Wednesday 30 November 2016

The Not-So-Crazy Frank Fontaine

“I can’t look at him,” Jack Benny confided in an ad-lib to his radio audience, as he, and they, broke up over the routine of Frank Fontaine. If you know him at all, it’s for his appearances on the Joe the Bartender segment of The Jackie Gleason Show as Crazy Guggenheim.

Crazy was just another name for a character Fontaine did in nightclubs in the late ‘40s. He played an off-kilter sweepstakes ticket winner called John L.C. Sivoney. He brought the character to the Jack Benny radio show for a few appearances and audiences laughed themselves, um, crazy at his ridiculous monologues that were punctuated by a loud, laughing wheeze. That catapulted him into fame.

Fontaine’s home life could have been crazy. He eventually had 11 children. But the way the Boston Globe told it in a feature story published on December 13, 1953, things off stage for Fontaine were very orderly and he was in complete control of his career as well. Incidentally, you can read more about Frank Fontaine in this post.

TV Star Frank Fontaine Sticks Close to His Family of 9

Frank Fontaine, the 33-year-old TV, radio and movie comedian whose livelihood depends on his ability to make people double up with laughter, is quite ready to tell anyone who wants to listen one thing that isn’t a joke.
That, says Frank, is raising a large family, a subject on which he and his wife, who has just given birth to their ninth child, are experts.
* * *
“Having nine kids may seem funny to other people,” says the creator of the muddle-headed John L.C. Sovoneeeyy, whose grimaces and buffoonery send thousands of people into gales of laughter, “but it isn’t funny to us. It’s a job.”
It’s a job, as a matter of fact, that Frank takes with a deadly seriousness that would startle his fans. “It just happened that way,” he said. “I didn’t intend to have 1000 kids. It’s not hard to have nine children. That’s not a big thing. But when all the kids grow up and are fine citizens, have good educations, and are married to nine people, then I have done something in life. That’s when I want to take my bows.”
In order to insure that his kids will grow up the way he wants them to, Frank Fontaine has turned his back on countless enticements of the entertainment work and settled for a moderate professional pace that gives him plenty of time to be with his family.
* * *
“I can’t have nine children and bring them up properly if I’m in Chicago, New York or California and away from them all the time,” he says. “A father really has to be there. It’s really fair to my wife or the kids if I’m not at home, so I mix my family with my business. I work in New York or somewhere two or three weeks and stay at home for two or three weeks.”
* * *
To provide their growing family with sufficient space the Fontaines have just moved from a seven-room home in Medford, where they lived for many years, to an expansive 11-room home in Winchester. Since Frank received his start in the big-time on the Ed Sullivan show in 1948, he has twice taken his family to Hollywood to live, has twice returned because his wife became lonesome for her family and friends in Greater Boston.
“I said if she’s not happy I won’t be, so we moved back here,” says Frank. “Now I know that this house is our home for sure, and I’m not going to leave here again.
“N.B.C. offered me a show like Sid Caesar’s and C.B.S. offered me a show like Jackie Gleason’s, but that would mean rehearsing five days a week to do the show the sixth day. I’d spend one night with my family. That’s not good, and that’s why I didn’t take the shows. I could go like a son of a gun, gain a lot of momentum, and multiply my salary many times, buy that would mean not seeing my family nine months or more of the year.”
Frank did 13 bimonthly TV shows from New York last year only because it allowed him to spend every other week with his family. He’s made nine movies, done many radio and TV shows, and appeared frequently in the country’s leading night spots. But he’s turned down anything that threatened to separate him from his family, including a bid to appear in London’s Palladium.
* * *
“I didn’t become a great big star,” he says, “and I’m content not to become one. I’ve only scratched the surface. I’m with my family and I haven’t burned myself out. I’m still a new face in motion pictures and a new face on TV.”
* * *
A couple of weeks ago, when Mrs. Fontaine, a handsome, dark-haired woman the same age as her husband, was expecting their ninth child, Frank came home and took over the household reins. Last week a new son, Eugene, arrived to bring the family up to seven boys and two girls.
Before Mrs. Fontaine and the baby left the hospital recently, Frank was kept busy getting their new Winchester home in shape to receive them. As usual, he had lots of help. All but the youngest of the Fontaine family are experts in some household chore. Bobby, 11, straightens out the clothing drawers and leads his brothers and sisters in prayers before they go to bed at 8 o’clock every night. Frankie Jr., who is 15, wakes everybody up in the morning and gets breakfast. Peter, 8, is responsible for cleaning the yard and making the beds of his brothers and sisters. Irene, 13, sets the table, helps do the dishes, and takes care of Alma, 4 ½; Paul, 3 ½; Lawrence, 6, and Christopher, 2.
* * *
You get mixed up a lot of times and pick the wrong name if you want something in a hurry,” says Frank. But any name is all right in the Fontaine household, because it’s sure to bring someone running. This help is invaluable to Mrs. Fontaine, who, even when assisted by a maid, has all she can do to keep track of her lively brood. “Everybody has got to do his part here, or you’d be walking around all day doing nothing but picking up towels,” Frank says.
* * *
Walking into the Fontaine home is an experience a visitor is not likely to forget. First he is surrounded by youngsters, a circumstance he might have expected. But then he notices with considerable shock that the children are all similar in a way that he could hardly have foreseen. They all roll their eyes wildly, stretch their mouths from ear to ear, and give out with a special brand and tone of lingo that is punctuated with idiot-like sounds. In short, they are living, walking miniatures of John L.C. Sovoneeeyy, the fictional character who shot their father to fame.
Frank is perhaps prouder of the children’s imitation of his act than any of their other accomplishments. “Anytime I want to make up a show around here I can do it,” he says. As a matter of fact, his four oldest youngsters have already appeared on a Hollywood radio show with him. Frank, Jr., who plays the guitar, will start out in show business on his own when he becomes 16 in February. All the others have similar ambitions.
* * *
The desire of all Fontaine’s children to follow his footsteps in the entertainment world, however premature it may be, is an indication of the veneration they have for their father. “They are,” says Frank, “my most appreciative audience. They think I’m terrific, the funniest, handsomest guy in the world.”
Both Mrs. Fontaine and every member of the family who was old enough at the time have seen all of Frank’s nine movies, some of them more than once. The children always inform their father delightedly that everyone in the theatre laughed at him and that he was, of course, the best one in the picture. Neither Mrs. Fontaine or the children ever miss a radio or TV show on which Frank appears, and they have even gone to nightclubs to see some of his early shows.
Fontaine, who now describes himself as a “comfortable” but “not a wealthy” man, came up from poverty and hard times, and still has a sort of child-like amazement that he is able to give his children some of the things he never had. But neither he nor his wife allow them to become spoiled. When he wants them to do something, he may use a little psychology by clowning with them in John L.C. Sovoneeeyy fashion, but his wishes are promptly obeyed.
Fontaine’s large family has made him the object of jokes and puns which increased as he had more children until they now number, by his own account, “40,000 a day.” People accused him of running a school without a license, sent every lost kid in the area to his house, asked him how he found room to eat at the table, and reminded him when he had only eight children that he needed one more to make a baseball team.
* * *
“I don’t want my family to make me a star,” he says. “When you go to a night club you like to do your act. You don’t want to talk about nine kids 24 hours a day. Anyway, I got confused answering particulars about each one. If nobody mentions the kids, I don’t, but when I’m asked about them naturally I joke about it.”
* * *
Frank will stay at his Winchester home until New Year’s, doing one-night guest shots in New York and flying home. In January he will appear at the Copa Cabana in Miami for three weeks, then come home for three weeks, go to Las Vegas for a three-week appearance, and while he’s there hop to Hollywood for a week or two to do a quick movie and a guest shot on the Jack Benny show.
But wherever he goes, he won’t stay away from his Winchester home very long. “After all,” he says, “entertaining is my occupation, but my family is my career.”

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Non Black-and-White TV of Tomorrow

You can see how proud this suburban couple is about their colour T.V. of Tomorrow (from the cartoon of the same name).

However, as narrator Paul Frees notes, it’s only half paid-for. I like the sunlight glare on the TV screen here.

The cartoon was in development during the middle of a battle between CBS and NBC over colour TV. CBS developed a colour system that was approved by US government regulators in September 1950, and which NBC (RCA, the parent company, made TV sets) tried to keep off the market because sets that it used couldn’t show black-and-white programmes (made by NBC). To make a long story short, a new kind of colour technology (compatible colour) was approved by the FCC in 1953 (sorry CBS), though colour programming didn’t really become the norm until the mid-‘60s.

Monday 28 November 2016

Rudy Cataldi Website

It’s nice to know that there are people from the Golden Age of Theatrical Animation who are still with us, and we can learn a little bit about them and their work.

One is Rudy Cataldi. Rudy was from Newark, New Jersey, where his father was a jeweller. He came west, studied at the Otis Art Institute, and was hired at Disney at the age of 16 in 1943. He was employed by a number of commercial studios in the 1950s, co-owned a studio with Lou Zukor and John Boersma called Animation Associates, then hopped over to Hanna-Barbera around 1963 and stayed for more than two decades. He also somehow survived directing for cut-rate producer Sam Singer, who told him there could be no more than three drawings a foot in each Sinbad Jr. cartoon (there are 16 frames in a foot of animation).

Rudy, I understand, has vision problems today, but he’s still around, and set to turn 90 next year. Rudy’s family has created a small web site in his honour, and that generous animation historian Jerry Beck was kind enough to alert me to it. So I’m alerting you. Click HERE. For me, the best part of it is the links to the Animation Guild interview he did several years ago. We hope the Cataldi family will find the time to add to it.

Ragtime Bear Backgrounds

Some background paintings in the 1949 Magoo debut Ragtime Bear. The background artist is uncredited. Bill Hurtz gets a design credit. Note the stylised bears in the first frame and the UPA-style humans in the lodge.

Sunday 27 November 2016

Don't Thank the Audience

Newspaper reporters chatting with Jack Benny in September 1953 had two choices: they could either pepper him with questions about Marilyn Monroe making her first TV appearance on his season premiere broadcast, or they could eschew that idea because everyone else would be doing it and just talk about his show in general.

The latter is what the author of the “Week on the Air” column for the Associated Press out of New York chose. Not a word about Monroe. However, the story revealed one of the things that bothered Benny, though he’s prudent enough not to state which comedian(s) he was referring to.

The story appeared in papers beginning September 13th.

NEW YORK, Sept. 12 (AP)—How has Jack Benny managed to remain among the top entertainers on the air for more than 20 years while many another star has come and gone?
The secret, he says, “is giving the audience credit for having intelligence.”
“We play up to them, not down to them,” he declares.
Tells Pet Peeve.
“I think all you have to do is keep your humor adult. You can do that and even the kids get it today.
“I don't think anybody on the air is too intelligent for the audience. But it's deadly to be patronizing.”
The Waukegan wit, who actually looks little over the 39 years he jokingly claims as his age, has some pet peeves of his own about TV and radio performers and their attitude towards the audience.
One of them “is somebody who is getting $8,000 a week who comes back at the end of end of the show and says, ‘Thanks for letting me into your living room.’”
“I hate it,” he fumes. “I don't thank the audience for letting me into their living rooms. A lot of them watch me because they have to—there's nothing else on in their city. And how do I know their set is even in the living room. It may be in the bedroom, or the den, or the basement.
“The audience doesn't like to be thanked. They just want to sit back and have fun—and feel free to give you the devil if they don't think the show was good.
22 Years on Air.
The veteran comedian, who begins his 22nd radio season on CBS and his fourth TV season on CBS-TV tomorrow night, declares: “I think they like good down-to-earth humor. But it can be down to earth and not corny.”
Benny, on a brief visit here from Hollywood the other day, said his radio shows all will be recorded on tape this season. That's because he's stepping his TV appearances up to every third week from the one-every-fourth of last season.
He said, however, that while he remains in radio, which will be “as long as the sponsor wants me to,” he'll give it all he has.
“Either you're on radio and do a good job, or you should get the heck off,” he added.
Benny said that two seasons ago, whenever he traveled, folks wanted to talk to him only about his TV show, but that during the last season “they talked about both, and my radio rating was higher than it was the previous season.” A CBS spokesman added that Benny’s average popularity over the last two decades has been higher than that of any other radio star.
How did the Marilyn debut go, by the way? The show’s on-line somewhere so you can watch for yourself and judge. It wasn’t one of Benny’s best, at least to me, and I’m still puzzled as to why Paul Frees was hired to do the voiceover at the beginning. Why wasn’t Don Wilson used? But at least my opinion of the episode isn’t as low as the one expressed by that wet blanket of TV critics, Jack Gould of the New York Times. “This is sex appeal?” he asked about Monroe, a question he answers in the negative. Said Gould:
[T]he end result was more like little sister raiding mother’s closet and vanity table, and doing the grand dame for the edification of the neighborhood brats.
Miss Monroe’s technique was elementary. The seductive voice was out of Drama 1 at the university playhouse—just don’t close your mouth at the end of a sentence and you’re in, honey. The fabled walk was the work of yesteryear’s unsung shoemaker who really knew his last: perch a gal up on six-inch spikes and she’s got to mince her way enticingly, or tip over.
Gould goes on to opine that Monroe’s dress was unnecessarily too tight, and that she wore too much make-up. Basically, his column complained she was not the girl-next-door. Gould must have mixed her up with Doris Day.

We’ve posted John Crosby’s review of the same show and you can read it here.

Saturday 26 November 2016

Eshbaugh's Cartoons of Many Colours

For a brief period in 1932, Ted Eshbaugh was in the animation spotlight, but it wasn’t because of his animation.

Eshbaugh was employed as a portrait artist in Los Angeles in 1930 but at the same time was working to develop a colour film process. And by 1932, it had been perfected. He tested it out on cartoons. There was just one problem. All the film studios that were interested in releasing cartoons—Warners, MGM, Paramount, Columbia and so on—had deals in place with other animation outfits. They didn’t need Eshbaugh’s cartoons, no matter how bright they were in lighting up the screen. So Eshbaugh released a few independently before packing up in Los Angeles in 1934 and moving to New York where he got a job at the Van Beuren studio.

Eshbaugh must have had a good publicist, because there was a flurry of stories around the same time about his colour process. We posted a few of them here along with some background on Eshbaugh. Let’s post another story, this one from newspapers published on October 12, 1932.

New Hollywood Firm Will Produce Animated Cartoon Shorts in Full Color

[Chicago Tribune Press Service.]
HOLLYWOOD, Oct. 11—J. R. Booth, of Ottawa, whose lumber mills provide a lot of the raw newsprint used by American dailies, and Ted Eshbaugh, a young artist from Boston who mingles mechanical and administrative talent with his art work, have combined to form a new producing agency to put out animated cartoon shorts in color.
They have bought rights to all the "Wizard of Oz" published material, and already are half way through with the first film with Frank Baum, Jr., who succeeded his father as Oz author and publisher.
Backed by Great Wealth
Booth whose sister married Prince Eric of Denmark, is forty or fifty times a millionaire and a young man of 35, who commutes from Canada to Hollywood to participate in this latest interest of his. Eshbaugh as a youthful prodigy had a scholarship in the Chicago Art Institute at the age of 7, and was a scholarship winner in art when he and Booth met at the Boston Art Museum.
The pair are pioneers in a new system of applying color to films and did not take a step toward actually making a motion picture until their process was, in their belief, perfect as a result of four or five years experimenting at laboratories which Mr. Booth installed on his Ontario estate. That they really have something that appeals to the major film studios which have spent so much money in past efforts to give the American public satisfactory colored film is indicated much to the satisfaction of Booth and Eshbaugh, by offers made to them by major companies wishing to negotiate for their process. The offers were rejected.
800-Foot Reels
They call their new firm "Multi-color Fantasies." Their product will be one-reelers of about 800 feet each. Carl Stallings, creator of "Silly Symphonies," is doing their musical scoring and directing. All their films will be animated sound cartoons, although, according to Eshbaugh, their process can be applied to give color to action films also. As a sideline, Booth and Eshbaugh plan to come out within 90 days a 16 millimeter version of their animated sound films, the size used in home projection machines.
Eshbaugh explains that their pictures are colored on celluloid, and two negatives made of the same pictures at the same time, which are then superimposed to produce one print to which the colors adhere. "We were the first ever to get a good reproduction in yellow," he said. "We call our process perfected because it is the first time in applying color to films that any one has been able to get the effect of regular, ordinary everyday color. The reds do not jump at you. The colors do not overlap, glitter, get blurry or hurt your eyes, as theater-goers complained about in other color attempts."
"We are able to come out with it at this time because one year ago materials and operations made it five times more expensive to put out color films than at present. With our process, which we know is the most economical yet devised in the film industry, it now costs us only about twice as much to put out color films as it would cost to put out black and white."

Some of Eshbaugh’s films made it into theatres; to the right you see an ad for an appearance on a bill in Los Angeles. But there were troubles with his Oz film. Here’s a story from Variety; the year was 1935.
Baum Slaps Suit on ‘Wizard of Oz’ Tinter
Los Angeles, May 7.
In addition to Federal Court suit for injunction, Frank J. Baum has brought suit in the State courts to restrain Technicolor and Ted Eshbaugh from releasing a color cartoon based on “The Wizard of Oz.”
Eshbaugh started to make the cartoon by arrangement with Baum, son of the-author of 'Oz,' but according to the complaint failed to finish it within agreed time. Contract is therefore regarded as void by Baum. Technicolor has 730 feet of negative, which, under arrangement with Eshbaugh, company is declared ready to market unless enjoined.
Eshbaugh worked, mainly, on commercial and industrial films in New York. In 1950, he co-produced a musical-comedy fantasy called Bumps O’Dazy with Billy Gilbert, and it was shot in colour. He died in 1969. Here’s his obit in Variety
Ted Eshbaugh, 63, film producer-director and animated cartoonist, died July 4, in New York. Eshbaugh, in 1931, pioneered with Technicolor in the development of the three-color process as applied to animated cartoons. He later produced the first color and sound animated cartoon, "Goofy Goat."
In 1932 Eshbaugh produced an animated short cartoon, "Wizard of Oz" for Metro preceding company's live version by seven years. He came to New York in 1934 to revamp RKO pictures’ cartoon department. During World War II his studios were given over entirely to production of U.S. Government films.
Among the animated cartoons and documentaries he later produced were "The Dale Carnegie Story," "The Frank Bettger Story," several color spectaculars for Radio City Music Hall, animated sequences for "Around The World With Mike Todd," and many tv commercials.
Survived by wife and brother.
Obscurity beckons people like Ted Eshbaugh, unless someone intercedes. And someone did. Several years ago, that lover of obscure and B-studio cartoons, Steve Stanchfield, restored three of Eshbaugh’s shorts and put them on his “Technicolor Dreams and Black & White Nightmares” DVD/Blu-Ray. You can go to Jerry Beck’s Cartoon Research website and read more about it.

Friday 25 November 2016

Oswald's Sour Note

A trombone sounds a sour note, which is inspected by Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and sucked back into the trombone again in The Bandmaster (1931).

You’ll notice the wavy outlines in the first frame from the vibrations of the trombone music.

The “artists” listed in the credits of this cartoon are Tex Avery, Les Kline, Ray Abrams, Pinto Colvig, Manuel Moreno, Chet Karrberg and Clyde Geronimi. Karrberg’s life was cut short. He died on August 7, 1931 at the age of 21. He came down with pneumonia before a heart attack killed him. He had only graduated from high school in Asbury Park, N.J., in February 1929 and then got a job working on Krazy Kat cartoons with Bill Nolan.

Florence Henderson and Her First TV Husband

Florence Henderson spent close to 15 years on stage and television by 1969, yet all of that was wiped from the world’s collective memory starting that year when she landed the role of perky mother Carol on “The Brady Bunch.” The show was white bread with a laugh track, yet it’s what she’ll always be lovingly associated with. The sitcom was a rousing success because the characters were just so darn likeable and became tied up in situations (always with a happy ending) that viewers could picture themselves in.

Henderson and TV husband Robert Reed are welded together in the minds of several generations as a couple. But there was a time she and another man were considered by some fans to be husband and wife—a gentleman named Bill Hayes.

In the late ‘50s, Henderson and Hayes were tabbed by the agency representing Oldsmobile to do singing TV commercials for its cars. That was parlayed into a nightclub tour and reached a climax when producer David Susskind came up with an idea for a live programme of original dramas with songs (it was insisted they were “not musicals”). It was sponsored by Olds, and presided over by its commercial crooners. It was also a flop.

Here’s a piece from the Philadelphia Inquirer of May 9, 1959 to tell you about it.
Hayes and Henderson Go Together Like Syrup and Hotcakes

H & H. conjures up a popular eatery chain hereabouts, but in the TV-served hinterlands beyond Philadelphia and New York, the initials (a pair we're kind of partial to) also represent the ubiquitous team of Bill Hayes and Florence Henderson (a pair we're kind of partial to, too!).
Dark-haired Bill and blonde Florence (they're both blue-eyed) spend so much time together, as TV entertainers, TV spielers, supper club singers, touring industrial show stars and (beginning this month) recording artists, they might just as well be married.
Well, they are—but not to each other. Bill, 33, is the father of five; Florence, 23; alias Mrs. Ira Bernstein, has one two-year-old daughter. But fans, they report with a sigh, take it for granted they're as much Hayeses as Peter Lind and Mary.
Their make-believe "marriage," like most real ones, has its ups and downs. Right now it's recovering from just about the worst blow yet. "The Oldsmobile Music Theater," in which they were supposed to double as hosts and sometimes actor-singers at least through June, was abruptly canceled after last week's performance, sixth in the series.
In addition, the program's April 30 show, on which they were scheduled—finally!—to co-emote, was abruptly converted from drama to video vaudeo.
"I looked forward to the dramatic bit," Bill conceded, "but it was no tremendous disappointment. The variety show was great fun. Florence is quite disappointed because we didn't have more to do while the show was on."
Bill doesn't think "Music Theater's" collapse will affect his third year-long contract with Oldsmobile, which runs to Oct. 1, as far as the sponsor's concerned. He has a few qualms himself, however. "I enjoy the association," he said, "as long as it permits me to be a performer, too, not just a representative."
So far he's had no complaint, on that score. Although he and Florence are paid a yearly retainer to be "on call" for various commercial chores, the arrangement hasn't interfered too often with their accepting other, non-auto offers, together and apart.
Thus, Bill has guested several times on "Voice of Firestone," made concert appearances, played roles in "Kiss Me, Kate" and other TV specials and waxed several tunes, including the currently popular "Wimoweh." Florence has been a frequent visitor to “The Jack Paar Show” (I'm one of the few singers Jack lets sit and talk," she says proudly), sang Richard Rodgers tunes on last week's Firestone hour (she and Bill are both alumni of Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musicals) and has accepted various other solo dates.
Together, they've played non-commercial- linked engagements in a “U. S. Steel Hour” comedy, "A FamilyAlliance;" portrayed sweethearts in TV's musicalized "Little Women" earlier this season, and starred at New York's St. Regis and other swank supper clubs. This month, for the Kapp label, they'll record highlights for their supper club routines.
When Bill in 1953, after years as a featured singer in Sid Caesar's pioneer—and still fondly-remembered—TV variety program, "Your Show of Shows," went into Broadway's "Me and Juliet," he received a congratulatory telegram from the late Fred Allen: "It must be a pleasure to sing through an evening without having to stop for the commercials." It's ironic, Bill feels that, now he so often is the commercial.
"People used to recognize me on the street," he said wryly, "and yell, ‘Ah! Show of Shows!’ Then it became: 'Ah! Me and Juliet!' Then (after his recording of the song became a 2,000,000-copy best seller) 'Ah! Davy Crockett!' Now, once in a while, I hear 'Ah! Oldsmobility!'"
Does it bother him that he's hailed that way, instead of by name? "Not in the least," Bill said firmly. Nor are he and Florence irked by audiences' frequent misconception of their marital status. "Sometimes," Florence noted with a laugh, "when we're singing in a supper club, I'll overhear someone say something like 'Oh! Did you see the way he smiled at her?'"
Their respective spouses don't mind, either. "My husband is in show business, too—in the production end," said Florence, "and he thinks my being teamed with Bill is a very good thing. He has a great deal of respect for Bill's ability."
"If a Broadway show came along tomorrow," Bill pointed out, "she could do it on her own. There are absolutely no strings. You can't knock an arrangement like that."
"We're not possessive about each other," Florence, laughed.
"I'm happy whenever she gets anything good," said Bill.
They don't do much extracurricular socializing, but that's partly because they live many-miles apart, and partly because, as Bill points out, "Some weeks we spend more time with each other than we do with our families. We don't do much socializing anyway. We both work full time at our jobs."
"It's so wonderful to go home," Florence sighed. "I guess we're both kind of hicks at heart. What we like best is to go home and take our shoes off."
Sometimes the Hayes-Henderson collaboration upsets his youngsters. Bill reports.
"Once in a while we're on TV before their bedtimes," he said. 'They get involved in the story of the moment, rather than the fact that I'm working with Florence."
"When we did the ‘U. S. Steel’ play," Florence recalled, "Bill's little girl came to rehearsal. I had to slap Bill, and she was furious! My own little girl tells people, ‘My mama's going to work, to sing with Bill Hayes.’"
"The kids always feel that way about my appearances," Bill laughed. "If I'm with a girl who's acting nice to me, they're very happy. If she's mean, they don't forget. Once, on the Arthur Murray show, I sang a song with Judy Johnson, pleading, 'Don't Send Me Home,' while she kept trying to close the door. I had to persuade the kids afterwards that she wasn't being mean."
Spending so much time together, have they been able to spot each other's quirks and foibles? And do these ever get on their nerves?
"We're a pretty good personality match," said Bill. "We have lots of fights and squabbles. Not really!" he hastily amended. "Actually, they're rare occasions."
"We're able to discuss things," said Florence. "If we disagree—on how to do a song, for instance—we talk it over. We seldom reach an impasse. We're both able to back down."
Bill winked. "You just hit 'em a few times, and that gets things under control."
"I'm more inclined to be snippy and short," said Florence. "Bill has wonderful qualities. Competition in show business is so fierce that there's lots of jealousy. Once in a while I say things that are better left unsaid, but Bill never knocks another performer. I can count people like that on two fingers! He has a few faults, too, but who hasn't?"
"She's one of the longest say-goodbyers," Bill groaned. "Shell talk on for 18 sentences before she finally leaves."
"When he's mad," said Florence, "he tugs his right rar and gets quiet. Sometimes I'm a foot-tapper."
"That doesn't bother me," said Bill.
"Yes it does," said Florence. "It drives you nuts!"
Bill tugged his ear and said nothing. That seemed an opportune moment to call it an interview. We all said goodbye. Florence added some postscript sentences, but nowhere near 18!
Since someone will want me to mention it, Hayes is married to Susan Seaforth Hayes and both starred on the soap Days of Our Lives.

Henderson got her first break as a teenager. And it was a big one. Here’s the Philadelphia Inquirer again, in a story by Barbara L. Wilson published May 2, 1954. Henderson was 20. She’s still in the “golly gosh, I’m just so glad to be here” stage of her career.
When Florence Henderson, youngest of the Kentucky Henderson clan numbering 10 children, was 9 years old, "Oklahoma!" began its fabulous reign on Broadway. Although she had no idea then of ever appearing in "Oklahoma'" Florence’s only desire was to eventually go to New York and become a musical comedy star. The New York opportunity came in 1952 and in September of that year she became the twelfth Laurey in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, now at the Shubert.
Florence is a blue-eyed, fair-haired lass of Irish descent with a will to win in her chosen profession.
“I don't remember when I decided that I wanted to sing on the stage. It seems that it was always that way. No one else in my family ever had such ambitions, yet all of them like music.”
"My real chance to study came when Christine Johnson, the original Nettie Fowler of ‘Carousel,’ married a doctor in my hometown of Owensboro. I sang two numbers for her. I squeeked terribly. I don't know what she thought but I guess she realized I was determined because she agreed to give me lessons. A few years later relatives of a high school friend sponsored my trip to New York."
After auditioning for "Oklahoma!'—her second musical—her first was in the chorus "Wish You Were Here." Richard Rodgers questioned Florence about her age. “I told him I was 18. He looked at me very seriously and said, 'Don't you think you're too old?' I thought he meant it," Florence grinned.
"It has been a wonderful experience. I went into ‘Oklahoma!’ and saw the United States. Up to that time I had only been in Lexington and Chicago. But we have been all over, even in Florida where one of my brothers lives. He saw the show about six or eight times while we were there."
Recently Florence had an opportunity to audition for the film role of Laurey. “Everybody was wonderful,” she beamed. “Arthur Hornblow, the producer, was sure I would get the part. One day he came to the theater with Fred Zinneman, who will direct the movie version. Mr. Zinneman took me aside and told me that he was certain I could do the role if he worked with me constantly. But he said that he felt he should audition some other actresses.
Believe me, I wasn't disappointed. It was such a relief to know one way or another. And maybe if I had done Laurey in the movies, people would always have thought of me as Laurey. I don't want it that way. But Mr. Zinneman and Mr. Hornblow gave me wonderful hope. They said they were sure I would make a great star,” Florence smiled happily.
When "Oklahoma!" closes Saturday evening. Florence will return to New York to await word about auditions she has made for the Hit Parade television program, and for "Fanny," the S. N. Behrman-Joshua Logan-Harold Rome musical which will star Ezio Pinza and Walter Slezak and is scheduled for fall production.
“I would play the title role,” Florence remarked hopefully. “A number of people who have read the script say ‘Fanny’ is better than ‘South Pacific.’ But I couldn’t say. I just can’t imagine another character like Nellie Forbush.”
Let’s jump ahead 12 years. She’s most definitely not in the “golly gosh, I’m just so glad to be here” stage of her career. This syndicated piece was published in papers starting December 16, 1966.
All Flo Wants Is to Be Noticed

NEW YORK — Is there a "Mary Poppins" in Florence Henderson's future?
"When I'm 50, I'm going to make a movie and get an Academy Award and then they'll discover me," sighed the singer over a salad made especially for her.
In 21, the elegant eating and watering hole in midtown Manhattan, they have known who Miss Henderson is for some time. So has Broadway, where she starred in the musical, "The Girl Who Came to Supper." So has television, where—she has filled in for Johnny Carson as a hostess on The Tonight Show and been The Bell Telephone Hour's most popular lady singer of musical comedy tunes.
FILMDOM UNKNOWN—But in Hollywood, she sadly confesses, she is just a little girl from Indiana nobody really knows. Julie Andrews' tremendous late start in the film capital, however, has given Miss Henderson hope for the future.
Meanwhile, she is not complaining. As the wife of stage manager Ira Bernstein and the mother of four ("We have two of each, ages 10, 6, 3 and 10 months") she lives in a sprawling apartment on the 32nd floor of a new building overlooking the Hudson River. And when she goes down on the street strangers call her "Florence" or just "Flo."
Last month Flo appeared for the 10th time on Bell when she hosted the series' annual Christmas show.
MISSES FORMAT—"Thank goodness, it was live," she said between dainty bites on her salad. "I miss Bell's old format this season, and wish they would do all their shows like they did in the past."
Her salad was extra large because she wasn't going to eat again until late evening. After lunch, the singer was going to tape some Password sessions (she is a whiz at the quiz game) and see some people about her next television adventure.
NEVER CUT DISK—All this, she figures, is still not getting her to Hollywood where she would very much like to appear in films.
"Would you believe it that I've never had a hit record?" she smiled. "Would you believe that nobody has ever asked me to record a song? There's a lot I have to do to convince Hollywood I'm alive, I wonder if they'll ever wake up?"
Florence Henderson passed away yesterday. Perhaps she didn’t quite get where she wanted to go when she set out on her career in entertainment. But she came across as a sincere and upbeat person that millions wanted in their living rooms, and that’s a good way to end it.

Thursday 24 November 2016

Turkey Take

No outrageously huge eyes in this Tex Avery take. It’s from Jerky Turkey (released 1945). Here are some of the extremes when the turkey realises the pilgrim is firing his machine gunnish blunderbuss at him.

Preston Blair, Ray Abrams and Ed Love are the credited animators in this short.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

A Quiet Kind of Comedian

The stock company on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In became instant successes when the show debuted in 1968, even though many of them had been around for quite some time.

One of the sparkplugs on the show was Arte Johnson, who seemed to have come out of nowhere, but had been appearing on various sitcoms for over a decade. His talents were recognised in 1963 when it was announced he and Marie Wilson would star in the comedy My Son, The Witch Doctor on CBS (a pilot was made but the show wasn’t picked up).

Johnson started as a stand-up comic. Variety reviewed his act thusly in its New York edition of January 20, 1954:
12 Mins.
Le Ruban Bleu, N.Y.
Arte Johnson looks like a quiet kind of comedian, being small and bespectacled. His approach to his work is also in that vein, but he does give out in bravura style at times, and he becomes a performer who must get maximum attention because he brings in a few surprises. Johnson, at the present state of his development, shouldn't be seen on the slum side of Fifth Ave. His satires are geared for the intime trade as the humor he purveys couldn't be appreciated readily in the mass spots. He has a piece on "Gus the Gopher" and a satire on old songs which register strongly. The intellectual aura surrounding his work frequently appears smart-alecky. Nonetheless, he seems to have a solid basis for development and further experience around the circuits should widen his employment horizons. Jose.
From that, he ended up with a supporting role on Janis Page’s TV show It’s Always Jan the following year.

Newspapers jumped to profile the Laugh-In cast after the show rang up huge Monday night ratings. Here are a couple of pieces about Arte Johnson. First up is one from March 23, 1968 from an undisclosed syndication service.
Like You, He Loves ‘Laugh-In’

HOLLYWOOD – It's doubtful; if anybody who loves the satirical, biting humor of NBC-TV's “Rowan and Martin Laugh-In” could possibly enjoy it as much as the performers themselves.
Listen to Arte Johnson's thoughts:
“We have a ball! I've been in this business a long time and never have I seen such compatibility,” says the little comedian who does everything in the series. “Somehow there's a totality of respect among us. I've never been as enthusiastic and satisfied with an end result.
“We critique each other. But we're highly protective of each other, from top to bottom. George (producer George Schlatter) babies and coddles us to hold us in control. We're like a high-paid force of spear carriers.”
Arte, understandably, is in orbit over his present status. He's had some lean years in show business when it was more profitable to sell clothes than make people laugh. It wasn't easy on the ego to peddle threads after you've experienced the magnetism of Broadway productions like “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and “No Time for Sergeants.” He also had parts in the Hennessey, Joan Caulfield and Janis Paige series; guest roles with Danny Thomas. Red Skelton and Dick Van Dyke, and did voices in dozens of commercials.
“You ask how we come up with ideas,” continued Arte, when writing became the subject. “Our writers are terrific. Not only them, but Ruth Buzzi, Larry Hovis, Henry Gibson—all of us—suggest ideas.
“I used to do a Russian folk singer at parties. I told the writers about it. They came up with a bit for him. We took it to George and he said, ‘You're all crazy, but keep it short.’ That's always his main comment.
“So, using a lot of double-talk, I've done Pyotr Rosmenko twice in wild situations. Sammy Davis called me and said he fell to the floor laughing. He wants to do it with me.”
Arte most of the mail they receive is highly favourable. But the extremists have a field day.
“Oh yes, we get a lot of no-nos,” he agreed. “We get all kinds of ‘How dare yous’ from anti-Semites, political observers. Communists, what have you. One line can set them off.
“One woman wrote, ‘How can I explain this to my 4-year-old?’ What's to explain to a 4-year-old?” laughs Arte.
“But the classic was a woman who said she couldn't begin to tell us how disgusted she was. She claimed her teen-age daughter was ‘hep’—not hip—but she, too, thought what we did was disgraceful.
“She closed with, ‘If this keeps up we'll have to turn off the set. We shall be forced to talk to each other.’”
Laugh-In was quickly renewed for the 1968-69 season. A few cast members—including Ben Wrigley, Larry Hovis, Roddy Maude-Roxby and Eileen Brennan—disappeared and new ones came on board. Johnson remained one of the mainstays; he had enough characters that hadn’t worn out their welcome yet. The AP wire service’s New York entertainment columnist profiled Johnson in a feature story that appeared in papers starting April 4, 1969. The version below in the Appleton Post-Crescent took up a full page with a large montage of Johnson in various Laugh-In guises.
"Ve-r-ry Int-er-esting" Phrase Vaults Arte Johnson to Fame

The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) – Arte Johnson may not be the tallest man in show business, but the bespectacled elf of the "Laugh-In" regulars is a giant among red-blooded he-men: he works needlepoint during airplane flights and he doesn't care who sees him.
"Nobody gets giggly because tailors know how to sew," he pointed out. "I have to take a lot of commercial flights and flying is a bore. You—or at least I—can't dig into a book or magazine and I can't sleep. One day my wife was with me and she pulled out her needlepoint and sewed happily all the way to New York. That's how I got started and it makes the time fly.
"Sure, people look at me, but once they've gotten over the shock, they—particularly men passengers—are interested."
Arte, 5 feet 3 and, despite his 40 years, looking like a mischievous teen-ager, burst into the public's consciousness less than two years ago with the first "Laugh-In," an NBC special. When it became a weekly series in January, 1968, he was playing on a regular basis a leering Nazi soldier with one line: "Ver-ry int-er-esting." It became a national catch phrase.
Since then he has appeared on a regular basis as a tottering masher, popularly called "the old letch" who weekly gets bashed on the head by Ruth Buzzi's reticule, and as an earnest little Russian. In all, though, he has appeared in 38 other characterizations that have been shown a few times.
Johnson is another of a long string of overnight successes with a long training and waiting period behind him. He has been a comedian-in-waiting for almost 20 years.
"When George (producer George Schlatter) called about an idea he had for Rowan and Martin," said Johnson, "I was doing very well making commercials. I was happy and rich and I didn't want to give it up.
"George told me what he was thinking about, and I thought he must be out of his mind—but it sounded like fun so I said, what the hell, I'd do the special."
Since "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" jumped immediately to No. 1 position in the Nielsens and remains the most popular weekly show, it has affected the form and substance of the regular variety hours. They've picked up pace, gone in for quick sight gags, one-liners, and the imitators are around. blackouts, of course.
Johnson, who like most comedians is deadly serious about his job, says he does not think the imitations hurt, but rather enhance, the original. "We have the technique; we have developed the timing," he says. "So we have a big edge."
Most of Arte's characters are old friends he has developed during the night club years. When he first pulled Rosmenko, his little Russian, out of his trunk, he went to the Salvation Army to find that magnificently malfitted pin-striped suit and black-and-white shoes he wears.
"Now we've had to have a couple of suits made," he said ''And it cost an awful lot of money to have it copied."
He grew up in the Midwest, studied journalism at the University of Illinois, and even spent some time as a press agent in New York. His strangely spelled first name, Arte—pronounced Art-ie—came when he found he could not use his real name, Arthur Johnson, professionally because it already belonged to a production singer in Las Vegas. So he chose Art E. Johnson—and that became Arte by a printer's error on a program.
Johnson and his second wife, Gisela, are apartment dwellers in Hollywood and pursue passionately in their leisure time a variety of hobbies that at first blush, seem typical of a comedian. Johnson, for instance, is a collector—and something of an expert—on porcelains and Georgian silver.
After all his years in show business, he became a widely recognized personality realizing full well that he had traded his right to privacy for star status. "I really have no complaints and no hang-ups," he said. "I admit that the amount of recognition you get in restaurants, for instance, sometimes interferes with what you really want to do, like eat. But I come into their homes and they have a right. But when Gisela and I wanted to take a real vacation, we found a small private place in Hawaii and not a soul bugged us for autographs."
What next?
"Well, of course I hope to have my own show," he said. "During this vacation we're going to make a pilot for a half-hour variety show."
Incidentally, the name of his production company is Rosmenko Productions, which sort of suggests that the little Russian is his favorite character.
Laugh-In, as fads tend to do, lost steam and Johnson bailed after an Emmy and four seasons. Johnson’s career, though, didn’t lose steam. He hosted a comedy special in 1971. He found a new career voicing cartoons, while still appearing on camera (including the film Love At First Bite) and racking up good-paying commercial voice-over work. Variety’s “quiet kind of comedian” made a loud impact on television.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Revolving Monkey

A monkey is given a little animation cycle in Organ Grinder’s Swing, a 1937 Fleischer cartoon.

The anti-social Bluto heats a penny, so that when the grinder’s monkey grabs it, he’ll burn himself. That’s what happens.

The monkey then swings itself around Wimpy’s head in five drawings.

I don’t need to tell you how the cartoon ends, do I? Okay, I will. Popeye turns Bluto into a grinding piano (after wrecking a portion of the apartment building they live in.

William Bowsky and Orestes Calpini are the credited animators.

Monday 21 November 2016

Stretching Duck Dodgers

“Gad! How do I do it?!” realises Duck Dodgers (in the 24 1/2th century). Here are the five drawings before he makes his remark. I like the stretch in-between.

Lloyd Vaughan, Ben Washam and Ken Harris are the credited animators in this brilliant cartoon by Chuck Jones and his unit.