Friday, 23 October 2020

Spring is Here Again

Winter is threatening trees in the Van Beuren short Spring Antics (1932).

But behold! The sun is rising. After winking at us, it warms up. It’s tough to see in this poor-quality transfer (aren’t there better ones out there?) but some kind of long-tailed imps with devil horns are stoking coal into the sun’s burner. Gene Rodemich plays a knock-off of the “Anvil Chorus” in the background.

Old Man Winter melts. That means spring is here again!

There’s usually odd fun in a Van Beuren cartoon. This isn’t as odd as some of them are, but we get a swishy goose, a groundhog’s shadow kicking the groundhog back into its burrow, an animal of indeterminate species tapping a microphone like the NBC chimes and conducting with its tail, and some Disney-like dancing (though not animated nearly as well).

Things pep up a little more than half-way through the cartoon with a quartet (frog, turtle, bear, squirrel) singing the song you hear below.

John Foster and Manny Davis get the “by” credit.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Sic the Sicko

What does a war dog (Allied variety) do when he sees a picture of Adolf Hitler?

Yes, we get the inevitable Buy Bonds plug, too.

Ken Muse, Pete Burness, Irv Spence and Jack Zander are the credited animators on the 1943 release War Dogs from the Hanna-Barbera unit at MGM. I want to say this is a Muse scene. Frank Bingman is the narrator.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

How To Get To a Rooftop

All the stock company players on the first season of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In had been kicking around for a while, but when I tuned for the first show, there was only one I recognised—Judy Carne.

Being an avid sitcom viewer at the age of 9, I had seen her in Love on a Rooftop, which co-starred Peter Deuel. About all I remember about it is Rich Little was in the cast and I was waiting each week for him to do his John Wayne impression, which finally happened in one of the later episodes. The fact that I don’t remember much more about it maybe explain why it lasted only a season (or maybe after 55 years I just forget stuff).

Carne did a pile of interviews at the time the show was on. Two of them are below, one from the Associated Press’ TV columnist from August 5, 1966, and the other from the West Coast entertainment reporter for the National Enterprise Association, who would never get away with the line “But you know how women are” today. It appeared in papers starting around January 15, 1967.

Being charged 10 cents for a phone call was probably one of the smallest problems in Carne’s life. Her marriage to Burt Reynolds wasn’t a pleasant one, she enjoyed drugs a little too much, and she never reached the heights of Laugh-In after leaving the show in somewhat of a huff. She died in 2015.

But let’s look back to when her career started taking off.

Judy Carne Gets Third Try At TV
AP TV-Radio Writer
HOLLYWOOD (AP) — There is a widely held belief among actors, undoubtedly fostered by budget-minded producers, that any regular employment in television, no matter how dismal the series, helps s fledgling career.
"Forget it," commanded Judy Carne, who encountered her leanest days after her two frail comedy barks foundered in network channels with all hands aboard.
Judy, who had replaced Julie Andrews in the London production of "The Boy Friend," was imported five years ago to play the young English girl in the ill-fated "Fair Exchange."
Then, a couple of seasons back, she had a part in "Baileys Of Balboa," another disappointment. Now she is a co-star in ABC's upcoming young-marrieds comedy, "Love On A Rooftop."
But it was not previous experience that won her a third chance, it was an elimination contest that started with 20 girls, among them Nancy Sinatra. And Judy worked hard, with a coach and a recorder, to eliminate her native British accents.
The elimination process for "Love On A Rooftop" was a real ordeal. After the 30 girls had been arbitrarily reduced to four, each girl was subjected to a "personality test." This involved sitting down in front of a camera to be interviewed by a director who had a bit of free time.
Ultimately she was told she would probably be the choice — but only for the pilot episode of an unsold program, maybe a week's work. Then came two months while they were testing for the boy who would play her husband — a difficult time when she could not take any acting jobs that would tie her up for more than a few days at a time.
This went on from September until they finally shot the pilot one week in December.
The series is built around the adventures of a young $85-a-week apprentice architect and his bride (Judy), an uninhibited art student. The aim of the show is to capture some of the kooky quality of, say, "You can't take it with you," which would be nice.
Judy, separated from husband Burt Reynolds (who is starring in New York in his own new ABC series, "Hawk") rides to work on her motorcycle and spends networking hours taking singing lessons and keeping up her dancing.

Outspoken Star Has Problem
HOLLYWOOD (NEA) — Judy Carne ordered a steak "with a great big baked potato and lots of butter please." Then she talked about her weight problem. It is the fault, she said, of ABC-TV's "Love on a Rooftop" in which shes playing newlywed Julie Willis.
She started the series last summer at a nice, well-curved 112 pounds. The curves are still there but she's down to 103 pounds and . . .
"Just look at me," she said. "I've taken to wearing high necked sweaters because I have a very active face when I act and my veins show. You should feel my hip bones. They show too."
It's all because of the filming schedule, Judy says.
"I'm up at 5 a.m. and don't get home until 7 p.m. By then I'm too tired to eat so I just have a glass of hot milk and fall into bed."
Across from you at luncheon, red-haired, vivacious Judy doesn't look like a girl who should be worrying about her weight. But you know how women are. Nine pounds — up or down — is a crisis.
"The producer of the show even sent me to the studio hospital for some B12 shots. And you know what the studio sent ME the bill for them. I marched into the producer's office with that bill and said, 'Look, you ordered these shots.' It was a mistake and the shots were charged to the production."
Judy was nettled about the bill, she said, because of two regular deductions the studio makes from her paycheck as the star of "Love on a Rooftop."
And she frowned the news:
"You won't believe this — and I wish you would print it — but the studio (Screen Gems) charges me 10 cents for telephone calls and $4 a month for parking my car on the lot. I'd really be mad except I figure I'm lucky to be in such a good show. It's a lot of fun and so well written."
Judy is just as outspoken about other things, such as the personality test she took on her way to winning the TV series despite two previous series, "Fair Exchange" and "The Baileys of Balboa." The test was scriptless with Judy just being herself and answering questions asked off camera by a director.
"He asked me about my most embarrassing moment," Judy laughed, "and I told him, 'It's right now— this test. I've never been so embarrassed in my whole life'." That's our Judy.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Surprise Fur Escape

Chilly Willy comes up from a hole in the floor to steal a fur to keep warm in I’m Cold. The frames tell the story.

As a post-script, Chilly honks the dog’s nose.

Don Patterson, La Verne Harding and Ray Abrams animate for Tex Avery. The cartoon was released by Universal International in 1954.

Monday, 19 October 2020

Cats A-Weigh

Sylvester gets kicked around by the giant mouse in Cats Aweigh (1953).

Phil De Lara, Chuck McKimson, Rod Scribner and Herman Cohen are the credited animators.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Heckling the Heckler

Jack Benny used to get it from all sides on the during broadcast of his radio show—from clerks (Frank Nelson), his cast (Mary, Phil, etc.), other celebrities (Ronald Colman, Claude Rains and so on). But he apparently got it before the broadcast as well, at least if a story in the October 15, 1936 edition of Broadcasting magazine.

Maybe it’s me, but I have trouble believing the story. Benny liked a joke and always seemed to have a good sense of humour about himself. But I guess I have to take the writer’s word about it.

The story came after Broadcasting published this in its October 1st edition:
Benny's Levity
"KIDDING" the sponsor and the product has long been Jack Benny's successful stock-in-trade. The comedian for Jello, who resumes his Sunday shows on NBC-Red Oct. 4, with no objections from his sponsor, is going to do some tall kidding of the radio business in his latest movie The Big Broadcast. He plays the part of an advertising agency official staging a series of programs, of which Gracie Allen is sponsor. In the cast also are Bob Burns, Bing Crosby and Sam (Schlepperman) Hearn.
That prompted this letter the trade paper printed:
One on Benny
To the Editor of BROADCASTING:
I note in the latest issue of your magazine a short item concerning Jack Benny's propensity for kidding his sponsor. With the reading of the item I was reminded of my apprenticeship in radio as a page boy at Radio City.
It was the custom of Jack Benny to introduce to his studio audience the cast of the program. This generally took place about five minutes before broadcast time. Of course the introductions were of a humorous nature as befitted the comedian.
One of the page boys was always stationed just inside the door of the studio and Jack Benny would invariably include him in the introductions as "the Student Prince" (the uniforms of the pages made the appelation amusing). Of course the page would be the subject of the stinging laughter of the audience which was not only disconcerting but also rather humiliating (who likes to be the butt of a joke?).
I determined that even at the risk of my job I'd put a stop to it. Forthwith I saw to it that I was standing within the door at the time of the introductions. When Benny introduced me to the audience in the usual manner I waited until the laughter died down and said "thank you Mr. Cantor". The "house came down".
Benny threw down his script and started after me . . . Don Wilson, his announcer, laughed till the tears ran down his face and was still laughing when the program went on the air. I didn't lose my job but I did start a regime of heckling the heckler. At every opportunity Jack Benny suffered from the subtle ridicule of the page staff.
WLVA, Lynchburg, Va.
Oct. 3, 1936
Somehow, I can’t see Jack Benny doing something as unprofessional as running off the stage and into the audience stands, unless it was a joke. But it seems appropriate that even the pages would heckle Benny, albeit before he took to the air.

St. George, incidentally, had passed a junior announcer’s course for pages at NBC and had appeared on several dramatic shows. The network assigned him to WLVA. He was reassigned to WMAL, Washington in 1937, where he took part in some experiment TV broadcasts in February 1939. He was transferred to the Blue Network when it split off from NBC in 1942. He was doing news and commercial programme announcing on WJZ (going from D-Day coverage to the quiz show Fish Pond). In 1956, he left broadcasting to go into agency work. A year, he made his way to Cleveland and became a commercial voice and PR flack for Carling Brewery. He died on March 2, 2004.

Whether Mr. St. George ever met up again with Jack Benny is unlikely, but a report in Variety reported on how he once got trapped in a control room. It seems a loose screw on a door was doing some heckling of its own.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

How They Made Clutch Cargo

Quick! What TV cartoons were printed on Eastman Reversal Color Print Film, Type 5269? Give up? Why, Clutch Cargo of course!

Only a real film geek would want to know that, and they would have found it in the March 1962 edition of American Cinematographer magazine.

There are things in the cartoon world that attract people for reasons I will never understand. If I enumerate them, someone will get upset. But I will say one is Clutch Cargo. If you’re a fan, fine. But I don’t get it, even in a “it’s-so-bad-it’s-good” way. And if you’re a fan, you’ll probably appreciate the American Cinematographer article below. Sorry for the low res pictures. You can read more about Clutch in an earlier post.

Some ingenious devices that impart the illusion of motion to artwork are used in producing the “Clutch Cargo” cartoons for television.
CAMBRIA STUDIOS, producers of the “Clutch Cargo” TV cartoons, refer to the show as “television’s first comic strip.” This is because, although the cartoons possess “full movement,” the action is less costly to produce than when conventional animation techniques are used. Cambria employs some unique mechanized methods to simulate animated cartoon movement in the “Clutch Cargo” series.
With Cambria’s system, elements of artwork are given motion mechanically wherever possible, rather than by the single-frame exposure method usually employed for animated cartoons. The producers aim to avoid conventional or “full” animation as much as possible. Episodes in the series are regularly turned out which contain as little as 12 per cent single-frame animation photography. Nevertheless, the illusion of fairly smooth and continuous movement is a remarkable feature of these films.
The illusion of full movement in the “Clutch Cargo” show is created through a series of technical tricks that are both ingenious and economical and for the most part, guarded secrets of Cambria Studios.
Among them are:
1) Methods of superimposing live effects over cartoon scenes while the camera is in continuous operation.
2) Incorporating working, three dimensional models with artwork on a live-action basis.
Frequently, cartoon sequences in “Clutch Cargo” are filmed at speeds of 24 frames per second, using live action techniques. As few was [sic] two or three animation cels may be required for a single take. This makes it possible to produce “animated” cartoons for a fraction of the cost of full animation.
Such production economies have not hurt the consumer acceptance or popularity of “Clutch Cargo.”

By the fall of 1961, the series was appearing on some 80 TV stations around the country, both in color and black-and-white. The show has an estimated 23 million viewers weekly, ranging through all ages and heights of brow.
Although limited animation is employed, “Clutch Cargo’s” creators insist that they are not making animated cartoons.
“We’re making comic strips for television and this is a completely different form of expression,” says Dick Brown, Cambria’s president and executive producer.
Brown’s attitude is seconded by Clark Haas, former artist on the “Buz Sawyer” newspaper comic strip, who is the creator of and art director for the “Clutch Cargo” series. “The results we obtain aren’t comparable to conventional animation,” says Haas. “We’re someplace in between live action and drawing.”
Some indication of how “Clutch Cargo” differs from other popular TV cartoons is illustrated by the fact that only about a thousand animation cels are required to make a full half-hour show—six 5-minute segments. By contrast, it often requires a thousand cels just to create one minute of action, using the full-animation technique. A further economy is the fact all cels, which are used in each “Clutch Cargo” episode, are carefully stored for possible re-use in future episodes—similar to the way Hollywood studios stock key set-pieces for re-use in later productions.
This conservative use of animation cels is made possible through a series of new mechanized techniques developed by Cambria Studios. One of the most important innovations is a continuous action rig which allows the cameraman to shoot animation cels at live action camera speeds, and simulate almost any type live action camera shot, including trucking, dolly and pan shots.
This continuous action device utilizes glass panels on which animation cels are mounted. The panels are then moved horizontally in the lens field by motors turning at pre-set speeds. A 16mm camera photographs the resulting motion.
Using this arrangement, the cameraman can, for example, photograph one cel representing a rocket ship against a moving background of sky in continuous action at 24 frames per second. Artwork requirements are reduced to individual drawings of the rocket ship and background. Because the sky (on one glass panel) is moving past the cel representing the rocket ship, the camera records it as full movement. By increasing the number of cels, the cameraman can utilize more than one rocket ship and have them traveling at different speeds.
Further action can be added to the scene by superimposing live effects such as smoke and flame. If a rocket ship appears in the “Clutch Cargo” series spouting fire out of its tail, the fire is real. It is superimposed at the time the rocket is photographed against the moving art background of sky.
The superimposing mechanism is an optical reflection device called a “frajilly” by the company wits because it came in a box marked FRAGILE. By setting this mechanism immediately Itetween the camera and the continuous rig, a jet of fire, or any natural effect or live action which can he created in the studio, is optically super-imposed on the artwork on the action rig. The live effect is produced in an area at right angles to the artwork, and “frajilly” blends the two together for the benefit of the camera.

Artist Haas and technical director Edwin Gillette are constantly on the lookout for new techniques which will enable them to produce realistic movement on the screen without requiring additional drawings or cels. In many instances they have been able to integrate working models and three dimensional mock-ups into an action. For instance, in one “Clutch Cargo” episode with a Holland locale, the background contained a number of windmills whose arms actually turned mechanically.
Perhaps the most ingenious of “Clutch Cargo’s” many technical innovations, however, is a process called Synchro-Vox. An invention of Edwin Gillette, this process superimposes over the drawings of faces in the strip, live-action photography of an actor’s lips speaking lines. The illusion obtained is that of a talking cartoon character with life-like movement, expression and perfectly synchronized voice.
To accomplish this, an actor is first photographed speaking the lines. This film is shot through a matte which eliminates all but the actor’s mouth. The image of the moving mouth is then superimposed over the pen and ink artwork on the action rig. The cel drawings of the character’s faces used in this process are complete except for the mouth area.
Absolute voice syncronization [sic] is obtained, since the sound is recorded at the time the live-action lip movement is photographed. In conventional animation, hundreds and sometimes thousands of hand drawings must he made to create the illusion of a person talking. Cambria’s method makes it unnecessary to draw mouths to fit the dialogue.
All photography for the “Clutch Cargo” series is done in 16mm color. The film used is Ektachrome Commercial Type 7255. Release prints are processed for Cambria by Filmservice Laboratories in Hollywood. Color release prints are made on Eastman Reversal Color Print Film, Type 5269. Black-and-white releases are made on Eastman Fine Grain Release Postive Film, Type 7302, from Eastman Fine Grain Panchromatic Duplicating Negative.
The success of the “Clutch Cargo” films is underscored by the recent selection of the series for presentation in the RCA exhibition hall in New York City as an outstanding example of the quality of color television.
Each “Clutch Cargo” adventure is divided into five 5-minnte episodes. The show can be presented daily in 5-minute chapters or once a week as a half-hour feature.
With 52 half-hour “Clutch Cargo” stories completed on film, (260 five minute episodes) the fertile minds at Cambria Studios are looking for new cartoon strip ideas to introduce to television.

“Space Angel,” a science-fiction series, is next in line. There will be other new strips after this, and Cambria Studios hopes to be able to offer TV stations a full hour of animated program material daily within a very few years. This, they feel, represents maximum saturation, after which Cambria would only be competing with itself. All of the cartoons now being planned by Cambria will utilize the same mechanized movement in the production techniques that has proven so successful with “Clutch Cargo.”
The application of these techniques are not limited to television alone, according to Brown. Cambria Studios has had marked success with them in incorporating three-dimensional moving models and mock-ups in the production of films for industry and the military.
In addition, Cambria holds there are marked benefits in the use of their methods in the production of educational films, titles, and experimental movies. ■

Friday, 16 October 2020

Fall on the Frog

Think Tex Avery originated the super-long limo that went around corners? Perhaps not. We find one in the 1934 Columbia cartoon The Katnips of 1940.

The limo belongs to opera singer Mlle. Fifi La Frog. Fifi gets her throat sprayed. Then the gag. Her uvula is oiled.

Columbia cartoons always seem to have something inexplicable that’s just weird, not funny. In this cartoon, diva Mlle. Fifi is a humanised frog. She begins rehearsing on stage with Krazy Kat. A meddlesome, over-enthusiastic would-be chorus girl drops from high above the stage and lands on Fifi.

The blow transforms Fifi from a humanised frog to a real one. Why? Beats me. She doesn’t sound like a frog. She baaas like a sheep. Why? I give up. I’ll never understand some of the Columbia shorts.

Harry Love came up with the story and Allen Rose and Preston Blair get the rotating animator credits in this Charles Mintz production (see note in the comment section).