Friday, 14 December 2018

More Tom and Jerry Violence

Tom’s caught something. No, Jerry’s caught something. No, Tom’s caught something. A fist to the eye. Bill Hanna screams as Tom.

This is from the cartoon Safety Second. It’s a July 4th cartoon that was appropriately released July 1, 1950. It was inappropriately re-released May 3, 1957.

Al Grandmain gets a credit on this short, perhaps for the fireworks effects. Ray Patterson, Ed Barge, Ken Muse and Irv Spence also animated. Is this a Spence scene?

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Creatures of the Haunted Ship

Some wonderful undersea creatures are the highlights of the 1930 Van Beuren cartoon The Haunted Ship starring Don and Waffles. Don panics when they appear. Waffles doesn’t care.

Characters in 1930 cartoons, even at Disney, came toward the camera, which must have been a pretty cool effect in theatres. They do in this cartoon. I really like the designs. First, we get an octopus.

Look out! In the barrel! It’s a...a something.

Some kind of fish swims in from the distance.

The cartoon features more fun-designed sea creatures, as well as musical skeletons and drunken turtles whose heads zoom toward the camera for a nice finish. The music and actions are well-synchronised by Gene Rodemich.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Uncle Moe Plays Santa

Who would you pick to play Santa Claus? If it’s for a TV sitcom, you’d pick a scrawny, New York Jew. And if it’s a 1970s sitcom, then you’d pick long-time character actor Ned Glass.

Glass had regular or recurring roles on several shows in the first few decades of network television and almost countless guest appearances. He was one of those guy who was almost everywhere.

It’s always a treat to see columnists recognise these unsung actors. We’ll get to the Santa story in a moment. But first we have a column from the North American Newspaper Alliance, dated October 15, 1961, about one of Glass’ big film roles. He appeared in West Side Story. The arithmetic in the column is a little off; Glass was on the New York stage in the play “Counsellor-at-Law,” starring Paul Muni, in October 1931.

‘Overnight’ Fame Takes 27 Years

Hollywood (NANA) — "OVERNIGHT SUCCESS," a Hollywood adage has it, is something that happens only to sexy starlets and old character actors—except in the case of the veterans it usually takes longer.
For Ned Glass, a thin, balding actor, with a nasal voice (closing your eyes you might suspect it's Walter Brennan) and an expression of pained sympathy for the entire world, the Big Night occurred here a couple of weeks ago.
After 27 years In show business, he walked into the Carthay Circle Theater—still an unknown to the crowds eagerly moving to their seats for the press preview of the filmed musical drama, "West Side Story."
Two and a half hours later, the lights went on and Ned Glass found himself surrounded by backslapping pals. He recognized a few of them.
"It was like walking into a surprise birthday party," Glass describes it. "Everywhere, there were people smiling at me, grabbing at my hand, congratulating me. My eyes got so misty I walked into two ushers and, gosh darn it, even they seemed glad to see me."
Glass, who describes himself as "the Jewish Walter Brennan," has spent nearly three decades in search of the recognition "West Side Story" now seems certain to bring to him. During that time he hasn't been exactly hiding from the public—Broadway audiences will remember him in many plays.
In "West Side Story," however, he has the kind of role that showcases an actor's talent: he plays "Doc," the owner of the candy store used as headquarters by the youthful gang calling themselves "The Jets."
"It was a tremendously challenging role," Glass reports, "and not only from the acting standpoint. There was quite a bit of social responsibility involved in it for me, too."
As most people have already heard, "West Side Story," a stage sensation on Broadway and in European capitals, is the story of "Romeo and Juliet" set to Leonard Bernstein's music and played on the today's streets of New York.
The movie version, guided with expert care by producer-director Robert Wise and director-choreographer Jerome Robbins, is on wide-screen Panavision 70 color and stereophonic sound and un the opinion of envious Hollywood experts in special effects, only rarely have these cinematic features been so well put to use. "But most people don't realize something," Glass points out. "Because this story is told from the viewpoint of the kids in the streets, there are hardly any adults in the movie.
"Aside from the two cops on the beat—who aren't able to understand the youngsters—'Doc,' the candy-store owner is just about the only other grownup in the story. And he's the only one who even begins to dig the motivating forces behind the gang kids and can communicate with them a little.
"That’s why I say it was a responsibility to play the part I felt like I was representing my generation in one of the most important situations facing our society today."
How did Ned Glass win the role of "Doc"?
"I know it's fashionable to have a complicated story of discovery, all about how I got stuck in the revolving door of the commissary with the producer and suddenly he realized I was the guy for the part but actually it was through a casting agent who knew me: he set up an interview and I got the job." The most memorable moment for him in the picture?
"It came near the end," Glass answered without hesitation. "The boys have done something particularly rough. I kind of shake my head and say, 'You kids you make this world lousy.' One of the boys looks back at me. 'We didn't make it, Doc,' he says."

Now the Santa story, and a tale of Glass’ tribulations as an actor. It’s hard to believe there was a period when he wasn’t working, but the notorious blacklist seemed to tar people who weren’t even on it. This syndicated story appeared in newspapers around December 8, 1972.

Past headaches are recalled by 'Uncle Moe'

"I'm saving the biggest log in the cord for Christmas," smiles Ned Glass, settling back into his overstuffed chair and warming to the flames that rose in his fireplace.
"That's a laugh, isn't it?" he chuckles. "A good Jew like me all excited about a Christmas fire."
His aged countenance reads like a book of ancient philosophy. The phrases are all there — the creases and crevices of pathos and joy — but they are mellowed by the cocoon of gentleness and contentment by which Glass surrounds himself.
Ned Glass, veteran of stage and screen for more than 40 years, now a regular member of CBS's "Bridget Loves Bernie" series, thinks it is only fitting that, as Uncle Moe, he play Santa in the Christmas Episode.
"The script said, 'The scrawniest, funniest-looking Santa possible, with a baggy suit and a scraggly beard . . .' Who would you guess they'd pick?" he invites. "I'm a natural."
His plastic face smiles from the tip of his sparsely inhabited head down to his slender chin.
"This is my idea of what a home should be," he says quietly, perusing the living room of his rustic valley home with pride. "For a kid from the slums of New York, home SHOULD be a house full of love and a warm fire in the evenings."
Every wall of the cottage is covered with some art work — some of it modern, some classic and some simple posters. Antique artifacts reconstructed into lamps are set here and there and Pennsylvania Dutch-style furniture, painted with gaily colored figures, adorns the entire room.
Glass built the majority of his unpretentious homestead in Studio City, Calif., by hand. When Ned Glass and his late wife, Kitty McKew, put each nail and plank into place, Studio City did not exist.
Building on to the cottage and creating the cabinetry within were a way of life for Glass in years to follow. It was a pastime and a way of making some extra dollars during a time when he could not find work; when the Red Scare of the 50's belted away at Hollywood and chased some of the finest actors of the era into other professions.
"I was never named before the House Un-American Activities Committee," he explains with neither anger nor of bitterness. There is even a touch of humor in his tone. His voice is thick with the reminder of the Eastside New York heritage.
"But here in Hollywood I was considered 'controversial'." He supposes the reputation began during his days with "The Living Newspaper," a brain-child of the Federal Theater during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, and an innovative band of artists who presented experimental theater long before it was considered chic.
The Red scare that crept into Hollywood on a grand scale could not have come at a worse time for Glass's career.
He already had made an indentation in the history of the movie industry in the movie "The Bad and the Beautiful," with what was to become the screen's first improvisational scene. The piece of film is considered a classic and is still used as a teaching aid in acting classes throughout the country.
At the time, it also inspired MGM to write a role specifically tailored to Glass in "Band Wagon."
A few days before production was to begin, however, Glass was called into the executives' offices and confronted with a dosier listing, among other things, the reading material to which he subscribed.
He was reproached for his tastes "but assured that the dosier meant nothing and would have no effect on my job."
But, he sighs gently, "the movie started the next day without me."
The years of unemployment that followed were difficult on Glass who, as a young man, had given up teaching in order to act.
During the sparse years when he was ostracized from his theatrical professional, Glass worked as a cabinet maker and handyman, and finally, in 1954, he was hired as a regular co-star on the New York-based TV series.
Two years later Glass left "The Bilko Show" and returned to the Hollywood he'd left as an escape from the sorrow of his wife's early and unexpected death two years before.
His second wife, Jean, sits quietly in a corner during the conversation, listening. A handsome brunette wearing a caftan of a homespun-style fabric, she had served up cups of steaming tea, banana-nut bread, fruits and cheeses earlier in the evening.
Glass's career has never again been besmirched since he was signed for "The Bilko Show." He's appeared on nearly every major TV series, was a regular on "Julia" and appeared in scores of movies. "Lady Sings the Blues" is his latest.
"In retrospect," he offers, "I'm glad it happened. I learned it wasn't the end of the world. I found I could make a living with my hands and it gave me much inner security and pleasure. There's always another road."

Unlike an awful lot of sitcom character actors, Glass was nominated for an Emmy (in 1969) but—and you’d never see this today—nobody won in his category because the judges didn’t think any of them deserved the award (Hal Holbrook didn’t win, either).

Glass died of heart failure in 1984 at the age of 78.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

At's-a Scrappy

Columbia’s mid-1930s Color Rhapsodies boast some good layouts and animation—even perspective animation—but they’re still second-rate imitations of Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies.

An example is In My Gondola, released on September 3, 1936, with story by Sid Marcus and animated by Art Davis (and others). Paul Etcheverry’s synopsis1:

Scrappy, Margie and Yippy glide along the Venetian canals, and enjoy the romantic music of local troubadours. On flute and mandolin, Scrappy too, tries a little serenading, but is upstaged by the pranks of a violinist lobster. Yippy complicates matters by falling overboard and being chased by a swordfish at the bottom of the canal. After he returns, the threesome humourously eat huge amounts of spaghetti at a nearby restaurant, concluding a happy day. This light, uncharacteristically innocuous Scrappy entry presents smooth animation and attractive and overall visual styling.

Yippy brings to mind Pluto as he curiously deals with a smaller creature, then emulates Donald Duck by bouncing up and down with his arm straight out, closed-fisted, ready for a fight.

This all happens after the lobster gets in Scrappy’s pants. He plays a concertina, and then a violin, smashing around the little dog.

Yippy covers his eyes as the lobster is about to punch him with a right. No! He fakes and gets with a left.

After Margie bashes around Scrappy with a mandolin and flute, the lobster jumps overboard, with Yippy leaping in after him.

More reviews:

Plenty of imagination went into this Scrappy cartoon. The result is good entertainment with much spectacular excitement. Set on the Venetian canals the story has Scrappy boating with a girl. Scrappy’s dog gets involved with a musical lobster and while chasing him along the canal bottom annoys a swordfish. Here a cleverly drawn chase is worked in with the pup being rescued just as he is about to be run through. A comic, spaghetti eating sequence concludes. Production Code Seal No. 2,482. Running time, 8 mins. “G.” 2

A color cartoon featuring Scrappy, this is very good entertainment. Scrappy and his girl friend glide the Venetian waters in a gondola to the romantically tuneful “Neapolitan Nights.” Scrappy’s dog engages the undersea inhabitants in combat, particularly a swordfish. Then there is dancing at a casino with interludes of a spaghetti dinner. Running time, 8 minutes.3

Scrappy carried on until 1941. You needn’t hunt through your home trying to figure out where you put your copies of Animania to read more. Go to Harry McCracken’s site right here.

1 Animania, Issue No 20, Feb. 28, 1981, pg. 27.
2 Motion Picture Daily, Oct. 5, 1936, pg. 13
3 Motion Picture News, Oct. 17, 1936, pg. 51

Monday, 10 December 2018

She's Not Forever Blowing Bubbles

I’ve never really liked I Love to Singa (1936). Kid singers bother me. And “June-a” and “spring-a” just sound stupid; why is that “ah” sound added to the ends of words anyway?

However, director Tex Avery and whoever helped write this cartoon keep trying to win me over. The cartoon has the layered backgrounds that give a 3D effect. The radio talks back to Mama Owl (not an original Avery gag but new-ish at the time). And there’s one scene that reminds me of Avery at MGM.

An obese hen at Jack Bunny’s amateur show (“amatuer” in some drawings) gets gonged while singing “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.” A trap door opens but she’s too fat to fall through it. Bunny helps with his trusty gong mallet.

Avery doesn’t waste time. Three bars of the song, followed by one of Treg Brown’s crash sounds and a camera shake and it’s done. Compare it to the dolt who gongs himself through the floor. Good gag but it goes on too long. The hen gag is under ten seconds. Perfect pacing.

Berneice Hansell plays the hen. I suspect Warners cartoon fans would want to gong her after hearing her baby-ish voice endlessly.

The cartoon is Avery’s parody of Warners’ The Jazz Singer (originally a stage play), so it has a happy, musical Warners-type ending (which Avery puts his own stamp on with an iris gag). Norman Spencer composed the score.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

The Secret of Jack Benny

This feature story on Jack Benny saw print on October 29, 1961. It doesn’t need any introduction except perhaps to remark that some of the vignettes you’ll read below you’ve likely read before. But like Jack’s TV and radio show, with re-workings of gags and routines, they’re old favourites that don’t wear out when you read them again.

The photo accompanied the article in one paper.

Jack Benny's Life Keeps Beginning at 39 But Here’s the Sneaky Lowdown—He’s 67
How Showbiz Veteran Keeps Pulling Laughs

EDITOR'S NOTE: Few men of 39 are celebrating their 50th year in showbiz. But then few men are Jack Benny. Some say he's been using the same gags for half a century but to Benny every knock is a boost and he just keeps on fiddling while the world laughs.
Associated Press Writer
HOLLYWOOD — Television is supposed to be sure death for comics. Excepting Jack Benny. He's just started his 12th year on home screens, his 30th in broadcasting, his 50th in showbiz.
His secret?
Says best friend George Burns: "Jack is such a nice guy that people tune him in each week hoping he'll get better."
Says violinist Isaac Stern: "When Jack walks out in tails in front of a symphony orchestra he looks like the greatest of soloists. What a shame he has to play!"
Said the late Fred Allen: "Benny couldn't ad lib a belch after a Hungarian dinner."
Says his wife, Mary Livingstone: "Jack stares audiences to death. He dares them not to laugh. Finally, the audience—never Jack—gets nervous and starts laughing hysterically."
For Benny, every knock is a boost—and no one knows it better than he. He is the all-time champion patsy, butt of all jokes—even in real life.
• • •
HE'LL BE 68 next Valentine's Day. He looks and acts 39. Well, almost.
"In fact," says Jack, "I wouldn't mind being 39 again if I felt as good as I do now."
For years Burns has played outlandish gags on Benny. No matter where Jack is playing, Burns will call him and hang up in the middle of a conversation.
"If I didn't keep up this ridiculous gag, his feelings would be hurt. He'd think I was mad at him," says Burns.
Almost anything Burns does, Jack thinks funny.
Once at a Hollywood party at producer Bill Goetz' house, entertainers like Danny Kaye and Judy Garland did impromptu bits for the guests.
• • •
BENNY, AT THEIR FINISH, asked Burns for a cigaret. Burns handed his old friend a smoke, lit it for him — and then signaled the orchestra for a fanfare.
"Ladies and gentleman," announced Burns. "Jack Benny will now do his famous cigaret bit."
Burns puffed his cigar and waited away. A perplexed Benny stood there with smoke in his face muttering: "What cigaret bit?"
George says Jack got his revenge in the most tortuous of ways.
"Every time I go to his house," says George. "He plays me some new tune he's learned on his violin."
Benny and his violin is one of Hollywood's oddities. At 67, Jack still takes lessons and practices two hours a day.
Is he good? says Jascha Heifetz.
"Only a genius could make such sounds come out of a Stradivarius."
BENNY, SMART SHOWMAN, has let others argue about his playing. In a rare comment on his ability, he said:
"Heifetz, Leonard Bernstein, Mischa Elman all think that I'm pretty good on the violin but just play lousy for laughs. Isaac Stern knows me better. He knows I can't play any better. But I love the violin."
One thing that Jack can do well is play a jazz fiddle, but his practice sessions are always the difficult classics.
Benny's first radio appearance was on a variety show in the 1931-32 season.
In a medium where everybody talked a mile-a-minute so there wouldn't be dead air, Benny calmly said:
"Hello folks, this is Jack Benny." Then he stared at the microphone for what seemed an hour.
Next, he said "There will be a slight pause while everyone says: ‘Who cares?’"
That appearance brought Benny a 13-week network offer. He has never been unemployed or unsponsored since.
Benny made the transition from radio to TV in 1950 with little effort.
"My gang just had to put on make-up and memorize lines instead of reading them," says Jack.
• • • •
FOR A WHILE, he was on TV every other week. At an age when most performers are slowing, Benny upped his schedule to one-a-week.
He added night club appearances and symphony benefits.
Benny is a show business paradox. He's a perfectionist in preparing his shows but he gives an almost lackadaisical impression while doing it — like Willie Mays snagging an outfield fly.
Some will say that he has used the same basic jokes for his 50 years of show business. Those who remember vaudeville in the twenties will recall one of Jack's routines about taking his girl out for dinner: He said something so funny she dropped her tray.
The 1961 Benny's using the same joke in another variation.
"It's not really the same joke," explains Jack. "It's a characterization."
A few years ago on one show, a gunman held up Benny with the usual threat: "Your money or your life."
All Benny had to do was ponder with that famous stare to get one of the biggest laughs of the season."
• • •
BURNS SAYS Benny's success lies in coming out like a mincing lightweight and then delivering a knockout performance.
An example of this was a recent affair in Beverly Hills when Frank Sinatra and friends—Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Joey Bishop—were on too long. Danny Thomas, the emcee, also played past the finish. (They) took three hours.
Came Benny. His quips were sharp, funny and brief. He did three minutes — and stole the whole show.
Enthusiasm is another Benny forte.
Burns recalls:
"Jack had just come from his lawyer's where he signed a contract worth a million. He joined me for lunch and was all excited.
" ‘You know what, George? I just found out that if you drive 20 miles an hour up Wilshire, you can miss all the red lights.’"
A party he tossed a few years ago at a New York automat was front-paged because only Benny, in character, would host a black-tie party at the automat complete with dance band and big names. Jack, not denying the obvious publicity value, admits there was another motive.
"When I was in vaudeville I used to eat at the automat all the time. They have certain things there, coffee and pie for instance, that are great. I always wanted to sneak in for some but I was afraid that everybody would think that I really am a miser — so I had to content myself with inferior coffee at 65 cents a cup in some plush New York restaurant. With the party, I had my coffee and pie and ate it too."

Saturday, 8 December 2018

The Scoop on a Boop

Mae Questel wasn’t the only woman to voice Betty Boop and Olive Oyl for Max Fleischer, but she’s certainly the best known and, no doubt, best loved. But there was someone else, someone who provided Boop-like voices for Van Beuren cartoons as well.

She was Margie Hines.

For a time, she was also Mrs. Popeye. She married the swab who voiced the character, Jack Mercer.

Margaret Louise Hines was born in Queens, New York on October 15, 1909 to Andrew and Cecilia M. Hines. The 1930 U.S. Census lists her occupation as “singer, theatrical.” She had appeared on radio on WMRJ in Jamaica in 19291, the same year she won a Helen Kane contest in Brooklyn2 (Questel had won the same contest in Manhattan).

The New York Sun’s Eileen Creelman wrote about Miss Boop in its story about Paramount’s short subjects on May 22, 1933, quoting the studio’s overseer of one and two-reelers, Lou Diamond. Margie gets a brief credit, more than she ever got on screen. Notice at the end the deference paid to a certain Mouse cartoon producer on the West Coast about a feature that wouldn’t be on screens for several years.
Newsreels are of course practically a necessity in any picture house. Of the others the cartoons are still the most generally popular.
Audiences like them as much if not more than ever, and producers are pleased because a six-minute cartoon can chop three minutes off the program length of a nine-minute one-reeler. That three minutes repeated several times a day can make quite a difference in the overtime salaries of the theater employees.
That little routine business fact has nothing to do with moviegoers' delight in the antics of Betty Boop and her pen-and-ink friends. Max and Dave Fleischer, veterans of the animated cartoon business, and two brothers are responsible for Betty. She is, Mr. Diamond explains with justifiable pride, the first human figure ever to make a hit with cartoon fans.
"There have been lots of other human figures," said Mr. Diamond, "'Mutt and Jeff and 'Bringing Up Father' among them. They always liked the animals better. Then we made Betty. We didn't think she was anything particular at first, just another novelty."
Her first film ran at the Rivoli. Miss Boop ran out on the screen, bowed and threw a kiss to the audience. To her creators' amazement, the audience replied with a hearty round of applause.
"Then we knew we had something." Mr. Diamond continued. "A cartoon figure that was clapped just for making a bow."
Betty, oddly enough, didn't start off as the pert little flapper she is now. She was drawn originally as a cat [sic], a cat with ears, tail and a kittenish voice. Then the animators began experimenting, subduing the ears a bit, touching up the face, dropping the tail and ears entirely at last, and leaving only the round bright-eyed face. The feline personality called for a childish voice. Marjorie Hines, the first Betty Boop, was succeeded later by May Questel. There is now still a third Betty. All three have sung on the radio under the cartoon name, and no one seems to have noticed the difference.
For all that, Helen Kane is now bringing legal complaint that the cartoon is a burlesque of her. Mr. Diamond seems more amused than worried by the suit.... Novelty, of course, is the great problem of short subject producing. Many a good idea is good only once. And there must be so many new short subjects each season. Mr. Diamond is amused by the idea of a "Betty Boop in Blunderland," carefully named so that it will not interfere with the West Coast feature, "Alice in Wonderland."
To me, Betty looks more doggish than cat-like in Dizzy Dishes. To add to the confusion, Variety called Bimbo “a mouse waiter.”3 So much for the drawings being “clear and effective,” as the trade paper proclaimed.

Diamond referred to the lawsuit by Helen Kane, who basically claimed Paramount and the Fleischer studio stole her persona, affecting her ability to work. Hines, Questel and Bonnie Poe, the other Boop voicer, all showed up in court to watch Kane lose her case; there is an Associated Press photo of them together in an old post on this blog. Hines testified “she won a preliminary contest before she ever heard Miss Kane.”4

As for Hines herself, here’s an unbylined story from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of September 22, 1933 about her.
New ‘Boop-a-Dooper’ Likes the Stage But—
Marjorie (Betty) Hines, Doll-Voiced and Baby-Eyed, Doesn't Crave the Heartaches—Versatile Freeport Miss Happy in Kitchen

Usually it is the young and ambitious girl who craves fame on the stage, while the family protests.
With Marjorie Hines of Freeport the situation is reversed.
On the eve of 21, slender and shapely to the tilt of 98 pounds, dark hair intriguingly curled around a tiny face, and big baby blue eyes, the young miss, who belongs to the boop-a-doop group of entertainers, says:
"Oh, I like the show business. But too many heartaches in it. Too much uncertainty."
Three years-ago the talented Freeport girl who can boop-a-doop with the best of the doll-voiced boop-a-doopers sprang overnight from the family fireside to a place behind the footlights by winning a Helen Kane imitation contest at a local cinema cathedral. She had entered, nervous and. hesitant, only at the urging of her mother and uncle.
Today her family still urge her to take advantage of the opportunities that come her way.
And Miss Hines, still heeding them, continues in the theatrical business, with decided leanings to the movies, radio and phonograph recording. And, between auditions and appearances is happy cooking in the family kitchen at 75 N. Bayview Ave. and, every Monday night, playing bridge with friends in Freeport.
Her talent at the type of singing made famous by the chubby Helen won Miss Hines after the dontest a chance to create the voice of Betty Boop of the movies.
She was the original of Betty, who, in turn, was the original femme in movie cartoons. After that she did a series called Aesop's Fables, imitating goldfish, a cat's meow or, as she said, “most anything they wanted me to.”
Freeport calls her "Betty" because of the character she played.
A boy friend? In love? Marriage?
To the first question, she admitted "Yes." To the others she responded with blushes and silence, though later she confessed that sometimes she thinks marriage and domesticity better than a career.
Why was she dropped as Betty? It couldn’t have been because Fleischer was dissatisfied with her work; the studio hired her once to replace Questel as their female voice artist after the studio moved to Miami in 1938. It could very well be her career got in the way. Variety reported on Feb. 25, 1931 that she was on her way to Omaha for a vaudeville show. She toured with bands for a time; the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of Jan. 8, 1934 reported:
Perhaps you’ve heard her with Gus Arnheim and Huston Ray ... If not, and you go to the movies, we’re sure you’ve heard her as the voice behind those Betty Boop flicker cartoons ... That’s the way Marjorie started her career ... since then she has been many things; a baby’s cry, the voice of a gold fish, a cat’s meow! ... And now a featured orchestra singer ... The voice you have often heard in the movies as the birds and bees flitted across the screen is also a cute radio vote.
Hines married Mercer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on March 3, 1939. By now she was voicing Olive Oyl (Betty had been retired by the studio) though her version brought to mind Zasu Pitts more than anyone else. What happened to her after that is pretty much a mystery, at least judging by the popular press. Paramount took over the Fleischer studio, downsized it (it wasn’t in the animated features business any more) and moved it back to New York City. Mae Questel was Olive again.

Two more notes about Hines:

She appeared in the 1932 Vitaphone short The Perfect Suitor starring comedian Benny Rubin. The Variety review of March 22nd that year says “Girl played feebly by Marjorie Hines.” She got a better notice from the paper on December 20th when it revealed: “Larry Cowan, for RKO, has arranged for a personal appearance of Marjorie Hines, the unseen voice of Aesop’s Fables, in connection with a Christmas party at the 86th, New York, for 100 crippled orphans who are to be guests of the house Saturday (24).” RKO released Van Beuren’s Fables cartoon. Hines appeared in a Van Beuren live-action short in 1933 called The Strange Case of Hennessy starring Cliff Edwards, who cartoon fans know as the voice of Jiminy Cricket. The same year, she showed up in a Vitaphone musical short starring composer Harry Warren at a piano playing a medley of his hits, with Hines singing along to some of them.

And to your right, you see a Variety story from Nov. 17, 1931. Whether Margaret Hines is the same as Margie/Marjorie Hines, I don’t know. But it seems appropriate for men to shower the voice of Betty Boop with fineries. It might even make a nice cartoon plot.

1 NY Herald Tribune, May 23, 1929, pg. 25
2 Variety, Dec. 25, 1929, pg. 34
3 Variety, July 30, 1930, pg. 19
4 United Press story, May 2, 1934

Friday, 7 December 2018

Frying Duck

Effects animation abounds in The Fishing Bear, a 1940 cartoon from Rudy Ising’s unit at MGM. Bubbles, waves, splashes. And some great animation involving an electric current when an eel bites on the end of Barney Bear’s fishing rod. Barney gets zapped. Then a duck that (ahem) fouls up things gets it, too, before exploding like an electrical transformer in a lightning storm.

Notice the duck multiples.

The effects animator isn’t credited on screen, but Mike Lah recalled Ugo D’Orsi had come over from Disney and worked on shorts for both Rudy Ising and Hugh Harman. He was born in Rio de Janiero in 1897 and arrived in the U.S. from Naples, Italy in May 1928, giving his occupation as a painter. He animated for the Fleischers before coming west for a job at the Disney studio. D’Orsi was later the animation director for Graphic Films, a commercial outfit run by Les Novros, an ex-Disney artist. He died on February 12, 1964 in Los Angeles.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

This Trolley is Out of Control

“If the first of these new cartoon comedies for Universal release is an indication of what is to come,” declared Chester J. Smith in the Motion Picture News, “then this series is destined to win much popular favor. They are cleverly drawn, well executed, brimful of action and fairly abounding in humorous situations.”

The “new cartoon comedies” being referred to were Walt Disney’s shorts starring Oswald the rabbit, the first being Trolley Troubles, released on September 5, 1927. It’s still amusing after all these years.

There are a number of scenes with cycle animation, including a neat one that opens the cartoon where 55 drawings of child rabbits and a cat move around the trolley while Oswald (in a separate layer of animation) dusts it off. A simpler one is eight drawings of Oswald’s out-of-control trolley rolling down a hill.

Put the cycle together and it looks like this:

From what I gather, Ub Iwerks, Hugh Harman and Friz Freleng were among the animators of this cartoon.