Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Jack Mather

Researchers have to be careful in making assumptions. There’s an awful lot of sloppy research when it comes to classic cartoons. Some people simply go on the internet and make guesses, and treat them as indisputable truth. If they do any research, they simply go on the internet and read other people’s guesses and accept them as fact. All you need is one person with screwy information and it can be perpetuated on the web forever. Or in the popular press, in the case of all those stories claiming the late Dick Beals was the voice of Gumby.

Here’s a good example of where one has to do their research. Jack Mather was a radio actor and on a growing list of people who provided voices in animated cartoons without any credit at the time, mainly at the Walter Lantz studio. In trying to do some biographical work on him, I went through census information and a number of newspaper stories on radio and started compiling information. But, after awhile, something didn’t add up. It took a little more digging before I realised what the situation was. There were TWO Jack Mathers who acted in the 1940s on radio, one from Canada and the other from the U.S. And the Canadian one ended up in the Los Angeles where, of course, the American one had been living and working.

With rare exception, Mel Blanc was the only voice actor getting any on-screen credit for cartoon work in the ‘40s. Newspapers and trade papers are a little more forthcoming about others. But all I can find about Mather’s animation career is this squib from February 11, 1945.
Jack Mather of the Bob Hope radio show, is the narrator for George Pal’s latest Puppetoon for Paramount release titled “Hat Full of Dreams.” Technicolor short introduces a new Pal character “Punchy A. Judy.”
Mather was on Bob Hope? That may be news to fans of old-time radio. Supporting players, especially in comedy and comedy/variety formats, almost never got credit at the end of a broadcast, even the ones most in demand. Old Time Radio encyclopedias written years ago and fan-generated OTR web sites are woefully incomplete. Mather is known for the starring role in the ‘The Cisco Kid’ but he had other radio work as well. Here’s a story from the San Antonio Express of March 12, 1943 that gives a little bit on Mather’s history, probably from a network bio.
Jack Mather passed a new milestone in a varied career when he joined the “Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou” show as an announcer. In his time as an actor, a race driver, pro footballer, poet, etc., this is his first assignment as a sponsor’s spieler. Born on a farm near Chicago 30-odd years ago, he has always wanted to own one himself and raise blooded Angus cattle. At 12 he ran away from home and joined a circus to earn the money. The next few years saw him all over the country as an auto race driver then as a pro football player, wrestler and construction worker. He donned white collar briefly to become a junior trader on the Chicago Stock Exchange, and, somewhere in between all these activities, he joined the staff of a Chicago radio station as half of a music team, singing ballads to his partner’s piano accompaniment. In 1929 he joined N.B.C. in Chicago and moved to Hollywood in 1934. Besides maintaining a heavy radio and movie schedule, Jack is a member of the Sherman Oaks auxiliary police and is a Government farm employe. Mather also finds time to pursue his hobbies, painting and writing. He has had several poems and plays published.
At the time, “Tommy Riggs and Betty Lou” had a supporting cast of people who also found their way into animation—Mel Blanc, Bea Benaderet, Wally Maher (the voice of Screwy Squirrel at MGM) and Verna Felton. Broadcasting magazine of November 16, 1942 reported he had replaced Frank Graham as the announcer(Graham voiced cartoons at Columbia, Warners, MGM and Disney). A newspaper story two months later mentions Mather was in the cast of Groucho Marx’ “Blue Ribbon Town.”

John E. Mather was born on September 21, 1907 to John A. and Ella Mather. He was the third of seven children. After he started in radio, he married Rosalie Encell of Oak Park, Illinois, who had been a student at the Goodman Theatre of the Chicago Art Institute and was in a singing trio with her sisters. Despite the story above, a local newspaper clipping still has him at NBC in Chicago at Christmas-time 1935. In fact, Billboard of December 7, 1935 reveals he left in mid-programme one afternoon, went to a hospital by taxi to donate a quart of blood, then returned to the studio to finish the show. Varietyhas conflicting information in 1936-37 about his air work; in September 1936, a John Mather was in the cast of Irvin S. Cobb’s “Paducah Plantation” radio show for Oldsmobile which originated on the West Coast (the publication still has him in Chicago on “Little Orphan Annie” the following January).

The family eventually settled in Northridge, California, where Mather was made the honorary mayor, a title bestowed by various communities outside Los Angeles on celebrities (Andy Devine was honorary mayor of Van Nuys, for example). A story in the Van Nuys News of September 13, 1948 tells that Rosalie worked on radio as well on “First Nighter,” “Grand Hotel,” “Myrt and Marge” and “Welcome Valley.” Mather was in the cast of the Charlotte Greenwood summer show in 1943 but the most interesting thing about him was the revelation in several trade papers that he was a government milker during the war, working seven days a week from 5 to 9 a.m. at a Los Angeles Dairy (Broadcasting, Nov. 23, 1942.

In February 1946, Mather became Cisco when the show was revived and produced at the Mutual-Don Lee studios at KHJ for airing on the West Coast. The show was owned by Frederick Ziv Transcriptions, which decided in September 1949 to move it into television. Mather was up for the television role, but the syndicator decided to go with Duncan Renaldo, who had been playing the character in the movie serials. Mather carried on in the twice-weekly radio broadcasts, which seem to have petered out in Los Angeles and Chicago by February 1956. He played some bit roles in television but never starred again. Mather died on August 16, 1966.
J. E. Mather, ‘Cisco Kid,’ Dies at 58
WAUCONDA, Ill. (AP)—John E. (Jack) Mather, 58, known to millions for his starring role in the radio show, “The Cisco Kid,” died Tuesday in this Chicago suburb of a heart attack, it was learned Saturday.
His body was cremated in accordance with his wishes the he died and the ashes were sprinkled near Libertyville, Ill. where he grew up.
Mather was a master of 21 dialects, but he was most famous for the Mexican accent he developed for the Cisco Kid, which ran from 1947 to 1959.
Mather started as half of a musical team on a Chicago radio program. He then moved to Hollywood, where he had roles in numerous films, among them “The Bravadoes”, “This Earth Is Mine”, “Jungle Book”, and “Some Like It Hot”.
He also performed on television in episodes of “Bonanza,” “Dragnet,” “Death Valley Days” and “M Squad.”
Mather’s son, Greg, a former football star for the Navy Academy, won All-America honors in 1960 and 1962.
Mather is also survived by his wife, Rosalie, and another son Robert, who manages a cattle ranch in Clear Lakes, Calif.
Mather and his wife were staying with friends at Wauconda when he died.
One show Mather didn’t appear on was ‘Howdy Doody.’ That was the Canadian Jack Mather, appearing on the Canadian version of the show. Don’t let phoney internet research tell you otherwise.

A late P.S.: Variety not only mentioned the Pal squib above but also made someone other references to his cartoon work, as follows:
Walter Lantz has signed Jack Mather as the voice of Wally Walrus, new cartoon character to make debut in 'Beach Nut,' (November 24th, 1943).
And over at Walt Lantz cartoonery, Hans Conreid and Jack Mather will speak for "Woody Woodpecker." (May 3, 1944).
George Pal yesterday signed Jack Mather, screen and radio thespian of many voices, to perform trick vocals for one of the series of Technicolor industrial shorts now in production for Shell Oil Co. (April 7, 1947).

1 comment:

  1. I knew Robert Mather, AKA Jack, in Clearlake. A hilarious raconteur, he was the life of any party. My favorite story of his involved his backing his dads' big sedan, a Packard, if memory serves, out of the garage, one morning. It's open door hooked the upright post that held up the building and pulled the entire structure down on top of the car. Oops!