Thursday 30 November 2017

Blackout Borscht

Starving Woody Woodpecker wolfs down some “Blackout Borscht” from a taxidermist cat that wants to kill him. Here are some reaction drawings.

Don Williams is the only credited animator in Woody Dines Out, directed by Shamus Culhane, but of course there were others.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

The Irate Bald Guy on TV

In the ‘50s and ‘60s, Fred Clark was one of those supporting actors who seemed to be everywhere. He had a pretty impressive list of film credits, including Sunset Boulevard and Auntie Mame (the less said about Sergeant Dead Head, the better) and was a regular or semi-regular on a few TV shows, while doing guest shots on others.

He told Newsday in 1964 his first paid acting job was in a play in New York in 1938. He made his first film in 1941 but couldn’t get regular work. Then came three years and 12 days in the military starting in 1943. He got out of the Army, played stock for $50 a week before Michael Curtiz cast him in The Unsuspected (released in 1947).

But it’s odd more interviews weren’t done with him. We’ll post a couple of stories, first from January 20, 1951, before he took over the role of Harry Morton on the TV version of Burns and Allen. The second is from August 19, 1962. Between those two interviews, Clark and his wife Benay Venuta were offered a “Mr. and Mrs.” type TV show which never came off, and he was signed as Daddy for an NBC-TV version of Baby Snooks which went nowhere. He revealed to Newsday he had been offered a series in 1964 playing opposite Soupy Sales. He didn’t waste time saying ‘no.’ Instead, he played opposite Red Buttons in the forgettable The Double Life of Henry Fyfe (1966). Clark died of cancer in 1968. He was only 54.

Baldie Calls on Screen Glamour Boys to Toss Away Exotic Toupees

Associated Press Hollywood Writer
HOLLYWOOD—Slick-topped character actor Fred Clark today called on Hollywood glamour boys to toss away their toupees.
“You're making it tough on the millions of bald-headed Americans,” Clark advised. “They may get inferiority complexes because they see every male film star with a full head of hair, whether it’s his or Max Factor’s.
“The baldies of America are in danger of feeling socially and romantically inferior because of how they are pictured in the movies.
There's no reason why Hollywood can't have at least one romantic star who is bald.”
• • •
Clark himself has had a fine head of skin for many years, but he is no oldtimer. He shields his exact age because he fears producers will think he is too young for the character roles he portrays. (My spies report he is in his thirties.)
The actor is living proof that a shiny-domed male can be successful socially and professionally. He is one of the film town's most popular escorts, his current date being Benay Venuta. He is also one of the busiest actors, with or without a toupee. He has appeared on the screen both ways, but shuns the hairpiece to his personal life.
• • •
“The toupee is just as dishonest for the male as the falsie is for the female," he reasoned. "I think it is much better to look bald than phony. Most women can spot a toupee at 10 paces. The movies may be able to trick audiences with fake hair, but it's too easily detected in person.”
Clark cited science to support his argument. He observed that studies in recent years have shown that baldness is a sign of virility. The fact that baldness occurs infrequently with women adds to that belief,” he said.
Furthermore, he named some famous figures as proof that bald men can be admired and successful—General Eisenhower, Winston Churchill, Henry J. Kaiser, Clement Attlee, Aga Kahn, Harold Stassen, etc.
“Hollywood is behind the times in trying to hide baldness." he concluded. “When will the studios wise up? Hair on the head? Bah! It's more important on the chest.”

Fred Clark Speaks Up For Supporting Players

NEW YORK — Fred Clark, best remembered as the temper-torn neighbour of the “Burns and Allen Show” some years ago, once expressed his distaste for award-winning actors who gush gratitude to everyone from producer to prop man. “They rarely,” he said, “if ever remember to give credit to their supporting players, without whom they certainly could not have attained their success.”
There is a good deal of sense to this, since supporting players, some of whom were once great stars and all tried-and-true professionals, supply the canvas, paints, brushes, color, setting and illuminating with which the star creates his masterpiece. If these elements are inferior, there will be no praise, no awards and very little play.
Most of these character actors walk the streets of Hollywood and New York in relative anonymity. If they are recognized, they produce such phrases as “there goes Fred Mertz, Lucy’s landlord” or “isn’t that whatziz name, who plays Ben Casey’s assistant?”
Fred Clark is no stranger to this type of recognition. “Most visitors to the set where we shot would approach me and say, ‘Oh, Mr. Morton, we enjoy your acting so much.’ When somebody addressed me as Mr. Clark, I was reasonably certain he worked there.”
Average American Male
Clark is far from the image most people have of an actor. On stage or off, he appears to be the average American male. He is tall, balding, sometimes attentive, other times aggressive, reacting to the situation.
On stage, he is a delight of producers and directors in his professional ability to make his characterization as natural as if it were in real life.
“It is particularly difficult to be natural in comedy,” Clark admitted, somewhat sadly. Although comedy has become his forte, he still prefers the serious roles.
“Comedy demands exaggeration. Too much makes it slapstick. Not enough makes it dull. You have to find the happy medium between natural and exaggeration so that the part can be both believable and still funny.”
Series Are Hard Work
In his latest role, on Wednesday, August 8, “U.S. Steel Hour,” Clark played a World War Two Colonel who so enjoyed the cooking for his mess officer he refused to consider his request for a transfer to a combat area. This situation required that combination of exaggeration and naturalness that Clark so proficiently blends.
Returning to the subject of top bananas in show business, Clark reminisced about George Burns, whom he considers to be “the very essence of a showman and the epitomy of a good administration in show business.”
“He didn’t demand anything of his actors. He advised them on their performances and that way got just what he was after.”
Asked if he would enjoy returning to a series like Burns and Allen, Clark said there is a possibility of doing one, though not in the immediate future. “However,” he remarked candidly, “I must admit that my preference for doing a TV series is motivated by finances. They are very lucrative. But they are very tough on an actor. They are confining, often boring and always hard work.
“I think I speak for most actors when I say that, if the money were the same, we would all want to be the guest stars and featured players in one-time specials, or somebody else’s series.”

Tuesday 28 November 2017

The Missing Bone

A swirl of dogs fights for a bone they stole from Droopy in Out-Foxed.

The swirl stops. The dogs look around. Droopy demands to know which one has his bone. Each shakes his head (to a solo violin). The camera pans to one dog that obviously has it in his mouth. Oh, and no one realises Reginald Fox has put a stick of dynamite inside the bone, until...

Walt Clinton, Bobe Cannon, Mike Lah and Grant Simmons are the animators in this 1949 cartoon by the Tex Avery unit.

Monday 27 November 2017

Tongue of the Duck

Rod Scribner (and an in-betweener) get Daffy’s tongue a-flopping in Fool Coverage, a 1952 cartoon from the Bob McKimson unit.

This is one of a number of cartoons where Daffy plays a salesman.

Phil De Lara, Herman Cohen, Chuck McKimson and an uncredited Keith Darling animated this cartoon.

The tune over the opening credits is Myrow and Rhythm’s “Keep Cool Fool.”

Sunday 26 November 2017

Tralfaz Sunday Theatre: Killjoy Was Here

Not all animated cartoons for the military were as funny and entertaining as the Snafu shorts made at Warner Bros. But they didn’t have to be. All they had to do was get their message across.

The U.S. Air Force Air Photographic and Charting Service commissioned a cartoon called Killjoy Was Here which, basically, told airmen not to be a jerk. The title, of course, is a play on the “Kilroy was here” graffiti in World War Two. The 12-minute short released in 1956 won’t be mistaken for a Warner Bros. cartoon. It’s chock-full of limited animation, even more than in your average Hanna-Barbera cartoon; a parachuting airman is on a cel that is turned in different directions to simulate movement.

If anything, this cartoon may remind you of something from Famous Studios. Not only is Jackson Beck voicing Killjoy, but some of the characters have that slow, mechanical walk cycle that you’ll find in late-’50s Paramount cartoons.

This cartoon was produced by Cineffects, Inc., one of many companies in New York City to take advantage of the boom in animated commercials in the 1950s. A Billboard article in November 25, 1957, gives a bit of a profile:
Should you turn on your TV set to a picture of a woman walking down a street, split in half, with both halves walking, don't be alarmed— it's not another "horror" picture just a commercial produced by Cineffects to advertise deodorant. Cineffects, Inc., of New York City, claims to be the oldest film service organization in the city. Established in 1939 by President Nathan Sobel, it has departments devoted to animation, lettering and backgrounds, camera technique and optical effects. The studio also boasts a time and labor-saving method for use with Oxberry animation equipment. This method provides the effects of products floating through the air without support, lines or shadows.
A Billboard story from the previous year reveals Phil Klein was a director at the studio while Bert Freund was a designer. Broadcasting magazine revealed several years earlier that Joe Stultz, who had been a writer at Famous/Fleischer, was an employee. But I can find very little about the studio’s staff. It was a union shop.

The year before Killjoy Was Here was released, Cineffects animated a TV spot for Schaefer Brewing that appeared on Brooklyn Dodgers games. It featured a character named Thirsty who parachuted onto Ebbets Field (Cineffects apparently had the parachuting cel idea down pat).

With that brief introduction, here is the cartoon. I don’t know who the narrator is, nor the name of the music library heard in the background.

The Goose Grease Violinist

Concert-goers either enjoyed or tolerated Jack Benny’s violin playing when he appeared at charity event. Musicians found interesting ways to find euphemisms for “he’s not very good.” But Benny raised great amounts of money and no doubt saved orchestras and concert halls from certain death.

Not many of Benny’s non-televised performances warranted mention in the national press, but one in Los Angeles on April 23, 1957 did, likely because the city was filled with entertainment columnists for newspaper syndicates and wire services, and they needed to write something.

Here’s an Associated Press story that appeared in papers the next day.
Jack Benny Plays Classics (They Lost)

LOS ANGELES (AP)— The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra may never be the same.
Jack Benny, 39-year-old violinist of Waukegan, Ill., made a guest appearance last night at Philharmonic Auditorium. He played sections from Sarasate, Mendelssohn and Rimsky-Korsakoff. All three composers lost.
Such music lovers as Frank Sinatra, James Stewart, Claudette Colbert, Dana Wynter, Clifton Webb, Gregory Peck, Ann Miller and Sam Goldwyn paid $100 a seat to hear Mr. Benny’s West Coast debut as a concert artist. The event was for the benefit of Cedars of Lebanon Hospital.
Charity netted a reported $100,000. What happened to music is another matter.
Immaculate in white tie and tails, the violinist played vigorously while carrying on a running feud with the concertmaster. The latter interrupted with violin solos and was removed from the stage at the request of Mr. Benny.
The comedian’s stares were more eloquent than his cadenzas. But here and there was evidence that he might have gone farther with the fiddle if he had applied himself more back in Waukegan.
Between numbers he confessed to the audience that he had the feeling of not being needed by the orchestra—“like being stranded on a desert isle with Jayne Mansfield—and her boy friend.”
Albert Goldberg, the Los Angeles Times music critic, had this to say about Benny's playing:
“. . . As a violinist Mr. Benny has a small but offensive tone, and he apparently uses goose grease instead of resin on his bow.”
What did the Times writer have to say? Glad you asked. Here’s the answer:
Jack Benny Fiddles Around for Charity

“The Jack Benny Show” was the legend on the marquee of Philharmonic Auditorium last night and it was indeed Mr. Benny’s show, although Dorothy Kirsten, soprano, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under Alfred Wallenstein’s direction likewise contributed prominently to this $100-a-seat benefit sponsored by the Women’s Guild of Cedars of Lebanon Hospital for the free bed program. The audience was large and a personnel list would read like a Who’s Who in Hollywood.
Mr. Benny, in case you don’t know, is a violinist—and it is one way to make a living. He confessed to being nervous: “It’s like being on an island with Jayne Mansfield and her boy friend,” he said. “You have a feeling you’re not needed.”
Critical Note
But nerves or not, Mr. Benny was undeterred in attacking several of the more difficult items of the virtuoso repertoire. Since this is supposed to be a critical review we might as well note now that as a violinist Mr. Benny has a small but offensive tone and that he apparently uses goose grease instead of resin on his bow.
He came on to play Sarasate’s “Gypsy Airs” without his bow and had to send off for it. David Frisina, the orchestra’s concertmaster, obligingly filled in with the first cadenza when things began to look bad for Mr. Benny, an assist that the soloist apparently did not appreciate, for, after a whispered conference with Mr. Wallenstein, the concertmaster was asked to leave the stage, shortly to be followed by an industrious cymbal player who had likewise cramped Mr. Benny’s style. Mr. Benny celebrated his victory by adding “Love in Bloom” to the Sarasate piece without any great harm being done, and to everyone’s surprise he and the orchestra ended together.
Twinges of Conscience
The first movement of Mendelssohn’s E Minor Concerto was next served up for slaughter, but conscience first impelled Mr. Benny to send off for the music—“It’s a little hazardous,” he explained—and the stagehand who brought it also obligingly tuned Mr. Benny’s violin for him.
Aside from having to be reminded to come in with the second theme, Mr. Benny worked diligently with his task with what might be called an ocean wave technique, and when Heimann Weinstine, who had taken Mr. Frisina’s place, volunteered to help with the cadenza, he met with the same ingratitude as his predecessor. But by skipping the cadenza altogether Mr. Benny made it, by golly.
Since there were no more concertmasters left to banish Mr. Benny took the first chair for the second section of Rimsky-Korsakoff’s “Capriccio Espagnol.” This also contains a violin cadenza that enabled Mr. Benny to demonstrate his technique with merciless clarity, and except for having to caution Mr. Wallenstein to go slower he again emerged victorious.
The more serious part of the program had Miss Kirsten singing “Un bel di” from “Madame Butterfly” and “Depuis le jour” from “Louise” with her usual grace and soaring voice, and Mr. Wallenstein conducted the overture to Smetana’s “The Bartered Bride,” the suite from Strauss’ “Der Rosenlavalier” and the overture to Von Suppe’s “Poet and Peasant” in brilliant fashion.
The wife of one of Jack’s old friends, Mervyn LeRoy, organised the charity concert, while Mrs. David May II was in charge of a supper-dance that followed at the Beverly Hills Hotel (note to our younger readers that there was once a custom that, when formally referring to a wife, the husband’s given name was used instead of the woman’s).

The concert was a success, at least from a charitable standpoint. The Times reported in a sidebar story that $100,000 was raised. Goose grease notwithstanding, Jack Benny had contributed to society yet again.

Saturday 25 November 2017

Lost Cartoon: Family Jubilee

Okay, the title of this post may be a little misleading. Family Jubilee may not actually be lost. A print may be in a canister buried on a shelf somewhere for decades. But it’s a safe guess nobody reading this has seen it before.

We’ve talked about industrial cartoons here before, films funded by corporations for a variety of reasons. Some were used internally. Others were distributed to church and community groups. A number of them appeared on television as ads disguised as institutional/educational films. And a handful showed up in theatres, like some of the shorts produced by John Sutherland.

There seems to have been quite a number of industrial/commercial film outfits. Some specialised in animation. Others would accept contracts for an animated film and then sub-contract a studio to do the work. One of these companies was Wilding Picture Productions, which mainly focused on live action films and film-strips.

Industrial animation historian Jonathan Boschen points out Wilding’s best-known animated film was Big Tim, which was contracted out to UPA in 1949. It was also responsible for a half-hour cartoon movie called The Legend of Dan and Gus, produced for Columbia Gas System in 1952. It tells of the careers of two brothers and the firms they founded—Dan’s Doorknob Co. and Gus’ Gas Co.

We’ve spotted another Wilding-led animation effort while leafing through Business Screen magazine: a 1954 short called Family Jubilee for New York Life Insurance Company. The company debuted it January 12th at a meeting of 4,500 agents from its 160 branches. (Ah, yes, a big audience for a cartoon, isn’t it!?). Business Screen gives us a little taste of the cartoon:
In case any of the “Show Me!” agents thought the hoopla was more of the same old stuff, the company had on hand as a first order of the day’s business a new film, Family Jubilee, which couldn’t have kidded New York Life more effectively if it had been made by a group of competitors. ...
Family Jubilee turned out to be a color cartoon analogy of New York Life, with a family of beavers—ma, pa and the little eager beavers—who run a hotel. In a hilarious lampoon of itself, New York Life showed that when customers of the hotel’s restaurant couldn’t get enough variety of food (policies), they’d go to another restaurant (Met, Pru, John Hancock, etc.). Likening Nylic’s assets and surplus to the hotel’s safe, the film showed it guarded in the 5th sub-basement vaults.

Business Screen printed some frames from the cartoon. Interestingly, they were in colour; generally frame grabs or drawings that appeared in the publication, ads excepted, were in black and white.

The cartoon was 13 minutes long and printed on Kodachrome in 16 millimetre. It was copyrighted on January 15, 1954. While Big Tim may have been animated for Wilding at UPA, the designs from Family Jubilee hardly look like anything from that studio. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to discover who made it.

Wilding was based out of Chicago and had some heavyweight clients in 1954, including the Ford Motor Company which paid for a 35 mm live-action short in CinemaScope. But this appears to have been the only animated film produced by the company that year.

It’s a shame there are so many industrial cartoons from the 1940s and ‘50s that haven’t been exposed to viewers for years. Perhaps more of them will come to light.

Friday 24 November 2017

Ragtime Bear Jump

The Ragtime Bear tries sneaking across the room but hears the sleeping Mr. Magoo stir. He jumps into the air and pretends to be a bear rug. Here are the drawings.

UPA hadn’t outlawed squash and stretch when this cartoon was released in 1949.

Pat Matthews apparently did this scene. Willie Pyle, Rudy Larriva and Art Babbitt are the other credited animators.