Use of Mickey Mantle's Name in French Connection II

[spoiler]From the trivia section at for The French Connection II: “Doyle’s memorable cry of “Mickey Mantle sucks!” during the cold turkey sequence was the source of much trouble for the film makers and their legal department. Producer Robert L. Rosen had to track down Mickey Mantle to obtain his permission for the reference.”

Please explain why MM’s permission was needed. Did MM copyright his name and thus permission was required. Or what?[/spoiler]

His name wasn’t copyrighted, but he could claim the usage was defamatory.

The studio didn’t NEED permission, but they were probably wise to seek it.

If Mickey Mantle had sued, I’ sure he’d have lost. In the same way, if Joe Dimaggio had actually sued Simon and Garfunkel for asking where he was in the song “Mrs. Robinson” he’d have lost.

But even a frivolous lawsuit costs a lot of money, if you have to fight it in court. And most people don’t want to be seen as mocking or insulting beloved icons. So, it might have seemed like a good idea to let Mickey Mantle know what was going to happen.

After all, the scene is question is NOT designed to insult Mantle. The whole idea is that Popeye Doyle is going through agonizing heroin withdrawal symptoms. The French policeman with him is trying to help by getting Popeye to talk about baseball. At that moment, Popeye badmouths Mickey Mantle, but it’s NOT because Mickey has done anything wrong. It’s just Popeye’s way of telling that French cop, “I’m suffering, you idiot, don’t try to distract me with chit chat about sports!”

As long as Mantle was notified of this ahead of time, he’d probably accept it with a shrug. It really was nothing personal.

It has been decades since I read the book but wasn’t Doyle a good baseball player who tried out for the Yankees and was dropped for another player. The other player being Micky Mantle. This may explain some of his anger.

I haven’t seen the movie in years, either. That MAY have been part of the story, I just don’t remember.

I DO remember that, early in the movie, before Charnier and his goons inject Popeye with heroin, there’s a scene in which he’s talking about the Yankees to the aforementioned French cop. He mentions Whitey Ford, in particular, and says he was a “dandy little southpaw.”

Later, during the withdrawal scenes, the French cop tries to divert Popeye from his pain by asking him, “Tell me about the Yankees. Tell me about the southpaw.”

Well, it turns out Rain Soaked has a better memory than I do

The quotes are here:

Apparently, Popeye Doyle was playing for one of the Yankees’ minor league teams. One of his teammates was the young Mickey Mantle. And when Popeye saw how good Mantle was, he quit baseball and became a cop, knowing he was never going to be good enough to compete with guys like the Mick.

To be fair, I doubt the Mick would have been half the cop Popeye was.

What Astorian said. Also, the U.S. standards of defamation are pretty strict, but the standards in other countries, like the UK, are looser, which is why a lot of defamation cases with American plaintiffs (e.g., Tom Cruise) are filed there.