My Pal the King may not be the best of Tom Mix's talkie westerns, but it is the one that comes closest to the spirit of his silent films -- and it's the one that everyone seems to remember the most. The scene is a mythical European kingdom, where 10-year-old King Charles (Mickey Rooney) yawns his way through cabinet meetings dominated by the scheming, covetous Count DeMar (James Kirkwood). Escaping his royal environs, Charles scurries to the town square (actually the village set from Frankenstein!) where visiting Wild-West showman Tom Reed (Mix) is leading a parade. Quickly befriending Tom, Charles and his entourage are invited to a special presentation of Reed's travelling circus. Reciprocating, Charles welcomes Tom into the palace, where the down-to-earth Westerner introduces the young monarch to the concept of democracy. Sensing that Charles is being swayed by Tom's egalitarian point of view, the evil DeMar kidnaps the boy and traps him in the catacombs of the Count's country estate. As Charles's underground prison slowly fills with water, Tom and his buddies race to the rescue. In the best tradition of Universal Pictures, My Pal the King offers a million dollars' worth of entertainment on a very modest budget; in addition, the film offers the modern viewer a tantalizing glimpse of what Tom Mix's real-life Wild West Show must have been like (among the performers is former Olympic champion Jim Thorpe). The film falters only when star Mix comes "out" of the picture, exhorting the kids in the audience to imagine what it must be like for King Charles to experience his first western show; impressive though he is on a physical level, Mix was never much of a verbal actor.
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