In fact, for me, Mickey One holds up quite well. I'd forgotten the film includes not only Franchot Tone, in perhaps his penultimate performance, but, significantly, former blacklisted actor Jeff Corey. Significantly because Penn intended Mickey One to be about McCarthyism, or, at any rate, overcoming McCarthyism, with the protagonist deciding, as Penn says in one of the interviews, "Fuck it, I've had it. I'm going to stand up and take it and deal with it." And it would certainly fit right into Beatty's particular liking for portraying paranoid protagonists. As he would demonstrate throughout his career, from The Parallax View to Bulworth. But as a celebration of paranoia, Mickey One is also a very funny film. As it should be since Beatty plays a standup comedian who can't figure out why "they" are after him. The humour, which Beatty carries off in his off-cantered dead-pan manner, is mostly due to Alan Surgal's punchy Kafkaesque script based on his short play about a third-rate comic. Surprisingly, it would be Surgal's only film credit, though he previously had written a pair of screenplays for TV's Robert Montgomery Presents. And that was after serving an apprenticeship writing comedy sketches for middle of the road comedians like Red Skelton, Danny Thomas and Bob Hope.
|Cloquet (in cap), Penn, Beatty|
Then, of course, there's the music, which Richard Williams covers so well in his splendid essay that accompanies the DVD. Suffice it to say that, along with the likes of Miles's score for Ascenseur pour l'échafaud, Jackie Mclean and Freddie Redd's collaboration on Shirley Clarke's The Connection, Mingus's score for Shadows, and perhaps Johnny Mandel's music on I Want to Live, Mickey One's Getz and Sauter collaboration is one of cinema's most evocative of jazz scores. So memorable is it that I thought the film included more of it, though what is there comes from the famous Getz/Sauter Focus recording, a legendary session for which Sauter composed a comparatively modernist score around which Getz would so flawlessly improvise.