Mike Smith               (1945-1982)
Gone Too Soon
Mike was a first year Mouseketeer who managed to stay on the Red Team and in Roll Call all throughout the season. He had both singing and dancing skills, and after leaving the show acted and danced in several films and appeared in episodes of some television shows.
Michael Allen Smith was born August 29th, 1945, in Burbank, California to Glenn Smith and Marie Carrillo. The younger of two sons, Disney publicity releases said Mike's special talents were singing, tap dancing, and square dancing. His hobbies were horseback riding, skating, and swimming, and he hoped to become a professional singer and dancer. He had already appeared in episodes of two television shows, December Bride and Shower of Stars, by the time he auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club.
Though born in Burbank, Mike moved to Hollywood before becoming a Mouseketeer, spending most of the rest of his short life in that area. Like other mice he had more than one dance instructor, going to Mae Murray for ballroom, Louis DaPron for tap and jazz, and Lucille Marshall for both dancing and singing instruction. Another of Lucille Marshall's former dance students later recalled:
"We all called her 'Cele' and she was beloved by the parents and child students alike. Cele knew Mike's family well. She was an amazingly talented teacher who taught us tap, square dancing, ballroom and singing. Her school was always located in Hollywood. She played the piano herself, and choreographed as she went along, off the cuff, as she taught us routines. She would play the tune we were going to dance to first, then start with the first few bars, get up, and show us the steps, work with us a bit, then go back to the piano, and move on to the next few bars, get up, etc. etc., until the routine was completed."
Mike was only nine when he joined the show, but was already a fair dancer. He could sing with gusto and enthusiasm, both solo and in groups. His singing and dancing earned him a spot on the Red Team and Roll Call, which he managed to keep throughout the first season of filming. His success may be partly attributed to the driving force of his mother, a colorful character who insisted he wear a bathing cap when swimming, which made a poor impression on the other Mouseketeer boys.
Like most kids his age, Mike had a little trouble sitting still for the camera. He can be seen fidgeting slightly in several scenes, but on the whole was quite composed for a nine year old. His roll call participation was a little disconcerting; he used to go right up to the camera, close his eyes and open his mouth and shout out his name. But he had a definite camera presence, as was evident in his singing performances, such as How Do You Do?
and I Want to Be a Fireman
Mike seemed to get along well with Sharon Baird
, who was three years older. She can be seen teasing and flirting on camera with a slightly bewildered Mike in a couple of ad-libbed group scenes. He also charmed another older Mousekegirl, who described Mike at nine as "a really sweet boy but immature for his age". This same girl traded animal costumes with Mike for a number when he tearfully objected to his face being obscured by the headpiece. As a member of the first string Mike got to do his fair share of Mousekartoon and Talent Roundup winner introductions, and for the latter part of that first season sang in the Alma Mater
sign-off when it was reduced down to just the Red Team.
Dropped from the Mickey Mouse Club in January 1956 along with half of his colleagues, Mike continued to develop his dancing. His primary instruction came at the Lucille Marshall School of Dance in Hollywood, where he was partnered with Karen Larsen, who was a year younger. They specialized in square dancing and competitive ballroom, winning a trophy at the Palladium for their waltzing (photo).
Mike also tried to keep his show business career alive, and for several years was able to make a go of it. Marguerite Ogg (Sammy's mom) was his agent, as she was for a number of the ex-mice. He appeared in an episode of The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, performed in a revue at the Moulin Rouge nightclub in Hollywood, and had uncredited parts in the films Merry Andrew (1958) and The FBI Story (1959).
He had a small part in a Grade B gangster flick called Ma Barker's Killer Brood
(1960), which also featured Don Grady
. His favorite performance seems to have been working as a dancer on the musical Bye Bye Birdie
(1962) with Dick van Dyke and another former mouse, Bonnie Lynn Fields
Mike performed in amateur dramatics at his school, Hollywood High, playing a leading role in the The Music Man
shortly before graduating in 1963. He and ballroom partner Karen were also a couple off the dance floor, dating socially for several years. She later recounted:
"The last time I saw Mike was in June of 1964 when he escorted me to my Senior Prom and he was very happy and healthy. Mike was a wonderful person and would do anything for someone he cared about. Ironically, I remember my father, a very traditional businessman at the time, lecturing Mike about making sure he completed his education. He told him "there is nothing more pathetic than an old washed up movie star still trying to make it in Hollywood". I think this has been an all too familiar situation for many of the child stars and I think, Mike may been a victim of this sad scenario.
Mike's adult life had it's gritty side, which will be passed over here. He went to junior college for a while, but didn't graduate. He performed in the chorus of some Las Vegas shows, but thereafter seems to have been limited to working as a casual laborer in a variety of unskilled positions. In 1975 he listed his occupation in Keith Keller's book
as "wallpaper hanger", and in 1980, took part in the televised reunion. He died December 3, 1982, in Hollywood, of unknown causes.
Some information and photos on this page come courtesy of Karen Larsen