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Mokey (1942)

Mokey (1942)

Directed by Wells Root (who co-wrote the screenplay) this below average drama features a nine year old Robert Blake with one of his “Our Gang” co-stars William “Buckwheat” Thomas providing support in addition to stars Dan Dailey and Donna Reed. Plus the maid who looks so much like Hattie McDaniel is actually her older sister Etta. The story is about the titled nicknamed boy Daniel Delano (Blake) who’s mother died some years earlier and the changes to his life which occur when his frequently absent father (Dailey) marries again. Herbert Delano’s new wife (Reed) is thrust into taking on the responsibility as the lonely boy’s (step) mother and primary care-giver because: her husband’s job requires him to travel most of the time and he can no longer afford to keep Cindy (McDaniel) their maid. The film has its endearing moments but otherwise runs too long on the same theme and frequently asks one to suspend belief such that this viewer wished for the teased rather than the actual outcome for the boy. The fact that Reed was miscast contributes to my opinion that few would enjoy this movie.

Mokey (Blake) plays “The Prisoner’s Song” to serenade his long dead mother. The “family” maid Cindy (McDaniel) yells at him to stop while his friends Booker T. (Cordell Hickman) his sister Begonia (Marcella Moreland) and brother (Thomas) think he’s crazy. Cindy calls him in and tells him to cleanup & get dressed up because his dad (Dailey) is coming home with a new mother for him one Mokey has never met. Of course after he’s bathed and dressed in his Sunday’s best he goes out to play and gets filthy dirty. He also brags to his friends that he does have a mother a new mother and makes up a story about her being fat with a rhino tattoo on her back. When he gets home with his friends in tow though his dad is mildly upset that he’s no longer spiffy Mokey meets his new mother (Reed) and is taken aback by her beauty (who isn’t?). She learns of her stepson’s tall tale and asks him why he made it up to which he responds “I don’t know” (which should have been the title of this movie given the number of times he utters it).

Shortly thereafter (the next day?) Mokey’s dad has to go back on the road to earn a living leaving the care of his son in the hands of his inexperienced wife with this advice: “warm a boy’s inside with food his backside a belt”. Of course she doesn’t know what to do but at least at first seems to try. However she is somewhat put off by the fact that Mokey always appears to be underfoot. Naturally Mokey is just lonely and spurns opportunities to play with his friends so that he can watch his new mother or figure out a way to help her. When he does he fails which upsets his increasingly less sympathetic mother. Mokey then gets caught by Pat (George Lloyd) the policeman helping an older friend “Brick” (Bob Stebbins) runaway from home. This causes Brick to be sentenced to reform school while Mokey gets a year’s probation in part because the judge (Addison Richards uncredited) recognizes the stepmother’s inexperience. Apparently no stepmother-stepson bonding takes plays during this period because the next thing you know the time has passed and his stepmother is too busy or sick to attend Mokey’s last probation meeting sending Cindy (who’s now back again?) with him instead.

Back to his pestering ways wanting to be near his temporarily bedridden stepmother Mokey upsets her again. Not realizing his need to be around her and feeling increasingly claustrophobic her solution is to tell the boy to go out and play somewhere anywhere. Not wanting to upset her (further) Mokey fails to tell his stepmother that he didn’t actually get a job with Mr. Pennington (Matt Moore) pretends that he did and stays away from home during the day. When she finds out she is furious and says some things she shouldn’t. So he runs away and with the assistance of his friends who make him up in black-face becomes part of a family that lives near the swamp. Aunt Deedy (Cleo Desmond) the poor sighted surrogate parent of his friends adopts and cares for Mokey as if he’s a son of some relative or another.

If you haven’t given up on this one by now you should know that months later Mokey learns that his stepmother has had a baby. But when he returns to the fray and after he accepts his father’s solution who brags that he’s spanked his son so long & hard that “he’ll have trouble sitting down” Mokey will cause his stepmother to really lose it such that he’ll have to run away again. One of the only scenes in the film worth seeing occurs near its end the tease ending I alluded to earlier. Veteran character actors Cliff Clark and Mary Field play a farming couple who’d lost their boy that almost “adopt” Mokey during his flight. Unfortunately however a less desirable and wholly incredible ending is in store instead for anyone who’s made it this far.

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