Circus Boy

1956 | United States

10-year-old Mickey Braddock played young Corky who is adopted by Uncle Joey the Clown after his parents "The Flying Falcons" are killed in a tragic high-wire accident. Corky quickly finds a role for himself at the Burke and Walsh Circus as water boy to Bimbo, a baby elephant that Corky soon comes to consider as his pet. Corky has a colourful life moving from town to town helping the circus owner Big Tim Champion and the rest of his new travelling family which include Hank Miller, Little Tom, Swifty, Barker and Big Boy. 

Mickey Braddock was born George Michael Dolenz Jr. but changed his name just before taking the role of Corky to avoid being confused with his actor father, George Dolenz, who was one of the first stars of British Independent Television in ITC's The Count of Monte Cristo, which was showing at the same time. The producers paid Mickey $300.00 per show which was small fry compared to the $30,000 - $42,000 each episode was budgeted, although because he was under age he had to be accompanied by his mother, actress Janelle Dolenz. The series was filmed at Corriganville Ranch in South Carolina after the producers purchased a bankrupt circus for $55,000. Their purchase included all the props they'd ever need including wagons, tents and cages. In addition, they bought a Baby Elephant named Tusko for the starring role of Bimbo. 

The series left prime time after two seasons but continued in reruns on Saturday mornings until September 1960. The two main sponsors of the programme were Kellogg and Mars. This led to a few problems in itself as in one episode the cast were seen tucking in to a hearty breakfast of sausage and eggs-Kellogg insisted it be dropped from the reruns and similarly Mars objected to a scene where Mickey was seen eating a cake for a snack. 

The series was produced by Herbert B. Leonard who also produced the television series Rin Tin Tin (also filmed at Corriganville). He later went on to produce Naked City and Route 66. Noah Beery Jr. who played Uncle Joey the Clown found further fame years later in another TV series as James Garner's father in The Rockford Files

Mickey Braddock later reverted back to his family name and as Mickey Dolenz became internationally known as a lead singer and member of the made-for-TV 1960s group 'The Monkees', who went on to great chart topping success. Later still, he became a successful television producer.

Published on December 3rd, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.