Sunday 31 May 2015

Betsy Palmer

The last few months haven’t been good ones for fans of the old game show “I’ve Got A Secret.” Within the last six months, three of the ladies who graced the panel have passed away. First, it was Bess Myerson late last year, then Jayne Meadows a little over a month ago, and now Betsy Palmer has died.

Growing up in the ‘60s, it seemed to me that Betsy was one of those people who TV Guide classified as “television personalities.” It meant they made the rounds of game shows and talk shows. They appeared on TV as themselves. They never seemed to do any acting. That wasn’t really the case, but that was the impression I got.

Let’s pass on a couple of clippings from, arguably, Betsy’s heyday in the late ‘50s. Here’s a syndicated column from September 29, 1958. On “I’ve Got A Secret,” Betsy was always upbeat and in good humour. That apparently bothered some TV viewers.
Betsy Palmer Galled ‘Too Happy’

Betsy Palmer, TV’s answer to the old Happiness Boys of radio, is so cheerful that a few grouches have written to the “Today” show complaining that nobody has any right to be that happy so early in the morning. One disgruntled viewer even went so far as to suggest that what the “Today” show really needs to make it a smashing success is to dispense with Betsy and bring in some people who know how to snarl and act nasty. In that way, reasons the writer, people watching the show will feel right at home.
Betsy, who has to get up a half hour ahead of any normal rooster to get to the show on time, confesses she’s cheerful all day long. “I’M VERY LUCKY,” SHE TOLD ME.
“I’m married to a man who can get up at the same hour I do and be just as cheerful. He’s a doctor. Can you imagine what our married life would be like if either of us woke up grouchy the way so many other people seem to?”
Professionally, Betsy Palmer has every right to be cheerful. She’s probably the workingest actress on TV. In addition to her daily “Today” chores, she’s a regular panelist on “I’ve Got a Secret,” you’ll be seeing her in “The Time of Your Life,” on Oct. 9 (CBS-TV), she makes frequent appearances on such shows as Playhouse 90 and the U. S. Steel Hour, she’s slated for a guest shot on the new Garry Moore Show, and may be yanked off to Hollywood on a moment’s notice to play a leading role in the film version of “The Last Angry Man”.
“I’m also going to be seen in that Doris Day thing,” she added, referring to a picture now called “The Jane From Maine” (and Columbia Pictures ought to be ashamed of that title), formerly known as “Miss Casey Jones”, for which the entire “I’ve Got a Secret” panel filmed a sequence.
Though she’s almost letter per feet on lines, Betsy admits even she makes occasional fluffs. On her most recent U. S. Steel Hour appearance, she red-facedly confessed:
“The line was ‘I phoned the base.’ I improved it. It came out ‘I bored the face.’”
This syndicated column appeared in the Niagara Falls Gazette, November 1, 1959. I can’t find it bylined elsewhere on-line, and this version ends very abruptly; I suspect it was longer in other papers.
Betsy Palmer Thrilled At Role Opposite Muni
HOLLYWOOD — Ever since her appearance with Paul Muni in a short-lived play, titled “Home At Seven” [in November 1953], blonde, brown-eyed Betsy Palmer declares that Mr. Muni is not only one of her favorite actors, but one of her favorite human beings.
Thus, she was delighted when she was cast in Columbia’s Fred Kohlmar production, “The Last Angry Man,” film version of Gerald Green’s best-selling novel, in which Mr. Muni plays Sam Abelman, the dedicated Brooklyn slum doctor. As to producer Kohlmar and director Daniel Mann, Miss Palmer says, “I’m hoping that I’ll soon have another opportunity do work with them; they’re both simply wonderful.”
Married to Doctor
It was just so much more interesting for her to watch Mr. Muni playing the doctor because she herself is well indoctrinated in the medical life, its demands, penalties and rewards; in private life, she's the wife of Dr. Vincent Merindino, whom she met in New York on a blind date, and married after four months of courtship.
In “The Last Angry Man,” Miss Palmer plays the understanding young wife of David Wayne, top-billed with Mr. Muni as the television executive who hopes to put Dr. Abelman on the air as star of his own-life story. This is a straight dramatic role, and one of the many in the playing of which Betsy has been called upon to “just be herself.”
But that isn’t to say that she can’t play—and hasn’t played—many other types. Whether it be a misunderstood wife, a street girl, or a young mother, she delivers, with the talent to make the part convincing.
Laudatory Comment
“When Betsy’s around, things sparkle and look and sound good,” Dave Garroway once said of her. “She’s young, gentle, lovely—and a lady.”
Along with her weekly stint as panelist on “I’ve Got A Secret,” Miss Palmer can usually be found around the studio in any one of the networks, for she is one of the most sought-after young actresses the medium—Playhouse 90, U.S. Steel Hour and many others.
There are no secrets about this girl, who frequently amazes more devious colleagues with her frankness. “Why shouldn’t I admit my age?” says Betsy. “I’m 32. After all, if I’m too young, I might lose out on playing somebody’s mother.”
Jackie Gleason picked her to play the part of Kitty Duval in “The Time Of Your Life,” declaring, “I've watched her on a lot of shows. She’s a fine actress, with a quality that is intangible. She’s adorable; she has a niceness and a sweetness and a wholesomeness that really come across.”
‘Typical’ Girl
Miss Palmer is invariably referred to as “a typical American Girl,” even though she enjoys playing roles that are at variance with that label. Her childhood, she says, was a completely normal and happy one. She was born Patricia Betsy Hrunek — and that isn’t American at all; the name is Czech, and she is proud of her Slavic descent.
The place of her birth was East Chicago, Indiana. Her father was a chemist and her mother operated a successful business school. The youngster went to grade school in East Chicago and Roosevelt High. Then, for a time, planning to become a Girl Scout executive, she attended her mother’s institute of learning, the East Chicago Business College.
She wasn’t exactly a tomboy, but she was something of a cut-up, addicted to practical jokes. Hoping for more discipline, in the life of her ebullient young daughter, Mrs. Hrunek packed her off to DePaul University, where she became Queen of practically everything in the way of campus activities.
The first TV role I’ve found for her in the New York papers was on April 28, 1952 on WOR-TV’s “Broadway TV Theatre,” where she played Mary Dale in a mounting of “The Jazz Singer,” with Lionel Ames in the role made famous by Al Jolson. 1953 seems to have been her breakthrough year as she landed roles on the big network shows. Her credits: “Studio One,” “Sentence of Death” (supporting with James Dean, Aug. 17); “Danger”, “Death Is My Neighbor” (supporting with James Dean, Aug. 25); “Studio One, “Look Homeward Hayseed” (with Russell Nype, Sept. 7); “Armstrong Circle Theatre,” “A Story to Whisper” (with Leslie Nielsen, Sept. 15); “Studio One,” “Hound Dog Man” (supporting Jackie Cooper, Sept. 28).

This little piece from November 19, 1953 is the earliest story I can find about her (other than mentions in a gossip column linking her to a TV director). It appears Betsy was the original Vanna White.
Betsy Palmer Vetoed Martin and Lewis Job
Ever think you’d hear about a television actress turning down the lead in a Martin and Lewis picture? Neither did we until the charming and refreshingly sensible Betsy Palmer confided in us the other day. “I was afraid of being type-cast as a dumb blonde,” blond Betsy explained and proceeded to add that she’d also refused a long-term contract with Hal Wallis, partly because she didn’t want to get tied up for five years. Betsy owes her first major TV break to CBS producer William Dozier, who spotted her at a general audition and promptly gave her a good supporting role a few weeks later. The play was a Studio One production of “The River Garden,” last Spring. Betsy’s outstanding job was soon followed by consistently exciting work on other major dramatic shows, "and by late Summer Betsy was back on Studio One playing a lead. Betsy hastened to add, “I only got the role because Barbara Britton refused the part. I’ve also done commercial pictures and I was on ‘Wheel of Fortune’ where I was a poor man’s Roxanne. That's because I handed out less7 money on the daytime show than that girl R does on the nighttime ‘Break the Bank.’” We don’t think it’s a question of money, Betsy. After all; you can act!
I suppose the 1959 story sums up how many people think of Betsy Palmer today (her role in “Friday the 13th” notwithstanding), the friendly, somewhat bubbly girl-next-door. But my favourite interview with Betsy was a great and funny conversation she had with old comedy chronicler Kliph Nesteroff a few years ago. She’s still somewhat bubbly but isn’t quite the girl-next-door. Read it HERE. Find out if she’s got a secret.

Benny By Vilanch

Jack Benny touched many lives, and the proof was in the seemingly countless eulogies in newspapers across North America after his death in 1974. It seemed everyone had some kind of personal story, either from meeting Jack or through his weekly appearances in living rooms via a box with tubes and dials.

One remembrance was written by Bruce Vilanch. He’s known today for a number of things, including gag writing for the Oscar telecast, but at the time of Benny’s death, he was a writer for the Chicago Tribune. That’s where this story appeared on December 31, 1974.

Remembering a 'tightwad' who enriched our lives
ONE OF THE EARLIEST television memories among members of my generation is the vision of Jack Benny.
Just standing there, one arm across the chest, the hand clutching the opposite elbow, the fingers placed pensively on the cheek, looking for all the world like somebody who has just had his foot run over by a Prussian regiment that he just found leaving his bathroom.
Eternally perplexed, forever befuddled, Benny mastered the art of letting everything go on around him and only then making you laugh by his reaction. He was the king of the slow burn, the absolute ruler of the throwaway line or ges- ture. He was funnier standing still than any 10 comics on the hoof.
UNLIKE MOST other people who are writing about him now, I never really knew Benny. I interviewed him once-in the middle of a Mill Run engagement that had him more perplexed than usual because he was working on a stage that wouldn't stop twirling, and it kept distracting him. At the time, he was chuckling over an offer he had just received from David Merrick.
"He wants me to play 'Hello, Dolly!' in drag," Benny said, with a half-ironic smile on his face. After we had finished laughing, he quietly added, "Of course, I'll do it ... but only if he lets George Burns play Horace."
The Benny-Burns practical joking was one of the longest-running merry pranks in show business and, toward the end, when Benny was making most of his impact on talk shows, it had achieved legendary proportions.
My own favorite story was the one about Benny and Burns at a big party. Benny was standing silently in a corner of the room, just about to light up a cigar. Suddenly, from across the room, Burns called out In a loud voice, "Stop! Everybody stop! Jack Benny is going to do the match bit!"
OF COURSE, there was no match bit. Benny just stood there, holding the lighted match and the cigar, as 100 Hollywood eyes bore down upon him, waiting to be doubled over by his trick.
"So what could I do?," he later related, "I just turned on my heel and walked out of the room."
The crowd roared.
Of course, there was much more to Jack Benny than his slow burns or his George Burns. He knew timing like no one else, he knew story-telling like no one else, he knew silence like no one else. He was as funny without words, sometimes even without gestures, as anyone ever has been.
More than that, tho, he knew how to make fun of himself in a way that few performers ever figure out.
LIKE LIBERACE, who anticipates the audience's mild outrage at his manners and dress and, therefore, comes on in the brightest sequins imaginable, with a joke to match, Benny understood his myth and wasn't abashed by it.
They said he was a tightwad, and he joked about it, but outrageously. I'll never forget one of his early television shows, where he had to get the money out of the vault in order to repair the Maxwell which, after 135 years of service, had finally broken down.
"Just a minute," he said to Rochester, "I'll be right back." And he then led us on a half-hour descent to the sub-sub basement of his home where, in order to reach the money, he had to cross a moat filed with alligators, an elaborate booby-trapping system, and finally a 200-year-old man, covered with cobwebs, standing poised next to the vault, a bow and arrow at the ready.
You don't run across this sort of self-placed humor any more. Maybe it's because comedians today aren't as self-defined as Benny, or maybe it's because, in the new age of fear and loathing, no one intentionally sets himself up as a fool.
Whatever the reasons, we won't be seeing anything like Jack Benny ever again-they don't make 'em that brave anymore.
HOLDUP MAN-Your money or your life!
HOLDUP MAN-I said your money or your life!
BENNY-[a shout] I'm thinking it over!
Oh, Rochester. Get him his blue suit.

Saturday 30 May 2015

Woody in Vietnam

Gracie Lantz has always reminded me of an older neighbour down the street who would give cookies and hot chocolate to the local kids if they dropped over to see her. She and her husband Walter have always come across as nice people. So it’s pleasing to read they took the time to go overseas to meet with troops engaged in the Vietnam War.

Here’s an Associated Press story from January 18, 1970.

Woody Woodpecker Hit With Wounded GIs

HOLLYWOOD (AP) — Woody Woodpecker, a brash bird with a tassel top and a raucous cackle, scored a triumph with 5,600 GIs wounded in Vietnam.
Woody's creator, Walter Lantz, and Walter's wife Gracie, Woody's voice, have returned from visiting military hospitals in the Far East.
Woody Real Star
The Lantzes aside, Woody was the star. Lantz made 3,500 Woody Woodpecker sketches for patients — about 250 of them on plaster casts — and Gracie did the voice "thousands of times." Said Lantz: "It's the most gratifying thing we've ever done."
This was one of the USO's "handshake tours" to brighten hospital life for the wounded. Gypsy Rose Lee, Leif Erickson, Sebastian Cabot and others preceded the Lantzes.
Vet Performers
The Lantzes, who claim a combined century in show business, are one of Hollywood's liveliest couples. The craggy-faced, raspy-voiced Walter, now in his 28th year of producing Woody Woodpecker animated cartoons, is 69. The warm-hearted, outgoing former Grace Stafford, actress and onetime vaudevillian, is 66.
"Hi, fellas," Walter would say, entering a hospital ward on the trip. "I'm Walter Lantz. This is Gracie, my wife, the voice of Woody Woodpecker, We're here from Hollywood just to shake your hands and let you know we're thinking about you."
Record Laugh
The patients asked about cartoon-making, joked with the stars and requested endless repetitions of Woody's cackle.
Some patients tape-recorded the bird's laugh, and one said he'd blast it back at 4 a.m. "to shake up the doctors."
In 31 days the Lantzes traveled 20,000 miles and visited hospitals in Japan, Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines and Guam.

One of the nicest legacies the Lantzes could have left (Grace died in 1992, Walter in 1994) was to bequeath mounds of production material and film to the UCLA Film and Television Archive, where fans can study the Lantz cartoons (ah, if only it was on-line for those of us nowhere near Los Angeles). And the Walter Lantz Foundation is still around providing sizeable grants to advance the art of animation. Walter and Gracie are still doing good today.

Friday 29 May 2015

The Eyes of Bleep

Colonel Bleep cartoons are more a curiosity than anything. The narration is strictly for kids and not very amusing. The interesting thing is watching how the people at the Soundac studio in Miami handled extreme limited animation. Some of the movement is pretty creative.

Here’s where the Colonel winks his eyes. The camera moves in. He closes his eyes and when he opens them again, a spaceship in distress appears in them.

The Colonel, Squeak and Scratch were first syndicated in mid-1957, pre-dating Ruff and Reddy in the made-for-TV-cartoon calendar of milestones.

Thursday 28 May 2015

Foney Fables Backgrounds

Background artists weren’t credited for far too long on Warner Bros. cartoons. One was the never-credited Lenard Kester who spent some time in the Friz Freleng unit in the early ‘40s and painted these scenes for “Foney Fables” (1942). The bag in the third frame is on an overlay.

Mike Maltese wrote the cartoon and may be responsible for the mock-Cockney ‘Agsb’ry signs.

Owen Fitzgerald was Friz’ layout man when this cartoon was made.

Frank Graham is the narrator, by the way. I haven’t checked to see if this was his first Warners’ cartoon.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

The Golden Age of Smut is On The Air

Oh, the smut and filth pouring out of the radio into the family living room in 1948!

What’s that, you say? You’ve heard lots of old-time radio and it’s all squeaky clean? Yes, that’s my opinion, too. Especially considering network censors went to ridiculous levels to blue-pencil dialogue (Jack Benny’s writer Milt Josefsberg recalled how someone at CBS tried to delete a scene containing a limerick merely on the basis that “all limericks are dirty”—even though the language was gibberish). But it appears there are people in every generation who get offended over the innocuous, and such was the case in 1948.

Here’s a piece from the Chicago Tribune’s radio columnist published January 4, 1948. See what you think of the findings.

150 Schools Join R.A.P. Poll

Many of the student critics who participate in the so- called radio poll took their ballot sheets home with them and kept right on rating comedians during their holiday interlude. A group of students from St. Joseph's of Indiana, where the voting from all over the country in tabulated, from Rosary, Mundelein, Mount Mary, and Chicago Teachers college interrupted their dance last Sunday evening at the Morrison hotel to check the Fred Allen show.
The R.A.P. has grown into a big organization. More than 1,500 students on more than 150 campuses--Catholic, Protestant, non-denominational and state institutions among them--each week rate about a score of comedy shows for acceptability. More schools are being added almost every week and some 200 colleges will be involved in the operation within a couple of months, it's expected.
Seeks To Ban Smut
The R.A.P. grew out of an idea of Marilyn Malone, 18, of 8117 S. Marshfield av. a student of Marycrest college, Davenport, Ia. Miss Malone, youthful listener, had encountered offensive material on comedy shows. She thought college students might do something to get rid of smut on the air if enough students would help out in checking the major comedy shows each week. She told her friends about her plan and got an enthusiastic response from every direction.
St. Joseph's offered to do the tabulating. A group of its students sacrificed part of their holiday recesses to keep the poll machinery going. Many Catholic schools joined the R.A.P. and then the leaders of the movement set out to enroll Protestant, private and state colleges so that the result might be as representative as possible. Students may give only a day to listening or as much 20 half hours a week. After a week of listening others are recruited. Thus different students' reactions are clocked week by week.
Fibber Is First
After nine weeks of listening the R.A.P. has issued a cumulative or composite rating. Fibber McGee and Molly with an average of 78 per cent were first. Theirs was the only show winning the accolade of "highly acceptable." Henry Morgan is second with 71.5.
Then in order came: Burns and Allen, 65.3; Jimmy Durante, 65; Jack Benny, 64; Charlie McCarthy, Baby Snooks and Red Skelton, tied at 63; Fred Allen, 61.5; Duffy's Tavern, 56; Jack Carson, Bandwagon with Phil Harris and Alice Faye, Eddie Cantor, 53.5; Milton Berle, 47; Abbott and Costello, 42.5; Jack Paar, 39; It Pays to be Ignorant, 32.5; Jim Backus, 31.5; Bob Hope, 31.
Poll Still Growing
The poll is still being expanded and other shows being added. Joan Davis, Judy Canova, Amos and Andy are among the group that has not been evaluated to date. All the above have fallen within "the acceptable" classification altho some gags have been rated as unacceptable.
Supporting players on shows are rated, too. Phil Harris gets the lowest rating of any one on the Benny show and his wife, Alice Faye, by 18 points on their Bandwagon show. Bob Hope's guests rate higher than he does Vera Vague invariably is given low ratings but Lulu McConnell does still worse. Many of the ballot sheets include comment such as: "Lulu McConnell is rough and vulgar; she's given to double meaning jokes." Jim Backus also is down for "off color remarks jokes that could easily confuse adolescents."
While the networks have made real progress in the last year or two in keeping offensive material off the air, complaints do come in regularly to this department that smut comes out of the loudspeaker (Often it isn't in the script but is ad-libbed). If this movement helps to keep violators of good taste out of the family circle all broadcasters will cheer self-appointed critics from the campus.

Apparently this would-be nanny group had a problem with women wanting a man. That’s what the Vera Vague character was based on. Barbara Jo Allen’s dialogue had nothing to do with 50 shades of grey or male sex organs. At best maybe she wanted to get smooched, at most married (horrors!). But, like Lulu McConnell, she was noisy about it. How unlady-like, the prudes apparently felt. The Backus reference is just downright puzzling. At the time, he was best known for playing the upper crust Hubert Updike the 3rd. His jokes generally revolved about his insane amount of wealth. And I can only imagine Morgan’s reaction to being highly-ranked by self-appointed censors.

Tastes today have changed, but offendees remain. If the Benny show were broadcast today, I suspect someone would get upset at the stream of fat jokes directed at Don Wilson. And I won’t even go into Amos ‘n’ Andy.

For some reason, none of the self-appointed lobbyists over the years have ever proposed the following solution—shut off the radio or TV if you don’t like what’s on the air. If there’s not a big enough audience, it’ll be taken off the air. But that would eliminate their raison d’ĂȘtre—to force their will on others on what to think and do.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Busted Blossoms

“Busted Blossoms,” a 1934 Terrytoon, has some nice Oriental settings and an imaginative little gag when the boy sings to the girl in the balcony.

The lyrics coming out of their mouths form into little pictographs until they morph together into forming a ladder which the boy climbs to greet the girl. The lyrics include: “Chinese girl is nuts for you. She much like to mally (marry) you. My old man he sleeps, let’s run away.”

The title is a play on the silent classic “Broken Blossoms,” where an abused girl dies, her tormentor is killed by her Chinese boy-friend, who then commits suicide. The cartoon is a little happier than that.

Monday 25 May 2015

Number Ple-ase

Did Tex Avery have problems sleeping? He produced several topics built on the premise of sleep vs noise; an early one being “Doggone Tired” (released in 1949). Avery and writers Dick Hogan and Jack Cosgriff combine it with another Avery obsession—hunting. In this case, a Louie Schmitt-designed rabbit tries to keep Speedy the hunting dog awake all night and thus too tired to go rabbit hunting in the morning. Avery, Hogan and Cosgriff give us a string of gags.

One is the rabbit putting a phone to the sleeping dog’s ear. An operator (Sara Berner) spews out a litany of standard operator lines (“Number, ple-ase,” “They do not answer,” “Your three minutes are up,” etc.) until the dog strangles the phone receiver, killing the operator. I love the little expression with the dog’s rolling up to look at the receiver.

Kids reading this post on your smartphone, note: until the 1950s, every single time you wanted to use your phone, you had to go through an operator. Can you imagine that today?

Bobe Cannon was in the Avery unit at the time this cartoon was made, along with Walt Clinton, Grant Simmons and Mike Lah.

Sunday 24 May 2015

A Soldier and a Star

The U.S government used all the weapons in its arsenal to raise money for bonds during World War Two. Including tears.

Here’s the heart-tugging text from a box ad for War Bonds. It appeared in the New York Sun of September 9, 1943 and the space was provided courtesy of I.J. Fox, “America’s Largest Furrier.” It shows the generosity of Jack Benny.


Famous Daily News Columnist
The game we played has ended, and the boy in the last bed of a ward at Halloran Hospital has died . . . We met one night I’d taken a show out there, and after the main show, we’d gone through the wards to let the badly hurt kids meet Jack Benny, the Andrews Sisters, Pat Henning, Jimmy Durante, Block and Sully, Avis Andrews.
We were just about to leave this particular ward when over in a corner bed, something stirred, and the something was a boy . . . So I went over and talked to this boy, and he looked at me uncertainly through hot and fevered eyes . . . "Would you like to meet Jack Benny?" I asked him, and then, he grinned and whispered: “Stop your kidding” . . . So I got Jack from another ward, and so strong is training that the badly-wounded boy asked me if his hair was combed right . . . “Want to look my best when Mister Benny comes in,” he explained weakly . . . Benny was as nice as he could be to him, and the boy's appreciation glistened in his eyes . . . His name on the chart at the foot of the bed was Arthur Ford, from a little town in Georgia.
“We’re going to be back here with another show in a couple of weeks,” I told him . . . “Maybe I won't be here,” the boy whispered. “I don't feel too hot, Mister. They got me right through the stomach” . . . So I pretended to bawl him out, and told him he’d BETTER be there when we came back to the ward in two weeks, figuring that if he had some definite date to look forward to, it would keep him holding on to life . . . We shook hands on it.
All that night, I couldn’t get the boy’s face out of my mind, so early the next morning, I called Father Bellamy, out at Halloran . . . He checked with the doctors . . . “Ford had the best night’s sleep he’d ever had. Meeting Jack Benny was the finest medicine the doctor could prescribe” . . . The rest of that day, I walked on air.
Each succeeding telephone call confirmed the optimistic news . . . Ford was holding his own, Ford was a little better . . . Each day, the chaplain and the Red Cross women made it a point to stop at his bedside over in the corner and remind him of his date with us . . . And with a definite date to focus on, and to live for, Ford had a calendar which helped him to keep on living, or so I prefer to think . . . And then, after keeping that date, the worn boy died one night, very peacefully.
Whether or not his folks, down in Milledgeville, Ga., ever learned from him that in the last month he had played a game that brought to his bedside people who were rooting for him. I don’t know . . . But they should know of it, because it will bring some measure of consolation to them to learn that this was so . . . In his last struggle, they should know that their son, or brother, was not a small town Georgia boy alone in a big city of Yankees . . . He was with people who regarded him as one of their own, and when he died, in the North, of wounds received while landing on a faraway shore, we regretted it bitterly, while acknowledging that the wearied and wounded boy finally had found the one opiate to ease his pain.
Because of Arthur Ford, who died at Halloran Hospital, I’m going to buy as many War Bonds as I can in this Third War Loan Drive . . . As he whispered to us that night in the dimmed ward, the Germans got him right through the stomach . . . I figured that if young Ford could sacrifice his life for me, and for you, the least we can do is to buy bonds, which pay interest . . . He and other boys like him took the worst of it, to give us the best of it . . . He did it the hard way—buying bonds is the easy way.

Sullivan was employed by a rival New York City newspaper, hence the Sun only dubbed him “famous daily news columnist.”

Benny not only did broadcasts from military compounds in the U.S. during the war, he also toured overseas. He toured Korea during the war there. Daughter Joan Benny relates in her book that she discovered her father kept detailed notes about many of the soldiers he met and took the trouble to contact their families once he returned to America.

That might have done as much to help the war effort than any bond could.

Saturday 23 May 2015

Silent Cartoonist Wallace Carlson

Newspaper cartoonists must have looked at the fame of the New York Journal’s Winsor McCay and the success of his animated cartoons of the pre-World War One era and thought “Hey, I can make some money on the side that way, too.” A host of newspapermen got into the animation business. Most were pushed out after sound films arrived in the late ‘20s.

One of them was Wallace Carlson. He came up with original characters—Dreamy Dud (see frame to the right), Otto Luck, Goodrich Dirt—and supplanted in the public consciousness in the 1920s by Felix the Cat and Koko the Clown. He slashed out a 1000-foot cartoon every few weeks for Essenay before leaving in 1917 to work on the Paramount-Bray Pictographs.

New York City was the centre of professional animated cartooning at the time, but he decided to forsake it and return to Chicago. There, he opened a studio. His obit in the Chicago Tribune of May 10, 1967 reveals he was producing “features for the movies.” It’s unclear how long the venture lasted. But it seems Carlson was content to go stick with newspaper cartooning.

Here’s a biography published in the Trib on December 24, 1951, long after his animation days had ended.

Cartoon Career Began When He Was 12

Wally Carlson, who draws Mostly Malarky for The Tribune, has been a professional cartoonist for 42 years, but that doesn't mean that he was around for the Fort Dearborn massacre. It's simply that he began when he was 12.
It takes a lot of insight into human nature—both the saint and sinner parts of it—to keep pouring out cartoons that reflect human foibles as consistently and funnily as do Carlson's; but in 42 years Carlson has done a lot of observing of his fellow human "critters."
The cartoonist is 54 and he was born in St. Louis. His mama was Danish and his papa was Swedish, so it seems a sure bet that he was born in Minnesota. He insists, however, that this is not so.
Baseball Cartoons First
Carlson was 8 when he breezed into Chicago and he got into the newspaper business four years later—the delivering end; but at the same time he began drawing baseball cartoons. A cigar store owner bought them for 50 cents each and hung them in the window.
By the time he was 14, he'd finished with such picayunish tasks and was selling his sports cartoons to the old Chicago Inter-Ocean. But he was a fast moving youngster, and he soon was assigned to do a daily sports drawing. Sometimes, too, he did front page political cartoons.
Thus, at an age when most youngsters are thinking about how to get any kind of a job. Carlson was page one in a metropolitan city. He also was quite a celebrity around Lane Technical High school, but it wasn't enough. So he took a whirl at vaudeville doing "chalk talks" for the customers.
Breaks Into Films
Carlson was 17 when the Inter-Ocean was sold. He bounced briefly over to the old Chicago Herald, then decided that the animated cartoons of the movies were a good field. He was a pioneer at this type of drawing and did the writing for them as well. He was only 19 when he became the star animator at the famous old Essanay in Chicago.
The studios then had such folks as Lewis Stone, Francis X. Bushman, Charlie Chaplin, Ben Turpin, Gloria Swanson, and Wallace Beery on the payroll—names all well known to an older generation of moviegoers. They inspired Carlson to do a "bit" role in a movie.
The young man swore off after seeing himself, altho he still is a good looking gent with wavy hair. He went back to the animated cartoons. He explains that he got the idea for the animation when he was in school. It seems that he drew small skeletons on the corners of the pages in his books. When he flipped the pages, the figures "moved."
Starts Studio In Chicago
At 21 Carlson was in New York City with his animated cartoons—full length features which captivated audiences. By 1929—when he was 33—he had formed his own studios in Chicago.
Carlson's brother, Carl, was a partner in the firm, and it employed some pretty famous personnel. Included were George Clark, Bill Holman, Harold Gray, and some others who still work at the trade in Hollywood. Clark now draws The Neighbors; Holman draws Smokey Stover and Nuts and Jolts, and Gray draws Orphan Annie. All are in The Tribune.
Carlson followed his employes into the fold of The Chicago Tribune-New York News syndicate and his Malarky is read wherever newspapers are published thruout the nation.
Malarky Has Companions
The cartoonist uses many other characters besides Malarky in his work. Sometimes he uses a strip of several drawings and at other times a single panel. All are peopled by such delightful folk as Mazie and Daisy, Weatherby, and the Malarky wife and son.
The creator of Malarky does his work in a small studio in a Michigan av. office building. His studio windows overlook Lake Michigan, and the long, long view helps rest his eyes after long hours at the drawing board.
Carlson loves to fish and hunt. He is in much demand at public functions as an amateur magician and story teller, and his dialects are versatile and funny. He lives in Chicago and is happily married to a southern girl, the former Patricia Edenton. He has a son, Richard, 25, by a previous marriage.
Would Carlson advise aspiring young cartoonists to take art or drawing lessons?
Well, he points out wryly, he sever had a lesson in his life; but he'd be glad to take one right now—if he had time!
Note: Carlson absolutely refuses to tell which of the two cleaning women is Mazie. The other, he points out, is Daisy.

If you want to know a bit more about Carlson’s animation career, Donald Crafton’s Before Mickey is always a good reference book. And you can drop by Tom Stathes’ site “The Bray Animation Project” and read some more here.

Friday 22 May 2015

The Beach Nut

Some outlines as Wally Walrus reaches to grab Woody Woodpecker in “The Beach Nut” (1944). Outlines like these were common in Woody cartoons for a few years. So was the perspective animation of something swooshing toward and past the camera.

Some perspective drawings as Wally pulls Woody back. These are animated on twos.

Dick Lundy and Les Kline are the only credited animators. I wondered whether the drawing below was Don Williams’ but someone will know.