VEN (HOLLYWOOD) — Eighty-five-year-old Calvin Plessy Woodman, who played Mighty Mouse in the original Terrytoons studio cartoons from 1942 to 1952, reveals in his soon-to-be-released autobiography The Untaming Of, that he was in fact a shrew who passed for a mouse for over 65 years.
“In those days — especially after ZaSu Pitts was almost fired for biting Erich von Stroheim on the set of Greed — if you were a shrew it was almost impossible to get work in Hollywood. It was worse for moles, of course — they couldn’t get work at all unless it was behind the camera. The studios thought they were just too damned ugly to appear on screen.”
An exercise fanatic and weightlifter — who was also an expert on the flying rings — Mr Woodman would do stunt double work for Mickey Mouse and Jerry from Tom and Jerry fame, but found it impossible to break into the studio system in leading or supporting roles.
“In the early 40’s — in between stunt work — I used to hang out at what they called Muscle Beach in Santa Monica with Jack LaLane and Vic Tanny, Joey Gold, which is where I ran into Maxie Wildman, who introduced me to Paul Terry.
“Mr Terry told me he was looking for an athletic mouse who could fly and sing, but was not having any luck. My maternal grandmother was a flying squirrel, so that helped a lot. I did a screen test, which they liked, but I was a baritone, not a tenor.
“After some back and forth, they eventually signed me, when my agent suggested that Roy Halee — an Irish mole with a beautiful tenor voice — dub in the signing.
“They put a clause in my contract that I could never reveal that I was a shrew. What did I care? I was a star, making more money than I ever dreamed of!
“Everything was fine until Bob Mitchum and I got arrested for marijuana possession in 1948.
“The next day, Louella Parsons wrote that a famous mouse was “as mad as a shrew” at Lila Leeds. Lila was Bob’s girlfriend, who got us busted when the police raided her bungalow in Hollywood Hills.
“You ask me, Louella was ten times the shrew I was. She was good friends with Mickey Mouse, who hated me. That item almost cost me my career.”
Next up — After 10 years of playing Mighty Mouse, two failed marriages, torrid affairs with Sal Mineo, Maime Van Doren, and Marlon Brando, and a decade-long battle with drugs and alcohol, Mr Woodman stages a triumphant comeback, reinventing himself as the executive producer of The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show.