Sunday, 20 August 2017

She Knew the Walking Man

Jack Benny was a proud cheapskate on his radio show. In real life, he was generous. But he was only indirectly involved in one of the nicest give-aways in radio history—a windfall to a lonely widowed senior citizen.

Truth or Consequences was a show where people performed demeaning stunts on stage in front of a chortling crowd to win prizes. But it also conducted a few contests where listeners could win a cascade of goodies by correctly identifying a sound from new clues every week. In one famous series of broadcasts, footsteps were heard made by “The Walking Man.” The Walking Man turned out to be Jack Benny. And the contest winner was a widow from Chicago. To make things more heart-tugging, the whole thing was tied into a publicity campaign for the American Heart Association.

The winning phone call was placed on T or C’s March 6, 1948 broadcast to Mrs. Florence Hubbard. (You can view a very nice roundup of the preceding events on Martin Grams’ blog). What happened next? The June 1948 edition of Radio and Television Mirror magazine had an in-depth report, supposedly written by Mrs. Hubbard herself. The photos below accompanied the article.

We wrote about the contest on this blog five years ago. She died in Dallas on November 30, 1977.

I Walked into $22,500
For Radio Mirror, the year's favorite Cinderella tells the story behind those famous words that named The Walking Man

THAT day — the day that will always in my mind be "that Saturday" — no dramatist could have set the stage for sharper contrast.
Chicago's weather (and I can assure you that even the natives, though they put up a good front, suffer from it) was really going full blast. That biting wind, carrying rain and snow in from Lake Michigan — how it cut!
And, I must confess, even before I finished my day's work at Carson Pirie Scott and started out to fight the weather on my way home to the Chicago suburb of Austin, I was tired. Saturday's the big day at any department store, and after all, I'm 68! But it wasn't so much physical tiredness as . . . well, just weariness. The salesgirls in the casual clothes department, where I worked as a checker, were many of them just youngsters and the vitality with which they rushed off to their weekend fun, after the hard day's work they'd put in, made me the more tired by contrast.
And Saturday night, after the bustle of the day, is a pretty lonely time. When my husband was alive, even after the 1929 crash, there had been friends to see, guests in the house, plenty of exclamation points to brighten up a week or a weekend.
I scolded myself as I climbed to my little two-and-a-half-room apartment at 48 North Waller Avenue. I still had friends, good ones and enough of them; I had my work— and if I hurried a little I could be out of my wet clothes, through with a steaming hot bath and ready to hear Truth or Consequences by the time it came on. That was enough excitement for anyone— for surely tonight would see the end of the Walking Man contest. It had been going on for ten weeks; everyone was talking about it. I had already sent in thirty contributions with my twenty-five word reason for supporting the American Heart Association, and if need be I could think of thirty more reasons. I have a special interest in the Heart Association, you see it was a heart attack that took Dr. Charles from me, thirteen years ago.
I just about had time to fix myself a plate of chop suey and turn my radio to WMAQ, before Ralph Edwards came on. I don't remember whether or not I ate; I guess not, because just the excitement of hearing Ralph Edwards lead up to the phone call was very bad for digestion! As I waited and listened, it almost seemed as though I could feel everyone around me listening too— people in the next apartment, upstairs, down the street. I guess half the country was listening, at that, for the tension as Mr. Edwards began to make his call seemed to come from all around, to be right in the air and not just in me. . . .
And then, like a scream of excitement, my own phone rang.
People have told me what happened next. I knew my own name, thank goodness, well enough to tell Ralph Edwards when he asked me. And I certainly gasped "Jack Benny" when he asked me to name the Walking Man. But I can't remember another thing, though everyone else heard Mr. Edwards say, "You're not going to cry on me, are you?" and I must have answered something to that. About all I really recall is the shriek my neighbor gave: "Mrs. Hubbard won! Mrs. Hubbard won!" It came through the walls at me. And it was like a signal for Christmas, the Fourth of July, and an old-fashioned election night rolled into one.
Austin is a quiet little suburb of Chicago, and my street is a quiet little part of it. But not that night. Neighbors, reporters, photographers, friends, and a couple of thousand complete strangers seemed suddenly to have fallen from the sky. In fact, inside of twenty minutes the Austin police sent around two squad cars of officers to try to keep the strangers at least from breaking down my door. I wanted the neighbors there. And who could possibly have kept the reporters and photographers away?

MY LITTLE apartment buzzed like a hive and seemed about to burst its seams. On and on rang the telephone; someone would answer it, and then off it would go again Flash bulbs popped, hands moved me from chair to phone, sat me down, stood me up — "Just one more, Mrs. Hubbard. Smile now. That's right — show you're excited. Are you going to Hollywood? What difference will this make in your life? Are you going to keep it all? How're you going to pay the $8,000 income tax on the stuff?"
Do you blame me for being just a bit flustered?
My heart was beating like mad. I guess I even cried a little, I don't remember. They told me later I'd gone on saying "It's wonderful. I never expected it. Nothing like this ever happened to me before!" That was true — I never had expected anything so wonderful, ever. And when I began to make sense out of what I had won, I knew nothing like that had ever happened to anyone before. Just look! —
A home laundry, consisting of washer, drier and automatic ironer.
$1,000 diamond and ruby watch.
New four-door Cadillac sedan.
Gas kitchen range.
16mm. motion picture sound projector and screen, with a print of a current film to be delivered every month for a year.
Two-weeks vacation for two at Sun Valley, Idaho, all expenses paid.
$1,000 diamond ring.
Vacuum cleaner with all attachments.
RCA-Victor console FM and AM radio-phonograph combination and television set.
Gas refrigerator.
All-metal Venetian blinds for every room in the house.
Paint job for the house, inside and out.
Complete wardrobe for every season of the year.
15-cubic-foot heavy duty home or farm freezer filled with frozen foods.
All-metal Luscomb Silvaire standard 65 airplane.
Installation of ceramic tile in kitchen and bathroom.
Furniture to fill dining room and two bedrooms.
Deluxe trailer coach with modern kitchen and sleeping quarters for four.
$1,000 Persian lamb coat.
Aluminum boat complete with outboard motor.
Two years' supply of sheets and pillow cases for every bed in the house.
Choice of $500 worth of electric home appliances.
Electric blanket for every bed in the house.
Three suits apiece for every man in the immediate family.
Desk console electric sewing machine.
One thing, though, I was sure of. I was Cinderella, and this was — what else could it be? — a fairy-tale, but I knew that essentially my way of living would go on being the same. I'd be at the store, if they wanted me, on Monday. And Hollywood? Only if I could be spared from my job.
It was Mr. Pirie himself, John T. Pirie, descendant of one of Carson's founders, who gave me the answer to that question. He outwaited that ringing phone, and sometime — it must have been very late — he got through to me, and said that I absolutely was going to Hollywood to meet Ralph Edwards and be on the show, and with Carson's blessing.
Oh, how tired I was when I finally closed the door on my last visitor. And oh, how happy! Someone, somewhere, had certainly waved a wand over me. How different this weekend was from the one I'd toiled my way home to!
Sunday was really a most thrilling day. Out of everywhere, out of nowhere, came old friends to see me, people I'd been out of touch with for months, sometimes for many years. They had heard the program and came to congratulate me, and we talked on and on about old times and had ourselves a wonderful time. The relaxation was a welcome let-down after all the excitement.

AND Monday, with one detour, I went downtown to the store as usual. The detour was to see an eye specialist, for the exploding flash bulbs had left me with "Kleig eyes." Like a Hollywood celebrity! But I found when I got to the store that there was no question of work. All my friends were lined up and waiting, and you can't pretend the kind of happiness they all felt for my good fortune. I knew every one of them rejoiced with me. I knew, when they said "Mrs. Hubbard, we're so glad for you," that they meant it from their hearts. And my own . . . well, my own was pretty full.
Then came one of the biggest thrills I've yet had. The store gave a big, glamorous, exciting luncheon — for me! With Bruce MacLeish, Mr. Pirie, and the other executives, as well as my co-workers, all sharing my good luck with me, I felt like more than Cinderella I felt like a queen. And then, as a really final answer on whether or not I was going to Hollywood, Carson's gave me new luggage and a complete, wonderful trousseau for my trip. Now I had to go!
By the time I'd fought my way through the crowds — and some more thousands of people had turned up to jam Carson's just as they'd crowded my apartment the night before, so that special police had to be called again — I knew I was really tired. Thanks to my nephews, I escaped in time to get a little rest. They took me to a hotel, and rest and relax I did. Also I did some planning for the big adventure ahead — my three-thousand-mile trip to Hollywood.
Never having been West before, I decided not to fly but to go by train, to see as much of the country as possible. And to make it last as long as possible, and arrive as rested as possible, not just any train, I discovered, would do for me. No indeed; my covered wagon was to be the dazzlingly famous Santa Fe Super Chief! And luckily, I'd have company on the trip. Virginia Marmaduke, Chicago Sun-Times reporter who seemed by this time like an old and dear friend, had been assigned to come along with me, and I was told that I could have a traveling companion of my own choice as well. I chose Mrs. Albert C. Dodds, the daughter of my dearest friend.
"Rested" wasn't, after all, exactly the word for the way I felt when I stepped off the Super Chief. I'd had time to rest, it's true — time to rest, to chat with Virginia Marmaduke and with all the nice people on the train who were so excited and happy for me. But I was too excited to be really rested. Besides, I kept turning over and over in my mind one thought: "Florence Hubbard, you've got to be practical about this! Just exactly what are you going to do with all those prizes? What are you going to do with two rooms of tile work, for instance? Or an airplane, for goodness sakes! Somebody's sure to ask you, so you'd better make up your mind what you want to keep!"

I THOUGHT there'd been excitement enough in Chicago to last a normally quiet-living woman like me for the rest of my life, but I just didn't know what excitement was until we got to California. Just like jumping from the frying pan into the fire, it was, but don't think I didn't enjoy every minute of it just the same! I wonder, looking back on it now, where on earth I got the energy, the get-up-and-go it took to do everything they had planned for me, but I certainly had a reserve of it stored up somewhere — and I tapped that reserve right down to the dregs!
When I got off the train, there was a big crowd of people, and everyone shook hands and congratulated me and everyone introduced everyone else so fast I couldn't possibly get any of the names, until I felt as if my head might begin to whirl 'round and 'round and eventually fly right off. But fortunately I was rescued — there was a big and shiny limousine waiting — with a chauffeur to drive me! — and I was whisked into that and we drove away.
"Where are we going now?" I asked Virginia.
"To a very famous Hollywood restaurant," she told me, "to have lunch with Ann Daggett and Mac St. Johns — they're the Hollywood editor and managing editor of Radio Mirror Magazine, and they're going to help us get together the Hollywood part of your story for Radio Mirror."
About that time we pulled up in front of the restaurant, and I found out that it was called L'Aiglon. That sort of made me feel at home, because we have a very nice L'Aiglon restaurant in Chicago, too. Somehow it was extra nice to have my first luncheon in Hollywood there — bridged the gap between the known and the unknown I told Ann and Mac, when I met them.
They were as nice as could be to me, and explained they'd help me all they could with my story, because they knew even better than I did how busy I was going to be in Hollywood.
Right after lunch, "Next stop, Ralph Edwards' Truth or Consequences office in Hollywood," Virginia told me, "to get all the arrangements made."
"What arrangements?" I asked.
"Well, there's your appearance on Truth or Consequences tomorrow night," she said, ticking them off on her fingers, "and you're going to be on the Jack Benny Show Sunday, and — "
"Will they tell me what to say?" I asked anxiously.
I needn't have worried. Mr. Edwards made everything so clear about my part in the program the next night that I began to have the feeling that I'd been in this business a long time, too! And then, when the arrangements were all made, there came that question I'd known was coming.
"Mrs. Hubbard," he asked me, "have you made up your mind what disposition you're going to make of all those prizes? Of course, there'll probably be some you can't, or don't want to use. What do you think?"
I found that, somewhere along the line, I had made up my mind — at least about most of the prizes.
"I'm not going to take up flying at my age," I told him, laughing. "So I guess I'll sell the airplane. And the Cadillac, too. And the sound projector and screen — none of those seem to fit into life in a two-room apartment in Chicago. As for those two rooms of tile work — "
"We can fix that up for you," Mr. Edwards said. "Let's solve that problem by sending you a check for the labor costs of installing the tile. As for the tile itself, you can dispose of that any way you see fit."
"My nephew, Eber Hubbard, will know what to do about that," I told him. Honestly, I don't know what I would have done without Eber! It's a mighty handy thing to have a lawyer in the family, I always say, and when the lawyer is a good businessman, too — well, that makes it doubly handy!
"The fur coat," I told Mr. Edwards, "I'll certainly keep. My old one has seen better days, and those Chicago winters of ours really call for a fur coat! And I'll keep the television set — now I'll be able to watch the fights, and I love them. And the electric blanket will come in handy on cold nights."
I suppose a lot of people feel the way I did about radio programs — everyone sounds so relaxed and pleasant on the air that you're likely to get the idea that putting on a big network program is a simple business. What a completely wrong idea that is, as I found out on Saturday!
Not only did we rehearse for the Truth or Consequences program, but for the Jack Benny Show the following day as well. We rehearsed and rehearsed — but everything went off well, I think. At least, both Ralph Edwards and Jack Benny said it did. In fact, after the broadcast on Sunday Mr. Benny paid me the nicest compliment ever.
"You performed just like an experienced trouper," he told me. "In fact, you almost stole the show!" Pretty strong words from a man like Mr. Benny to a rank amateur like me!
I had a lot of fun on that program, and everything was so well-planned that it made answering the questions easy. For instance, he asked me if I were thinking of getting married again, now that I had all these things that go to make up a home.
"No, now that I have all this, I don't feel that I need a husband!" I told him.
"But won't you be lonely?" he wanted to know.
Right there I remembered one of the phrases they had used earlier in the program, and I answered back, "Lonely — but loaded!" and had the wonderful experience of hearing the studio audience roaring with laughter.
After the program, Mary Livingstone put her arm around me and told me that everyone was so happy that such a nice person had won the contest. "Chicago couldn't have a better representative," she declared.
I felt tears start into my eyes, and what I said to her in answer came straight from my heart. "Everyone has been so wonderful to me! I don't believe this fairy story could come true in any other country but America, do you?"

I WENT, right after the broadcast, to Ralph Edwards' beautiful home. We had tea before the fire in the Edwards' lovely early American living room, and I met Mrs. Edwards — she immediately insisted that I call her Barbara, and brought the three charming children in to meet me, too. Christine is five, Gary two-and-a-half, and baby Lauren just eighteen months old. Christine surveyed me solemnly and I apparently passed muster, for she broke into a big smile and assured me that she was "awfully glad you guessed the Walking Man!"
The rest of the time spent in California was hectic but absolutely wonderful. On Monday, for instance, I was taken over to the Paramount Pictures lot. I met a very charming blonde girl there and we snatched a moment to sit down and chat. I told her how tired I was from all the rushing here and there and the excitement, and she was as sweet and sympathetic as could be. In a few minutes she said she was pretty busy herself, and had to leave. After she was gone, I asked, "Who was that?"
And what do you suppose the answer was? "Veronica Lake!" I guess she is pretty busy!
Tuesday I did something I'd been promising myself I'd do — something I thought of myself, and wanted to do with all my heart. I drove down to the Long Beach Naval Hospital and saw and talked with some of the veterans. Believe me, an experience like that makes the other things that happen seem pretty trivial to you.
Later in the week, San Francisco was on the itinerary. Then one day in Los Angeles for a round of goodbyes — and I really felt as if I were taking leave of old friends.
As for that Sun Valley vacation — two weeks with all expenses paid — that was one of the prizes, as I told my nephew, "I've gone so many places and seen so many things, I think I'll postpone that for a while, until going someplace will be a real treat to me again, and I can enjoy it to the fullest."
So now I'm back in Chicago — back to my old life, my old routine — but perfectly contented and happy with it, let me assure you. Somehow, I don't think I'll ever be lonely again. I've learned that people are good and kind and wonderful, and I have too many things to live over in my dreams, too many delightful experiences to remember, ever to have time for loneliness again!

Dick Gregory

Not too many comedians were shot during the Watts riots in 1965.

Dick Gregory was.

He survived to live 52 more years. Gregory has died at a hospital in Washington, D.C.

Gregory’s satirical stand-up act based around race relations quickly turned into real-life activism where he put himself in harm’s way.

He was virtually an overnight success. Here’s a syndicated entertainment column that first appeared in newspapers on March 6, 1961.
From Car Wash to TV Comedian

CHICAGO — The Playboy Club here in Chicago is about the busiest nightclub in America. A few deaf diehards night claim the thriving business is due largely to the voluptuous waitresses who serve the undistinguished food and drink. A more likely explanation would link the non-recession laughing crowds to Dick Gregory, who appears tonight for the second time in two weeks on the Jack Paar Show.
Dick is creating more talk in show-business circles than any new performer in months. He's using fresh topical political humor of a brand never heard before in major night clubs or on television. He's an altogether refreshing phenomenon these days—a young man talking previously taboo political truths, but delivering same with such ease that few members of his audience have the time or inclination to be offended.
They're too busy chortling!
Gregory is a personable young Negro college graduate who grew up in St. Louis and moved to Chicago over five years ago. He's a reminder that Lady Luck and Her Magic Show Business Wand is still in business on the New Frontier.
Cash on Hand $1.50
This past Christmas Dick's liquid cash assets amounted to $1.50. He was working for nothing in a local night club on the assumption that the added experience would be helpful and he stood a better chance of being discovered while working than reading poetry at home. Dick was washing cars during the days and on Christmas eve spent two-thirds of his bankroll on three pounds of hamburger for his wife and child. During a break between shows, Dick added "and you just know what kind of treat you can get for three pounds for one dollar."
Thanks partially to a writeup in a national magazine in early February, Dick can well afford to eat filet in early March. His current Playboy Club salary is $250 weekly, up $100 from the starting figure after a successful audition for Playboy talent scouts.
How can I describe his act in 25 words or less? Well, Dick has been referred to in some circles as the colored Mart Sahl. He prefers to remind his audience that "in the Congo they call Mort the white Dick Gregory."
Sullivan Show Shots
Dick's sudden recognition is primarily due to his conviction that public acceptance of even such issues as school integration in America and the need for greater effort in Africa would not suffer from a light touch and dash of satire. Dick told me "my only question was whether my race was mature enough to laugh at our problems. I decided they were. Too many people take themselves too seriously when discussing this subject (integration)."
Dick was pleased by the response to his first network TV appearance and is currently prepping for the first of several guest shots with Ed Sullivan. Dick jests that after the TV debut he was approached by network officials who wanted him to star in "Stagecoach South."
Flips Gregory, "It will be a little different series. The Indians are scheduled to win."
Even in the South the response to Gregory's appearance with Paar was enthusiastic, so Dick can indulge himself with such flippancies as, "in the South they burnt crosses in front of the sets after seeing the Paar Show."
Even his sudden affluence will not easily let Gregory forget some of the things that happened to him two weeks ago today. The day marked not only his first major network TV exposure (he appeared briefly on ABC's "Cast The First Stone," last fall) but his first airplane ride. When he returned to Chicago late in the evening his wife calmly informed him that the finance company had repossessed the Gregory family's television set. As the saying goes, his success couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
But Gregory soon felt more than “a dash of satire” was needed in the real world outside glitzy nightclubs. An editorial by Robert G. Fichenberg in the Knickerbocker News in 1967 stated that Gregory “was stunned by the case of a 78-year-old Negro man who was jailed during a voter registration drive. The man's wife died while he was in jail — on the first night the old man ever spent away from home. At this point, Dick Gregory says, he began to wonder if he "really had it made" when so many of his people were suffering.”

In May 1963, he was in Birmingham, Alabama marching for de-segregation. Here’s a snippet of an unbylined story from the California Eagle of May 9th. The Associated Press photo below is from the same day; Gregory shows newsmen where he said police beat him while in jail on charges of parading without a permit.
"Let them use the dogs! We’ll march anyway!"
Waves upon waves of Negroes have been challenging [public safety commissioner] "Bull" Connor, his snearling, [sic] biting dogs, his pelting water hoses and the whole segregated set-up of Birmingham, Ala. The entire city is in turmoil; shops are closing; schools are emptying.
Sympathy protest demonstrations are being held throughout the country.
Monday more than 1000 men, women and children were arrested and carted off to jail. Among them were hundreds of school children, some as young as six or seven years old.
Among them also was Dick Gregory, comedian who has made the fight in the South his fight.
Angry Negroes streamed from five churches when word spread that the youngsters had been kept outside in an open jail yard during a sudden drenching thunderstorm.
One Negro woman who refused to get off the sidewalk when ordered to was set upon by five policeman [sic] who wrestled her to the pavement. One of the "law" men kneed her in the neck.
Dick Gregory led the first group of 19 boys and girls from the 16th Street Baptist Church where some 2000 people had gathered. He didn't get very far, only to the first road block.
"Freedom! Freedom!" shouted the youngsters as they were herded into paddy wagons and buses and swept away to jail.[...]
Other demonstrators, in groups of 20 to 50, followed those who were with Dick Gregory. Some 200 to 250 more were arrested downtown as they picketed department, drug and variety stores.
Even before the new arrests, the city's jail were packed [sic]. "There's standing room only," commented one official. Hundreds of those taken into custody, including children, were sleeping shoulder to shoulder on concrete floors.
And still the marchers came.
Two years later in August 1965, Gregory was in Watts, urging a throng of 500 rioters to go home when, the A.P. reported at the time, he “stepped behind a barricade of police cars and the shots started. I felt a pain in my leg. I didn’t fall.” It turns out he was shot with a rifle in the thigh. He confronted the man with the firearm and told him to get off the street. The crowd left. Gregory went to hospital, was treated, and then went back to the area to try to help restore order.

Gregory later ran for president against Richard Nixon and turned his attention to health and nutrition. He continued to speak to college audiences. “You have a big job,” he told a young crowd at the University of Utah in 1970, “of giving America back its sanity...Stay morally pure, morally honest.”

Not everyone agreed with Gregory, who was prone to generalisations at times. Walter Winchell, who was writing columns back in the days people yucked it up at Stepin Fetchit, called Gregory “a professional bore.” But the best summary of Gregory’s career may have been made at the end of a column in the Syracuse Post in March 2, 1961. Writer Mario Rossi opined: “When Dick Gregory walks off the stage, he leaves us with more than the pleasant exhaustion that comes from rollicking laughter. There is suddenly the old realization that many a truth is spoken in jest.”

Saturday, 19 August 2017

A Tale of Turkisher

He’s the guy Carl Stalling didn’t talk about.

Stalling told Milt Gray in an interview published in 1971 that he composed for the Ub Iwerks studio for parts of 1931 and 1932 before returning in summer of 1933 and staying until the studio closed in 1936. Stalling said he had no assistant at Iwerks; he did everything including the arranging.

So who, then, is Art Turkisher?

In the photo of the Iwerks studio above, published in Leonard Maltin’s Of Mice and Magic, you can see men standing in front of pillars. The one on the right is Stalling. The one on the left is Turkisher, who received music credits on (as best as I can discover) six Iwerks cartoons, all released in 1934.

The Brave Tin Soldier, April 7
Insultin’ the Sultan, April 14 (Willie Whopper)
Reducing Créme, May 19 (Willie Whopper)
The Queen of Hearts, June 25
Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, August 10
The Valiant Tailor, October 29

It should be noted some Iwerks cartoons didn’t have a music director in the on-screen credits, such as the first ComiColor short, Jack and the Beanstalk, released December 23, 1933. In a few cases it is likely because, as music historian James Parten has pointed out, the background music consists of phonograph records (eg., 1935’s Balloonland).

It turns out Turkisher was far more than a music composer and eventually had several different, and diverse, careers. Unfortunately, his obituary in a Palm Beach, Florida newspaper reveals little. It is two lines long and says nothing about his life. It only mentions survivors and that he died after a long illness on January 30, 1993 at age 79. He and his wife Irma “Judy” Turkisher had been living in the little city of Atlantis.

The longest bit of background I’ve been able to find about him comes from the Poughkeepsie Evening Star of February 23, 1940, announcing a concert:
The Paeff Quartet for Strings and Piano, which will be heard on Tuesday night, Feb. 27, at the Jewish Center, 54 North Hamilton street, is the only ensemble of its kind in this country devoted to the piano quartets of the classic and contemporary composers. The concert is scheduled to start at 8:15 o'clock. . . .
L. Arthur Turkisher, cellist and composer, has toured throughout this country as soloist with the major symphony orchestras. A graduate of the Institute of Musical Art in New York, he brings a great wealth of knowledge to the music, at hand. He recently discovered the Shostakovich quartet and arranged for its premier performance on Royale records.
But thanks to government records, a few clippings and city directories, we’re able to piece together a bit more. Laci Arthur Turkisher was born Christmas Day 1913 in New York City to Edward and Helen Czukor Turkisher. His parents came to the U.S. from Hungary in 1907. His family was musical. Arthur’s father was a cellist, music teacher and composer, and crafted stock scores for silent cartoons. Interestingly, the 1940 Census has his father living in Miami with the occupation of “Musician, sound studio.” It is tempting to think Edward was working on the Fleischer cartoons, especially since he and Fleischer composer Winston Sharples both worked on the score of a documentary 10 years later.

Turkisher was performing in public when he was almost 15, giving a violin recital in 1928, according to the New York Herald Tribune of December 16th that year. But more germane to our tale is a listing in the 1933 New York Directory, which gives Turkisher’s occupation as “employee, Fleischer Studios, Inc.” Turkisher was assisting Lou Fleischer in the music department with scores. By that time, Grim Natwick had left Fleischer’s to animate on the West Coast for Iwerks. Berny Wolf, Al Eugster and Jimmie Culhane followed. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that one of them suggested to Carl Stalling or Iwerks himself that he hire Turkisher. However it happened, Turkisher was at Iwerks’ Beverly Hills studio the following year.

Why did Turkisher leave Iwerks? Of Mice and Magic states that some staff members were laid off in 1935 while others quit because of tight money. Producer Pat Powers pumped a lot of promotional money into the Disney-imitating ComiColors, but prints were rented on a state’s right basis, meaning the Iwerks studio couldn’t expect the kind of money for them as it would receive from a release by a major, theatre-owning distributor (such as MGM, which handled Iwerks’ Willie Whopper shorts). It could be that Turkisher left at that time, but the answer may be lost in the past. Whatever the reason, the studio closed in 1936. In May 1937, he was back in New York where he married Irma Jurist. Her father Simeon was, for a short period after World War Two, a copyist for Paramount’s Famous cartoon studio; afterward the father and daughter were both caught up in the HUAC investigations. It would appear that Art and Irma divorced prior to 1944 (her passport that year lists her as single) and at some time, Turkisher married someone else named Irma (who went by “Judy”).

Besides a few cello concerts, the only other musical reference to Turkisher I can find after departing Iwerks is in the June 1943 edition of the Radio Mirror, which reprinted the sheet music for one of his songs.

Turkisher enlisted in the U.S. Navy in April 1943 and rose to the rank of Radarman, First Class, before being discharged in October 1945. The Manhattan City directory of 1949 discloses that Turkisher was in the diamond business; he moved to White Plains by the early ‘50s where he and his wife enjoyed golf (she potted a hole in one) and he was involved in a minor car accident in May 1965. Soon after this, there are several newspaper stories stating that Turkisher was now running a 64-car fleet of taxis out of the Bronx; the New York Times of January 16, 1968 reported the cab company had been organised by his father-in-law, and that Turkisher took it over upon the old man’s death in 1953, giving up his jobs as a diamond importer and film editor/producer in the process.

When he and his wife retired to Florida is unknown.

There’s little to say about Turkisher’s work at Iwerks. Much of his first cartoon was done in verse. The huge success of “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” in the Disney cartoon The Three Little Pigs seems to have inspired studios to plunk original songs in their cartoon shorts in the hopes it would mean a wolf-like financial windfall. The opening lyrics for Turkisher’s tune:

Hammering away at his desk all day
Sits a toymaker working on his toys.
Soldiers bright and neat
Now the set’s almost complete
So to bring lots of fun to little boys.

Those lyrics aren’t exactly Disney calibre, are they? And all they do is mimic what the audience can see on the screen. Turkisher includes “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” in the score, as well as “Taps” when the spirits of the soldier and his girl-friend rise to Toy Heaven after being burned.

In Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, there’s a nice folk music feel in places, with Turkisher including a guitar (and, I believe, a celeste) in the orchestrations. Again, part of the cartoon is treated as an operetta, with some dialogue almost being sung. He tosses in the NBC chimes twice strictly as a pop culture reference as there is nothing about radios on the screen. The first minute and a half of Reducing Créme features variations on the opening title theme. Turkisher seems content to let his melodies play out; when the shrunken Willie is chased by the cat on the table, there’s no change in tempo or orchestration, a kind of rhythmic dance piece just carries on whatever the action is on the screen, then it’s back to the Willie theme before nice little percolating tune when the cat is after Willie on a roller skate.

In essence, Turkisher’s music is for strictly for mood; no wonder Iwerks or Powers or maybe Stalling thought it was just as easy buying records and playing them in the background of future shorts. Still, it’s no worse than some of what was being composed for cartoons in 1934, a period of animation whose scores deserve wider examination.

Friday, 18 August 2017

That Trick Never Works

“Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat,” says Bullwinkle. You know the routine. Anything but a rabbit comes out.

If you watch the animation frame by frame, you’ll see multiples of Bullwinkle’s gloves as his arm moves.

How do you get Bullwinkle to read better in the scene? Simple. Just eliminate Rocky. Poof! He’s gone

More multiple gloves.

Bullwinkle gracefully wiggles his fingers.

The animation of these “Special feature” intros is a lot better than what’s in the actual cartoons. I presume they were done in Los Angeles instead of the nascent ValMar studio in Mexico City.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Smearing the Soldier

Popeye punches Bluto against a wall so hard he bounces back in the “highlights” cartoon I’m in the Army Now” (1936).

The action goes faster and faster until Bluto becomes a blur in multiples and Popeye’s forearms turn into smear animation.

Since this is mainly a compilation cartoon, only Dave Fleischer’s name is on the credits.

By the way, I love how Olive Oyl decides she wants a man in a uniform, so Popeye rushes to join the Army. Uh, Olive, isn’t Popeye wearing a uniform?

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Martin Sans Rowan

Dan Rowan and Dick Martin were nightclub comedians who made it big—monster big—in 1968 with Laugh-In. They had been together maybe 15 years at that point. But Martin had a brief solo career as actor which was pretty much doomed from the start.

Lucille Ball wanted to move on from I Love Lucy so she bought the right to a book about a divorced woman raising her family, assembled a cast and began shooting The Lucy Show. The problem was TV viewers were accustomed to seeing—and, I suspect, wanted to see—Lucy get into and out of scrapes with her best pal and pull one over under the disapproving eye of the male authority figure. You know, just like on I Love Lucy.

So any similarity between Lucy’s show and Irene Kampen’s book soon disappeared. Before long, Lucy and Vivian Vance were pulling shenanigans while television’s most dour man, Gale Gordon, groused, burned or shouted. What else did the show need? Nothing. So Lucy and Viv’s kids disappeared. And so did the next door neighbour who kind of, may have been, sort of was, Lucy’s boy-friend. He was played by Dick Martin.

Why did he leave the show? “They obviously didn’t need me,” he told the Archive of American Television. And if you watch any of those first episodes, you may wonder why he was even there. (A notable exception was an episode where, silent-film style, Lucy played a 1920s flapper trying to mooch a meal in a restaurant/tavern, with Martin as the waiter).

But Martin never knew any of that was ahead when he talked about his new job, and his pairing with Rowan, in an interview with the King Features Syndicate. This feature story appeared in newspapers on February 26, 1963.

TV Keynotes
Comedian Plays Straight Role

HOLLYWOOD — "I'm really George Burns," says comic Dick Martin, talking about his role of Harry Connors, the next door neighbor on the Monday night CBS Lucy Show.
Martin gets all the punch lines for the comedy team of Rowan and Martin. He's the talkative drunk, the idiot diet expert, the fella with the two big eyes who won't shut up, as he pulls all the laughs in night clubs and on Ed Sullivan's Show, while his handsome partner, Dan Rowan, plays straight man.
On the Lucy Show, it's the reverse with Martin playing straight man for Gracie-Lucy. And what a straight man, he is—Harry gets one line every five shows so far. "The first six were written before Harry was cast," says Dick Martin who is not complaining a bit.
In episodes coming up this winter and spring Harry will have more to say. He does a couple of shows, and then goes to San Francisco for a hotel date with partner Rowan. When the two return to Hollywood a few weeks later, Martin shoots some more and takes off again with Rowan, so the Lucy Show isn't interfering with the Rowan and Martin comedy career.
Likes Character Switch
When the idea of a character like Harry Connors came up Lucy immediately thought of her old friend Dick Martin. Other names were tossed in the hopper, but Lucy could only see Dick Martin. He came in for a reading and Lucy said, "play yourself as I know you. Don't play your comedy character." Martin did and got the job.
"I like the switch in character," says Martin. "It's great for me not playing an idiot."
"There's not much you can really do with the part," says Martin. "I'm just the fella who is always around when Lucy needs him. I can't be brought in for the romantic interest—that would limit the show. Lucy has to have other dates. But none of that matters. I like doing another character and I should pay to just be with these people. You can't call it work."
Hard To Follow Script
The only work for Martin comes in saying lines as they're written. He's not used to it. "Dan and I have been working for nine years, and I don't think we've ever repeated a routine word for word," says Martin.
"Then I get a script on the Lucy Show and I'm supposed to do it exactly as written. That's a problem.
"We have a framework to work from," continued Martin. "In London's Palladium we were told 'we had a frightfully elastic script." When the two did "Babes in Toyland" and "The Red Mill" in the St. Louis Municipal Opera House, they rewrote both musicals. "We're used to working nose-to-nose," said Martin. "But in St. Louis the mikes were 8 feet apart and I felt all alone."
Summer musicals and parts like Harry Connors are efforts by the team to move out of the night club circuit if possible. The two have seen the country and Australia, and they would like to stay home and be able to work. "We carry golf clubs and a tuxedo on the circuit," says Martin. "Golf helps combat boredom, but in the wintertime life on the road is pretty dull. You can blow all the movies in a strange city in two days."
Golf is the big game among night club entertainers. They, at least, can get on a course during the week. Among all the courses Martin has played, one on the Fiji Island, a stop-over on the road to Australia, sticks out in his mind. "You have to hire three kids to caddy there," he says. "Kids pick up the balls with their feet and walk off, unless you ship them a quarter. And the fairways are narrow. One slice and you're in the oven."
Rowan and Martin have also learned from experience to play hotels rather than straight night clubs. From a financial point of view, of course. "You play hotels," says Martin "and your room is paid. That's a big saving. You can also go to your room between shows and read. Another plus. You can almost call it forced savings."
But there's no place like home, or work on a series like Lucy. Martin is getting some reading done on the set too. He's learning about self-hypnosis after watching hypnotists for half his life in clubs.
"I'm trying to learn how to sleep on planes." says Martin. "I think this book can help."
Maybe the book will help Martin on planes, but it really sounds like the basis for a pretty funny Lucy script.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

One Step Ahead of My Shadow Backgrounds

It’s really unfortunate that few artists were ever credited in animated cartoons in the 1930s. It’d be great to know for certain who was responsible for backgrounds, layouts, even the animation itself.

Here are some nice, effective backgrounds for the Merrie Melodies short One Step Ahead of My Shadow (1933). Who drew them? No one today may know. The gong in the opening shot is on a cel (as is the character and his mallet), but the rest of the work is by the unknown background artist.

Hugh Harman or Rudy Ising go for an overlay with a tree in this scene. Very effective and attractive.

The layout artist has designed shots at an angle instead of a stage viewpoint in various parts of the cartoon.

The blossoming trees in the foreground are on an overlay.

More angles. The backgrounds feature tapestries, rugs and screens.

Friz Freleng and Max Maxwell are the credited animators on this short. The title song by Irving Kahal and Sammy Fain is featured hot-cha style and, as usual in a Harman-Ising Merrie Melodie, it bops along at double-time in the second half when the bad guy (a dragon) chases the good guys (the little boy and girl). The soundtrack also includes “Chinatown, My Chinatown.”

Monday, 14 August 2017

People! People!

In the opening of The Cat That Hated People (1949), the title character begins to elucidate why he is what he is. He paces, waves his arms and clenches his fists in a lengthy bit of animation with a different drawing on each frame. Look at the varied poses.

I believe the animation is by Mike Lah. Bill Shull, Walt Clinton and Louis Schmitt also receive animation credits. The cat’s voice is a growly version of Jimmy Durante; several people who did voices for Tex Avery at MGM drew on Durante, so I can’t tell you who did this cartoon.