Saturday 31 December 2011

Show Biz Stars Look Back at the Past Year

No doubt gossip web sites will be filled right about now with a year in review of the bon mots of Hollywood’s salacious train-wrecks. We, of course, prefer to look back to those happier days of Tinseltown, in an era before criminal stars, before infidelity, before scandal, before...

Oh. Right. I haven’t found those days yet.

Well, let’s look back at the years 1949 and 1950 anyway, and bring in the Associated Press’ movie writer of the day.

My favourite is the Tallulah quote.

Quotes of the Year From Hollywood
HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 23 (AP)—What are the deathless quotes of the year in Hollywood?
Maybe some of these won’t live into the second half-century, but they seemed out of the ordinary to me. Here are some of the bright, pointed or inane sayings that I have collected from the 1949 news:
Robert Mitchum, commenting on his sentence at the county detention farm: “It’s an experience every taxpayer should go through.”
Laurence Olivier, after winning the academy awards: “I always did say Shakespeare was a good script writer.”
Actor Paul Valentine, divorcing strip-teaser Lili St. Cyr: “Everybody in the country could see more of her than I did.”
Fred Allen on the FCC ban on giveaway air shows: “They have taken radio back from the scavengers and given it back to the entertainers.”
Milton Berle, answering an attack on him by Allen: “Allen still has the first penny ever thrown at him.”
James Mason: “Hollywood is filled with frustrations, but not uninhabitable.”
Claudette Colbert, disapproving French bathing suits: “Of the many features of a woman’s anatomy, one of the least attractive is the navel.”
Mae West: “I’m still looking for the right man. My trouble is I find so many right ones it’s hard to decide.”
Clifton Webb: “There’s no use pretending I’m a modest fellow. Some day I shall write a song called ‘I Fascinate Me.’”
David Niven, on the end of his Goldwyn contract: “For the first time since I was 17 years old, I am able to do what I want. During all that time, I either was in the British army or under contract to Goldwyn.”
Bette Davis: “Hollywood tries to combine entertainment for both kids and adults in the same picture. The result is a movie which isn’t suitable for either.”
Shelley Winters, after returning from a blustery location: “I was so cold I almost got married.”
Description of the “shimmy” in Gilda Gray’s suit against the picture, “Gilda”: “A rhythmical shivering and shaking of parts of the body, synchronized and performed in a personalized syncopated musical rhythm and accompanied with appropriate songs.”
Linda Darnell, decrying the “boyish look” in fashions: “Why can’t women look like women and men look like men? That’s what makes life more interesting.”
Jimmy Durante, telling about rubbing elbows with socialites at the opera opening: “I had to rub elbows—nobody would shake hands with me.”
Bob Thomas, to his readers: “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

Quotes of Year From Hollywood
By Bob Thomas
Hollywood, Dec. 22—(AP)—Every year a lot of wind blows in Hollywood and some of it is worth remembering.
I have collected some of the 1950 quotes that are remarkable for one reason or another. Here they are:
Tallulah Bankhead’s answer to reports that Bette Davis imitated her in a picture: “Hasn’t she always?”
Betty Hutton, announcing that she was giving up night life after a reconciliation with her husband, Ted Briskin: “Contented people don’t go to night clubs.”
Fred Allen: “Television is based on the belief that there are a lot of people with nothing to do, willing to waste their time watching people who can do nothing.”
Betsy Drake, asked after her wedding to Cary Grant about possible plans for children: “I think it would be very depressing for one to know that he was a planned baby. That’s so cold and unromantic.”
Hedy Lamarr, explaining why she couldn’t see the police for two days after losing $250,000 worth of jewels: “You know what it’s like to come home late after a party and be wakened from a sound sleep.”
Director Elia Kazan: “Actors should stay hungry.”
Vivien Leigh, asked if her husband, Laurence Olivier, had plans to film more Shakespeare: “I don’t think he’d say. If he did, Orson Welles might start filming the same thing immediately.”
Dorothy Parker, explaining why she didn't take a honeymoon after her re-marriage to Alan Campbell: “We’re going nowhere. We've been everywhere.”
Red Skelton, hearing about a fire at the preview of one of his pictures: “You can’t blame it on the picture because it’s not so hot.”
Jean Simmons, commenting on yell leaders after seeing her first American football game: “I don’t like those people waving their arms to get people to yell. Goodness knows, we scream our guts out at soccer matches, but not at somebody else’s direction.”
Italian Actress Marina Berti, arguing against divorce: “Men are all alike, so why throw one away and get another just like him? It is better to keep the one you have and profit from the time and trouble you have spent on him.”
Marta Toren, on U. S. males: “The American wolf is really shy and uncertain. He is abrupt in order to hide his shyness.”
Lauren Bacall, on the nature of her profession: “A person has to be unnormal to get into this kind of business. Normal people couldn’t take it.”
Jack Paar, telling about his three-year contract with R.K.O.: “I was never even scheduled for any of the pictures they cancelled!”
Bob Hope: “Vaudeville is dead and television is the box they buried it in.”
Chill Wills, the voice of “Francis:” “Folks have been talking to me about going into politics, but I figure I better stay in a field where a talking mule is a novelty.”
Sir Laurence Olivier, after observing the Los Angeles smog: “Isn’t it ironic that motion pictures came westward for the sunshine and now there isn’t any?”

Friday 30 December 2011

Lo! The King Approacheth!

A smear drawing by Lloyd Vaughan from one of Chuck Jones’ funniest Bugs Bunny cartoons.

Ken Harris, Phil Monroe and Ben Washam get the other animation credits on ‘Rabbit Hood’ (1949).

Vaughan didn’t return to the studio after it shut down for six months in 1953, but he worked for Jones again in the 1970s.

Thursday 29 December 2011

You Won’t See This Movie Ad Today

An example of how our vocabulary has changed since September 1940, when this ad appeared in print.

The cartoon advertised, “Little Lambkins,” is not about a lamb. It’s about a destructive kid, animated by Nelson Demorest, the pride of Greeley, Colorado, under Dave Tendlar. I don’t find it enjoyable, but you might.

Wednesday 28 December 2011

George Pal Jumps to the Big Time

Stop-motion animation didn’t originate with George Pal, but he certainly showcased it to an audience on a regular basis with his Puppetoons through the 1940s. Without Pal, one wonders whether TV viewers would have ever seen the somewhat bizarre Gumby or various quirky Rankin-Bass specials, both with coteries of loyal followers.

Pal was an admirable craftsman and technician, taking Jack Miller’s stories and creating delightful little films.

However, there was only so far one could go in shorts. Walt Disney realised it. Frank Tashlin realised it. And George Pal realised it, too. Because of that, he achieved fame in the science fiction film world.

Here’s an Associated Press article from 1950, outlining why Pal made the jump to features. It also refers to a popular commercial for Lucky Strikes.

New Film To Show Collision Of Worlds To Be Produced By George Pal
HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 23.—(AP)—Not content with having flown to the moon, George Pal is now causing the end of the world.
Pal is no flying saucer pilot or evangelist. He is a miracle worker in another field—motion pictures. Born in Hungary, he studied to be an architect but graduated at a time when there were no jobs. He was fascinated with American cartoon films like Felix and the Cat and went into the cartoon field in Europe.
Soon the ambitious draftsman grew tired of the tedious work of drawing thousands of flat figures. For a novelty, he made a tobacco advertising film that featured marching cigarettes (a forerunner of today’s television ads). He began to make animated films by the use of puppets.
Pal came to America in 1939 to produce puppetoons for Paramount. They achieved success but recently he was forced to abandon them because of rising costs. This year Pal produced a film called “Destination Moon,” a fanciful but seemingly authentic account of what interplanetary flight would be like.
The film was produced for about $600,000 and is expected to bring in $3,000,000 in this country alone. ]t started a cycle of science fiction movies.
This week Pal started filming a new project called “When Worlds Collide.” It will be the ultimate in movie catastrophes, making the “San Francisco” earthquake and “The Last Days of Pompeii” seem minor-league.
“The story starts with the approach of a planet and a star toward the earth,” Pal told me.
“Many people fear that it means the end the the earth, but others do not become alarmed and claim the other worlds will bypass the earth.
“Well, the planet does bypass, although it causes huge tidal waves, earthquakes and volcanoes. After that comes the star and it strikes the earth and destroys it.”
The picture will have a human story about a group of people who believe the worlds will collide and try to make some plans for it. They devise a space ship and select 800 candidates for passengers.
“They are chosen for their mental and physical well-being and because they are best in their fields, such as carpentry, medicine, etc.,” said Pal.
“Would a newspaperman be included?” I asked.
“There might be one among the Et Ceteras,” he added slyly. “Of course there is only room for 40 people aboard, so they are chosen from the 800 by the democratic process of drawing names.”
The survivors will watch the end f the world from their space ship and then zoom on to the nearby planet, which is deemed suitable or human habitation. They carry with them enough animals and needs to start anew.
“When Worlds Collide." has no relation to the recent best seller, “Worlds In Collision,” which attempted to explain Biblical events by planetary phenomena. The Pal story was a piece of science fiction vritten by Philip Wylie and Edwin Palmer in the early 30s’. It was originally planned as a Cecil B. DeMille epic, but he never got around to it.
I asked Pal how he would be able to top “When Worlds Collide.”
“I’m not going to try," he answered. “Next I may do a picture about Tom Thumb.”

The October 1941 edition of Popular Mechanics devoted a page to how the Puppetoons worked. Click on the picture to the right to have a better look.

There are plenty of fans of Pal on the internet. Look HERE for links aplenty.

It seems to me today's computer-generated 3D kids films are attempting to replicate a similar visual effect to the Puppetoons, but without their natural charm. George Pal may not have been a stop-motion pioneer but he was one of a handful of people who was truly adept at using the technique to entertain.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Pretty Darn Long, Isn’t It?

Tex Avery relied on background painter Johnny Johnsen to set up a lot of his cartoons. Even at Warners, Tex would open with a languid left-to-right pan over one of Johnny’s fine drawings, sometimes done in oils.

In ‘Red Hot Rangers’ at MGM, Avery decided to use the opening shot as a gag rather than to set a mood of calm (such as in the 1941 Warners’ cartoon ‘Of Fox and Hounds’). We see scenic Jello-stone National Park and as the camera moves along, the “No Smoking” signs get progressively, and more ridiculously, bigger and dominating. And it just keeps going and going, with Scott Bradley’s peaceful and serene strings and woodwinds in the background. Almost 30 seconds worth.

I’d love to snip together another great background but there’s no clear shot of all of it, so you’re going to only get the two ends instead. There’s a highway in the foreground connecting the two frames below. The snow’s disappeared from the mountains.

Here’s one more. Sure is a change from the flat settings Avery used just a few years later.

For cartoon fans that don’t know, Jellostone was also featured in the Bob Clampett cartoon ‘Wabbit Twouble’ (1941), with another great opening pan over a Johnny Johnsen background. Johnsen soon left Warners to rejoin Avery at MGM.

Monday 26 December 2011

Special Appearance by Bob Clampett

Weak. Unfunny. Embarrassingly bad. Which of those terms best describes the work of director Jack King at the Leon Schlesinger studio?

Perhaps all of them.

Take his 1935 short ‘A Cartoonist’s Nightmare.’ Is there even a gag in it? It truly stinks. The most interesting thing in the whole cartoon is the cameo appearance by Bob Clampett in animated form.

The rotund chap looks like Tubby Millar, missing his bristle moustache. Don’t know who the big-nose guy is.

There’s also what I suspect is a Clampett influence in a fun background drawing of the ramshackle cartoon studio. The plant on the left could easily fit in Clampett’s Wackyland (as in “Porky in”, made a few years later).

Fortunately, Tex Avery soon arrived to rescue the studio from inanity and it wasn’t too long (and thanks to other talented people, including Clampett) that Warners released the funniest cartoons ever made. King scurried back to Disney where he wasn’t entrusted with directing features.

Don Williams and Paul J. Smith have animation credits in this pointless mess.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Presents of the Stars, 1963

Mary Livingstone sure had a hard time keeping thieves away from her jewellry. This is at least the third newspaper story where she’s been robbed of it (the first one I found was in 1930).

Let’s see what people in radio and TV got for Christmas in 1963 in this December 25 story from United Press International. Could this be an early sign of Dean Jones’ love for the Love Bug?

What Santa Claus Brought to Movieland
HOLLYWOOD (UPI) – Merry Christmas!
Movieland’s stars were busy this Christmas morning opening gifts of travel tickets to vacation resorts, jewels, art work and glamorous clothes.
Dennis Weaver presented his wife with a painting, “Portrait of a Little Girl.”
June Lockhart, her husband and their two children took a 10-day holiday vacation in Mexico.
Ben Gazzara gave his wife an antique emerald and gold necklace with matching earrings.
They also went to New York for a white Christmas.
Patti Page bought her year-old daughter Kathleen a poodle.
Chuck Connors gifted his wife Kamala Devi with a Dior dress, perfume and a two-week fishing trip to Mexico. She’s not expected to wear the new gown while trolling for fish however.
Edie Adams outfitted her three daughters for the new year. Under their tree the girls found nighties, dresses, robes, coats, sweaters, and jewelry. Edie also gave them books.
Nat (King) Cole’s wife, Maria, received a jade necklace.
David Niven, who has a home in Switzerland, gave his wife Hjordis a mink-lined ski outfit. Mrs. Niven already has broken her leg once while skiing. If she has another accident it’ll be a first-class spill.
Joseph Cotton’s wife surprised him with five 18th century Italian figurines.
Jack Palance presented his wife with a set of Venetian glass stemware and a Venetian glass, hand-finished chess set.
Monty Hall gave his wife an original Grandma Moses painting.
Art Linkletter packed his family off to Hawaii where they’ll spend the holiday on a beach.
Stewarts to Ski
Jimmy Stewart bought his wife, Gloria, and their four children ski outfits. The family will spend Christmas at a ski resort in Aspen, Colo. It’s not certain whether Jimmy will take to the slopes.
Dean Jones bought himself a different kind of a present. It’s a specially-constructed car used for racing over sand dunes.
Bill Dana is the foster parent of a 12-year-old Italian girl. He sent her a wardrobe and cash to spend on presents for her mother and two younger brothers. The family lives in a small town in central Italy.
George Gobel shopped for jewelry this Christmas. His wife Alice was surprised to find a four-carat diamond ring under the tree.
Clint Walker gave his wife a motor-bike. Clint already owns one. Now they'll be able to buzz along the road together.
Jack Benny bought jewels for his wife, Mary Livingstone, replacing some stolen recently.

Christmas Sunday Comics Through the Decades







Saturday 24 December 2011

Hollywood Holidays — 1950

Crosby Christmas Follows Normal American Plan
HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 23—(AP)—What’s the Crosby Christmas like? Probably the same as yours and mine.
“We do the same things most people do,” says Bing. “The routine has become traditional and rarely varies from year to year.”
Sometimes Bing, Dixie and the boys celebrate Christmas at their home on the Monterrey Peninsula up north. But this year Bing is working in “Here Comes the Groom,” so it will be a southern California Christmas for the family.
Prefer Big Tree
Preparations for the holiday are made several days before by Dixie, who is in charge of decorations. The Crosbys like lots of decorations and a big tree.
“We got the biggest tree that will fit in the room,” Bing remarked. “I’d say it’s about 15 feet.”
Christmas eve means carols by Bing and the boys—Gary, 17, Phillip and Dennis, 10, and Lindsay, 12. This is a tradition with them and they always visit the homes of Bob Hope, (if they can catch at him at home) Songwriter Johnny Burke, Larry Crosby and other relatives and close friends.
At six o’clock on Christmas morning, the entire family attends Catholic services at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills. They return home for breakfast.
“We have a big farm breakfast with ham and eggs and all the trimmings,” said Bing. Then come the gifts. He wouldn’t divulge what he was giving the boys. But Lindsay may receive some additions to his collection of unusual toy soldiers. The older boys will probably get some new golf equipment. Like their father, they’re fiends for the game.
Calls In Afternoon
The afternoon is spent on family calls, Bing has three brothers and a sister in Hollywood and most of them have big families. They will probably converge on Bing’s home, since mother Crosby is spending the holidays with him. There will be a sad note to the gathering because of the absence of Bing’s father. He died this year,
“We have dinner late in the afternoon,” said Bing. “Turkey and everything, of course.”
The evening is spent quietly, either calling on or receiving friends. The day ends with an inevitable song session, with the famed Crosby baritone joining in.
That’s the Crosby Christmas. Hope you have a nice one, too.

Filmdom Celebrates Happy Yule Throughout Industry
HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 25—(AP) — It was a happy holiday for the majority of movie workers this year. Film production is keeping on a normal basis, despite the forces facing the industry.
Twas not always so. Even in normal times, the studios used to slack down at Christmas time. The reason was that each day of production costs a great deal of money. Losing the Christmas and New Year holidays mean added expense to a picture’s budget, not to mention the loss of efficiency by pre-holiday celebrations.
But this year production was fairly high, and so are movie workers’ spirits. Next year—well, they’ll worry about that when it comes. . .
Judy Garland is carrying on the “Show Must Go On” tradition. She said she will act in “The Wizard of Oz” on Radio Theater tonight despite her marital break with Vincente Minnelli. . .
N.B.C. will pull a novel stunt on its telecast of the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena New Year’s Day. The picture and commentary by Don Wilson will be carried on the Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco TV stations. In addition a Pasadena station will carry commentary in Spanish. This is a service for the thousands of Spanish-speaking residents of this area.
Shirley Temple’s announcement of her film retirement seemed inevitable after the brush-off of news coverage on her marriage. Shirley was always the picture of co-operation with the press during her Hollywood career. Wanna bet the retirement doesn’t stick?. . .
June Allyson snagged the top spot in a movie popularity poll by a trade paper, nosing out Bing Crosby. Maybe that will change things at her studio, where she has long been treated like a stepchild taking roles that other actresses would refuse. I have been saying for five years that she is the most under-rated star in Hollywood. . .
My, Hollywood seems to be growing up. In two recent pictures, “The Magnificent Yankee” and “Halls of Montezuma,” characters actually use the word “hell.” And not in reference to the nether world either. Heavens to Betsy!
Since boyhood, I have heard the old saying “Nobody reads the paper on Christmas Day.” So I might as well give this up and join the festivities. And a merry one to you, too.


Listen Doc, Can’t You Read?

A surprise appearance in Tex Avery’s ‘Who Killed Who?’

Don’t worry, detective. Only one day to go.

The 1943 cartoon has a bunch of familiar bits Avery used at Warner Bros., including the silhouette of a patron in the theatre being projected onto the screen. But the pace is faster and Tex and his writer have crammed in more gag material.

Something different in this cartoon is the live-action open and close, and the solo organ like you’d hear on radio mystery shows back then. The score is by Scott Bradley and Bernard Katz, according to the U.S. Government Copyright Catalogue. Katz was related to Mel Blanc on his mother’s side.

There are no credits on the version of the cartoon I’ve seen, but John Canemaker’s book credits the animation to Ed Love, Preston Blair and Ray Abrams. It sounds like Billy Bletcher is the detective, with Sara Berner as the skeleton cuckoo bird and Kent Rogers as both the victim and Red Skeleton (animated by Love), with a voice that you’ll hear in the Woody Woodpecker cartoon ‘The Loan Stranger’ (1942). Is that Avery as St. Nick?

Incidentally, if you wonder where the phrase “Let’s not get nosey, bub!” heard in this cartoon, and over at Warners and Lantz, comes from, read this unbylined story from the Madison Capital Times of August 23, 1942.

Catch Phrases of Air Comics Catch Public
New Phrases Added Daily to Our American ‘Slanguage’
AMERICA’S modern language has been colored by radio particularly by those comedians whose joke factories are located in NBC studios.
When Little Johnny wants to contradict his mother nowadays he says, “That ain’t the way I heerd it,” patterned after Bill Thompson’s phrase as the Old Timer with Fibber McGee and Molly.
Thus does radio affect the language of the people of the United States. Catch-phrases from radio are the modern versions of “twenty-three skidoo” and “you tell ‘em, I stutter.” Radio’s comedians add new phrases to the American slanguage every day, and every hep-cat is judged by his knowledge of the latest radio line.
Skelton’s Classic
Red Skelton’s Classic “I Dood It,” besides making newspaper headlines, has become an everyday phrase in young America’s vocabulary, along with his “I would answer that, but it would only wead to bwoodshed,” “If I do, I det a whippin’” and “Now, don’t get nosey, bub.”
Jerry Colonna, on Bob Hope’s program, made “Greetings, gate” a synonym for “hello.”
Molly McGee says “’Tain’t funny, McGee,” and millions stop other millions cold by telling them, “Tain’t funny, McGee.”
Charlie McCarthy’s pet phrase has been a national byword for years—“I’ll clip ‘em. So help me, I’ll mow ‘em down.”
From Al Pearce comes Elmer Burt’s [sic] “I Hope I Hope I Hope,” and Baby Snooks’ contribution is “Why, Daddy?” Meredith Willson has millions of listeners copying his “Well, bend me over and call me stoopid.” Dennis Day says “Yes, please” to Jack Benny, and in every town there are kids from 8 to 80 who say “Yes, please” to every question that calls for an affirmative.

Friday 23 December 2011

Hollywood Holidays — 1949

Tralfaz note: This post features more old Christmas-themed columns by Hollywood reporter Bob Thomas of the Associated Press.

AP Movie Writer
HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 23—What Christmas do you remember most?
This is a sentimental question. Being sentimentalists, movie stars were quick to respond to it. Here are their answers to the AP Hollywood forum question of the day:
GLENN FORD—“It was in 1938 and I had just opened and closed on Broadway in a flop called ‘Soliloquy.’ I was broke, but too proud to write home for money. I walked down Fifth avenue on Christmas Eve, listened to the chimes and looked at the windows. I walked into an automat and treated myself to coffee and pie a la mode with the last 15 cents to my name. That was my Christmas feast.”
BRODERICK CRAWFORD—“I’ll never forget Christmas in Germany in 1944. We had nothing by K rations to eat and no Christmas cards to cheer us up. Fortunately, we found three quarts of brandy so we got happy before we started crying.”
GINGER ROGERS—“I was six years old. My grandmother tagged me and put me on the train for New York where I spent my first Christmas with my mother in several years. I remember I got a tea set and made everybody have tea with me.”
MONTGOMERY CLIFT—“I remember the year the tree burned down. My mother wanted white candles on the tree and my father wanted electric lights. Mother cited an instance when a tree had burned because of a short circuit, so she won out. The tree burned down, and all our presents with it.”
JACK CARSON—“I was eight years old and wanted an electric train. Four days before Christmas, I found it. So on Christmas day I gave perhaps the greatest performance of my career—trying to act surprised.
JANET LEIGH—“The first Christmas I saw snow with 1945. My parents invited me up to a winter lodge. I had my picture taken there, and Norma Shearer saw it and sent it to Hollywood. That was the start of my career.”
JOHN WAYNE—“The Christmas I got my bicycle. That was the year I found out about Santa Claus—but my folks didn't know about it. I wrote a letter to Santa that if I didn’t get a bicycle, I didn’t want anything. My folks had to take back all the things they bought and get me the bicycle.
DANA ANDREWS—“I was on location in Connecticut two years ago at Christmas. I took the family up to Vermont for a real northern holiday. I rented a house, got a horse and sleigh and stayed two and a half months. It was the first time I had seen it snow.”
Linda Darnell — “My favorite was last year, the first Christmas with my daughter, Lola.”
IRENE DUNNE—“I remember when I was nine and had the mumps. The whole Christmas was held around my bed and I got a doll and doll buggy. Believe it or not, I still believe in Santa Claus.”
JOSEPH COTTEN—“I guess my favorite was the year I got my wagon. My cousin had a goat and I let it be known that I wouldn’t be happy unless I got a wagon.”

Wayne Gets Top Rating For Christmas
Number Two On Box-Office List
HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 24.—(AP)—John Wayne isn’t looking for Santa Claus tonight; he already has his Christmas gift.
“Being nominated as number two on the boxoffice list is the best Christmas present I could get,” said the rangy star.
Wayne is philosophic about his success and attributes it to the fact that his films show “honest emotion.”
“The reason some pictures are so bad,” he declared, “is that the director or writer or actor is afraid to show sentiment. They’ll twist the plot around to avoid it. And they are wrong. The world loves sentiment.
“All my successful pictures were hits because they’re frankly sentimental. The women in the audience cried, and they loved it.
“There will be sentiment in my present picture, ‘Jet Pilot,’ too. I’ll play some scenes with a baby. People will be curious to see how a big bruiser handles a baby.”
Acting, he continued, doesn’t require any formal lessons. (Wayne received his dramatic training on the USC football team.)
“Of course, an actor has to acquire poise—either through dramatic schooling or by working in quickies. But lessons don’t make an actor.
“I’ve learned that what’s being said in a scene isn’t so important. It’s the reaction to what’s being said. The more natural the reaction, the better the actor. That’s why kids are so good on the screen—their reactions are completely natural.”
Without appearing so, Wayne is one of the smallest actors in the business. He is aware of his limitations and will not undertake anything that is over his depth. He is also not afraid of work.
“I have four pictures already lined up for next year, which means I’m not going to have any time off. But,” he added hastily, “I’m not complaining.”
Reflecting on his 20-year career in films, Wayne recalled that he was the screen’s first singing cowboy.
“I played a character who always sang when he got mad,” he recalled. “Soon the had me getting mad three times in every picture. That was too much. I’m not a singer, so I bowed out.”
A lad named Gene Autry inherited the job.


Merry Christmas To Kitty

Nothing exemplifies the benevolent spirit of the holiday season better than beating a cat senseless, decorating it with colourful lights, then plugging its limp tail into a electrical socket to illumine them. All this, while wine-swilling mice join together in a quiet chorus of Winston Sharples’ holiday classic “Christmas is Here.” Makes you feel warmer than rum and egg nog, doesn’t it?

Poor Katnip. All he wants is a turkey dinner and some presents from Santa but he gets wincing violence from trespassing mice.

The credits were ripped off “Mice Meeting You” (1950) when it was released for television decades ago, so the artists may be known only to those who have a compulsion to closely examine the 1950s product of Famous Studios.

Since Herman and Katnip seem to have been influenced by Tom and Jerry, it should be no surprise this gag was likely influenced by one in a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

This was animated by Ken Muse in the Oscar-winner “Quiet Please” (1945).

Thursday 22 December 2011

Hollywood Holidays — 1948

Tralfaz note: This post features more Christmas-themed columns by Hollywood reporter Bob Thomas of the Associated Press.
The first column is a bit humorous, considering Red Skelton treated his writers like crap. And Larry Parks needed some of that “courage” when he appeared before the odious, career-destroying U.S. House (so-called) Un-American Activities Committee in 1951. Read a bit about it

Stars Tell Santa Claus What to Bring Movieland
AP Movie Writer
HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 21—(AP)—What should Santa Claus bring Hollywood for Christmas ?
The question is not as dreamy as it might first seem. This is the season when the whole nation is making wishes about what gifts would be welcomed. And—if you would listen to its inhabitants—Hollywood’s needs are considerable.
So I have wheeled out the AP Hollywood Forum to ask stars what they think the movie town needs from Santa. Some of them were stumped for an answer. But most of them came up with the fast replies. Such as these—
Eddie Cantor: “A book on ‘How to Act in Public’.”
Shirley Temple: “The ability to continue to entertain people.”
Dennis O'Keefe: “That the good things Hollywood is doing—such as benefits hospital tours—would be as highly publicized as the few bad things.”
Ava Gardner: “Good Pictures.”
Anne Baxter: “A five-day week.”
Dinah Shore: “A good public relations director who could let the public know that Hollywood is a pretty sane place, despite a few notables who make headlines.”
Gail Russell: “Rain.”
Bob Hope: “Take away the smog—so we can look at the scenery again.”
June Allyson: “Lower Taxes.”
Esther Williams: “Peace and good will. And make everybody love everybody—then we’ll make better pictures.”
Red Skelton: “A little personal kindness. It will go a long way.”
John Payne: “A more sober realization of the immense influence of the picture business and the responsibilities thereby. And a little less concentration on the dollar end—because if you make good pictures, the money will come in anyway.”
Ellen Drew: “Prosperity.”
Jimmy Stewart: “A little man—maybe an elf—who will go around the country and tell, everybody that movies are swell and film people are really fine folks.”
Edward Arnold: “He could bring less toys and more good will.”
Dorothy Lamour: “Better public relations.”
George Raft: “More realism before and behind the camera.”
Larry Parks: “A great deal of honest courage.”
Judy Garland: “A white Christmas.”
• • •
And there we have a good cross-section of what movie stars are thinking about in this Christmas season of 1948. Many of them are concerned about what the rest of the nation thinks about Hollywood. Others are worried about quality of product and working conditions. And some merely wonder about the weather, as who doesn’t.

Christmas In Hollywood Starts Early
HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 23—(AP)—Listen closely, children, and you’ll hear how Christmas is celebrated in this strange land.
In Brazil, the children hang up their stockings and put out their shoes as well. In Sweden, the Christmas celebration lasts until Jan. 13. Hollywood too has its unusual customs,
Hollywood’s holiday starts in July when studio starlets pose in bathing suits or less before wintry scenes concocted on film stages, with scant regard to season, the curvy cuties hang their stockings in the summer heat—so their likenesses can appear in December magazines.
Christmas begins in earnest on the night before Thanksgiving. Hollywood boulevard is transformed by magic and $50,000 worth of lighted metal trees into Santa Claus lane. Hundreds of thousands of natives and tourists converge on filmtown’s main stem to watch radio and film stars slide past on floats.
The holiday season is declared open. Cautious early shoppers hasten to stores, which they find filled with others just as cautious. Stars mingle with script clerks at the counters as loudspeakers carol “Peace on Earth.”
A Pain to Some
To many stars, Christmas is a pain in the neck. Publicized as generous glamor creatures, they must live the part. They must be bountiful with their gifts, and overlook no one.
A star’s gift list runs into many hundreds. It must include everyone with whom he works from studio chauffeur to production boss. The gifts are according to rank, with the lower-paid workers getting money clips, pocket knives, etc. For the higher-ups, something like a gold cigarette case or a television set will do. Not all stars are so lavish, but many consider it inescapable.
Yes, it’s deductible in their income tax returns, but even so, they argue, it’s just another drain.
Film making is carried on during the morning before Christmas. Most companies do no shooting in the afternoon, possible because the nearness of holiday cheer makes some actors unphotogenic.
Usual Studio Parties
The afternoon of Christmas eve has been devoted to studio parties, but these will probably be scarce or lacking this year. Hollywood has less to celebrate than in previous years.
Christmas day in Hollywood is observed much the same as in any American home. Show business folks are a sentimental lot.
Those who are able see white Christmases in the east at Sun Valley or Lake Arrowhead. But to the native, a Hollywood Christmas can hold much charm.


Woody Plays Santa

Woody Woodpecker turns a moose into a reindeer and himself into a sleigh-riding Santa as he gets set to dupe Wally Walrus in "Ski For Two" (1944). The moose has a look of horror as he realises he’s going to slide face-first into a chimney on an icy roof. Woody, of course, doesn’t care. After all, he says, “I’m re-pulsive!”

Don Williams and Grim Natwick have the animation credits in this cartoon; Thad Komorowski points out Don did this scene. The best part of the cartoon isn’t the animation, which is pretty basic, but the camerawork. We see the approaching Swiss Chard Lodge from Woody’s perspective as he skis down the hill; the camera jigs to the right and left as it trucks in on the background drawing. And there’s another scene where the camera moves along with Wally’s hand as he grabs food to stuff himself.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Yuletide Bugs

Bugs Bunny tries to sell a Christmas tree at the last minute to Elmer and Filbert Fudd in this Sunday comic from December 24, 1961.

The comic strip Bugs took a bit of a different approach than the cartoons. Bugs seems to have had a variety of small businesses. Sylvester was a mooch who called everyone “Guv’nor” for some reason. Petunia Pig was a regular character, long after her film career ended. And new characters were invented, such as Filbert in this cartoon.

My knowledge of the comic strips is non-existent, but I believe Ralph Heimdahl drew this. The strips through part of the ‘40s actually bore the “signature” of Leon Schlesinger. About the only thing he could draw was Draw Poker.

Hollywood Holidays — 1946, 1947

Tralfaz note: Bob Thomas of the Associated Press was one of many wire service movie writers who put the tinsel in Tinseltown. We’ll be posting a number of his Christmas-themed columns until the 25th. For some reason, I cannot find a column dated Christmas Day for 1947.

The Peters story is full of hope, but her life remained sad with an unhappy, early end. See more HERE.


Can’t Walk, But Actress Enjoys Yule

HOLLYWOOD, Dec. 25—(AP)—It was a merry Christmas at Susan Peters’ today. The place rang with the laughter of children and the chuckles of grown folks. The fact that Susan cannot walk didn’t interfere with the fun.
Last night Susan and her husband, Richard Quine, entertained his family. Today was for her clan, the Carnahans. Their Beverly Hills apartment isn’t big enough to contain both groups, and besides—you know what happens when two-families of in-laws get together.
But both occasions were joyous even though the great dane, Butch, nosed into everything.
Two years ago New Year’s, Susan, a topflight MGM actress, was deprived of the use of her legs by a hunting accident. But after she pulled through it was apparent that no such handicap would hold her back. She had a variety of interests and activities that would exhaust a normal person.
She has done some magazine writing and performs on occasional dramatic radio shows. She and Dick adopted a child, Timmy. She has learned to drive a car by hand alone, and has even dabbled with flying. She often goes out to Birmingham Hospital where she and veteran Paraplegics bolster each other’s morale by discussing symptoms. And now she is getting ready for a return to the movies.
“Yes, the doctors say I will be able to make a picture soon,” she told me. Of course, I will have to arrange the schedule so it isn’t too tiring—perhaps work a five-day week. I’m terribly excited about it and a little bit frightened. It’s been so long.”
But her fear didn’t last long. Beautiful, long-haired Susan enthused as she described the part she has lined up “It’s a mean woman,” he explained, “and that’s the role I’d like to play. I couldn’t stand to play one of those starry-eyed, good little girls.”
Susan said she would like to do just one picture, or at the most, two or three and then quit and do radio work. “It would be hard to find roles for me—in my condition,” she said.
But what do you want to bet the movie public won’t let her quit? Her courage and pluck are gift enough for many people on this Christmas Day.


HOLLWOOD, Dec. 24.—(AP)— Santa Claus leaned back folded his hands across his fat belly and said, “I won’t be having any Christmas; I’ll be working, you know.”
“Yes, I’ve got two radio shows this week,” he continued, “and that will keep me busy. Radio takes a lot more preparation than you’d think.
“Besides, I have no family here and in the past years I’ve lived mostly in hotels. What relatives I have left are in England, and my home in London was blitzed in the war.”
This was Edmund Gwenn, the bald, 70-year-old Briton whose performance as St. Nick in “Miracle on 34th Street” captured the nation’s fancy. He was in his small dressing room in the Featured Players’ Bldg. at MGM, thumbing through his mail.
“I must say that the Post Office Department has been very good about it,” he said. “I’ve received many, many letters addressed merely, ‘Santa Claus, Hollywood.’”
Gwenn said the nature of the letters varied with the age of the sender. Adults complimented him on his performance, while youngsters actually think of him as Santa.
“There are so many requests,” he sighed, “that one man can’t take care of them all.”
The actor finds the mail cheering. He has had a tough time of it this year, being laid up for the first nine months by a serious operation. Only recently did he return to film work, in “Master Of Lassie.”
A cautious man, he doesn’t say that his Santa role is his favorite, even though it brought him his greatest fame. “I think it’s a mistake to select one’s favorite role,” he said. “I always figure that the role I’m doing at the moment is my favorite.”
The interview over, Gwenn showed me to the door and wished a Merry Christmas. “I’m afraid I haven’t been much help to you,” he said. “I live alone and I don’t go out much. I’m rather a humdrum person.”


Tuesday 20 December 2011

Crazy Mixed Up Dog Fight

Of the four cartoons Tex Avery made at the Lantz studio, ‘The Legend of Rockabye Point’ is my favourite. Other Tex fans make a case for ‘Crazy Mixed Up Pup’ the second Avery cartoon released by the studio. It’s okay, but a couple of things spoil it for me. The character design is downright ugly in places. The facial features tend to be small and not helped by the thicker ink line at Lantz. And the crazy flag gag starts to become predictable.

Tex went for wild drawings like his team at MGM gave him and the most successful in ‘Pup’ is probably the fight between Sam (acting like a dog, thanks to a transfusion of dog plasma) and his pet Rover (who is acting like a dog again; the effects of human plasma having temporarily worn off). There is a cycle of 12 drawings on ones. Take a look at them in order.

Avery only had a team of three credited animators—Don Patterson, La Verne Harding and Ray Abrams—at Lantz. Reader M. Yorston informs me the scene is by Abrams.

After Avery left the studio, Walter Lantz brought back Alex Lovy to direct. Lovy was handed all of Avery’s characters, and there weren’t many. There was Chilly Willy and his dog/polar bear antagonist, and there were Sam and Maggie. Lantz wanted continuing characters so he could see them in merchandise, so Lovy turned Sam and Maggie into a series. It limped along with three uninteresting cartoons. Sam and Maggie, like almost all of Avery’s characters after leaving Warners, existed solely to accommodate Avery’s gags, which were the real stars of his cartoons. Without Tex Avery, there was no need for a Maggie or Sam.

An Old Time Radio Christmas

How well do you know your Old Time Radio?

John Crosby, radio columnist of The New York Herald Tribune crafted this lovely Christmas poem for 1947, rhyming the names (as best he could) of the network stars. Yet there are probably names that may leave even the most diehard OTR fan wondering who he’s talking about.

Maybe you’ve heard of Pegeen Fitzgerald (and her husband Ed) on WOR New York. But “R. Schmohopper”? And Syd Eiges? (Jack Eigen, yes, but ... who?)

Read along and see how many of these radio personalities, industry bosses and sponsor products you recognise. And consider how many managed to make the jump to television not long after.

Critic Hard
Turns Bard
In Yule Card

Now Ivory! Now Lifebuoy! Now Lava and Veto!
On Toni! On Jergens! On Arrid and Rinso!
Away to the heavens! We’ve gifts to bestow
On Everyone in radio!

To all, good health and gifts galore!
We’ve nothing but hosannahs for
Ginny Simms and Dinah Shore,
The indestructible Barrymore,
All the clerks in The Village Store
And the FBI in Peace and War.
A great big bag of sponsored goodies
For Paley, Trammell, Kobak, Woodies.
Here’s a potent Christmas stogie
For Frankie, Perry, Andy, Hoagy.
A merry cap with all the felt on for
Eddie Cantor, Happy Felton,
Tiny Ruffner and Red Skelton,
Lassie, Hildegarde and Melton.

All the best, young Doc Malone! A
Little kiss for McElhone.
Hail to Candid Microphone and
How are you, Vic Damone!
Here’s a toast to put our heart in—
To Frances Langford, Tony Martin,
Lum ‘n’ Abner, Superman,
Dr. Christian, Charlie Chan,
The Thin, The Fat, The Answer Man.
To suffering Portia long, long life;
Same to you, Backstage Wife.
Lots of heartbreak, tears and strife.

Connubial bliss and all that’s merry
To the working wives—Portland, Mary.
Dorothy, Pegeen, Jinx McCrary.
Open a bottle, share a bird
With Jimmy Durante, Mortimer Snerd.
A handful of bellylaughs wild and hearty
For Allen and Benny and Charlie McCarthy.

A bottle of grog and long hay hay
for Duffy’s Tavern and Alice Faye,
For Gildersleeve and Dennis Day
For Kaltenborn and RCA,
For Breneman and Sammy Kaye
For Blanche and Moon and Dorothy Shay.
And while we’re running down the roster,
Don’t forget Judy Foster,
Louella Parsons, Hedda Hopper,
Jimmy Fidler, R. Schmohopper,
Groucho Marx, Nancy Craig,
Don Ameche, Vera Vague,
Walter Winchell, Jessica Tandy,
Studio One, Amos ‘n’ Andy,
Blondie, Bergen, both McGees,
Jolson, Information Please,
Parkyakarkus, Tommy Nix.
Arthur Godfrey, Georgie Hicks
George and Gracie, Meet the Press,
And the Right to Happiness.
Naturally we mustn’t rob—
The other Crosbys, Bing and Bob.
Here’s to this Your FBI
And David Harding—Counterspy.
A Christmas Carol round the organ
For Robin, Frank and Henry Morgan,
A very hearty Christmas wessel
To perennial guest star, Georgie Jessel.
And we’ll pin a Christmas star on
Lucky Strike if it keeps Jack Paar on.
Big hello to March and Sweeney;
A reverent bow to Toscanini,
Cheerfuller news and headlines sweeter
To Edward Murrow and Gabriel Heatter.
Swing, Leseuer, Sevareid;
Lowell Thomas, Margo McBride.

A football cheer, rackety rax!
For Barber, Stern, Stan Lomax.
A long and heartfelt Christmas rave
For Ozzie, Harriet, Ricky, Dave.
A hey nonny nonny, a la di di
For all vice-presidents of NBC.
A special bit of midnight erl
For Garry Moore and Milton Berle
Another sponsor for Billy Rose
A special garland for Bob Hope’s nose
A bit of holly for Abe Burrows,
And don’t forget the Leland Stowes.

Get moving, my lovelies. Away we go
To lay a little mistletoe
On Whiteman, Waring, Mark Warnow,
Carson, Gardiner, Vaughn Monroe,
Abbott and Cos-tell-o
We haven’t space and haven’t rhymes
For Kate and Sammy Smith, Dave Taylor,
Syd Eiges, Phil Harris,
Rochester, Joan and Jack Sullivan,
Pete and Mary Hayes,
Bob Saudek and Art Linkletter.
But we’d like to offer a small apology to Frank Sullivan,
Who does this every Christmas and does it much better.
Copyright, 1947, for the Tribune