Monday, 25 July 2016

Not the Jones Eyes!!

Anyone want to take a guess at who was responsible for these drawings?

Far more interesting are these representations of diseases:

Whooping Cough


Rheumatic Fever


This is from the industrial short So Much For So Little, released in 1949. As you can tell from the baby with the Cindy-Lou Who eyes, nose and eyelashes, it was made by the Chuck Jones unit at Warners. Storyman Mike Maltese doesn’t get a credit but Jones’ animators do—Ken Harris, Ben Washam, Lloyd Vaughan and Phil Monroe. I don’t know which one is responsible for the smear below; it’s either Vaughan or Washam.

Bob Gribbroek, Paul Julian and Pete Alvarado are also credited. Your narrator is Frank Graham.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

More Lolly on Jack

Not one of the Hollywood gossip columnists ever wrote a bad thing about Jack Benny, at least that I can tell. All the columns I’ve ever run across praise him for being a kind and gentle man and not anything like his radio character (a point I suspect Mr. B. wanted the columnists to make clear, considering how many times he talked about it himself).

Louella Parsons of the Hearst chain was particularly friendly. Perhaps it’s because Benny fed her ego by inviting her to appear on his radio show three times (something he never did with her rival, Hedda Hopper). She devoted her entire column to Jack on a number of occasions. We’ve posted a couple of them here. Here’s another one from newspapers of November 30, 1952.

Mrs. Parsons never hesitated to make herself part of the story. She does so again in this column.
Jack Benny Is Generous, Not Stingy

Motion Picture Editor
International News Service

HOLLYWOOD—I was rushing to meet Jack Benny at my house, and as we drove up to the door, I said to Collins, my driver, "Oh, dear, that's Jack Benny's car now."
"No ma'am, Miss Parsons," said Collins, "Mr. Benny drives an old Maxwell."
This will give an idea of the impact of Jack's Jokes. All of his radio listeners firmly believe Jack is the stingiest man in Hollywood, and that he wants all the glory for himself. Nothing could be farther from the truth. After 20 years. Jack still makes these gags seem true, but in reality he is one of the most generous of men, the kindest, and the people who work with him swear by him.
He will never do anything to keep others on his show from going out on their own and making good, as witness Dennis Day and Phil Harris, both of whom started with Jackson (as they call him) and now have successful shows of their own.
Jack is one of the few entertainers who has stayed on radio, and can stay as long as he wishes. His format, which varies little throughout the years, is still a must in many, many homes. However, he is going to do a TV show once a month. "There are so many places where television does not reach," said Jack, "so I will do both radio and TV this year."
He takes radio in his stride, and everyone has a good time on his show. That's one of the reasons it's a success—the merriment comes over the microphone. I told him I can always hear Mary Livingston's laugh above all else.
"Mary doesn't care at all about show business," he said, "and she is so good. She would bow out anytime. She's also a wonderful critic but do you know where I go when I want to know whether my show is good or bad?"
"To Mary's great friend Barbara Stanwyck," he answered. "Barbara is completely honest. She'll say, 'you missed the boat' or 'that is a good show.' When she says the show is good she means it."
In the course of our conversation I told Jack another reason I think he is so loved is because he never resorts to off color jokes. His shows are for the whole family. Other comedians often say something so suggestive it brings a blush to people who aren't used to innuendo, but Jack never offends in the slightest.
Jack was born near Waukegan, Illinois (not far from my hometown, Freeport), on Valentine's Day, and still says he is 39 years old. His real name is Benny Kubelsky, and the boy who became Jack Benny and played on the fiddle has come a long way.
The Bennys have been married since January, 1927—and in all those years there has never been a breath of scandal connected with either of them, Jack has made "The Horn Blows at Midnight" pay off by kidding himself and the picture, which isn't in any language, a work of art. But I happen to know that it made money anyway. In fact Jack has never made a picture that didn't.
Rochester calls Jack, "Mr. Benny, star of stage, radio and screen." Now he'll have to add "and television" to the list.
If there were more Jack Bennys, Hollywood would be a better place. But I feel as do those who love him, that they broke the mold when they made this fine person.
A number of people in Hollywood didn’t have as high of an opinion about Parsons as she did about Jack Benny. Eventually, Parsons simply became irrelevant. The studio system that kept the stars—and her—in business disintegrated. In the meantime, Jack Benny, who had been in show business even longer than Parsons, carried on into the 1960s and 1970s. He was still a star when he died in 1974. When Parsons died in 1972, she was part of the past.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

RKO's New Star

Felix the Cat couldn’t beat a mouse.

The rodent he was dealing with wasn’t an ordinary one. It was Mickey Mouse.

The year was 1936. RKO was releasing cartoons featuring Felix, who had been off the screen for several years thanks to the death of a) silent films and b) the man credited with creating him, Pat Sullivan. In the intervening period, Disney rose to reign over the theatrical animated world thanks to a) Mickey, b) Flowers and Trees, a Technicolor milestone and c) The Three Little Pigs, arguably the most popular cartoon to that point.

Mickey had jumped from Columbia to United Artists, but Walt Disney was looking for a better deal for his cartoons. In the meantime, RKO had been releasing cartoons by the Van Beuren studio, of which it was a part owner. Van Beuren was in a state of turmoil, with characters and staff coming and going, exacerbated in 1934 when the director of the aforementioned pigs cartoon, Burt Gillett, was hired and put in charge. Gillett’s cartoons looked like night and day compared to the fun, quirky and not always well drawn Van Beuren shorts of 1930, but it wasn’t enough. RKO decided it wanted the world’s most famous cartoon character.

Daily Variety reported, in part, on March 3, 1936:
Radio Captures Disney

Disney cartoons will release via RKO exchanges for 1936-37 season. Producer pulls away from United Artists when he fulfills present commitment of five cartoons on current program.
Papers were signed late last night, after negotiations covering month. Leo Spitz, president of RKO, M . H. Aylesworth, chairman of board, and Ned Depinet, president of RKO Distributing Corp., sat in for releasing company, Walt and Roy Disney taking care of their end with attorney Gunther Lessing.
Releasing All Product
Agreement provides for RKO to release all Disney product, including Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony cartoon shorts. Producer has been working on feature cartoon, 'Snow White,' expects to have it ready for spring release.
Understood main reason Disney jumped away from United Artists was his not getting owner-partnership share when Alexander Korda was taken in last fall. Another reason was unsettled affairs of U A with various executive changes, Disney figuring RKO deal, which gives him guaranteed negative cost on every subject produced, is safer than U A release without negative advances and does not require as much operating capital.
Here are some trade ads heralding the Mouse’s impending arrival.

But what of the Van Beuren cartoons? Weekly Variety reported on March 11th:
Disney Ousts Van B.?
Conflict in type of shorts product may result in RKO's dropping of Rainbow Parade cartoons, produced by Van Beuren Corp. next season. Addition of Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies gives the company a surplus of animated cartoons. RKO claims it is not definitely set on any change thus far. Van Beuren series includes Felix the Cat, Toonerville Trolley, etc.
Other Van Reuren product which includes five other series of short features, probably will remain set unless RKO decides two-reelers are not profitable in face of influx of dual programs.
But drop Van Beuren it did. The studio was closed by June. The last Van Beuren cartoon released was Toonerville Picnic, directed by Gillett, on October 2nd. RKO’s first Disney cartoon wasn’t released until September 21, 1937—Hawaiian Holiday. A couple of months later, the studio released The Old Mill, which won an Oscar. And Disney had acquired a new director, and from Van Beuren no less. Burt Gillett had toddled home.

Friday, 22 July 2016

A Change of Scenery

An interesting but jarring effect shows up in the early Terrytoon By the Sea (1931). A mouse is driving his car in the city and makes a left turn. Suddenly, the background drawing changes. The last two frames are consecutive.

The cartoon’s story involves a cat in love with a mouse, who is stolen away by the heroic mouse in the frames above.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

That's What You Think, Brother

Dumb-Hounded was one of Tex Avery’s “wild take” cartoons, where he came up with variations on huge reactions of horror by the wolf (voiced by Frank Graham).

Here’s the first. Wolfie thinks he’s escaped from Droopy (played by Bill Thompson) but realises he hasn’t after he walks into the dog, who says “That’s what you think, brother.” These are consecutive frames. Notice the outlines of Droopy and the wolf at the end. That was used for a mid-air body vibration effect.

The wolf leaps into mid-air, churns his body and takes off to the door to escape. He’s foiled.

And things get crazier after that.

Irv Spence, Ed Love, Ray Abrams and Preston Blair animated the cartoon.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Garry Marshall's Landlord Evicted by NBC

He gave Blansky’s Beauties to the world.

I’m sure that’s not how Garry Marshall would want to be remembered. Anyone who paid attention to credits on TV in the 1960s and early ‘70s would have seen his name on “The Odd Couple” (along with at least two other Marshalls) and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” And, of course, he went on to even bigger things (and a few stinkers).

It was 50 years ago that Marshall and writing partner Jerry Belson became producers. Mirisch-Rich had recently formed to get into the TV business. Their first three network nibbles were “The Rat Patrol,” a cartoon series called “Super 6” and a comedy called “Hey, Landlord!” The latter was put in the hands of Marshall and Belson, along associate producer Bruce Johnson. All were around 30. Proctor and Gamble bought a full sponsorship. A flotilla of people involved in the Van Dyke show came over to work on the series (Rose Marie had a guest spot). 11 additional episodes were ordered by the network in October and six more in January. But despite being sandwiched between Walt Disney and “Bonanza,” the show got killed by Ed Sullivan and “The F.B.I.” and it was pulled before the end of the season.

All I remember about the show is there was a staircase. That’s how much of an impression it made on a nine-year-old viewer (I haven’t seen it since). So it was interesting peering around trying to find some old newspaper clippings about Marshall and running into a few stories about this show instead. So here they are. Both are from September 10, 1966.
Brownstone Is Locale Of Hutchins Comedy

HOLLYWOOD—If "Dick Van Dyke Show" fans feel lost this day night group of extraverts, they should try catching "Hey, Landlord," with Will "Sugarfoot" Hutchins and Sandy Baron, NBC's new Sunday night comedy slotted between "Walt Disney" and "Bonanza."
While the "Van Dyke" series charted the problems of a successful TV writer and his delightful wife, "Hey, Landlord" drops down an age notch to watch the reactions of a young, naive, would-be writer, Woody Banner (Will Hutchins), inheritor of a beaten-up New York brownstone, and his roommate Chuck (Sandy Baron), the flegling comic, a pragmatist who prefers action to dreams except when it comes to paying rent or helping out with antiquated plumbing.
Each week Woody and Chuck check want ads for jobs to launch careers and to pay for the upkeep of the brownstone apartment house. In a sample episode, Woody lands a writing job with a toy company seeking material for a talking toy crow. This situation sets up humorous scenes of the two men trying to dream up gags for the crow, and it lets the writers take playful pokes at the big money toy market and some of its silly products.
Job And Home
Like the "Van Dyke Show," "Hey, Landlord" moves back and forth between job and home. In the Banner apartment house reside all sorts of goofy and tenants: a scatter-brained, sexy TV weather girl, Pamela Rodgers; a lovely Japanese airline stewardess, Miko Mayama, and a bedraggled widow, Ann Morgan Guilbert, with her 6-year-old brat. The pilot episode featured a crazy photographer played by Michael Constantine, and the producers liked him so much, Michael has been added to the cast. The Banner brownstone has ah open end—whenever new characters score highly they'll simply be brought back as new tenants. By the end of the season the battered dwelling may house more occupants than the Waldorf Astoria.
All these "Van Dyke" traits in the Sunday night comedy come as no surprise when one checks the list of credits. Producers Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson used to write for the Emmy laden show, while director Jerry Paris learned his trade on the series.
Another member of the distinguished alumni is Ann Morgan Guilbert, formerly neighbor Milly, now the exhausted widow. And, at the top of the credit pyramid, is executive consultant Sheldon Leonard, the man who launched "Dick Van Dyke Show" and managed to keep it on the air after those initial shaky six months. For Will Hutchins, "Hey, Landlord" is a gift from heaven. The sandy-haired Phi Beta Kappa cast as the slow-moving, simple western hero in "Sugarfoot" for three years, finally gets a break in status.
Even though Hutchins still receives fan mail on "Sugarfoot," he has been given short shrift by Hollywood casting people who look down on the crop of Warner Bros. TV actors noted for bringing in all that money during the mid-50's. Up for an "Alfred Hitchcock" TV part a few years ago, Hutchins was asked by producer Norman Lloyd to read the entire script before being accepted. Lloyd simply felt unsure of Will's acting abilities because he wore a Warner Bros. label.
Hutchins Doesn't Shuffle
In the role of intelligent, naive, 21-year-old Woody who is trying to find himself after graduating from Ohio State, Hutchins can at least erase that Warner Bros. stigma. Will doesn't shuffle as Woody, he says some funny things and makes pertinent observations. He is even quiet and appreciative in certain key scenes, playing a normal young man who doesn't have to kick clods for laughs.
His co-star Sandy Baron, cast as the fast-talking, effervescent comic Chuck who performs everywhere for nothing, is playing a role he knows by heart. Sandy started out In the comedy business as a bus boy and waiter in the Catskills, watching the standup comics perform, and he had confidence right off the bat.
"I knew I was funny at the time, but delivering one-line jokes wasn't my racket," says Baron. Instead Sandy bought monologues and then found his niche improvising material in the off-Broadway theater hits, "The Premise' and "Second City." Dramatic roles followed "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and this spring's "Generation" with Henry Fonda.
"I used to think getting a TV job was a sell-out," admitted Sandy, "but work has changed my mind."
Baron Learning Business
Now, Sandy is learning the filmed TV comedy business playing a familiar part, and he's taking lessons from the best pros in town. Says Sandy about overseer Sheldon Leonard: "He will frighten you. He does a great Indian war dance. He watches you perform, and then he will come up and begin with 'I would like it if...'."
Says Leonard, concisely summing up "Hey, Landlord":
"This is the story of three musketeers, but with two."
Pamela Rodgers? Was she on it? I only remember her as a replacement cast member on “Laugh-In” before vanishing from TV. But “Landlord” gave Rogers her first regular role. Several different interviews with her saw print; this one was found in the Binghamton Press; I suspect it’s a syndicated piece.
Pamela Turns Up the Heat As Hey, Landlord! Regular
New York—Everybody talks about the weather but once they get a look at Pamela Rodgers as a stunning weather reporter, they will change the subject.
Pamela, a striking beauty, co-stars as slightly scatter-brained TV weather girl Timothy Morgan on Hey Landlord!, a new half-hour comedy series dealing with the life, times and tenants of a venerable New York brownstone, showing in color NBC and Channel 40.
A former "Miss Texas," Pam went directly from the stage of the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant to the stages of such top night spots as the Hotel Sahara in Las Vegas and New York's Copacabana as a dancer and ultimately to the sound stages of Hollywood.
As recently as 1965, just three years after graduation from Jesse H. Jones High School in her hometown of Houston, that she made her film debut. She has since appeared in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Donna Reed Show as well as such motion pictures as "The Silencers," "Three on a Couch;" "Doomsday Flight" and "The Oscar."
AS WEATHER GIRL Timothy Morgan, Pamela portrays a starry-eyed innocent, aspiring to a career in show business and whose not-so-innocent face and figure, all agree, portend imminent stardom.
Timothy shares an apartment with another career girl, airline stewardess Kyoko Mitsui (Miko Mayama) in a typical metropolitan brownstone landlorded by series star Will Hutchins as Woody. Sandy Baron also stars as Chuck, Woody's roommate, confidante and some-time managerial assistant.
Timothy feels her participation on the local TV weather program is affording her the exposure necessary for a start in the business. But it is back at the brownstone where Timothy attracts the most viewers thanks to her passion for the latest in such "mod" fashions as hip buggers, bikinis and mini-skirts. The fact is, considering the total male tenant contingent plus the helicopter and dirigible crews who hover over the rooftop sundeck, Timothy gets a much better audience rating when she is not working.
Wondrously, she somehow detects logic in why half the Eastern Seaboard's militaryand civilian aircraft must "practice their low-level maneuvers" smack over the center of the world's largest city but like Kyoko, her companion sunbather, she'd prefer the planes go someplace else because, "they make too much shade." As to Pamela's ability to handle her role in this, her TV series debut, among a cast of players with considerably more acting experience, co-producers Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson sum it up this way:
"It takes brains to play a scatterbrain."
Garry Marshall didn’t let the failure of “Hey, Landlord” faze him. And TV fans can be grateful for that. Blansky’s Beauties notwithstanding.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Speechless With Colour

The climax of How Now Boing Boing (1954) seems to have been an experiment in shapes and colours by Jules Engle, T. Hee and director Bobe Cannon.

Gerald, as you know, can’t speak and goes “boing boing” instead (except when he’s imitating cars, trains and so on; apparently he can’t imitate speech). In this cartoon, a professor uses a huge piece of equipment designed to unscramble overseas calls to translate Gerald’s boings (and, remarkably, into English instead of another language).

Cannon has the camera cut in and out of the animation to change the perspective a bit.

In the original Gerald cartoon, you feel sorry for the outcast little boy and are happy he triumphs in the end. In this sequel, you don’t care about anyone or the abstract shapes that take up about 25 seconds of screen time.

Gerald Ray, Alan Zaslove and Frank Smith are the credited animators.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Tell Me More About My Eyes

Bugs Bunny outsmarts himself in Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears, a 1944 cartoon written by Tedd Pierce and directed by Chuck Jones.

Bugs quickly pulls a con job on Mama Bear who is about to clobber him by complimenting her on her appearance (including her eyes).

The ruse works. Mama Bear reacts by protecting Bugs from the angry Daddy and Junior Bear. But it works too well. Mama becomes completely enamoured with Bugs. “Tell me more about my eyes,” she coquettishly asks.

There is no escape.

Finally, the panicked Bugs jumps into his hole in the ground. We hear giggling and “Tell me more about my eyes.” Bugs jumps out of the hole and runs away to end the cartoon.

Considering his reputation, I can picture Pierce getting into a similar situation with a woman.

Bobe Cannon gets the animation credit and Mama Bear is played by that fine actress Bea Benaderet.