What is it about the TV and movie stars of your childhood that stays with you your whole life? Those early impressions are strong and never seem to fade. If you're a Baby Boomer and grew up anywhere near a television set or a movie theatre or watched anything Disney, the name "Moochie" should strike a special chord.
A "Disney Legend" died last week. Kevin Corcoran who played a character called "Moochie" – slightly different boy, but with the same name (don't ask me, but it seemed to work) – in a variety of Disney projects in the 1950s and 60s passed away on October 6th in Burbank.
One of a large family of child actors, Corcoran was one of the most ubiquitous Disney child stars. He appeared in such films as "Old Yeller," "Swiss Family Robinson," "Toby Tyler," (the only true lead of his career) and "Pollyanna." But most famously, he was "Moochie" -- Moochie McCandless, a farmer's son in the Mickey Mouse Club's serial "Adventure in Dairyland" ... Moochie O'Hara in two "Spin and Marty" serials ... Moochie Daniels in "The Shaggy Dog" ... and Moochie Morgan in "Moochie of the Little League" and "Moochie of Pop Warner Football."
In each instance, Moochie was a spunky little kid who liked to hang out with the older boys. His determination to emulate them frequently got him into trouble. Every boy has a little "Moochie" in him, trying to keep up the big boys. So no matter what the story, there was always room for a "Moochie" – part hell-raiser, part all-American boy, trying to grow up fast.
Kevin was a Disney regular. He was Tommy Kirk's younger brother in five (!) Disney movies. His acting parents included Fred MacMurray (twice), Dorothy McGuire (twice), Fess Parker (thrice), John Mills, and Jane Wyman.
Some of these films were quite good, directed by the much-more-than-competent Robert Stevenson, whose filmography includes such excellent work as the 1944 Orson Welles-Joan Fontaine "Jane Eyre," the 1941 Charles Boyer-Margaret Sullivan "Back Street," "Mary Poppins," "Darby O'Gill and the Little People," and "The Absent-Minded Professor."
These were good movies that left a strong impression on me and, I'm quite sure, millions of other boys. Everyone talks about the "Disney princess" syndrome, but there was also such a thing as a "Disney prince." From my drab suburban living room, how easy was it for me imagine myself, say, at a cool dude ranch for boys ... or shipwrecked on an island, living with my parents in some fabulous tree house ... or running away to join the circus ... or as a Little League/Pop Warner hero ... or on the frontier with my family and the "best doggone dog in the West" (even if my brother has to shoot him when he gets rabies after defending the family from a wolf.)
These were important fantasies from Disney. They taught us how to be boys, and eventually, men: the Davy Crockett movies (and, yes, craze) ... the Hardy Boys ... Texas John Slaughter ... Hans Brinker ... Johnny Tremain ... Elfego Baca ... True Son from "The Light in the Forest." Walt Disney and his team knew something about our national character. Disney both reflected -- and created – our national self-image: for boys, it was plucky, enterprising, adventurous, loyal, optimistic, a little foolhardy. That was "Moochie."
Kevin Corcoran retired from acting when he grew up. He went to college, got his degree, and went behind the camera, working steadily as an assistant director and producer on a wide variety of projects. He was married to the same woman for forty-three years.
So life goes on and nobody gets out alive. One week ago, it's a great Irish writer. The next week, it's a child actor from half a century ago. And, oddly enough, they both meant something dear to me.
Some of his oeuvre:
"Old Yeller" – I dare you not to cry at 1:02:34!! -- "Best doggone dog in the West!"
"The Triple-R Song" from SPIN AND MARTY
"The Goodnight Song" from SPIN AND MARTY
A SPIN AND MARTY episode
"Moochie of the Little League"
"The Shaggy Dog" – the original with Fred MacMurray
"Swiss Family Robinson" double-feature