Friday, 24 November 2017

Ragtime Bear Jump

The Ragtime Bear tries sneaking across the room but hears the sleeping Mr. Magoo stir. He jumps into the air and pretends to be a bear rug. Here are the drawings.

UPA hadn’t outlawed squash and stretch when this cartoon was released in 1949.

Pat Matthews apparently did this scene. Willie Pyle, Rudy Larriva and Art Babbitt are the other credited animators.

Babbitt Matthews Larriva Pyle.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Not Quite a Turkey Trot

The turkey of Tex Avery’s Jerky Turkey isn’t as maliciously crazy as Screwy Squirrel, but he’s a quick, fun, one-shot character.

Because the war is on, the cartoon has war references aplenty (ration cards, the draft). The turkey actually runs a black market meat store, and he manages to fast-talk his way into selling himself to a bulbous-nosed pilgrim. Note the brushwork as he zooms out of the scene to wrap himself at the meat counter.

Claude Smith supplied the character designs. No, Bill Thompson and Daws Butler are not heard in this cartoon; both were in the military and nowhere near California when Avery made this short. Incidentally, it was not released anywhere near Thanksgiving; the official release date was April 7, 1945, though we’ve found a newspaper ad from April 3rd stating it was “now playing” at the Capitol Theatre in Rome, New York (along with National Velvet). The Motion Picture Herald of May 20, 1944 and Independent Film Journal of May 27, 1944 published almost identical releases (the following is from the latter):
MGM’s CartoonSked For Coming Season
With the completion of MGM’s 1943-44 cartoon schedule in sight, producer Fred Quimby is laying the groundwork for next season’s program to be released in October.
Already in animation are five Tom and Jerry cartoons, including "Tee for Two,” "Love Boids,” [re-named “Flirty Birdy”] "Quiet Please,” "Springtime for Thomas,” and "House in Manhattan.” [sic] William Hanna and Joseph Barbera are co-directors. In the Skrewy Squirrel series are "Wild and Wolfy,” "Jerky Turkey” and "Sue Steps Out,” directed by Tex Avery.
Supplementing the foregoing group will be an additional eight subjects to complete the customary output of 16, all of which are in Technicolor. Production to meet the U. S. Army and Navy commitments will continue for the duration.
However, we did find the Town Hall Theatre in Cazenovia, New York ran it over the Thanksgiving holiday in 1945 along with God is My Co-Pilot.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Early Kovacs

Perhaps excepting Fred Allen, no one worked harder or more devotedly at his craft than Ernie Kovacs, wrote reporter Hal Humphrey after Kovacs’ stunning death in a car accident in January 1962.

Much was written at the time about him and his innovative approach to television comedy. Much was written later about where television comedy might have gone had he lived. But like many in TV, Kovacs had come out of radio and moved into the new medium with everyone else. He began in his hometown of Trenton, New Jersey in the 1940s then landed on television on an NBC affiliate in Philadelphia—doing a morning wake-up show. He was silly, irreverent and imaginative. His show wasn’t for everyone, but the TV critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer loved him.

And maybe was inspired by him. I love the critic’s the-hell-with-it attitude and turned what was supposed to be a review of the Doodles Weaver Show into another look at Kovacs, who had been handed a night-time show called “Ernie in Kovacs Land” on the local station.

We’ll get to that in a moment. First, his column on April 17, 1951 dealing with Kovacs’ morning show. It gives you a good idea of what he was doing on the air at the time.
'Early Birds' Fly to Dials For Kovacs' Video Show
By Merrill Panitt

Somewhere between 35,000 and 60,000 television sets in the Philadelphia area flip on about 7:30 in the morning these weekdays to catch a program on WPTZ entitled, "Three to Get Ready."
This proves that either some people are so anxious to watch TV that they'll get up out of a sound sleep to turn on their receivers, or that the program is really worth watching. In either case, this early bird TV viewing has been going on since last November, and a whole flock of sponsors apparently agree with WPTZ that before, during and after-breakfast television has a future.
The rather odd character who runs this show is Ernie Kovacs, a 32-year-old former radio announcer from Trenton. Kovacs stands 6 feet 2 V2 inches in his stocking feet—and you're just as liable to see him in his stocking feet as not on the show. He weighs about 230, has a black pencil-line moustache and a shock of wavy black hair, and is only slightly less inhibited than a bunch of 3-year-olds let loose in a candy factory.
Often as not, the program opens with a shot of Kovacs walking up 17th st. on his way to the studio, for which a camera points out the window and follows Ernie as he stops to buy a paper, have his shoes shined, or complete whatever other delaying action suits his mood of the moment.
Once in the studio, Kovacs sits behind a cluttered desk and makes like a disc jockey. At all times during the show a clock is superimposed over the lower left quarter of the picture. A sign on the desk gives the weather forecast and the temperature. As records are played, the name of the song and star are on a piece of paper hanging at the right lower quarter of the picture. Above this mass of information Kovacs capers.
If he feels like it, he'll pantomime the song. Sometimes he'll get out some puppets and have them act out the number. He's got a big stuffed dummy of a little girl with whom he argues—the girl being the recorded voice of Bugs Bunny or whoever else happens to be in the transcription file.
Sometimes Kovacs will get himself into an argument with cowboy baddies. The screen will show film of baddies riding over a hill, and Ernie will pick them off, one by one, with his cap pistol. You see baddies riding, then Ernie shooting, then baddies falling. Sometimes they shoot back at him, but so far he's escaped serious injury.
It was touch and go one morning when Ernie had a big fight with the lady dummy. They fought all over the studio, up into the catwalks, high above the cameras. Ernie finally won, and he threw the lady down to the studio floor, 20 feet below. She survived.
They say kids love Kovacs, and housewives think he's wonderful. Some people who used to wake up with a growl say Kovacs is as good as that first cup of coffee for setting them right.
It's kind of a strange show. I'd like to review it some time, but who can tell whether it's good or bad so early in the morning?
In 1951, television copied radio in that the big shows had summer replacement series. Sid Caesar did was one. So Doodles Weaver was brought in to fill June-July-August with a variety show put together on the cheap. He was no Sid Caesar and he was no Ernie Kovacs, as this column of July 12, 1951 attests.
Doodles Weaver Show Rapped as Amateurish
By Merrill Panitt

This was originally intended to be a review of the Doodles Weaver Show. Unfortunately, all I can think to say about the thing is that NBC ought to be ashamed of itself for putting on such a hodgepodge.
A great big network like that must have a carload of bright, new ideas in its files and shouldn't have to stoop to such a hodge-podge of amateurish blackouts many of which I've seen performed more capably by Boy Scouts around a camp-fire and so-so variety acts.
The only possible excuses for the Doodles Weaver Show are the heat, the absence on vacation of most of the network's big brains, or the work of the master salesman who must have peddled the thing. I've seen test patterns that were more entertaining than the Doodles Weaver Show.
Ernie Kovacs, despite the number of interruptions forced on him, is running a right amusing program these evenings at seven, the half hour has been split into two segments, and each segment has an opening, two breaks for commercials, and a closing. In between the segments there's a station break.
Anyone else beset by such obstacles (Jack E. Leonard has four breaks an hour on Broadway Open House and he weeps bitterly when he speaks of them) would give up any hope of having continuity. Before each break Ernie has a man sneaking on to yell, "Don't Nobody Move!" and everyone freezes. After the commercials the cameras return, and with a shout of "Reeeezoom" the action goes on. It almost makes the commercials (and WPTZ has a real, honest-to-gosh paid one coming up next week) part of the program.
It's pretty hard to describe what Ernie actually does. He may haul a cow into the studio and demonstrate cuts of meat. He may go into dialect, or put on a Private Eye Mystery to end all such P.E.M.'s, or toss firecrackers at the Tony DiSamone Trio. The important thing is the general effect of a pleasant half hour guaranteed to produce a few chuckles and maybe even a belly-laugh from time to time.
There's a lot of by-play with cameras, and often there are tricks the cameramen must spend hours working up. It's good to see a show that succeeds because of the cooperation between performer and technicians, and Ernie's the first to give credit to the men who work with him.
This esprit de corps is evident to an even greater extent during his early morning Three to Get Ready program. As an example, sound man Bill Hoffman has lifted the phrase, "I wouldn't say that," from a Bugs Bunny record and it.
He also has records of Ernie saying, "Think of me, I need the money."
So while Ernie is delivering a commercial in the morning, he may praise a sponsor's pineapple juice to the sky, only to hear Bugs Bunny interrupt with, "I wouldn't say that." Or if Ernie extolls the virtues of a vacuum cleaner and is being unus-all-y sincere, he's liable to hear his own voice saying, "Think of me, I need the money."
"Hoffman sits there like a fiend," Ernie says, "and I never know what he'll do to me next."
As I said earlier, this was supposed to be a review of the Doodles Weaver show, but we got off on this subject of Ernie Kovacs. He's good, Kovacs, that is. And even though he's looking forward to the return of Kukla, Fran and Ollie, and a chance to play some golf again, I rather hope the network gives him a regular evening spot without all those interruptions come fall.
Kovacs’ sojourn in Philadelphia was reasonably short. In 1952, he was off to New York and, eventually, network stardom and an Emmy in 1962 that he never lived to collect.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Goodbye to the 67-Year-Old Teen Idol

Watching The Partridge Family week after week, there was one question that always popped into my mind.

How does David Cassidy get his hair to do that?

You see, I had hair that, like Cassidy’s, curled up on one side at the shoulder. But the other side just hung straight down. Nothing I did could change that. Mind you, I wasn’t a huge, wealthy star with a hairdresser at the studio, I was just a kid in junior high. (Today, I would settle for hair that stays on my head).

Cassidy is being remembered by 60-year-old teenage girls today, their first crush, someone who sold zillions of copies of 16 and Tiger Beat. They probably don’t know that all came about because Screen Gems was willing to take a huge gamble on him.

Television in the late ‘60s and into the ‘70s wanted to attract young viewers. One way to do that was through music. But there had to be a very careful balancing act. On one hand, the music had to sound like it belonged on a Top 40 station, not some cheap knock-off, for young people to accept it. On the other hand, it couldn’t be that hippie pinko music that turned off “America-love-it-or-leave-it” parents. But a combination musical-group/tv series could be a gold mine for anyone who could pull it off. Columbia Pictures decided to take the chance. They borrowed a sure-fire winner from real-life. The Cowsills were a musical group of well-groomed youngsters and their mother. If the idea worked in real life, it could work on TV. And the studio pinned its hopes on 36-year-old Oscar-winner Shirley Jones, known more for her role as Marian the Librarian in The Music Man, and a virtual unknown who just turned 20.

Columbia’s TV subsidiary was Screen Gems. The company had acquired Bell Records in 1969. They joined together in a huge push of The Partridge Family before the show had even aired. Here’s Back Stage magazine’s version of events from its issue of June 26, 1970.
$100,000 Promo Campaign to Push Series
A special campaign to help pre-sell a new tv series was announced by Bell Records.
Larry Uttal, President of Bell, said that he will spend more than $100,000 for the initial release of a single and an LP for The Partridge Family, starts of the new Screen Gems “Partridge Family” show, debuting on ABC-TV this fall.
A situation comedy series with music, dealing with the adventures of a mother and her family of five children who become recording starts, it will star Shirley Jones and David Cassidy.
Not since the days of the “Monkees” has any company invested so heavily in such a comprehensive promotion and advertising campaign involving a television series and recordings.
Bell Records has engaged the public relations firm of Bernie Ilson, Inc., specialists in television and record publicity, to create and coordinate the entire campaign on their behalf. Ilson and his staff will work with ABC-TV and Screen Gems publicity and advertising departments (who are sharing the costs of the campaign) and Dick Gersh Associates, Bell’s corporate P.R. film, in the execution of the entire campaign.
David Cassidy had been doing guest-starring roles on a few TV dramas at the time he auditioned for The Partridge Family, though “starring” is a bit of a stretch. Audiences wouldn’t have known who he was. After winning the Keith Partridge audition, he and Jones hit the promo circuit in August. Most newspaper stories I’ve spotted are interviews with Jones in the “look what movie actress is doing television now” vein. The series was designed around her. But the Atlanta Journal Constitution talked to Cassidy. He’s careful to leave the impression with those Southern parents reading that he’s not into that anti-war music like those un-American kids. He’s safe and benign, he’s telling them.
David Cassidy Seems on Way As the Next Teen-Age Idol

David Cassidy may be on his way to becoming the country’s next teen-age idol. The combination is right—his interests are music and acting, and he gets a chance to combine them on his forthcoming series for television, “The Partridge Family.”
But even before his series or record albums have hit the airwaves, David is already being hounded by telephone calls from ardent female admirers. So much so, in fact, that he was forced to halt incoming calls on his recent eight-city promotional tour, which, last week, included Atlanta.
The 20-year-old son of actor Jack Cassidy is not disturbed by the prospect of stardom. “I’m digging it,” he said. “I don’t mind if they (fans) hang an image on me. I don’t think it will be hard to live with because, after all, it’s just an image—not really me.”
David admits that he is one of those persons who always has wanted to become a performer. “I saw my father on stage when I was three years old,” he said, “and I really liked it. There is nothing else I want to do.”
David has appeared in one Broadway musical, Allan Sherman’s “The Fig Leaves are Falling,” and several TV series: “Ironsides,” [sic] “Medical Center,” “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” and “Mod Squad.”
In the new series, David shares the spotlight with his stepmother, actress Shirley Jones.
David says that the series was not created especially for him and Miss Jones. “I was just one of many people trying out for the part,” he said. “And I didn’t know Shirley was going to be in it until just before we started shooting.”
However, the two seem to have formed something of a dynamic duo, at least musically. “The show is about a family that forms a rock group,” he said. “Shirley and I do all the vocals for the show and for the two albums—to be released after the show premieres Sept. 25.”
David describes the music as a “light rock sound. It’s happy music, meant strictly to entertain.”
That type of music fits David’s tastes. “I really dig listening to music,” he said. “But when I listen to it, I want to be able to enjoy it for what it is. I don’t want it to tell me what is right or wrong with this country.”
David thinks too many people try to read things into music, especially the type of music written by the Beatles and Bob Dylan. “You don’t have to rip it apart, and analyze every theme,” he said. “It’s all right there. You should take it like it is and enjoy it.”
Portraying a teen-aged rock band leader has taught the young actor one thing about television. “They don’t know how to write for teenagers,” he said. “They don’t know how to integrate them into the comedy routine, so they give them honky [sic] things to say like ‘gee Mom.’”
Despite a very hip appearance, David describes himself as a “middle-of-the-roader.” He is not in sympathy with student activists. And he is not particularly turned-on by youth-oriented entertainment, such as the Broadway musical “Hair.”
His most challenging work, thus far, has been dramatic roles for television.
“Serious acting requires more study, but it’s more rewarding . . . and I would rather watch myself doing that.”
David sees the new television series as a “fantastic opportunity—the fulfillment of a long-awaited dream come true.
“Right now, show business is the thing. I see no other way for me.”
“That type of music fits David’s tastes?” All PR flackery, despite the fact the Partridges’ first hit, I Think I Love You, jumped to No. 1. By the time Cassidy wanted off the series in 1973, he told United Features writer Barbara Lewis: “I was given material to do that I would not have selected myself.” And he did mind what image the fans hung on him. They were hanging on every word in the teen rags, of which Cassidy told Lewis: “They were always writing things about me that were not true.”

He eventually saw his teen idol mantle fall upon singing stepbrother Shaun. As life rolled on, he wrote a book, toured, traded off on nostalgia for the series he had wanted to quit, and had mounting issues that seem to befall too many people in show biz. Then his health did him in at a far-too-young age.

Cassidy will always be remembered for his part in a TV show with some pretty well-put together elements: comic by-play (thanks to Danny Bonaduce and Dave Madden), eye candy for boys and girls, unassuming bubblegum music. He never seems to have generated the disdain and ridicule that some current teen idols have received. Notwithstanding some personal problems later in life, Columbia’s gamble paid off for David Cassidy.


An eerie figure is silhouetted in the window of an old house during a lightning storm in the Flip the Frog cartoon Spooks (1932).

It turns out to be a skele-butler, who disappears. Flip runs out of the scene.

Ub Iwerks is the only person credited on the cartoon.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Skunk Takes a Dunk

You can be assured of one oddball pose in an Art Davis cartoon. Here’s one from Odor of the Day, where a skunk battles a bulldog.

Lloyd Turner’s story has a dog trying to fend off a skunk’s smell to stay in the skunk’s bed. Eventually, the dog retaliates by spraying perfume on the skunk. Some reaction drawings—

Both the dog and the skunk end up in a frozen lake to gets colds so they can’t smell the other.

Emery Hawkins, Don Williams, Bill Melendez and Basil Davidovich are in Davis’ animation crew.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Listening to Benny

“Did you hear Jack Benny’s show tonight?” Fred Allen would ask on the air to Portland Hoffa, and then proceed to use Benny’s own material to set up jokes that left his audience laughing in recognition.

CBS moved Allen’s show to Sunday nights after Benny on March 8, 1942, and so long as Allen had a show on the radio, that’s where he remained (Allen’s last broadcast was in 1949). And he kept a close ear on Benny.

The Chicago Times’ Don Foster evidently sat in on one of Allen’s listening sessions. He wrote about it in the second of a two-column series dealing with Allen that appeared in the paper on November 12th and 13th, 1947. Here are the columns.
NEW YORK.—It’s Fred Allen’s gag about vegetarians living to be 90 and then getting run over by a meat truck. The payoff is that Fred himself is now a vegetarian. The comedian is going meatless, has quit smoking and spends all day Monday in bed (the latter on doctor’s orders) to try to get ahead of his high blood pressure.
Fred is also autoless---has never owned one, in fact, and doesn’t expect to own one, even though he’ll be working for an auto sponsor starting Jan. 4. He insists there’s nothing unusual about this.
“I was on the air for Sal Hepatica for years,” he reminds you, “but I never took Sal Hepatica. Do you think all the people who work in the vegetarian store where I buy my food are vegetarian? I go into a Radio City drugstore and see most of them sitting at the counter eating hamburgers.”
A fellow TIMES columnist, Earl Wilson, and this radio reporter were discussung various and sundry topics with Allen after his NBC broadcast Sunday night. The topics which Allen took up and disposed of in devastating order included a couple of Allen’s pet gripes—radio ratings and studio audiences. We asked him how he was bearing up under his new Hooper rating, which has him in a tie with Bob Hope for first place.
“Ratings don’t mean anything,” said Fred. “They call a couple of guys in Minneapolis and that determines your standing. I’ve been doing the same kind of show for 15 years. Why should I suddenly be at the top?
“We simply try to do an intelligent program week after week because we assume that the radio audience has some degree of intelligence.”
ALLEN has no patience with comedy shows that go in for school boy slapstick in an effort to wow the audience. They’re an insult to the listeners’ intelligence. Furthermore, the practice of tailoring shows to please the people in the studio has all but ruined radio comedy, Allen believes.
It has ruined it for the whimsical type of humor that Stoopnagle and Budd were once famous for, like the time Stoop and Budd were taking inventory in a yacht store and found they had only three yachts left. This type of whimsy depends for its laughs entirely on situation and dialogue, and Stoop and Budd turned the yacht episode into an extremely funny comedy sequence without resorting to any form of slapstick, said Allen. By the same token a medium that has become so conditioned to studio-audience reaction has shut the door on the writer of the James Thurber brand of whimsy. Radio comedy, Allen believes, was never meant to be played before a visible audience.
He recalled the broadcast on which he appeared with Knute Rockne just before the great Notre Dame coach took off on the flight that was to end in his death. Allen and Rockne were guests on John B. Kennedy’s program originating from a Broadway theater. A glass curtain separated the principals on stage from the theater audience. The audience could hear the program on a loudspeaker in the theater’s auditorium but the audience’s laughter and applause was not audience on stage and did not go out over the air. “It was an eerie thing,” said Allen, “to look out and see those people laughing and applauding without being able to hear them.”
But that is the way he believes it should be. If a comedian must have an audience to play to let it be a silent audience as far as the performer and the listening public are concerned. If he can’t hear the applause and the laughs, the comic won’t be so tempted to try to get bigger and better laughs by mugging his way through the program.
The comedy show that is “must” listening with Allen before he goes on the air Sunday nights is the Jack Benny program. But more about that tomorrow.
NEW YORK.—The first order of business on Sunday evenings for Fred Allen and his cast of funmakers is to gather in one of NBC’s audition rooms on the eighth floor of Radio City and listen to the Jack Benny program from Hollywood. This is at 7 p.m., New York time, an hour and a half before Allen himself goes on the air.
Allen thus keeps track of what he fellow feudist is up to and in case Mr. Benny tosses off a wisecrack about Mr. Allen the latter can return the favor with an appropriate jest on his own program at 8:30 (EST). But it’s not entirely a matter of checking on Benny. The Allenites listen, as much as for any other reason, because they seemingly enjoy the Benny program. It elicits some hearty chuckles from the Allen case, including the Chief Wit himself.
Last Sunday night when we were on hand to listen with them the first arrivals were the two secretaries whose job at this stage is to keep a watchful eye on the Allen scripts. One by one the denizens of Allen’s Alley drifted in: Ajax Cassidy (Peter Donald), Senator Claghorn (Kenny Delmar), Mrs. Nussbaum (Minerva Pious), Fred and Portland arrived 10 minutes after Benny went on and Peter Donald gave Fred a quick fill-in on what had gone before.
FIRST the boss of the Alley shed his topcoat and suit coast and seated himself at the head of the long mahogany table in shirt-sleeved splendor, the only male in the room in this state of working comfort.
The belated arrival of Titus Moody (Parker Fennelly), the program’s sound effects man, and the two producers—one from NBC and one from the advertising agency—completed the gathering.
In the opening of the Benny script, Benny, Phil Harris and Dennis Day were at a drugstore counter trying to decide what to eat. Dennis’ crack, “I’ll have a dish of ice cream with a strip of bacon on it,” evoked a laugh from the Allen cast, as did this bit of dialogue: “Do you,” asked Jack, “have any hot chocolate?” Waiter [Mel Blanc]: Here’s a Hershey bar and a match.
The comedy situation on the Benny program was this: Phil and Dennis decide to frame Jack by having Dennis, impersonating Ronald Colman, invite Benny and his lady friend [Sara Berner] to a masquerade party at the Colmans. Benny, attired in full cowboy regalia, and his companion come pounding on the Colman door after Ronnie and his wife have retired. After letting the party-goers in the Colmans decide to slip out the back door and leave the home to Benny and his girl friend. The situation up to that point had developed some hilarious possibilities, but from there to the finish, nothing happened. The ending was rather lame in view of the promising beginning.
THE consensus of the Allen cast was that the Benny program got off to a good start but dissipated the effect toward the finish.
“The beginning was very funny,” commented Fred, “but it’s hard to sustain.” He spoke as one comedian who understood what a fellow comedian was up against in his efforts to keep the program funny from start to finish.
Then the Allen cast, grouped around the table with Fred, got down to the business of giving their own script a final reading. The guests for the evening—Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy—were not present, so Peter Donald read their lines as well as his own. The script reading out of the way, the cast sat around and chinned for a while.
Peter Donald, engaged in picking dog hairs off his blue serge suit, inquired: “Does anybody know where I can get a dog with blue serge hair?”
The talk turned to show business and of one individual, who isn’t exactly rated as a Boy Scout in money matters, Allen observed: “They’re going to bury $100,000 with him just to test it—to see whether you can take it with you.”
Allen continually moaned about having a studio audience, yet he played to them, too. He’d refer, or talk, to them occasionally in ad-libs. And then there was the time he had Jack Benny’s pants removed on stage, solely because he knew the audience would scream uncontrollably, and make the routine funnier. (Though I must admit I don’t know how Benny could possibly have stayed completely on mike while stooges were taking off his clothes. Wouldn’t he have moved around a lot?).

As for the “weak finish” on the Benny broadcast, the writers didn’t have much of a choice. They logically ended it with the Colmans invading the Benny home in a case of turn-about.

My thanks to Kathy Fuller Seeley for supplying these columns.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

She Missed Glory

Perhaps the most puzzling credit on a Warner Bros. cartoon is the one you see to the left, where Leadora Congdon is revealed to be responsible for the streamlined designs in the 1936 short Page Miss Glory. She was never credited in any other cartoon, anywhere. Her name isn’t bandied about by historians or retired staffers at any cartoon studio. She’s a complete mystery.

Well, maybe not.

A few diehard diggers have found bits and pieces over the years. Some time ago on this blog, we quoted Leon Schlesinger in a syndicated story in the Baltimore Sun of June 20, 1937 about the cartoon.
Not long ago, we decided to do something definitely different. A girl from Chicago showed me some ultra-modernistic sets she had designed which she thought could be used as backgrounds for a sophisticated cartoon. In order to show off the sets, we had to use human characters and have the camera shoot the sort of angles Busby Berkeley made famous. The idea was novel and the result original, but somehow it was not so funny as if animals, fowls or insects had been used.
So with this limited information about Chicago in hand leave us, like Snooper and Blabber, set off a detec-a-tive prowl through history.

One thing one quickly learns in research is not everything out there is altogether accurate. Names are misspelled. Dates vary. But we eventually find a clue.

To the right is a little clipping from the Chicago Tribune of March 15, 1919. It’s one of a handful of brief reports on the teenaged Leadora, all of them involving dancing of some kind. With a check of census records we discover that Leah Congdon is listed as living with father Albert B. mother Emma. Her father is recorded a salesman for a canned food company. But we have to go to Canada for our next clue. It seems that Leadora’s father ended up in Winnipeg, Manitoba for a period of World War One. Witness the document below.

The immigration document states that Leadora was living in Chicago (with relatives, perhaps). However, she did spend some time in Canada, as you can see in the 1921 Canadian Census for Chatham, Ontario, which is something like 50-some-odd miles from the U.S. border with Detroit. Movement across the Canada/U.S. border was not difficult back then, even to live or work.

The immigration document above reveals that Leadora was born in Syracuse, New York. So what does a virtual trip to Syracuse tell us? Well, the Post-Standard happened to publish an obituary in its November 1, 1965 edition, despite the fact Congdon had not lived there for years and years.
Mrs. Osborn Dies at Home
Mrs. Leah Dora Congdon Osborn of Forest Lake, Ill., a native Syracusan who had done design work for Walt Disney, died unexpectedly at her home at Forest Lake, a Chicago suburb. She was in her 60s. Born in Syracuse, she and her family moved from here while she was in their early years. Her husband, Tech Osborn, who died two years ago, was in the printing business. He is credited with being the inventor of the process of printing color designs on oil paper. Surviving are a step-son, Tech Osborn of Forest Lake; her father, Albert B. Congdon of West Palm Beach, Fla.; and two aunts, Mrs. Fred R. Lear of Syracuse and an aunt in Florida. Services will be 2 p.m. Wednesday at Forest Lake, with burial in the same community.
Walt Disney? She worked for Walt Disney? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s altogether possible the terms “cartoons” and “Disney” were used interchangeably; we’ve run into other newspaper stories where the writer gets studios mixed up. The Chicago Tribune has a brief funeral announcement for her on the same date but doesn’t reveal exactly when she passed away.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing in this cursory detective job to indicate how she knew or met Leon Schlesinger or convinced him to use the lovely streamlined art in one of his cartoons. However, we are able to ascertain what she was doing later in life. That’s again thanks to an obituary. The Post-Herald stated Leadora’s husband (nicknamed Tek, also the name of their son) died in 1963. Sure enough, the Tribune reported on December 18, 1963:
Arthur C. Osborn
Funeral services for Arthur C. Osborn, 66, of Forest drive, Forest Lake, Lake county, who died Monday in his home, will be held at 11 a.m. today in the chapel at 53 S. Old Rand rd., Lake Zurich. He and his widow, Leadora, operated Lea-Tek studios, doing commercial photographic work, from their home. He retired in 1960 as an employe of U.S. Printing and Lithographic company in Chicago, and in 1939 as an army major. Besides his widow, he is survived by a daughter, Mrs. Susan Keagy; a son, Ted [sic]; and three grandchildren.
The 1940 U.S. Census for Chicago gives Leadora Osborn’s occupation as “artist, advertising.” The Tribune also published a story in 1960 announcing a one-woman art exhibit of her’s. She and Osborn married in 1937; she had been married to Robert O’Hair, Jr. in 1928. The 1930 Census lists her occupation as “artist, commercial art co.” Again, this is for Chicago. I have found no evidence of her living in Los Angeles under any of her surnames.

No, this is not an attempt at a complete biography. It’s merely a few notes to give us a bit more information than we knew about Miss Congdon before.

I’ve always liked Page Miss Glory, though director Tex Avery baldly told historian Joe Adamson: “Forget it. It was lousy.” The designs and layouts in the dream sequence are very good and Avery finds room for some funny gags. Read a post about the cartoon here and young Steven Hartley’s opinions back when he was a 15-year-old blogger here

Friday, 17 November 2017

Ollie Hogs the Ending

A familiar caricature ends the festivities in The Timid Toreador, where our hero pig’s hot t-teh-tee-tamales vanquish a bull in the ring.

Porky has the traditional hats of victory tossed on him from the spectators.

Then he morphs into someone familiar to end the cartoon.

Since someone will mention it, Porky disguised himself as Oliver Hardy earlier in the year in You Ought To Be in Pictures.

For some reason, Bob Clampett and Norm McCabe co-directed this cartoon. Clampett left his unit and took over the Tex Avery’s, but that wasn’t until after July 1941, so I’m at a loss to understand why the two directed this one. Izzy Ellis gets the only animation credit.