in seeing more Disney cartoons with caricatures of 1930s celebrities, please check out the following:

Mickey’s Gala Premiere

Mother Goose Goes Hollywood

The Autograph Hound


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