Monday 31 July 2017

Cream De Legge

The plot of Fair Weather Fiends is a simple one. Woody Woodpecker and his ol’ palsie walsie the wolf try to eat each other.

In one gag sequence, Woody invites his pal (in a huge pot) to try some Cream De Wolf. The wolf samples a leg. The frames below give you an idea of the action.

“You know, for a moment I thought that was my own leg,” the wolf says to Woody, and then digs in. Again, the frames tell the story. Woody is so casual here.

Sid Pillet and La Verne Harding get the animation credits in this 1946 cartoon directed by Jimmie Culhane, though what you see above is the work of Emery Hawkins. Will Wright voices the wolf while Bugs Hardaway plays Woody.

Sunday 30 July 2017

Tralfaz Sunday Theatre: Why Man Creates

An inventive film with June Foray’s voice won an Oscar. No, it wasn’t a Warner Bros. cartoon or one from MGM. It was Why Man Creates, which picked up the 1968 Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject. It is a combination of animation and live action; it did not win for “animation,” despite what some misguided places on the internet will tell you.

Business Screen Magazine of December 1969 reported (in a typo-filled story) from the CINE Awards in New York City that 205 “Golden Eagles” were presented:
The Golden Eagle film credited with the most significant awards worldwide in 1969 was Why Man Creates, by Paul Bass for Kaiser Alumnium and Chemical Corp. It took high honors in five festivals (Cork, Moscow, Trieste, Venice Golden Mercury and Venice Documentary) and diplomas or certificates in four others (Edinburgh, Melborne, Nyon and Vancouver).
While the CINE ceremonies were in progress, Why Man Creates was also winning top honors at the International Film Festival in West Berlin and a special Inforfilm plaque for excellence.
The film was also shown during the second half of the very first broadcast of 60 Minutes on September 24, 1968.

Saul Bass, NOT Paul Bass, was known for his incomparable and highly-creative animated titles for movies. The Seven Year Itch and Man With the Golden Arm (both 1955) are among his best-known early works. In 1949, as motion picture art director for the Buchanan and Co. agency in Los Angeles, he won a gold medal and two certificates of merit from his peers (and ended up in hospital on his way to accept them thanks to a car crash). Bass died in 1996.

Variety reported on January 5, 1968 that Foray had laid down voice tracks for When Man Creates. Unfortunately, the trade paper makes no mention of any of the other voice actors in the film.

The movie’s opening animation is really a marvel. And being the late 1960s, it is a message film, all the more fascinating because it was underwritten by a huge corporation which made no mention of its products (there were demonstrations outside its showing at CINE, but not because of the film. It’s because president Richard Nixon gave a speech there).

Foray’s unmistakeable performance is in the middle of the film.

Why Jack Benny's Show Was a Success

There was the broken-down Maxwell, the obviously phoney age 39, someone shouting “Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga!” and really ear-splitting violin playing. That was all part of the Jack Benny radio show. But even before any of that was invented, Benny’s show was a huge hit on radio.


All those things mentioned above were only part of the show. The basic Benny character—and his relationships with others in his main cast—was developed before any of that stuff. That was the foundation of the programme. And that’s one of the things that made Benny’s show a hit in the beginning.

The foundation was the invention of Benny in tandem with his original writer, Harry Conn, and built piece-by-piece starting in 1932. There were other things in the early days that attracted listeners. Benny and his crew did parodies (or travesties) of current movies. They made fun of the sponsor’s product; in the Depression, people didn’t mind hearing someone stick it to a big company. To some degree, all those elements carried on as part of the show until it went off the air in 1955.

Here’s a Washington Star story from March 15, 1936 which gives you an idea of what attitudes were like around the Benny show back then. It’s odd to think of Don Wilson as a sportscaster, but that’s how he made his name in the early ‘30s. And listeners in 1955 likely wouldn’t think of Mary as a poetess, though her “Labor Day” poem was a running gag before Conn’s ego imploded in an I-quit-no-you’re-fired departure not many months after this story was published.

The explanation of Mary’s arrival on the show is, well, far-fetched. It’s clear she didn’t just show up with no notice and ad-lib. You can read a transcription of the first show on which she appeared IN THIS POST. The mention of a feud involving Benny and his former bandleader is interesting. Benny’s new writers tried to pull the same thing with Phil Harris when he arrived on the show in 1936. In my opinion, it was a dismal failure. The writers (and Benny, I suspect) were astute enough to realise that Phil came across as boring and Jack as petty. Instead, they turned up the volume on Harris’ attempt to one-up Benny and along the way, hit on making him a hokey, bragging ladies’ man who enjoyed his life. It was a great characterisation and one sorely missed when Harris left the show in 1952.

Incidentally, the show in question featured Kathrine Lee, Georges Metaxa and Hugh McIlevey, not usual support players but ones who were evidently convenient to travel to Washington to the broadcast. The last two only appeared on the Benny show in this one broadcast.

Comedian Is Surrounded By Distinguished Personel

Broadcast From National Press Club Includes Mary Livingstone, Kenny Baker, Johnny Green and Don Wilson.
By the Radio Editor.
THE Jack Benny program, which the Nation’s radio critics have chosen as the outstanding air attraction for the past two years, and whose star they have elected as their favorite microphone comedian three years running, will originate tonight in Washington. The broadcast will be staged in the National Press Club Auditorium at 8 p.m.
Along with Benny will be heard that modern poetess, Mary Livingstone, whose ode to “Labor Day” will go down in literary history as a twentieth century classic; Kenny Baker, the timid tenor from California; Johnny Green, composer-conductor-pianist, leading a local orchestra, and Don Wilson, the sports announcer, who turns in a pretty good acting job every now and then.
WHAT is the formula for the success of the Benny programs? Why is it that his suave, easy-going humor seems to be making a consistently bigger hit with listeners throughout the country than that of his comic colleagues? To start out finding the answers to these questions one might visit a small room in New York’s Park Central Hotel any Wednesday morning. A knock on the door of Room 1510 about 9 o’clock will bring a hearty “Come in” from a fellow named Harry Conn. As you walk in, you see a solidly-built man—you’d guess he’s in his late thirties—seated in front of a portable typewriter.
Conn is Benny’s collaborator. He never starts working on the Sunday broadcast until the preceding Wednesday. “What are you going to have Sunday?” you ask Harry. He doesn’t know, will be the reply. “Well, isn’t it about time you get to thinking about it,” you continue.
“You’re telling me. And what do you suppose this typewriter is for?” he comes back—and then, “The first thing I have to do this morning is work out a situation that will make a good vehicle for Jack and his cast. We always try to get something topical—a current screen or stage success, a public event about which there is a lot of discussion or an episode which has been implanted on a previous program. Illustrative of the latter is the famous ‘feud’ between Jack and Don Bestor last year. This grew out of the very simple notion of having Jack not give Don a Christmas present. When this structure has been carefully planned, I begin thinking about gags.”
UNDERLYING all of Benny’s thinking in building a show are two principals which have governed his comedy ever since he first faced the microphone. Although he is the comedy star, the majority of the laughs must go to the other members of the cast; there must be good-natured kidding of the typical method of commercial announcing.
In every script Jack Benny is the underdog. Johnny Green comes on and flips a few wisecracks at him. Mary deflates him further with a couple of well-aimed darts. Even Kenny Baker and Wilson take him down a few pegs. With the result that the sympathy of the listeners is with Benny from the start. The heckling of the star by his supporters is a sound comedy formula, but it brings even more laughs in the Benny show, because, no matter how many times they have heard them before, members of the audience never expect tenors, band leaders and announcers to say anything funny. Neither Baker, Wilson nor Green are trained actors, and yet under Benny’s watchful eye they have become first-rate comedy players.
MARY LIVINGSTONE, who is Mrs. Benny outside of the studios, rates a paragraph by herself. She was not in the first Benny series. One night Jack found his script was running short, and he signaled Mary, who was in the audience, to step over to the mike and ad-lib with him for a minute or two in order to fill out the remaining time. She made such a hit on this impromptu occasion that Jack has kept her in the show as one of his foils ever since.
In the matter of kidding the announcements, Jack Benny is considered a past master. There is too much pompous commercial spieling on the air, he feels. As a result the product he represents finds its way into Benny comedy sequence[s] at the most unexpected moments. The “plugs” are generally effective because they are genuinely funny and because they are brief.

Saturday 29 July 2017

Fighting the Commies and Selling Socks

So what if they weren’t as polished as Disney’s cartoons or as clever as Warner Bros’. People still watched Terrytoons. And people liked them.

Well, they liked them well enough for 64-year-old Paul Terry to cash in on some pretty weak-sister characters in the form of merchandise, though he had one big bread-winner. And, in 1951, Mighty Mouse was popular enough to not only have a throughbred named after him (the horse was a two-year-old that ran at Hialeah and Golden State) but the US Navy nicknamed a rocket manufactured in Chicago in his honour. Mighty Mouse, streaking through the sky to fight those Commies!!

Okay, he had three bread-winners if you include Heckle and Jeckle.

On top of that, the work of Terry’s staff was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York City, though one can’t exact accuse the Terrytoons of being on the cutting edge stylistically.

Oh, there was another good stroke of fortune for Terry. Something called television. It needed inexpensive programming for kids. Terry had piles of old black-and-white cartoons dating from 1930 sitting around that theatres wouldn’t run. But television would. Earlier, it had gobbled up the ancient silents that Terry made in the 1920s in partnership with Amadee Van Beuren. Eventually, Terry struck a $140,000 deal to put 112 sound Terrytoons on the tube (c.f. Variety, Nov. 11, 1953). And, as you likely know, he later sold his studio to CBS and retired to a life of comfort.

Terry’s publicity people got the old producer before the media a fair bit in 1951. We’ve already reprinted one interview where he insisted “Anybody who goes for dollars alone is crazy.” There’s one from the New York Herald Tribune we’ll try to get around to transcribing. For now, let’s give you a wire story from the Associated Press. The last few paragraphs are the interesting ones to me. Experimenting with sound effects? Terrytoons were notorious for having the same brake squeal, the same splash, the same cymbal crash, over and over again, cartoon after cartoon after cartoon, for years. It’s as if Paul Terry had a library of 15 effects. I suspect what Terry means in the story is because of advances in electronic tape recording, his sound engineers were able to speed up voices, which is what happened to Dinky Duck and others around this time. Unfortunately, they’re difficult to understand and have little expression. And it seems odd that Terry would have problems finding someone who sounded like a dog. Network radio in New York had a number of specialists like Brad Barker, who could imitate all breeds of dogs and even do human voices. It wouldn’t be hard locating them.
‘Mighty Mouse’ Moves Movie Mountain

NEW YORK, June 9—(AP)—Although many recent movies have been filmed in and around New York City, the major film production studio in this area stars a pen and ink figure known as “Mighty Mouse.”
As you may know, “Mighty Mouse” is the cartoon creation of film animator Paul Terry. He has long maintained his full film production units in extensive studios in New Rochelle, N.Y., within commuting distance of Manhattan.
In this suburban studio Terry has scores of artists, musicians and technicians turning out such film shorts as “Heckle and Jeckle,” “The Talking Magpies,” “Sourpuss and Gandy Goose,” “Oil Can Harry and Pearl Pureheart.” Also his “Little Roquefort,” “Dingbat and Sylvester the Fox” and “Terry Bears.”
At the moment “Mighty Mouse” has been more or less drafted by the US Navy. The Navy named a rocket after “Mighty Mouse.”
As far as Terry is concerned the weapon is a secret because the only thing he knows about it is that it was named after his cartoon film character.
“I was with the Navy the other day in a formal ceremony,” Terry said. “I didn’t pay much attention to every person I met because you note certain little human characteristics which can be used in the animals of our cartoon films.
“Captain Ben Scott Custer, commander of the naval air station at Floyd Bennett Field, said they named the new weapons ‘Mighty Mouse’ and other film characters because it seemed to help the new recruits to get over their awe of the weapons they had to operate.
“Calling a rifle an M-31 always seemed to make soldiers a bit shy of the weapon, but calling it a familiar name made it seem a friend. That is how ‘Mighty Mouse’ was chosen as the name for the rocket gun.”
Terry, with a large staff of artists and sound experts, is producing 26 films a year. He also is setting up a television producing unit. “I discovered that many cartoon films, which I had produced and discarded, suddenly had new value for television,” Terry said. “Now we are producing new cartoon films strictly for video shows.”
Terry film pictures—the original drawings—are having an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York. An exhibition of his art is being held in Geneva next week.
Along with his drawings, Terry has spent a great deal of time and money experimenting with sound effects for his pictures.
“I had to make a long search for a man who could sound like a dog in the films and still do it so the audience would get an idea of what the dog was trying to say,” Terry said. “Finally I found such a man. His only job is to bark like a dog and make himself understood.
“I have other sound men who talk like a duck, meow like a cat and one man flaps his hands to make a seal or fish getting out of water.
“You laugh at this, but something I think they sound better than humans talking.”
Oh, if you’re curious what types of merchandise Terry had put on the market, Women’s Wear Daily of October 9, 1951 goes into some specifics. Yes, you could own your very own Dimwit handkerchief!
15 Licensed On Terrytoon
Manufacturers of Various Types of Merchandise Will Use Cartoon Characters

Fifteen manufacturers have been granted licenses for the use of Terrytoon cartoon characters in various types of merchandise, it is made known by Paul Terry, head of Terrytoons Studios. Negotiations are under way with other manufacturers for additional licenses, he added.
Promotion of the cartoon characters in the merchandise field is being carried on in conjunction with the Hal Horne organization, which is handling the licensing of all merchandise manufacturers as well as the promotion program being wages in its support. Mr. Horne, who has been associated with the movie industry for many years, also has been active in merchandising operations in connection with cartoon characters.
Among the Terrytoon characters exploited through merchandise tieups are Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle, the Terry Bears, Dinky and Dimwit.
Terrytoon licensees thus far are Leon F. Swears, Inc., Johnstown, N.Y., gloves and mittens; Linbro Manufacturing Co., New York, scarfs; Bernard Scherel, Inc., New York, handkerchiefs; Russell Hosiery Mills, Inc., Star, N.C., socks; Federal Glass Co., Columbus, O., glass tumblers; Fortier Olsen Manufacturing Co., La Junta, Col., toys; E.E. Fairchild Co., Rochester, N.Y., picture puzzles; National Mask and Puppet Co., Brooklyn, puppets and marionettes; Samuel Lowe, Inc., Kenosha, Wis., Terrytoon books; Synthetic Plastic Co., New York, phonograph records; Pioneer Rubber Co., Willard, O., balloons; Ed-U-Cards, Inc., New York, children’s card games; Plastic Innovations, Inc., New York, plastic inflatable toys; J. Halpern Co., Pittsburgh, masquerade costumes and masks; Rustcraft Publishers, Boston, greeting cards.
This, by the way, doesn’t include comic books or Castle Film home movies, just knick-knacks and games.

And there was another Terry high-point in 1951—a 50-foot-tall Mighty Mouse floated down Central Park West to Broadway and 34th street on Thanksgiving. For the first time, the Woolworth’s of animation met Macy’s.

Friday 28 July 2017

Daffy Duck Fear Take

Daffy Duck tells his mobster kidnappers he can’t lay a golden egg. They respond by putting guns into his face.

Here’s the take.

Emery Hawkins joins Friz Freleng’s regular animation crew of Art Davis, Ken Champin, Virgil Ross and Gerry Chiniquy in this cartoon, Golden Yeggs (1950).

Thursday 27 July 2017

Four Brothers and a Kat

Celebrity caricature cartoons popped up in Hollywood all through the 1930s. They didn’t involve a lot of plotting. Just take some stereotypical actions or phrases of your favourite stars and plop them into a cartoon for instant laughs through recognition.

The Krazy Kat short Seeing Stars includes Joe E. Brown, Roscoe Ates and Laurel and Hardy. Oh, and it turns out there’s a reason Krazy’s piano is rumbling around on its own. There are four guys inside it.

Yes, the Marx Brothers make an appearance. Anyone familiar with their routines will recognise Harpo slipping a claxon into someone’s hand, chasing after women (he gets tossed out of the ladies lounge) and playing the harp (the strings are actually spaghetti mushed on Krazy’s head by Jimmy Durante. Is he mortified!).

Groucho gets a moment in the spotlight. He cuts in when Krazy is dancing to “Happy Days Are Here Again” with Marie Dressler.

The cartoon’s got a nice little ending with the celebrities (Buster Keaton among them) forming a chorus line moving stage left, with Krazy pulling a “The End” title card with him.

Harry Love and Allen Rose receive the animation credit, but it’s your guess who designed the caricatures.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Hurray For Foray

In 1940, there wasn’t an awful lot on television. There were no networks. The FCC still hadn’t figured a standard broadcast transmission signal or frequencies. Yet, on Wednesday, April 6, 1940, there was an hour-long (live, of course) variety show on W6AXO in Los Angeles. Just about all the acts are long forgotten. They included the Lee Sisters, Barron and Blair, and hosts Hugh Brundage and Bill Gordon.

Oh, and at the end of the first half, an actress performed a monologue called Lady Tilbury Entertaining With Hay Fever.

Her name was June Foray.

She was entertaining people before that primitive TV appearance. As a review of that show in Billboard pointed out, she was a regular on KECA radio with her kid stories. The review also claimed she “is a definite personality for tele.” I imagine it wasn’t thinking of her career being more off-camera rather than on.

We think of June as being a top cartoon and commercial actress, and her work on radio and records with Stan Freberg. We think of her, Twilight Zone excepted, in comedy. We don’t think of her an evil fire-cult leader. But that’s what she was in the feature film Sabaka. The movie was a mess. It was originally titled Gunga Ram but RKO complained in September 1952 that was too close to its Gunga Din. So the title was changed to The Hindu and whole new sequences were quickly written, included all the ones involving Foray. The movie is actually available on YouTube for the morbidly curious. Here’s how Harrison’s Reports of January 29, 1955 reviewed the film.
"Sabaka" with Boris Karloff, Nino Marcel, Reginald Denny and Victor Jory
(United Artists, February; time, 81 min.)
Produced in India and photographed in an unidentified color (prints are by Technicolor) [it was shot in Eastman Color], this is a rather amateurish program adventure melodrama that may get by with the youngsters and uncritical adults. Its story about a young elephant boy's efforts to avenge the murder of his sister by a fanatical cult of fire-worshippers is juvenile, but it is actionful, and the scenes of wild animals stampeding through a forest fire are impressive. The proceedings, however, are not easy to follow, and most of the time one is in doubt as to what is going on. Boris Karloff, Reginald Denny and Victor Jory are the only members of the cast who are known to American audiences, but their roles are comparatively brief even though they are starred. The color photography is only fair at best; much of it is fuzzy: —
Nino Marcel, a courageous young elephant trainer in India, loses his sister and brother-in-law when they are burned to death in a forest fire started by June Foray, High Priestess of a maniacal cult of fire-worshippers, and Victor Jory, her ruthless aide. The young mahout swears vengeance against the murderers and he sets out to break up the cult. But the Maharajah of Bakore, with whom he was on friendly terms, disbelieves the boy's story, and Boris Karloff, the Maharajah's general, opposes the young man on the grounds that he is interfering with military matters. The boy manages to capture the High Priestess and one of her followers, but they protest that they are merely entertainers. The maharajah censures the lad and releases them. Determined to prove that he was right, the boy follows the High Priestess into the jungle and eventually comes upon her as she and her cult perform their strange rites before a huge idol, named Sabaka. The priestess orders him to be seized and burned alive, but with the help of two pets — an elephant and a tiger, the lad gains his freedom, brings about the Priestess' death and puts an end to the cult by destroying the idol. This feat restores him to the good graces of his ruler.
It was written, produced and directed by Frank Ferrin. Harmless for the family.
Her work with Freberg made her a natural for comedy commercials. Broadcasting magazine of February 25, 1963 outlines an interesting series of spots.
Tongue-in-cheek spots selling staid ‘Times’ on West Coast
The newspaper strike has deprived New Yorkers of their daily newspapers, but the Western edition of the New York Times is flourishing, thanks in part to a radio campaign which began mid-January in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The one -minute spots, created by Carson/Roberts, Los Angeles, are currently broadcast by KNX and KFI Los Angeles; KNBR, KCBS and KGO San Francisco in an initial 13 –week subscription campaign.
Most of the spots are based on the adventures of Mr. Peebles, the mailman, who delivers the New York Times to Western subscribers. Typical is his conversation with Mrs. Dumont, who is so anxious to get her Times that she kisses him when he hands it to her with the rest of her mail. When she raves about all the New York Times' "world-famous columnists like James Reston and Arthur Krock and Sulzberger and Taubman and, oh, just everybody." The postman asks which is her favorite.
"Well," she says hesitatingly, "I like Taubman on the theatre. But Rupert's favorite is James Reston."
"Rupert?," asks Mr. Peebles, "I thought your husband's name was Cyril."
"It is," she responds.
"So who's Rupert?"
"My prize mynah bird."
"You mean . . . ?"
"Yes. I line Rupert's cage with the New York Times, Reston's column facing up."
"You mean to say you use the most distinguished newspaper in the world to line a mynah bird's cage?"
"That's right. But when that bird talks—you listen!"
In another of the spots, a little girl amazes Postman Peebles by telling him that the New York Times he is delivering is not for her mother, but for herself. "What's so strange?," she asks. "After all I'm six years old . . . Can I help it if I dig James Reston and Arthur Krock?"
The embarrassed postman replies: "Certainly not, but I thought little girls just liked to play with dolls," and the little girl says: "We do," and shows him her talking doll. "Does she say 'I love you' and 'Go bye bye?,' " he asks.
She snaps back: "Are you kidding? Listen—."
There is the sound of a doll ring pull and the doll's voice says "Shall we discuss the Congo situation?" "You see," the little girl explains, "she reads the New York Times too."
Ah, but you want to read something about cartoons. Here’s a syndicated column that appeared in papers starting around July 1, 1962. Around this time, June got some big exposure in an Arthur Godfrey special on strange voice occupations. She seems content to have left behind roles like the high priestess of the Sabaka cult.
Actress Has No Face

HOLLYWOOD — We were sitting in a booth at the Hollywood Brown Derby with the most sought-after actress in town June Foray. The petite redhead, despite the fact that she commands a six figure salary every year and is heard oftener on TV and radio than any other actress, is also unrecognized wherever she goes. Across the way, two youngsters were getting autographs from Hugh O'Brian.
On an impulse, we shouted to the youngsters: “How would you like to meet ‘Rocky the Squirrel’?”
“Where, where?” they yelled, but when we pointed to June, they walked away, convinced they had been the victims of a prank.
“That's the story of my life,” June said, for indeed she was the voice of “Rocky” and also “Natasha” in the “Bullwinkle Show.” It's a Hollywood axiom that whenever a peculiar “voice” is needed, June gets the first call.
There's hardly a cartoon company in Hollywood that doesn't utilize her services. Hardly a cartoon has come out of Walt Disney without June's voice in it and, aside from “Bullwinkle,” she has been on the weekly payroll of “Woody Woodpecker” and “Bugs Bunny.”
ADD THE FACT that her off-camera voice is heard currently in over two dozen filmed commercials and there isn't a day or night you can escape hearing her on TV. In Hollywood, she is known as “the girl with over 500 voices.”
“The girl with 500 voices and no face,” she corrected. "I'd been doing voice characterizations since I was a child. I started as a professional at the age of 12 on a radio station in Springfield, Mass. My versatility with voices just came naturally without premeditated design or training.
“My burning ambition was to become an actress. When I was old enough I came to Hollywood. I got a few acting jobs right away and started getting them steadily. But when they found I could do crying babies, cat voices, and even invent plausible voices for non-speaking animals and rodents, they never let me act again. But I worked every day, every week, for three times the money I would have made as an actress.
“FOR QUITE some time, I felt sorry for myself because I had none of the acclaim other professional actors get. But one day, I was called to use my voice for an actress who'd gotten laryngitis. I do a lot of that now. Then I realized that I was paid twice as much for just four hours work as that well-known actress was paid for a week."
“‘June,’ I said to myself, ‘you're a vain nut. Here you've been working steadily every week since 1944. The actresses who sign autographs and take all the bows would give their right arm to be in your shoes.’ That's what I said to myself and I straightened out. I still get an envious twinge now and then, but I just remind myself that being faceless is my fortune.
“I've worked as many as three different shows in one day. What other actress can do that? I never have to worry about the public getting tired of me. If one of my voices wears thin, I still have 500 others!”
Just then, the two youngsters who had walked away returned and said: “If you’re ‘Rocky,’ prove it.” Without betraying a single facial muscle, June lifted her voice into the familiar squeaky falsetto of the famous squirrel. Seeing June’s radiant reaction to the awed and now-convinced youngsters, it occurred to us that no one, no matter how financially secure, can learn to live with anonymity and like it!
It would be pointless to list all the great things in show business that June Foray has done. I’d get comments like “You forgot....” Even she’s forgotten some of them; there have been so many. You can read some in this post and this post and this post. Read great stories on Mark Evanier’s site; I’ll bet you he has one today.

She was one of the greats.

An Early Morning Visit From Chuck McCann

I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed at 1:15 this morning and stopped at an unexpected live broadcast. The stream was from actor Chuck McCann, age 81, sitting in a restaurant and apparently just chatting into a camera/phone for something to do and in case there was anyone out there who wanted to listen.

You know, that’s pretty cool. Well, two things are. The technology, for one thing. Who could have imagined—besides writers on The Jetsons, that is—that someone would be able to do that kind of thing. And the other is having some kind of connection with someone who you watched on TV. I’m not a very star-struck individual, but it was pretty neat watching Chuck tell stories about orange groves in Los Angeles and lunching with Greta Garbo, talking right into my computer.

My age and location is such that my exposure to Mr. McCann first came in a series of TV commercials he made for Right Guard deodorant. Chuck was the self-amused neighbour who shared his apartment medicine cabinet with a weary man who called for his wife when he had enough of Chuck’s hammy antics. Pretty soon after that, Chuck started to turn up with a fair bit of frequency during actual TV programmes playing parts.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Chuck had been around some time before, and a regular or semi-regular on a few shows before landing his own daytime childrens’ that ran locally in New York. When the streamcast ended, I tried to find some clippings about Chuck’s early career. There aren’t a lot. The earliest is from Pinky Herman’s column in the Motion Picture Daily of August 17, 1956:
21-year-old puppeteer Chuck McCann WABDoing a sensational job pinch-hitting for vacationing Sandy Becker on the 8:45-10:00 ayem kiddie series. There’s a bright future facing the young and talented Chuck on TV.
Radio TV Mirror of April 1959 gave a short bio (along with what looks like an ABC stock photo) in response to a reader’s question:
It has come as no great surprise to those who know him that, at twenty-four, Chuck McCann is already such a success on television. For the young performer who has scored such a hit as commercial announcer and puppeteer on ABC-TV's Peter Lind Hayes Show, and as a comic-impressionist on such programs as The Steve Allen Show, was born into a family tradition of show business. His grandfather had been with Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, and his father was arranger-composer with the Roxy Theater. Little Chuck spent his childhood in the Roxy pit watching the top personalities go through their acts. Through this intensive "research," he learned the art of mimicry. . . . Later, becoming interested specifically in drama, Chuck joined the Pasadena Playhouse — working his way up through electrician, scenic designer, stage manager, and finally performer. Upon returning to the East, he became a successful comic-impressionist in local niteries. With a group of puppets created by Paul Ashley, he has lately become a great favorite on the Hayes show. . . . Just married this past December, the young comic and his wife Susie (a former model) live in a Manhattan apartment.
The wedding, by the way, made Dorothy Gilgallen’s column. Either Chuck had a good publicist or Dorothy liked kids shows.
As for Steve Allen, a cover story in the New York Herald Tribune’s entertainment magazine quoted Allen about his coming Monday night show that would be broadcast from California instead of New York. Allen replied:
As to the boys, I’m pretty sure Louis [Nye] and Don (Knotts) are coming out to the Coast with me, and perhaps one or two of the others, Gabe Dell, Chuck McCann, etc.
McCann stayed in New York. There was a children’s show to do. He and all the other kid hosts on WPIX actually got together on Christmas Day 1960 to host a day-long broadcast for young viewers.

Unfortunately, live kids shows eventually ended for the reason you see to the right. In a different example under the headline “How Downyflake ‘uses’ children to sell”, the September 24, 1962 edition of Broadcasting magazine reported: “To enhance its effectiveness on children's programs, Downyflake has recently started a number of promotions, on the theory that a strong admiration of tv personalities by juveniles can be directly transferred into product identity.... Children submitting the winning names will spend a day with such tv stars as Sonny Fox, Bozo The Clown, Herb Sheldon, Fred Scott, Chuck McCann and Claudie Kirchner.”

Chuck did other things in those early ‘60s years. For example, he and his puppets starred in a 12-minute film for the Plumbing and Heating Division of American Standard about the company’s new Vent-Away toilet gizmo. He was a regular on the Jimmy Dean prime-time variety show. And he cut a record.

But he was known mainly to kids in the metropolitan New York area. And this brings us back to what I was talking about at the beginning. Here’s a nice little story from the Greenpoint Weekly Star, July 3, 1964. I’ve had to add a line of missing text. Sorry for the fuzzy photo.
Youngsters Meet Chuck McCann

A lucky four year old, through her talent for art was permitted to see two famous television personalities in person.
Cathy Dobres of 163 S. 1st street together with brother Bobby, three years old, had the thrill of meeting Chuck McCann and Lassie.
Chuck McCann has his own show on Sundays and weekdays and Lassie is seen on Sunday nights as television's most famous dog star.
Mrs. Dobres received the tickets last month to the Chuck McCann Show that she had written away for previously. These tickets enabled her children to attend one of the shows on Sunday morning.
● ● ●
CATHY gave Chuck McCann a puppet she designed herself. She also gave him a drawing she made of Little Orphan Annie, a com [ic strip character that he im] personates.
Two days before her family was at a Sports and Vacation Show at the New York Colliseum. Lassie was appearing there with her trainer. Rudd Weatherwax.
She had drawn a picture of Lassie and wanted to give it to her. Cathy asked the trainer for permission to see Lassie. Even though he didn't know her family, the permission was granted.
Not being shy or frightened she shook Lassie's paw. Bobby being a little scared wouldn't go near the dog.
BOBBY and Cathy had their pictures taken with Lassie as they did with Chuck McCann.
The lucky children had a wonderful time seeing their favorite television characters and undoubtedly would do it again if they had the opportunity.
It’s nice to read about some young children getting a chance to meet someone they saw on TV. I can’t say I’m as excited about Chuck McCann like some of the people who watched him years ago on WPIX in New York, but it was nice to stumble onto his Facebook feed and hear his stories. He comes across to me as a genuine guy who is complementary of others he’s known through life. And with all the nastiness in the world and on the internet, we could really use a lot more people like that.

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Legging It Out

Sometimes, mistakes managed to get through in animated cartoons. We’ve pointed out cases here on the blog where a cel or two would be missing and a body part would disappear, or a cel would be photographed in the wrong order and there’d be a bit of a jerk in the animation.

There were colouring mistakes, too, that slipped through. Here’s an example in the Woody Woodpecker cartoon The Screwball (1943). Woody was all kinds of colours in his early appearances. His legs and feet are supposed to be a shade of orange-yellow, but they become blue like much of the rest of his body for two frames (which are used in a cycle). You can see one of the frames below.

La Verne Harding is the only credited animator, and Woody looks pretty good in some of the scenes. Too bad the gags aren’t stronger and the pace isn’t faster.

Monday 24 July 2017

As The Leg Is Bent

Spike's right leg remains up even after he kicks Droopy out of the mansion in Wags to Riches (1949). Here are some of the drawings.

Bobe Cannon, Grant Simmons, Walt Clinton and Mike Lah are the credited animators in this Tex Avery cartoon.

Sunday 23 July 2017

Jack Benny in Action

Sitting in a theatre seat watching a bunch of people reading from a script for 25 minutes doesn’t sound very entertaining, but during the Golden Days of Radio, plenty of people did just that. Part of the attraction was seeing the stars in the flesh. Another was to watch how the ingenious sound effects were made. And there was an entertainment factor besides looking at people who were looking at papers and saying funny things; variety and comedy shows generally had an orchestra and a singer/singing group.

Jack Benny seemed to prefer a smaller radio studio, from what I’ve read over the years, despite the fact he had played in large, big-time vaudeville houses. The first few years of his broadcasting career were mainly spent at Radio City in New York. He worked out of Hollywood for two months in 1934 and for much of the last eight months of 1935 before permanently packing up for California in 1936.

The Washington Star provided an interesting word-picture of a typical Benny broadcast from New York in its edition of March 3, 1935; presumably the columnist caught the East Coast show of February 24th (the second live broadcast for the West Coast would have started at 11:30 p.m. Eastern time).

Incidentally, the photo to the right came from Kathy Fuller-Seeley and is from the 1934-35 radio season. Writer Harry Conn is second from the left with Frank Parker on the right. Don Wilson is standing behind Jack. At the far right, next to Mary, is bandleader Don Bestor. Sam Hearn is not in the photo. I don’t know if the other two men are from NBC or Young and Rubicam, Jell-O’s agency. Frederick Wile, Jr. was the agency’s publicity man for the Benny show but I have no idea what he looked like. Wile later worked as vice-president of programmes and production in the early ‘50s at NBC under Pat Weaver, who oversaw the Benny show for Y&R in the mid-‘30s.

Spontaneous Cheer Held Real Reason for Success.
By Martin Codel.
Finding the formula for Jack Benny’s enormous radio success on the radio during the last few years—a success reflected in the recent poll of the Nation’s radio editors, who voted him their favorite comedian and his show the most popular of last year—is not difficult after a visit to one of his broadcast performances. Attend one of his broadcast shows, as the writer did the other night, and, even if you are not already a Benny fan, you will readily discern why the radio editors of Main street joined Broadway’s in heaping their encomiums upon Jack Benny.
You find him and his trouble in one of the medium-sized, and thus more intimate studios, amid the magnificence that is Radio City. There are not more than 250 spectators in the studio, all seated. It is 10 minutes before the show goes on. Jack Benny is clutching a script, a partially burned but unlighted cigar clenched between his teeth. He is nervously pacing the slightly elevator rostrum on which most of the cast and orchestra are sitting or standing, the principals all likewise with scripts in hand.
Jack raises his right arm, with the other yanking the cigar from his mouth. He grins broadly, an infectious grin, and the audience chuckles. We are still not on the air, and we wonder at the need for the hush that follows. “I want you to meet the members of our cast,” Jack says, and with appropriate joshing he introduces Mary Livingstone, Frank Parker, Don Wilson, Don Bestor and Sam Hearn, who is the “Mr. Shlepperman” of many other dialects besides his better known Yiddish.
Actors Loosen Up, Too.
All of the actors have been intently studying their scripts, but they take their bows—all grinning. Then they return to a serious perusal of their scripts, for 7 o’clock is fast approaching.
You wonder next why Jack Benny has to deliver himself of his ensuing peroration. “I want you all to enjoy yourselves,” he tells the studio audience, “and you don’t need to be afraid to laugh and applaud as loudly as you like.” An invitation for “background noise” to stimulate the artists, if not to impress the unseen audience? It seems so, and you are a bit disappointed at such artificial tactics.
At precisely 7 o’clock the orchestra signs on, Announcer Wilson delivers himself of his blurb over the musical background, he finishes and the orchestra breaks into crescendo. The usual wisecracking introduction by Wilson and discordant blare of the band, and Jack himself addresses the microphone. He engages in repartee with the chubby Wilson, whose moon face is all smiles and whose rotund form often shakes with laughter.
Benny has the microphone at the left, Wilson being at another about 12 feet to the right. The rest of the cast breaks in at one or the other mikes in the well-known manner of that particular show, according to their parts in the script. Everyone laughs, of course, but why do the performers themselves laugh so heartily, and especially why is the orchestra literally convulsed?
There you have the secret of Jack Benny’s show, quite aside from the excellence of the script. Cast and orchestra are enjoying the performance even more than the seen and unseen audience, and there is no question about the spontaneity of their enjoyment. You learn why after the show when yu can talk about whispers to your host, a studio attaché, and then talk to Jack Benny himself.
The performer, with the exception of Benny of course, saw the script for the first time that morning. They rehearsed it for only three or four hours, studied their lines through the afternoon, perhaps puzzled to themselves how some of those lines could “pull a laugh”—and returned to the studio at 6:30 relatively fresh for the show. All of them are experienced troupers or radio artists, yet all are as nervous and eager as for any first night performance.
The orchestra members, you also learn, had been barred entirely from the rehearsals! Thus the written lines are utterly new to all of them but their leader, Don Bestor, who has some script parts. The result is that every laugh from the orchestra is wholly unaffected.