Mickey One (1965): Penn’s Drama, Starring Warren Beatty and Alexandra Stewart

Self-conscious, arty and artsy, “Mickey One,” starring Warren Beatty, then a rising hot actor, and directed Arthur Penn, was a commercial flop.

Beatty plays the titular role, a nightclub comic who flees Detroit for Chicago because he fears the mob.  He exists in sordid surroundings, dragging himself into a state of paranoiac frenzy.  His agent Teddy Hart tries to get bookings in cheap dives, and he goes for auditions, but always cops out.

Meanwhile, he is befriended by a good and sincere girl (Alexandra Stewart) who wishes to help him. Finally, with her aide, Mickey summons the courage and gets back into the nightclub spotlight with his routine.

In this Kafkaesque milieu, Mickey feels threatened to the point of fearing persecution. Is he paranoid-schizophrenic?  Is the nightmare a product of his own creation?

In his impersonation of a nightclub comic, Beatty is not convincing; he plays the role completely from the outside, lacking the magic, the charm, the comic bravura that mark this profession.

His haunted and character comes across as paranoid, confused and disjointed.  The role seems to be beyond the range or understanding of Beatty, then only 28; he might have been too young to play this part.

The supporting characters are just as unappealing and uncompelling.  As the agent, Teddy Hart is a horrible. Franchot Tone, then 61, comes across mask-like with manic eyes.

Columbia went along with Beatty’s and Penn’s “art” film, because of their prestige in the industry and their previous records. In two years, the duo would make one of the most celebrated films in American film history, “Bonnie and Clyde.”

“Mickey One” was dubbed by one critic “Kafka meets Al Capone.”

The movie polarized reviewers:  Judith Crist loved it, Bosley Crowther of the N.Y. Times hated it, Archer Winston of N.Y. Post sided with Crowther.  The detractors found the picture plodding, contrived and pretentious.

The film failed commercially, but at the time it generated some provocative discussions among intellectual viewers.

Director Penn and star Beatty teamed again two years later on the seminal film, “Bonnie and Clyde,” an artistic and financial success heralding the arrival of the New American Cinema.


Warren Beatty (Mickey)

Alexandra Stewart (Jenny)

Hurd Hatfield (Castle)

Franchot Tone (Ruby Lapp)

Teddy Hart (Berson)

Jeff Corey (Fryer)

Kamatari Fujiwara (The Artist)

Donne Michelle (The Girl)

Ralph Food (Police Captain)

Norman Gottschalk (The Evangelist)

Dick Lucas (Employment Agent)

Benny Dunn (Nightclub Comic)

Jack Goodman (Cafeteria Manager)

Jeri Jensen (Helen)

Charlene Lee (Singer)

Denise Darnell (Stripper)

Dick Baker (Boss at Shaley’s)

Helen Witkowski (Landlady)

William Koza, David Crane (Art Gallery Patrons)

Mike Fish (Italian Restaurant Owner)

Greg Louis, Gus Christy (Bartenders)

David Eisen (Desk Clerk)

Robert Sickinger (Policeman)

Lew Prentiss (Kismet Boss)

Grace Colette (B-Girl)

Boris Gregurevitch (Kismet Comic)

Jonas Middleton (Iggy)

Dink Freeman (Xanadu M.C.)



A Floria-Tatira Production.

Producer: Arthur Penn.

Director: Arthur Penn.

Screenplay: Alan Surgal.

Music Composer: Eddie Sauter.

Improvisations: Stan Getz.

Photographer: Ghislain Cloquet.

Music: Jack Shaindlin.

Music conducted by Jack Shaindlin.

Production Designer: George Jenkins.

Editor: Aram Avakian.

Associate Producer: Harrison Starr.

Assistant Director: Russell Saunders.

Costume Desinger: Domingo Rodriguez.

Unit Supervisor: William T. Schneider.

Operating Cameraman: Lutz Hopke.

Makeup: Robert Jiros.

Sound Effects: Edward Beyer, Hugh A. Robertson Jr.

Assembly Editor: Robert Lovett.

Released September 27, 1965, after screening at the New York Film Festival, on September 8, 1965.

Running time: 93 minutes.