Wednesday, 18 May 2022

The Fickle Finger That Touched Mary Hilt

This is the story of a woman who went on a TV show she didn’t watch and didn’t even like, a woman who won a prize then said it wasn’t enough to meet her needs but asked for something less, a woman whose husband chose a dolphin over the vice-president of the United States, a woman who kicks televisions and chickens.

This was published in the Albany Times-Union of March 8, 1970.

Area Mother's Gag Is a Laugh-In Matter

How did Mary Hilt of Averill Park wind up as an anonymous gagster on the Rowan and Martin "Laugh-In" that's due for local showing Monday night?
Here's how Mary tells it:
"I was out delivering eggs one night and Butch said, a detective is coming out to see you. You won a contest. Then this man from the Burns Detective Agency showed up with a four-page affidavit and the first thing I said to the kids was get out or you'll queer it, whatever it is, and I put them out in the chicken coop."
Butch, who brought the good news, is one of the seven Hilt children ranging from 15 to six (Pam, Wendy, Butch, Marjorie, Nicky, Nancy and Alison) who wound up in the coop where the Hilts keep their chickens. The chicken business started three years ago when Mary ran the Park Perkies, an Averill Park 441 Club which had 25 chickens. By the end of this year the Hilts will have 9,000 chickens.
"If I knew in the beginning what I know now, Mary said, "I'd have gassed them all."
So the detective sat in the Hilt kitchen and told Mary she'd won a contest sponsored by Breck, the shampoo firm, but he didn't know the details. He just wanted to know if she had any connection with Breck or the Laugh-In or the advertising agency which represented Breck. She didn't. She was a legitimate winner of The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Contest.
"It was a moron contest," Mary said. "I didn't write anything. It was just a sweepstakes and you sent in your name and address. There were 212,000 entries and out of 30 drums they picked 300 names and took the names to Miami for Miss Breck to pick the winner.
WHEN MARY HEARD that she'd won she checked back to see what the prize was and found it was $20,000. So the Hilt family sat down together and figured out the things they all needed and made a discovery. "The $20,000 wasn't enough," Mary said.
The next day they made an other discovery. Mary had won second prize, not first. That was $1,000 plus a week in California, all expenses paid, and an appearance on Laugh-In. A man from Breck called and told her the prize. She said she couldn't take it.
"I've got seven kids and a lot of chickens," she told the caller. "I could cut off the chickens' heads and put them in the freezer but I couldn't do that with the kids."
So come out for four days for $1,500, the man suggested. We'll pay baby sitters. Fly out, fly back. But I don't fly, said Mary. You don't fly? No said Mary. And I don't even watch Laugh-In and I don't let the kids watch it because of the dirty jokes. Then why, asked the man, did you enter the contest?
"I WANTED A FLYING Fickle Finger of Fate," Mary said, referring to the replica of the Laugh-In gag award — winged finger on a bronze hand.
The Breck man cajoled but Mary resisted. Send us a color TV set and we'll call it square, she suggested. She explained: "My husband won't buy a color set till our black and white one gives out. I been kicking it, we all kick it when we go by it, but it won't give out."
The powers of persuasion prevailed, at last, and the Hilts decided to accept the prize and spend the four days in beautiful Burbank. The decision, said Mary, was chiefly her husband's. Leonard Hilt, a foreman with St. Regis Paper Co. in Scotia, had been a paratrooper in World War II. "He was up 18 or 20 times," Mary said, "but he always got pushed out the door and he said it'd be nice just once to come down with the plane."
It was also Leonard Hilt's decision to immerse the family in chickens, business "Best of the Nest" that grew to such proportions that the Hilts have built (themselves) a $15,000 poultry house, 40 by 100 feet.
"MY HUSBAND thinks this is the way to raise kids," Mary said, "shoveling manure and plucking chickens. Anything to keep them out of jail. The kids've made up a song they call The Poultry Plucker's Plea. One chicken attacked me the other day and I kicked it in the head and killed it, poor thing. I made believe it had got leukosis, but my husband came in and saw it and said to me, 'You been kicking chickens again?' I'm laughing, but I'm not happy. You ever been that close to chickens?"
The Hilts went west on separate planes and Mary went into the rehearsal hall and started looking around for celebrities. The place was full of them, all the Laugh-In regulars and Milton Berle and Carol Channing, but Mary didn't recognize anybody.
"I thought Buddy Hackett was a plumber," she said.
Finally she saw one, obviously a movie star. It turned out to be Ed Friendly, one of the originators of the Laugh-In. "He wasn't a movie star," Mary said, "but he was stunning."
Mary drew applause from the Laugh-In cast when she entered the set. The public relations people asked Mary if they could do anything for her. "Yes," she said "would you mind clearing the set while I say my lines? I heard Bette Davis did that once."
MARY'S LINES — two — come first during the party sequence of the show when all participants are dancing and gyrating. She sits quietly on a stool, looking, she says, like a visitor from the.Legion of Decency. She at last says: "That's a no-no." But she doesn't know what it's in reference to. That was to be put in later. The second line comes when Dick Martin takes her by the hand and leads her off-camera. She comments as they go: 'Why me? Why always me?" She's not quite sure what that means either.
Her appearance is never explained on the show, nor is she introduced. "It's all a put-on," explained Mary.
When it was all over and they were leaving they found out that Spiro Agnew was next door at a studio being taped for the Bob Hope show and was scheduled to speak downtown the following day.
"I WANTED TO see him," Mary said, "but my husband wanted to go to Marineland and see Flipper so we missed Sprio." [sic]
The whole event has been an odd experience for Mary Hilt and her family, but then odd experiences are not totally new to her. Some years ago Topps department store in Menands burned down and Mary wrote the owners and expressed regret and explained how much she'd liked the store and wondered whether they'd build another one. Topps liked her letter so much that they paid her $500 to come to the opening of the new store with her family to cut the ribbon. Her husband resisted and Mary retorted: How can I go down there with seven kids and no husband? Finally, Leonard Hilt agreed to go.
His attitude, Mary recalled, I was like that of a man touched by the flying fickle finger of fate: "Who else but my wife would write to a burned-down store?"

You may be thinking we’re dealing with an oblivious, humourless couple of people in this story. Remarkably, that’s not the case. Mary Hilt later became a newspaper columnist, kind of a local Erma Bombeck looking at the odd, ordinary things in life. She was a very community-minded individual, and it’s sad to learn her last years were plagued by Alzheimer’s. She died in 2012. You can read about her interesting life here.

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Tex Cracks Him Up

Perhaps it’s because he grew up in an era of silent films, but Tex Avery avoided dialogue when it really wasn’t necessary. This blog has all kinds of examples where we’ve shown one of his gags with frames and no commentary.

Wags to Riches is one of many cartoons where the premise is set up at the start with a bit of dialogue (Spike wants to kill Droopy to get Droopy’s inheritance), and almost the rest of the cartoon is visual with sounds effects.

Here’s a gag we’ve condensed into 17 drawings. You can follow what’s happening. I’ve left in three head shake frames to give you an idea of how the take was handled.

Bobe Cannon, Grant Simmons, Walt Clinton and Mike Lah are the credited animators with Jack Cosgriff and Rich Hogan helping Avery with the gags. It sounds like Don Messick as Droopy, with Pat McGeehan as the lawyer and the Irish cop on the phone, and a cameo appearance by Bill Hanna's scream.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Books by Bob Clampett

Bob Clampett’s Book Revue is a cartoon that whips along and hits you with everything—perspective animation, rubbery characters, an incredible scene of Daffy Duck as Danny Kaye topped with him turning into an eyeball, an Mohawk-to-Gene Krupa transformation, a few pop culture references and some inside jokes.

Since it is called Book Revue, books are a necessity. Several were written by Bob Clampett.

The middle one has a book written by Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng (misspelled), Chuck Jones and Bob McKimson, the studio's directing team after Frank Tashlin left in September 1944 (there's a better view of McKimson's name earlier in the scene).

The last one has one book with phrases including covered words that can't be used in cartoons, such as “Damn the torpedos” and “Go to Hell.”

Tom McKimson and Cornett Wood are creditted with layouts and backgrounds in this cartoon.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Jack Benny on Mary and Mary Jane

Jack Benny toking up?

We don’t know if it ever happened, but he wanted to give it a try (You’d think one of his musicians would be able to find some pot for him).

That revelation comes from an April 16, 1972 interview in the Detroit Free Press, where he talked about a bunch of things, including Vietnam and the idea of an autobiography.

He May Look 39 and Stingy, But He’s Not—Just Ask Any Cabbie

Free Press Columnist
Jack Benny does the BEST Jack Benny I've ever seen.
That is, if he wants to; if he's in the mood; if a dozen people aren't swarming around him, tugging on his sleeve and asking a million of the same questions they've asked for decades.
When he wants to, Benny can cock his head just a trifle, hike up one shoulder a touch, rest his cheek on a hand, elevate his voice and eyebrows ever so slightly, and, pausing set you up with the precision of a poolshark for the prescribed, patented and priceless one-world line: "w-e-l-llll!?!"
Right on the floor you go, knocking over tables, rolling on the carpet, getting tears in your eyes—Wow!
I mean, Jack Benny has just laid a Jack Benny on you.
I mean, is anyone else in the world 39 and stingy? I mean, for the past 39 years?
I DEFY anyone to be around Jack Benny for more than two minutes, 14 seconds without falling into a Jack Benny imitation. The only person in the whole wide world who doesn't do this is his best friend, George Burns, who's too busy doing a George Burns imitation.
At 78, all Jack Benny needs to do is be 78. He's earned whatever grand retirement and imperial status show business offers its patriarchal monarchs. And when you can be 78 years old and damn-near-for-true look 39 and for sure act even younger then you should just walk around the country and let people look at you.
But for most people, just looking at Jack Benny is enough to cease a break-up. All-down, knee-walking, table-grazing break-up. It's because Benny can lay a little take on you that's beyond description. He can do his number that wonderful combination of posture, timing and delivery and you're gonna cry happy tears. But enough enshrinement of Jack Benny. I mean, Jack Benny was in town to do a benefit—the Adas Shalom Synagog fund-raiser—and he was feeling good, exceptionally good. Rested and running on at the mouth like a teenager about a lot of things.
What did he have to say? Well, let's listen to Benny, talking off-stage and behind the scenes about what Benny thinks:
AMERICA'S sense of humor: "The biggest problem with the public's sense of humor is that we keep losing a laugh at. National issues don't have much humor in them. Vietnam, the economy, busing, credibility of one lenders? You can find some humor in the economy, no matter how had it gets, because we always come out of any economic phase.
"But you don't come out of lot of the things we like to boys losing their lives in wars. They know more about this in Washington—at least I think they do—but I think Vietnam has been handled wrong. We're getting out now, and as sure as I'm sitting here, the Viet Cong is going to take over and we've lost 50,000 of our young men for nothing. I've never been for or against Vietnam, but I've always thought you got into a war to win it. People still like to laugh, as long as it doesn't hurt someone and isn't painful to laugh."
ETHNIC HUMOR: "I don't care who tells it, if it's a clever story and doesn't hurt anyone, it works, ethnic or what-have-you. I don't prescribe to the theory that only blacks can tell black jokes or only Jews can tell Jewish jokes. I don't htink [sic] the public demands anything from a performer except a good performance of what you do.
"Personally, I don't like to play to any 'one group' an all-jewish affair, an all-ethnic group, or all one-age audience. I like a mixture, a broad range of people.
"I don't like to do stags anymore, either. If I want to say something risque, I want to be able to say it in front of a mixed group. God knows I'm not a prude, but even my risque material has to stay in character. I've never used a blue line or a dirty word just for shock value."
ARCHIE BUNKER: "I love 'All In the Family' and 'Sanford and Son, too. Archie Bunker sort of proves that he's not all that much of a bigot in each show. That show they did with Sammy Davis, Jr. was a great show. That's what television can be and should be more often. It was great for Archie and great for Sammy, too."
MOVIES: "I've really liked some I've seen lately: 'The French Connection,' 'The Godfather' and 'The Last Picture Show.' But others seem to have gotten too dirty. Nudity, to me, is useless unless it has a lot to do with the story and how many times does nudity really have something vital to do with the story?"
MARIJUANA: "I don't even smoke cigarets but I'd like to try pot once, just to see what it tastes like. I only smoke cigars, but I don't smoke them too well."
HEALTH: "I watch my diet. I have a touch of diabetes and have to stay away from sweets, which I love. I eat and drink moderately and never late. I always need more rest than I get and I get my exercise from constantly working and staying on the go."
BEING 78: "Everyone tells me I look about the same, but they never say the same what. As you get older you try to look as good as possible. We're all vain. I may be vainer than most. It takes 800 make-up men for me today and we still keep moving the cameras back."
STINGINESS: "I've always liked the stingy image. I think it's very funny. But if you really thought I was the stingiest man in the world, there would be no way I could play that role. I tip big. Always have. Particularly cab drivers, because I use them for such short distances."
FAVORITES: "Ed Wynn, I think, was the funniest, most honest funny man who ever lived. Al Jolson was the greatest entertainer. Phil Silvers is another comedian who never, but never makes a mistake. Bob Hope is the epitome of a gagster. George Burns? I'm his greatest audience. New comedians? Flip Wilson is a marvelous young talent, but a very tough person to write material for."
PEOPLE HE ADMIRES: "Pablo Casals, for one. I met him once and played with him. He played the cello and I fiddled. I've been friendly with most of the Presidents. I was closest to Harry Truman and the Kennedys. Today, I'm neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I'm a registered Whig. I'm also a Millard Fillmore man. At least HE kept us out of Vietnam."
AUDIENCES: "The most important thing is to make instant contact with the first few rows. If you do that, you can make contact with thousands of rows. Keep those down front with you and the others will be with you, too."
THE BENNY BOOK: "I wrote an autobiography once. Then I read it and tore it up. Many nice things have happened to me that should be in a book, but I don't feel comfortable writing about them. I would prefer a biography. I'd like Shana Alexander to write it. She knows me. Or Candy Bergen. You know. Candy Bergen could write it very well, too.
"A book about Jack Benny should be done, but it would be a tough one to do. I've never been very poor. In fact, my personal preference for a book's title would be 'I Always Had Shoes.' Publishers want titles I can't stand: "My First 390 Years' or 'W-e-l-lll! !' I never walked barefoot in the snow to sell newspapers. I never got beat up and cut like Joe E. Lewis. And I never grew up having to face the problems Sammy Davis Jr. did.
"I've never been thrown out of anything. My career had a slow, but steady rise. No setbacks, no personal misfortunes. I've been married to one wife, Mary Livingstone for 44 years. I've never been to a psychiatrist. For a comedian I'm surprisingly normal and really very dull. I've had a wonderful life, but not the sort of sensational one that sells books. Anyway, I won't write it. Let other people white [sic] it."
NOSTALGIA: "To hell with it. The past is gone. I'm interested in how I did last night and what I'm going to do tomorrow night. Thinking about the past makes you older quicker than anything else. I always like the next thing I'm supposed to do better than what I've just done."
HIS SECRET: Does there have to be a secret? A reason for my success? Let's see. Most people say timing. Some say likability. Both pacing and material have been named. I've been analyzed by the best and the worst also, I might add. I think basically I enjoy my work. I love what I do and I feel the audiences have always known this.
"Sooner or later in this business, everyone finds out what he's supposed to do. From the beginning, when I walked on the stage at the tough 125th Street Theatre vaudeville stage in Manhattan, I knew I wasn't a one-line jokester. My thing was and is, to this day to get on a subect [sic] and stay on it, then switch carefully and gracefully to another subject without the audience knowing it.
"I never have advocated college for a comedian. Finish high school, by all means, but a college education takes away something. It makes you a little too aloof or something. You stop being down-to-earth-ness. Not earthiness, but down-to-earth-ness. Of course, this is only my opinion, but it's an opinion I respect. Comedy writers don't suffer from going to college, but I think the fellow out in front does. The most educated comedians I know never went to college.
"I sincerely believe my strongest point as a comedian is probably the least understood: I may be the-best editor of comedy material I've ever met. When Hillard Marks, my writer, and I put it down on paper I have a sense about what is right—right for me, right for the occasion and right for the times. An exemple [sic] of selectivity: there is no humor in the issue of busing because it is an issue that makes too many people from too many areas too uncomfortable for too many different reasons.
"As the editor of my own material, I have always had an advantage. My writers have always given me the best of material. It's easy when you only have to deal with good material, picking the best from the best. I think I put together a very good show, with the right timing and proper pacing. It's as an editor I have this sense of what WILL work and what WON'T. I make my decision based on which line or sketch or piece of material I will enjoy doing the most. If I don't enjoy doing it, how can anyone enjoy hearing it?"
See what I mean about Jack Benny doing Jack Benny?

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Musical Miniatures

The Walter Lantz studio may have reached its peak in the late ‘40s. The irony is the peak suddenly ended with the studio being closed for more than a year.

The Lantz team had developed Woody Woodpecker into a popular character. The studio had a roster of good artists—Pat Matthews, Ed Love, Fred Moore, Ken O’Brien, Grim Natwick. Over the decade, Darrell Calker came up with some great boogie-woogie scores and won praise when he turned to classical music. The studio won the best film music award (shorts category) for 1945 by the Musical Courier for Chopin’s Musical Moments, which was nominated for an Oscar and lost to MGM’s classical counterpart The Cat Concerto.

The Musical Miniature series was heavily publicised in the trade press. And it was profiled in part of an article in the May 1946 edition of “Film and Radio Guide” out of Newark. It would appear Lantz considered non-theatrical releases of the Musical Miniatures much like other cartoons he made for educational/industrial use.

Forthcoming Walter Lantz Cartoons of Educational Interest
Walter Lantz, head of the Walter Lantz Cartune Studio, and creator of such animated cartoon characters as Woody Woodpecker, Andy Panda, and Wally Walrus, is producing a new series, titled “Musical Miniatures.” These shorts will present well-known classical music played “straight” rather than as an adjunct to the gags and comedy situations of cartoon subjects.
Already completed is Poet and Peasant. In production are Chopin’s Musical Moments and Overture to William Tell. The Chopin film will feature two well-known pianists, Ted Saidenberg and Ed Rebner; the other two films will furnish music with a full orchestra. The studio will produce four of these pictures each year.
Heretofore, in cartoon musicals, the stories have been written first, and the music made to fit the action of the picture. But in this new Lantz series the music is first recorded, and then the story department goes to work fitting the script to the music.
In these pictures, a movie-goer can close his eyes (if he chooses), and just listen! There will be no discordant sounds to jar him. Thus if the music-lover wishes to hear one of his favorite selections played without the distraction of the cartoon comedy that accompanies it, he may do so.
Producer Lantz believes that many people, children particularly, do not like “good” music because they have never been exposed to it. It is his conviction that music served up with popular cartoon stars will make these selections from the classics palatable to audiences that, up to now, have been interested only in boogie-woogie and juke-box numbers.

"Reddy-Made Magic"
The Lantz studio has also just completed a twelve-minute Technicolor and sound cartoon, which portrays episodes in the history of electricity and dramatizes present-day electric service. The film is available through local power companies.
Prepared in both 16mm and 35mm, the film is non-commercial and suitable for use in churches, schools, and clubs, as well as theatres.
The film introduces a new cartoon character, “Reddy Kilowatt.” Walter Tetley, the “LeRoy” of the Great Gildersleeve radio show, is Reddy’s voice.
The picture outlines the history of electricity from the year 600 B.C., when Thales, the Greek philosopher, first discovered magnetism in a piece of amber. The spirit of electricity is personified by Reddy Kilowatt. The trials that he has endured up to the present time are portrayed. After Thales’ experiments, which he recorded but abandoned because of public ridicule, Reddy lies dormant for 2000 years until an English scientist, Dr. William Gilbert, revives Thales’ theory and proves that it is correct.
From Gilbert, the cartoon follows Reddy’s career through the invention in 1660 of Otto Von Guericke’s friction machine, which produced sparks, to Stephen Grey’s experiments in 1729, which proved that some materials are conductors and some non-conductors of electricity. Next Reddy went to Leyden, Holland, in 1755 and let Professor Musschenbroek prove a further enlightening theory about his power by storing him up in what came to be known as “Leyden Jars.”
Reddy’s big chance came in 1752 when Benjamin Franklin, with his well-known kite-and-key experiment, announced that electricity and lightning were one and the same. On that day Reddy shook hands with Franklin and made an announcement himself: “Now I’m getting some place!”
Following Franklin were Michael Faraday, who in 1831 produced continuous electric currents, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone in 1876, and Edison’s incandescent light bulb in 1879. Reddy really went into action when Edison started the first power plant, and electric power was given to the world.
In addition to presenting side-lights of the epic of electricity, the film illustrates the modern system of distribution from generating station through transmission lines to sub-station, and into the “Reddybox” where the user can always plug in and find Reddy ready. The film concludes with a brief description of Reddy’s many services in the home.

Lantz told the trades in 1946 there would be four Miniatures:

The Poet and Peasant, released March 18, 1946
Musical Moments from Chopin, released February 24, 1947
The Overture to William Tell, released June 16, 1947
The Bandmaster, released December 22, 1947.

The last one, featuring the overture to Zampa, was intended for Universal release. But Lantz jumped to United Artists when Universal demanded licensing rights to his characters. Unfortunately, the U-A deal wasn’t as lucrative to Lantz as he anticipated, so he decided to close his studio and re-release old cartoons to bring in income for minimal expenses.

The other United Artists Miniatures were:

Kiddie Concert, released April 21, 1948
Pixie Picnic, released May 28, 1948.

All six are among the highlights of the shorts released by the studio. When it re-opened, the animators, save La Verne Harding, were gone; researcher Devon Baxter discovered Les Kline was packing tomatoes. Woody Woodpecker didn’t talk, the characters had a thicker ink-line with less interesting animation, and no more Miniatures. The closest the studio got was A Convict Concerto (1955), a good cartoon but without the subtlety of Darrell Calker’s classical shorts.

Friday, 13 May 2022

Puzzled Pals

One has to wonder whether the family life wasn’t the life for Van Beuren animators, judging by Puzzled Pals (1933).

Over at Warner Bros., happy babies, music and celebrities hooked up in Shuffle Off to Buffalo. In this cartoon, a stork tries to make a delivery in a small community and the gag is he’s clearly unwanted.

One little house looks ripe to be a home to a new infant. The gag is even the kids living there don’t want another child as everyone pours outside to chase the stork away.

Finally, the baby is delivered to the home of Tom and Jerry, where he punches them out and uses a super vacuum to wreck the place. The stork returns, uses his birdie fists and flies on our heroes and flies away with the youngin’.

George Stallings and Frank Sherman are the directors. Sherman worked for Bill Nolan and Walter Lantz at Universal before returning to New York and a job at Van Beuren. One report said he slipped on the ice and developed a blood clot in his brain. Another said he had a heart attack at his home in East Orange. Nonetheless, he died March 20, 1934 at the age of 34. He had no children.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Lo, the Shameless Cartoon Thefts

The Warner Bros. cartoons provided more than inspiration at Columbia/Screen Gems. They were the targets of outright thievery.

A duck that looks like Daffy stars in Wacky Quacky. A cat that looks like Sylvester stars in Up n’ Atom. But the 1948 short Lo the Poor Buffal is based around wholesale pillaging.

Remember how Yosemite Sam would say “I hate rabbits!”? In this cartoon, Buffalo Billingsley says “I hate buffalos.” Remember how Foghorn Leghorn would copy Senator Claghorn and remark something like: “There’s one thing, I SAY, there’s one thing I hate. Weasels. Weasels, that is!” In this cartoon, Billingsley says “I hate buffalos. I SAY, I hate buffalos. Buffalos, that is.”

But that’s not all. Remember how Elmer Fudd substituted the letter “w” for the letter “r”? Guess what the buffalo in this cartoon does.

Writer Cal Howard seems to have decided the purloining was enough to make audiences laugh. There isn’t one real joke in the cartoon. Oh, a rock deflates like a tire when hit by an arrow. But it’s like the cartoon is one long set-up with no payoff. Even the last line is the same as the first, just substitute “vultures” for “buffalos.” The most amusing is something audiences won’t have caught—Howard names Billingsley’s jeep “Calvin.”

The real irony is I’m pretty sure the “Foney Fudd” is played by Dave Barry. That’s the guy who played Fudd in the wretched Warners short Pre-Hysterical Hare some ten years later. My guess is Jack Mather is the Indian whose design appeared earlier that year in Topsy Turkey (Barry is in that cartoon, too).

The score is by Darrell Calker, and sounds just like the stuff he was writing for Woody Woodpecker cartoons around the same time, complete with peek-a-boo clarinets.

The cartoon was backlogged for release after the Screen Gems studio closed for good.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Tonight! An All-New Fantasy Island! Then At 9...

You can hear his voice when you read the words: “The Loooooove Boat!”

Ernie Anderson was a new kind of network announcer. The staff voices at NBC were all very good. But they all had a very even, matter-of-fact delivery. CBS was the same. At ABC, Ernie soared high or growled, depending on the programme he was plugging. You have to be a bit of a ham and an actor to do it. And, even then, you have to have a special talent for it.

Anderson started out like many announcers. He worked at small stations and moved on to bigger and bigger ones. He finally reached Cleveland in the late ‘50s and moved into television. Within a couple of years, he played a horror show host named Ghoulardi, directed by a fellow named Tom Conway. Thanks to a recommendation from Rose Marie, who happened to be in Cleveland, Steve Allen hired Conway, who had to change his first name to Tim.

Being a non sequitur isn’t the usual way of jump-starting a career in the big city, but that’s what happened when Anderson moved to Los Angeles. This question appeared in a weekend magazine in the Southam newspapers in Canada on Sept. 13, 1969. Evidently they never watched a 1969 ABC series occasionally emceed by Conway called Operation: Entertainment, where the pair and guest stars entertained at various military bases. Interestingly, about four different syndicated columns had this question, all within a few months of each other.

Q. Who is Ernie Anderson? He is always shown in the audience of the Carol Burnett television show. Heather Wood, North Portal, Sask.
A. Until Carol Burnett started introducing him, Ernie was simply a character actor, and a sometimes straight-man for comedian Tim Conway in club dates. He was best known for his commercials, including a nifty one about potato chips that we don't get to see in Canada.
Then one night Ernie went along to see his friend Tim appear on Miss Burnett's show and, lo and behold, Miss Burnett spotted him in the audience while she was conducting her usual question and answer period. "There's Ernie Anderson," she said, suddenly, and it got a laugh.
Ever since, whenever Tim is on the show, Ernie attends and is introduced. When he isn't there, Carol still says "There's Ernie Anderson," and CBS simply cuts in an old tape, so that he seems to be there. It's worked out well for everyone, including CBS, which has capitalized on it by producing thousands of "Who is Ernie Anderson?" bumper stickers. Ernie sits back, in his San Fernando Valley home, with wife and kids, and reads his newfound fan mail.

This was before Anderson was announcing the Burnett show; Lyle Waggoner was doing it at the beginning. It’s certainly before he became the promo voice of ABC’s prime time shows.

His voice became so well known that newspapers wanted to talk to him. Here’s one interview, from the April 9, 1985 edition of the Boston Globe. Anderson doesn’t sound like JFK, so it’s surprising to realise he’s from Massachusetts.

He Uses His Voice to Entice You
Ernie Anderson is prime-time pitchman for ABC-TV's programs

Globe Staff
EAST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — The voice rumbles around in the semi-darkness and cigarette smoke of ABC-TV's Audio Post 6, cutting through the Beachboys' version of "California Girls" like the thunder of a Harley-Davidson through a quiet night.
"Nathan's a Jersey boy who's headed for the promised land . . . the land of warm sun and beautiful girls . . . Califorrrrrnia Girls . . . the movie . . . all starting at 8, 7 central . . . on ABC."
"I had a frog on 'promised land,' " Ernie Anderson complains, his voice suddenly shedding several layers of titillation. "Can we do 'promised land' again?"
The voice. You know it but you don't, like an elusive melody that won't quite dislodge itself from your memory. A few hints: think of the network ads for "Roots," for "The Thornbirds," for "Winds of War," for "Hollywood Wives." Think, oh yes, think especially about this — of the voice that suggests all things are possible aboard "The Loooooove Boat." Think of 61-year-old Ernie Anderson, ABC-TV's prime-time pitchman, the Lawrence-born announcer whose resonance, roughened by years of chain smoking, makes each upcoming show sound as if it has the power to raise the dead, let alone the ratings.
Anderson's is the deep, familiar voice of ABC's lead-ins and promos, although such work represents only one of his many voice-over announcing jobs. On this particular sunny afternoon he will spend just 50 minutes inside a darkened studio hyping segments of "Wildside," "Three's A Crowd" and "Who's the Boss?" The combined audio and video tracks will then be sent via satellite to ABC's main facilities in New York for airing later in the week.
His attire is pure Southern California chic: striped fluorescent sweater, pink pants, black penny loafers. His face is well-tanned and deeply lined. When he speaks into the microphone, peering at his script through reading glasses whose frames seem to have been chosen to match his fire engine red socks, his left foot keeps time while his right hand does the conducting. He tends not to listen to playbacks. In fact, he seldom watches television at all, except for sports and occasional movies.
"Lunacy," he says.
Lunacy? This refers to a scheduling change that has him driving to another Los Angeles studio this evening to re-record several spots because of an unexpected Presidential news conference. "Lunacy," he says again to no one in particular as he twists open a bottle of cherry soda. "It's lack of planning. There's no reason to be fooling around in the studio at 6:30. No reason at all."
This means that Anderson will spend much of the afternoon driving around Los Angeles in his $37,000, black 1985 Jaguar XJS. He will drop into his agent's office, visit a local recording studio where he does voice-overs for a number of products and services (Honda automobiles, Parkay margarine, for example,) and drive to the Griffith Park Equestrian Center, where his two thoroughbred show horses are stabled. Mostly he will talk, greeting people with "Hey, babe" and "Hiya, honey," pressing the flesh, killing off the afternoon.
As he negotiates the traffic, Anderson talks about growing up in Lynn and Marblehead, attending Lynn English High School and Suffolk College, and eventually dumping his Boston accent for something the rest of America could understand. "I just tuned it out," he explains. "I had to lose it if I wanted to work outside New England." (His voice has remained behind however: He does the lead-ins to all the news shows on WCVB-TV, Ch. 5, and is the voice of radio commercials for The Metro dance clubs in Boston and Worcester.)
He also talks about radio jobs he held in Montpelier, Providence, Albany and Cleveland. "In Providence," he recalls proudly, "I was the hottest disc jockey in town." He was big in Cleveland, too: "I played Ghoulardi, the host of a TV horror movie show. People still remember me in Cleveland."
Anderson began recording sports promos for ABC-TV during the late 1960s, shortly after arriving in Los Angeles. From that modest beginning he has grown into the network's heavy-throated audio symbol. "But I don't actually live off ABC," he explains. "I live off my basic income, which is commercials. I don't really need the ABC money. And it can be a hinderance because I'm on so much. Sometimes I'm seen as an old voice. A Southern Califonia Chevy commercial came into my agent's office the other day, and the directions said, 'Not Ernie Anderson or an imitator.' "
Anderson's ABC style can make some shows sound like they've been lifted straight from the front page of the National Enquirer. Others seem to carry all the importance of a cure for cancer. "You go after the show pretty much on its style," he says. "But in order to earn my money, I've got to do something more than simply announce. I like to make a difference. If it's a sexy show, like 'The Love Boat,' I try to make it sound sleazy. Well, maybe 'sleazy' isn't the word. Like, maybe 'innuendo.' "
But Anderson also says he thinks the promos often reveal too much, thereby giving viewers reasons not to watch. "If it were up to me," he advises, "I'd tell them less about the story line, unless it's something like 'The Fonz is getting married tonight.' I mean, you say something like, 'Be sure to be watching when Jane meets Dave tonight.' Well, who the hell are Jane & Dave? Most people don't even know. But they do know that Jane and Dave sure ain't The Fonz."
Anderson is a suburban rancher who lives in a rambling, antique- laden house on three-quarters of an acre of land in Studio City. It is a life which features seven automobiles, six cats, five children (of the nine he has fathered), four birds, three dogs, his second wife, and a larger-than-life plastic cow which stands on the front lawn. On this particular day Anderson's chores include picking up his 14 year-old son, Paul, at a nearby private school.
"Hey, Dad, I got this great idea for you," Paul announces as he clambers into the back seat of the Jag. "You should put out a home videocassette called 'How to Train Your Voice.' It could tell people how you do what you do."
Ernie Anderson points the car back into heavy traffic, spinning the steering wheel with one hand. "The trouble is, I don't know how I do what I do," the familiar voice replies. "I just do it."

Another profile talked about the Camel Lights that weren’t far from his reach. If they helped him with his 27-year career at ABC, he paid a price. Anderson died on February 6, 1997 of lung cancer. He was 73.

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

More Eyes, More Feet

Daffy Duck takes on a Hawley Pratt-designed dog as he tries to get a home for the winter in Cracked Quack (1952).

The duck distracts the dog by throwing a bone out the window. The dog chases after it and stops instantly, with gravity doing its work.

Multiple eyes when the dog realises it’s in mid-air.

A mad scramble to get back to the window. The dog sprouts extra feet. These are some of the frames, animated on ones.

Manny Perez, Ken Champin, Virgil Ross and Art Davis are the animators.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Barn Dance

Lem and Daisy Goon square dance in a barn in Tex Avery’s The Hick Chick (1946).

The background is by Johnny Johnsen.

I don't know if this is a Preston Blair scene, but he, Ed Love, Walt Clinton and Ray Abrams are the animators.