Wednesday, 20 June 2018

The Toughest Job in the Woild? A Comedian

Milton Berle. Ed Wynn. Abbott and Costello. Ken Murray. Jack Carson. They all had early success on television. And they were all gone after a handful of seasons.

TV audiences proved more fickle than those of network radio—albeit they were the same people. Perhaps it was a case of viewers got tired of seeing the same thing over again, week after week. Jack Benny and Red Skelton seemed to be exceptions.

Jimmy Durante suffered the same problem. He was one of the rotating hosts of Four Star Revue starting in 1950, then got his own variety show in 1954 that was finally cancelled two years later. But that wasn’t the end of Durante, of course. He travelled the route of other comedians and singers—along the I-15 to Las Vegas—and filled TV time with guest appearances and occasional specials.

Durante was quizzed about the conundrum of comedians who had been popular for years suddenly being punted off television. He talked about it to Hearst’s International News Service in a feature story that appeared in newspapers on June 18, 1957. How could TV do without a Cantor or a Berle? The same way radio did when Joe Penner and Al Pearce faded away. New talent came along. And it always will. But it won’t be the same. After all, there was only one Durante and there’ll never be another.

Unfortunately, this is an edited version of the story. Due to OCR errors, I can’t make out the full text on a lengthy version I found that mentions Durante relaxing at the Del Mar track and refusing to work when he’s watching the ponies.

TV Discard Of Comics A Favor, Says Durante
By Charles Denton

HOLLYWOOD ( INS ) – Jimmy Durante, who dislikes making a point of his long tenure as a “top banana,” believes television is doing his colleagues a favor by discarding them in bunches this season.
A year or two out of sight of the great glass eye, Durante contends is just what the doctor ordered for comics whose nerves have been rasped raw by the file of falling ratings.
Those with genuine, tested talent have nothing to fidget about, the Schnoz insists.
Durante, about to begin his second season without a TV show to call his own, was the picture of an unruffled vacationeer from video as he tucked his wiry frame into the corner of a leather couch in his den, lilted stocking feet to a chair and put the torch to a cigar.
"How can they ever do without laughs?” he demanded with a snort. “How can they ever do without a Gleason, a Berle, a Cantor? They’ll never be off for long. "What is it? You think talent that just come up in a month is gonna beat talent it's took 20 years to develop? That's like throwin' a Steinway out the window and takin' a piano some guy just made outta chicory wood."
Durante's snort grew even more disdainful at the widespread notion that the comic has had his day in the TV sun and the medium is now entering a "singers' era."
"Ahhh," he said meaningfully. "A guy writes a song and another guy goes out and sings it. What is that? It means the guy has a God-given voice, that's all. "A comedian has the toughest job in the world—THE TOUGHEST—and they never get no academy awards neither.
"In pictures the comic has the position the piano player had when I started in the business—a bum! But when they want somebody to emcee their awards, who do they look for? They want a Jerry Lewis or somebody like that."
Durante's present position in television is unique. Although still under contract to NBC, he made only one guest appearance last season and frankly admits that "I didn't want to do any. I wanted to be off a year, after six years.”
He would have undertaken another regular weekly show next season if he had been offered the right format—"just music and entertainment. What we tried to do before. Where can you get music and a couple of laughs?"
And if he could have done the shows "on fillum."
"Change? What do you change to?" he said almost wistfully. "There's only one thing to do. Either go dramatic or stay the way you are."
Like most veterans. Durante is sold on filmed shows because they can be shown dozens of times, each time bringing the performers welcome "residual."
But for the most part, Durante’s antics for the rest of the year will be confined to nightclubs, where he first began building himself into a show business legend an undetermined number of years ago.
Some say this is Jimmy's 50th year in show business. Others say he's been around much longer. Jimmy says he started in 1912 "but what the hell, who goes by anniversaries?"
Whatever his years, Durante is a long, long walk from the wheelchair. He returned only recently from a five-month nightclub tour.
Night club performing, a killer to most TV and movie-raised young performers, is caviar and champagne to Durante.
"After the first night, what's tough about it?" he scoffs. "So you don't finish up 'til two in the morning, you don't go to bed at home 'til then, do you?"
Bedtime is more often 3 or 4 a.m., a habit formed by decades of pounding pianos and cracking gags in smoky bistros. This is what might be called "clean dissipation," since Jimmy does not drink and compensates for the late hours he keeps by sleeping away most of the morning. When he does shake himself out of the feathers, however, he literally vibrates with activity.
"I'm a very busy man, very busy," he sighed. "And not a nickel coming in. That phone rings all day, and at the end of the day I look in the book and I ain't got a dollar more."

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Following the Rabbit

Bullets (or are they buckshot?) take on a life of their own in All This And Rabbit Stew (1941), following their target—Bugs Bunny.

They pass over Bugs’ hole, realise their mistake, pull the brake lever, and then point in the right direction.

They follow Bugs as he jumps from hole to hole.

Oops! Bugs jumps into a golf hole instead. The rabbit helpfully marks it.

The bullets figure it out and proceed onward.

Oops! Now the bullets zoom into the wrong hole and zip out of the cartoon. We discover why. It’s the second skunk gag of the cartoon.

Virgil Ross gets the animation credit and Dave Monahan the story credit.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Doghouse Battle

Solid Serenade’s highlight is Tom singing “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” but there are other things to enjoy in this 1946 MGM cartoon. (We outlined some in this post).

At the end, Tom and a bulldog get into a fight inside a doghouse. The audience can’t see most of the fight, but parts of it are revealed when the doghouse comes apart. Some nice expressions by Tom here. All of this is by Pete Burness, who isn’t credited on the version of the cartoon in circulation now.

And the doghouse is as animated as anything else during the fight.

Mike Lah, Ken Muse and Ed Barge are the credited animators, though Ray Patterson handled some scenes as well.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

It's Not Dean Martin

I wonder if Jack Benny thought, as he was taking a limo to Palmer House in Chicago to perform in 1969, that when he was born in that city, there were no limos—at least ones that were powered on their own. However, the Palmer House was there in 1894, and still is today.

Here’s a little story from December 4, 1969, describing the cute and funny entrance Jack used in his show there. It’s a little sad reading about him being left alone before he went on stage. But Jack enjoyed making people laugh, and that’s why he continued performing across the continent until pancreatic cancer stopped him not too many weeks before his death; he certainly was in no need of money.

Benny's Like Liquor, Gets Better With Age

Chicago Daily News Service
CHICAGO—The people in the Empire Room, their clothes bright and glittering, were dancing while the man sang "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You." The room was all gold and green and white, and on every spotless table was a little white card. On each card was the famous face of Jack Benny.
Jack Benny is the reason that all the people had dressed so expensively and fought the traffic and paid so much money to be crowded into the Empire Room of the Palmer House.
They were waiting for him to come on stage and tell jokes to them. While they waited, Jack Benny sat, all alone, in front of a rollaway cart in his 19th-floor suite.
A VISITOR walked into the room and there was Benny—this old comedian who has had it all and is a part of everyone's memories—sitting in a blue bathrobe, eating dinner alone at the little cart.
He is 75 years old and he does not look young any more, but still he takes six months from every year to go on the road and make people laugh. His wife, Mary Livingston, does not like to travel, so he goes with his writer, Hilliard Marks, and his manager, Irving Fein. Tonight both of them were out of the hotel, so he finished the meal by himself before getting dressed and shaving and having his face made up to go on stage.
"It keeps getting easier," Benny said. "Every year the audiences are easier. I don't get a bad audience any more. It's not so much of a challenge. So I make my own challenge. I keep making myself do different kinds of things.
The lights in the Empire Room went down. Everyone was looking toward the stage.
The announcer said: "And now . . . the star of our show, Dean Martin!", and in walked Benny, right through the main entrance, holding a drink in his hand.
"I'm not really Dean Martin," he said. And then he gave The Look. Just folded his arms and looked around the room. The people were almost screaming. He didn't have to say a thing.
"HERE," I have to get rid of this drink," he said. He walked over to a man at a nearby table. "Do you want it?" the man took the drink.
"That'll be a dollar," Benny said. The laughter again.
It was like that for more than an hour. He talked about all the familiar things—George Burns, money, his wife, Bob Hope. And what he said earlier was right. The crowd wasn't even a real challenge. They were happy just to be seeing Jack Benny.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

A Few Words From Bob Clampett

Bob Clampett was an enthusiastic ambassador for the great Warner Bros. cartoons. He travelled hither and thither, showing prints of the shorts and telling funny stories about the studio. He died in Detroit on one of his road trips.

He was also an enthusiastic ambassador for Bob Clampett.

Until animation historians came along and started doing forensic investigations into the who-what-when of the old cartoons, anyone could make any claims they wanted about them without fear of contradiction. After all, they were there. They should know.

Actually, Clampett knew a great deal about the history behind the cartoons. He loved them. But, for a while anyway, he puffed up his own involvement to levels that, with the knowledge we have today, seem as outlandish as a Bugs Bunny take by Rod Scribner. He created Fritz the Cat? What?!?! Has someone told Robert Crumb? And Yosemite Sam? Mike Maltese and Friz Freleng might have something to say about that.

From what I understand, Clampett dialed back some of his claims in later years and was extremely helpful to anyone who wanted to fill in the blanks about Warner Bros. cartoon history. I only spoke to him once on the phone and he treated me like an old friend (his death, unfortunately, got in the way of our planned interview).

Here’s Clampett speaking to the University of Illinois newspaper in a story published on February 7, 1975. In it, the oddest claim is he chewed Mel Blanc’s carrots. Mel was known for his own stretching of the truth (he was not allergic to carrots, as he claimed for years), but he never mentioned anything about Clampett’s proxy munching.

What’s up, Doc ?
Cartoon creator Bob Clampett discusses animation of his characters

by Sher Watts
staff writer
The man who fashioned Tweety Bird after his own baby picture said he feels toward cartoons the same way parents feel toward their kids.
Bob Clampett, the creator of such cartoon greats as Bugs Bunny, Sylvester, Yosemite Sam, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Beany and Cecil and Fritz the Cat, said he got ideas for his cartoons and cartoon characters from the “screwball comedies” of the ‘30s and ‘40s.
Speaking on “The History of Animation in the United States,” to an audience of over 200 Wednesday night at the Illinii Union, Clampett said, “I tried to fashion my characters after people who looked normal, but did crazy things. Bugs, for example, looked like a normal rabbit, but he was always acting crazy.”
Clampett specialized in crazy characters, from his famous ones to those he created in his beginning days at Warner Brothers. “Leon Schlesinger (who used to produce Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for Warner Brothers) let us do what we wanted when it came to ideas and characters,” Clampett said. “Now, networks tell cartoonists what they want for characters. ‘Hot rods are big now—let’s have a series on hot rods,’ the networks tell their cartoonists. They don’t have a chance to think up new characters.”
Clampett said modern cartoon characters are nothing but “walkie-talkies. They walk and they talk—they have no personality.” Modern animation is a prostitution of a wonderful medium, according to Clampett, and has set [the] cartoon back 40 years.
He fashioned many of his cartoon figures after ideas from movies and radio. “I used a lot of radio voices because they were so distinctive,” he said.
Many old Warner Brothers stars became characters in Clampett’s cartoons. “We were like one big, happy family then,” he said. “The stars would come in and stick their heads in the window to say hello, and we would draw characterizations of them. Then, they’d be developed into a cartoon character.
The old movie influence is obvious in many of the characters. Bugs Bunny has some similarities to Groucho Marx. In one of the early Bugs cartoons, called “Porky’s Hare Hunt ,” the rabbit did a phoney dying act and used the Groucho Marx line, “Of course, you know this means war.”
Bugs, who became the number one box office attraction in the cartoon world, had other Groucho characteristics. The famous carrot-munching was similar to Groucho’s cigar-chewing, and Bugs asides to the audience were taken straight from Groucho, Clampett said.
Using an old movie star influence in cartoon characterization sometimes created problems, however, Clampett said. After he made cartoon characters out of the Marx Brothers, the brothers threatened to sue, saying that no one would want to see them live if a person could see them in animation.
Clampett had plenty of stories to tell about old days at Warner Brothers. Mel Blanc, who did voices for many characters, was allergic to carrots. As a result, Clampett and Blanc would stand by a microphone during taping, and Clampett would chew a carrot while Blanc would give the famous line, “What’s up, Doc?” After the chomping sound effect was no longer needed, Clampett would spit out the half-chewed carrot into a tub next to the microphone.
“After a day of taping, we’d have plenty of messy carrots in that tub,” Clampett recalled.
Clampett has worked with many cartoon greats. Throughout his years at Warner Brothers and now in his own studio, Clampett worked with Walt and Roy Disney, Tex Avery, Walter Lanz [sic] and many others.
Clampett said he aimed for a wide theater audience when thinking up ideas. The theatre audiences were mostly adults. The cartoons started for children, and were rather la-de-da, but got more sophisticated as time went on, he said.
No subject seemed taboo for Clampett. But he had trouble getting past the censors many times, he said. When Tweety was first drawn, he was pink and bare. “After the censors saw the first few films, they said, ‘That bird looks naked!’ So I had to add some yellow feathers,” Clampett said.
Clampett also got his inspirations from other sources. He made cartoons out of political figures, such as President Harry Truman or Sen. Joseph McCarthy. He also made a cartoon called “Porky in Wackyland” which used art ideas from Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.
Clampett also had his years as a puppet man. Before “Beany and Cecil” became an animated television show, it ran as a puppet show for many years. Clampett admitted that Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent was the favorite of all his creations. He made the puppet when he was young, he said, and carries it to talks he gives in its own carrying case.
“Beany and Cecil” ran for seven years on television, and won three Emmy awards for the best children’s show.
Although Clampett is not doing any animation for modern television shows, he makes animated commercials for businesses such as Ford Motor Co. and Maybelline, and is now developing some cartoon specials.
Clampett said he sees a definite future in the area of animation, especially in the area of Synthavision. Synthavision is a computer animation process in which computer programs produce animation without human drawings.
Clampett encouraged young talent to join the cartoon field. He said the average age of animators is 50, and many companies are looking for new students for animation.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Here Comes Mickey

Escaped con Mickey Mouse runs at the camera, followed by a bloodhound in The Chain Gang (1930).

Here’s Mickey heading toward the theatre audience again.

This kind of effect was pretty common in the early Disney cartoons. It’s about as 3D as you can get without being 3D and is probably still pretty good looking on a big theatre screen.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Early Bird Gets the Cat

Tex Avery liked dopey dogs, the stupider the better. They’re in his Warners cartoons and in the ones he did at MGM (especially in the Screwy Squirrel series). Eventually he discarded the idea, but here it is in The Early Bird Dood It, the first cartoon he put into production at Metro.

The cartoon shows Avery’s love of signs to comment on the action, including one that shows the characters know they’re in a cartoon. And there are two scenes where there’s violence underscored by eliminating the background drawing and substituting a bright coloured card instead.

Here the brain-dead cat chases the early bird around a tree. It’s a gag you’re familiar with. The bird jumps out of the chase and clobbers the cat.

Showmen’s Trade Review rated it “very funny” while one theatre owner described it to the Motion Pictute Herald as a “crazy color cartoon that drew lots of laughs.” Avery would only get better and better.

Irv Spence, Preston Blair, Ed Love and Ray Abrams are the credited animators.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Vallee, the King, Santa and Ozzie

John Crosby wrote four columns a week for the New York Herald Tribune and its syndicated papers and below you’ll find a week’s worth from 1949. It makes for lengthy reading so I don’t want to take up your time with much of an introduction.

A couple, directly or indirectly, deal with the aftermath of Jack Benny jumping from NBC to CBS at the start of the year. Benny was replaced on NBC by bandleader Horace Heidt. Crosby wasn’t too impressed. Never were listeners. Heidt was moved from the spot after mid-April. The change also planted Ozzie and Harriet as the lead-in to Benny. I’ve always thought the radio show was a little too contrived but Crosby seems to have liked it. And, of course, it stayed on the air until 1966, having moved to television years earlier.

Crosby talks about Rudy Vallee’s appearance on what we know today as the Ed Sullivan Show; Vallee was probably the first huge radio variety star in the late ‘20s. And he has some odds and sods as well.
■ ■ ■

January 7, 1949
The Vagabond Lover Is Back
Shades of 1928, look who’s back on Broadway. Rudy Vallee, matured, but looking much younger than a man of 47 has a decent right to, drifted out on the stage of “Toast of the Town,” the C.B.S. television show (Sundays 9 p.m. E.S.T.), and set the place ablaze. It must have come as quite a shock to everyone except Vallee who has always possessed over whelming self-confidence.
It certainly came as a surprise to me. I have rather idly kept track of Mr. Vallee's acting career for 20-odd years now with diminishing hope. I sat through his early movies, a painful experience; I have before me Brooks Atkinson's review of Vallee's stage appearance in The Man in Possession (1939): “He is reported as willing to spend considerable time to learn the profession. To judge by his acting last evening, the apprentice period is going to be long enough to try the patience of his friends,” wrote Mr. Atkinson.
● ● ●
Just two years ago I wrote sorrowfully of Vallee's lamentable radio program: “Bandleaders just aren't comedians and never will be. Mr. Vallee still approaches a comedy line with the enthusiasm and innocence of a barroom acquaintance telling you what Bert Lahr said last night.” Well, I take it all back. In his more recent movies, Vallee seems to have caught the hang of the thing. The apprentice period, as Mr. Atkinson predicted, has been long enough to try the patience of a saint, much less a critic. But it's over now, and Vallee is entitled to great praise for perseverance alone.
On “Toast of the Town,” this new, highly polished, and extremely self-possessed Vallee walked out on the stage, exchanged pleasantries with Ed Sullivan, the emcee, displayed a dry and fetching humor and sang a whole roster of his old favorites. He dwelt a little too long on the hardships of his early career, which couldn't really have been so severe since he was making hatfuls of money before he left college.
The songs—“Deep Night,” “I'm Just a Vagabond Lover,” “Kansas City Kitty,” “Maine Stein Song,” “If You Were the Only Girl in the World,” “Betty Coed”—took me back 20 years more rapidly than I care to travel. Vallee's voice is still thin, nasal and almost non-existent but it has picked up authority. The voice doesn't really matter much any more.
SOMEWHERE IN his long, long apprenticeship, Vallee has learned the mystery of stage presence. He has a lot of charm and the advancing years have greatly improved his looks. (His face seems somehow shorter and his forehead has lost much of that tortured look.) He'd make a fine emcee of a television variety show of his own. Since Mr. Ed Sullivan, the emcee of “Toast of the Town,” has just written an essay deploring writers who try to take jobs from other writers, I'd like to make it clear that I'm not recommending Vallee as emcee of “Toast of the Town.” I just think he'd make a good emcee somewhere or other on television. Everyone straight on that now?
● ● ●
The original Vallee radio show which started on NBC in 1929, when radio was not much more advanced than television is now, was an hour-long variety show almost identical to those television is now spawning. Toward the end of its 10-year run it got pretty thin, but it was a wonderful show when it started. On that program Vallee launched an imposing roster of radio stars—Edgar Bergen, Burns and Allen, and Bob Burns, to name only a few.
He appears to have a talent for that sort of thing, and television could sure use it right now. At the conclusion of his act incidentally, he'll be back there next Sunday night too—Sullivan predicted that Vallee would be “even bigger in television than you ever were in radio.” It's one of the rare times when Mr. S. and I agree.

January 10, 1949
I was one of the minority that hung around the No. 1 Spot in America the other night to hear the debut of Horace Heidt. (No, children, the No. 1 spot in America isn’t the White House any more. Guess again). Mr. Heidt moved into Jack Benny’s sacred niche on N.B.C. to the accompaniment of a thunderous roll of drums from the N.B.C. drum-beating staff, a hard working outfit, and heralded by full-page ads from coast to coast.
“H-Hour will arrive on the National Broadcasting Company network Sunday, Jan. 2, at 7 p.m., E.S.T.: wrote one of N.B.C.’s war correspondents under a White Plains dateline.
All this breast beating, though well intentioned, was actually a handicap to the bandleader. His show—it’s called the “Youth Opportunity Program”—is good enough in its way but it wasn’t worth all the fuss and feathers, and I imagine there were some severely disappointed listeners. Not too many, though. H-Hour on the No. 1 Spot in America got a Hooper of 11.7, a drop of 5.6 over his previous rating, while Benny opposite him on C.B.S. got the highest Hooper of the year, 27.8. (And incidentally, Phil Harris, who has always leaned pretty heavily on the Benny show just in front of him, dropped from 19.4 to 14.5 for his low of the season).
● ● ●
The Heidt show is just another talent show with a few unusual features. The emphasis, as they never tire of telling you, is on youth. Most of the contestants are in their teens, nearly all of them are singers or musicians and, I’m ready to admit, there are very talented kids—if you like trumpet players.
Heidt must have studied the methods of the late George Washington Hill pretty closely. His show is loud, fast and on the beam. It moves, in fact, like greased lightning and is punctuated frequently by police whistles and bells to be sure we’re all still awake, as if any one could get to sleep under such circumstances.
The first contestant on the opening show on the No. 1 spot was a saxophone player—his name sped past me a little too rapidly to catch—who played “Dizzy Fingers.” That’s an appropriate name for what turned out to be a finger exercise played at supersonic speed and it was performed with extreme agility—if that sort of thing is one of your enthusiasms.
“Look out, Benny Goodman!” shouted Mr. Heidt when it was over. Heidt makes a habit of warning older members of the profession to keep an eye on their laurels in the face of these young kids. (“The Andrews Sisters—look out!” “Look out, Harry James!”) The pandemonium that greets these efforts is beyond description. Heidt’s show plays, not in small studios, but in auditoriums around the country to as many as 6,000 excitable people and they can make a whale of a lot of noise. Frequently they start making it in the middle of the number, obliterating the rest of it.
“Terrific!” shrieks Mr. Heidt. “Listen to that applause! I can’t stop it! I can’t control the crowd!” Actually, the crowd doesn’t get that far out of hand though the intensity of its enthusiasm is sometimes mystifying.
● ● ●
All told there were six acts on that opening No. 1 spot, all but done at breathless speed. Speed apparently counts heavily. The winner played “Twelfth Street Rag” on a banjo and you can imagine what that was like; the youngster could get around that banjo faster than any man I’ve heard since Eddie Peabody. However, Heidt, who works hard at it, has dug up some extremely talented kids. It’d be better, though, if they’d be permitted to slow down a little and if the audience were kept out of the act. He has enlisted the support of quite a few prominent people and of civic organizations, thus giving the program an air of public service respectability. On Dec. 19, Vice-President Alben Barkley appeared on it, spoke of the great contribute Heidt was making to the youth of the nation and gave him an award from the Junior Chamber of Commerce. Robert P. Patterson appeared Jan. 2, congratulating the program for developing America’s youth and gave Heidt another trophy.
In spite of these weighty tributes, I don’t think Jack Benny has much to worry about from the No. 1 spot in America. The pace is a little too breathless over there.

January 11, 1949
Indignities on the Illustrious
A number of interesting indignities have been committed recently by or on celebrated individuals on the radio, a medium which has little respect for privacy. Here are just a few.
King Peter of Yugoslavia was interviewed on the television version of “Meet the Press” the other night. King Peter may or may not be the first monarch—if he still is one and he says he is—to confront the intrusive press in front of a television camera. But he's unquestionably the first king I’ve ever seen in an uncomfortable position. First crack out of the box one of the reporters asked:
“Do you prefer to be called king or mister?”
His former majesty blinked a moment; then admitted candidly: “I prefer king.”
The shy, rather charming and surprisingly intelligent young man was battered for several minutes by questions concerning his relations with our State Department, with Tito and with the Yugoslav people; then came another of those direct questions the American press more or less specializes in:
“How are you financing yourself now that you're not in the business of being king any more?”
Peter was momentarily dum-founded: “That's a very embarrassing question,” he said finally. “I could ask you the same thing,” “I'm working,” snapped the reporter.
● ● ●
GEN. JONATHAN WAINWRIGHT has contributed one of his personal swords as part of the loot on a "Stop the Music" jackpot. The sword is not, as has been reported, the one he wore at Bataan. Still it's associated with Wainwright and consequently with Bataan and with a painful moment in United States history. There has been no attempt by the American Broadcasting Company to disassociate it from our history and it would have no particular significance on a give-away program if it hadn’t such an association.
Wainwright is national commander of the Disabled American Veterans and his gesture was made to call attention to the plight of disabled veterans and stimulate contributions for them at Christmas time. Granting all this, it seems a poor way to do it. Giveaway programs are one of the most disputable manias of our time: they have repeatedly courted respectability by sidling up to charity organizations; now they are wooing national heroes; next thing you know they’ll throw in General Grant’s Tomb, ostensibly to stimulate contributions for research on the black plague and only incidentally to get a little publicity and a higher Hooperating for the program.
In the future, I hope the generals avoid the giveaways. Pershing didn't enter dance marathons, did he?
● ● ●
Dr. Clement Clarke Moore, the author of “A Visit From St. Nicholas,”—better known by its opening line, “ ‘Twas the night before Christmas”—was impersonated on a Philco television commercial, happily praising Philcos. An actor dressed in the fashion of 100 years ago was led around from one Philco to another gushing a parody of one of the most famous verses of all time. This one was called “The Night After Christmas” and, of course, it was heavily studded with references to the beauty of Philcos.
The performance was one of the less touching memorials to the shy parson who died in 1863. It took 21 years for Dr. Moore to screw up his courage to the point where he admitted authorship of “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” which was first published in a Troy, N.Y., newspaper in 1823. Thought it was too frivolous for a clergyman. It would take, I imagine, several thousand years for the scrupulous person to become reconciled to the parody of his verse dedicated to selling a radio set. The indorsement of the living, I think, ought to be enough. Let's let the dead stay out of this.

January 12, 1949
Nice Family With a Housing Problem
One of the chief casualties from the rearrangement of Sunday nights is the Ozzie and Harriet program, which has an unfortunate habit of moving from one place to another at the worst possible time. For years the Nelson family roosted at the 6:30 p. m. time Sunday nights on C.B.S., a very nice time except that people in those days—gee, remember way back when—used to kept their radios tuned to N.B.C. on Sunday nights.
Then C.B.S.decided it was foolish to try to throw one of their best shows against N.B.C. Sunday and moved it to Friday nights. Well, nobody seemed to listen to the radio Friday nights. A projected all-star Friday line-up on C.B.S. fizzled and Ozzie and Harriet were worse off than ever. This year it looked as if everything would be just dandy. The Nelsons moved to N.B.C. at 6:30 Sunday nights just ahead of Jack Benny, heading a very popular line-up. After all these migrations, the Nelsons seemed permanently settled. Their Hooper was around 13, not good enough for the first fifteen but good enough. Everything was lovely. Then Benny moved to CBS. Ozzie and Harriet's Hooper on the first show dropped to 8.2. Again it seems the neighborhood is not right and they may have to move again.
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This is a shame because Ozzie and Harriet are the nicest young married couple on the air and one of the most human. “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”—that's the full name of the show—is the least hyped-up program I know. Nelson, who writes it, has an irreproachable feeling for good taste, a rare commodity in radio. In the trade his show is known as situation comedy, and undoubtedly that's what it is. Ozzie gets himself into some odd (though credible) situations: yet you never find a blonde in the bathtub at the climax.
There are darn few bromides—you can't expect there won't be any—in Nelson's comedy. He meets a girl on a bus who shows an uncommon interest in him: he gets the idea she's pursuing him; she isn't: she just wants back the bundle he inadvertently took. That's about as far into adventure as Ozzie ever gets—in other words, no further than the rest of us—and out of such slender material he fills a half hour with more honest laughter than seems possible.
HIS WIFE, an understanding female with a sense of humor, picks up after him patiently. Occasionally she pokes a little discreet, though not unkind, fun at him. Once in a while she upsets his routine, which isn't much of a feat. She served fried eggs one morning in place of the boiled eggs sacred to Ozzie's breakfast. He was, of course, upset.
“How come fried eggs?”
“You didn't like them?”
“Well I ate them.”
“You didn't smile.”
“I never smile when I'm eating eggs.”
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THE NELSONS' dialog never gets much fancier than that—no gags about capital gains or Truman’s piano or Cukamonga. The Nelson family is also distinguished for having two of the most winsome children in radio—Rickie and David. In fact they're the only two I can abide. They look upon their father with a nice blend of affection and skepticism and are the only children anywhere who consistently under play their lines.
There are other characters—Ozzie’s close friend Thorney, Harriet’s mother and a bobby-soxer with the usual collection of abverbs. They’re all nice people, but the real attraction is Ozzie, whose personality and intelligence hold the show together. It’s a one-man operation, which may be why it is so consistently good. Now if someone would just find it a good spot and keep it there.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Electric Batcats

Pandora’s Box is a pretty entertaining Terrytoon. Not uproariously funny, but it has winged cats, some top-notch backgrounds and some neat effects.

One part I like is when the batcats create lightning in the clouds. These frame grabs have digital fuzz but you can get the idea. The use of colour is excellent.

Connie Raskinski directed this Super Mouse (later re-named Mighty Mouse) cartoon, copyrighted in June 1943.