Sunday, 21 January 2018

Should He, Goody?

We don’t discuss local, national and world affairs on this blog. You don’t come here to read a rant about that sort of thing. You come to look at frames from old cartoons and maybe find out some things about them, or read about radio and TV actors of a different time. That’s what we do here. You can read about the state of affairs in your town or country in countless other places. We do something else.

Jack Benny had the same attitude. And that didn’t sit well with one of his long-time friends.

Goodman Ace (right) was a top comedy writer in print, on radio and TV. For a while, he and his wife had a radio show of their own and did comedy shorts. I recall their show being full of misspoken words a la Gracie Allen; I don’t recall it being full of social activism. But that didn’t stop Goody from being angry that Jack didn’t include social activism in his comedy; presumably espousing a viewpoint that coincided with Goody’s.

Jack’s attitude seems to have been he spent years and years building a character, his audience loved it and that’s what they wanted to see. If they wanted social activist comedy, they could see someone else make pungent observations on L.B.J. and the American scene.

Evidently this enraged Goody so much, he made it the subject of it in his column in the Saturday Review of October 5, 1968. I’ll avoid further comment other than to say you will not read my opinion here about the Lyndon Baines Johnson (if I have one).

Shoulda Said
TAXI CAB HINDSIGHT reflections consist of the clever, diabolical points you suddenly think of as you drive away, still steaming, from a luncheon where you found yourself the minority dissident in a two-party argument on the state of the world and other trivia.
"What did you say, Mac?" the driver asks, staring at me, appropriately enough, through his rear-vision mirror.
"I didn't say anything. It's what I should have said," I reply angrily.
Actually it's myself I'm angry with. After years of watching politicians and civilians being interviewed on TV, I have developed this divine gift of being able to think of tricky questions no newsman ever asked that would leave the hapless interviewee sitting there, a quivering bloody pulp. In living color.
I was overwhelmed with this esprit de Vescalier the other evening while watching Jack Benny being questioned on the NET network. The interviewer asked Mr. Benny if he ever did any political humor on his TV shows.
Mr. Benny had an easy copout. He could have said he didn't do political humor because his show is taped weeks in advance and the material would be dated. But he didn't.
"No," replied Mr. Benny. "I don't think it's right to do jokes about our President."
He admitted it was all right for Bob Hope because "you can see he doesn't mean it," he said.
"Who can see Bob Hope doesn't mean it?" I shouted at my TV set.
Which was more than the interviewer did. He segued, very kindly I thought, to commenting that Mr. Benny used "character" humor.
"Yes," said Mr. Benny quietly, and, I thought, breathing a sigh of relief, "our material deals with human frailties."
I was on my feet again. "Jack, are you inferring," I screamed, "that our President has no frailties? Or are you implying the other alternative?"
This esprit of avoiding even a suggestion of lèse majesté is prevalent among most TV stars who have made themselves beloved of their fans by sealing themselves in a vacuity of neutrality. Any utterance that might estrange even one out of the millions of their devoted followers strikes terror in their hearts. Every line their writers contribute is suspect and is gone over with a finetooth magnifying glass.
Example: Two years ago while on assignment to write for a televised variety hour, the writers were asked to devise a script that would feature Canada's Expo 67. For openers, the star of the show wanted to do a short humorous monologue about Canada.
We were hard put. But finally, with the aid of The World Almanac—the last book you would hunt; through for jokes—we came up with an opening line:
"Tonight we honor Canada. Did you know that in area Canada is the second largest country in the world? Russia is first, Canada is second. I guess you thought it was Avis."
Well, what can I tell you? All heck broke loose, as they say on TV. The juxtaposition of Canada and Russia was just too much. The line was immediately placed under tire microscope and examined for Communist cells, sabotage, World War III, and even treason.
After an hour's discussion, during which the writers were asked to swear on the Bible (the Nielsen rating book), show their citizenship papers, sing the third stanza of the national anthem, and stand to pledge allegiance to the flag, the line was left in.
The victory was Pyrrhic. On the show the next night the delivery of the line was something less than masterful. The straight lines were spoken impeccably. But poor Avis was lost in a slur of mumbling.
Terror had struck again as the star envisioned countless sets tuned out.
This aberration can be further exemplified in a conversation this writer had recently with the above Mr. Benny. He was going, he told me, to Atlanta for one of his charity symphony concerts. He asked for a line in a monologue. Any writer worth his laugh-track is eager to contribute to this master of all comedians, knowing it will get the most skillful delivery. I gave him one:
"I've met the mayor of Atlanta, and I found him to be a progressive and courageous man who is not afraid to call a spade, mister."
"No," Benny said, "I can't use that."
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because I'm not mad at anybody."
Later in a taxicab I realized what I should have said:
"When will you get mad, Jack? When they have one door marked WHITE, another marked BLACK, and a third door marked COMEDIANS?"

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Linus the One-Hit Wonder

Hanna-Barbera, Filmation and DePatie-Freleng cranked out series after series, year after year, for Saturday morning network programming. And then there were other studios that, for whatever reason, were one-shots.

One of them was Ed Graham Productions. He gave the world Linus the Lionhearted—in fact, he was making new cartoons for Saturday mornings before almost everyone else—but that was about it.

Graham had been a writer and producer of the animated Bert and Harry Piel commercials in partnership with Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding, the radio comedians who voiced the characters. Their business split up, and Graham moved on to Linus.

This story in the Binghamton Press of July 3, 1964 explains:
Linus, His Pals Get Own Show

Special Press Correspondent
Chicago—A year ago, when the advertising agency handling television commercials for one of the big cereal companies wanted a "spokesman" appeal to children, Linus the Lionhearted was created.
Linus, a timid lion, appears in cartoon form to tell the kids to buy a breakfast food. Linus later was joined by such cartoon spokesmen and pitchmen as Sugar Bear, Rory Racoon, So-Hi and the Friendly Postman.
Inevitably, what happened was that the commercials proved more popular with the kids than the so-called entertainment shows.
This isn't unusual in television.
It happens occasionally, even with the so-called adult shows. That's because more money, imagination and talent often are expended on the commercials than on a series, which is ground out like so much hamburger.
Now comes the announcement that Linus and his friends have been promoted. No longer will they be confined to the commercial spiels but, instead, are to be stars of their own entertainment program.
The new half-hour cartoon series will be scheduled by CBS-TV on Saturday mornings, effective in September, and will utilize a company of both cartoon and human figures in a game-story-joke format.
There must be a moral there, somewhere.
Children’s programming rarely warranted interviews in the popular press, but the Chicago Tribune talked with Graham in a story published September 24, 1964.
Linus & Co. Roar Into New TV Roles
By Marion Purcelli
STORYTELLERS INFORM us that some lions are born great; others have greatness thrust upon them. Television's storytellers are going to show us a rare type, Linus, the Lionhearted, a new cartoons series starring an unlikely king of beasts who would rather sleep undisturbed in the shade than face the problems arising daily in his jungle domain. It makes its debut Saturday at 10 a. m. over channel 2.
King Linus, a mild beast who is continuously being plunged into impossible situations by his many subjects, will be joined by three colleagues—Loveable Truly the postman, So-Hi the Chinese boy, and Rory Racoon the guardian of the cornfield.
The improbable Linus has the loudest and most self-satisfying roar in the jungle, but is reluctant really to let loose because the frightening noise always stampedes his subjects—and likely as not, Linus is trampled underfoot.
An oddity about Linus and his colleagues is that they starred on cereal boxes and as spokesmen in cereal commercials on television. Their popularity with children became so great that the sponsors decided they deserved to rise from the sales force to star in their own TV series.
LINUS AND HIS friends are television personalities known and loved thruout the land by people under four feet high. We decided that the taller and older folk, already baffled by Beatlemania and other childhood ailments, deserved a briefing that will make them erudite enough to discuss Linus with their children. Herewith is our report.
The job of transforming a television spieler into a character with the depth and breadth to sustain the interest of 2-12 year old children, was entrusted to Ed Graham, television producer.
"Linus had already developed a full-blown character," said Graham in a recent interview. "And since action stems from character in any dramatic form, in effect, he told me what would happen. Linus, deep in his lion heart cannot quite accept his own lion-hood.
"In the first episode he becomes the natural prey of a neighbor, Billie Bird, instead of the other way around. Billie Bird's idea of fun is to present Linus with an impossible problem, then watch him try to handle it in kingly fashion."
THAT’S JUST ONE of the plots.
"In others, we’ll see what happens to Linus when he meets with a totally different character," Graham continued as earnestly as if he were discussing a human he knew well. "Sugar Bear, for example, is ultra-cool, but a scrapper who helps Linus to be more king-like. Occasionally So-Hi takes time out to tell one of his Orientalized fairy tales—'Jack and the Bamboo Stalk' or 'Goldilocks and the Three Dragons.'
'Rory Racoon', a mixture of Nelson Eddy, Jack Armstrong, and Lil’ Abner, is featured along with Loveable B. Truly, a thin, freckled-faced postman who is too loveable to be true. Most of his good deeds involve keeping his dog from the clutches of Richard Harry Nearly, silent screen star turned dogcatcher."
Linus, among these characters and dozens more, is the star as well as the king. He is a well-meaning, but stumbling honest-John-con-man from Runyonland. What he’s doing in the jungle is anybody’s guess and the basis for the cartoon show.
"Only Linus would think of dressing an elephant in a suit with vertical stripes to play down her overweight," said Graham. "And only Linus could let loose the roar that would bring all the elephants thundering to his rescue just as he and Sugar Bear are about to be swept over the rapids.
Despite his self-doubt, Linus is King."
Variety, in its September 30, 1964 edition, reviewed the Linus debut. “As kids’ tv cartoon fare goes,” began ‘Bill,’ “ ‘Linus the Lionhearted’ rates with ‘Bullwinkle’ and ‘Yogi Bear,’ which is real class.” He went on the praise the musical score by Johnny Mann, though the series seems to have used stock music, the character designs of George Cannata, and voice work of Sheldon Leonard and Carl Reiner, as well as the format with a story connecting all the little cartoons between the cartoons.

Let’s catch up with Graham again, giving background on how he hooked up with Reiner. To be honest, both Reiner and Leonard were so busy with other shows, it’s surprising they found time to be involved in a cartoon series. This appeared in the Los Angeles Times on July 5, 1965.
Graham Roaring Hit With His Linus the Lionhearted

“I had been watching Sid Caesar’s show. Some of those wonderfully wild things they did. On one there was a crazy song, something like ‘Who Kept the Kaiser Out of Nebraska?’ and I got to wondering whose fertile mind was behind all this nonsense.
The wondering man was Ed Graham, who at the time was doing commercials for an agency in the East. He put in a call to NBC and learned the man behind the Kaiser bit was one of Sid’s second bananas, Carl Reiner.
“I called Carl and introduced myself,” said Graham, “and after he reluctantly admitted that he was the idea man for many of Caesar’s skits, I told him that someday I’d like to get together with him to discuss some ideas I had about doing commercials.
“Carl thanked me, but didn’t seem too enthused. About 10 minutes later the phone rang. It was Carl. ‘Aren’t you the guy who does those beer commercials using the voices of Bob and Ray?’” Ed was.
Heads Own Film
That conversation took place more than 10 years ago. Today, Ed Graham is head of his own animation production company. And Carl Reiner is very much a part of the operation.
Linus the Lionhearted, the CBS animated cartoon series for kiddies on Saturdays, bears the Graham label. The voices of Billie Bird, Sascha Grouse, Dinny Kangaroo and perhaps a dozen other characters all come from Reiner.
Ed Graham is a New Yorker who made up his mind early in life what path he’d pursue. Having a father who is a cartoonist (Ed Graham Sr.) gave him direction. Graduation from Dartmouth, writing for magazines, then for Perry Como, before getting the agency job, rounded out the background for the 39-year-old family man (a wife and two sons), who now has 100 employes working for him.
Linus Going Strong
The Linus series has been renewed by CBS, sold in Japan and Australia, and Graham is about to start on theatrical shorts. And Carl Reiner is with him all the way.
“Carl is just amazing,” said Graham, continuing his praise for a colleague, who has logged much praise on his own for the Dick Van Dyke series. “The biggest thing about Carl is his spontaneity. When he speaks lines you just can’t believe that he’s reading them.”
Graham, well aware of Reiner’s many other enterprises, always arranges recording sessions to accommodate him.
“Carl will break away during his lunch hour,” said Graham. “I’ll hand him a few basic story lines. He’ll usually change a line or two, which makes it better, and during that hour or so we can usually wrap up six or seven stories.”
Graham uses other great names to voice his cartoons—Jonathan Winters, Sheldon Leonard (he’s Linus) and Jesse White, to name three—but he says Reiner’s personality dominates the series.
With all this talent poured into each Linus production, you’d think that some authoritative body, headed by Graham or Reiner, would put the final OK on each episode before airing. But no.
It’s up to a couple of fellows named Lucas and Scott. If they don’t laugh, it’s back to the drawing board. Lucas Reiner is 5, and Scott Graham is 4.
One person whose name you haven’t read yet is Irv Spector’s. Bob Givens, who storyboarded on the series, gives Spector full credit for Linus. He says Spector was the one who set up a studio on the West Coast for Graham and ran the show, although Jack Kinney was involved at one point. The studio on Laurel Canyon just below Burbank Boulevard; Givens says it was a big place but there weren’t many people in it. Spector, he says, was at UPA when the original Post cereal commercials were made; Givens boarded and laid out some and revealed they were made on the West Coast because it was cheaper than animating them in New York.

There was talk of a Sid and Marty Krofft series called Au Go Ghouls featuring top-40 music and puppets that would wrap around Linus episodes (Broadcasting, Feb. 21, 1966). Instead, ABC picked up the show for a Sunday morning re-run for three more seasons. Then that was it, though Linus was later offered in syndication. Word is the Federal Trade Commission forced the series off the air because its characters endorsed Post cereals during the show. A perusal of Variety and Broadcasting magazines has found no report on the matter. In fact, ABC aired Hot Wheels starting in fall 1969 after Linus had left the air, and a Variety story in December that year about the cartoon’s connection with Mattel’s toys of the same name doesn’t mention any decision or ruling. Nevertheless, Ed Graham’s animated series was off the air, bringing an end to his shot at cartoon stardom.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Swingin' the Cat Around

Let’s see...there was Popeye swinging a bull by the tail in Bulldozing the Bull (1938). There was Droopy swinging a bull by the tail in Señor Droopy (1949). And there was Jerry Mouse swinging...

No, it wasn’t a bull. It was Tom in The Milky Waif (1946). In eight drawings on ones.

Mike Lah, Ken Muse and Ed Barge are the credited animators. Here is the scene in an endless loop.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Scrappy's Celebrity Friends

Scrappy and Oopy are looking for radio entertainers. And they sure need them. They need something to liven up the dismal Scrappy’s Expedition (1934), wherein our hero pilots a ship to the South Pole.

Why, it’s Eddie Cantor!

Fire chief Ed Wynn.

Scrappy needs a winch to load hefty Kate Smith onto the boat.

Walter Winchell, with a voice by someone who doesn’t appear to have ever heard Winchell before.

And we get the NBC chimes in the form of icicles on Winchell’s nose. Yes, announcers used to strike hand chimes with a little mallet up to the microphone before the chimes became electronic a few years later.

We’re at least spared Joe Penner in this cartoon, with the story by Sid Marcus and animation (and there’s some good animation in this) by Art Davis.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The Fluttering Actress

There’s one thing I could never figure out watching Bewitched—was Aunt Clara really having trouble remembering her lines or was she acting?

I guess it’s still hard to say. Marion Lorne was playing confused people before she ever exchanged words on screen with Elizabeth Montgomery.

Lorne worked steadily on television through the 1950s. She was in the supporting cast of Mr. Peepers, she had a regular role on The Garry Moore Show, and she co-starred on a sitcom called Sally which had the misfortune of being scheduled opposite Jack Benny.

Let’s read what Lorne had to say about the whole matter in the days before she popped onto the set of Bewitched. This UPI column ran January 25, 1959.
Yes, Marion Lorne Is Not Always Like That
NEW YORK (UPI)—"Is Marion Lorne always like that?"
The question comes up each time Garry Moore steps forth to chat with members of the studio audience after his Tuesday night show on CBS-TV.
By "that," the questioner refers, of course, to Miss Lorne's inspired performance as a fluttery, fluffy little old lady caught in the grip of acute befuddlement.
"I must listen to Garry's answer some day," said Miss Lorne. "I'm told he nods his head yes and shakes his head no. And he says, 'she knows everything she's doing.'
"But if they asked me," Miss Lorne added, "I'd say I think I'm the same always. I don't think I'm faking. Not at all."
This interviewer's answer to the question of what Miss Lorne is really like: she's a charming, lovable old pro whose jitters seem to diminish as distance from the TV camera increases. The panic now is an acting job more than Lorne realism, but some of it does stick off camera.
How did she get that way?
"I worry all the time. Big things, little things. I worry. And even when I'm convincing myself that it's silly to worry so much, I worry. Oh, my agent has a dreadful time getting me to make up my mind.
"I'm just a girl who can't say yes. I'm a mixed-up kid," said Miss Lorne, who was born in Wilkes Barre, Pa., some 71 years ago, but picked up her slight British accent in England. Before World War I, she and her playwright husband, the late William Hackett, went to England to do a play. They stayed 30 years, ran the Whitehall Theater in London, and returned to America in 1942.
While her ardent fans write letters demanding that she be given more to do on the Moore show, Miss Lorne seems quite happy with the brief spots she does. "I was hired as an interrupter. I was supposed to arrange everything, you know, and then have nothing come out right. But that could get dull week after week. So I just wander in now and do everything all wrong. Now, I just come in and say 'boo.' I find it very difficult to stop with one 'boo.' I want to say, 'Boo, boo, boo.'
"But I love everybody on the show—I adore Garry—so I do whatever they. And even though my part is small, I must be at rehearsals. It's just as much work. It's a strenuous routine. It's the routine that kills you in this awful TV," Miss Lorne said.
In March, the Moore crew will do three shows from Hollywood and Miss Lorne is looking forward to it.
"I was there last year and stayed in the same hotel as Sophia Loren. We kept getting each other's mail and phone calls. It was all so interesting for me. The phone would ring and I'd answer it and these charming gentlemen would say these things and it all sounded so enchanting, you know. Then I'd say something and they'd mumble and hang up. It was frightfully frustrating. I wonder how Sophia got on with my callers," said Miss Lorne.
Her approach to comedy acting is simple. "The more serious you are, the funnier you are when you play comedy. If you try to be funny, good night People who don't know me well try to give me comic hats to put on. I say no comic hat, no red nose, no dots over the eyes like a down. I can be just as funny without all that. Oh, my. Maybe that's not so good. Oh, my," Miss Lorne said. She said it with a smile—and a flutter.
Now, a little further back. The Associated Press interviewed her in 1957 and this column appeared on October 13th. It gives you a good idea of Lorne’s career, which dated almost from the turn of the century. She recreated the “Harvey” role for television opposite Art Carney in the lead.
Marion Lorne—Typical Featherbrain

(AP Newsfeature Writer)
NEW YORK (AP)—It is a pleasure to report that Miss Marion Lorne bears a remarkable resemblance to Mrs. Gurney of television's dear, departed "Mr. Peepers" show and to Mrs. Banford of the current "Sally" series.
Miss Lorne in the flesh, of course, is far from a charming idiot. But those wonderful vague, fluttery ladies she portrays bear the likeness of a caricature to the original.
There is a nice question—unanswered by the principal—whether this is because Miss Lorne has been playing scatterbrained females for so many years that the character has rubbed off a bit. Or whether she, a skillful comedienne, has shrewdly made a natural tendency a little bit larger than life.
Whatever the cause, Miss Lorne does tend to flutter a bit.
She laces her conversation liberally with "bless you." She wears a slightly harassed expression, as if the business of getting through a day was pretty confused and complex.
And she communicates magnificently by a combination of words, not necessarily complete sentences, plus gestures and facial expressions.
The meaning is completely clear to the listeners, although she doesn't provide very comprehensible quotes for literal newspaper writers.
No Easy Life
Life, however, has not been one long, joyous progression for the gentle, smiling little lady who, if the British "Who's Who in the Theatre" may be trusted, passed her 69th birthday last Aug. 12.
A successful, well-established stage star in London for three decades, 1943 found Miss Lorne back in New York, newly widowed, financially wiped out and 54 years old the age when most actresses " are thinking about plastic surgeons and fretting about chin lines.
A native of Wilkes Barre, Pa., Marion attended the American Academy of Dramatic Art, was a member of a Hartford, Conn., stock company and had made her Broadway debut before she married Walter Hackett, a newspaperman and playwright. One year she and her husband made a combined vacation and business trip to England, where one of his plays was being produced. They remained for 30 years.
Great Success
As a husband-wife team they were a great success. Hackett wrote plays carefully tailored to his wife's comedy abilities. They never had a show which ran less than 125 performances and by 1929 the Whitehall Theatre opened, virtually built just for his plays and her acting.
After war started and the blitz came, Hackett and his wife returned to the United States for a three months visit. Hackett died suddenly. War wiped out their fortune and Miss Lorne was alone, penniless and out of work in New York. That was 15 years ago and she still doesn't like to think about those days.
Wins Prize Role
In 1946, however, she won the Josephine Hull role in the national company of "Harvey" and played it long enough to establish an American acting reputation. Next came an unexpected summons from her old English friend, Alfred Hitchcock.
He wanted her to play the murderer's mother in "Strangers On a Train," and she told him forcefully she didn't think much of his casting. Hitch, however, persisted and now, after the critical notices, Miss Lorne thinks maybe he knew what he was about.
The Hitchcock part led her to the Peepers Show and that firmly established Miss Lorne as an American television star.
Her "Mrs. Gurney" replaced the Helen Hopinson lady as the typical matronly tea room customer figuring the size of the tip. With all her silliness, she was still warm, generous and lovable.
They've changed her name to Mrs. Banford, and she's impossibly rich in "Sally" (NBC-TV, Sunday, 7:30 P.M. EDT). But it's still Marion Lorne, playing her favorite role.
IN NEW YORK catching up on some live theater, changing apartments and getting some rest, Miss Lorne expressed one serious reservation about working in Hollywood. She said seriously, "I get up in the morning at 4:30, get to the studio at 6 and am made up and ready for work at 8. At night I get back to the hotel at 8:30 or 9 and am so tired I tumble straight into bed. "This is very difficult for one accustomed to sleeping comfortably into the morning and staying up late at night."
She likes the "Sally" series in which she co-stars with Joan Caulfield.
"They're sweet little things, I think. Of course, they're not designed to change the shape of the world, but they are good-humored and amusing and I think the whole family can get together to watch them. "I do think that's something don't you?"
Lorne was reviewed by the New York Press in March 1904, the same month she graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Art. The Morning Telegraph reported on the 11th: “[W]hen Miss Marion Lorne, as Bess Van Buren, in ‘The Charity Ball,’ said anything amusing, as she was expected to do about every other minute, there was a hearty and hilarious response in the lower left section of the orchestra circle, which indicated that the young woman’s friends were there in considerable force and one or two rows of seats.” 64 years later, she never heard the crowd’s final applause for her. She was awarded the Emmy for best supporting actress in a comedy series. Marion Lorne had died ten days before.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Thumb Fun Take

Daffy Duck in shock in the cartoon Thumb Fun (1952).

Oh, and an inside joke. Dick Thomas painted the backgrounds for Bob McKimson unit (including this cartoon).

The animators credited are Rod Scribner, Phil De Lara, Bob Wickersham and Chuck McKimson.

Monday, 15 January 2018


Slap Happy Lion is an exercise by Tex Avery in exhausting the audience by repeating the same joke faster and faster. A mouse says “Boo!” A lion does a take. Onto the next scene.

In this scene, the shaky lion tries to calm himself with a drink. Nope, the boo-ing mouse is there.

The same routine worked far better in Northwest Hounded Police a few years earlier. Avery’s too much in a hurry in this. And I don’t get any satisfaction in the mouse terrorising a lion into mental illness, though Avery and writer Heck Allen came up with the only suitable ending.

Bob Bentley, Walt Clinton and Ray Abrams animated this short, released in 1947.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

He Comes Once in a Lifetime

The story of how Jack Benny married Mary Livingstone comes in several different varieties, but there can be no doubt that Jack deeply loved his wife and, whatever her faults, they remained married until he died in 1974.

Silver Screen magazine of October 1939 devoted a feature article on how the two got together. Fan magazines (and Hollywood publicists) aren’t altogether known for their veracity but this version contains many of the things talked about for many years afterward, such as the fact that Mary was engaged to someone else when she agreed to Jack’s proposal. This variation mentions nothing about a seder, the May Company, or the Marx Brothers being distant relatives of Miss Livingstone (née Sadye Marks).

It also devotes some space to Jack and Mary’s child Joannie, who mother praised in public but could be very unpleasant with her daughter in private. But, mainly, it is a love tale. The pictures accompanied the article.

Jack was, of course, loved by the public as well. Mary was right—someone like Jack Benny comes once in a lifetime.

Romance in Reverse
The wife of Jack Benny personally gives you the untold story of how they first met fought, fell in love, were married and expect to remain so

By Mary Livingstone Benny
 IT'S funny the way Jack and I always do things exactly the opposite of what might reasonably be expected of us. Even when we got married we did it in reverse. As a matter of fact, to be at all consistent we should be getting married right now and working back to the way we felt thirteen years ago.
For on the day we ran off to Waukegan to be married Jack and I felt about each other the way people usually do who've been married for years. Nice and friendly and comfortable with each other. We were friends. Neither of us had reached that high plane of excitement that's reserved for lovers. We weren't sitting away up over the world some place with our feet dangling over the moon and our minds touching the stars. It took us thirteen years to get that way.
If I were marrying Jack today I'd be so jittery about it I wouldn't know what I was doing. I'd be any goofy girl so mad with love that I'd probably be setting out for the license with a shoe on one foot and a bedroom slipper on the other, and doing all the other cockeyed things girls do when they're in a delirium of romance. Funny, isn't it, that today when I suddenly see Jack, when I'm not expecting to see him, my heart goes scooting right up to the place where my head would be if I had one? But I haven’t. I’ve lost it completely over Jack.
Now I can’t understand why I wasn’t playing leap frog over the stars the day Jack proposed to me. The only explanation I can offer is that mice men like Jack don’t usually do the things that get girls jittery over them. What I mean is, when men do all the little things girls are supposed to fall in love with, when they’re sweet and attentive and their one desire is to make them happy, girls, darn fools that they are, just can’t get excited about them.
It’s the ones who keep them on the anxious seat who get them mooning over the stars. The ones they’re never sure of. The darn little fools don’t realize who soon you can get over a man like that. He can come in and out of your life leaving nothing but a few wakeful nights, a few tears on a pillow and afterwards only a blessed sense of relief that he’s gone at last. But the other kind, the grand kind, can leave the emptiness of the whole lonely world. A man like that comes only once in a lifetime, but a lot of girls don't realize this before it's too late.
Let the poets sing of love at first sight. But count yourself as lucky as I do if you get love at last sight.
It certainly wasn't a case of love at first sight with Jack and me. Annoyance at first sight would have been more like it.

My family was living up in Vancouver, B. C. then and my father, who was getting up benefits for this cause and that, grabbed off every show person who came near the place for his performances.
We weren't a stage family but just the same we often had about the best talent in the world sitting at our dinner table. If the Trocadero could assemble such casts no one in the world would be able to buy a dinner there. They'd be so expensive. But I'm afraid we just took it for granted.
The Marx Brothers were steady customers for my mother's cooking every time they were in town, and we loved having them there for pot roast and noodles or whatever home cooked delicacy she decided the boys might like. I was a kid at the time and I'm afraid I didn't realize the stellar spot I was in. Of course I thought they were funny but I didn't know just how funny. It was after I'd gotten out in the world that I realized all people didn't grip Groucho's brand of humor or play the piano like Chico or clown like Harpo. I just thought the world was made up of delightful zanies and I've never quite gotten over the shock of finding out that it isn't.
It was Zeppo who brought Jack over. Jack was playing at the Orpheum and Zeppo told him there were a couple of girls he wanted him to meet, and Jack came all expectant and hopeful, dolled up in a new tie and his best suit, only to discover the girls were my sister, Babe, who had reached the provocative age of fifteen and myself a skinny, gangling kid of thirteen.
For once Jack didn't appreciate Zeppo's humor.
"Fine thing to do, bringing me here to meet a couple of kids," he said.
I was furious. After all there's no time in her life a girl takes herself quite as seriously as when she's just entered the teens. Me a Kid! I glared at him, hating him with all my soul. Why I'd even escaped my mother's watchful eye long enough to put lipstick on. She had to keep her shoes under lock and key in those days. Babe and I were always sneaking her highest heeled pairs and risking our necks in trying to look as grown up as we possibly could.
Jack saw he had hurt me and was sorry. It isn't in him to hurt anyone consciously and certainly not a child, even if she were a brat like me.
"Do you like dolls?" he asked, trying to make conversation and I was more furious than ever. I just stalked out of the room without answering him.
The next afternoon I had my revenge. I gathered my gang around me, and a formidable gang it was, too, and announced I was taking them to the Orpheum with the money I'd been saving for Christmas. There was a string to that offer though, a long one full of knots. They had to heckle a guy called Jack Benny.
We got there early and held the first two rows in the orchestra for an hour before the show began. We applauded every act enthusiastically. We laughed in all the right places and kept a respectful silence in the others until the cards appeared on either side of the stage announcing Jack Benny.
Then we sat there with faces as stony as our hearts, deadpanning his best gags. Jack told me, years later, he had never wanted to do anything as much in his life as he wanted to reach down into the orchestra that day and yank me up on the stage and turn me over his knees.
The next time I met Jack Benny was after my sister had married and moved to Chicago. She had married an actor who was a friend of Jack's and the three of them became pals. Babe adored him but felt she had turned traitor to those two kids of a few years ago. Imagine her liking that upstage so and so. Jack Benny.

I was engaged to a boy nobody but I seemed to like very much. I was always getting engaged to boys like that. My views of life were alternately rose color and drab gray in those days. If ever there was a romantic little ninny it was me. Every time I met a new boy and he had a line that pleased me the world turned rosy. Then, a few days later, they hardly ever lasted longer than that, I began to get fed up with romance and the world would look as if it never could stop raining again until I met a new lad I could rhapsodize about.
Much to my surprise I liked Jack when he came to see us. We had moved to Los Angeles and he was playing the Orpheum there. It's always the Orpheum on Keith time you know. But I had a date right after dinner and I kept it without a twinge. And the next day when Jack appeared at the store where I was working as a buyer, and asked me to lunch, I didn't turn a hair when I refused. He came to the store every day for a week after that and I went out with him twice, but it didn't mean a thing.
A week afterwards our telephone rang at three o'clock in the morning. The family was in a frenzy before my father got to it. What awful thing had happened? Could it be Babe? Could it be Grandma? None of us could think of anything but a major calamity that could make any telephone ring at three in the morning.
But the world hadn't turned upside down after all. It was only Jack Benny calling from San Francisco as casually as could be to say, "Hello Doll, I was just wondering how you are and what you're doing?"
At that moment I was shivering in my nightie motioning appealingly to the family not to stand there glaring at me. For now that they were no longer scared they were furious. But I wasn't mad. I was thrilled. It was my first long distance call and that meant something to a kid still in her teens. What if it wasn't a romantic conversation, full of pleas and endearments, it was still a long distance call.
I think even then I knew that call didn't mean much to Jack. It was just an impulse that stage people get all the time to call long distance as casually as anyone else would call from a few blocks away. And three o'clock in the morning didn't mean anything more to Jack than it did 'to any other young vaudevillian having a bite to eat after the show. It was just the middle of the afternoon to him. But to me it was an event and I did my darndest to turn it into a throbbing moment. But it didn't quite come off. How could I get romantic over a man kidding me in that casual, easy way Jack has of doing things.
Anyway I must have known that another BIG MOMENT was due. I told you I was a crazy kid, didn't I? Well it did, a week or two afterwards. I had gone north to visit my grandmother and I met a boy I thought I was mad about and we became engaged. Only it was different this time. The wedding day was set for January and this was November.
I was wearing his engagement ring too. That made it seem pretty formidable this time. I was scared to death when my head wasn't in the clouds, where it was most of the time.
I couldn't wait to call my sister in Chicago and I was pretty crestfallen at the way she took the news. "But you don't know what it's all about," she wailed. "You're such a goofy kid. Don't do anything in a hurry. Come out here to visit me and I'll try to pound some sense into that head of yours."

The first person I saw when I got off the train at Chicago was Jack. There he was standing beside my sister and brother-in-law grinning and he was the first of them to reach me. He took my hand and there wasn't any wild thrill. Only that nice, warm glow. Suddenly I knew how frightened I had been. I knew it because the way I was feeling now was just sort of happy and secure and peaceful.
We went around a lot together in the next week or so. I'd never had so much fun in my life. Funny, the way Jack and I clicked. We laughed at the same things without even realizing we were doing it. We were serious about the same things too. We'd sit together on the shore of Lake Michigan and sometimes we'd talk and sometimes we wouldn't. When two people speak the same language they think the same language too. And though it was November and those Lake breezes blow pretty hard we didn't even know it was cold.
We did the goofiest things together. We always just fell in with each other's ideas. We never had to explain things. So when we got on a bus once and I saw a couple of rather prim women stare disapprovingly at the length of my skirt, we were wearing them short that year too, remember, I decided I'd give them something to be really shocked at. So when Jack came along I pretended I didn't know him.
He came right into the game and started to play. He never put on a better act in his life, even in the old Palace on Broadway. He sat in the seat across from me leering in the most awful way, raising his eyebrows in a way that would send any respectable girl post haste in search of a policeman.
But I wasn't pretending to be respectable. And I acted as badly as he did, tossing my head and giggling and using my eyes in a way eyes have never been used outside of a home for moronic girls. You could hear the gasps, not only from the two women but from the whole bus when he confidently took the seat beside me and I slipped my arm through his.
We got off at the next stop followed by the indignant "Well!" of those two women.
You know it's easy enough to find kindred souls for a serious moment or even for a sad one. But having fun together . . . that's different! Senses of humor vary so. Some are scholarly, some subtle, some broad. Some are pedantic and some are whimsical and some just aren't there at all. Having the same sense of the ridiculous is awfully important for two people. For if a man and a woman can laugh at the same time you can risk your last dollar on their being happy together.
We were all invited to Jack's father's house out in Lake Forest for a weekend, and on Friday night Jack and I sat up talking after the others had gone to bed. It was grand. We didn't realize how late it was. We always had so much to say to each other even if we had seen each other only an hour or so before.
Then, without any warning at all, Jack asked me to marry him and I said I would. I knew it was right. Don't ask me how I knew it, but I did. I'd never felt so happy before, so entirely without doubts or misgivings of any kind. We woke up the whole house and told them our news. And as long as I live I'll never forget Babe throwing her arms around me and crying, "You little ninny, I never knew you had sense before."
The next morning I felt myself smiling before I really was awake. I'd never awakened, so completely contented before. Then I saw the engagement ring on my finger and I was petrified. I'd been so happy the night before I'd completely forgotten I was engaged to another man.
I threw on my clothes any which way and ran downstairs to find Jack. I threw myself in his arms and sobbed out my story. He took out his handkerchief and wiped away the tears streaming down my face. Then he held it out to me and said, "Here Doll, blow! Blow hard!" And I did and it sort of cleared all my tears and my fears away at the same time.
Then Jack said, and he was very serious now, the kind of nice, easy seriousness that I've gotten to know is one of the nicest things about him, "Listen, if we don't get married now, we never will. You know that and I know it. So get your hat and we'll be on our way."
Well, it's funny the way I took his orders, relying on his wisdom the way I've relied on it ever since. I went upstairs and got dressed all over again just as calmly as you please and even remembered to put powder in my compact and get myself a fresh handkerchief. And then without telling anyone what we were doing we got in the car and drove out to Waukegan.
We didn't do much talking on the way and when we did it was about the most casual things, and I didn't feel excited or up in the clouds at all. But when the ceremony was finished and Jack turned to kiss me he couldn't because I wasn't there at all. I was flat on the floor. Ninny that I was, I had fainted. So maybe I was excited a bit after all and didn't realize it.
I don't know just when it was I began getting up in the air about Jack. Only that I'm getting more that way every day that passes. I'll hear a song and somehow it seems as if that song had been written just for us, and I'll feel like crying as if I was a youngster who had met a man for the first time and was mad for him and didn't know yet if he returned the feeling or not. And if he's a few minutes late getting home I'll pace the floor like a crazy thing.
Only one thing was missing and for a long time it seemed that Jack and I were never going to have what other husbands and wives have. We both wanted a baby so desperately. Then we discovered that a baby doesn't have to be your own to love it and want it above everything in the world except each other.

When we decided to adopt a baby we gave a lot of thought to the type we wanted. Just when we thought we wanted a girl we'd think a boy would be nice and when we decided on brown eyes we thought of blue ones in the next breath. Of course we were sure we were going to select a pretty baby. Wouldn't it be just too ridiculous to have the advantage of our own selection and not pick the prettiest one we could find.
But we didn't. Our little Joan was only three months old when we found her and she wasn't a pretty baby at all. But it didn't make any difference. We felt something, as soon as we looked at her, that we hadn't felt for any of the other babies. Maybe it's true, as scientists think, that- attraction is a matter of chemicals and that you can't help being drawn to some people more than to others. Maybe it's just that it was destined little Joan was coming to us. At any rate there was a bond between that baby and us and we felt it the first moment we saw her. No mother and father looking at their baby for the first time could have felt more in awe of the thing that was happening to them than Jack and I felt looking at this, our first child.
Today that baby is the loveliest child you've ever seen. And that's not just a fond mother talking either. She has the bluest eyes in the world and the yellowest hair and her face is as lovely as a Botticelli cherub. But that isn't important. That little girl, she's five now, is as spiritually and mentally and physically kin to us as if she had become ours by birth as she now is through love.
Nothing in the world makes me as furious as to have people say, "Isn't she lucky that you adopted her."
Why, we're the lucky ones getting a child like that. And we're not such egotistical fools either that we don't realize our own baby, had we had one, might not have been as perfect. We didn't know then how she would develop, any more than other mothers and fathers know how their children are going to develop. That she has become the individual she is, is only another one of the blessings that have come to us.
For we're been awfully lucky, Jack and I. We've laughed together and sometimes we've cried together — as what two people who love each other and have been together for a long time haven't? And we've seen some of our friends part and we've been unhappy about it. But we've never been afraid for ourselves.
Because the thing we have isn't a thing that was conjured up some spring evening out of a handful of stars and a mist of moonlight. It's a thing we've built together, slowly and securely out of the days and the years of being together. And you don't lose a thing like that!

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Bill and Joe Tell Their Story, 1956

By March 1956, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera had reached the pinnacle of their success. At least, that’s what they thought.

Fred Quimby had retired from the producer’s office as the MGM cartoon studio and the two of them were now in charge. Little did they know that a year later, they would be finishing up the last of their cartoons for the studio after management told them to shut down the animation plant. And even littler did they know that they would move out and create a television cartoon production empire, making them wealthy and famous beyond any expectations.

This story was published in Good Housekeeping magazine with the aforementioned cover date.

What’s fascinating to me is the story that Joe and Bill never really told. The M-G-M cartoon studio, prior to the success of Tom and Jerry, was rife with nasty politics. New York animators and the West Coast animators didn’t get along, as animator George Gordon once revealed. People were going into other people’s offices trying to force firings. Managers Milt Gross and Harry Hershfield quickly came and went. Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising, two guys who were more or less fired by M-G-M, returned to the studio to produce beside some of their former staff that had been poached (such as Bill Hanna). Friz Freleng, who strikes me as a man who wouldn’t take crap from anyone, hightailed it back to the comparative safety of the Schlesinger studio. Considering this political climate, how did a demoted director and an ex-storyman from Terrytoons convince anyone to allow them to put together a cartoon for theatrical release? Was this another case of back-room studio politics? Whatever the answers, the cartoon world was better for it. And imagine what TV animation might have been like if Hanna and Barbera hadn’t got together.

Other than Fred Quimby, you’ll look in vain for other names in the story.

Mr. TOM and Mr. JERRY
Meet the men who do the thinking for those crazy cartoon characters

Hollywood Editor
Once upon a time there was a certain cat, and also a certain mouse, both of whom are now famous practically everywhere as Tom and Jerry of the movie cartoons, But 18 years ago, they were only nebulous ideas in the minds of two Hollywood cartoonmen named Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. How these gentlemen happened to create Tom and Jerry, and build them to star status in the studio hierarchy of M-G-M, is one of the more pleasant Hollywood success stories.
Hanna and Barbera are now producing all M-G-M cartoons. As a team, they have masterminded some 200 Tom and Jerry cartoons. They have also produced cartoon features such as the currently popular, more seriously conceived Good Will to Men and the animation sequences that are found occasionally in M-G-M feature pictures. But Tom and Jerry are their number one stock in trade, and have been from the moment the public first glimpsed a cheerfully malevolent Tom chasing an opportunistic little Jerry in a cartoon called Puss Gets the Boot.
Prior to the Tom and Jerry era, both Hanna and Barbera were employees of the M-G-M cartoon department, Barbera as a sketch artist and Hanna as an idea-and-production man (i.e., one who supervises the photography and the subsequent physical preparation of cartoon film). Barbera is a former Brooklyn boy who once aspired to be a boxer and became, instead, a Wall Street bank teller who drew cartoons in his spare time. After he was laid off in a personnel cutback, he became an animator at a cartoon studio, and a short while later a member of M-G-M’s cartoon staff. At this point he met Hanna, a former engineering student who had started his career as an inker of cartoon frames and was now an idea man for cartoon stories and gags.
Assigned to work together on a number of small projects, the two young men found themselves in perfect harmony. “It simply turned out that we thought alike, and we still do,” they say. They decided to form an unofficial partnership and produce a new kind of cartoon. At first they searched for a single new character to use as the basis of a new production. They considered and rejected dozens of ideas. Suddenly the word “partnership: struck them, and straightaway they decided to create not one, but two new cartoon characters. What better than a cat and a mouse? They would provide good basic conflict to start with—a cat after a mouse, a big bully getting the worst of it and the little hero emerging triumphant. Such a combination contained fundamental story elements, and so Tom and Jerry were born.
Their first appearance in Puss Gets the Boot immediately captured public fancy and ran for six weeks in Los Angeles at its first theatre billing. Neither Bill nor Joe missed one night of that run! The studio was delighted with the success of Puss, but prophesied that the characters would last about three pictures only. They were mistaken.
Now working on Tom and Jerry cartoon number 212, Barbera and Hanna have added during the years many other characters to share the camera with them. There is the little French mouse who was seen in the Oscar-winning The Two Mousketeers, and the lovable duckling in That’s My Mommy. Their latest two are the bulldog father and son, Spike and Tyke, now on their way to stardom.

It’s noticeable, in talking to the producers, that both Hanna and Barbera regard their pen-and-ink children as living, breathing entities. In discussing the small canary seen in several cartoons, Barbera said casually, “We plan to use the canary again. She works well with Jerry.”
How are these cartoons created? Like any other picture, they begin with a story. Hanna and Barbera sit facing each other at two large desks that are pushed together. There they talk over an idea, enlarging it gradually into a full story line. But unlike other motion pictures, the cartoons have no script written in advance. Instead, as the points of the story unfold in discussion, Barbera roughly sketches action on small note pads. (More than once he jumps to his feet to demonstrate a fancy step or some bit of action. Once, for a memorable three days, he was crippled by a strained shoulder, the result of showing how Jerry should emerge from a hole!)
He and Hanna pass these rough sketches back and forth across the desk to each other, sometimes with a minor correction, more often just as they are drawn. For an average Tom and Jerry cartoon Barbera does some 400 quick sketches, depicting the key points of the plot. They serve as a preliminary guide for the subsequent detailed sketching and photographing of thousands of frames for the final cartoon film.
Like most creative men, Barbera and Hanna worry constantly about their stories. They are usually 20 or 30 ideas ahead, conceived from things they see, or hear, or dream.
The Oscar-winning The Two Mouseketeers opened a new field of foreign backgrounds for Tom and Jerry. Their creators got the idea from one of the studio’s swashbuckler films, but the penciled notes lay in a drawer several years until one day they both heard a six-year-old girl speaking French. Voilà, a French mouse! They had their story.
Hoe came into the office one day enthusiastically describing his new dishwasher and washing machine. Bill got the idea of a mechanized cat. Result: Push-button Kitty.
The cartoon crew has also worked closely with the feature-picture producers, inserting novelty sequences in which human actors dance with cartoon characters. Anchors Aweigh pioneered in this field. In it Tom and Jerry danced with Gene Kelly. More recently, the Sinbad the Sailor sequence in Invitation to the Dance shows Kelly dancing with the amorous Dragon and other specially created characters.
Barbera and Hanna’s latest production, Good Will to Men, which they worked on with Fred Quimby, is far from their usual comedy. It is the culmination of a long-term desire, and though it is early to predict, I believe it might very well add another Oscar to their collection. Its cast consists entirely of mice plus one wise old owl. It focuses a penetrating spotlight on Man, on his apparent desire to destroy both himself and his neighbor.
Tom and Jerry gets letters from friends all over the world. Because they rarely speak beyond an “ouch” or “oops,” they meet no language barriers wherever they go.
Since their birth, Tom and Jerry have gradually and subtly changed in appearance. Tom started out as a rather disreputable creature, mangy in appearance, with tufts of hair poking out here and there. Every two years, Hanna and Barbera tack up master drawings of Tom and Jerry and study them. Then Joe redesigns them. Right now the 1956-57 models show a cuter Jerry, with larger eyes and a smaller tail. Tom is more streamlined, with an even naughtier Machiavellian look.
But one thing always remains the same. Unlike so many story lines, cat always meets mouse, cat always chases mouse, but can never gets mouse!

Friday, 12 January 2018

You Killed Rudy Vallee

Court Jester Goopy Gear (in his third cartoon) sings the song about “Old King Cole” to the King but when the revised lyrics reach the part about calling “for his crooners three,” Goopy’s marotte interrupts by specifying they’re “Crosby, Colombo and Vallee” (singing the Joe Burke and Al Dubin song of the same name).

Suddenly, Vallee pops up from a jack-in-the-box and starts crooning Burke and Dubin’s “For You.”

The king takes care of Vallee.

“I’d rather hear Amos and Andy,” growls the king. “Oh, show (sure), Kingfish, show, show,” drawls Goopy in a not-very-good impression.

But we’re not finished with radio references yet. Some character pops his head through a transom and lets out with Tony Wons’ “Are ya listenin’?” The nervous Goopy shakes and says “Yeah. I’m Walter Windshield.”

Suddenly, bottles of liquor pop their corks in a cannon-like explosion sound. Goopy shouts, “Okay, Chicago!” and runs at an angle past the camera.

The phrase was used by Walter Winchell on his show, The Lucky Strike Radio Hour, at the time this cartoon The Queen Was in the Parlor, was made. In fact, it was used in advertising copy by Warner Bros. to promote a feature film of that year, Blessed Event, which starred Lee Tracy as a Winchell-like gossip columnist. (Universal made a similar film at the time starring Lew Ayres called “Okay, America”). There’s a further connection between this cartoon and Blessed Event—both had scores by Frank Marsales.

The title song was written by written by Sherman Myers (Montague Ewing). I haven’t found out if it was used in a Warners’ feature; this was the only cartoon it was heard in.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

You Killed Jimmy Durante

The Queen isn’t impressed when a Jimmy Durante-in-the-box sings the lyrics “Let’s put out the lights and go to sleep” to her. She slaps him.

The jack-in-the-box’s voice is the worst impression of Durante ever put to film; Keith Scott tells me it’s Rudy Ising’s. The Schnozz-in-a-box says “I am mortified!” before expiring.

The King is upset that Durante is dead. He walks along imitating the Stan Laurel whimper, pointing at it. Frank Marsales’ band plays “Am I Blue.”

The crying king dumps the jack-in-a-box over the balcony. But suddenly, he’s all excited. He sees children playing in cycle animation in the courtyard. Durante is forgotten for the rest of the cartoon. How mortifying!

The cartoon is Young and Healthy (1933), drawn by Larry Martin and Ham Hamilton. The celebrity jack-in-a-box idea wasn’t new. More tomorrow.