Wednesday 31 October 2018

He Really is a Scre-am

Creepy and kooky? Mysterious and spooky? Well, their theme song said they were. But I suspect a lot of people didn’t think that of the Addams Family. I can’t help but wonder if the show was liked by kids who didn’t quite fit in because it showcased other people who didn’t quite fit in, too. And, like animated cartoons that kids love, there’s no explanation for any of the oddness on the screen. That’s just the way things are.

Is it any wonder, then, that Ted Cassidy, who played the Addams’ butler, soon found himself working in animated cartoons. Hanna-Barbera hired him starting in 1965. Cassidy had been in radio, as had others at the studio (albeit, most as actors in the Golden Age).

Today being Hallowe’en, we’ll post a couple of newspaper stories about “spooky” Ted Cassidy from the time when he first made his name answering a loud gong that shook the camera on the Addams’ set. First stop is the Binghamton Press of September 18, 1965.

Cassidy 'Lurched' to Stardom

Special Press Writer
Hollywood—Take heart, all you nervous unknowns who are listed as "stars" of your own new television series. Some of you are destined to survive the success or failure of your series. But you would be well advised not to count on the series to establish you. Now is the time to start doing something, about it.
Take the case of one Ted Cassidy, professional identity: Lurch.
"I came from a good job to an excellent job," Ted sums it up. "I was lucky. I missed the struggle. I don't feel I have to pay anyone back for the miserable years. I never had them."
But when you're six feet nine inches tall and you're elected to go into show business, nothing comes without a struggle. You've got to have perseverance and the intelligence to realize you're not like everybody else and to do something about it.
• • •
BORN in Pittsburgh, Cassidy attended Wesleyan College and Stetson University, studying music and drama. His voice was good enough for him to be considered by several big bands as their vocalist. He moved to Dallas where he won recognition as a disc jockey. Then gambled on a trip to Hollywood, carrying his own screen test with him.
Visits to studios and casting directors accomplished nothing and he returned to Dallas. But one of the people he saw remembered him when The Addams Family series was proposed and he was contacted and asked to audition for the role of Lurch.
One of last season's episodes, "Lurch, The Teenage Idol," pretty much sums up what's happened to Ted since. Kids all over the country are wild for him. "It's shocking to me," he told me during our conversation on the Patio of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. "I don't get the sense of doing anything of national importance. I travel to the studio, work and go home. I don't get the sense of people in Philadelphia or Detroit. I don't even realize what's being put on film.
• • •
"ONLY when I tour, or when the Georgia Tech football team visits me, or when a stream of kids come to my door do I realize the impact I have. The kids are constant, kids by the carloads, kids on skateboards, kids looking for any excuse to come up to look or to talk to me. The only way I've found to preserve any normalcy is to give them the autographs and pictures they want. Then they'll finally accept the fact I'm human and after that they won't come to stare but they'll wave at me when they go by.
"I think kids like Lurch because he's kind of an earthbound superman. They know he's physically strong and they sense that he's a gentle man who loves kids. About the only prototype I can think of is the family dog. Lurch isn't voluble, but he's an aesthete. He plays the harpsichord and he appreciates Mozart and Bach. And he's big and strong enough to get away with it.
"There is no gainsaying that Lurch has put me where I am today," Cassidy said. "Lurch bought the house I live in. But what's going to happen to a guy like me when it's over? What happens when the show dies in maybe five years? Do I die too? No! I want to go on with other things.
"I went to Capitol Records a while ago with an idea that's finally come to fruition. We've made a record. Half the character of Lurch is the sound, So, how do you get the sound on a record? With a dance! "The Lurch,' of course. Capitol dug it and it took us three sessions to cut it, but it's out now.
"How can it miss being a smash, it's a presold item! What I'm banking on is the other side called 'Wesley.' It's kind of like the Walter Brennan treatment of 'Old Rivers,' a philosophical, down home narrative with a country and western beat.
"But acting is unlike any other profession in the world. It's a succession of jobs. When The Addams Family ends, however good you may be, if you're the greatest talent in the whole world, when that job ends, you end. My getting the show was a million-to-one shot. Everything broke just right. When you think about it, I'm the only one in the series who isn't an experienced professional. I don't even know if I'm an actor yet. "Will I be able to make it in films because of my size? I wish I knew."
Cassidy hit the road promoting the show. A reporter with the Rochester Democrat-Chronicle tagged along with him on one leg of a publicity junket and put this into type on December 5, 1965. There’s good news for cat lovers in this story.
He's a 'Most Likable Person'

Democrat and Chronicle TV-Radio Editor
"Hey man," the cabbie said apprehensively as he looked up at the brute of a man who had just slid into the front seat beside him, "you're bigger 'n John Wayne."
"Well, maybe physically," the big man boomed forth, "but not as a box office attraction."
"Yet..." a voice quietly opined from the rear of the cab.
The big man—he's 6 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs in at 250 pounds, give or take a ton—was Ted Cassidy, perhaps better known as Lurch of TV's "The Addams Family." The voice from the back seat belonged to one of our small party. And if the cabbie felt a bit crushed in the driver's seat of the taxi, we weren't doing much better on the other side of Cassidy, squeezed against the door.
A few minutes later we scrambled from the cab at the University Club, where we dined prior to heading out to Hedges Nine Mile Point establishment in Webster and, it was hoped, a little relaxation for Cassidy. He had been signing autographs, making appearances and in general working like a numb zombie all day long in Rochester in behalf of his show. But it just wasn't going to be that easy.
As we left the University Club a passerby gave a double take, walked back to our group, tapped one of us on file shoulder and asked, almost whisperingly, "Say, isn't that fellow Lurch?"
Advised that he was indeed Lurch, the man stuck his hand at tbe big fellow and said, "Hey, I just want to shake your hand. Boy, wait'll my kids hear about this!"
He turned and wafted away, but grabbed another passerby by the shoulder, pointed in our direction, and started talking.
Later, at Hedges, it was the same way. People would walk in, look at Cassidy, and ask him to sign just about anything they could get their hands on.
"Doesn't this get to you after awhile?" we asked.
"Sure," he replied, doing his best to autograph a tissue for a woman with the sniffles. "But you kind of get automatic about the whole business. You know, a piece of paper appears in front of you and you sign it, hardly thinking about it."
We liked as how that could get a bit dangerous if one became careless, and he agreed, doing his best to sign something that looked like a mutilated label from a beer bottle.
Maybe it's because he's relatively new at this star business—he had had no great experience before the movie cameras or with toe intricate demands of Hollywood-type TV production prior to getting the rote on "The Addams Family"—but Ted Cassidy is the most personable, easy talking and downright likable person we have talked with from the world of show business in many a moon.
Our conversation ranged over such topics as how shocking it often is to people if they try to go back to times and places of their childhood, through such things as how so much of our humor is based on the failings of people or the trouble in which they find themselves, to an explanation of why Cassidy likes cats.
"They can't be ruled," he said. "Cats are different from dogs in that you can train dogs to do just about anything. But cats..". well, it's a different matter with them. You can love them, pet them, and take excellent care of them, but if they don't want to do something, well, you'd better give up.
"It's their independence that I admire," he explained. Perhaps it's the same kind of independence that Cassidy possesses. He wants to go far in his chosen profession, beyond and up from his current role.
He says he'd like to portray villains, that he feels he should be pretty good at it.
And if the initial look on that cabbie's face as he watched that 6-foot, 9-inch giant slip into the taxi next to him is an example of how Cassidy would affect viewers, then it doesn't take much to imagine how he would make out as a TV or movie villain.
The Addams Family lasted only two seasons in prime time but found a lot of popularity in daytime syndication until black-and-white shows disappeared from the small screen. But that wasn’t the end of Lurch for Cassidy; he continued to play the character in various animated cartoon versions. He could have been known for something else. Jack Martin of the New York Post reported on May 25, 1979 that Cassidy had beat Atlanta Falcons lineman Pat Howell for the role as the Incredible Hulk, but Lou Ferrigno was cast. That’s because Cassidy died the previous January. His fiancĂ©e, actress Sandra Griego, told Dick Kleiner of the Newspaper Enterprise Association in March that Cassidy was “registered in the hospital where he died under an assumed name (Theodore Case). She says that was done ‘to protect his humanity from the Lurch image’.”

Regardless of how Cassidy eventually felt about being known only as Lurch, Addams Family fans, I suspect, think he was altogether ooky.

Tuesday 30 October 2018

A Witch's Tale to Tom

Tom is deathly afraid as he listens to “The Witch’s Tale” on his radio in Fraidy Cat. It’s perhaps even scarier because “The Witch’s Tale” went off the air in 1938 and the cartoon was released in 1942. An unexplained, chilling voice from the past coming out of the radio! Bwaa-ha-haaaa!

“The Witch’s Tale” starred Martha Wentworth as Old Nancy, the elderly witch. Wentworth reprised her role in Fraidy Cat, cackling and relating a tale of mocking, echoing laughter as a girl is trapped in a lonely tower.

Joe Barbera (with an assist from his gag writer, perhaps) comes up with visual puns narrated by the witch. Tom acts them out as he listens.

“The helpless girl feels her hair stand on end.”

“Icy chills race down her spine.” A large ice cube eventually forms and clunks to the floor.

“Her heart leaps into her throat.”

A scream is heard on the radio. Tom races out in fear (after his feet rotate in mid-air for about two seconds). Notice how Tom still has his eyes on the radio.

No animators are credited. Barbera and Bill Hanna get the only credit. Scott Bradley contributes an appropriate score with woodwinds during the witch’s frightening story.

Monday 29 October 2018

Tom's Haunted Mouse

Haunted Mouse (1965) really is a misnamed cartoon. “Haunted” means there’s a ghost or goblin or something of a similar nature scaring everyone.

Chuck Jones and co-writer Jim Pabian set us up for a fearful cartoon at the beginning. A sinister shadow appears on the horizon. What kind of apparition could be it be?

It’s a mouse. A magician mouse. Sorry, Chuck, but a magician doesn’t haunt anything. There were animators known to haunt a few bars, though. The mouse trots along to a jaunty, jazzy tune by Gene Poddany.

The Jerry lookalike gives us one of those smug side-looks. Hey, Chuck, this isn’t a Wile E. Coyote cartoon!

Ken Harris, Ben Washam, Tom Ray and Don Towsley are the animators, with Maurice Noble getting a co-director credit.

We’ll have a haunted Tom and Jerry cartoon tomorrow.

Sunday 28 October 2018

Jack Benny, Tricker or Treater?

This is a Hallowe’en tale about Jack Benny that isn’t.

Erskine Johnson put together a syndicated column in 1959 with the idea of crafting a story either about Jeanne Crain or trick-or-treating. It’s mostly about Crain but Benny ended up being the point of it all. It appeared in papers starting around November 2nd.

I must admit, when transcribing this, I was surprised by Johnson’s use of an uncomplimentary term referring to illegal Mexican immigrants.

The Night Jack Benny Gave Money Away
By Erskine Johnson

NEA Staff Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD — (NEA) — The guide book to Halloween fun doesn't mention it, but we can report today that Jennne Crain lives in the Mother Lode country of trick or treat. You just wouldn't believe what goes on along Jeanne's block in Beverly Hills.
"Last year I kept count," she told me, "and 602 kids rang our bell."
It all started, you see, on "The Night Jack Benny gave Half Dollars Away."
That's right, Jack Benny!
He's one of Jeanne's neighbors along with Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Thomas Mitchell, Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer, Ira Gershwin, Diana Lynn and, the last time Jeanne counted them — "a total of 27 children."
Five of them are Jeanne's and next year she and hubby Paul Brinkman will have six.
Well, anyway, Jack probably told Mary, "No kid is going to call ME a cheapskate."
So every Halloween night since Jack unlocked his basement vault and handed out those half dollars there has been a kiddie rush to Jeanne's neighborhood, where the treats, she says, seem to get "bigger and better every year."
Like wetbacks sneaking across the Mexican border, kids pile into the land of plenty from all over town, brought by parents in autos and station wagons.
"Last year," Jeanne said, "someone had a jar full of pennies — and they let the kids take home as many as they could grab in one hand."
There's no official record of Jack repeating his half dollar treats but if he does the kids and the neighbors, well-stocked with generous treat gifts, will be ready for him. Keeping up with the Beverly Hills Joneses named Jack and Desi and Ira isn't like Peoria, you know.
Keeping up with the stork, her big family and her career is much simpler, Jeanne indicated, except, of course, for such minor things like her nine-year-old Tim occasionally upsetting the household ("He's a character — he thinks he's Jerry Lewis") and a movie director telling Jeanne:
"I want you to give me a sexy, boyish walk."
"Now, really," the gorgeous red head laughed.
But the director had a point, she admitted. It was for her early scenes with Alan Ladd in the film. "Guns of the Timberland," in which she plays a western ranch boss. For the first 15 minutes of the film. Ladd and the audience aren't supposed to know whether she's a boy or a girl when she's seen in cowboy duds, breaking a bronco.
Playing a murderess in her first telefilm, "Riverboat," was something else again. Jeanne said the frantic pace just couldn't compare with live shows she has done in New York.
"The live shows were easy in comparison," she said, recalling the hours until 1 a.m. and struggling through a muddy swamp. "And when I climbed out of the swamp, the assistant director said: ‘And now Miss Crane, we will go to the dinner scene. Have your hair fixed and change into that fancy dress QUICKLY.’
"Give me the live shows," Jeanne pleaded. Then she took off for the Farmer's Market, still obviously haunted by "The Night Jack Benny Gave Half Dollars Away."
"I'm thinking," she winced as she left, "of individual five-pound candy boxes this year. Paul suggested individual, gift wrapped speedboats," but I talked him out of it."

Saturday 27 October 2018

Boogie Woogie Calker

Walter Lantz turned out some pretty good cartoons in the 1940s.

He had some extremely talented artists. He had a versatile musical director/arranger. Together, they combined for two different musical series in that decade.

While the Musical Miniatures had some fine animation timed very well to classical music by director Dick Lundy, I may be more partial to the Swing Symphonies simply because I enjoy the boogie woogie and big band sounds put together by Darrell Calker and the musicians he was able to round up.

Lantz made 14 Swing Symphonies from 1941 to 1945 but actually had two precursors in that first year—Scrub Me Mamma With a Boogie Beat and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company “B”, which reused some animation from the first cartoon. The later received an Academy Award nomination. Interestingly, it was also profiled in Movie-Radio Guide of July 25, 1941 on its “Recommends” pages. It was rare a cartoon received that privilege, and considering Walt Disney’s towering reputation, it’s odd a Lantz cartoon would be picked.

The story in this cartoon was credited to Bugs Hardaway and Lowell Elliot.

Variety announced on April 9, 1941: “Walter Lantz has bought the ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B’ number used in Universal’s ‘Buck Privates’, and will make an animated cartoon of the song for Universal release.” The film was released on September 1, 1941. The following January 27th, Variety reported the cartoon had been nominated for an Oscar along with “two Walt Disney cartoons yet to be named.” It was one of those Disney cartoons that landed the prize (Lend a Paw).

The animation credits in the cartoon go to Alex Lovy and La Verne Harding. Lovy was credited as an animator in each cartoon around this time, and it’s possible he could have been helping Lantz supervise this one, much like the first-named animator in the Fleischer cartoons was a head animator/director. Hal Mason, Les Kline, Ralph Somerville and Frank Tipper were also on Lantz’s animation staff about this time. They weren’t quite the A-listers that Lantz had later in the decade but they were capable.

About the only place this cartoon falls down is in the gagging department. Hardaway’s sense of humour generally varied from lame puns he thought were really funny, to the obvious, to the surreal. A few years after this cartoon appeared, Shamus Culhane arrived at Lantz to direct and immediately battled Hardaway’s unsophisticated sense of humour. Today, of course, this cartoon has the added handicap of stereotypical, minstrelsy black caricatures (and dice and razor jokes) which leave some people horrified. Incidentally, the Norfolk New Guide and Journal, a black newspaper, published a feature article on January 24, 1942 about Ann Rhodelle Johnson of the Lichtman Theatres, the “only colored woman short subjects booker for a major theatre chain in this country” who booked Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy into 24 houses to play with Murder By Invitation.

At least Hardaway didn’t use his flat, inexpressive voice like he did for Woody Woodpecker. Danny Webb plays the sergeant and an African-American was selected to play the title character.

Some contemporary reviews talk about this cartoon appealing to young people because of the music. Whatever the case, Lantz decided swing cartoons were the way to go. Variety announced the new series in its November 6, 1941 issue, and that 21 Dollars a Day would be released around Christmas time. That’s even though the Swing Symphonies cost extra to make. Knock Knock was made in 1940 for $8,500. Scrub Me Mama cost $10,000 (perhaps that’s why Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy reused animation—to save money) and others went up to $12,000 in 1942.

“I think I made some of the most interesting musical cartoons ever made,” Lantz told author Joe Adamson. More interesting than the Screen Songs at Fleischers? Or Leon Schlesinger’s characters bopping along to those great tunes from Warners musicals of the ‘30s? Whatever the case, Darrell Calker and the rest of the Lantz crew did fill soundtracks of the studio’s cartoons of the ‘40s with some great music.

Friday 26 October 2018

Knitting Brows

“First, put the sweet lovable mouse into a simple situation expressing a natural human need...The result may not make sense, but it will last long enough for you to be comfortably seated before the feature begins.” So says narrator Allen Swift in an aware, apt and ironic description of the Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry cartoons in The Tom and Jerry Cartoon Kit (1962), which happens to be a Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry cartoon.

The “result” in this cartoon kind of doesn’t make sense. The plot moves along from a battle spitting out watermelon seeds to a battle involving judo. Meanwhile, Gene Deitch is interested in visual effects. Backgrounds, a lot of the time, consist of solid colour which changes depending on the characters’ mood. Settings and even characters fade out when they become unnecessary. At least Deitch and animation director Vaclav Bedrich are trying something different.

There’s one effect that’s a pretty good visual pun. An annoyed Tom’s eyebrows sprout knitting needles. The cat knits his brows—into a turtleneck sweater. Tom fades away. All that’s left is the sweater. Suddenly, Tom pops into the sweater. It’s a turtleneck like some palooka would wear and, indeed, the setting of a boxing gym descends from the top of the screen.

The very able Chris Jenkyns wrote the story.

Thursday 25 October 2018

Porky the Giant Killer Backgrounds

Bugs Hardaway and Cal Dalton aren’t among guys I consider top-flight cartoon directors, but there are beautiful backgrounds and creative layouts in their 1939 cartoon Porky the Giant Killer.

The two of them, or whoever was doing layouts for them, must have been inspired by the angles and perspectives that Frank Tashlin and, to a lesser extent, Tex Avery had in their cartoons at the time.

It’s a real shame the layout and background people weren’t credited on screen for another half dozen-or-so years at Warners. I’d love to know who the artists were responsible for these.

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Finding Harry Morton

Imagine how much I Love Lucy would have been different if Bill Frawley had quit the show like he wanted to do after two seasons.

Frawley had been around since the vaudeville days but Lucy gave him unprecedented exposure—and offers with big dollar signs. But the shrewd Desi Arnaz, it seems, had him tied up contractually.

One of the roles dangled at Frawley was one that seemingly nobody wanted, that of next-door-neighbour Harry Morton on The Burns and Allen Show. You think two Darrens on Bewitched was confusing? What about four Harrys? And that’s not including radio.

We’ll get to Harry in just a moment. First, let’s hear from TV’s grouchiest actor. Frawley stayed with Lucy until the show’s end, though he signed a deal while still under contract to move on to My Three Sons. Arnaz apparently wasn’t pleased.

This story appeared in papers around June 21, 1953.
“Landlord’s’ Love For Lucy is Fading

HOLLYWOOD—BILL FRAWLEY wants to quit playing the role of Fred Mertz in the popular "I Love Lucy" show.
Some of his friends claim Bill doesn't mean it, that he is just being typically rambunctious, and point to the fact he just signed for two more years as the Ricardos’ landlord.
But the caustic pugnacious veteran of stage, screen and TV apparently is quite serious, and has built up a pretty strong case for himself.
"Sure, I signed up for another two years, but that doesn't make me happy. I had no choice. I couldn't break the contract, and the options are all their way," Bill glumly states.
His reason for wanting to leave the Nation's top-rated video show is a very fundamental one—money. Bill's salary was hiked with the new contract, but in his own words, "It's only another dollar, comparatively speaking."
This financial wound has been widened further by some much more attractive offers for Bill's services on other TV shows. George Burns made a pass at Frawley recently, asking him to do the Harry Morton role which Fred Clark is vacating next fall.
Freeman Keyes, Red Skelton's mentor, wants Bill for the lead in a new video series he is planning, "Uncle Bill's Doghouse." Keyes has offered Bill twice the money he's getting as Fred Mertz.
There is an outside chance Bill may be able to do both shows, if Keyes and Desi Arnaz can come to an agreement which would allow Desi to produce the "Doghouse" series under the Desilu Production banner. Keyes has offered $20,000 per week for the filming, but Desi is holding out for $23,000.
If this deal goes through, Bill would have to start work right away on the new series and complete most of it before "I Love Lucy" starts up again next fall. "That would be okeh with me. If I worked hard all summer, maybe I'd be sick by fall. That would be one way to duck Fred Mertz," says Bill, devilishly.
In the meantime he is resting up before making the annual Frawley pilgrimage to New York where his baseball cronies (Bill is a rabid Yankees fan) always are waiting to welcome him.
"I've got to have stamina for that trip," he jokingly explains.
"They work me over in shifts back there. A daytime crew meets me at the station and we make the rounds. The night crew takes over after dinner. About 5 A. M. they dump me off at the hotel to be sick by myself.
"After a doctor has jabbed me with a needle a foot long and slipped me some pills, a committee of friends pick me up, take me to the train and say 'Don't come back again, you little heel, until you learn how to take it.'"
The man who has gained more fame as Fred Mertz than he ever did during his long career as Actor Bill Frawley does not deny that there is a lot of satisfaction derived from being associated with the top show on TV.
He knows, too, that these fancy offers being tossed at him now are the result of this association. He recently made an industrial film for Gulf Oil which netted him more in one week of shooting than he makes in four weeks with Desilu.
But when an actor or anyone else finds himself in a spot where his services suddenly double in value, it's only natural to want to cash in while he's hot. If Lucy and Ricky Ricardo are interested in their landlord's happy frame of mind, they'd better kick in to Fred Mertz with a little more rent money.
Columnist Humphrey continued on the Harry Morton beat for the rest of the summer. Burns found a replacement for Fred Clark, someone who had joined the NBC announcing staff from KGW Portland in 1936, and had an interesting idea on how to introduce this latest Harry to viewers.
Burns, Allen Lose Veteran Cast Member

HOLLYWOOD, Aug. 4.—Producers of those TV situation comedies usually are thrown into great consternation when a regular member of the cast drops out for; one reason or another.
They worry about whether the viewers will accept another actor playing a role which has become so thoroughly identified with a certain face.
George Burns and his producer currently find themselves in this predicament because Fred Clark is not going to play Harry Morton on the Burns and Allen show this fall. The part will be played by Larry Keating, veteran actor-announcer.
George refuses to make a federal case out of losing Clark.
“Why try to kid anybody?” he asked. “Blanche (Bea Benedaret) has to have a new husband, so on the first show we’ll simply introduce him as the new member of the cast.”
He is even considering making by bringing three or four candidates to Blanche's house and supposedly letting her pick the one she wants for her husband. "It might be a cute, idea, and it takes care of the plot for one show," George said.
George is the guy who once described a TV situation comedy as something which has a little more plot than a movie, but not quite as much as a wrestling match.
Bill Frawley, who is Fred Mertz on the "I Love Lucy" show, may branch out into his own series this fall in addition to his Mertz role.
If the deal is signed, Desi Arnaz’ production company (Desilu) will film it. The tentative title is "Uncle Bill's Doghouse."
So what did Bea Benaderet think about all this? Humphrey got the answer to that.

Trying to figure out when Benaderet first played Blanche is a little tricky. Verna Felton plays her in the broadcast of January 2, 1947. Harry is mentioned but doesn’t appear. Benaderet plays her on the show of January 29, 1948, but the rest of the season, she’s heard in various other roles, including a friend named Clara Bagley. Blanche appears once again as Blanche in November and then only periodically through the following summer, and while she mentions Harry, he is never heard. It doesn’t appear anyone played Harry until Burns and Allen were sponsored by Ammident in the 1949-50 season. Hal March was Harry and, even then, he played other roles. Sources conflict about who filled the role at first and not all broadcasts are available to check.

The article below ignores one of the TV Harrys—long-time radio actor John Brown, who disappeared from television because of the blacklist.
Gracie Allen's Neighbor Lasts 16 Years in Role

HOLLYWOOD, Aug. 30.—Proof that men aren't as steady and reliable as women is more than evident in the plight of Bea Benadaret, who plays Blanche Morton friend, confidante and next-door of neighbor of Gracie Allen.
Surprising as it may be to this TV generation, Bea has done this role with Burns and Allen for 16 years. In that time she also has gone through give “husbands.”
“It’s enough to make a gal just a little self-conscious, you know,” says Bea mischievously.
Last week Bea was introduced to the sixth Harry Morton, when the cameras started rolling on the new Burns and Allen series, the first episode of which will be seen Oct. 5.
Each time she is called upon to begin life anew with another Harry Morton, Bea is forced to revamp her own role as the wife, Blanche. The current Harry (Fred Clark) is a slightly oafish real estate salesman with an appetite that would have shamed the late Gargantua.
Larry Keating, who succeeds Clark this fall on your TV screens, will be a certified public accountant with a normal appetite and a higher IQ.
"This calls for Blanche employing a little more restraint. My characterization won’t be as broad as it was with Clark, because if it were, I would come out as a heavy against an actor like Keating,” explains Bea.
Many Burns and Allen fans may have wondered why it wouldn't be easier and more believable for viewers if both characters were replaced when it was necessary to find a new Harry.
The answer to this lies with Bea's infallible timing and ability to play a semi-flip but true blue woman whose wordly wisdom is confined to a penetrating knowledge of everyday life.
"Comedians have ears like Geiger counters," Bea says. "A line has to be delivered just right. They can detect a wrong emphasis or inflection quicker than Toscanini can spot a flat note in a 30-piece fiddle section.
Bea herself is too modest to say so, but she has developed her own talent in this line to a point where the meticulous George Burns has no fault to find with Mrs. Harry Morton.
It was in 1932 that Bea first met up with George and Gracie. She did a bit part in a radio broadcast they were doing in San Francisco. In 1937 George wanted a couple to play his and Gracie's neighbors on the show, and Bea was chosen as the wife.
She's been Blanche Morton ever since. Two different husbands were used while the show was on radio, and the second one, Hal March, started with Bea on TV. He was considered two young in appearance to be married to Bea. Even the viewers complained of the disparity in their ages.
"Hal is a marvelous actor. But the role called for someone who looked solid and faithful. Hal looked like a chaser," Bea says.
Fred Clark is leaving Harry Morton behind so that he can be in New York with his wife, Benay Venuta, and also because he felt he was losing his own identity with the public.
Recently when Fred and Benay got into a taxi in Gotham, the cabbie looked knowingly at Fred and cracked, "Where's your wife, Harry?”
As for Bea, she's ready to put in another 16 years as the Burns' neighbor with any ol’ husband.
Keating continued playing Harry Morton until a Burns-minus-Gracie spin-off sitcom went off in 1959. But the Keating-Burns connection continued. Keating was hired as next-door neighbour Roger Addison the Burns-produced Mr. Ed in 1961 and continued on the show until his death in 1963. Producer Burns decided not to try to get a second Roger Addison. Instead, Leon Ames was brought in to play a different character. The next few years weren’t good for some of the other Mortons. Benaderet and Clark both died in 1968, while cancer claimed March less than three weeks into 1970. Loveable old coot Bill Frawley preceded them in 1966.

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Faster Than Boop

The Fleischer background artists used fuzziness to emphasize speed and it would appear the animators did it as well.

Note the fuzziness of the subway car pulling into the station as Betty Boop waits in Riding the Rails (1938).

The second car in the train is drawn normally, as the train is slowing down to stop.

Some more examples. You can see in a couple of cases on the far right of the screen where the drawings are normal. It’s because some bit of business is going to happen later in the footage and has to be clear.

The other thing notable about this cartoon is Sammy Timberg, or whoever composed the score, has a couple of scenes where Betty is strolling to what is pretty much the late 1950s Kellogg’s jingle, note for note.

And, for the record, Pudgy the pup is annoying.