Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Joke's Over

How many times have you said “Enough already!” when you’re on-line and see that’s someone’s still joking about something that’s been milked to death? Perhaps you’ve used a stronger phrase.

Like the aforementioned milk, pop culture has a time limit before it starts to go sour and is replaced by something else. It happens in music, it happens on television and it happens with humour. If it didn’t, we’d still be listening to Alma Gluck records, watching The Des O’Connor Show and laughing at Earl Butz jokes.

But some people just don’t recognise when something is past its best-before date. And that was the complaint of eye-rolling radio critic John Crosby in a column of May 5, 1948.

Crosby’s column was kind a two-parter. The first dealt with the latest comeback by Phil Baker. Baker had been a top vaudeville comedian in the 1920s, whose routine involved getting heckled by a stooge he planted in the audience. He was among the top comics who jumped into radio within about 18 months of each other. Baker beat Doc Rockwell, Harry Richman, Walter O’Keefe, Julius Tannen and Phil Cook in an audition for a variety show for Armour that began in March 1933 and, at $3,700 per broadcast, was the most expensive programme originating from Chicago at the time. The ‘30s rolled on, but Baker fell out of the top echelon of radio stars. He reinvigorated his career at the end of 1941 when he took over from Bob Hawk as the host of a game show on CBS.

The second part of the column involved a Crosby favourite, the jaded Henry Morgan, who vocalised his distaste for a lot of the things Crosby didn’t like about network radio. Comedians, beginning with Jack Benny, made fun of their sponsors. Morgan went further. He was on the scale between utter disdain and contempt. Benny was joking. Morgan seemed deadly serious. Not coincidentally, Morgan didn’t keep sponsors very long. One of them was Standard Laboratories, for a brief period between January 29 and June 24, 1948 (the contract was for 52 weeks). Variety gave the debut a “here’s the problem with it” review, believing Morgan’s satire was not always polished and he only had enough good material to last 15 minutes instead of a full half hour. Crosby found some different problems.

Here’s the review.

Radio in Review
By JOHN CROSBY
New Quiz, Old Morgan

There’s a new quiz show on the air, if any one is interested, called “Everybody Wins.” There is nothing else new about it except the candor of its title. Everybody has always won on these things but this show brings the matter out in the open. The chief distinction of “Everybody Wins” is that it restores Phil Baker to the microphone and, on the basis of his opening performance, that isn’t much of a distinction.
Baker seemed hostile not only to “Everybody Wins” but also to quiz shows in general and quiz contestants in particular. This feeling is by no means confined to Mr. Baker, but it’s a little surprising to find him sharing it since he’s been mixed up in this form of activity for quite a spell. For years he asked people to take it or leave it on the show of that name and finally left it himself, presumably because he could no longer stomach handing out $64 to the curious people who infested the place. Yet here he is back again passing out cash to people he gave every evidence of loathing. Some macabre compulsion, probably.
Because of his long layoff, he was also a little out of touch with the current fashions in jokes. There was one about Easter bonnets and an even more belated gag about Howard Hughes, two topics which have been laid aside temporarily by the more hep comedians.
About all else you need to know about this show is that listeners send in five questions. If a contestant gets them all right, the listener who sent in the questions gets $100. If the contestant gets them all wrong, the listener gets $100. Everybody wins all right. That’s enough on the subject.
Whenever you consider people with an apparent loathing for their profession you run squarely into Henry Morgan. One of Morgan devoted fans once told me he had bought an Eversharp Schick razor in spite of the scorn with which Henry treated it. He begged me not to tell Morgan about it, fearing he would lose the comedian’s respect. I believe he bought it at an obscure little drugstore in Harlem where he wasn’t known. Probably asked for it in whispers. I’m not altogether sure it’s the function of a comedian to put the product that pays the bill into this position. I don’t say he has to sell the product exactly but I don’t think he should try to prevent people from buying it.
On his new program, which is new only in that it’s at a different time and under different sponsorship, Mr. Morgan has to some degree curbed his dislike of consumer products. He still delivers commercials but he remains extraordinarily aloof from them. His detachment from the marvels of Rayve Cream Shampoo—even while he’s talking about them—is as marvelous and complete as that of Edgar Bergen from Charlie McCarthy.
Mr. Morgan, one of the most talented and least manageable comics on the air, has been a little spotty this year. I bring it up only because I’m fond of the boy and this hurts me worse than it does him. Morgan has gained ease and polish as a performer but the scripts are partly bright, partly terrible and partly just tired.
For quite a while now, for reasons not apparent to me, Mr. Morgan has been carrying on something called the “John J. Morgan Trouble Clinic,” a satire and quite a vicious little one on John J. Anthony. This would be a noble project if Mr. Anthony were still on the air. But he isn’t. (Or if he is, he’s out of my range.) There must be fresher idiocies to parody than that one.
Also, Mr. Morgan has developed quite a crush on Phil Silvers, who’s [sic] been present four times this season. Seems to me a man who’s been around that long should lose his status as guest star and take his turn at the bathroom like every one else. I have nothing in particular against Mr. Silvers, but his appearance four times indicates a lack of imagination somewhere.
To pass on to pleasanter aspects, Morgan’s weekly tilts with that tired, perennially distrustful Gerard (Arnold Stang) are a joy; Bernie Green’s orchestra, which behaves like a drunken player-piano, massacres popular music even more convincingly than Spike Jones. And, of course, there’s Morgan himself who, after two years, still manages to avoid the comedy cliches of all the other radio comedians. But he’d better be careful not to develop his own cliches.


1948 wasn’t the best year for Morgan. Besides Rayve dropping his show, his movie So This is New York didn’t do well at the box office and his TV show, being broadcast from Philadelphia because ABC had no facilities in New York yet, was abruptly cancelled because of television’s first technicians strike.

And Morgan also lost his announcer during this period. Charlie Irving sounds a lot like actor John Brown to me, but Morgan’s sponsor thought he sounded like someone else. From Weekly Variety of March 24, 1948:
Too Much Morgan
After two years with the Henry Morgan show, Charles Irving has been dropped as announcer because "he sounds too much like Henry Morgan."

Two replacements were hired. Bob Sheppard to read the commercials and (after exhaustive auditions) Doug Browning to do the opening and closing announcements and play stooge bits. Doug Browning was dropped after one broadcast, and Glen Riggs now has the assignment.
Decision to replace Irving was made by the client, Rayve shampoo, and the agency, Roche, Williams & Cleary, after an analysis by comedy consultant Ernest Walker indicated that Morgan "lacks identification" and that his and Irving's voices sound similar at times.
Incidentally, Morgan didn’t take Crosby’s advice. He dragged out another parody of Mr. Anthony on his broadcast of Oct. 1, 1948. You can hear it below. Cartoon fans should recognise the woman who plays Big Sister-in-Law in the soap opera sketch and the distressed woman in the John J. Anthony parody.







Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Industrial Ed

Ed Love adapted to Hanna-Barbera’s limited animation system when he arrived at the studio in 1959, having worked at Disney in the ‘30s, and for Tex Avery and then Walter Lantz (under Dick Lundy) in the ‘40s.

His early TV cartoons had an interesting style. There would be movement almost every frame, although not like at MGM where he’d make a complete character drawing on a frame. At H-B he might move an arm on one frame. The next frame, the head would move. The next, an eye and an arm might move. Most of the other animators generally held drawings for two frames.

Love did the same thing in what I’m presuming was a freelance assignment for Chuck Couch in the early ‘60s (I cannot find a copyright date for the film). Talking of Tomorrow was an industrial film for Bell Telephone. It appears Love was handed the assignment of animating the nefarious uncle (voiced by, I think, Jerry Hausner) who calls his nephew hoping to steal some ideas. I’m not going to try to show off Love’s animation style. Instead, here are some of the poses he (and perhaps his assistant) came up with.



Corny Cole and Tom Yakutis are responsible for the designs, which have moved away from the flat, stylised ‘50s characters into something in tune with the early ‘60s.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Turkey of Tomorrow

“This modern stove is equipped with a clear-view door so you may look into your oven,” narrator Frank Graham tells us in Tex Avery’s House of Tomorrow. “Yes, sir,” he adds, “looking through this little window, you can see everything.”

A broiling turkey in the oven hears the last sentence.



The turkey looks down, realises it is naked, then quickly covers its giblets. Or something like that.



Finally, the aghast turkey ensures it gets privacy.



Grant Simmons, Mike Lah and Walt Clinton are the credited animators.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

He Was Jack Benny

Word association time: what comes to your mind when I say “Jack Benny” and “impression.”

You probably think about Rich Little. For years, an impression of Benny was in his act. Of course, he wasn’t the only one. As far back as the 1930s, KFWB announcer Jack Lescoulie did an impersonation of Benny; he even did it (uncredited) on a tribute to Jack’s 10th anniversary on radio on NBC on May 11, 1941.

Many other impressionists must have done Benny, considering his fame. But none could have had a more unusual path to the comedian than Bob Blasser.

Blasser was a native of Fred Allen’s home town, Boston. After graduating from high school, he studied at a Catholic seminary, but dropped out to attend Boston State College and then taught English in high school. Teaching didn’t pay a lot, so he did impersonations in commercials and at parties. Then he hit on an idea to get noticed.

It’s related in this syndicated newspaper column of December 3, 1963.

TV KEYNOTES
Clever Mimic Wins Benny Spot

By HARVEY PACK

NEW YORK — The first of the mysterious Jack Benny phone calls was received by Jackie Gleason. "I'd like to plug my personal appearance tour on your show Saturday night," Benny said. Gleason replied he would be happy to oblige, but he had already taped his program and was leaving for a week's vacation in Florida.
The next call was to Garry Moore. Benny wanted Garry to help perpetrate a joke on their mutual friend, restaurateur Toots Shor. "We'll have dinner at Toots' place, then I'll refuse to pay the check." he suggested. "I've hired an actor, dressed as a policeman, to throw us out."
During the next few days, several of Benny's friends received similar calls. But when George Burns answered the phone and found himself talking to Jack Benny, he was understandably confused. Benny was, at the time, seated in Burns' living room.
That was the first time Bob Blasser failed to convince one of Jack's cronies that he was, indeed, the famous comic. But instead of ending Blasser's hoax, it prolonged the imposture. Blasser, a Boston entertainer with an uncanny gift for mimicking Benny's vocal mannerisms, will appear on his victim's CBS-TV show tonight.
Long Chance Pays Off
"I took a long chance and it paid off," explained Blasser, a sandy-haired young man in his late 20s. "For 10 years, I tried to establish myself as a comedian. I worked in night clubs, summer resorts and local radio and TV stations all over New England. I sent press clippings, pictures, tapes and hundreds of letters to the producers of the top TV variety shows. But the answer was always the same, a polite brush-off. You know the routine, 'Don't call us; we'll call you.'" Finally, the frustrated comic obtained the phone numbers of some 30 top television personalities—and, one by one, he called them, claiming to be Benny. The reactions were interesting.
"Gleason pal'd me," Blasser recalled. "He said, 'Gee, pal, I wish we had time to tape a spot, pal, but I hate to blow this Florida trip pal.' Perry Como was taken in, too. When I finally broke down and admitted I wasn't Jack Benny, he screamed with laughter. Then he put each member of his staff on the phone to talk to me."
Another comedian who fell for Blasser's adroit impersonation was Red Skelton. When Blasser confessed, he refused to believe it. "Stop putting me on, Jack, and tell me how Mary is," Skelton insisted.
Phoned Jack Benny
Blasser's final phone call, after the George Burns incident, was to Benny himself. "He wasn't there," Blasser noted. "So I left a message for Jack Benny to call Jack Benny, which really baffled his secretary. By that time, Jack knew all about the fake phone calls. He called back and invited me out to Hollywood." If Blasser's vocal mimicry was good before he went to California, it's even better now. For a week, he was coached by an expert on the subject, Benny himself. "We worked on words like ‘Hmmm’ and ‘Well’ for hours," Blasser said with a smile. "Jack insisted I had his reputation to uphold."
Although Blasser is delighted with the results of his brazen experiment, he doesn't want to be typed permanently as Jack Benny's alter ego. "Mimicry is a sideline with me," the improper Bostonian explained, "My real forte is satire, topical humor mixed with pantomime. The idea behind this hoax was to force people to listen to me. Now that I've got a showcase on the Benny program, I hope I'll get to do other things on the air as well."
As for Benny, he still hasn't recovered from the imposture. "At first, I was surprised by the nerve of the guy," he admitted, "Then, when I actually listened to him, I was shocked. It's an eerie feeling to hear your own voice coming out of another man's mouth."
Only one of Jack's friends, aside from Burns, insists he wasn't fooled by the hoax. That's Benny Rubin, who worked with the comedian in vaudeville, and has appeared sporadically on his show for 30 years. "I knew right away you weren't Jack," Rubin told Blasser, "because the call wasn't collect."


Blasser appeared on the Benny TV show in December 1963. He told syndicated columnist Alan Gill “They wrote me into a routine with Dennis Day, where Dennis is seeking some revenge on Jack. Then I've got three or four minutes at the end, where I do a couple of Red Skelton bits, some Frank Fontaine, Alfred Hitchcock and Liberace.” Blasser told Gill in 1963 he had been trying to break into the national spotlight for ten years. But after he got there, he didn’t seem to want it, or it didn’t seem to want him. He made appearances on several talk shows in the ‘60s and then seems to have disappeared. During part of the time, he was taking post-grad courses at Boston College. Perhaps he achieved his goal, and moved on to something else.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Otto Who?

Like the greatest of the 1920s silent movie stars, Felix the Cat can still charm people through film. Felix’ personality is clear and the morphing gags in his cartoons are imaginative.

For years, all that creativity was credited to Pat Sullivan. After all, it was Sullivan’s name on the studio that animated the cat, it was Sullivan’s name on the comic strip Felix that was syndicated around the world. And it was Sullivan’s name that Sullivan himself kept bringing up in interviews. Bill Nolan? Otto Messmer? Somehow, their names—and others—never came up in Sullivan’s self-promotion.

Here are two stories from newspapers in New York. The first from the Long Island Daily Press of April 29, 1927 touts the arrival of the Felix strip. Apologies for the poor scan of the photo that accompanied the story.

BLACK CAT JINX DOESN’T TRAIL FELIX
Pat Sullivan’s ‘Brain Child’ Is Fortunate Feline—Just Watch THE PRESS.

Pat Sullivan, creator of the world-famous “Felix the Cat”, is a native of Australia, and his name plainly denotes his ancestry. His early cartoons were published in Antipodean newspapers, but it was not until he arrived in the United States some years ago that he struck his stride and became one of the most famous cartoonists of the age.
First, Sullivan scored with an amusing creation entitled “Sambo,” a cute little colored kid who reigned for several years among top-notch comics. Then came the inspiration of a life-time in the form of “Felix”, the comical black cat that bears a Latin name signifying “good luck.”
“Felix” Sullivan says, was first suggested by his charming wife (a dazzling blonde who favors black cats as pets). It became the first—and many claim it is still the foremost— of “big time” animated movies. It is shown wherever motion pictures are exhibited.
A Hit In Britain
Great Britain especially has taken an enthusiastic fancy to “Felix the Cat”, where it is a mascot for many organizations, including England’s international polo team. “Felix” is published in many of the leading magazines and newspapers in the British Isles.
Sullivan does most of his work (including the colored Sunday page which appears in this newspaper) in his studio now at 47 West 6 3rd street, right off Broadway in New York City. Hundreds of “Felix” drawings and toys adorn the studio. Posters show the globe-girdling sway of “Felix”—yellow sheets from Peking, Singapore, etc., with flaring colored broadsides from Paris, Berlin and London, and scores of notices from various parts of America.
The snapshot of Sullivan produced with this article shows him at actual work in his studio. Prematurely gray and with eyes that twinkle humor, Pat looks what he really is—a great comic artist, full of rich experience in his chosen craft and alive with wit always.
Asked to account for his success, Sullivan invariably remarks, “I was going along just so-so, struggling for recognition on many newspapers until Mrs. Sullivan fairly chased the idea of a comic black cat across my mind. Felix resulted, and ever since it has been functioning as a good luck token. I never dreamt at first that ‘Felix’ would take so well with the public. Mrs. Sullivan did.”
Don’t Be Alarmed
The next time a black cat crosses your path don't be disturbed. Think of “Felix”. Perhaps the very thought may win you some of Pat Sullivan’s luck. For the idea of a black cat led to his becoming—as he is becoming—a millionaire. That is, luck helped Sullivan, who also happened to have the ability to draw some of the funniest cats ever whelped in the imagination.
Maybe that skill is what broke the black cat hoodoo for Sullivan. But Pat jocularly rates “Felix” as a lucky token. And so does the comic editor who is enabled to publish “Felix” in the press every day.


■ ■ ■

Five years later, the Long Island City Daily Star published this story. It’s unbylined and may have been syndicated. Sullivan admitted he took on “several promising young artists.” It was published on March 14, 1932. Sullivan was dead less than a year later.

■ ■ ■

Pat Sullivan, Comic Cartoonist for Star Was Hand on Mule Boat Before Antics Of Felix, the Cat, Brought Him to Fame
Pat Sullivan, the originator of Felix, the famous movie cat, who appears in The Star, was born in Sydney, Australia, about the time of the “Big Blizzard.”
In his boyhood days the desire to draw cropped out in him and, like many other famous cartoonists, he often felt the sting of the rattan rod as a reward for his efforts as pedagogical portraiture.
In early youth Mr. Sullivan shook the dust of Australia from his boots and sailed for London. Here he did his first professional comic drawing. His work appeared in numerous British penny comic sheets.
While in London Mr. Sullivan also tried his hand at the theatrical game. He appeared in the London music halls doing a dancing and singing act. After a try at acting he went into the exhibiting end of the game, being one of the pioneers of the motion picture exhibitors in England.
This business was not a financial success, so Mr. Sullivan dropped out. He decided to do a bit of wandering about this time, and hired himself out as a gentleman in waiting to a boat full of mules. He spent two years plying the Atlantic in this capacity.
At the end of that time he decided to settle in the United States and take up art of fisticuffing. After tucking the scalps of a few light-weights under his belt, Mr. Sullivan decided that pugilism was not what he wanted.
The urge to draw began to make itself felt within him and he accepted a position on the staff of the New York World, a comic strip. Later he joined the staff of the McClure Syndicate, and turned out such well known characters as “Sambo Johnsin,” “Old Pop Perkins,” “Johnny Bostonbeans” and “Obliging Oliver.”
The animated cartoon idea had, about this time, been brought out by Raoul Barre, a famous French artist. Mr. Sullivan joined Barre and drew for the screen “Sambo Johnsin,” the pickaninny he had made famous in the comic sheets throughout the country.
Later Mr. Sullivan opened up his own studio and took on his staff several promising young artists.
When the Famous Players Corporation decided to issue short subjects they requested Mr. Sullivan to draw animated cartoons for them. They wanted something new and funny. Mr. Sullivan filled the bill with "Felix," the human feline. From the very beginning “Felix” caught on.
The exploits of “Felix” are not confined to the screen. Through King Features Syndicate “Felix” appears in the comic sheets of newspapers not only in this country but also in Europe, and even in Japan.


■ ■ ■

Felix may have had one of the quickest falls from stardom of anyone on the screen when sound came in. Sullivan either decided sound was a passing fad or didn’t want to spend the money on it. The decision was a huge mistake. By 1929, no one wanted silent cartoons. Educational Pictures dropped Felix in favour of new shorts made by Paul Terry and Frank Moser. Finally, Sullivan acted, signing a deal with Copley Pictures. The cartoons were well drawn and some were very inventive. But the sound was just an after-thought. And Copley wasn’t exactly like MGM, let alone Educational. It likely had problems getting the cartoons in big theatres. Felix vanished by 1930.

Fortunately for Felix fans, the black cat was still a visible presence, thanks to newspaper comics. And he was still a valuable property, valuable enough that a series of TV Felix cartoons including newly-created villains, a bag of tricks and a jumpy theme song exposed him to a whole new generation. It proved that a star is a star. No matter who created him.

Friday, 25 September 2015

We're at the Mardi Gras

Unusual creatures populated the Fleischer world at one time, and it’s pretty evident during a pan of the crowd at the opening of the Popeye cartoon “King of the Mardi Gras.”



This cartoon features a fun theme song, those great 3-D backgrounds and maybe the best roller coaster scene in any cartoon, thanks to the sound effects and perspective animation.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Heart of a Prince

The dopey prince has a neat little high-step walk cycle, fully animated, in the Terrytoon “The Glass Slipper” (1948). The prince comes to a stop but part of his body wants to keep going.



Cinderella sends him a kiss.



The reaction.



I like how the force of the heart going back into his body sends part of his body backwards.

Then he stretch-dives, somewhat similar to Carlo Vinci’s animation at Terrytoons and elsewhere, off screen.



There’s a lot that’s “meh,” as the kids say, about Terrytoons, but in this cartoons there are some great drawings of Cinderella during a dance sequence in the palace, the mixed chorus the studio used is good, there’s a neigh-ing wooden horsie. And there’s Jim Tyer.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

The Unhappy Man With the Confetti

“Laugh-In” vaulted all its early cast—at least, those who lasted a full season—into the national eye, even though many of them had been on TV for a number of years.

In the 1960s, Dave Madden was a stand-up comic who opened for Frank Sinatra in Tahoe, garnered some appearances on Ed Sullivan and then won a role in a sitcom. Did anyone really notice? Not until he was plunked into the cast in the second season of “Laugh-In” in 1969.

But Madden didn’t stay. He had a logical reason for leaving. He gave it up for a role in another sitcom, the role he’s probably most famous for. But by the end of it, he may have wondered why he took it. He felt like his talents weren’t being used and griped about it in the media.

Here are two newspaper stories syndicated by the King Features Syndicate. The first one is from December 31, 1970, at the start of his turn on The Partridge Family, the second from June 27, 1973, as it was about to enter its final season.

From Throwing Confetti To Acting
Diversification Is Key For Madden

By CHARLES WITBECK

TV Key
HOLLYWOOD — The big, blond, sleepy looking fellow who used to toss confetti and give silly weather reports on “Laugh-In,” Dave Madden, has gone semi-straight on Friday night's “The Partridge Family,” pretending to hate kids in the role of agent Reuben Kincaid.
Serving as a counterbalance to offset the sweetness of mother Shirley Partridge and her five, cute musical children, dyed-in-the-wool bachelor Kincaid is supposed to demonstrate distaste for family life.
In TV situation comedy, one must not offend small audience segments: so Kincaid can't be a true child-hater like W.C. Fields. Too bad. Instead, Madden plays safe, and from time to time, lets fans know he really doesn't dislike those Jaunty, vocal little Partridges. They may bug him, but that's to be expected. As a bachelor, he's not a bumbler, just a guy who doesn't know how to cope with children.
Agent Kincaid's musical background has never been established. “I was told I was the son of a big recording man,” Dave explained the other day. “Meaning I just fell into the business, and don't really care” Once saddled with the musical group, Kincaid carries on, growing more attached as the weeks go by. In one segment, the kids try to marry him off, and that doesn't work, though it does form a bond between Reuben and plotters, with the agent expressing his appreciation.
Madden's leap from the established hit “Laugh-In” to the question-mark format of “The Partridge Family” sounds like a gambler's choice, and it stems from Dave's desire to diversify. The man shies away from becoming a stereotype. “‘Laugh-In’ gave me exposure,” he said, “but you reach a saturation point on the show quickly. The aim is to get in and get out. One year of throwing confetti is enough.”
Madden made his television debut on David Swift's disaster “Camp Runamuck,” earning a role without even a reading. It was his first dramatic reading acting job, thanks to an enthusiastic Swift, the newcomer got 26 weeks of experience. After “Runamuck,” Dave branched out into commercials, night clubs, and wrote material for Jerry Van Dyke, Ronnie Schell, along with light patter for singers, and survived very nicely.
Diversification is the key to show business survival in Madden's mind. “I'm depressed by the number of fine actors struggling for parts—people who can act rings around me,” says Dave. “It's sad to see all that talent going to waste with so few jobs available.”
Caught in the squeeze, the comic ventured into night clubs, “a fantastic challenge, if you're out for challenge. But it's dying and I see no hope. To want to be a club performer today is like wanting to become a juggler.”
So it boils down to acting, writing and photography. Madden has turned into a camera nut, picking up the hobby from friend Dave Ketcham on “Camp Runamuck,” snapping pictures wherever he goes. On Interviews, instead of being photographed, Madden shoots the reporter, and says the hobby has given him new insight into human inconsistencies—which is helpful in his acting.
As for a writer's career Madden believes he would be nuts if put on a daily schedule. “I am stifled by trying to create on an organized basis. Schedules inhibit me. My good hours are from 2 to 5:00 a.m., tight after a night club job when my mind is still up. Give me eight hours sleep and I can't even talk. I always feel lousy in the morning and I can't recall ever waking up and feeling great.”
For a sleepy bear type who claims to lack energy, Madden turns out to be a fake, a deceiver, trying everything. He can play a great drunk at 9:00 a.m., and at midnight he turns into a Dick Cavett. That's diversification.


Moving Day for The Partridges Arrives on Saturday
By CHARLES WITBECK

TV Key, Inc.
HOLLYWOOD—(KFS)—Good grief, ABC's No. 1 scries, "The Partridge Family" has received a shocking blow. Starting this Saturday, the Partridges begin competing with "All in the Family" and "Emergency" in the same time slot.
This can be conceived as a kiss-of-death move to show followers, a sudden write-off, since previous network ploys to battle Archie Bunker and NBC's intrepid firemen haven't worked at all.
Dave Madden, the seldom-used series humorist out of Terre Haute, Ind., would like to see "All in the Family" make a fight out of it, and says he's talked to Mr. Bunker about the new competition, but Bunker doesn't seem to care about it.
NBC is doing very well in the time slot with its kids' show, Madden said. "Emergency" managed a 20-rating against No. 1. "All in the Family" this winter; which meant "that nobody on this planet was watching ABC," according to Dave. Yet the comic is unable to feel sorry for actor Larry Hagman in "Here We Go Again," the winter show nobody looked at, saying, "I'd like any role in every fifth picture Larry Hagman makes on Movie of the Week." Riding on Hagman's coattails in network shows would be very lucrative.
What are the reasons for matching "The Partridge Family" against the Bunker clan and "Emergency"? Madden says that he "functions logically," so he can't give an intelligent answer. But "All in the Family" reruns were seen slipping in the ratings against the kids' show, "Emergency," and star David Cassidy has been making noises about leaving the series when his contract is up after this season. This obviously concerns the network which is toying with the idea of introducing another character in several episodes this fall to test the audience response. Madden, however, does not believe the present show success hinges entirely on Cassidy's age-5-to-15-female following. "Perhaps it did during the first two seasons," Madden said the other day, "but now the show has become a group effort."
Even Dave Madden's character, Reuben Kincaid, can take some credit, though his potential is usually ignored — a slight that hurts and brings the response, "At times I feel like being a used people lot."
The comedian finds himself in the strange position of being associated with a hit series which has done nothing for his career as a night club performer. If Madden were in Rob ("All in the Family") Reiner's shoes, he could command good money for a Vegas date, but "The Partridge Family" label scares off the big bookers in Las Vegas.
Instead Madden finds himself classed as a performer for child and teen-ager entertainments. Not long ago he was one of the headliners in a Long Beach, Calif., show which attracted 9,000 youngsters, an assignment that baffled the comic.
"If I were a rock singer there would be no problem as to content," he explained. "But what does a comic do to entertain kids from 5 to 15? What does a 6-year-old laugh at? What amuses a 12-year-old? Are they the same thing? I have no frame of reference at all. I can fall off a stool with my guitar and do those old sight gags, but I don't know what laughs at what. Shows like that are impossible tasks because there are no answers to the problems. Today, the only person who can fit this audience is Bill Cosby as he tells kids' anecdotes, makes funny faces and does weird sounds, but Bill is one in a million."
Madden has a second offer to return, and he's considering it. "I'm a masochist and a sadist I guess," he said, still pondering over the question of whether to write new material based on his guesses, or go in with the old in case of a different audience.
Kids — write in and solve Dave Madden's problems on what you think is funny. Being an intelligent grownup who thinks logically, he needs help.


Something happened on The Partridge Family that Madden didn’t expect. Teenaged girls screamed and cried for David Cassidy. They didn’t want comic byplay between an agent and a ten-year-old. So the agent became tangential to the plot.

What did Madden do after Archie Bunker killed off the Partridges? If you didn’t see him once in a while on the sitcom Alice, you probably didn’t see him. He did a fair chunk of commercial announcing and other voice-over work, then decided to give up Hollywood for Florida and tried to fade from memories.

Judging by this post, it didn’t quite work.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Hawk

Quick cutting and imaginative layouts highlight Frank Tashlin’s Porky’s Poultry Plant, released in 1936. But there’s also an effect he pulls off I really like.

The villain of the cartoon is a chicken hawk.



When the hawk quickly swoops down on the hens and their chicks, Tashlin turns it into speed lines.



Then Tashlin treats the menace in shadow form.



The Warner’s orchestra highlights the hawk scenes with dramatic music. Carl Stalling reached back into his silent film days to use “Furioso No. 2” by J.S. Zamecnik, the movie sheet music machine from the 1910s and ‘20s.

All this makes up for a pretty weak opening, weighed down by Joe Dougherty’s humourless stutter as Porky Pig (is Martha Wentworth the hen?). Still, it’s miles and miles ahead of anything Jack King had turned out for the studio that year.

Don Williams and Volney White are the credited animators.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Self-Referential Tex

“Who Killed Who?” is full of parody, puns, clichés, silliness and even a self-referential gag at the start.



There are no animation credits but I imagine Avery’s unit at the time had Preston Blair, Ray Abrams, Ed Love and maybe Irv Spence in it at the time. If someone can pick out Spence animation in this cartoon, let me know.