Monday, 16 January 2017

Little Roquefort

There is absolutely no doubt, even to the most casual of old animation fans, which studio this drawing came from.

Yes, the gooney expression with one eye a different size than the other could only be from a Terrytoon. Really, Jim Tyer epitomises the studio. His characters have such an odd way of squashing and stretching.

Here are drawings from a scene from Good Mouse Keeping (1952). Look how squat the mouse becomes. I can’t possibly picture an animator at MGM or Warners (and certainly not Disney) drawing character porportions anything like this.

Here are drawings from Tyer’s shrink take that later expands to a large eye.

There’s some really well-executed animation in the next scene where a glove (with Little Roquefort inside) carries a jar of paint. The glove has a jaunty hop, accompanied by a nice piece of skippy music by Phil Scheib.

Tyer and the rest of the animators were never credited on screen while Paul Terry ran the studio.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Tralfaz Sunday Theatre — Charlie's Haunt

Edgar Bergen had gone full circle by 1957. He started out in nightclubs in the early '30s, became a smash on radio, segued into television with the quiz show "Do You Trust Your Wife?" and when he left the show in '57, he went back into nightclub work.

He also shot a half-hour commercial for Bell Telephone produced by Jerry Fairbanks Productions.* Charlie's Haunt seems to have been designed to show in schools to teach kids about safety. "Charlie," as you might expect, is Bergen's main dummy, Charlie McCarthy.

While Bergen stars in this, star at the beginning is Jack Benny's announcer, Don Wilson, who we first see on the phone talking to Rochester (we don't hear or see Eddie Anderson in this industrial film). He doesn't seem to know where he is but that doesn't stop him from chatting with some stranger (played by Owen Howlin, who made The Blob the next year) who weaves together stories that gets across the film's message.

Also seen at the start of this film, unless I'm mistaken, is a young Sheila Kuehl. There are a bunch of uncredited actors in this. The director is Robert Florey, who had moved into television after a long career in the movies, silent and sound.

Watch Charlie's Haunt below.

* The internet seems to think this film was made in 1950. However it is listed under "Recent Films" for Fairbanks in the Feb. 20, 1958 edition of Business Screen magazine, and Fairbanks' papers at UCLA have it in the box of scripts by Leo S. Rosencrans dated July 1, 1957-Feb. 1958.

The Life and Times of Jack Benny, Part 2 of 6

Jack Benny didn’t exist until 1920. Before that, Benny Kubelsky used several other stage monikers as he made his way from town to town on a non-stop journey to entertain.

The New York Post looked at Benny’s early years in the second of a six-part series on Benny’s life. This was published on February 4, 1958.

The Jack Benny Story

The 1895 edition of Longman's Gazetteer of the World describes Waukegan, Ill., as a pleasure resort gurgling with mineral springs, situated on a bluff 80 feet above Lake Michigan, a favorite residence of Chicago business men, active in the manufacture of iron and steel goods, with a burgeoning population of 5,000.
No mention is made of Waukegan's most celebrated tourist attraction, but the omission is pardonable on the several grounds that Jack Benny was born only a year earlier, that the event actually took place in a hospital in Chicago, 36 miles to the south, and that his real name, Benny Kubelsky, was not calculated to make the social notes of the 19th century Midwest. The first-born of Mayer and Emma Sachs, Kubelsky, Benny grew up in fairly comfortable obscurity, disturbed only by his parents' ambitions for him as a concert violinist.
Mayer, the proprietor first of a saloon, then of a clothing store, was solvent enough to buy his son a $50 violin on Benny's sixth birthday, and while it was never quite put to the use for which it was intended, it re-paid the initial investment several thousand times over in the course of the next 58 years.
"We were not well off," Benny recalled recently, "but we weren't poor. I've always said to anyone who wanted to write about my life that I didn't have to sell newspapers barefoot in the snow. There was always money for my violin lessons and we had all the necessities."
The Violin
With a reckless disregard for the conventions of modern show business case history, he continued:
"I had a perfectly normal, pleasant middle-class childhood. We were a close and affectionate family but there was nothing unusual about that I suppose you'd describe ours as a happy home. My mother was a very sweet woman most of the time but she had a terrific temper sometimes and it was usually directed at me ... My father was a very gentle and angelic man. But my parents had nothing to do with shaping my life and neither of them had any great influence on me."
Mrs. Kubelsky's tirades were largely occasioned by Benny's unscholarly behavior at school and with the violin.
"I was very bad in school, I hated it," he said. "I had practically no education. I was disinterested . . . And," he added with the pride of the millionaire who was voted least likely to succeed, "they threw me out in the second year of high school because I skipped classes to play with the orchestra in a Waukegan movie house.
"All I was interested in doing was playing the fiddle. I always loved the violin and I was good, but I was like a golfer who would rather play than practice. I'd get bored with long exercises. As a matter of fact I enjoy practicing the violin now more than I did then."
After his premature and unceremonious departure from high school, Benny, at 15, began spending most of his time at the Barrison Theater, Waukegan's only movie, vaudeville and miscellaneous entertainment emporium.
"I was irresistibly drawn to the theater but I didn't realize it," he said. "I would do anything from being a doorman to a porter to be there."
Between assignments with the orchestra Benny did do just about everything at the theater. One week, when he was 16, the Marx Bros. played an engagement there and their mother asked Benny if he would like to join their tour as orchestra leader. The Kubelskys refused him permission to go.
On the Road
He got his second chance when the theater closed down and Cora Salisbury, a spinsterish woman in her 40s who conducted the Barrison Orchestra, offered to team up with him as a vaudeville act.
With an obviously distressing recollection of that first and final leave-taking, Benny said: "There wasn't much of a row with my parents, but there was a scene—but I went anyway."
His sister, six years younger than Benny (she is now Mrs. Florence Fenschell, wife of a Jello Co. executive in Chicago), recalls that when he announced his decision to the family, his parents were stunned and Mrs. Kubelsky bitterly accused him of using the money they had spent on his violin lessons to make himself "a clown on the vaudeville stage."
Peace was restored when Cora herself came to the house for a heart-to-heart talk with Benny's mother. "She promised mother that she would take care of Jack and I think mother consented because she had so much confidence in Miss Salisbury. But looking back on it I don't think she ever changed her mind about vaudeville. Her heart was set on my brother becoming a great violinist."
"If there is one disappointment in my life," says Benny, "It's that my mother, who died at the age of 47, died believing nothing good was happening with my life.
"My parents thought I'd never get anywhere in any business. When my mother died, I had even given up playing the violin in vaudeville to do comedy and my career was kind of at a standstill. She died disappointed. Fortunately my father did see some good come out of my comedy."
Mayer Kubelsky lived past his 80th year, and saw not merely good but fame, early retirement and winters in Miami come from his son's comedy. In his latter years he had so completely forgotten his early disappointment," Benny says, "that whenever he went to Florida, he would always make them listen to my radio shows Sunday night and if they didn't like a show he'd get very mad at them. And he'd always make them take autographed pictures of me whether they wanted them or not."
Benny Rubin remembers how he used to put up at Mr. Kubelsky's house whenever he played Waukegan.
"Jack's father was what Jack is—an angel," he said. "He was as gentle a soul as you could find. But one thing killed me, I used to get him a box seat to watch me perform and I'd work like hell out there to please him. Invariably when the show was over and I'd see Papa, I'd say, 'How didya like the show?' And just as often he'd say, 'I got a letter front Jack today ...' and go right on as if I hadn't said a word."
A year after the unlikely sounding team of Salisbury and Benny (Jack's first stage name was Ben K. Benny) took its theatrical vows, Cora was forced to return to Waukegan to care for her ailing father. Abruptly set adrift in the lowlands of vaudeville, Benny quickly attached himself to a Chicago pianist named Lyman Woods. Benny and Woods attracted considerably more attention than the earlier combination and the team got such widely scattered bookings as Seattle, Wash., and the London Palladium.
A 'Single'
But Benny and Woods were put asunder by the untimely advent of America's entrance into World War I. Benny joined the Navy and was assigned to a special services unit whose specialty was entertaining the troops.
Lost now to memory is the day when he first began mixing the violin with comedy. Various accounts have attributed this significant departure to the advice of a commanding officer, the advice of actor Pat O'Brien (no one is quite sure how he got mixed up in the thing) and to a fateful moment of stage-fright when Benny's bow-hand froze and he began telling jokes for dear life.
In any case, the doughboys soon became familiar with "Corporal Izzy There" (Benny), who usually made his entrance by asking, "How's the show going?" and when the audience replied, "Fine," he would say, "I'll fix that." It didn't lay them in the aisles but it had a certain charm.
After the war Benny went out for the first time as a single and began his real vaudeville apprenticeship on the tank-town circuit. A couple of times, when his comic invention seemed to be wearing thin, he took a stab at serious fiddling again. But the wave of the future cast him continually among comedians, an element in which he was always more at home.
His friendship with Gracie Allen and George Burns sprang up in the early Twenties, and the latter began almost immediately to exert the hypnotic power of laughter over Benny that he still retains.
"Jack has a very peculiar sense of humor off-stage," says Burns. "I remember a time he had a date with this girl who was one of Gracie's roommates [Mary Kelly]. Jack had just come in off the road and he and the girl got into a fight. The girl called him everything and started to cry just about the time the room service waiter arrived.
"So, with the tears running down her face she started ordering: large orange juice, scrambled eggs, bacon crisp, hashed brown potatoes, rye bread, large pot of coffee. And she bawled him out again when she finished ordering. All this time Jack was on the floor laughing his head off."
Once, Burns said, when he was in Chicago and Jack was playing Milwaukee, Jack sent a wire asking Burns to meet him at the Chicago station at 9 a.m. on a certain day. "I wired back, 'I'll be glad to, what time are you coming in?' He wired back, 'Be in at 9.' I wired him, 'Skip it if you don't want to tell me what time you're coming in.' Suddenly I began getting wires from people like Nora Bayes, Sophie Tucker, J. C. Flippen and Belle Baker, maybe 25 telegrams in all from all over the country, saying, 'Jack Benny will be in at 9 o'clock.'
"I didn't meet him. When Jack walked in he said, 'Why the hell didn't you meet me?' I said, 'Because I didn't know when you were coming in,' and he collapsed on the floor laughing."
Sending and receiving gag telegrams seems to have occupied at least half of Benny's time in those days. But just before Christmas in 1925 he got a wire that was in dead earnest. It was from the Vaudeville Managers Protective Assn., informing him that he had to give up the name of Ben Benny because another comic fiddler had a prior claim on a very similar name—Ben Bernie.
After a not too strenuous session of thought, he came up with the name of Jack Benny. There have been no further complaints.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Birdie, Eating Ham and Dressing For the Hood

Actors can be easily typecast, but Dick Gautier wasn’t one of them. In his TV career, he played a secret agent robot programmed for niceness, a satiric version of Robin Hood and the friend of a super-hero gas station attendant.

On top of that, Gautier could write songs, draw caricatures and won raves for his stand-up comedy. Composer Charles Strouse saw him at the Blue Angel in New York and asked him to audition for Bye Bye Birdie playing a parody of Elvis Presley. It was his first professional role and for it he landed a Tony nomination, as well propositions from older female audience members.

Gautier died this past Friday the 13th. He was 85.

Regular readers to this blog, I suspect, remember him best as Hymie on Get Smart which, for the first few seasons, was one of the smartest shows on TV. Gautier made such an impression, it’s hard to realise he was only on the show occasionally. He ended up going for the security of a regular role in a series. Unfortunately, the series was Mr. Terrific which, for its only season, was one of lamest shows on TV.

Here are a couple of newspaper interviews with Gautier. The first is the Brooklyn Eagle, December 19, 1960 (the photo with it of Gautier with Paul Lynde and Michael J. Pollard is from the Museum of the City of New York). The second is a syndicated piece pulled from the September 27, 1975 edition of the Utica Observer-Dispatch.

Norman Wilner Interviews
I asked Dick Gautier, who plays one of the leads in "Bye Bye Birdie" if he suffers from stagefright. “No,” he said. “I may yawn from nervousness and sometimes I urinate but no real stagefright like some performers. One thing that bothers me a bit is the stigma of being classified as a rock and roller because I play an Elvis Presley type in ‘Birdie’.”
I said you don't mean to say people are actually idiotic enough to identify you with the role you play? He chuckled. "You're not going to get me to say that in print, Charlie. I’m a moody guy but I'm not temperamental. I never take out my temper on people but I did used to put my fist through doors when I was younger. People who took advantage of somebody gullible get me mad but I'm not actually hostile to anybody. I can't be hostile, it's not my nature. I may be intolerant of people who are lazy mentally, people who speak bad English because they are slothful but that's about it."
Gautier was sitting in his shorts in his dressing room. He is 6 feet tall, weighs 180 pounds, has heavy eyebrows, looks like one of these virile French Canadians but actually, he was born in Hollywood. Only 29, he is extremely literate, well read despite the fact that he only completed high school and I commented on that. He said "I don't believe the educational system teaches you how to think. Education teaches you how to memorize and compete, that's all.
The more a person seeks knowledge and, even more important, develops a sensibility for beauty, the better educated he is, in my opinion."
Young Gautier draws, paints, sculpts, has written over 300 pop tunes, short stories, takes singing and jazz dancing lessons and manages to find time to play with his two young children. "I'm not great at painting but I enjoy it. Sure I sell some of my paintings but I don't like to make a business out of it, I'd rather keep it as a hobby. I'm aggressive as a person but not in a business sense. I mean I don't beat around the bush, I say what's on my mind, I tell people what I think but I'm not a go-out-and-hustle-guy. I made about $20,000 last year but if I weren't happy in "my work, I'd quit it tomorrow. I don't care if Jackie Gleason makes a million bucks a year, more power to him, I don't envy anybody. My ambition is happiness."
Gautier started working with puppets when he was 6 years old and just naturally gravitated into show business. He has played the smart clubs like the Blue Angel and the hungry i. One of his routines is a satire on Oedipus Rex." Any kid who loves his mother that much can't be all bad." Funny line. He writes much of his own material with the aid of Gary Belkin, a professional gag writer. They sit around and throw material back and forth at each other until Gautier has a routine worked out to his own satisfaction. The running rate for most comedy material is about $100 a minute. He once took a walk-on part in a Sid Caeser TV show just so he could meet him. He considers Caeser a genius. "Even at his worst, he was better than most TV. [I] also admire Chaplin and W.C. Fields. I'd love to produce and direct movies some day but who can predict? Right now, if I personally can come up with one good joke a day, I consider that I'm doing great. I think I get a better feeling out of doing my nightclub act rather than the theatre because it's me. I don't do mother-in-law jokes, there's so much to satirize."
He likes to cook, has a marvelous recipe for Chinese Cinnamon Chicken. He is not politically minded, although he voted for Kennedy and before that for Stevenson. He is a liberal. Then we had a big argument about the literary merits of J. D. Salinger and Dostoievsky. Then I asked him about religion. "I don't believe in organized religion. I believe if there were no such things as semantics, there would be no separate cults. Not eating fish on Friday or ham is unimportant. I don't think God really cares. I believe I can pray in my own way better."
Gautier gets up around 11 and keeps going till bedtime. He loves movies. He believes in having fun. When I asked him how he could possibly love some of the dopey movies around, he grinned "I don't believe in getting snobbish. It's like song writing. If I were to try to compete professionally with song writers, I'd be a real dud. I think I'm a good comedian but I've still got a lot to learn." He got dressed and went off to Sardi's. I went off to Paddy's Clam House.

Gautier’s Biggest Problem Is Baggy Knees in His His Pants

HOLLYWOOD — Actor Dick Gautier has two big problems with his ABC series "When Things Were Rotten": remembering to fence right-handed and to keep his knees from sagging.
He says:
"Being left-handed was never a problem for me before I was signed for the show — and everyone had to learn to fence. It took five weeks of coaching, three times a week, before I reached the point where I wouldn't be dangerous to everyone — including myself. I not only developed some style, but leg muscles as well. Errol Flynn, eat your heart out."
Gautier had a tough time with his costume.
"We are all suffering from baggy knees.I wondered why wardrobe advised, me to keep my nails buffed smooth and shot when they handed out costumes, but after the first hour — I knew why: I'm always pulling up my tights. Can't let Robin Hood — legendary swashbuckling English folk hero — have baggy knees. Not neat.
"The next hardest thing for me — for everybody on the show — is to keep a straight face when we're fighting the giggles because of the absolute madness going on in front and behind the cameras."
Twenty-five years ago, Dick's friends in the high school drama club were less successful fighting the giggles at his classroom antics that eventually got him suspended. That marked the end of his formal education and the beginning of his professional career.
"I grew a moustache, lowered my voice and got a job doing classic blackout sketches between the strip acts in a San Diego burlesque house," he said.
From burlesque he became a band singer before enlisting in the U.S. Navy where he managed to combine four years in Special Services with appearances on San Diego TV, in a local nightclub, and singing with Horace Heidt's band. Following his discharge and a year performing in a San Francisco nitery, the Culver City, Calif., native headed for New York, where he sustained himself designing greeting cards, working as a sandblaster, waiter, and pogo stick demonstrator, until getting a job at Upstairs At the Duplex in the Village. From there he moved his comedy patter to the Blue Angel and Bonsoir nightclubs, and TV appearances with Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen, and Jack Paar.
After a concert tour with the Kingston Trio, he beat out 500 aspiring actors for a lead in "Bye Bye Birdie" and steady work for 996 performances along with a Tony nomination and being named Broadway's most promising newcomer in 1971 [1961].
He hasn't stopped working since.
Films include "Divorce, American Style," "The Manchu Eagle," "Ensign Pulver," "God Bless You Uncle Sam" and "Mary Jane," which he coscripted, and musicals "Little Me," "Cabaret," "South Pacific" and "The Owl and the Pussycat," inbetween TV guest roles and his earlier series "Get Smart" (He was the lovable robot), "Here We Go Again," and "Mr. Terrific."
Gautier sums up:
"I consider myself very fortunate. There are lots of good actors here who never break out of a category, and I have. I was offered more parts, better roles and more series and I just keep growing.
“This is a hard business. There's a lot of physical stamina required. A lot of really talented performers don't last because they don't have the energy. No other reason.”
Actress Barbara Stuart is Dick's second wife. "We met on a blind date. We went to the opening of 'Mutiny on The Bounty — the second one with Brando. We went together two years and have been married eight." A short pause for dramatic effect — for breath, and he continues. "Barbara just completed a pilot with Barry Nelson and if it sells she'll be working in New York five or six months a year. Before we were married we worked together on two pilots which didn't sell, and game shows like 'Tattle-tales' are all we've done together since getting married.”

I really didn’t fully appreciate Gautier’s talents until I read Kliph Nesteroff’s interview with him. Gautier was smart and articulate. Kliph, you should know, is the man to go to when it comes to stand-up acts of days gone by. Read his interview here, here, here, and here.

The Educational Banana

It’s tough to say who was the most popular cartoon character in the earliest days of network television (that is, the mid to late 1940s), but a case could be made for a singing banana.

Old theatrical animated shorts had appeared on television screens in the experimental days of the early ‘30s and again from the time of the World’s Fair in New York until TV programming was cut due to the war. By “old,” I mean silent Aesop Fables. But after the war, when TV became a serious business, the only new cartoons anyone could see on the tube were animated commercials.

Two series of cartoon spots captured the imagination the most, at least by my estimation. One starred the Ajax elves, animated at Shamus Culhane’s studio in New York. The other was the almost minute-and-a-half-long spots for Chiquita Bananas, animated by John Sutherland’s studio on the West Coast. Both featured snappy jingles. Culhane’s were made especially for TV; Sutherland’s were intended for TV but made their first appearances in theatres.

The trade magazine Sponsor wrote about Chiquita on several occasions; that should indicate how popular the ads were. This feature story was published in the February 13, 1950 edition. It’s a shame the strip of animation drawings fell in the gutter between pages so you can’t see the astronomer character. The story doesn’t focus a lot about the cartoons but raises something we all take for granted—how colour cartoons appear on a black-and-white screen. You can have a chuckle as the promotions guy of the United Fruit Company tries to sell the Chiquita commercials as a public service/educational tool. The idea that the company hadn’t a clue if the ads did anything for his company’s sales is far-fetched, to be polite.

No Siesta For Chiquita
How a synthetic senorita educated and expanded the banana market

Chiquita Banana, United Fruit's golden bonanza gal, is one of advertising's busiest and best liked personalities.
She has guest starred on the Fred Allen, Edgar Bergen, Dinah Shore, RCA Victor, Coca-Cola, Ellery Queen and Alec Templeton programs; appeared before Ohio State University's Institute for Education by Radio; and with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
She’s turned up in the Harvard Lampoon and the New Yorker; in the editorial columns of Time magazine and the Christian Science Monitor; served as the text of a sermon at the Euclid Baptist Church in Cleveland; and was parodied to get out the political vote at Newton Center, Mass.
She's hopped to Hollywood for a bit part in "This Time for Keeps," with Xavier Cugat and Esther Williams. Today she's a movie queen in her own right, having appeared in a series of 80-second Technicolor shorts in 850 theatres throughout the U. S. During the presidential elections, she made her informal TV debut, livening up returns via CBS-TV in Boston.
She has lent a helping hand to starving kids abroad. To get a plea for food relief to the greatest audience, United Fruit not only yanked all commercial announcements, it also added 80 stations in 38 cities to its regular schedule of broadcasts.
As this article went to press, Chiquita was worried about the New York water shortage: she recorded a jingle along these lines: "Here's Chiquita to say something we should remember each day. Our H2O supply is getting very low, don't use water unless you think you oughter."
She likes to applaud and enhance the other fellow's success, and has spent considerable time plugging other fruits. During National Apple Week, she was heard over a national hookup with a jingle starting:

"I'm Chiquita Banana and I've got a beau,
A chap from North America you ought to know.
His name is Mr. Apple, and he has such taste,
He's a fav'rite at whatever table he's placed . . ."

Chiquita, the gal who never rests, has done big things for UF. Demand for the company's bananas is now running 20 percent ahead of supply. And the company is so sold on Chiquita's power to influence listeners and viewers that it has decided to allocate $200,000-$300,000 to AM and $250,000 to TV out of a $1,500,000 advertising budget for 1950. This represents a $100,000 increase in the broadcasting budget over 1949. (Remainder of the ad budget is spread over newspapers, magazines, motion pictures, cooking schools, demonstrations, luncheon services, cooperative advertising, conventions, and publicity.)
Here's what motivates UF's wholesale use of Chiquita, as explained by R. C. Partridge, advertising manager of United Fruit: 1) long-range vision and planning; 2) a refreshing advertising philosophy; 3) a conviction that education can be fun for teacher and pupil.
"We aren't trying to sell bananas in place of other fruit." says Mr. Partridge. "We're trying to do a job for the entire industry. The cooperation we have received from other fruit and food industries, in return for our own, is one of the most satisfying results of our entire campaign. Too, we aren't thinking just of today, but of tomorrow. Chiquita and I are having so much fun, that even if I had an independent income, I could still enjoy doing this job for the sheer love of it.
All during the years when the Great White Fleet was in war service, long-range thinking was going on in the United Fruit conference room at Pier 3, North River, New York. Ships were not available to move the banana crop, but the far-flung plantations were kept free from jungle growth against the day when they could produce again.
Bananas are an excellent baby food. The baby crop would sprout after the war. UF reasoned that the demand for bananas would top the normal pre-war volume of 100,000,000 hunches a year. (That is still the volume shipped, but improved agricultural methods have increased the weight.)
“By mid-summer of ‘44,” Mr. Partridge said, “the war clouds were lifting and we felt that we should get started on our educational job. We all agreed people hate to do things because 'it’s good for you.' But it was important that consumers know two things: bananas make best eating when they are flecked with brown: to get them that way they should be allowed to ripen at room temperature.
“We had done radio advertising previously. Before, and during the early part of the war, we sponsored 'The World Today', a 15-minute newscast on the CBS network. We had also sponsored sporadic spot campaigns and, particularly, participation in women's homemaking programs— always on an educational basis. This time we were prepared to make our educational approach more personal, and to spend more money than ever before to back an extensive, highly integrated and hard-hitting campaign.”
UF took its problem to BBD&O. In September, two slightly groggy young men emerged from the music room with Chiquita Banana. Garth Montgomery, lyricist, handed the script to a vocal office girl, swept a handful of paper clips into a Dixie cup to simulate a maraca, and composer Len MacKenzie whammed out the catchy score.
The agency went overboard. So did UF when orchestra leader Ray Bloch and Patti Clayton, the original Chiquita, put on a dress rehearsal and gave out with:

"I'm Chiquita Banana and I've come to say
Bananas have to ripen in a certain way . . .
Bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator,
So you should never put bananas in the refrigerator . . ."

Listeners to the jingle, aired on 75 stations, were more reserved. “For six months,” Partridge recalls, “nothing much happened. Then a woman phoned, begging for a record of the jingle, even a cracked one. She was worn out dialing around all day trying to catch Chiquita for her youngster.”
After that, things began to happen in the volume indicated at the beginning of this article.
By November, 1945, the jingle was being heard over 138 stations in the U. S. in 55 markets: and over 24 stations in Canada in 21 markets, five of which used a French version which the agency produced and Chiquita learned and recorded in Montreal.
Peak radio advertising was reached during 1945 and 1946 when the jingle was aired in the U. S. and Canada over 300 to 400 stations on a budget exceeding $1,000,000. Currently, it is scheduled over the Keystone Network, plus 12 major markets for a combined total of approximately 150 stations. There is no guarantee, however, that this schedule will still be in effect as you read this. Both UF and BBD&O demand flexibility, and markets are constantly changing.
Chiquita's effect has been wide-spread: she's even influenced the comics. When Frank King, creator of Gasoline Alley, showed a baby sitter raiding the refrigerator — which contained bananas — he was deluged with indignant letters. “You don't do that to bananas,” howled his readers. A chagrined King hadn't time to pull the faux pas out of the dailies, but the Sunday strip had no bananas in the refrigerator.
By this time, Chiquita had rung up another first in an increasingly long list. Recorded by at least nine different companies, the tune was being played on juke boxes all over the nation. By popular demand, UF published the song in sheet music form in the American Weekly.
Now came the problem of showing what Chiquita looked like. “As part of our long-range program,” says Partridge, “we wanted eventually to go into television, too. But it was a costly proposition, and we had a valuable property. What if the transition from vocal to vocal-visual was a let-down to viewers who might have their own mental picture of Chiquita? We decided an actual person wouldn't do; it would have to be a drawing.”
Over 155 designs were considered. Most were gay and ingratiating, but somehow they all looked like a Latin lovely you'd seen somewhere before. They weren't Chiquita. Then Partridge had a happy thought. "Look," he said, “we’re trying to make Chiquita look like a person. She's a person, all right, but she can't look like anyone else: she's a banana. What's wrong with a banana in human form?”
Obviously, nothing. With the final cartoon approved. UF plunged, not into TV, but into the toughest market of all . . . commercial films.
“We knew film houses generally don't go for commercial movies, and it's understandable. After all, a customer pays his money to be entertained. But we thought we could make it light and amusing enough so that the educational part would be fun, too.”
The education was designed to teach the audience new uses for bananas. As a vegetable, for instance, in broiled, fried, or baked form. Forty percent of the 80-second film is devoted to recipes, John Sutherland was contracted to produce the so-called "minute" movies; Monica Lewis (Chiquita number three) was to be the voice. Altogether. a series of 23 experimental films were produced. All followed the same pattern. The opening, an amusing situation. Then enter Chiquita who saves the day with a suggestion. After a graceful exit, two or three voices break in with the recipe. In some scenes dishes are shown being prepared with real ingredients by human hands because food loses its appeal when shown in cartoons.

The good taste of the films helped them crack 375 (out of 850) theatres which had never before shown a commercial film.
Chiquita was ready for TV at long last. Or so UF and BBD&O thought.
A screening of the Technicolor shorts over a closed video circuit disclosed that the recipe scenes did not televise clearly. It was difficult to distinguish, for example, the various items used in a salad plate. On the screen, the salad appeals rich and appetizing in color: on TV it transmitted as a dark mass with little or no definition between ingredients.
To improve matters, the agency decided to make a black and white print from just one of the three color negatives used in printing the movies. The green negative was chosen because it was the predominant color in the majority of the playlets. Results are excellent. The live food sequences, in particular, are bright and clear.
In the middle of November, Chiquita Banana started a 13-week test campaign on all New York and two Boston TV stations (these cities being home offices of UF, and among their largest selling areas.) Because of its unorthodox 80-second length, the spots are placed primarily in participation periods, mostly around the dinner hour, and in several instances in one-minute periods where the preceding program can he cut to accommodate it.
In the middle of January, additional TV spots were added when UF bought twice daily participation for Chiquita in the 15-minute human interest program “Stranger than Fiction” via WNAC-TV. Boston.
United Fruit has never offered a premium itself. But the Kellogg Company, in conjunction with UF, used six color transfer pictures of Chiquita and a rag doll version of the young lady, as a premium to help sell its corn-flakes.
There's no guarantee that UF won’t handle a premium itself in the future.
“Chiquita’s an unpredictable personality,” says Mr. Partridge, whose offices are overflowing with premium ideas.
“We operate,” he concluded, “on the idea that if we can create sales and good will for ourselves and allied concerns, were doing the job we set out to do. Flexibility and mobility in our own advertising, and the feeling we are contributing something to the overall advertising picture which will educate the consumer to a healthier, happier life, just about covers it.
“What Chiquita has done for sales is, of course, impossible to say because of the great demand. As for what she has accomplished in the wax of good will, the record speaks for itself.
“We are firmly convinced that every medium serves a purpose; that one does not detract from, but rather strengthens, the power of the others. There is no set allocation of our budget to any one of them. That is why our radio-TV figures for 1950 are arbitrary and preliminary, subject to change at any time. We're like an organist who pulls out the stops that will make the tune sound best.”
Right now, after five years of Chiquita, the tune still sounds mighty good.

Let’s look at some of the Chiquita cartoons (alas, in low resolution). The late ‘40s Sutherland character style is evident in these. Someone at the studio loved drawing wide-V shaped toothy grins; you’ll see one here. George Gordon and Carl Urbano seem to have been Sutherland’s key artists and True Boardman the main writer around this time, but no one (as you might expect) is credited on the animated commercials. I’d love to see these cartoons restored and made available on home video but I’ve been saying that about all the Sutherland shorts for a long time.

Friday, 13 January 2017

As Easy As Rolling Up a Log

The fox is holed up in a log, but Oswald has an idea to get him out.

Oswald decides to roll up the log.

Surprise! It’s a skunk. (Notice the exclamation marks over the two dogs’ heads).

No, it’s really that wily fox, who laughs to end another Walt Disney cartoon for the Winkler people.

This 1928 silent was animated by an uncredited Hugh Harman and Ham Hamilton, according to the fine folks at

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Don't Lose Your Head

What’s that in the far right on the background drawing that’s panned at the start of How Do I Know It’s Sunday? It is a pig’s head on a shelf with some pork sausages and ham?

Yes it is. And it even sings part of the title song to some sardines.

The background artist is unknown, but Don Williams and Frank Tipper are the credited animators.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Bachelor Father

John Forsythe was part of a new breed on television. The earliest network shows, at least the ones people remember, were little more than extensions of old radio shows, or shows featuring radio actors. Many non-radio actors were tied up with film studio contracts, and film studios didn’t look kindly on television. But as there became less and less work in films, and more and more work available on the tube (and the studios themselves began producing TV shows), actors with movie and stage experience began to land starring and secondary TV roles.

One was Forsythe. It’s hard to say if he would have been a movie star had television not come around, but he had a lengthy and continual career on the small screen. The first of his regular series was Bachelor Father, a sitcom that was very much in the vein of radio comedies a decade earlier. The show aired for five seasons starting in 1957. It was originally dropped into the powerhouse Sunday line-up by CBS, alternating with Jack Benny. Interestingly, it was the only show on the network airing between 7 and 10 p.m. on Sundays that didn’t break into the top 30 (it was opposite Maverick and another radio-esque sitcom named Sally).

Soon after the show debuted, there was a bit of a change in its focus. This story emanated from the National Enterprise Association and appeared in papers on February 13, 1958.
John Forsythe Discovers Bonanza: There's Nothing Like Teen-Age Dame

NEA Staff Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD—(NEA)— "There's Nothing Like A Dame"—a teen-age dame.
Television's "Bachelor Father"— handsome John Forsythe—made the discovery that the song lyrics of "South Pacific" didn't. He discovered there's nothing like a teen-age dame for adult TV comedy—and that there's nothing like a teen-age dame for a TV fan.
When "Bachelor Father" started on CBS last Fall, alternating every other Sunday with the Jack Benny Show, the plot emphasis was on John's romantic problems, as a sophisticated man-about-town while playing father to Noreen Corcoran, his 14-year-old niece.
"But it didn't take us long to realize we were on the wrong track," he says today. "Adult problems are limited compared to the wild problems of a teen-age girl. So we made a quick switch and now the plot accent is on Noreen’s problems and my reaction to them. It's resulted in better comedy and bigger audiences.
Today adult fans are howling over Noreen's chatter:
"I'd like to go out with Freddie but I don't know. He's an older man. He's 16," and: "I was watching an old movie on TV. Some actor named Clark Gable was in it. He looks a little like Tab Hunter."
And today teen-age TV fans dig Forsythe the most.
"It's amazing," the boyish-faced father of two daughters, Page, 7; Brooke, 4, and a son, 14-year-old Dall, told me, "In motion pictures (The Trouble With Harry, The Ambassador's Daughter) my teen-age fan mail boiled down to words like, 'Gee, you're a nice looking man.' "
But now—WOW!
Says John: "It's heavily perfumed with things like, 'How about meeting me under the clock at the Biltmore Hotel Friday afternoon?' and 'Gee, I wish I had a father like you.' I guess they think I'm the wolf I'm playing. I'd like to be," he grinned, "but I'm not."
The "I wish I had a father like you" fan mail refrain to Forsythe's easy to understand. Father may know best in the Robert Young league, but as a "Bachelor Father" even Forsythe admits: "I let Noreen get away with murder. I guess that's why the show is clicking. She's become a heroine to the teen-age set because she has an over-indulgent father. But lucky for us, even parents are amused."
Television is nothing new to Forsythe, a Cape May, N. J., lad whose Broadway and radio performances won him a movie contract that was shelved when he joined the U. S. Air Force in World War 2. In 1947 he starred in "Miracle In The Rain," the first live, one-hour commercial TV show produced in NBC's New York studio. But the show had to be produced twice.
The miracle of TV didn't work the first time.
"We were about 20 minutes into the show," Forsythe laughs, "when the director, Fred Coe, left the control booth and waiked out on the stage waving his hands and saying, 'All right, kids, hold it. We're not on the air.'
" 'Not on the air?' the cast gasped. "
" 'That's right,' groaned Coe. 'Something wrong with the transmitter on the Empire State Building. The show has been canceled. We'll try it again tomorrow night.' "
Forsythe grins about his first thoughts being about his mother.
She didn't own a TV set—only a few people did in 1947—and she had talked the owner of a neighborhood saloon into dialing out wrestling for an hour so she could watch her son act. "She was madder than I was," he chuckles.
Between TV shows Forsythe studied at Elia Kazan's studio, replaced Henry Fonda in "Mr. Roberts" on Broadway and later appeared as Lt. Fisby in the play "Teahouse of the August Moon." Today "Bachelor Father" gives him the chance to act and create, too—he's active in the production, writing and casting of the show. But he hasn't given up film acting.
"I'm just waiting," he says, "for a good picture. But they are so infrequent these days."
That “good picture” never came, not one that put him in the Clark Gable star category (though Kitten With a Whip has its fans). But he was in continual demand for several decades, starred in a number of popular shows and achieved fame. That’s not a bad consolation.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Invisible Woody

Woody Woodpecker suddenly realises that part of him isn’t there any more, thanks to invisible ink.

Even without the higher budgets of the ‘40s, Lantz and his animators still try to wring some personality out of Woody. In this scene in Destination Meatball, he puts his hand to the side of his face. And then when he decides to get revenge on Buzz Buzzard, he pushes up his sleeves (or feathers, or whatever).

There’s no credited gag writer, so I don’t know who came up with this bit where Woody drips the invisible ink on his head and his head turns out to be full of nuts and bolts.

Maybe Lantz wrote the story. Woody and Buzz both whistle The Woody Woodpecker Polka. Got to get those sheet music sales up to add to the profits, you know.

Don Patterson, La Verne Harding, Paul J. Smith and Ray Abrams are Lantz’ sole animators, though I believe Joe Voght and Tom Byrne were assisting.

Monday, 9 January 2017

More Bad Luck

Another gag from Tex Avery’s great Bad Luck Blackie. You know the premise—black cat crosses the dog’s path. Dog gets hurt.

Here’s the telephone pole gag. The kitten races up the pole from the last gag. Nice layout here. And notice how Johnny Johnsen varies the colours on the wood slats on the fence. And there are shadows, too. Lots of attention to detail that you’d expect in a 1940s MGM cartoon.

As soon as the cat reaches the top of the pole, the wires on the left start to move slightly. The cat notices. Pan to the left.

The kitten blows the whistle. How are Avery and gag man Rich Hogan going to get the cat up there to cross the dog’s path? They find a way. I like how the cat is showing how casual it is about the whole thing by having its eyes closed.

The dog gets ready to grab the kitten. Failure. Avery cuts to a close-up for the explosion. Note the sense of balance on the dog.

Just so the last scene isn’t static, Avery has the burned head outline around the dog vibrate a little bit.

Louie Schmitt, Preston Blair, Walt Clinton and Grant Simmons animated the cartoon; Schmitt designed the characters.