Wednesday, 18 October 2017

What's Playin', Doc

TV bandleaders, at one time, all had to flashy dressers. Jackie Gleason made fun of Sammy Spear’s outfits. Merv Griffin exhorted Mort Lindsay to show him his lining. And maybe the guy whose mod wardrobe sparked the most jokes was Johnny Carson’s music man, Doc Severinsen.

No doubt Severinsen was a little more conservatively dressed in 1949 when he showed up at NBC looking for work. He hung around the network, in addition to doing concerts and cutting records, and when Johnny Carson took over the Tonight show in 1962, he was the assistant musical director to Skitch Henderson. But when Skitch left in 1966, Doc didn’t get the top job. Veteran bandleader Milton DeLugg did. Then DeLugg left to work on films and Doc was handed the baton on October 9, 1967. He kept it until Carson went off the air on May 22, 1992.

Let’s give you some insight into Doc’s career from his pre-Tonight leading days. First up is this story from June 17, 1961.
Busy Trumpeter Finds Himself
By DICK KLEINER

Newspaper Enterprise Assn.
New York—There's a problem when a musician gets to be too successful these days. Exhibit A is Carl (Doc) Severinsen, perhaps the busiest trumpet this side of Gabriel.
Around New York, if a musician is well thought of, he'll play several times a day in several different groups for several types of recordings.
"Sometimes," says Doc, "I play four sessions a day. One may be jazz, another is sweet, a third will be symphonicized and the last will be Latin. You learn to go from one style to the other without any trouble."
• • •
THE TROUBLE came when Enoch Light, the head of Command Records, asked Doc to front a band and make his own album.
"I was suddenly confronted with the realization," Doc says, "that I had no distinctive style of my own. I could play anybody's style, on order, but I hadn't worked out my own. So I just played the way I felt."
The result, an album called Tempestuous Trumpet, is a lovely thing — and Severinsen's sudden style makes fine listening. He's appeared on more than 500 records, but this is the first in which he's featured. He's played on TV, in movie and theater bands, in jazz bands, symphonies and concerts, but this is the first time he's lost his anonymity.
• • •
SO MEET Carl Severinsen. He's from Arlington, Ore. His father was a dentist, known as Big Doc, hence the boy automatically was Little Doc. When Little Doc said he'd like to play the trumpet, Big Doc bought him the only one in town—"We bought it from ol' Ernie Clark, I remember." A week later, the boy soloed for the Ladies' Aid Society. By the time he was 9, he was well-known in western Oregon.
"My father liked music with a beat," Doc says. "I preferred the smoother style. So I'd imitate Harry James. Dad would leave his patients waiting in the chair to chase me and get me to quit playing so sweet."
When he was 14, he went to Portland, auditioned for Tommy Dorsey's band. He didn't get the job, but Dorsey, Jo Stafford and the others were kind to the young boy, let him hang around. It was the first time he'd ever heard a band in person, and he knew he'd found his life's work.
He's still happy with it. Especially now that he has been forced to develop his own style.
This story appeared in papers starting August 13, 1966. Severinsen explains why he never got into rock music.
FORMS FIRST COMBO AT 38
Music Makers Prescription

By MARY CAMPBELL

AP Newsfeatures
Doc Severinsen, respected trumpet sideman, age 38, has formed his first combo.
"It was an idea that was lying dormant for a long time," he says. "I think every kid has the eventual aim of being a leader. I lost sight of that along the line. Now I've recaptured a desire to do this.
"I think it's an ideal time to start it. By the time you're 38 you've gotten your lumps and should have learned something.
"I've often felt that a small group could be used as concert vehicle and really do a well-turned program. That is what I'd like to be able to do."
So far, the Doc Severinsen Sextet has appeared at Basin Street East in New York, in Hardin; Ky., Dallas and Houston, and has cut a record for Command.
At Basin Street, the sextet was on the bill with a rock 'n' roll group and was playing a variety of music, trying to please an audience with varying tastes.
"After, this we'll play 'Watermelon Man' for half an hour and let it go," Severinsen says. "Actually one weekend I just sat down and reexamined what I'm trying to do. I made up my mind if I'm going to have a sextet, I don't need to do anything besides concerts and be a soloist on the Tonight Show."
SEVERINSEN said he decided neither to compete with nor join the rock scene. "I'm going to play music that I enjoy. I want to be happy when I come on stage and be happier when I go off and I want the audience to know I'm having a good time."
Severinsen says it's difficult to judge the market for jazz — but nobody would consider it one of today's most in demand sounds.
He says, "We do 'Summertime'; it starts with trumpet and drum. I'm playing the melody to 'Summertime.' We build into a peak and at the top comes pure jazz. Commercial sounds are going on around it.
"I can play five-six choruses of pure jazz in 'Summertime' and they don't know they've heard a note of jazz. You do play melody. You're playing your very best. "The trouble with so many jazz people is that they want it to be an exclusive, esoteric item. But the psychology of a group like this is to take into consideration the feelings of the people we're playing for. Give them something to relate to. I don't mean it as a compromise — as a challenge."
SEVERINSEN has been a member of the NBC Orchestra for the past 15 years and TV's "Tonight Show" band since Johnny Carson has had the show.
Also, he has been making serious music appearances with symphonies — Amarillo, Minneapolis and Baltimore last year and Pittsburgh Houston and probably Seattle this year. And for the past five years he has been holding music clinics around the country in high schools and colleges, for a musical instrument company. "I rehearse with the band or orchestra. I do a lecture on music and life, and then we play a concert in the evening."
The likeable trumpeter is well-known among musicians and among those who collect trumpet recordings. He has made five LPs for Command; the newest is "Fever." "And we're doing an album now. We added two guitars and percussion to the sextet. It's the best record session I've ever had.
"You know if you want to get an intimate feeling in records, the machines are doing too good a job of picking you up sometimes. At times they almost add a dimension to your playing you don't want."
Severinsen started playing professionally in 1949 on the Kate Smith Show. He has played with Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Vaughn Monroe, Charlie Barnet, Ted Fiorito.
Asked whose trumpet style he likes, he names Harry James, Bunny Berrigan, Billy Butterfield, Clark Terry, Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie.
"But the influence on me was my father." Severinsen's father, "Big Doc," an Arlington, Ore., dentist (still practicing), played violin and was a member of a large family which included a family string quartet.
"I was brought up on classical music but I heard jazz and said, 'Why, that's for me. ' "
So he learned the trumpet instead of the violin, and entered a statewide contest run by the Music Educators National Conference at 9. Herbert L. Clark, famed cornet soloist, was the judge. Severinsen, who won the national championship at 12, was the winner.
He recalls, "I was just two trumpet lengths high. Somebody gave me a shove and I was out in the middle of the stage. I played 'The Gaity Polka' — without a mistake."
Severinsen turned out to be the perfect bandleader for Johnny Carson. He’s a skilled musician, but on camera he was also able to get off a wisecrack without upstaging Carson. We’ll look at an earlier era of Tonight next week.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Cue(t) Gag

Yet another butt-piercing gag from Joe Barbera can be found towards the end of Cue Ball Cat (1950) when Jerry ties a pin to the end of a cue stick. Tom has shoved it down a hole to get Jerry, but somehow it’s defied the laws of physics and has curved up through the hole behind him.

Down the cue is plunged. Skyward goes Tom in pain. Here are some random frames. Even the in-betweens at MGM are pretty expressive.



The bite-lip/face-turns-red bit was also used the same year in Casanova Cat.

Irv Spence, Ken Muse, Ed Barge and Ray Patterson are, as usual, your animators in this cartoon.

Monday, 16 October 2017

It's the Musical Spider

Cartoons at Ub Iwerks’ studio started out just like the Silly Symphonies that Iwerks had made for Walt Disney—lots of dancing and singing, no story, light gags.

In The Village Barber (1930), a bumpkin decides to put money in the barber shop player piano. Instead of a piano roll, we get a spider, who zooms toward the camera like characters in, well, an early Disney sound cartoon, and dances out a little classical music tune on the ivories.



A fly joins him. The spider gets jealous of the fly’s talent and tries to eat him, but the fly flies away.



Not terribly strong stuff. Soon Grim Natwick and Berny Wolf would be arriving from New York to start adding risqué material to Flip the Frog’s on-screen efforts.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Benny Defends

Eddie Cantor’s daughters. Bob Hope’s nose. Bing Crosby’s Hawaiian shirts. Al Jolson and Larry Parks. Jack Benny being cheap. Radio columnists rolled their eyes and said “Oh, not again! Enough!”

And, eventually, the radio stars responded “Enough!”

John Crosby was one of those columnists who complained about the sameness of some shows. And Benny finally said “Hold on a second.”

The result was Crosby’s column of January 6, 1949.
Down With the Critics
By JOHN CROSBY

In the anniversary issue of "Variety," Jack Benny, the $2,260,000 comedian, has broken a lance over the skulls of radio critics, an easy target and one that hardly justifies the expense—lances being pretty expensive these days. If you over look the extravagance though, Mr. Benny has a pretty good point and, since I’ve temporarily run short of lances of my own and comedians to break them against, I thought I’d turn the place over to Benny for the day. (Since columnists haven’t as much space at their disposal as comedians, this has had to be drastically condensed.) Take it away, Mr. Benny.
“The past several years I’ve noticed radio editors gang up on radio comedians and accuse them of using the same type of humor year after year. Reviewers admit the comedians have top comedy shows, and funny programs. Their beef is the programs always use the same characters and situations.
“The battle cry seems to be, ‘The listeners want a change.’ But do they?
“Amos and Andy were public favorites in 1929. They still are. Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson, Fred Allen, Burns and Allen, have all ranked high in the Hoopers for a dozen years. These comics have spent years perfecting their individual comedy styles, and would be completely lost without them. Would the critics have George and Gracie darken their dialogue and Amos and Andy jump into domestic comedy? Bob Hope has a pace and brashness I envy. But I know that I’d be floundering in ‘flop-sweat’ if I tried Bob’s delivery. I do flatter myself into thinking Hope can’t get as much out of a ‘Well!!!’ as I do.
“It took seventeen years to develop the characters on my show. Each week we’ve tried to inject a new situation, idea, or character into our script. What happens? A reviewer comes along, says the show was great, the audience loved it, the script was hilarious. . . . BUT ... I was the same stingy, toupee-topped, faulty fiddler; Mary was still snippy; Phil continued as a fugitive from Alcoholics Anonymous; Dennis was still silly; Don continued to be fat and Rochester was the same sassy butler he always was.
“Now, I’ve been reading this reviewer’s column for many years, and it’s a darn good column. But every week, every year, this columnist’s style of writing is always the same. Always verbs, pronouns and adjectives. Why doesn’t he get some new things? (Ed. note: If he’s inferring to me, I added prepositions in 1946, first man in the business to change with the times.)
“Radio critics scream, ‘Why don’t the comics stop already with programs about Thanksgiving and Christmas. The air is filled with them.’ What would they have me do on Christmas? Set off skyrockets and roman candles and have Phil wish me a Happy Fourth of July?
“On opening programs, why do the comics all do the same thing— talk about what they did on their vacations? Well, let me ask you something. If you worked with someone closely and then separated for the entire summer, what would be the first thing you’d ask him when you saw him again? How he liked Jane Russell in ‘The Outlaw?’
“Oh well, television is with us now, and I’m waiting for some reviewer to say: ‘It was an enjoyable video show, but darn it, always the same old faces.’”

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Pinto

You probably think of Pinto Colvig as the voice of Goofy, but he was so much more than that.

Without further ado or sidebar trivia about Colvig and Verna Felton both voicing for Disney, here’s a profile of Pinto from the August 25, 1946 edition of Radio Life magazine. The very low-res photos came with the text.

The Dog’s Best Friend
Is Noise-Maker Pinto Colvig, Who Portrays Most Of the Dogs You Hear on Radio Programs, Besides Almost Anything Else That Producers Dream Up

By B.J. Hammer
AS you walk up Highland Avenue in Hollywood toward the Hollywood Bowl some evening you might pass by a house that seems to have a ferocious dog fight going on in the front room! Or the shriek of a werewolf, followed by horrifying screams, might issue from behind the front door! Don't call the police—you are just passing Pinto Colvig's house, and Pinto is probably auditioning over the phone for a radio producer.
Even in a town where unusual occupations are the rule, rather than the exception, Pinto's career is out of this world. He is a noisemaker de luxe for radio, films and records. You've heard him as Jack Benny's Maxwell, the hound in "Hound of the Baskervilles," a lion on the "Joan Davis Show," as Walt Disney's "Pluto," "Goofy," "Grumpy" (the dwarf in "Snow White"), and the "Practical Pig" in "The Three Little Pigs." For a "Command Performance" broadcast he even gave a practically perfect imitation of the Bronx subway train!
How in the world does a guy get started on a life of noise-making? Pinto smiled when we asked him—seems like everybody asks that. "I had my first taste of show business when I was about eight years old," he began, "and Verna Felton's responsible for that."
"You mean our Verna Felton?" we asked.
Nostalgia
"Yes sir," exclaimed Pinto. "When I was a homely kid in the little tiny town of Jacksonville, Oregon, the biggest event of the year was the annual appearance of the Allen Stock Company featuring 'The Verna Felton Players.' Verna was about eight years old, too, and the prettiest little girl you ever saw. She was the star of the company and all their plays were especially written around her. Well, I was as stage-struck and as star-struck as they come. I'd hang around the company, getting in everybody's way, trying to get in with them. Finally, to get rid of me, they actually gave me a part! Two lines. I had to run across the stage, holding on to a live cat, calling back to the wings, 'Duck it! Duck it!' and start to throw the cat down a well. At this moment, heroic Verna was to match up to me, tear the poor cat from my murderous grasp, while I exited, chastised.
"During the actual performance, spellbound at being before an audience and on the same stage with my ideal, I refused to let go of the poor cat, determined to draw the scene out as long as I could. Verna finally got it out of my grasp, but not before we'd tug -o'- warred over it so hard we nearly pulled it to pieces!"
Many years later, at a Jack Benny rehearsal, one of the members of the cast started to introduce Pinto to a majestic looking fellow member, "You know Verna Felton ... " they began. "It was the first time I had seen Verna since she was eight years old," smiled Pinto. "I grabbed her by the hand and shouted, 'Do I know Verna Felton? Why, she's responsible for my being in show business!' Of course, I totally forgot that Verna didn't have the slightest idea who I was. When I reminded her of the Jacksonville Opry House and the cat in the well, she remembered perfectly. 'Oh, yes,' she said, 'that was in "the Power of Wealth"' ".
Though supplying weird noises has just about crowded Pinto's other talents out of the picture, he's found time to become known as co- writer of that deathless song, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?"; he's been a story -man and cartoonist at Disney's and most recently he's been featured on several Capitol record albums of children's stories with Margaret O'Brien. Last but not least, he's the loudest and corniest clarinet player in the country.
Circus Lover
Pinto left the University of Oregon just before graduation when the call of show business became too strong, and he joined up with the Al G. Barnes circus band. He still drops everything when the circus returns. This past season he played in the band while the show was in Los Angeles. Pinto's wife, Margaret, threatens to leave town next circus season. "When the circus is here, Pinto's never home," she sighed.
In spite of all this, Pinto leads a normal family life. He's the father of five talented and handsome boys, Vance DeBar, Mason William, Byington Ford, Bourke Lingae and Courtney X. "Sound like a string of Pullman cars, don't they?" he laughed. Vance is known in radio as a gagman for Tom Breneman [sic], writer and actor. "Gosh," said Pinto, "lately they're starting to refer to me as 'Vance Colvig's father'!" His son Bourke is a teacher at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and a fine classical musician and composer.
Pinto still claims that he hasn't made up his mind whether to be a musician, a cartoonist or an actor. His ambition is to get a part where he delivers lines like a real human being instead of an elephant, a mad dog, or what-have-you. "But when the phone rings," he sighed, "I know that it'll be somebody saying, 'Pinto, you do a penguin, don't you?'"
"Have you ever done anything serious in radio?" we wondered.
"Oh, yes," smiled Pinto. "On the 'Big Town' program I played a sad dog! It was a tear-jerker about a little boy giving his dog to the service about the time that the war first started, and we were afraid that the audience would laugh in the middle of this very serious, dramatic scene, when I started whining and barking. So Ken Niles had me come out before the show started and I barked and whined and growled till the audience had all the laughs out of their systems. My first serious dramatic effort!" sighed Pinto in mock sadness. "That's why I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Verna Felton. She, at least, gave me real lines to say!"

Friday, 13 October 2017

Calico Dragon Backgrounds

Background artists were never credited on animated shorts in the 1930s, so we’ll never know who was responsible for the settings in MGM’s The Calico Dragon (1935).

The cartoon is pretty typical fare other than it’s set in a dream world of calico characters and backdrops. The effect is quite interesting.



The girdle/bridge and the river in the frame above are animated. The H-I background artist puts some of the calico hills on overlays because the characters enter or leave scenes in perspective and disappear at times between the hills.



As you can see, Harman and Ising were still legally limited to using two-tone Technicolor.

The imaginative look would appear quite old fashioned within the next few years as Disney pulled almost everyone into a more sophisticated style.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Gee, This is Silly

There’s nothing like a cartoon character editorialising about the cartoon he’s in. Example? Tex Avery’s Land of the Midnight Fun (1939).

Cut to a shot of a large tree. “Here we show you an Alaskan Timber Wolf,” says narrator Bob Bruce. The wolf runs out from behind the tree and points at it. “Timber” he yells before running away laughing.



The camera moves in and the wolf confides in us, “Gee, this is silly,” before the camera moves back and the silliness continues.



The literalness of “timber wolf” helps the gag.

Avery plays the wolf. Chuck McKimson gets the animation screen credit but Sid Sutherland and Virgil Ross are here, too. Johnny Johnsen supplies the backgrounds.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

A John Crosby Roundup, January 1949

Radio columns in newspapers during the ‘30s and ‘40s consisted of puff profiles and “what’s on the air tonight” pieces. Any critical comment would, for the most part, would be found in the industry press.

Then John Crosby came along.

Much like Henry Morgan, Fred Allen and Bob and Ray, he thought radio was pretty inane at times, with too much bending over to sponsors, agencies and networks. While the aforementioned gentlemen satirised the situation, Crosby made his opinions known in a matter-of-fact column, sometimes dripping with ridicule and sarcasm, that was published across North American through the New York Herald Tribune syndicate. In fact, one radio station magazine in the Midwest subscribed to the service and printed select Crosby columns every month.

One of those things I’ve wanted to do on the blog is reprint full weeks of his columns. It’s difficult in that, sometimes, Crosby talked about specific broadcasts heard once when they aired, and that I haven’t found time to transcribe them. But we’ll do it today.

Crosby wrote four times a week. Below are the columns for January 3, 4 and 5, 1949; the dates were picked at random. I’m saving the January 6th column for later (to be honest, I thought I had already transcribed it).

By this time, the number of stations and programming hours was slowly, but steadily increasing, but much of America still had no access to television. Even in New York City, many people had to go to a bar or a friend’s place or pass by an electronics store if they wanted to watch something. Things changed, thanks to someone named Milton Berle. His Texaco Star Theatre on Tuesday nights became a sensation, and people who lived in an area where they could pick up an NBC signal rushed out to buy a set. Crosby’s January 4th column is a look at a bygone day, when people crowded a pub because it had—wonder of wonders—a television set. By the way, Dennis James was probably Du Mont’s biggest star at the time, calling wrestling matches and hosting a giveaway shows for dear old mothers (similar to Tom Brenneman on the West Coast and Johnny Olson on ABC radio). Morgan’s sponsor pushed shaving blades with the slogan “Pull, pull, click, click.” Morgan didn’t hesitate to tell listeners how stupid that was. “Instant suds,” I think, is a reference to a product called Super Suds.

The January 3rd column examines the silliness of commercials (I presume either the dancing Old Gold cigarette packs hadn’t appeared on the tube yet, or escaped his notice). He also looks incredulously at what producers of a radio show called Hobby Lobby required.

The final column has Crosby being facetious about another New York columnist and adding a couple of brief items. He makes reference to the Fred Allen show’s on-air promise to pay anyone who missed a jackpot-winning phone call from Stop the Music! because they were listening to Fred (the two shows aired in the same time slot).

The fourth column, coming soon to a blog near you, involves a rebuttal against criticism of radio comedy writing.

January 3, 1949
Television Commercials Ridiculed
By JOHN CROSBY

One of the things we'll have to get used to on television is the commercials. This will take some doing and don't think your experience in radio is going to be much help. Television is a new field, kiddies, full of limitless possibilities for assailing the eye and ear simultaneously.
On television they demonstrate the darn things—the magic start your car gets from the gasoline, the instant suds, the click-click pull-pull. The other day on Ed and Pegeen Fitzgerald's new television program, they demonstrated an orange. I didn't think there was anything about an orange you can demonstrate, but there is. Something called a Hurdy Gurdy—I think that was the name—orange was squeezed in competition with another orange described by Ed Fitzgerald as a "nondescript" orange. Guess which won ?
THIS, I THINK, is going too far. In the first place I'm against brand-naming an orange. It's all very well to say one soap powder is 200 per cent soapier than another soap powder; it's quite another to start picking on a defenseless orange because it hasn't got a sponsor. An orange, even a nondescript orange, is one of God's little growing things and to say it has one-third less juice than a Super-Squeeze is a form of prejudice. Like saying the Italians sing better than the French. If an orange has a weakness—one-third less vitamin B, less locked-in goodness—let's for politeness sake refrain from mentioning it.
AS A MATTER of fact, I rather liked that nondescript orange. It didn't have as much in the bank—underprivileged orange, probably—but it had a meek and winning air. Bet it tasted better.
Another thing you'll have to get used to in television commercials is smiling. A smile isn't hard to take under normal circumstances but these aren't normal circumstances or normal smiles. The faces of girls almost break in half when they get their first glimpse of Hassenpheffer's Corn Starch. They behave as if they hadn't eaten in weeks. And the men are worse. You've never seen bliss until you've seen one of these television male models take his first whiff of a Philip Morris. Instantly he is transported. His eyes glaze with happiness. He smiles from his forehead to his elbows. Even marijuana, I bet, hasn't that effect. Not the first puff, anyway.
The sponsored smile, I predict, will lead to a decline in the popularity of unsponsored smiling. After an evening with your television set, you won't feel up to it.
A COMIC STRIP CARTOONIST who earns roughly $750,000 a year recently agreed to appear on the Hobby Lobby program to discuss his hobby, which, it appears, is the drawing of his comic strip. At the last moment he was handed a contract. Just a formality, the man said. It was quite a little formality, he discovered when he read it. The contract demanded that he cede to Hobby Lobby the use of his name and photograph and any material he handled on the program for use in any advertising or publicity used by the show or by the sponsor.
He was also asked to grant to Hobby Lobby the story of his hobby, or any references made to it, for publication purposes for five years.
The contract further demanded a copyright on any statements made by the cartoonist concerning his comic strip before, during or after the program and the right to use or publish them any way the producers of Hobby Lobby saw fit.
To put it briefly, the cartoonist was asked virtually to sign himself over to Hobby Lobby for five years. He didn't sign the contract or appear on the program. This particular cartoonist has appeared on about seventy-five radio programs and had never previously been asked to sign any such thing or, for that matter, to sign anything. I've been on quite a few myself and I've never been asked to grant any such rights.
What's going on, anyhow?


January 4, 1949
Research on Saloons
By JOHN CROSBY

Television, possibly the greatest innovation in saloon life since women were allowed in the place, has had a calming though not necessarily uplifting effect on barflies. Fewer fights. Less boisterousness. Hasn't increased drinking noticeably pr decreased it either. But there's a funny thing. If the television sets disappeared suddenly saloon business would drop sharply.
These are not my opinions but those of Tom Galligan, a bartender on Third Avenue where television has spread like cancer. Saloon television is a different experience than home television and naturally there are different tastes. The barflies like some sports (not all, though) and variety show. They don't like movies or dramatic shows. Fact is, says Galligan, the drinkers like something they can watch or not watch. Dramas and movies demand sustained attention. Hockey isn't at all successful either. Too fast to follow. The kids like basketball but the grownups only tolerate it. Too much work on the eyes. Everyone likes boxing and the Friday night fights always bring out a good crowd. (Of course Friday is pretty good bar-night anyhow). There's a funny thing about fights, says Galligan. Television doesn't throw a hush over the bar except after a fight. Then, when the round-by-round decisions are announced, silence blankets the place. Most eyeryone's got a side bet and, of course, this is important business.
The Louis-Wolcott fight brought out the biggest crowds in Third Avenue saloon history. In one place, a woman fainted in the crush. Had to be carried out, says Galligan. Folks thought she'd been drinking too much. Fact is she couldn't get to the bar to get a drink. Probably been all right if she had.
Television has changed the patronage around a little, not necessarily for the better. More wives in some places, though not in Galligan's. More youngsters— the coke crowd—everywhere. Some spots a crowd of young kids who look as if they never saw the inside of a saloon troop in Tuesday nights to see Milton Berle—great favorite of all classes, by the way—and troop right out when it's over. One coke apiece is usually the limit for this crowd.
Galligan never heaves any one out because he doesn't drink. "This is a public place. People got a right to come in if they want to. It's like the tradition of the old inns where travelers were always welcome." He played host once to a couple of six-year-old kids during a fight. They behaved fine.
One thing celebrated in cartoon and story isn't true at all, says Galligan, Customers don't fight over what program they want to look at. Occasionally there's an argument between the wrestling crowd and the boxing crowd. Boxing crowd always wins by sheer numbers. Wrestling fans are still a minority (though a noisy one) and a good thing too. Mostly though, the barflies like and dislike the same things. They like Berle. They don't like Ed Sullivan. They like Dennis James. They don't like movies. Barflies, says Galligan probably never been in such complete agreement about anything since saloons were first opened.
You never quite know what s going to catch the popular fancy, either. The roller derby was a huge success with the drinkers. People who had never heard of a roller derby before were going around talking like experts after the affair was over. Another thing about television makes it completely different from radio or the jukebox. There's never been a program so bad the customers rise in a body and demand the damn thing turned off. "They like to get something for nothing, even if it's bad," Galligan explains.
Galligan is quite a television fan himself these days. When he's off duty, he likes to wander into other bars and watch the television. He doesn't have the time to relax and enjoy it in his own place.


January 5, 1949
Earl Wilson Plays Earl Wilson
By JOHN CROSBY

Earl Wilson, who describes himself as a saloon reporter though you're likely to find him almost anywhere, took up acting the day. Wilson played himself on the “Boston Blackie” program (WOR 8:30 p.m. E.S.T. Wednesdays) and turned in a creditable, coherent though hardly brilliant performance as Earl Wilson.
He didn’t, for example, approach the Henry Kemble-Drew performance at Drury Lane in 1826, the most luminous Earl Wilson in my memory (which is longer than you think, Bub); he hadn't the emotional grasp of the Earl Wilsons which endowed the John Wilkes Beerbohm portrayal with such fluorescence at the Belasco in 1899. He even fell short of Otis Gielgud by about a foot and a half. (If the linesmen want to measure that, go ahead). Still, there haven't been any other Earl Wilsons nearly as good in years and, I should say, he’s a man to be watched. Don’t let him out of your sight.
The columnist didn’t just bob and out of this drama either. He stayed right in there on the spoor of the person who murdered Leila, most beautiful model in Christendom. (Murderer turned out to be the second most beautiful model in Christendom. Jealousy.)
In fact, Earl Wilson [photo to right] added the only note of suspense to as dreary a script as was ever written. Would he go up in his lines? Was he going to miss his cues? What was going to happen after the second most beautiful model in the world shot him in the end (Take ya dirty hands off that, copy desk.) How was "The New York Post Home News" going to explain that? Turned out all right though. He didn’t fluff anything and the model, it developed, was firing blanks.
Viewing the whole operation as judicially as possible, I’d say that it added a new and precarious element of suspense to detective fiction. You wonder at and worry about the performance of the columnist and who cares who done it? As a curiosity it wasn’t at all bad but I don’t think I’d like to see the idea spread. Competition being what it is in radio, we’d soon have all-star casts —Winchell barking at the D.A. (Danton Walker), Dorothy Kilgallen resisting strangulation, Hedda Hopper shooting it out with Elsa Maxwell. There hasn't been such an ominous trend in murder fiction since Gypsy Rose Lee started writing it.
Speaking of trends, a number of other small, alarming ones have appeared. Five hundred movie houses throughout the country have signed up for a big super-jackpot jingle contest—$100,000 a week in prizes—to lure back some of the customers who stay home waiting for a give-away program to call up. Betty Grable isn’t enough any more. Neither is Van Johnson. People aren’t interested in sex unless they get a Frigidaire along with it. Incidentally the movie houses are copying Fred Allen. They’re insuring movie-goers against the possibility of missing a radio prize when they’re at the movies.
Two small items were unearthed in a recent nation-wide survey by the Broadcast Measurement Bureau at great expense to advertisers and the broadcasting industry. Five million radio sets in the United States are out of order. Most exasperating fact and the hardest and most expensive to track down: In certain sectors of the rural South there are almost no radios.
A television movie of a fashion show now doing the rounds features ladies' hats with built-in radios. The girls can now do their shopping without missing a syllable.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

How To End a Cartoon

Betty Boops’ Museum collapses and superimposed skeletons run for cover.



They beat it into a grave, which covers itself to end the cartoon. The gravestone tells us it’s over.



This fun 1932 short (and the Fleischer cartoons looked so much better than the other New York cartoons of the day) was handled by William Henning’s unit with Reuben Timmins getting an animation credit under his real name.

Monday, 9 October 2017

The Yams Did It

What?! Porky Pig had everything ready for a nice turkey dinner? With ch-chee-chuh-chestnut dressing, too. “Cranberry sauce?” asks Daffy. “And with mashed potatoes and green peas,” assures Porky. “And candied yams?” gulps Daffy. Yes, candied yams.

Alas, the temptation of food turns the good Daffy, who won’t reveal the location of a turkey fit for a dinner, into the bad Daffy. Not only does the halo disappear and angel wings shrink, the colour changes from a heavenly blue to a more subterranean purple (very subterranean).



Cut to Daffy uttering one of his most famous lines: “The yams did it!” he cries, pounding the snowy ground before revealing where the turkey is hiding.



Said E.M. Freiburger of the Paramount Theatre in Dewey, Oklahoma: “This is an excellent color cartoon.” Opined Harland Rankin of the Plaza Theatre in Tilbury, Ontario: “This is a clever cartoon, which seemed to please my patrons.” “Excellent,” rated the Showmen’s Trade Review.

It was released February 12, 1944.

Ken Harris is the only credited animator, but Ben Washam and Bobe Cannon were in the Chuck Jones unit at the time this cartoon was made.