Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Tex's Trip to Mars

The Cat That Hated People decided to go to the moon. Johnny Johnsen’s background drawings accommodated him.



There must have been a joke about flying to Palm Springs around the time this cartoon was made. This background was panned left to right in the cartoon.



Tex Avery and Heck Allen came up with a plot where the cat, who’s abused by everyone and everything on Earth, goes to moon, where he’s abused by everyone and everything. The cat decides to go back to Earth because if he’s going to be abused, he’d rather be abused in AMERICA! (MGM must have loved a chance to show how patriotic they were).

Walt Clinton and Grant Simmons were in Avery’s unit, along with Louie Schmitt and Bill Shull. Avery’s unit was kind of in a gradual transition when this cartoon was made (it was released in 1947) for reasons I’ve never heard about.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Foxy Blast

Here’s an explosion effect from Paul Terry’s Sour Grapes (1950), starring Dingbat. A fox plants some dynamite and....



Yeah, that’s the end gag. The fox sitting there.

The scene’s undercut a bit by Phil Scheib’s approach to scoring. The explosion happens while his saxophones are still puffing away. Someone like Carl Stalling or Scott Bradley would have built to a climax and then let the animation take it from there. (To be fair, Scheib has a great version of “Man on the Flying Trapeze” in the next gag).

Mannie Davis’ direction credit was chopped from TV prints of the cartoon.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Jack Benny Vs Fred Allen, June 1, 1947

Jack Benny and Fred Allen managed to carry on their phoney radio feud from late 1936 past the time Allen’s show left the air in 1949. The two of them exchanged visits on each other’s shows, usually when Benny was in New York City as Allen lived there.

There’s plenty of old-time radio available on the internet for your free listening pleasure, but not all the Allen shows featuring Benny are in circulation. One of them was broadcast June 1, 1947. However, scripts for the Allen shows are in the Boston Public Library. Hurray to historian Kathy Fuller Seeley, who headed to the aforementioned educational edifice and managed to get a copy for that particular show. Actually, she’s missing several pages due to a photographic error but all the pages involving Jack’s dialogue are intact.

The first half of Allen’s show in those days involved an introduction by announcer Kenny Delmar, dialogue between Allen and Portland Hoffa, followed by the Allen’s Alley segment, a song by the DeMarco Sisters, then the middle commercial. The second half consisted of Fred and Portland setting up a sketch with the guest star, then the sketch, a final commercial and Allen’s farewell (if he wasn’t cut off by the NBC staff announcer).

What you see below is the transcribed script for the second half of the show; the page numbers are indicated. Allen’s regular cast was involved and is noted in the script as to which characters they played. They were Delmar, Minerva Pious and Peter Donald. The other regular, Parker Fennelly, didn’t generally take on any other parts except the dour New Englander, Titus Moody, in the Allen’s Alley portion of the show.

Just a few notes in case there are readers unfamiliar with the background:

● Jack Eigen had a radio all-night show where he interviewed celebrities at a club in New York. The bulk of his career was in Chicago.
● The major radio networks required programmes to be broadcast live, with a second live version several hours later to accommodate the west coast time zone (recording off the line was permitted by local stations in certain exceptional circumstances). Bing Crosby was the first person to break the rule, convincing ABC in fall 1946 to allow him to pre-record his show on transcription discs. This created a huge controversy in the industry as well as Crosby/wax jokes.
● Bernarr MacFadden (1868-1955) was a health, bodybuilding and diet expert, one of the first.
● “Small boy”? New one on me.
● There was a Cecil Theatre in Mason City. It opened June 3, 1912 with a seating of 859. It was later named the Park 70. It ended its days run down and boarded up before collapsing in 1988.
● Kenny Delmar’s Russian accent is a takeoff on actor/director Gregory Ratoff, who appeared on radio periodically.
● The name of “Mr. Weaver” was borrowed from Pat Weaver (1908-2002), who was president of NBC in the 1950s. He produced Allen’s radio show some years earlier as the representative of ad agency Young & Rubicam.
● A number of comedy/variety radio shows in the ‘40s—whether by network edict, I don’t know—reserved time before the final commercial for a public service announcement.

-13-
ALLEN: That was just a blueprint of My Adobe Hacienda played by Maestro Al Goodman and 25 members who were honorary pallbearers at Seabiscuit’s funeral. And now – Yes, Portland.
PORT: Do you mind if I go home early tonight?
ALLEN: No.
PORT: The antique man is bringing Mama a new coffee table.
ALLEN: What happened to your Mother’s old coffee table?
PORT: Termites got in it.
ALLEN: No kidding.
PORT: The termites ate the coffee table down to a demi-tasse table.
ALLEN: We had an end-table at home. Termites got into the end-table. And now we have an end-table no end.
PORT: An end table with no end is a what-not.
ALLEN: I know. I went out yesterday to look around the antique shops and I saw the oldest antique.
PORT: Where?
ALLEN: Well, yesterday afternoon I left home and started up Third Avenue.
(MUSIC: BRIDGE . . . ORCHESTRA)
ALLEN: I stopped to read a sign in a window of an empty store. The sign said – Jack Eigen slept here. Suddenly, the door of a thrift shop next door opened –
(DOOR OPENS)
A: And I heard the saleslady say –
MIN: (OLD LADY) I’m sorry mister. We won’t have those high button shoes until next week.
JACK: Save me two pairs and a button hook.
ALLEN: Jack Benny!
(APPLAUSE)
-14-A
ALLEN: Jack what are you doing in a thrift shop?
JACK: I have the darndest time getting shoes.
ALLEN: You get your shoes in a thrift shop?
JACK: I like those high-buttoned shows – nobody else carried them. I get the vici-kid with the bulldog toes.
ALLEN: oh.
JACK: They were all out today. They only had those Congress shoes with the elastic in the side. They looked too dressy.
ALLEN: Gosh, Jack. You look wonderful.
-15-
JACK: And, Fred, you look wonderful, too.
ALLEN: Those rumors. People have been saying you’re a shriveled up, infirm, doddering old man.
JACK: And people have been saying you’re a flabby, wrinkled, baggy-eyed old sour puss. They told me you were wearing a veil.
ALLEN: People have been saying that’s what we are? Ha! Ha!
JACK: Yes. Ha! Ha! Say, Fred –
ALLEN: Yes, Jack?
JACK: We are, aren’t we?
ALLEN: Jack. I’ve never seen you looking better.
JACK: Thanks, Fred.
ALLEN: That beautiful wavy hair –
JACK: Well - -
ALLEN: Those sparkling white teeth –
JACK: Gee - -
ALLEN: And those long eye-lashes –
JACK: uh-huh. What about my nose?
ALLEN: Your nose?
JACK: Yes. At least that’s mine.
ALLEN: Jack, all I hope is that when I’m your age I look as good as you do.
JACK: Wait a minute, Fred. Did you say when you’re my age?
ALLEN: Yes.
JACK: You had a birthday yesterday, didn’t you?
ALLEN: That’s right.
JACK: Well, I heard that if all the candles on your birthday cake were melted down, there’d be enough wax to record Bing Crosby’s program for all of next season, and enough left over to wax the floor at Roseland.
-16-
ALLEN: I heard last year when they lit the candles on your cake two guests who got near the cake were barbecued.
JACK: Now wait a minute, Allen, if you want –
ALLEN: Jack, Jack, what are we fighting for? We’re old friends.
JACK: You’re right, Fred.
ALLEN: Gosh, I wouldn’t know you from Barnarr MacFadden. How do you keep yourself in such wonderful condition?
JACK: It’s the life I’ve been leading.
ALLEN: Oh.
JACK: I get up every morning at seven, pry my nostrils open, take a deep breath and I’m ready for breakfast.
ALLEN: What do you have for breakfast?
JACK: A glass of orange juice and a small boy long loaf of French bread.
ALLEN: A small boy? A long loaf?
JACK: Yes. I lean on the small boy French bread while I drink the orange juice.
ALLEN: Oh. After breakfast –
JACK: I’m off to the golf course.
ALLEN: You play golf?
-17-
JACK: If I happen to find a ball, yes. Otherwise I caddy.
ALLEN: After a hard day of retrieving on the links you must be ready for dinner.
JACK: Yes. For dinner I have one jumbo raisin and a heaping bowl of spinach.
ALLEN: One raisin and spinach. That must give you plenty of iron.
JACK: You said it. I don’t know what they do in Rio on a rainy night, but at my house I sit around and get rusty.
ALLEN: You’re certainly double crossing old Father Time. You haven’t a wrinkle in your face.
JACK: Confidentially, Fred, I wouldn’t want to get this around but I’ve been having a little plastic surgery done.
ALLEN: Plastic surgery?
JACK: Yes. Every week or so I have this plastic surgeon take up the slack skin on my face and tie it in a knot at the back of my neck.
ALLEN: The back of your neck? Doesn’t it bother you?
JACK: No. The only thing is, I have to wear a size 27 collar.
ALLEN: I noticed that your Adam’s Apple was pulled around your left ear. But with it all, Jack, you still look the same as the first day we met.
JACK: Gosh, that was a long time ago.
ALLEN: It sure was. The first time we met – remember . . . . .
(“MEMORIES” . . . . (SNEAKS IN) . . . (VIOLINS)
ALLEN: I was in vaudeville – a star. I was headlining at the Cecil Theatre in Mason City, Iowa. After the first show I was sitting in my dressing room. I heard an argument in the hall. I opened the door.
(DOOR OPENS)
-18-
PETE: I’m Krakauer, the manager of this theatre. Your act is putrid. You’re canned.
JACK: But everything went wrong. When I came on the orchestra forgot to play Pony Boy. At the finish when I play Glow Worm my violin is supposed to light up. The electrician forgot to plug it in.
PETE: Even if you lit up you couldn’t save your act. Start packing!
JACK: But, Mr. Krakauer.
PETE: You’re through! Get out!
(DOOR SLAMS)
JACK: I wish I was dead.
ALLEN: What’s the matter, Son?
JACK: Say aren’t you Fred Allen, the big star – The head-liner?
ALLEN: Yes. Stop trembling, lad. Aren’t you the opening act?
JACK: Yes. I’m Gypsy Jack and his vagabond violin.
ALLEN: Gypsy Jack.
JACK: This is my first date in vaudeville. The manager just canned me. I haven’t any money. How will I get home?
ALLEN: Where do you live?
JACK: In Waukegan.
ALLEN: What is the fare to Waukegan?
JACK: Thirty dollars.
-19-
ALLEN: Here is thirty dollars, Gypsy Jack. Go back to Waukegan.
(“MEMORIES” . . (FADES) . . . VIOLINS)
ALLEN: Gosh, Jack, when I saw you leaving the theatre that day in your gypsy suit with the long silk stockings and your satin pants little did I think I would ever see you again. What happened?
JACK: When I finally got home to Waukegan, I went back to pressing pants in my Uncle Tyler’s tailor shop.
ALLEN: Mason City had left no scars?
JACK: No. But show business was still in my blood. At heart I was still Gypsy Jack, and his vagabond violin.
ALLEN: I see.
JACK: One day, I was pressing a traveling salesman’s pants, when my iron ran into a lump in one of the pockets. The lump turned out to be a ticket to Hollywood.
ALLEN: Hollywood! That was the second time we met. Remember.
(“MEMORIES” . . . (FADES) . . VIOLINS)
ALLEN: Hollywood. . It was on the 20th Century Fox lot. I was starring in my first picture “Thanks A Million”. I remember that morning I walked on the set.
(WHISTLE)
PETER: (YELLS) Quiet on the Set! Quiet on the set! Mr. Allen is ready.
ALLEN: Where’s the director?
KENNY: (RUSSIAN) Right here, Mr. Allen.
ALLEN: What is my first scene, Gregory?
KENNY: It is the Bowery. You do that big comedy bit with a bum.
ALLEN: Oh, yes. Let’s run it through. Who’s playing the bum?
-20-
KENNY: Central Casting sent us a real bum. Here he is. You with the filthy wind-breaker and the baggy beret. Come here.
JACK: Yes, sir.
ALLEN: Just a minute, Unsanitary One. I seem to know your face. Didn’t we meet in vaudeville? Aren’t you Gypsy Jack?
JACK: Formerly Gypsy Jack, Mr. Allen. Here in Hollywood I’m using the name, Dexter Strongheart.
ALLEN: I hardly knew you with that beard.
JACK: I’m Gabby Hayes stand-in. But this is my big break, Mr. Allen. Gosh, doing a scene with a star like you. It’s like a dream.
KENNY: All right. Let’s gat going with the scene. Here’s the pie, Mr. Allen.
(HANDS FRED LEMON PIE)
ALLEN: Thank you.
JACK: Oh, there’s a pie in the scene.
ALLEN: Yes.
JACK: Do we eat the pie?
ALLEN: Not exactly. I hit you in the face with it.
JACK: Let me understand this. You throw the pie at me?
ALLEN: Yes.
JACK: What do I do?
ALLEN: You do nothing. I throw the pie at you. You get it in the face. Are you ready.
JACK: Just a minute.
ALLEN: What is it?
JACK: You throw the pie, don’t I duck or anything?
ALLEN: No. You just hold your face still and “Whap” you get it.
JACK: “Whap” I get it.
ALLEN: Yes, are you ready.
-21-
JACK: Could I ask one more question?
ALLEN: What is it now?
JACK: What kind of pie is it?
ALLEN: I don’t really know.
JACK: Do you mind if I taste it?
ALLEN: No. Go right ahead.
(JACK PUTS FINGER IN PIE AND TASTES IT)
ALLEN: What flavor is it?
JACK: Lemon Meringue. Oh shoot.
ALLEN: What’s wrong?
JACK: Couldn’t you make it banana cream? I like banana cream better.
ALLEN: It’s too late now. We’re holding up the picture. Get set. I’ll throw the pie.
JACK: Hold it!
ALLEN: Now what?
JACK: What part of my face are you going to hit?
ALLEN: What difference does it make?
JACK: I’d like to get it right. I’m anxious to make good.
ALLEN: I plan to hit you between the eyes. It will be quite funny when the goo runs down your cheeks.
JACK: That will be funny. Ha! Ha!
ALLEN: Good. Well, here we go.
JACK: Wait! Wouldn’t it be funnier if you hit me with a loaf of bread?
ALLEN: A loaf of bread?
JACK: Sliced.
KENNY: Stop! Stop! I am the director! This bum is trying to direct the picture.
JACK: But, sir.
-22-
KENNY: I couldn’t shoot this scene today. The company is dismissed. Put away the pie. Get that bum out of here. He’s fired.
JACK: Gosh, Mr. Allen. I’m fired again.
ALLEN: Look, Dexter. It told you ten years ago in Mason City - -
JACK: You’re right, Mr. Allen. I guess I’m just not meant for show business. How will I get home?
ALLEN: Do you still live in Waukegan?
JACK: Yes, Mr. Allen. It’s thirty dollars by bus.
ALLEN: Okay. Here is thirty dollars, Dexter Strongheart, go back to Waukegan.
(“MEMORIES” . . . (SNEAK IN) . . STRINGS)
ALLEN: I’ll never forget, Jack, before they threw you out of the studio I gave you the lemon meringue pie.
JACK: It lasted me all the way to Green Bay.
ALLEN: What happened when you got back to Waukegan this time?
JACK: I went back to work in my Uncle Tyler’s tailor shop. But show business was still in my blood.
ALLEN: You were unhappy at your ironing board, eh?
JACK: I was desperate to getaway. Whenever I got a pair of pants to press, the first thing I did was feel for lumps. And then one day - -
ALLEN: Another lump?
JACK: A big one.
ALLEN: A railroad ticket?
JACK: This time it was money. I could go where I wanted. I went to New York.
ALLEN: New York. That was the third time we met. Remember?
(“MEMORIES” . .. (FADES) . . VIOLINS)
-23-
ALLEN: New York. That’s where you got your start in radio.
JACK: Thanks to you, Fred.
ALLEN: Oh, it was nothing. I remember, that day I got the call from a man named Weaver. A big-shot with the American Tobacco Company. I entered Mr. Weaver’s office.
(DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES)
PETE: Gad! Fred Allen! We’ve been waiting all afternoon.
ALLEN: What’s on your mind, Mr. Weaver.
PETE: We’ve got a big radio program for Lucky Strike Cigarettes – We want you to be the star.
ALLEN: I’m sorry, Mr. Weaver. I’ve just signed with Tender Leaf Tea and Shefford Cheese.
PETE: Well, that does it. Without you Allen we might as well pull Lucky Strikes off the market. We’ll close the plantations, and send old F.E. back to Lexington, Kentucky.
ALLEN: I’m sorry, Mr. Weaver.
PETE: Gad what a program this would have been. We had this singing quintette.
ALLEN: A quintette?
PETE: Yeah. Show him, boys.
CAST: Hmmmmmmmmmmm.
ALLEN: Wait! That hairless soprano on the end – aren’t you Dexter Strongheart?
JACK: Yes, Mr. Allen. (WHISPERS) But for radio my name is Jack Benny.
-24-
ALLEN: Jack, you in a quintette?
JACK: Before Mary Livingston would sign up for the show she made them find a job for me.
ALLEN: Oh, a tie-in deal!
JACK: Please, Mr. Allen, take over the program, it’s my last chance.
ALLEN: Jack, that gives me an idea. Mr. Weaver, the star of the Lucky Strike show – does he have to be funny?
PETE: No. We’ve got Rochester, Dennis Day, Phil Harris – plenty of comedians.
ALLEN: I see?
PETE: All we need is a slob the others can bounce jokes off of.
ALLEN: Then here’s your man – Jack Benny!
PETE: Okay, Benny – If Mr. Allen says so, you’re hired!
JACK: Gee, thank you, Fred.
(“MEMORIES” . . . SNEAK IN . . ORCHESTRA)
ALLEN: So Jack that’s how you got into radio.
JACK: Yes, Fred, if it wasn’t for you who know what I’d be today.
FRED: Oh, it’s nothing, Jack.
JACK: Well, Fred, it’s been swell talking over old times.
ALLEN: It sure has, Jack. I haven’t seen you since that day in Weaver’s office. Tell me, what are you doing now?
JACK: My program finished last Sunday. Right now I’m doing nothing.
FRED: You’re out of work again, eh?
JACK: Yes, Fred.
ALLEN: What are you going to do?
JACK: I guess I’ll go back to Waukegan. But, Fred.
-24-A-
ALLEN: You don’t have to ask me, Jack. Here’s the thirty dollars.
JACK: But, Fred - -
ALLEN: And this time stay in Waukegan!
(“DOWN IN MAC CONNACHY SQUARE” . . . (FADE) . . ORCHESTRA)
(APPLAUSE)
-25-
ALLEN: Ladies and Gentlemen, during the last half hour more than 120 people in the United States were injured in automobile accidents. Accidents are increasing at an alarming rate. This last year 33,500 American drivers and pedestrians died as a result of carelessness and violation of the laws. Whether driving a car of crossing the street, be alert - - be careful. And remember that the life you save may be your own.
Before we remind you to remember Tender Leaf Tea and Shefford Cheese on your shopping days, I want to thank the Neanderthal Man, Jack Benny, for sneaking out of the Roxy to join us tonight. Next week, our guest will be Rochester. Thank you. And good night!
(APPLAUSE)
(THEME: TO FINISH . . . ORCHESTRA)
?-sk
5/31/47PM

Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Duck Man Speaketh

Walt Disney’s priorities in the 1940s and ‘50s may have been feature-length cartoons and a theme park, but he still had a contract with RKO to put animated shorts on the big screen. And he had three units doing it, led by Charles Nichols, Jack Hannah and Jack Kinney. In the ‘60s, Nichols moved on to Hanna-Barbera, Kinney opened his own studio and ground out Popeye cartoons for TV and Hannah got a job directing for Walter Lantz.

Kinney seems to get all the accolades of today’s animation fans, mainly because his shorts are a little more rough-and-tumble. In other words, they’re not like Disney shorts. Nichols gets little respect. Hannah falls in between, though the nicest comments you may read about him are from fans parroting each other about his work for Lantz. If you hear about his Disney work, generally it involves directing Humphrey the Bear in In the Bag (1956). Hannah later went into teaching. It was then he was profiled by the Long Beach Press-Telegram on July 17, 1975. When I transcribed this story for the GAC website, a poor scan of Hannah from the paper accompanied the post. I don’t even have that now; what you see above is a cropped picture from the D23 site.
End of an era? He hopes not
By LINDA ZINK

Staff Writer
Once upon a time in what was then considered a brave new world of writers and artists and technicians, Jack Hannah was known jokingly around the Disney Studio as a Donald Duck man.
Today Hannah calls himself an endangered species. In 40 years, he explained, the world has changed and the newness has faded and Hannah — now close to 70 — finds himself part of a dying breed.
"We're all getting old now," said Hannah of the men and women who were responsible over the years for transforming Walt Disney's dreams into celluloid reality. "The studios aren't training young people the way they did when we were starting out. Pretty soon there won't be any of us left."
Hannah spoke not wistfully, but realistically of the days when both he and the Disney Studio were young and casts of hundreds worked together to produce one animated feature. But the time that went into those features, Hannah lamented, and the expense...no studio could possibly afford to do that sort of thing today. "It used to be that you could make your money back on a 10-minute Donald Duck cartoon. That doesn't happen any more and gradually the studios have stopped making them."
HANNAH, A ONE-TIME animator and "shorts" director, bemoaned both the end of an era in cartoon-making and the end of a system which encouraged and trained young people in the art of character animation. Once again, he said, cost is the culprit. Yet as appreciative as he is of financial realities he fears the worst for the future of animation.
"There used to be plenty of opportunity for a young person to learn. When I started out there were so many people involved that there were ways to train an apprentice.
"But now if you don't know how to do it you're not going to learn. The studios just don't have the money any more to provide training for newcomers and there are no schools of art in this country that offer programs in character animation."
So committed is Hannah to preserving at least part of that magical world he once help to create, he has come out of semi-retirement to head a program to train young people in the techniques of character animation.
The four-year bachelor's degree curriculum will be offered beginning this fall at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. The program is funded by the Disney Foundation and "old hands" from the Disney Studio will play an integral role in the training process.
"THE IDEA," Hannah explained, "is to teach the art of character animation. This means more than just drawing sketches — it means knowing every phase of the animation process.
"At the same time we want to make sure our students have a well-rounded background in the arts. This isn't just a prep school for the Disney Studio. When a student graduates from the program we want him to be able to go into any area, not just character animation."
As the program is now conceived, students will spend the first two years mastering the basics of animation, including design and life drawing. Mastery of life drawing is especially essential, Hannah explained, "because if you can't draw an actual sketch of a fawn, you aren't going to be able to do character animation of one."
At the same time, students are expected to spend at least one day a week pursuing other liberal arts studies, Hannah said. Curriculum during the final two years — which will be supervised personally by Hannah — will emphasize the film making process.
ENROLLMENT in the program will be limited to 15 students per class. Several young people already have been accepted on the program and numerous others have submitted applications and samples of their work.
"All portfolios submitted will be looked over by an evaluation committee made up of Disney people," Hannah said. "What we're looking for are people with some basic talent and sense of movement...and of course some indication of a sense of comedy and entertainment."
Hannah was born in Arizona on January 5, 1913. His family was in San Diego by 1930 where he and his brother Robert worked as overseers at a parking lot. He was hired at Disney in 1933. Hannah died in Los Angeles on June 11, 1994. Jim Korkis interviewed him a number of times and you can read a composite of their conversations here.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Cats Don't Like Castor Oil

A little kitten reacts after licking from a pool of castor oil in the Van Beuren cartoon Rough on Rats (1933). He shakes his head, runs around, jumps in the air, turns a somersault, then runs in perspective past the camera.



It seems like director Harry Bailey was told to make a cartoon like Disney. This features a song by chirping female vocalists, cute characters doing action in pantomime and—pretty standard for the early ‘30s—a menace invading the cartoon half way through only to be vanquished violently by a mob. The only problem was the Van Beuren animators didn’t draw at a Disney level, Bailey doesn’t try to get anything out of poses (I wonder if the Van Beuren artists animated straight-ahead) and Gene Rodemich’s score is strictly for mood and doesn’t accent any specific actions on the screen. Still, it’s an unassuming, unpretentious cartoon with a great ending as the angry, violent, revengeful kittens become mewing and sweet while happy female singers chirp away. The Film Daily rate it “a dandy.” It’s enjoyable to watch.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Histrionic Horse

Red Hot Rider and his horse are blissfully sailing through the air.



Through the air?!?!!!?



The panicked horse decides to turn around and grab the cliff it just jumped off. The quickest way is for the horse to go back through itself. Here are some of the drawings.



Manny Gould is the credited animator on Bob Clampett’s Buckaroo Bugs, with a story by Lou Lilly.

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
By VERNON SCOTT

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).