Saturday, 24 June 2017

Heeza Hit

J.R. Bray was an interesting fellow and deserves to be better known.

For years and years, his studio in New York produced industrial and educational films. But he was also involved, for a time, in the world of animation, though it seems as if he concentrated more on filing patents and then suing people for infringement than he did on the actual cartoons.

I was going to say he was involved for a time “in the silent era,” but that isn’t quite the case. When television started growing in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, Bray was there, offering stations his ancient silent cartoons with newly (and poorly) added soundtracks, mainly consisting of music from the Valentino production library in the background.

Bray’s first animated cartoon was in late 1913. The Colonel Heeza Liar series was released through Pathé until September 1915. There was a 3½ month gap. Then the trade papers announced in December that Bray had signed a deal with Paramount to supply it with a cartoon a week. By this time, Bray wasn’t drawing anything. He had a staff of artists, and each was responsible for a cartoon in their own exclusive series about once a month.

Here’s the story in the Motion Picture News of December 18, 1915. An earlier story we posted from around this time asked Bray about his patent suits. This one does not. Bray also neglects to explain why he was no longer releasing through Pathé after praising the studio for its potential of international distribution.

Col. Heezaliar Will Tell the Truth for Paramount
His Creator, J. R. Bray, Who Was a Steady Contributor to Life, Puck and Judge Before Going to Pathé, Will Furnish One Reel of Animated Cartoons a Week

SMALLER even than "Little Mary" Pickford is the newest star who has been signed up to appear exclusively on the Paramount Program. He is Colonel Heezaliar, who for many months has materialized from the pen of J. R. Bray, the noted cartoonist, and appeared with his travel notes and records of doughty exploits, on the screen.
Colonel Heezaliar, it will be remembered, is the man who calmly stood at the plate, with the bases full, and allowed the second strike to flick the ashes off his cigar, and then clouted the next one a rap which would make the swats of Home-Run Baker sound like the drop of a ripe grape into a coal bunker.
And now the Colonel is to star alongside Mary Pickford, Marguerite Clark, Pauline Frederick, Hazel Dawn and the other notables on the Paramount Program. It has been brought about by a new contract between the Paramount and the J. R. Bray Studios, Inc., whereby Paramount will have one full reel of animated cartoons each week.
J. R. Bray, the creator of Colonel Heezaliar, and inventor of several patented processes by which these funny cartoons are produced, has added five noted artists to his staff. Each one will specialize in one form of cartoon work, and their productions will supplement the bi-weekly appearances of Heezaliar.
In addition to this feature, Mr. Bray is preparing something which he is confident will be the most startling and original feature of this kind ever shown, and will open up a new field in motion pictures.
He is not yet ready to announce it, but C. Allan Gilbert, long famous as artist and illustrator, is working with him on the first releases, which will be ready some time in January. The new feature will be known as the "Bray-Gilbert Releases," and will appear once a month.
"I am surprised myself at the immense popularity of Colonel Heezaliar," said Mr. Bray to Motion Picture News. "It is without doubt the strongest cartoon character in existence, and is second only to Chaplin as a comedy character. Consequently we are going to feature this subject in the new releases, but in addition we will release a quantity of cartoon material, which will include a topical cartoon to accompany the Paramount Newspictures.
"Besides Mr. Gilbert I have added such artists as L. M. Glackens, Earl Hurd, C. T. Anderson and Paul Terry to the staff at the Bray Studios, and each will contribute something strong and striking to the new cartoon releases. Mr. Gilbert's new series is to be a phantasy novelty almost startling in its originality and conception.
"It has long been my ambition to produce the highest class of cartoon comedy possible, and place it before the highest class audiences in this country. For this purpose I have concluded that Paramount best suits my needs, and hence I have joined the Paramount program.
"In addition to these releases, we have arranged extensive distribution abroad. I believe my work is even better known in England than it is at home, and we plan to take advantage of the European market for such subjects. I have studied this cartoon question as related to motion pictures for more than eight years, and my original object in going into it was to open and develop a new field for the activities of artists. I believe I have done this."
Mr. Bray was born in Detroit, Mich., and has lived in New York since 1901. He was for seven years a newspaper artist, being also a steady contributor to the humorous weeklies, such as Life, Puck and Judge. He took his ideas to Pathé Freres over three years ago, since he felt that such a house with its many foreign branches could give him a larger international circulation than any other.
The Pathé officials at once saw the value of his work, and from that day to this he has dealt only with Pathé. Millions of persons have laughed and are laughing at the "Heezaliar" and "Police Dog" series, and his political cartoons in the Pathé News, the motion picture weekly, have attracted wide-spread newspaper comment.
Mr. Bray has truly originated a new school of art.


My thanks to Tom Stathes’ fine research for some background on Bray. You can read more at Tom’s web site here, and about the Colonel here.

Friday, 23 June 2017

How a Mouse Escapes

You’ve seen jagged effects drawings used for smashes and other impacts. In the Tom and Jerry cartoon Down and Outing (1961), Gene Deitch puts them on the screen when the mouse slips through the cat’s fingers.



And, of course, they’re used for violence, too.



The drawings are reused during the scene.

Deitch is credited as the director. No animators receive screen credit, but Larz Bourne gets mentioned for the story and Tod Dockstader for the spacey electronic sound effects.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Car Trouble

Did you ever polish your car and then a bird...



... dropped paint on it?



From the Flip the Frog cartoon The New Car. "Pretty Baby" plays in the background of the scene.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

He Wants to Be a Ne'er-Do-Well

The chances were pretty good, at one time, you could watch reruns of an old TV show featuring character actor Jesse White, then when the commercial came on, Jesse White would be there, too.

He kind of had two careers. He played con-men and other fast-talkers in the black-and-white sitcom days, and then spent years raking in plenty of cash on TV spots as the Lonely Magtag Repairman. Oh, White did other things; he was part of a great voice cast in the Linus the Lionhearted cartoons, and added his voice to Stan Freberg’s enjoyable record album “History of the United States.” It seems he was continually in demand. He played dramatic roles, too, as Twilight Zone fans will remember.

White’s biggest break may have been in the play “Harvey,” which appeared on Broadway soon after the end of World War Two. White repeated his role in the 1950 film version with Jimmy Stewart. TV aplenty followed, including two series opposite Ann Sothern (before she was a car).

Here are a couple of newspaper pieces with White in his pre-Maytag days. The first was in one of the Atlanta papers on May 20, 1960 but isn’t bylined and could be a handout from his publicity people. It’s about the same old thing—character actors are recognisable but the average fan has no idea who they are.
Cursed with Dishonest Mug, Moans TV’s Jesse White
The face of Jesse White will never inspire confidence in a stranger. It just looks “dishonest.”
White, who has the role of Oscar Pudney, the small-time con artist in The Ann Sothern Show on Ch. 5, has as honest a heart as anyone you could name. But that face . . . It bothers him.
“Everywhere I go,” says White, “I get suspicious looks . . . from the police and from the man in the street. Almost everyone has seen me in movies or on television and they remember my face – but not where they saw it.
“Not everyone assumes that I’m a crook, though. I was eating in a restaurant in Beverly Hills recently when I noticed a woman and her daughter staring at me all through the meal. When they finished they came up to my table and asked me if I’d mind settling an argument they’d had.
“The older woman said she was sure she knew me.
“ ‘Didn’t you,’ she asked, ‘used to deliver meat to us on Beverly Drive.’
“I told her yes.”
The police in Beverly Hills, he says, might be expected to recognize actors when they see them.
“But every once in a while they get a new man on the force,” White notes, “and first thing you know he’s spotted me and thinks he’s seen my face on a ‘wanted’ poster. I have to be very careful always to have identification on me.”
Once, he reports, he was actually hauled in – in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he now owns an apartment house.
“The officer wanted to book me for vagrancy or something while they checked my fingerprints. Fortunately I was able to find an old clipping with my picture on it to prove I wasn’t all 10 of the top public enemies.”
The face, though, has some virtues, White says.
“One way or another I find the face is in demand,” he reports. “For a long time I just played comedy parts – comic cops or comic gangsters, mostly, sometimes a bum or a con artist. Only in the last few years have I played any series ‘heavies’ or villains.
“I like those parts. Comedy is fun, and it pays well, but there’s something satisfying about playing a real mean character. Even my daughter tells me I should be a villain more and not a clown so often. But they also want to see me in a role where I get to kiss the girl. I tell them their mother won’t let me.”
This story is from the pre-Maytag days as well, January 12, 1967, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times syndicate. White talks about typecasting and expects to take a regular role for security reasons when the right one came around. I suspect he didn’t realise it would be a series of TV commercials.
‘Good’ Heavy Jessie White [sic] Regular Without a Series
BY WALT DUTTON

Times Staff Writer
The face of Jesse White is undoubtedly well-known to millions of television viewers, even if some of them do not know his name. Jesse is a veteran of countless plays, movies and television programs. And while watching him perform in a TV program, chances are you have also seen him in one of the commercials, ranging from the man-in-the-elevator for Chung King chow mein a few years back, to the more recent “Sanapa Noma” wine blurbs for Italian Swiss Colony.
TV Agent
But to millions, Jesse White is still Cagey Calhoun, the fast-talking agent from Private Secretary, the Ann Sothern series that was flourishing on CBS about a decade ago.
“They say there is no audience attachment unless you are in a regular series, but it isn’t so,” said Jesse. “I was in only every third or fourth Private Secretary show, but it had a good reaction. It was amazing the impact of that first show, after doing 15 Broadway plays and 43 movies.”
It was the part of a lovable scoundrel and Jesse played him as a heavy, but with a heart. “You can’t hate him,” said Jesse, but he’d certainly like to forget him.
“It’s an image that I have been trying to dissipate, but they won’t let you,” he lamented. “They think of me with a cigar. I’m the fast-talking type; the Damon Runyon kind of guy you want to bring home to the warden. Producers get a bug about actors – if you play telephone poles, that’s all you’ll ever play. “But I’d say I’ve licked that problem about 60%,” he added. “Thank God there are producers who will let you do something off the beaten path.”
The luxury of variety has included heavy roles as robbers and murderers.
“That’s the kind of part my kids like,” Jesse chuckled. “Every time I get another show they say, ‘Oh, Daddy, I hope it’s not one of those funny parts!’ The gorier it is the better they like it.”
Jesse complements his acting assignments with commercials (“for the last few years they have been one-third to one-half of my gross income”) and TV game and panel shows. Game shows, said Jesse, “are fun; you can be yourself. I’m sorry I didn’t do it a long time ago.”
With all of these things going for Jesse, a series would seem to be the last thing on his mind.
“Let’s say I do just as well now as I would in a series,” Jesse commented. “What I’m doing is rewarding, but we’re talking about building up an estate, and the only way you can do it is with a series.
“And, besides, the way the business seems to be slanting, this is the only answer for an actor who’s been through the mill. It looks to me like the only way.
Still Looking
“I’m sure that one will come along and for some security reason, I’ll take it,” he continued. “I’d like to do a sympathetic role, the sort of thing that Hoss (Dan Blocker) is doing on Bonanza, or Bill Demarest in My Three Sons.
“I want something where I can be myself and have fun with it. You know, sort of the ne’er-do-well Uncle Louie.”
Of course, a series has certain drawbacks in spite of its rewards. For Jesse, it would be a curtailment of his freedom.
“My wife, the kids and I like to travel. I prefer to keep it loose.
“And in a series you have to be in every episode. If they don’t need you in every one, you’re not the top banana. At this point, I feel I have to be the top banana.”
White donned the Maytag uniform for more than 20 years but continued to make movies at the same time. He was pretty much retired when he died of a heart attack a few days after he turned 80 in 1997.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Pan to McPoodle

After slamming and locking a bunch of doors (and eating the key, in time-honoured comedy fashion), the wolf realises he hasn’t escaped Sergeant McPoodle (aka Droopy). He gives a typical Tex Avery reaction then the camera pans to the right to reveal why. Here’s a reconstruction of the shot.



The animators in Northwest Hounded Police are Walt Clinton, Preston Blair, Ray Abrams and Ed Love. Frank Graham is the wolf and Bill Thompson is not Droopy as Thompson was in the military and stationed for the duration in Illinois when this cartoon was made.

Monday, 19 June 2017

The Pepe Bounce

Anyone who’s seen a Pepe Le Pew cartoon will remember the routine where a cat-turned-skunk is desperately fleeing from him, slowing down from exhaustion, while Pepe maintains an even, bouncy trot accompanied by little curly-cue notes on a violin.

In the first Pepe cartoon, The Odor-Able Kitty, the trot is in a cycle of 12 drawings.



Bobe Cannon is the credited animator, while Tedd Pierce gets the story credit in this Warner Bros. cartoon by Chuck Jones that seems to have been intended as a one-shot (credits are from the Catalog of Copyright Entries, Motion Pictures 1940-49).

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Age, Television and Taste

If a survey was taken to name a character trait of Jack Benny, “39” would be somewhere on the list.

Actually, Jack Benny never purported to be 39 years old during the bulk of his career; the age was invented on a radio show in 1948. And because “40 isn’t funny,” as Jack once put it, he stayed 39—with the exception of one Shower of Stars TV special in 1958 where he turned 40, and then treated like it never happened.

Benny had thought about doing it earlier but kept changing his mind. Here’s proof in a story from the Bell Syndicate that appeared in newspapers on May 14, 1955. Several other topics are touched upon including his coming grandchild and Mary not wanting to be on his TV show while just about everyone else did. Of note is the reference to Benny continuing with his Sunday night radio show. He continued for a grand total of two more programmes. American Tobacco wasn’t certain it wanted to keep paying for an expensive radio show in a less-profitable medium. Nobody knew it when this article was published, but a deal couldn’t be worked out and Jack’s show disappeared (with the exception of “Best of Benny” reruns which began in 1956).

Enough Mileage From Gag
Jack Benny Makes Astounding Report—He'll Be 40 Next Year!
By MARGARET McMANUS

NEW YORK—Jack Benny, on the threshold of becoming a grandfather, has made a momentous announcement.
Benny, aged 39 for more years than anyone cares to remember, revealed for the first time in an interview here in his suite at the St. Regis Hotel, that next year he will go to 40.
"It has nothing to do with my becoming a grandfather," said Benny. "I just think I've gotten about enough mileage out of that gag."
On Sunday, Feb. 12, 1956, on his nation-wide television show, Benny will mark the historic occasion with a birthday party and a birthday cake—and presents, he hopes.
The celebration will be two days earlier than his actual birthday, which is Feb. 14.
However, it is indeed a moment to anticipate with poignant sadness. In this turbulent world of chaos and change, there is little to which one can hold. Up to now, there was at least one security, that Jack Benny, the Ponce de Leon of radio and television, would stay 39.
Relaxed, Agreeable
A relaxed, agreeable man, with astute blue eyes and enormous poise, he yawned through a warm Saturday afternoon in mid-Manhattan and spoke about his plans for the coming summer.
"I'm tired," he said. "I've been working hard and there's a lot of work ahead. I'm going back to the Coast now and we'll spend the month of June filming some of next year's television shows."
He said he much prefers to do the television shows live, but he plans to do about six or eight on film so that if he wants to get away for a couple of weeks during the winter, he's free to do it.
Benny, after 20 some years in radio, is now very partial to television, although when he first made friends with this new medium, he didn't much like it.
He disagrees, with his old feuding partner, Fred Allen, that radio is dead. One of the very few big radio stars to stay on in radio, Benny continues to do his Sunday night radio show in the same comfortable, familiar format.
After spending an industrious month of June on the Coast, the Bennys will return to New York in July, accompanied by their closest friends, George Burns and Gracie Allen.
The Benny's only child, Mrs. Seth Baker, wife of a New York stock broker, is expecting a baby, July 9, and they will stay here to await the arrival of their first grandchild and spend a week or so getting acquainted with it.
"I hope it will be a girl," said Mr. Benny, the poker-faced, nonsentimentalist. "I like little girls."
He said that this is the first summer he has not made any personal appearances, but with the television shows to put on film, and the coming of the baby, it turned out to be impossible.
He even had to cancel his plans to appear at the Palladium in London.
He added, however. "We're considering the month of July as our vacation. We always have a lot of fun with the Burns. They're wonderful people, just wonderful. George and I are bringing our golf clubs. Gracie and Mary will shop, probably for small garments."
Mrs. Benny, nee Mary Livingstone, will appear on some of Benny's filmed TV shows next year, but Benny said she is just too nervous about doing live television.
TV Bothers Mary
"She was going to be on our last television program, the one we did from here," said her husband, "but she backed out when we got to New York. I don't know why. It just bothers her."
Apparently nobody else in New York or Hollywood feels any nervousness about appearing on the Jack Benny show.
Numerous stars, Claudette Colbert, Barbara Stanwyck, Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe—all made their television debut on Benny's show.
"We have a good time doing the show. They know it will be fun," said Mr. Benny, casually dismissing the reason why so many established performers prefer to make their television debut in his company.
A colleague of Mr. Benny's was heard from.
"It's very simple why nobody is afraid to go on Jack's show," he said. "It's because everybody knows he won't hog all the good lines for himself. They all know that, to make the most of the show, Jack will probably throw them the best lines.
"Another thing, he'll never do anything that isn't in good taste. So many comedians don't care how ridiculous other people look, so long as they are funny."
Benny bowed deeply and said, "You're so very kind."
Suave and sure in manner, Benny is the antithesis of the tightwad, defensive, petulant character he has created for himself these many years.
In private conversation, Benny uses none of the exquisite pauses which so typify his character. In a much modified way, some of his familiar inflections are the same, but to add to the shattering disillusionment of the afternoon, not once, not even once, did he pause, stare coldly and say:
"Well!"
Forty years old indeed!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Private First Class Batman

The mood on social media was sombre, even respectful.

Batman had died.

Well, if you grew up in the 1960s, he was Batman. The only Batman. Those guys in the movies later on didn’t count.

And a week after Adam West’s death, people are still posting about it on-line, about how the city of Los Angeles paid a fitting tribute to West’s memory by shining the Bat Signal, just like on West’s TV show (and the comics before then).

I didn’t write about West and the show immediately after the death because I said pretty much all I had to say in this post about five years ago. The first season was great. I loved Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith and Cesar Romero. But then ... well, the target viewership—boys like me—started rolling our eyes at how ridiculous it got. And when an 11-year-old is thinking “Oh, please!” while he’s watching Batman play a flute as obviously mechanical mice roll off a pier, you’ve lost your audience. The writers and producers left adventure behind and larded up on the camp. It killed the show.

Anyway, I’ve decided to post something because buried deep within microfilms of old newspapers is found something you probably haven’t read in any of the obituaries, remembrances and tributes to Adam West. It has some funny personal stories from an army buddy of his—better make that an “old chum”—and was published in The Christian Science Monitor of April 12, 1966. The photos with this post come from the Associated Press.

Meet the man behind Batman’s mask
By Milton Gun

Boston
“Wow, that’s it!” I exclaimed while viewing a recent Batman episode. “I’ve unearthed the true identity of the Caped Crusader.”
“Everyone knows,” answered my wife, a victim of so-called Batmania, “that’s he’s Bruce Wayne, young millionaire, a dedicated crime fighter who springs into disguise and action as the fearsome Batman whenever evil threatens.”
“No, I mean that I know his true off-camera identity,” I persisted.
“Adam West,” she replied matter-of-factly. “He’s a popular TV actor. Been in hundreds of television commercials and was in ‘The Detectives’ with Robert Taylor.”
“I knew him as Bill Anderson,” I said. “Pfc. William Anderson of the United States Army’s Signal Corps.”
Her answering indescribable stare was upsetting enough to make me set out to verify that Batman is, indeed, an old Army buddy.
Several weeks, letters, and cross-country phone calls later I was basking in the glow of my wife’s idolizing glances. She had listened in on a phone conversation between me and my old friend Batman, alias Bruce Wayne—better known as actor Adam West, nee [sic] William “Bill” Anderson.
● ● ●
She has since bestowed upon me the exalted title “Bat-friend.”
I first met Pfc. Bill Anderson in 1953 in California’s Camp San Luis Obispo where we had been assigned to help establish the first Army post television station. Our backgrounds in radio and television—Bill had been a writer-producer for a Stanford TV station prior to entering the service—made us logical choices for the San Luis Obispo assignment.
My first, and lasting, impression of Anderson was of his personally tailored, custom-fitting uniforms. He was the only nonofficer I had seen in such fine regalia. It’s wasn’t long before the tall, handsome, and studio-looking (he wore horn-rimmed spectacles in those days) Pfc’s capabilities became evident. A former radio-station manager and TV producer, Bill took charge of the production phase of the operation. Soon the station was on a full-time schedule and the facilities fast became a popular site for visiting Armed Forces V.I.P.’s.
The tongue-in-cheek, melodramatic dialogue that has made the current Batman series so irresistible to adults was practiced by Anderson back in those Army TV days.
During one of the several instructional programs that were telecast each day, an electronics-class lecturer continually referred to the industry’s great advancements and credited its great strides with the phrase “. . . and we owe it all to transistors.” He used that expression so often throughout the show that it caught on with the TV crew and subsequently became a catch-phrase that would pop up with regularity. Any conversation concerning any subject from food in the mess hall, to pretty girls or, for that matter, the state of the nation, would inevitably terminate with “. . . and we owe it all to transistors.”
Anderson, usually responsible for conducting V.I.P.’s on a tour of the facilities, would always conclude the demonstration by maneuvering the brass-bearing officers within pickup distance of a microphone and summarize the tour by dramatically intoning, “And all this, gentlemen, we owe to transistors.” The officers would nod solemnly while those of us in the control room howled with laughter.
● ● ●
The recent clamor by the Automobile Legal Association revived memories of Bill’s driving antics and his unique car. The ALA contended that Batman was setting a bad example for drivers. In one episode alone, claimed the Association, Batman disregarded a half-dozen driving rules. Bill drove about in a squat, antiquated foreign car. Unlike the four-wheeled, crime-thwarting Batmobile he drives in the Batman series, the auto was the object of a steady stream of barbs and jibes from members of the TV section. This often ruffled Anderson, whose continual attempts to impress us with the car’s speed and maneuverability resulted in his becoming an unpopular notable with the post’s Military Police.
The little car, often referred to as “the rock,” “puddle-jumper,” or “the toy,” was “car-napped” from the parking lot one day. The TV crew contrived to carry it into the TV building and place it on one of the television stages about to be used in a rehearsal. Bill, assigned to direct a rehearsal, was busily checking the scripts in the control room. When he finally cued the opening sequence of the show, there appeared, in all its ugliness, Anderson’s relic, smack in the middle of a classroom scene.
Bill remained unflustered and went right along with the gag. “No, no,” he shouted, “You’ve got the ‘puddle-jumper’ pointed in the wrong direction!” And then joined the crew in a hearty laugh.
During our recent phone conversation Bill acknowledged his good fortune in landing the Batman role. However, he pointed out that the opportunity came only after a difficult climb up the long ladder to success.
After completing our tour of duty at San Luis Obispo and a similar station-establishment assignment at Fort Monmouth, N.J., Bill celebrated his return to civilian life with a walking tour of Europe.
● ● ●
“I was quite uncertain about my future when I got out of the service,” he confessed. “I thought I wanted to do some writing but wound up doing a lot of absorbing—seeking a purpose, a goal. I subsequently traveled to Hawaii where I returned to direct and, occasionally, act in a good number of TV productions. I eventually returned to the mainland to sign a Warner Brothers contract. They had selected me for the lead in a new TV series called ‘Dark Holiday’ which never got off the ground.”
Actor Adam West spent a year appearing in various Warner Brothers TV productions including “77 Sunset Strip” and “Maverick.” “The Young Philadelphians” was one of eight movies in which he appeared. “Most of them were ‘B’ movies,” he admits. “But coupled with numerous TV appearances they gave me a chance to develop and the opportunity to learn a lot about my craft.”
He got one of the better opportunities when he was cast in the romantic lead, Sgt. Steve Nelson, in the ABC-TV series “The Detectives.” However, it was one of his several hundred TV commercials that led to his being offered the Batman role. “It was the Captain Quick commercial that caught the eye of the Batman producers,” said Bill. “I was wearing a similar costume in that spot and the dialogue was comparable to that in the Batman series, and I guess that did it.” Asked what he thought was the nicest part of his work, Adam answered unhesitatingly, “Getting out of my Batman tights.”
And the most difficult? “Keeping a straight face through some of the dialogue.”
The protagonist who leaped from the pages of a 27-year-old comic strip into millions of TV homes is readily recognized by every American youngster as Batman. Adult television viewers know him as actor Adam West. But his Army buddies will always remember him as Pfc. Bill Anderson.

Making Shorts

What did you think of the Mirthquake Comedies? Or the Vagabond Adventure Series? Or Going Places With Lowell Thomas? They were among the “selected shorts” that theatres were offering in 1935 along with the better-known March of Time, and the Fitzpatrick Traveltalks (such as “Colorful Guatamala” and “Los Angeles, Wonder City of the West”).

Likely you’ve never seen many of the shorts produced back then (Mirthquake starred George Shelton and Tom Howard, by the way). They appeared on screen and then disappeared, with the idea they’d never be seen again. When television came around and local stations needed to fill air time, what was old and worthless to movie studios proved to be a gold-mine for TV syndication companies—at least in some cases, especially when it could appeal to kids. So those of you who grew up in the ’50s and ‘60s had your fill—and maybe couldn’t get enough—of the Three Stooges shorts, the Our Gang comedies, the Laurel and Hardy two-reelers and, especially, the animated cartoons. Alas for Junior Coghlan, his Frolics of Youth series didn’t make the cut. Neither did RKO’s Blondes and Redheads shorts starring Carol Tevis and Dot Grainger.

Here’s a little story on short subjects from the National Enterprise Association. It appeared in newspapers on August 17, 1935. A good portion of it involves making cartoons. The article lists a number of the series, with the reporter apparently unaware of the poor, disrespected Van Beuren studio. Flip the Frog wasn’t being made by 1935 but it’s nice of the writer to have noticed something by Ub Iwerks.

By the way, a number of years ago, the wonderful Leonard Maltin filled a void by writing about live-action shorts in his book “Selected Short Subjects.” You can read a bit about it on his page, where he links to Amazon on how to buy a copy from that financially struggling company.

How Movies Are Made
Industry Is Ever-Changing With Animated Cartoons, News Reels and Comedies Fast Assuming High Rank—Short Subjects Are Becoming Rivals of Big Productions of Filmdom

BY DAN THOMAS
NEA Service Staff Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD — The primary function of the movie industry is, of course, to produce feature length pictures.
But the activity doesn't stop there by any means. Short subjects—animated cartoons, comedies, newsreels, travelogs, and novelties also are necessary to give theaters well-balanced programs.
Of these films, cartoons and newsreels are by far the most popular. In fact, they frequently attain an importance equal to that of a feature picture.
Many patrons are lured into theaters by cartoons. And newsreels now are demanded as a part of every bill.
Interesting as cartoons and newsreels may be to audiences, however, their production is a hundred times more fascinating.
Cartoons, particularly, enjoy a niche all by themselves, being the only type of entertainment that is wholly hand made. Today there are about nine different cartoons, including "Mickey Mouse," "Silly Symphonies," "Pop Eye the Sailor," "Oswald the Rabbit," "Bosko," "Krazy Kat," "Merrie Melodies," "Flip the Frog," and "Terry Tunes."
As the production method on each is virtually the same, let's take a peek at the Walt Disney studio, home of "Mickey Mouse" and the "Silly Symphonies" and see what happens.
DISNEY HAS STAFF OF 300
The pictures are about 650 feet in length. And, although Disney makes only 18 of them each year, he employs a staff of 300 persons.
The first step coincides with that of a feature picture. A story must be written. Then it is put into regular scenario form, with every detail of the action explained. Different scenes are then handed to the animators for drawing. They sketch the key drawings, usually every third one, leaving the mothers for their assistants.
All drawings then are sent to the inking department, where a corps of artists goes over the penciled sketches with ink. Tracing is the next step. Every drawing must be traced in ink on a sheet of celluloid. Then it is painted.
The next job is to match the various sets of drawings which belong together. As a rule, four sheets of celluloid are combined to make one complete picture for photographing. For instance, if Mickey, Pluto, and Donald Duck are walking along a dusty road, one artist draws Mickey, another Pluto, a third Donald Duck, and a fourth the background.
After being traced, they are assembled and photographed. Sixteen of these composite pictures are needed to make one foot of film.
LITTLE CUTTING ON CARTOON
There's virtually no cutting or editing on a cartoon after it's finished. Since the work is slow and painstaking, that is all done before-hand.
It would be impossible to watch a single newsreel in the making, as various scenes in it may be filmed in the United States, South America, Italy, Russia, and Japan simultaneously.
Newsreel companies, controlled by various major studios, have cameramen stationed in all parts of the world. These men work very much like newspaper reporters.
They must be ready at a moment's notice to "cover" any activity, ranging from a disastrous earthquake to crowning a prize-winning hog.
All film for United States consumption is then rushed to New York, where it is assembled and the voice of the commentator added. Then it's dispatched to various key cities by the fastest planes or trains.
GOOD RETURN IN COMEDIES
Next in importance among short subjects are the two-reel comedies. Virtually all of them are now turned out by two companies Hal Roach and Educational.
While handled on a much smaller scale, they are made exactly the same as feature pictures. The principal difference lies in the cost and gross receipts. The average cost is $25,000 and the average return about $50,000.
Naturally, the stars of these comedies receive lower salaries than those in feature pictures, the top being about $1,000 weekly. And the pictures are usually made in 10 days.
One-reel musicals and novelties, which are steadily gaining in popularity, are now being produced by nearly all major companies. Generally speaking, their production follows the same line as that of a feature. But they seldom use more than two sets and are made in two or three days.
STARS COME HIGH
Usually their actual production cost is around $5,000, although the total cost is jumped considerably when high-priced persons must be engaged for them. The Pete Smith aborts come in this category, with Pete probably receiving more than is spent on the rest of the picture.
The same holds true when an important orchestra or vaudeville headliner is featured.
Travelogs are of value principally because of the bit of wanderlust that lurks in most hearts. An imaginative person can watch them and actually believe he to going right along with the cameramen.
Very often the cameramen on these little pictures have no definite assignments. They roam at large, seeking unusual locales or places of great scenic beauty.
Since the expense of taking sound equipment with them would be too great, they shoot with silent cameras. Explanatory remarks and background music are added later in the studios here.
(THE END)

Friday, 16 June 2017

Tea Time For Tex

Reginald Fox doesn't let something silly as a hunt stop him from enjoying his tea. He's English, you know.

I like the expression of the dog as he wonders where the fox has gone. It turns out Reginald is behind him. Director Tex Avery and writer Rich Hogan switch things. Instead of showing the fox drinking tea through the scene, they change it to the fox pouring it.



The animators of "Out-Foxed" are Walt Clinton, Bobe Cannon, Mike Lah and Grant Simmons.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Suddenly, They're Contented

Brenda and Cobina were characters on Bob Hope's radio show, with names borrowed from a pair of socialites well-known in that era. And they're also the names of two cows in the Bob Clampett short "Goofy Groceries" (1941).

I love the expressions, even in the in-betweens. Here are some of them.



There are plenty of pop culture references. The "Discontented" comes from the slogan for Carnation Evaporated Milk, which came from "contented cows." Brenda and Cobina cows are reacting to a bull on the package of "Fulla Bull Tobacco," a parody on Bull Durham tobacco.

The original credits on this cartoon listed Tubby Millar as the story man and Vive Risto as the animator. On the Hope show, Brenda was played by Blanche Stewart and Cobina by Elvia Allman. In this cartoon, as best as I can tell, Sara Berner is playing both parts. Allman had done cartoon voices for Leon Schlesinger; maybe Leon didn't want to pay to use her. Stewart had voiced cartoons at MGM. (No, Bea Benaderet is not in this cartoon).