Wednesday, 25 May 2016

That Old Guy on TV

He was there any time a TV show needed a character who was an energetic old man. In every role, he was an old man. There was never a time on television when he was young. That’s because Burt Mustin, with his bald head, long face, long nose and large ears, didn’t begin his acting career until he was a pensioner.

Better make that professional acting career. A newspaper clipping reveals Mustin “appeared in an amateur production in Pittsburgh, ‘The Lady of Luzon.’ One scene called for him to kiss seven girls, one for each day of the week.” That was in 1910. And Mustin can be found in the programme listings of KDKA in Pittsburgh, singing and chatting. That was in 1922, before the radio networks existed and about all you would hear on the air was amateurs singing and chatting.

Mustin built up a very long resume once he began appearing on films and television in the early 1950s. And a few newspaper columnists found room to tell readers about the old guy whose face they knew but name they likely didn’t.

This unbylined syndicated story is taken from the Utica Daily Observer, May 21, 1967. It explains why he was kissing girls on stage in 1910 and singing in early radio but never went into vaudeville or films, nor appeared on the big network shows of the ‘30s and ‘40s.
Burt Mustin: Late Starter With A Forward Look At 83
As a rule, most active careers have ended by age 67. Not so with actor Burt Mustin, who first turned to professional acting at that age. He's been going strong ever since. He's now 83.
The tall, slim actor, who enjoys being told that he doesn't act his age, will be seen in a two-part repeat on "The Lucy Show" Mondays, May 22 and May 29 (8:30-9 p.m.) in color on Channels 5 and 10.
Although he was a late professional acting starter, he has done 258 television shows and 57 movies, and looks forward to many more — including a romantic role. "There isn't much demand for 83-year-old romantic leads, but I keep hoping," he say with a twinkle.
In his appearances on "The Lucy Show," the versatile Mustin acts, sings and dances. His career as an amateur performer demonstrated the same diversity.
"I was a child soprano at age 6," says Mustin, "but the life of a professional performer 60 years ago was a miserable one and when I got married, my wife and I agreed that I should work as a salesman and stick to amateur theatricals."
Mustin was an amateur performer in Pittsburgh for 50 years. He later moved to Phoenix where an agent saw him and persuaded director William Wyler to give him a job. He hasn't stopped working since.
In brief periods between jobs he sings in a barbershop quartet and lectures to men's groups on how to keep going after 65.
Mustin appeared semi-regularly on a few shows, but landed a co-starring role on the Emmy-winning The Funny Side in 1971. It came and went after one season on NBC. It featured a variety of couples in sketches on a different theme every week. United Press International decided to profile Mustin. This lovely little column appeared in newspapers around December 29, 1971.
Burt Mustin Plays Tube For Laughs

HOLLYWOOD (UPI) — Burt Mustin, the 87-year-old co-star of "The Funny Side," plays it for laughs on the tube and enjoys every minute of his sunset years in private life.
He was widowed in 1969 when his wife of 54 years, Robina, died, leaving Burt with a four-room cottage to care for in the San Fernando valley.
He lives alone now, fending for himself and getting around spryly.
Mustin fixes a light breakfast for himself each morning before reporting to NBC in Burbank, driving there himself. At noon he consumes a large lunch in the studio commissary or at a nearby restaurant. When he gets home in the evening the octogenarian settles for a bowl of cereal.
A cleaning woman stops by the house once a week to keep the place shipshape, but Burt is his own gardener.
"Robina had a green thumb," he says, "flowers and shrubs used to grow just right for her. It was a labor of love. With me it's just plain labor and things don't grow so well."
Mustin's home is as neat as the man himself. He never leaves the house without a jacket and necktie, explaining: "When you're old and ugly a good looking wardrobe is your best asset."
He is proud of the fact that he weighs within three pounds of his weight at age 19 when he graduated from Pennsylvania Military College back in 1903.
A salesman in Pittsburgh and later in Tucson, Ariz., Mustin came to acting late in life. But his interest in show business stems from singing. He was, and still is, an active member of a national barbership singing group.
Several evenings a week he "goes barbershopping," singing baritone with his own quartette. At other times he joins a barbershop chorus.
There are about 30 chapters of barbershop singing groups in southern California with between 1,500 and 2,000 members. Burt has been warbling close harmony for 25 years.
Mustin also is active in the Masquers Club, a group of show business men consisting largely of character actors.
On days off Burt sits around the club reading newspapers, magazines and talking show biz with the other veteran performers. It is his favorite hangout for lunch on days off.
Every Sunday morning Burt fires up his late model sedan and drives to Hollywood Presbyterian church. He never fails to attend services.
"The Lord's been good to me," he explains, "and it wouldn't be right for me not to be thankful."
Asked if he has any dates with the fairer sex, Mustin laughed.
"No," he said. "I'm afraid that romance business is all behind me. There was only one good woman in my life, and that's more than most men can say—especially at my age."
On weekends Mustin writes letters to friends in the East and makes a small dent in the fan mail that has piled up since the comedy show went on the air this fall. He also enjoys watching televised football and baseball games.
Mustin is usually in bed by 10 p.m. On barbershopping nights, however, he isn't tucked away until nearly midnight. Mustin should be a shining example for all old people. He is bright, alert and blessed with a sense of humor. He is a delightful companion to all who know him.
Mustin’s life seems like a throwback to an era goneby, of simpler times in a small town. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, Mustin found a place in Mayberry on several episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. He was 93 when he died in 1977, though it seemed like he had always been 93.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Your Safety First

The World of the Future was parodied in animated form before The Jetsons in 1962, though most cartoon fans likely didn’t see one earlier effort.

Your Safety First was produced in 1956 by the John Sutherland studio for the Automobile Manufacturers Association. Its story by Norman Wright and designs anticipate The Jetsons. Even the voice of the lead character sounds a lot like George Jetson, although he’s played in this industrial short by Marvin Miller instead of George O’Hanlon (the voice is very similar to the one he used as Colonel Cosmic in Sutherland’s Destination Earth in 1954). Coincidentally, O’Hanlon had done some work for Sutherland in the past.

Former MGM director George Gordon (whose brother Dan was later a story sketch artist at Hanna-Barbera) may have come up with the designs in conjunction with Wright and layout artists Gerry Nevius and Charles McElmurry. Like The Jetsons, the cars have bubble tops. Unlike The Jetsons, they drive on pavement, though they can fly to pass overhead.

No Space Needle-esque apartment for the main character in this cartoon. He lives in a stylised home on the ground.

But like George, Jane, Judy and Elroy, they eat food in a pill and have a grandpa going on 117 years of age who zooms around in a car like a teenager.

A few more designs.

The animation in the short is by Cal Dalton (ex Warners Bros.), Ken O’Brien (ex Disney), George Cannata (ex Fleischer) and Fred Madison (who moved to Cascade Pictures and became president of the Screen Cartoonists Guild in 1957).

Monday, 23 May 2016

The Six Heads of Screwy Squirrel

Screwy Squirrel may be insane, but not so insane to avoid checking out the famous stripper, Gypsy Pose, in Happy-Go-Nutty. He stops in mid-air.

He gives the audience a knowing look. (Scott Bradley plays Lew Brown and Sammy Fain’s That Old Feeling in the background).

Ah, but it’s really a trap by Meathead the dog. When Screwy realises something is wrong, he turns to the theatre audience again.

There are a couple of anticipation drawings, then Screwy sprouts multiple heads in panic. The second “head” drawing is held for 12 frames (half a second), which is enough time for it to register.

Screwy twirls in mid-air and jumps off Meathead’s rifle and out of the frame. I didn’t realise until I froze the action for this post that the butt of the gun smacks Meathead in the chin.

Ed Love, Ray Abrams and Preston Blair animated this cartoon, released by MGM in 1944.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Pals That Weren't

Harry Conn thought he made Jack Benny and, in a fit of ego, walked out on him before the end of the 1935-36 radio season.

The editors at Radio Guide magazine may have viewed this with a bit of embarrassment. For in their February 1, 1936 issue, they cobbled together a feature story about how lovey-dovey things were between writer Conn and boss Benny. One suspects there were barrel-fulls of fiction in the tale woven by the Guide’s Kay Morgan.

For those of you who haven’t read the various posts about Conn here, after leaving Benny he bounced around from show to show before convincing CBS to give him his own half-hour comedy programme, which couldn’t get a sponsor and failed miserably after 13 weeks. Conn’s writing career went down the drain and he ended up as a doorman at a theatre in New York by the late ‘50s.

To be fair to Conn, he did revolutionise radio comedy (with Benny) in moving away from the vaudeville revue format to something more akin to characters (announcer/bandleader/singer/assorted stooges) interacting with a host. And Conn’s version of the Benny radio show has some recognisable elements. But it didn’t have Rochester, Dennis Day, a sputtering Maxwell, a cash-filled underground vault, age 39, a feud with Fred Allen, a floorwalker screeching “Yeeeeess?” and most of the things anybody associates with Jack Benny.

Here’s the Radio Guide story with the photos that accompanied it.

THERE were two new acts in the old Fox Crotona Theater in New York. One was a good-looking young violinist who tried to spin a few jokes. The other was a glum-faced song-and-dance man who wanted to be a writer.
Backstage one night, the song-and-dancer who wanted to be a writer, told the violinist who wanted to be a comedian. “Say, your patter is putrid! Why don't we team up? I'll write for you. With my gags and your personality you’ll go over with a bang.”
The other looked at him with contempt. “Listen, go back to your marbles and leave this business of being funny to me. You look like the last person in the world who could write jokes. “Thanks,” he said, “and no!” He turned and entered his dressing room.
This was nine years ago. And that's how the most famous partnership and the most successful friendship in radio almost died a-borning.
The violinist who turned thumbs down on the proposal was none other than Jack Benny, and the turned-down proposer was Harry Conn. Benny and Conn. Damon and Pythias, folks in radio call them.
Jack is the first to admit today that without Harry Conn he wouldn’t have been selected by the Radio Guide readers as tophole rib tickler and outstanding star in the 1935 annual Star of Stars Election. Which shows the sort of guy Jack is. And Harry says that without Jack’s inimitable, indolent manner, his gags wouldn’t go over with such a punch. So there you are!
BUT to go back to that acidulous backstage meeting . . . Each took his own Broadway path and trod it alone. Apparently Jack was right. He didn’t need a writer. In fact, he was doing pretty well on his own. Here he was now, star of the Earl Carroll Vanities — a high water mark in those 1930 Prohibition days. That’s how he came to get that offer to star on the new gingerale program then being planned. The contract was waiting for his signature. He swaggered in grandly, pen in hand, ready to sign.
“You’ll be on twice a week,” the agency man told him. “Better bring in a dozen prepared scripts for a starter.”
Two shows a week! Beads of sweat stood out on Jack Benny's forehead. He was regarded as one of the wits of Broadway, to be sure. However, doing the same act night after night, month after month, in a show or in vaudeville, is one thing. But — getting together two brand new comedy acts a week . . . whew! He felt a little faint.
He saw a great radio chance — and salary — slipping right through his fingers. Panic-stricken, he rushed to his friend Nat Burns, who was then doing a bright radio act with his wife, one Gracie Allen by name.
“Don’t worry,” soothed Burns. “I'll send up our writer. He’ll help you.”
Benny waited — and stalked up and down his hotel room alone. Time passed. Where was that so-and-so writer that Burns had promised? An hour late already. Confound it, he had even forgotten his name. Now Jack couldn’t even phone him. Jack's nerves were as brittle as an old rubber-band.
THE door opened. Benny looked up.
You!” he cried, somewhat in the manner of the harassed heroine confronting the villain in 'Way Down East.
There before him was the sad-faced song-and-dancer of his old vaudeville days.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Benny found Conn, radio found its biggest money-making team, and the public found a brand new type of radio comedy.
Not many comedians will give credit to their gag writers. It’s supposed to be bad business. Spoils the glamour and the spontaneity of the funny man, don’t you know! That’s why these writers are jokingly referred to, in intimate radio circles, as the forgotten men.
Jack has gone against this rigid ruling of the airwaves. And that’s a story in itself. The limelight glory of his radio success hasn't affected him — as it has some other comedians I could mention — to the extent where he has become pompous and wants to crowd out those who are largely responsible for his success.
I was in the room with a famous editor, an advertising agency man and Jack. There was a heated argument going on, with the first two men lined up against Jack. It seems that the editor was to appear on Benny’s next program, announcing the grand fact that Jack was voted the most popular comedian on the air.
“But you can’t go ahead with this fool idea of giving your writer credit on the air. You’re supposed to be the funny guy. Lots of listeners may be disappointed if you give someone else credit. That’s a bugaboo no comedian dares defy.”
They were trying so hard, the editor and the agency man, to keep up the old illusion before the public. But arguing with Jack about that subject was like trying to carry on a conversation with the Delhi Lama [sic]. The program went on, but when the honors were passed around, Harry Conn, the unknown, unseen forgotten man, basked in the limelight too. Jack made sure of that.
They’re called Damon and Pythias, but not only because they’re great friends. Matter of fact, they seldom go out together socially. Jack and Mary Livingstone, his wife, travel around with Burns and Allen, Jane and Goodman Ace and the other gay younger marrieds, while Conn goes about to wrestling matches and poker parties with the Broadway crowd. But their friendship goes even deeper than that. It's based on an unbelievable trust and understanding. Just for an idea:
After several of Benny’s early broadcasts, Conn gave up his job writing for Burns and Allen. Now don’t forget, at that time George and Gracie had been on the air and were established hits. And while Benny’s first few broadcasts clicked, his rating as a radio comedian was still uncertain and his contract had only a few weeks to run. Broadway-wise skeptics told Conn he was crazy to give up a sure-fire success for a chance. But the heart-warming part of it all is that Jack didn’t ask Conn to do this for him. He’s not the sort of fellow to demand any sacrifice made for him.
Well, you know what happened. The next few broadcasts made Jack a great star — greater, even, than the wildest dreams of either Benny or Conn. There was never a contract signed between the two. There was nothing to keep intact this business partnership — and after all, that's what it was. Jack could fire Harry tomorrow; Harry could walk out on Jack any time he wishes. There's absolutely nothing to prevent either. And yet there never has been a squabble over money, never a rumor that one was leaving the other. And in a profession where stars out-grow, with sickening rapidity, the people who’ve helped them climb up, this fact is news.
BENNY showed Conn the same loyalty that Conn displayed to him. At the beginning Harry received $100 for each of those scripts. As Benny’s salary ascended, so did Conn’s. Harry never had to ask for it. Jack was one of the rare persons in radio who kept his head when success came to him — a mighty difficult thing to do in this ego-inflated industry. Harry's pay check rose from $250 to $500 and then $750. When Jack reached his peak, just before he went to Hollywood, Conn’s salary was something like $1,250 for each script — the highest salary, I understand, paid any writer for one individual program.
The test of their friendship came with that Hollywood offer from MGM. Jack alone was called. The company didn’t need a writer. Said they had plenty of their own under contract, who had been turning out good comedy scripts for their other comedians. But Jack stood firm. I can see him exercising the same stubbornness that he showed to the editor and the agency man: “I won’t sign until Conn is signed, too.” In the end he won. Conn was hired to write all of his movie dialogue at a salary of $1,800 a week. But Jack gained more than his point. He gained, for the first time, real movie success, too.
YOU may remember Benny was in the movies once before. The Broadway Melody of 1929 it was. Jack recalls it with a headache, because it was an ill-fated venture for him. That was before the Conn days. Brutally and frankly, he was a flop in it. It seemed that the keen Benny wit, the suave Benny drawl were lost in a maze of wrong material. The great Broadway comedian who had made thousands laugh in the stage houses, couldn’t gel more than a faint ripple from the tremendous movie audiences. The movie portals were closed to him — and for good, he thought. Second chances are as elusive as cigarette smoke.
But it came to him — that second chance, I mean — and solely because of the great name he had made for himself in his radio series. This time, lease though, when he boarded the train for the movie colony, he wasn’t afraid. He had the controlling hand of Conn to shift his gear to the real Benny stride.
And as a result — well, I hear he’s just placed the down payment on a palatial Hollywood home. Which means that he expects to be making a lot of other movies, don’t you think?
And, oh yes — Harry has renewed his lease at a smart Hollywood hotel, because even though he still has no contract with Jack Benny, he knows he’ll be with his boss for a long, long time.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Cartoons of 1955, Part 2

CBS was known as the “Tiffany Network.” So it would seem odd that the cartoon studio that it bought was described by its owner as not being the Tiffany of animation, but the Woolworth’s. But the network wanted to counter-programme against ABC and its Disney connection, so in 1955 it bought Terrytoons from Paul Terry. CBS did get a Tiffany connection the same year, signing a contract with UPA for a children’s show. As far as the critics were concerned, UPA was more blue chip than any studio that didn’t have the name “Walt” in it.

As you can see, television continued to be the main story when it came to the animation industry in 1955, though there was no animation industry for television yet. Kids couldn’t get enough of the old theatrical cartoons run over and over and over again. Sponsors couldn’t line up fast enough. Syndicators continued to try to coax the major film studios to sell them TV rights to their animated shorts. CBS got around the situation by buying a studio. And one syndicator managed to convince Paramount to loosen more cartoons out of its vaults. The big deals for Bugs Bunny and Popeye would be brokered in 1956. MGM would come later, although the studio was responsible for a half-hour show on ABC called MGM Parade, featuring clips from its films, past and present, with the Tex Avery cartoon Screwball Squirrel being aired on the premiere broadcast on September 21st.

Meanwhile, Disney continued to expand its deal with ABC, debuting The Mickey Mouse Club, of which animation was only part of the programme, mainly during the cheerful, sing-along opening. Disney wisely used TV as free advertising for its feature films, as a lengthy story in the November 30, 1955 edition of Daily Variety revealed.

So let’s leaf through Variety’s pages for the second half of 1955. Warner Bros. Cartoons was absorbed by the parent company and left its familiar home (featured in the 1940 short You Ought To Be in Pictures) for a new, antiseptic building that writer Mike Maltese compared to a hospital. John Hubley’s dream of a feature-length “Finian’s Rainbow” died, with the whereabouts of a gorgeous soundtrack long forgotten. MGM’s two units were back in business, though Mike Lah never made a single Barney Bear cartoon as planned. And cartoons continued to be a mainstay in TV advertising.

July 6, 1955
National Boxoffice Survey
"Lady and Tramp" (BV), also promising, climbed to fifth. Disney CinemaScope cartoon, aided by school closings, is racking up an excellent showing at the wicket. [“The Seven Year Itch” was number one this week]

July 13, 1955
An ex-Disney cartoonist has been signed by NBC-TV to supply the comic strips as a feature of next season's "Howdy Doody." He's Norman Wright, who has been assigned to work up the animation motif on a three-a-week basis. Each will run from three to four minutes.
The web is also negotiating with a Hollywood studio for the rights to a top cartoon series to be used as a complementary feature to the Wright capsules on the other days of the week.

July 27, 1955
Cartoon film producer Walter Lantz yesterday put "The Ostrich Egg and I" into production under Alex Lovy.

[From a story on the postponed films from the Directors Corp. of America]
"[Long John] Silver" and "[I Am a] Camera" were DCA's first two major productions. Third, "Finian's Rainbow," was gotten underway but has been in a state of suspension for months.
Going well over budget on preliminaries, DCA shelled out $800,000 for "Finian's." Scoring (which comes first in a cartoon feature) is completed but no animation work has been done yet. Total budget, it's now figured, will reach $800,000. DCA wants another company to take over project, with DCA retaining partial interest, but so far, no deal. Allied Artists showed active interest but walked away when DCA refused to post production completion bonds.

August 1, 1955
As he prepares to launch Metro's fall production season, studio head Dore Schary this week will be host to NY and regional sales and promotion execs at preview screenings and confabs on distribution plans.
A preview also will be held for "Peace on Earth," cartoon short produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, also designed for holiday release.

August 3, 1955
CBS, in an obvious move to counter the Walt Disney opposition on ABC, has closed a $1,500,000 deal with United Productions of America to create and produce an initial series of 26 variety-cartoon half-hour programs for CBS-TV. The contract was finalized by J. J. Van Volkenburg, network prexy, and Stephen Bosustow, founder and head of UPA. All the films, to be made in UPA's Hollywood and NY studios, will be filmed in color.
Along with the tv films, CBS has agreed to partially finance a program of feature films produced by UPA for theatres. However, UPA will have to make its own distribution deal for the feature films as well as get the balance of the necessary financing away from CBS.
The cartoon programs will feature original and exclusive characters and songs designed for the family and geared for late afternoon audiences. They will mark UPA's initial entry into tv on the entertainment level, the company having previously only turned out filmed commercials and promotion film used on tv. UPA, which will continue to make 8 to 12 cartoon shorts yearly for Columbia Pictures release, has been nominated eight times for Academy Awards, and two of its shorts, "Gerald McBoing-Boing" and "When Magoo Flew" won Oscars.
Under the terms of the CBS deal, UPA will deliver 13 of the first 26 cartoon tv films by Sept., 1956, which gives the company virtually a year to prepare its entrance into entertainment tv.

July Box Office
"Lady and Tramp" (BV) copped third position although never finishing first all month. However, it ran nearly neck-'n'-neck with "[The Seven Year] Itch." Had the night business for this Walt Disney cartoon feature held up close to matinee trade it probably would have fared better. [“Not As Stranger” topped the box office in July]

Willy Pogany, 73, artist and designer, died July 30 in N. Y. He was a scenic and costume designer, muralist, book and magazine illustrator, caricaturist, architect, etcher, sculptor and portrait painter. Among the murals created by him is a forest and floral motif covering both walls of the Ziegfeld Theatre, N. Y.
Born in Szeged, Hungary, Pogany worked in Europe before settling in the U. S. in 1914. In this country, he designed the scenes, sets and costumes at the Metropolitan Opera House for the operas "Le Coq D'Or, "L'Italiana in Algeri" and "The Polish Jew." He also designed the sets and costumes for the Fokine and Adolph Bloom ballets, besides doing similar work on numerous Broadway productions.
His Main Stem credits include "Sumurun," "Queen High," "Merry Wives of Windsor," "Magic Melody," "Lassie," "Liliom," "Holy Terror," "Madame Pompadour," "House Boat on the Styx," "Hitchy Koo," "The Jeweled Tree," "Words and Music," "Century Girl Ballet," "Alimonies," "Hawk Island," "Carnival in Venice" and "Thunder Bird."
Pogany also worked in Hollywood where he was art director for United Artists, Warner Bros., 20th-Fox, Universal and the Charles Chaplin studios. At one time he designed animated cartoons for Universal. From 1940-51, he did cover illustrations for numerous mags, including all the cover designs for The American Weekly. Pogany was also the author of several books on art and art instruction and was considered an authority on color effects by lighting. Wife, two sons and a sister survive.

August 10, 1955
Special televersion of "Dumbo" will launch the new season of Disneyland Sept. 14 on ABC-TV. Full hour will be devoted to the circus cartoon feature with the inclusion of all the characters and musical score.

Arranger Phil Moore has been inked to orchestrate three special numbers for UPA cartoons.

August 11, 1955
Panda Prints, greeting card manufacturer, has closed a deal with UPA to reproduce letter's cartoon characters on note paper and other products, Fred Slavic, Panda prexy, and Stephen Bosustow, UPA prexy, jointly disclosed yesterday.
Included will be such characters as Gerald McBoing-Boing, Mister Magoo, Christopher Crumpet, Willy the Kid and Madeline.

August 16, 1955
Walter Lantz will launch a $20,000 remodelling job of his cartoon studio when personnel start annual mass vacation on Friday [19th].
Principal task will be a new cutting room to handle producer's expanded program. Crew will work two shifts to wind up chore by time studio reopens Sept. 6.

August 19, 1955
Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc., formed in 1944 as a subsidiary by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., is being absorbed by the parent company and hereafter will operate under the title, Warner Bros. Pictures, Cartoon Division.
Move, under which WBCI will be dissolved as a corporation, is being made merely for expediency purposes and to eliminate details of the double setup, according to prexy Edward Selzer.
Company yesterday sent out formal notices of the commencement of proceedings for voluntary winding up and dissolution of WBCI to "shareholders, creditors and claimants," a formality.
Cartoon division, which will continue without any break or change under the direction and supervision of Selzer, will hereafter operate out of the Warner lot, where a new $200,000 building has just been completed at the east end of the studio to house all animation activities. Operations get under way on Sept. 18, following the department's mass vacation.
Actual moving from present quarters on the old Warner lot, south of Sunset Blvd., occupied for the past 11 years, starts tomorrow and will be completed Aug. 28, at windup of dissolution started July 28, according to Selzer.

August 30, 1955
Venice, Aug. 29.—UPA's "Fudget's Budget" copped the first International prize in the current film festival here over the weekend, named as best animated short subject. Technicolor cartoon, a Columbia release, was produced by Stephen Bosustow and directed by Robert Cannon.

September 2, 1955
New York, Sept. 1.—Four serials and 97 shorts are scheduled by Columbia's short subjects' sales department for the 1955-56 season. Chapter-plays will include two re-issues, "The Sea Hound" and "The Monster and the Ape."
On the shorts' slate are 27 two-reelers, including 12 re-runs, and 70 one-reelers, 27 of them reprints, including 13 UPA cartoons. Program will continue Screen Snapshots, oldest shorts series in existence, now going into its 35th year.

September 7, 1955
Buena Vista, Walt Disney's distribution subsid, is set for a European push with a sales program mapped for four pictures.
"Vanishing Prairie," second in the producer's True Life Adventure series, is to be released abroad beginning in early fall and running through the first two months of 1956. "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," now in distribution in the United Kingdom, goes into release on the Continent in the fall.
"Lady and the Tramp," cartoon feature, has been earmarked for Christmas release from Disney throughout Europe, and this is to be followed by "Davy Crockett—King of the Wild Frontier."

September 8, 1955
Metro general sales mgr. Charles Reagan has set Dec. 28 release for Yule cartoon, "Good Will To Men" . . . Metro cartoonery yesterday had three in the photographing stage: "The Flying Sorceress," "Busy Buddies" and "Muscle Beach Tom."

September 9, 1955
John Ployardt has been signed by United Productions of America prexy Stephen Bosustow, and joins UPA's story department to write material for company's all color cartoon program for CBS-[T]V.
Ployardt was an art director at RKO three years ago.

September 12, 1955
Fourth Annual Screen Cartoonists Film Festival will be held at Hollywood A.C. Oct. 15, with 19 animated cartoon producers indicating they will participate. Each producer will be allowed five minutes to present top product, according to Bill Perez, SCG financial secretary and festival chairman. Guild will continue past policy of showcasing producer product at festival, without accompanying award set-up. Over 1,000 people attended last year's cartoonists' festival.

September 14, 1955
John Hubley, former producer and executive of United Productions of America, who organized his own cartoonery, has opened offices in New York. Hubley is also supervising the animation of Distributors Corp. of America feature-length cartoon, "Finian's Operation."
Gene Deitch, longtime director at UPA, has joined Storyboard as creative director and designer. Another former UPAer, Bill Bernal, a sales staffer, has joined the Hubley outfit in a similar post. Another member of Storyboard's staff is Bob Bleichman, who will do storyboards and designs.

September 16, 1955
UPA wants to buy Harry Belafonte's tune, "Hello, Everybody," as a themer for its new CBS-TV cartoon series.

September 19, 1955
John Whitney, experimenter in abstract cinema, joins UPA today to direct a musical sequence in new color cartoon program the animated film firm is preparing for CBS-TV.

September 20, 1955
Daws Butler recording voices for a "Mr. Magoo" cartoon for UPA.

September 21, 1955
Animated cartoons, once the also-rans of the motion picture business, are currently the hottest properties in the films-for-tv business. It's variously estimated among trade sources that the animated shorts over the past year alone have done nearly $6,000,000 worth of business in station-by-station sales. This doesn't take into consideration the concurrent boom in comedy one- and two-reelers, sparked by the release some months ago of the "Our Gang" comedies.
Yen for cartoons has hit nearly every station in the country, and moreover, the stations are using 'em as fast as they can find them. In New York alone, for example, no less than three stations have half-hour exclusively-cartoon strips on the air daily, two more use the shorts cross-the-board as integral parts of kidshows, and a sixth uses them for a Saturday morning segment. Pattern, especially the packaging of the cartoons in half-hour strips, has been taken up all over the country, with top results in the rating department. In N. Y., WATV's pioneer cartoon segment, "Junior Frolics," has consistently been the station's top strip show; the more recently installed "Looney Tunes" on WABD shows in this week's VARIETY-ARB film chart as the second-rated non-network film show in the N. Y. market.
One of the key reasons behind the vastly increased use of the cartoons is the recent release by no less than three major studios of their animated backlog. These are Universal, whose library of over 190 was turned over to Matty Fox's Motion Pictures for Television for distribution; Columbia, whose smaller library is being distribbed by Hygo Television, and Warner Bros., whose 190-plus black and white "Looney Tunes" are being handled by Guild Films. So valuable did Fox consider the Universal shorts that he retained them for distribution, though unloading all his other product to sub-distributors.
These three companies alone, since acquiring their product, have grossed about $5,000,000 on the shorts alone, according to the best estimates available. MPTV, which has had its catalog the longest, has already passed the $2,000,000 mark in sales. Guild, it's understood, is nearing $2,000,000, while Hygo has passed the $1,000,000 mark. In addition, there are other companies actively distributing cartoon product, among them Official Films, Sterling Television, Commonwealth and as of last week, Cinema-Vue, who have grabbed off substantial billings on the shorts.
Another factor was unquestionably the impact of Walt Disney and "Disneyland," which made the Doubting Thomases jump at the chance for animated product. These factors contributed to the initial decision to program the cartoons—once started, however, the stations immediately felt the need for additional product with which to keep the programs rolling, and everybody with any cartoon properties has felt the upbeat. Typical is the case of Cinema-Vue, which only a couple of days after acquiring some 100 oldies had made deals for them and 100 live-action comedy shorts in Chicago and Los Angeles for $100,000.

Walt Disney already has completed 400 15-minute filmed segments for use on his upcoming Mickey Mouse Club," which starts a five-times weekly one-hour television show (four-minute segments) on Oct. 3 over ABC. Program, Monday through Friday, will be telecast from 5 to 6 p.m. in all time zones.
Opening day telecast will include "Mickey Mouse Newsreel," "The Mouseketeers," "What I Want to Be" (a 10-day serial) and a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Latter will be the only previously produced subject, all others being freshly filmed.
"Newsreel" will be shown Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, comprising worldwide news and special events for young people. On Tuesday, this first 15-minute period will consist of "Meet —," in which various personalities and places will be intro'd. Opener here will be Sooty, Britain's No. 1 tv star. On Thursdays, this period will be "Jiminy Crickett" cartoons.
The Mouseketeers, composed of 24 singing moppets, on alternate days of week will vary their quarter-hour appearance. Tuesdays will be "Star Guest Day," with such guests as Buddy Ebsen, Fess Parker and others skedded; Wednesday will be "Anything Can Happen Day"; Thursday, "Circus Day"; Friday, "Junior Talent Roundup Day."

September 22, 1955
The name of Walt Disney will be perpetuated in Tullytown, Penn. School children of the town have voted to name their new elementary school after him and dedication ceremonies Saturday will be attended by the cartoon-maker. To carry out the Disney motif, each room will be given the name of a Disney character. The principal's office has been designed as "Capt. Hook."

September 23, 1955
Elevated to stardom yesterday at Metro were Spike and Tyke, the father-and-son bulldog team which has appeared in many of studio's "Tom and Jerry" cartoon subjects.
New series, with Spike and Tyke stars in their own right, was launched at Metro yesterday by William Hanna and Joseph Barbara, cartoon producers. First episode is tagged "Some Watch Dog."

September 27, 1955
Metro has doubled its cartoon schedule from nine to 18 annually as result of exhib pressure, according to studio. A second unit has been added to make nine "Droopy" and "Barney Bear" subjects under direction of Michael Lah.
William Hanna and Joseph Barbera unit will continue to turn out customary nine "Tom and Jerry" and "Spike and Tyke" briefies.

September 28, 1955
Opening and closing animated cartoon spots for Oct. 11 NBC-TV "Wide Wide World" program, a personal project of net prexy Sylvester L. (Pat) Weaver, Jr., will be created by Storyboard, Inc., local tv spot production outfit noted for their Ford Commercials.

October 6, 1955
Warner Bros. Cartoons is making a one-reel subject for the U.S. Army tagged "90 Days Wondering," to be used for re-enlistment purposes. Subject, in line with one turned out several years ago for the U.S. Air Force, is in addition to unit's program of 30 cartoons annually.
Division, under the direction of Edward Selzer, is now in operation in its new quarters on the Warner lot, after having worked out of Warners Sunset studios since 1944. A separate studio apart from the Warner operations proper, located at southeast corner of lot, houses the cartoonery's three units, composed now of approximately 100 in personnel. Selzer tomorrow night is tossing a housewarming for employes and their families.
There is an increasing shortage in cartoon manpower, Selzer reported yesterday, due to commercial cartoon outfits luring experienced personnel away via higher pay. Despite this, studio is continuing to make its 30 shorts yearly, and is able to sandwich in an occasional outside subject. John Burton is production manager.
Latest in a series of odd requests from various branches of the Armed Services for cartoon characters arrived last week. A Navy Lieutenant Commander asked that cartoonery design and make up a shot of Bugs Bunny, vet Warner cartoon star, for the crew of the battleship New Jersey. Drawing will show Bugs leaning on a mop.

October 14, 1955
Nitery comic Red Coffey planed in to dub voice of the "Duckling" in Tom & Jerry cartoon at Metro.

October 19, 1955
New York, Oct. 18.—If there's a pot of gold at the end of the projected filmization of "Finian's Rainbow," it's still far from view. The feature cartoon version of the legit musical has been at a halt for more than six months, although $300,000 has been poured into project. Distributors Corp. of America, owned by a group of theatre operators, acquired the screen rights and, with John Hubley assigned to produce, spent the 300G on the production. Scoring, which comes first in animated film work, was completed, but the actual animation has never been undertaken because of lack of money.
DCA has been continuing with efforts to induce another company to take over the property. DCA would like to recoup on its investment, at least. Allied Artists has shown interest, but an agreement on terms has been elusive. DCA is continuing talks with others.
So, not much new in Glocca Morra.

November 2, 1955
In one of the most extensive such deals yet projected, Paramount is engaged in negotiations for the sale of nearly 2,000 short subjects for television. Basis of the talks is a price of about $4,500,000.
A. W. Schwalberg, who resigned six months ago as Par v.p. in charge of domestic distribution, now operating on his own as producers' and artists' representative in the theatrical film field, is representing the prospective buying group.
Both Schwalberg and Par execs are clamming on the details, preferring to await conclusion of the arrangement before making any announcements. Chances are the buyers, presuming the deal goes through, would license the shorts to various tv outlets instead of peddling the entire package to one network.
The films represent virtually Par's entire library of back-number reels. They're mostly one-reelers and include about 200 "Popeye" subjects along with other cartoons and musical and sports items.

Cartoon subject, designed to instill a feeling of brotherly love among men, has been prepared by Metro for distribution during the Christmas season. The eight-minute reel, produced by Fred Quimby, is being backed by religious groups.
Titled "Good Will to Men," the film depicts in cartoon fashion the destruction of man by the new implements of war. A creature of the forest lectures other animal survivors on the importance of the context of the Bible for maintaining peace on earth and brotherly love.
Joe Barbara and William Hanna, of Metro's cartoon staff, did the animation.

"Barker Bill's Cartoons" exits CBS-TV Nov. 25.

November 4, 1955
Metro’s forthcoming Spanish lingo cartoon, "Mucho Mouse," is not in any way related to Walt Disney's Mickey. [George E. Phair column]

November 7, 1955
New York, Nov. 6.—Out-of-court settlement for $22,500 has been accepted by John Hubley, prexy of Storyboard, Inc., from Fred Schwartz' Distributors Corp of America, producers of the incompleted theatrical feature cartoon, "Finian's Rainbow." Hubley directed that portion of the animated film which has been completed.
Hubley, in settlement arranged by attorney Max Toberoff, is thereby relieved of all further responsibility on project.

November 8, 1955
Cartoon commercials are favored over actual product demonstrations and male announcers are preferred over the femme spieler. These and other findings were reported by Earl Hudson, ABC veepee, to an overflow luncheon meeting of the Hollywood Ad Club yesterday. Reactions of the average family to a list of 14 questions concerning commercials on television turned up no "shockers" but did express the sentiments of 265 homes that were sampled by the network.
Significant of the trend to cartoon advertising was the mention of three commercials best remembered: Ford, Hamms Beer and Bank of America. That tv watchers do not resent commercial intrusions is reflected in the questionnaire, noting that 88% felt a sense of appreciation to the sponsor. In naming brand beers, women named 16 while men named only 14, leading to the conclusion by Hudson that "women are greater beer drinkers than men." In summarizing the sentiments' of the sampled families, Hudson counseled, "Don't smog up the air, instead just give 'em the facts ma'am."

November 9, 1955
Guild Films has amassed a net income for the nine months ended Aug. 31 of $283,100, based on gross income of $5,056,986 for the period. Profit, which includes a tax refund provision of $63,000, represents an all-time high for the company, as does the gross income, a reflection of billings for the period.
Information is contained in a letter to stockholders from Guild prez Reub Kaufman. Kaufman also reported that the upbeat trend has continued into the present quarter. Letter contained no breakdown on billings, but it's understood that the Warner Bros. "Looney Tunes" cartoons accounted for more than $2,000,000 of the $5,000,000 total. Other shows contributing heavily were "Liberace" and "Confidential File."

Fred Steiner will compose and conduct for two UPA cartoons . . .

November 14, 1955
New York, Nov. 13. — Entire library of Paramount shorts, numbering some 1,800 subjects, has reportedly been purchased for television by UM&M, Inc., the telepix distribution firm headed by Charles M. Amory, onetime RKO-Pathe veep. Understood the purchase is an outright one, in perpetuity, with the price running about $3,600,000.
Under the deal, UM&M gets world rights in every medium and reportedly is mulling establishment of theatrical setup to play off some subjects in theatres before their television exposure. This wouldn't be too difficult for the company, since UM&M is owned by three companies, two of which, Motion Picture Advertising Service of New Orleans and United Film Service of Kansas City, blanket the country with their screen commercials business. They probably could handle theatrical distribution of the shorts.
Library contains some 200 "Popeye" cartoons, plus about 300 other assorted cartoon subjects, including "Little Lulu" and "Betty Boop." There are over 200 Grantland Rice sports shorts, plus a series of musical and variety subjects. Entire deal was agented by A. W. Schwalberg, Par's former distribution head, now on his own.
Terms are said to provide for a substantial down payment, with remainder to be paid out of grosses. Possible, however, that UM&M, currently working on a stock issue flotation, might pay balance out of the proceeds of the public issue.
UM&M was set up by Amory in 1953 and is unique in telefilm distribution in that its sales force numbers more than 175, most of these working out of MPA and UFS on a part-time-for-tv basis. Salesmen selling screen commercials devote part of their time to selling telefilms for UM&M, and MPA and UFS are partnered in UM&M with Amory's Minot TV. UM&M was really put into business a year ago when it took over distribution of "Sherlock Holmes," "Paris Precinct," "Janet Dean, R.N." and other series from Matty Fox's Motion Pictures for Television. Additionally, MPA filmed one new series, "New Orleans Police Dept.," at its studios there and is beginning production on another, "The Tracers."

UPA Pictures delivered 12-minute industrial cartoon, "Power and Progress," to Douglas Aircraft Corp., for tv and theatrical screenings.

November 16, 1955
UPA Pictures, Inc., animation production outfit, is seeking a new studio site to replace its present plant in Burbank, now inadequate to handle company's expansion program, prexy Stephen Bosustow reported yesterday.
UPA's operations, according to the prez, are now two years ahead of its blueprint, and new studio is required to house at least a 50% personnel increase. Company will shortly enter television via a weekly half-hour program for CBS-TV, and for this eight new units will be established within the next two weeks, veepee Robert Cannon stated. Each unit will be complete, with a director, artists, color and production designers and animators. Special music and script departments also will be established in near future for firm's tv activities.
Company in past has concentrated on entertainment cartoons for Columbia release, plus tv spots, educational and industrial films.

November 22, 1955
Homer Brightman, writer in Metro's cartoon unit, was inked to a new contract by studio over the weekend.

November 23, 1955
Deal under which some 1,800 Paramount short subjects were sold to UM&M Inc. last week did not include the studio's 174 "Popeye"shorts, it's been learned. Stumbling block to transfer of the cartoons is King Features, which owns a half-interest in the property with Paramount.
Understood King Features is asking well over $1,000,000 as its share in the subjects. This would be above and beyond the $3,500,000 paid Paramount by UM&M for the other 1,800 shorts, which include in the cartoon category "Little Lulu" and "Betty Boop" subjects. Charles Amory, UM&M prez, wouldn't comment on the "Popeye" situation, but it's understood that the telefilm outfit has an option on the cartoons but considers King's demands way out of line.

Columbia will release five UPA short subjects in 16m form to homes, schools and group organizations. Quintet, selected by Donald McConville, 16m sales manager for Columbia, from the 70 cartoons turned out by UPA for Col release during the past seven years, will include two "Mister Magoo" shorts, "Gerald McBoing-Boing," "Madeline" and "Family Circus."
Distrib plans further release of UPA minnies, as a follow-up in 16m market, company reported yesterday.

November 28, 1955
Boom rise in demand for animated television spot commercials has led UPA, which turns out both tv blurbs and a program of cartoon shorts for Columbia release, to set up three complete units at company's Coast plant, prexy Stephen Bosustow reported over weekend.
Company topper also disclosed UPA's gross for 1955 will be virtually double that of 1954, rising from last year's $850,000 to $1,600,000 plus. Up to now, cartoonery had looked to its NY office to handle from 90 to 95% of its tv spot orders, according to Bosustow. Rapid growth of this activity at this end, however, now has boosted Coast operations to a par with East Coast, so that output is shared 50-50. Company will gross approximately $600,000 from this source this year as against $300,000 in 1954, Bosustow said.
Tv units, to average 10 apiece in personnel, each a complete entity, will be a separate operation from UPA's other activity, which is expanding on a vast scale, exec stated. In addition to the tv spots and its program of from 10 to 15 shorts for Columbia, UPA is prepping a weekly program for CBS-TV and a cartoon feature, "The White Deer," based on the James Thurber yarn, after budgeting it at $1,500,000. To meet this stepup in pace, company will double its present 160 personnel by the end of 1956. Present roster carries 110 at the Burbank plant, already too limited in space to accommodate business, and 50 in NY. For UPA's CBS-TV program, which formally starts next September, four shows already have been roughed out, Bosustow declared. First segment must be delivered by Jan. 1, and 13 complete shows must be completed when program gets away next September.
As an adjunct to its tv activity, UPA also is setting up two music publishing houses to handle music written for program. UPA Music Co. will publish via ASCAP; UPA Music Publishers via BMI. Additionally, UPA is establishing national scholarships in from 10 to 15 art schools around the country, Bosustow reported, to develop artists for the future.

November 30, 1955
Unique format of operation established by Walt Disney over the past two years has reached the full payoff stage. Producer's principal source of revenue continues to be, of course, the theatrical runs of his pictures, with the help of his "entertainment commercials" on television.
In selling pix to exhibitor customers, Disney became strictly an independent, thereby producing some significant trade angles. The Buena Vista subsidiary company, which distributes the feature product, is very modest structurally, compared with a Metro or Paramount. But it is bringing in "major" loot.
Disney's approach is by-now well familiar. Each theatrical project is given considerable spotlighting on television such as the numerous segments on how "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" was being lensed. This proved entertainment for the tv audience and, naturally, hefty commercial for "Leagues" in theatres. "Davy Crockett—King of the Wild Frontier" was tv'ed in its entirety before exhibitors licensed it.
Now for the results. "Crockett," a poor starter in some spots such as New York and Cleveland, grossed $2,000,000 on 9,000 exhibition contracts in the United States. This is unusually high since the pic was widely regarded as little more than a program oater; the tv push obviously was largely responsible for the income.
"Vanishing Prairie," an entry in the True-Life Adventure series, raked in $1,800,000 on 10,000 pacts. "Lady and the Tramp," cartoon in CinemaScope", pulled in $4,000,000 on its first 2,500 dates. With perhaps 2,000 contracts still to be liquidated, "20,000 Leagues" has passed the $7,000,000 mark in U. S. rentals. In the history of the picture business, 153 productions have taken distribution grosses of $4,000,000 from both the U. S. and Canadian markets, thus reflecting the effectiveness, so far, at least, of Disney's success formula for wedding picture and tv enterprises.
Buena Vista meant the significant departure, trade-wise, from the usual pattern in distributing expensive product. Headed by Leo Samuels as president and general manager, BV has a limited sales force operating in eight district offices and 15 "sub" branches. Each of the latter has only one salesman and an assistant on the employment roster. (Major companies run 31 good-sized exchanges in the key cities).
BV has had a good run to date, cutting down substantially on–cost of distribution (Disney formerly paid 22% of the gross to RKO for selling his films) and still reaching the full market potential with its relatively small operation. Billing and collecting, incidentally, are handled by National Film Service. Important factor to be considered, however, is BV was plenty bolstered by the succession of click pictures from the Disney lot, in addition to the tv exploitation. Also, the releases were spaced sufficiently apart so that each pic could be given a maximum of executive sales attention.
A greater test of the outfit's efficiency is due over the next 18 months when a total of 10 productions will be tossed in the distribution hopper, beginning with the current "African Lion." Reissues on the list include "Song of the South," which is being set for sale in each area to correspond with school vacation periods, beginning Feb. 20 in New England and winding up with the summer layoff in the south. Full campaign is planned.
New product will include "Littlest Outlaw," Joseph Calleia starrer which was locationed in Mexico; "Great Locomotive Chase," Civil War actioner done in Cinema-Scope with Fess Parker in the lead; "Secrets of Life," first in the True-Life series to be done in C'Scope, and "Perri," which Disney is billing as a True-Life Fantasy.

December 5, 1955
Bluenoses, director-animator Art Babbitt has decided, never change.
Two decades ago an Ohio State censor nixed his Terry Toon cartoon because it showed udders on a cow. At about the same time, a Soviet censor decided that the idea of "cowboy" cats beating up "Indian" mice constituted "racial discrimination."
Now, Babbitt is having trouble with tv sponsors. A blurb he did for Storyboard, to be used by Wesson Oil for Snowdrift, has been nixed. Sponsor didn't mind the use of the Stan Freberg "John and Marsha" material, but frowned on the fadeout—in which an ecstatic husband, reconciled with his wife after she improved her cooking with Snowdrift, pulls down the curtain to give them some privacy. Said the sponsor—"Too suggestive."

December 8, 1955
Labor negotiations in the film cartooning field looms large today, with the indie Screen Cartoonists Guild meeting last night to discuss possible strike action against individual members of the Commercial Film Producers Assn., telefilm commercial producers group.
SCG spokesman stated that refusal of commercial makers to bargain individually was primary reason for the proposed strike action. CFPA spokesman confirmed that the producers' group, despite recent ruling by National Labor Relations Board denying it collective bargaining privileges, was adamant in refusing to bargain individually.
Besides individual bargaining issue, SCG demands include hike of work category to level "near" actual going rates in these fields and establishment of a "moderate" health-welfare fund plan.
List of firms against which SCG threatens strike action includes Kling Studios, Churchill-Wexler, Raphaell Wolff, Animation, Inc., Playhouse Pictures, Swift-Chaplin and TV Spots, Inc. However, SCG declared that "one or two" of the producers listed would be struck, if such drastic action eventuates. Meanwhile, Local 839, Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists, IATSE, will meet tonight at North Hollywood Women's Club to ratify demands to be presented to theatrical cartoon makers Jan. 15. Negotiation committee will also be elected, according to biz rep Don Hillary.

December 13, 1955
"MUCHO MOUSE," AT REQUEST of Loew's Intl., will be first Metro cartoon to be prepped for overseas release before it is seen domestically. Cartoon will be screened at February International conclave at the studio. Spanish dialog is currently being recorded by Manuel Perez and Pilar Arcos.

December 16, 1955
Metro plans an art house distribution of "Invitation to the Dance," Gene Kelly terp starrer which has no dialog, with first engagement planned for a NY theatre shortly after first of the year, a studio spokesman reported last night. Picture started in London in August, 1952, where shooting continued until early 1953, and more than a year was consumed in finishing cartoon sequence at studio, ending some months ago.
Film is developed into three sequences, cartoon, modern dance and ballet, with Kelly, who stars in last two also appearing in the animation footage. Kelly also directed.

December 23, 1955
Indie Screen Cartoonists Guild, in its on-again, off-again campaign against the telecommercial producers' org, Commercial Film Producers Assn., early last week issued a 24-hour strike notice to four member-firms, only to rescind action yesterday. (Observers point out cartoonists have two paid holidays coming up, Christmas and New Year's Day.)
TV Spots, Playhouse Pictures, Shamus-Culhane and Swift-Chaplin were firms served strike notice last Tuesday. But union yesterday notified them they intend to call a truce until Jan. 3 before taking further action on walkouts.
Meanwhile, CFPA has until Jan. 6 to file briefs in recent National Labor Relations Board hearing on issue of assn.-wide vs. individual producer bargaining, big issue between producers and SCG. Local hearing record then goes back to Washington for final determination, not expected before 90 days.

December 28, 1955
New York, Dec. 27.—CBS is wrapping up purchase of all assets of Paul Terry's Terrytoon, Inc., animation outfit, for just under $5,000,000.
Network would take over 100% of the stock in the company together with its more than 1,100 cartoons and merchandising-licensing rights to Terrytoon characters. Deal points up CBS's growing interest in animation, since it already has an exclusive-for-tv production deal with United Productions of America. Deal probably means the end of Terry's distribution arrangement with 20th-Fox, an agreement that has been in effect for 25 years. It also means the end of the oldest indie cartoon production outfit still in existence, since the 68-year-old Terry started turning out animated films some 40 years ago. He set up his own plant, which employs some 60 persons, in New Rochelle, N.Y., 25 years ago.
Among the characters he has turned out are "Mighty Mouse," his biggest money-maker; "Neckle and Jeckle," [sic] the talking magpies, "Dinky the Duck" and "Farmer Al Falfa." Merchandising comprises no small part of the operation, with "Mighty Mouse," in particular, having projected itself as a top licensing money-maker.
Relationship between Terry and CBS goes back several years, since the producer has been turning out animated subjects for the network via his "Barker Bill" afternoon show. That was a straight package deal; however, now all the Terry subjects become CBS property.

New York, Dec. 27. — Metro's short subjects department is in a whimsical mood.
Among the company's upcoming one-reelers are "Canine Mutiny" and "Blackboard Jumble." [Note: “Canine Mutiny” was a 1956 Mr. Magoo cartoon from UPA. “Jumble” was an MGM Droopy cartoon].

Before He Talked to Mr. Ed

Alan Young will always be Scrooge McDuck to a certain generation. To a generation before that, he’ll be Wilbur Post, the architect who unwitting bought a talking horse along with his new home on Mister Ed. To a generation before that, he was the star of a network radio show that included Jim Backus as a terribly wealthy man who used the same characterisation more than 15 years later on Gilligan’s Island as Thurston Howell III.

But to a likely very small number of people today, Alan Young was a young man who appeared on local radio and stages in Vancouver.

Many people in Vancouver radio back then sought fame and fortune elsewhere. Announcer Arch Presby was one. Director Fletcher Markle was another. But Young was the first who achieved huge, lasting fame.

By now, you’ve probably read the obituaries for this nice, gentle man, who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 96. But you may not have read about his early, early days.

Young’s father was a shipbuilder who moved from England to West Vancouver (newly connected with the city thanks to a bridge high over the First Narrows of Burrard Inlet). Young’s professional debut was at age 13 when he earned $2 doing a monologue for the Caledonian Society of Vancouver. Actors tried to pick up a bit of money—accent on “a bit”—on the radio. Young landed at CJOR, tied in with one of two CBC networks (the one consisting of non-government owned stations). Here are a couple of stories that look like CBC handouts, published in the Sherbrooke Telegram. By this point, Young had gone from Vancouver to Toronto (he was on 44 stations for Buckingham cigarettes) to New York, thanks to the man who discovered Dinah Shore, Frank Collins, dialing the wrong show when he was trying to find Fibber McGee and Molly. The first story is from January 4, 1945.
Heralding the meteoric rise of Canada’s own comedian, 24-year-old Alan Young, to the pinnacle of radio stardom, it was announced recently that he has been voted “The Most Promising Star of Tomorrow.” The poll, covering radio programs on all United States networks, is an annual concensus of opinion taken by Motion Picture Daily Fame poll of radio editors.
Alan Young, a native of Vancouver, is star of his own Blue Network broadcast, the Alan Young Show, heard every Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. (E.W.T.) Appearing with Young is Peter Van Steeden’s orchestra, featuring Diane Courtney, vocalist. It will be broadcast regularly over the Dominion Network of the C.B.C. commencing January 2.
Born in England, Alan Young came to Canada when he was a child and first went on the air in Vancouver at the age of 14 with a small “sustaining” program which he wrote himself. He has been on the air ever since.
Acting as Master of Ceremonies of the Saturday Night Stag Party, a Vancouver production very popular in the west, he built it up until it obtained national recognition as a C.B.C. Trans-Canada Network feature and was used on the C.B.C. – N.B.C. International exchange.
He left Stag Party to replace Johnny Wayne and Frank Schuster, a Toronto comedy team, who had made a hit before being drawn into the army. He played two seasons successfully and was expected to reach new peaks in his third when his manager obtained a summer replacement for him in New York. Eddie Cantor was taking leave from time owned by Bristol-Myers Company between July and October and Young was asked to fill his place. When his summer engagement ended he had won such a following that he was given his own show on the Blue Network, starting October 3, and has been successful enough to merit “Most Promising Star of Tomorrow” vote.
Young is probably almost unique in that he writes practically all of his own scripts, although assigned three script writers. Falling back on the days when it was a necessity to write his own scripts, he has drawn on sources of originality which made his show noted for its lack of threadbare situations and mouldy gags.
Recently, Alan Young offered $100.00 to all United States high school students who could write humorous situations suitable for his program. Scripts submitted were to feature humorous circumstances on which his program could be based rather than clever gags. He has personally visited numerous high schools in eastern United States to instruct students in writing for radio comedy and to consider their work and make suggestions.
At 24 Young, Canada’s first top-flight comedian, is on the threshold of the radio following which has made millionaires of many internationally-known radio stars.
This story ran on March 25, 1945 but seems to have been written a few months earlier.
A few years ago a young Vancouverite with a keen sense of comedy made Canadian radio audiences sit up and take notice: New York talent scouts took notice, too, and in no time at all this young Canadian, Alan Young, was replacing Eddie Cantor on the latter’s 1944 summer show. He clicked—and in the fall was given his own half hour program. Starting January 2nd and every Tuesday thereafter at 8:30 p.m., EWT., the Alan Young Show will be heard in Canada over the CBC Dominion Network.
Alan is a slight, blondish man with sort of a sad eyes that remind one of a cocker spaniel. He was born in England but his family moved to Vancouver when he was a small child. His acting ability asserted itself when he was in his early teens. Alan and his sister Harriet were putting on shows for the neighbourhood kids as well as singing and dancing in school entertainments.
When he was 15 he went to a local radio station and was hired to do a 15 minute show once a week, for which he was paid all of $2.50 a week. Alan says he found that he wasn’t able to work for the little he could spare from the $2.50 so he doubled for sometimes as many as a half a dozen people in the course of the program.
Alan stuck with the program for 28 weeks and then felt a raise was in order—asked for it and got it—50 cents a week increase. Along with this stage of his career fan mail began arriving for him and he went to the station owner [George Chandler] and demanded five dollars a week. He was fired.
He thrust his radio career behind him and with sister Harriet formed a vaudeville team. The pair were really just beginning to get somewhere when sister Harriet decided that keeping house and having children was a little more secure than being half of a vaudeville team so she left brother Alan high and dry and got married.
Alan returned to the fold of radio and attained a pretty fair success in the role of master of ceremonies on several shows. By this time he had developed his own style and a short time later he was signed as em-cee of a cigarette show emanating from Toronto. The show was an overnight success. Alan met and married a Seattle, Washington girl and is the proud father of a 20 months old daughter.
Despite the promising talk, Young was never part of the “A” list of network radio stars. His shows put him in the role of the earnest-but-a-little-befuddled young man. There were plenty of those in radio. The man who had hired him at CJOR, Dick Diespecker, sniffed in his radio column in The Vancouver Province that Young had been turned into just another American radio comedian. But that wasn’t Young’s biggest problem. He faced the same two words as every other comic actor when television rolled around—“Now what?” (When Young landed his first TV show in 1950, his father back in West Vancouver thought his son was making up the idea of television. It didn’t exist in Canada back then). Young couldn’t crack the “A” list yet. Here’s an Associated Press story from 1954.
Alan Young Launches Yet Another Chapter By BOB THOMAS
HOLLYWOOD, June 16 (AP)—This Saturday night, Alan Young launches yet another chapter in his amazing up-and-down career in show business.
The bright, youthful Canadian comic will be the guest star on NBC-TV's Saturday Night Review, and he'll appear eight times on the show this summer. He'll be doing what he does best—sprightly sketches of a well-meaning man caught in the web of circumstance.
This fall he may be back with a regular show, for which NBC has high hopes. It's tentatively called "That's Life," and Young plays a bumbling Mr. Fixit. He also has plans for his own show, in which he and a stock company would play comedy sketches.
And so his star is again in the ascendancy. He has been in Hollywood exactly 10 years this month and now can view his hectic career with some candor. "I've never been out of work since 1938," he reflected, "but my career has certainly had its highs and lows."
Born in England, he started out in show business as a monologuist in Canada when he was 13. He became a top radio comedian on the Canadian network, then was lured by offers from the United States.
"I came to New York and nobody knew me," he recalled. "I remember sitting at a little orange juice stand and listening to a broken-down radio while Eddie Cantor announced that next week the great Canadian comedian, Alan Young, would be on the show."
Young caught on with radio audiences in this country and came to Hollywood. He landed a contract with 20th Century-Fox and scored a success in "Margie." But after a couple of so-so films he was dropped by the studio. He also went off the air.
"So I worked up an act to play theaters," he said. "That was fine, except that I played four and that's all there were. I was very discouraged when I was playing Detroit, and I went up to Canada to scout the possibilities of going back there. I had decided to return when I got a call from my agent that CBS was interested in having me for a TV show. He talked me out of going back to Canada."
The CBS deal jelled, but Young had one more date to play in New York. The picture on the bill was poor, Young got second billing to a child pianist and audiences were surly. A comedian had stolen Young's gags in Detroit and used them in the same New York house on the previous bill. "Change your act!" the manager demanded.
"But these things didn't bother me," said Young. "I had high hopes for the CBS deal."
His hopes were justified. The TV show was a smash from the start. Again the movie offers poured in. He was signed by both RKO and Paramount. He was riding the crest.
Oops, it happened again! His TV show, a variety format, ran dry of material—"You just can't sustain a vaudeville show every week." He made two films, one a mediocre epic (“Androcles and the Lion”), the other a colossal flop (“Aaron Slick From Punkin Crick”). "The actor is the one who gets blamed," he sighed.
He came back with a situation comedy TV series, but it went awry. The reason: He allowed himself to be made a "schnook." This is a Yiddish term for a harmless dope.
"You can't win an audience that way," he commented. "You can play a poor fellow who is plagued by circumstances, but you can't be ineffectual. You have to show some manliness. The greatness of Chaplin was that he'd threaten to kick the villain. He might not do it, but the threat was there."
The musical Gypsy exhorted that you’ve got to have a gimmick. Young finally found one or, rather, had it handed to him by shrewd producer George Burns. Gracie’s husband took the idea of Francis the Talking Mule, hired the producer of the Francis films, and made Young an earnest-but-a-little-befuddled young man—with a talking horse (though the series was actually based on Walter Brooks’ stories in the Saturday Evening Post). The gimmick worked in first-run for six seasons and the show still works today. You can’t help but like Young’s pleasant Wilbur Post. And, as it turned out, several generations liked the pleasant Canadian man who played him.

If you want more about Young’s early career, read this interview with fellow ex-Vancouver resident Kliph Nesteroff HERE.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Opening of The Tell-Tale Heart

It would only seem logical that UPA, which wanted to produce cartoons without talking comedic animals and slapstick violence, would choose Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart (1953) as one of its subjects.

The cartoon was nominated for an Academy Award, with Paul Julian choosing the colours and inventing and dark, shadowy designs.

Here are some title frames from the opening of the cartoon as the camera pulls back on slowly panning drawings and overlays.

Adam Abraham’s terrific book When Magoo Flew: The Rise and Fall of Animation Studio UPA discusses the cartoon. Studio boss Steve Bosustow decided the cartoon should be in 3-D. Julian had to make changes to adapt to the format “I stayed up all night on a couple of occasions working out perspective parallaxes,” he told Abraham. The 3-D version was screened for UPA employees and their families. “One woman fainted, and some of the artists’ children, terrified, ran out of the theatre...In another preview audience member suffered a seizure,” Abraham learned. Bosustow was called to Columbia Pictures’ headquarters in New York and reamed out.

Audiences, expecting a cartoon to be a comedy, laughed at the moody drawings and James Mason’s a-little-too-serious narration. However, we’re far enough away from 1953 to be able to look at the cartoon and appreciate what Julian was trying to do.

A late note: It seems the designs in this cartoon have already been displayed on the internet by the late Michael Sporn. Check out his post on the subject

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Farm of Tomorrow Opening

Joe Montell took over from Johnny Johnsen as Tex Avery’s background artist for a very brief period in the 1950s. Farm of Tomorrow (released 1954) was his first short. Here’s Montell’s opening shot, likely from a layout by Ed Benedict.

He provided backgrounds for The Flea Circus and Dixieland Droopy, then disappeared. Johnsen returned for a few more Avery shorts before Vera Ohman handled the backgrounds in Tex’s final two MGM cartoons.

Montell went to work for John Sutherland and also spent some time at Hanna-Barbera before moving to Mexico and the studio where Jay Ward cartoons were being made. Under a pseudonym, he wrote what I suppose was an autobiographical novel. His MGM time is covered thusly:
Without any idea how difficult it was to get into the film business, in fact how impossible it is without knowing someone, being someone or doing someone, I nevertheless called up directors, agents, studios. . . practically anyone I saw in the yellow pages that looked promising.
It is indeed true that the innocent are protected and the dumb flourish and fools walk where angles fear to tread. I think in my case I was covered on all three points. I simply phoned the Disney Studios and asked to talk to the man in charge.
Walt was out so I called Metro Goldwyn Meyer Studios...and was connected immediately to the animation department. I told one of the directors that I was a hot shot commercial artist recently returned from Europe with a portfolio of really good and unusual artwork and that they really should see it. It must be said in my defense, and it must be true, that I have a very impressive telephone voice.
The gentleman on the other end of the line said, sure come on over, that he'd like to see my work. I did go to see him, he looked at my work. . .and hired me on the spot. What I didn't know, and what eventually came out, was that the director was fed up with one of the rival directors in the department and he wanted something completely new and different to show the overlords at Metro. So it was not so much that the director liked my work as much he thought it was so different it had shock appeal. He really didn't understand it, but somehow trusted me. And I, without the least experience in designing backgrounds, was put in charge of doing my very own animated film.
Somehow, I got through my first film. My backgrounds were indeed extraordinary. They were so different they went over everybody's heads and not understanding them, they accepted them as good. As with so much modern art, people accept it even if they don't understand it rather than run the risk of appearing ignorant. But, somehow I blundered through the following months learning as I went along. Actually, in the end, after years of working in the industry, I became quite good at my craft.
It’s a little hard to believe that Tex was “fed up” with Bill Hanna or Joe Barbera (Fred Quimby, maybe). The opening drawing you see above could hardly be described as “so different.” And I suspect Ed Benedict’s layouts would have some influence on the stylised drawings seen in this cartoon.

You can read a bit more about Montell here.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Brits, Backus and Magoo

The Brits love their comedy, from James Robertson Justice to Norman Wisdom, to the Carry On films to Monty Python to Blackadder to Red Dwarf and, well, the list is endless.

They love cartoons as well, and not just the ones made back home (the original Willo the Wisp with the voice of Kenneth Williams is a personal favourite). Hanna-Barbera’s series appear(ed) on TV. And another favourite was that irrepressible vision-impaired codger Mr. Magoo.

Picture Show Annual was an English publication chock full of autographed photos of the stars (from both sides of the Atlantic) and a few articles. In the 1961 edition, a short piece on Magoo made it into print. 1½ of the two pages were photos so the text was limited to the size of the average wire service entertainment column in the U.S. It talks a little about Backus and a little about cartoon-making, and was published in the wake of UPA’s last hurrah—the Arabian Knights feature film that shoehorned Magoo into the plot to make it more saleable.
Everybody loves Mr. Magoo the cartoon character—he’s the little man who always makes big mistakes. A near-sighted retired banker, age has not brought him wisdom and usually he bungles his way through life although somehow, whatever horrible misadventures have befallen him, he comes out on top. Jim Backus is the American actor whose voice supplies life and personality to Magoo. He describes him as “the pompous little business man rather the equivalent of England’s Colonel Blimp.”
Backus will tell you that anyone can submit a story for the Magoo cartoons and that “I do the voice first then the film is made later.” It seems he can record the voice anywhere—sometimes does so in his bedroom—and rarely sees the completed product.
“Very few people know that Magoo’s first name is Quincy,” he says. For himself Backus is “happy and a little unhappy” about Magoo. Happy financially—his bank is impressed—and unhappy because his own name, he will point out, carries little weight with people but he only has to say “Mr. Magoo speaking” and he immediately achieves effect.
Backus’ own life began in 1913 in Cleveland, Ohio. Apart from his versatility as an actor on radio, television (including the husband in the I Married Joan series and other shows), stage and in films, in Hollywood where he lives with his wife Henrietta (Henny) Kay he is known as a wit and gives out with many droll expressions.
The Technicolor cartoons in which Mr. Magoo stars are made by United Productions of America and since the late 1940’s when the character was first formed there have been more than 50 short subjects and one full-length film—1001 Arabian Nights. It took just over three years for the latter cartoon to be completed and it was based on the most popular of the Scheherazade tales, that of Aladdin and his magic lamp with Abdul Aziz Magoo as a lamp-seller of old Baghdad.
Magoo’s scenes were evolved by the UPA staff who knew him best, therefore his reactions were quite routine, but the following will give you an idea of the gigantic task of making a full-length cartoon.
The movements of the individual characters are created by changing their position on stationary backgrounds. This illusion is accomplished by painting the characters on separate transparent strips of celluloid called “cels.” More than half a million cels had to be inked and painted to complete the film which ran nearly an hour and a half.

Backus got a first-hand look at what the English thought of his comedy. Syndicated columnist Charles Witbeck interviewed Backus about it. This appeared in North American papers on July 6, 1961 when Backus was failing in a starring TV role.
Jim Backus Very Large in London

Special Press Writer
Hollywood—Jim Backus has been running around the country on weekends pushing products for sponsors of Hot Off The Wire, his syndicated TV series about a newspaper reporter, and his handshake and jokes send sales up because he's a very likeable and funny man. Then he returns to MGM studios to film another epic. Backus once threatened never to return to TV, a noble gesture, but be sneaked in the back via the syndication system. "I hate that word syndicated." he said. "I keep thinking I'm working for the Mafia."
Naturally he is thinking of money and is hoping the show will go two years. "Our ratings have doubled," he said, but he can't figure out how the Madison Avenue advertising boys think about his chances. "It's always, 'Boy, that's marvelous.' You can't get a positive statement out of them."
Jim has also done 138 Mr. Magoo TV shorts in order to keep away from the golf course and he and wife Henny are in the middle of their second book.
His first, "Rocks On The Roof," went through five printings, and his second, at the moment, has two titles, "Back To Backus" or "We Never Left The Ground," the latter picked because the book concerns the couple traveling about Europe in train and auto.
"We don't know how we're going to get through the second book. The first took about thirteen years of material. I don't know where the rest is coming from." In publicizing his first book, Jim made the big trip, signing autographs in department stores and speaking at ladies' luncheons. He toured with Pappy Boyington and Leon Uris, author of "Exodus," who was then unknown, and Backus used to try to push Uris a bit, for fear he might be left out.
"I'll never forget my first banquet in Beverly Hills where I got drunk with power," Jim said. "Eighty women showed up and we sold ninety-two books. Two weeks later I was going to talk to the male side of the club. I told the bookstore owner to get a truck so we wouldn't run out of copies.
"Three-hundred men showed up and I went into my spiel and they laughed a bit. Afterwards I expected a long line to form in front of the books. I never saw the line. We managed to get rid of two books. There I learned my first lesson—men do not buy books.
"Now If I had given them a big pitch about helping out a deserving child, the money would be carted out in a bucket, but I wasn't hep to literary rules."
Traveling in Europe, which will be the subject of book number two, brought Jim and Henny to London, where they turned out to be very popular. It seems Mr. Magoo is a smash over there and so is the old TV series, I Married Joan, which starred the late Joan Davis and had Backus as husband and judge.
"The English think it's funny, because a judge is a very dignified person, and to see him buffeted about by his wife is hilarious to them," Backus said.
"We come on over there at 8:30 on Sunday nights and I asked a TV man how many people watched it.
"'I should imagine everyone,' he said quietly."
Backus then asked what was running opposite his show. The man said he didn't have the faintest idea. It turned out to be a knitting show.
But the point is the British aren't interested in ratings or how many people are really looking in.
Mr. Backus likes this disinterest in the business part and hopes to spend more time in the cultivated city where he is a hero.
But at the moment he just wants to be a prisoner at MGM, seeing this is the U. S. and sponsors do care about ratings.
When these articles appeared in print, Magoo was Backus’ biggest success. After the failure of his newspaper sitcom, he lasted one summer hosting a replacement variety show in 1962, then was cancelled after 13 episodes of Blondie in 1968. In between was, perhaps, Backus’ most famous role on a ridiculous-but-loveable slapstick sitcom called Gilligan’s Island. Whatever horrible misadventures on television befell him, he came out on top, as the Brits might say.