Mitzi Green Hailed from the Bronx
by Bill Twomey
Some years ago I wrote a story about Tommy Kelly from St. Raymond Avenue who happened to snag the lead role in the 1938 movie, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”Some years prior to the release of that film, there was a young girl who hailed from Morris Avenue who also managed to win a prized role in a Tom Sawyer movie.Her name was Elizabeth Keno and she played the part of Becky Thatcher opposite Jackie Coogan, who played Tom in the 1930 production.Should you be a fan of old movies, you’ll remember her by her stage name, Mitzie Green.
She began her movie career as a child actress in 1929 when she was just nine years old by obtaining a part in “The Marriage Playground.” Her performance was such that Paramount signed her to a multi-year contract, the first child ever afforded that privilege.The following year, 1930, she could be seen in four movies: “Honey,”“Love Among Millionaires,” “The Santa Fe Trail,” with Junior Durkin and “Tom Sawyer.”Junior played the part of Huck Finn in the Tom Sawyer production.
1931 found her in five cinemas.The first was “Finn and Hattie,” which was followed by “Skippy” which was loosely based on the comic strip of that name. Then came “Dude Ranch,” a satire of the oater genre followed by “Newly Rich.”She plays Daisy Tate in the latter which was also known as “Forbidden Adventure.”Early-talkie film buffs still study the film with amazement at Mitzi Green’s talent.The final film for the year was the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in which she played Becky Thatcher while Jackie Coogan played Tom Sawyer and Junior Durkin played Huck Finn.
The following year Mitzi performed in only two films, “Girl Crazy” and “Little Orphan Annie.”The former is a musical comedy about a New York playboy sent out west to keep him from chasing girls. Things get a little crazy when he opens a dude ranch and a local trouble-maker decides he wants to create havoc by running for sheriff.Mitzie plays the younger sister of Jimmy who drove out to Arizona in a cab to help out his friend Danny, the playboy.“Little Orphan Annie” is familiar to most of us through the comic strip of that name and the cast of characters and plot will sound familiar.Mitzie plays Annie and Daddy Warbucks is played by Edgar Kennedy. But his is a rather minor part in this film.Buster Phelps takes center stage as Mickey and May Robson plays the part of Mrs. Stewart, a guardian angel type figure to the orphans.The interplay between Annie and Mickey forms the basis of the story.
Her final film in that decade is “Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round” in 1934.It’s a typical who-done-it about a gangster who is killed on board an ocean liner and the list of suspects is long.What might make it of special interest to some is that Jack Benny also has a part in this film.
Mitzie Green performed in a couple of other movies but she also loved the stage and was a big hit in Rogers and Hart’s production of “Babes in Arms” in 1937.She sang “The Lady is a Tramp” and “My Funny Valentine” in the play and the latter went on to become a jazz standard.She could also be seen on TV, in night clubs and summer-stock theatre.Her life, however, was devoted more to her family than her career.She and her husband, Joseph Pevney, raised four children.She passed away on May 24, 1969 from cancer and is interred in Mound Eden Cemetery near Los Angeles.She was only 48 but will forever be remembered by early-talkie movie buffs.