Mickey Mouse Club Serials: Corky and White Shadow
The first Mickey Mouse Club serial to feature a Mouseketeer was this slight western story of a young girl and her dog, who help her father the sheriff capture two bank robbers. The project was conceived in May 1955, filmed in October of that year, and broadcast the following February.
The late-season airing of the series meant it suffered from comparison to The Adventures of Spin and Marty, broadcast two months earlier. The serial's only saving grace was its teenage star, handpicked from the Mouseketeer lineup by the producer and director. The memory of her singing in this series would linger long after the story itself was forgotten.
Twelve year-old Corky Brady lives in the town of Beaumont with her widower father, Matthew Brady, the town sheriff. The sheriff hears by phone that the bank in the nearby town of Glen Forks has been robbed. Corky and her dog White Shadow want to help, but the Sheriff tells Corky to mind the housekeeping. Corky sets off for her Uncle Dan's cabin, but after a short visit, comes across an unconscious man on her return home. With Uncle Dan's help, Corky gets the wounded young man back to the cabin. The young man turns out to be the Durango Dude, one of the bank robbers. When Sheriff Brady, guided by White Shadow, comes looking for Corky, the Dude steals his horse and gets away.
The next day Corky finds the Dude's loot but gets caught by him. He gags her and ties her to a tree as the sheriff's posse comes close. But when a rattler threatens the helpless girl, the Dude kills it with a pistol shot, though it means he himself is captured. While the Dude is locked up in Beaumont, his partner, the Nevada Kid, breaks jail in Glen Forks. He releases the Dude, and the two of them hide out at Uncle Dan's cabin, keeping the old man captive. When Corky comes looking for White Shadow, she steals the outlaw's horses. Fleeing on foot, the robbers find Corky. When the Nevada Kid grabs Corky to steal her horse, the Dude fights him. Sheriff Matt returns to the jail house to find both outlaws in the cell with Corky guarding them.
|Episode||       ||Orig Air Date||       || |
| ||       || ||       || |
|      An Introduction||       ||Jan 30, 1956||       || |
|1.   The Holdup||       ||Jan 31, 1956||       || |
|2.   The Birthday Party||       ||Feb   1, 1956||       || |
|3.   The Birthday Song||       ||Feb   2, 1956||       || |
|4.   White Shadow's Discovery||       ||Feb   3, 1956||       || |
|5.   White Shadow's Clue||       ||Feb   6, 1956||       || |
|6.   The Trap||       ||Feb   7, 1956||       || |
|7.   The Getaway||       ||Feb   8, 1956||       || |
|8.   Corky Trails the Dude||       ||Feb   9, 1956||       || |
|9.   Snitch Finds a Clue||       ||Feb 10, 1956||       || |
|10. Corky Gets a Surprise||       ||Feb 13, 1956||       || |
|11. The Rattler||       ||Feb 14, 1956||       || |
|12. White Shadow Takes a Hand||       ||Feb 15, 1956||       || |
|13. More Trouble for Corky||       ||Feb 16, 1956||       || |
|14. The Jail Break||       ||Feb 17, 1956||       || |
|15. Outlaws on the Loose||       ||Feb 20, 1956||       || |
|16. The Search||       ||Feb 21, 1956||       || |
|17. White Shadow's Secret||       ||Feb 22, 1956||       || |
When the Mouseketeers were first hired each was given a screen test to assess their potential for film projects. Based on the results, director William Beaudine Sr asked producer Bill Walsh if he could use Darlene Gillespie as "Corky". Walt Disney ok'd the choice, and Darlene was immediately packed off to riding school. Her mother recounted in an interview how Darlene came home every day aching and sore, but immensely pleased with her good fortune.
At fourteen, Darlene was older than Corky, but looked the part. Despite years of dance lessons she still retained some baby fat, and was very short for her age. Her braids and freckles went well with plaid, denim, and a cowboy hat, and Darlene's brash confidence suited Beaudine's conception of the character. Beaudine was an early exponent of what came to be called camp in the sixties. He encouraged Darlene's natural tendency to overact, and a certain degree of hokiness in the other actors as well. Fortunately, he had toned down this inclination for his first Disney project, The Adventures of Spin and Marty.
Beaudine had come up with the basis for this story in late April of 1955. A long-time acquaintance of Walt Disney, he pitched the idea to him in early May. Walt bought it and hired Beaudine to direct his own treatment. The serial would use readily-available western props, costumes, and locations. It was assigned to be filmed during October, after the show's broadcast debut. Because Beaudine would be tied up with directing Circus Day shows and The Adventures of Spin and Marty, Bill Walsh hired outside writer Lillie Hayward to do the teleplay. Impressed by Darlene's voice, Walsh had songwriting couple Paul Smith and Gil George come up with four songs for the series: My Pa, Uncle Dan, Buckwheat Cakes, and Little One.
It isn't known how much of the story Hayward provided. Most likely she simply broke it into episodes and wrote the voice-over narrative. Beaudine would already have known what camera angles he wanted in each scene, so she likely didn't bother with specifying shots. Hayward probably also added scenes for the songs. The writers avoided pinning down the story to a specific time and place. It's obviously a western US mountain locale; the presence of hand-crank telephones in such small communities suggests a time period anywhere from 1885 to 1900.
The writers also employed a plot device that would become common to nearly all the MMC "fictional" serials, by making the protagonist an orphan or member of a single-parent household. This allowed the child a greater degree of independence for adventures, and gave them a built-in sympathetic advantage among viewers, in a world where two-parent households were the norm.
The dog used to play White Shadow was named Harvey, and according to a widely-quoted interview with Darlene during the 1970's, was poorly trained and handled by its owner. Playing the part of the thieving bear cub Snitch was a little sun bear that appears to have wandered in from Southeast Asia. The mating of Duchess the coyote and White Shadow, while not genetically impossible, was a very unlikely event.
The series was largely filmed at Corriganville, a movie ranch in the San Fernando Valley owned by Ray "Crash" Corrigan (no relation to the actor Lloyd Corrigan). Some exterior scenes were filmed at Cedar Lake, near Big Bear in the San Bernadino Mountains, while interior scenes were shot at the Burbank studio.
Robert "Buzz" Henry, who played the Durango Dude, had an extensive list of credits as an actor from age four up. At age ten he starred in a couple of "B" westerns, but gradually shifted to supporting roles as he got older. Most of his adult credits were as a stuntman and second unit director. He was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1971 on his fortieth birthday.
Charles Courtney, who played the Nevada Kid, alternated between heroes and villains. He had a five-year run on television as the Lone Ranger's nephew, and also played Billy the Kid for one of William Beaudine's campy horror-western films of the mid-sixties. Like Buzz Henry, Chuck's later credits were mainly for stunts, and two of his four sons followed him into that line of work. He passed away in 2000, at age sixty-nine.
|Buddy Ebsen||       ||Sheriff Matthew Brady|
|Darlene Gillespie||       ||Corky Brady|
|Lloyd Corrigan||       ||Uncle Dan|
|Veda Ann Borg||       ||Dolly Porter|
|Buzz Henry||       ||Durango Dude|
|Roger Broaddus||       ||Freddy Porter|
|Chuck Courtney||       ||Nevada Kid|
|Sandy Sanders||       ||Pete Johnson(Matt's deputy)|
|Richard Powers||       ||Sheriff Martin (Glen Forks)|
|Harry O. Tyler||       ||Gitt (Glen Forks jailer)|
|Bud Osborne||       ||Chuck|
|Lane Chandler||       ||Granville Sheriff|
|Stan Blystone||       ||Jud Benson (Glen Forks storekeeper)|
|Dan White||       ||Jeff (Beaumont jailer)|
|Max Wagner||       ||Man in Restaurant|
|Bill Walsh||       ||Producer|
|William Beaudine Sr||       ||Director, Writer (Original Story)|
|Lillie Hayward||       ||Teleplay|
|John Martin, ASC||       ||Director of Photography|
|Marvin Aubrey Davis||       ||Art Director|
|Cotton Warburton, ACE||       ||Film Editor|
|Paul Smith||       ||Music, Songs (Composer)|
|Clifford Vaughan||       ||Music|
|Hazel "Gil" George||       ||Songs (Lyricist)|
|William Lava||       ||Theme Song|
|Robert O. Cook||       ||Sound|
|Bertram Granger||       ||Set Decoration|
|Chuck Keehne||       ||Costumer|
|David Newell||       ||Makeup|
|William Beaudine Jr||       ||Assistant Director|
|Jack Cunningham||       ||Assistant Director|
|Ben Chapman||       ||Production Manager|