Friday 30 November 2018

Midnight Stab

The expressions are the highlights of the early Tom and Jerry cartoons. You always know what the cat and mouse are thinking. In the climax of The Midnight Snack, Tom jumps on an ironing board to get Jerry only to get his tail caught in it. He realises his predicament, then does a head-shake take as he realises Jerry is trotting off into the kitchen to grab a barbecue fork.

The cat knows what’s next, even though this is only his second cartoon. He’s going to get stabbed in the butt, go flying across (and breaking) everything in front of him and land in the fridge.

Here’s how the Lillian Randolph housekeeper finds him when she opens the fridge door.

This whole sequence takes almost a minute, which shows you Bill Hanna was still using Rudy Ising-style lumbering pacing (the cartoon runs nine minutes).

Thursday 29 November 2018

Nevermiss Misses

Nathaniel Nevermiss stars in one of Tex Avery’s gags in Believe it or Else This is a 1939 version of an Avery take. Tex picked up the pace and wildness when he left Warners for MGM in 1941.

Is there a doctor in the house?

Virgil Ross is the credited animator.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Paar-Backus Feud

Jack Paar was a jerk. I’m being polite.

Need evidence? Check out these syndicated columns by Hal Humphrey, published in December 1959. Paar, for reasons known only to him, publicly put down Jim Backus. Backus fought back. Paar responded by blaming everyone but himself for the situation. Paar spent his career doing that.

As a side note, his complaint against comedians ranting about TV censorship is particularly ironic, as it came two months before he walked off his show because NBC dared to censor one of his jokes.

The first column ran December 7, 1959, the last on December 18th.

Filmtown Accepts Paar Challenge

HOLLYWOOD — Things never are quite the same in this overgrown village after Jack Paar visits us. The last time he was here Jack rapped our movie-TV stars for being poor sports and lousy adlibbers. They wouldn't go on his NBC late-night-free-for-all.
This time many of the town's elite are accepting the Paar challenge, but with such torrid results that network executives are turning grey. For the past few days NBC has been flying its "Seal of Good Practice" at half-mast.
Paar must be congratulated on one count. he has gotten us off the subject of crooked quiz shows and sullied disc jockeys.
The question is, do jokes with Jerry Lewis about perverts and aimless repartee with a "half smashed" Mickey Rooney constitute an improvement?
Through all of this the compulsive and controversial king remains relatively calm—if not too rational. He doesn't give out many interviews but was kind enough to cut up a few touches with me. I'll try to put them in a semblance of order.
“YOU KNOW, I shouldn’t say this, but the greatest disservice I do myself is making the show too easy. These little comics sit around Lindy’s and say ‘Where’d he come from?’ But just let them try to do this show,” Paar challenges.
“Jim Backus is one of them. He may be a funny man at a party, but he lost his radio show. Do you know that Backus and Reginald Gardiner were two guys I had to cancel, simply because they weren’t capable of doing this kind of show.
“I love these guys. When they can’t make it themselves they spend all of their time giving out interviews.”
The irrepressible Paar takes violent exception to those comedians who constantly rant about their wits being dulled by TV’s oppressive censorship.
“I feel no censorship. My only guides are my mother, my conscience and Billy Graham. NBC is either afraid of me or very wonderful—or maybe they don't watch my show!”
FOR THE PAST six months the Paar show has been pre-taped, except when he is away from New York At no time, according to Paar, have NBC's watchdogs previewed his tapes or made any move toward editing them.
“The taping of the show has saved me, I get home at a decent hour now and so does my staff. I wouldn’t be doing it now if they hadn't let me tape it,” Paar says, flatly.
He has been pleased and flattered by the number of stars who have volunteered to go on his Hollywood telecasts.
“Red Skelton wanted to know if I had room for him. Imagine that! He's just simply great. Jack Benny called and wanted to put on a wig and appear as a mystery relative. Is that funny?
“I have senators call me now, and a representative from Vice-President Nixon's office called the other day. Sure. I've got enemies, but I never get involved in politics.
PAAR'S latest analysis of why his show is the big success it is (sponsors pay $9,000 per minute) comes out like this:
“People keep watching because they wonder when the balloon will go up.”
He might have added that in Hollywood it never comes down.

Backus Scores Paar For Rough Discourse

(Editor's Note: Following Hal Humphrey’s interview here last week with Jack Paar, comic Jim Backus now requests "equal time.")
“Dear Hal:
“I would like to reply to the unwarranted attack leveled at me by Jack Paar which appeared in your column Monday, strangely enough on Pearl Harbor Day.
“First of all, he says I am a little comic who sits around Lindy’s. For the record, I have never set foot in that restaurant, though I confess they have my footprints in chicken fat in front of Nate and Al’s delicatessen.
"Also, though I have appeared in over 40 motion pictures only two roles could be called even faintly humorous. Unless, of course, you consider low comedy the part of Jimmy Dean's father in 'Rebel Without a Cause.' I wouldn't expect Mr. Paar to be aware of this as he admittedly spends his time in a cultural thermos bottle.
“AS FOR BEING canceled off the Jack Paar show, this is a bald-faced lie. In order to be canceled, you have to be first contracted for a show and then notified not to appear. Well, I was contracted for the Jack Paar show on seven separate occasions and appeared on those seven shows . . . Believe me, Jack Paar should really know the meaning of the word canceled, because, as even he will admit, he holds the all-time record.
"Jack Paar says, and I quote, ‘I love these guys . . . they can't make it themselves . . . they spent all their time giving out interviews.’ As for making, it for myself I would like to challenge Mr. Paar to a duel of canceled checks.
“Furthermore, I am about to start my own TV series, a comedy, if Mr. Paar will excuse the expression, the reruns of which I hope will bolster his morale when he returns to his natural habitat, the unemployment office.
“IN ANY INTERVIEW I have, ever given. I have been more than kind to our Jack. I am a big fan of his show and have said in his defense that he possesses one of the quickest wits in our business, an ability to bring out the best in people and. above all, he ‘listens funny.’
“Maybe he took umbrage at something I once said in discussing his program and his unique talent. I said, ‘You know, Jack would make a lousy guest on his own show.’ A pretty good observation, if I do say so myself.
“Please have your secretary send me a copy of this column 10 years from now, so that after a round of golf with Mickey Rooney, when he asks me, ‘Who was that balding Tom Duggan who gave me such a bad time back in '59?’ I won't answer, ‘I'm not sure. I think his name was Henry Morgan.’” JIM BACKUS

Indomitable Paar Is Full of Surprises

That indomitable fellow Jack Paar is full of surprises. On the airwaves he has great fun ambushing many of his guests with squelching bon mots. After each strike, he has a habit of looking innocently at his audience, as if to say, “Now can I help it if this poor chump wants to walk into a left hook?”
The crowd generally roars with glee, because all of us at one time or another enjoy watching our fellow man get skewered by a city slicker, or better yet, just a country boy who loves his home and family.
That's why I was so surprised to open my mail yesterday and find in it a wounded cry from the man who makes a good living by directing his rapier wit at those who willingly get themselves snaffled onto his show.
So, herewith, I give you Jack Paar, without stint:
“You may use this letter in your column, if you wish but only if you use it in its entirety.
“As I told you, I promised my wife I would never give another interview to the press, because you can't win an interview. I broke that promise to my wife to see you, because you were an old friend.
“I enjoyed having lunch with you that day, Hal, but I do not think the editing and putting together of what I said over the two-hour interview constituted accurate reporting in your column, and I state that while you did not misquote me, you used the provocative, controversial things I said to make me look like an egotistical and ungentlemanly person. I'm very sorry if this is the only impression you received.
“As for the Mickey Rooney incident, may I remind you and the readers of your column that I never started the affair? I was prepared to treat him, a man I had never met, with the same courtesy and respect I have shown other greats in show business.
“I'm sure you will recall you brought up the name of Jim Backus. I hope you will also recall that during my last visit here, you printed an entire column by Backus about me and that I never replied to it.
“JIM BACKUS IS an excellent actor. His narrations in the Magoo character are classics. I have nothing but respect for Jim's work. Since he chose to criticize our show and since you did seek my reply, I must point out, however, that Jim has not 'made it' in show business as a solo personality, and that, as you know, is the most difficult of all roles.
“Perhaps I am wrong, but I like to think of myself as a man of peace. I have had many feuds on this show, but I never started any. I would prefer to avoid them, but they have a habit of find me. I seem to spend wasted time fighting on other people's playing fields and by their own rules.
“As for Hollywood, our show has never been treated better than on this trip. Not that anyone in Hollywood owes us anything, but we have always been quick to all of the decent people here.
“I have been, and am now, eager and willing to spread the word that show business is an honorable profession of many honorable people, and that Hollywood is one of its logical centers.
“I regret, Hal, that we had to meet this time on your field by your rules.
My best to you,

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Radio Eats Mice

The 1930 Talkartoon Radio Riot becomes increasingly bizarre as it goes along. The final scene is wonderfully warped.

Three little mice are listening to a scary story on the radio. They poke their heads through a blanket on their bed. The holes disappear and their heads are left floating in the air.

Their tails want help.

Then the radio eats the mice!

But it gets stranger. The radio picks the mice’s tails from its teeth, lays them on the bed and takes a bow.

No, that’s not the end of the cartoon. The mice’s heads come out of the radio horn and zoom toward the camera.

Van Beuren did this kind of thing as well, but this might have been the first cartoon where this happened. This also may be the first cartoon to parody the NBC chimes. It was the third Talkartoon to be released (Feb. 15, 1930), behind Noah’s Lark (Oct. 26, 1929) Marriage Woes (Dec. 21, 1929), according to Motion Picture News of Jan. 25, 1930. Billy Murray lends his voice in several places. Max H. Manne, who had been the manager of the Roxy Theatre in New York, is credited as “musical advisor.”

Sunday 25 November 2018

Playing With a President

Former U.S President Harry Truman appeared on the Jack Benny show on October 18, 1959, but that’s not the whole story.

A future president wanted some publicity thanks to Benny, too.

Before the Truman show even aired, Vice-President Richard Nixon “demanded” equal time. And Jack gave him time. It wasn’t quite equal, but it gave the Republican good publicity.

First came this story in the Associated Press on October 14, 1959.

(AP Movie-TV Writer)
HOLLYWOOD (AP) — Ex-President Harry S. Truman turns up in an unlikely place next Sunday: guest star on a comedy show.
Jack Benny, his host, says he has a demand for equal time from Vice President Richard M. Nixon.
"I wrote him back that he's not eligible for my show until he makes president," Benny quipped.
Benny and Nixon have been friends for years.
"I'm neither a Republican nor a Democrat," said Jack in explaining why he is so friendly with leaders of both parties. He said Nixon had written him congratulating him on the show business coup of snagging the former President of the United States as a guest star. "Some of my friends have advised me that I should demand equal time," Nixon wrote Benny.
"I think he was kidding," said Jack.
A reporter asked Benny how he managed to get Truman to appear with him.
"Actually," replied Benny, "I didn't ask him. He asked me."
Some months ago a columnist asked Benny if he intended to use the same old guest stars seen on most of the big TV shows.
"My answer was that I was seeking offbeat guest stars such as Mrs. Jimmy Stewart and I might try for Harry S. Truman The story got printed but I really had no intention of asking the former President of the United States to appear on a comedy show.
"One day Mr. Truman called me and asked: 'What's this I read about my appearing on your show? I'm ready anytime you ask me.' " Benny and the former President once did a benefit violin-piano duet for the Kansas City Symphony.
"He was so grateful to me for helping out those musicians that he was eager to do something for me. I told him that I do benefit concerts all the time, I love to do them. He owed me nothing."
But when Truman agreed to be on the show, Jack suggested that the Truman portion be taped in the Truman Library at Independence, Mo.
Benny said he and the former President had only one disagreement during the taping.
"I wanted to keep it dignified and Mr. Truman is worried about my getting laughs," Benny laughed.
Benny agreed. Nixon didn’t appear on his TV show, though. This United Press International story of November 21, 1959 fills us in:
Benny Plays Fiddle, Nixon Accompanies
WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI)—Vice President Nixon ended a politically significant week tonight by playing a duet with Jack Benny—sometime music partner of former President Truman.
Nixon supplied piano accompaniment for Benny’s violin before an audience composer of many of the nation’s political writers at the National Press Club. The tune was one of Mr. Truman’s specialities—the “Missouri Waltz.”
Benny, a featured entertainer at the press club’s President’s Black Tie Ball, explained that he had written Nixon to congratulate the Vice President on a “wonderful job” on his trip to Russia. In reply, Benny said, he received from Nixon a note saying “After your program with Truman, I demand equal time.”
Benny gave Nixon his chance, and then breezed through a speeded-up version of the “Missouri Waltz.” Nixon’s judgement on the performance, as pronounced to the other guests, was: “All of us should stay in our own rackets.”
The AP version of the story adds:
The occasion for the performance was the annual president’s ball of the club, honoring William H. Lawrence, a correspondent for the New York Times.
Benny also played the violin with the noted violinist Isaac Stern on a program which included metropolitan opera stars Dolores Wilson and Robert Merrill. Benny was presented with the Laurel Leaf Award of the American Composers’ Alliance for promotion of symphonic music.
Benny had emceed the D.C. radio correspondents dinner in 1953, at which Nixon was present.

Nixon and Benny met again, notably in 1961 where the ex vice-president handed Benny a plaque at an American Israeli Foundation dinner to mark the creation of a violin scholarship in Benny’s name. And in 1969, Jack greeted the now-president at Andrews Air Force base after Nixon’s eight-day tour of Europe.

As far as we know, Harry Truman didn’t ask Benny for a response in rebuttal, but you can read about his musical escapades with Jack HERE and HERE.

Saturday 24 November 2018


The Hanna-Barbera studio wasn’t only spending 1967 plying kids with Squiddly Diddley and the Impossibles. It was making cartoons that kids never saw. Nor were they supposed to.

The studio had set up an industrial unit several years earlier, making films for businesses and corporations. One of its industrial cartoons that year was for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and entitled The Incredible Voyage of Mark O’Gulliver.

Its message of “let business police themselves/less government oversight” was something you would have found in an animated short by John Sutherland Productions in the late ’40s and early ’50s. In a way, this is a Sutherland cartoon, as John’s brother Ross was employed by Hanna-Barbera overseeing its industrial operations. Some of H-B’s other industrial pictures at the time were Another Language (AT&T), Wings of Tomorrow (Boeing), the acclaimed Time For Decision (American Cancer Society) and Advertising 1967, starring Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble and a disembodied woman’s hand pushing Busch beer.

The industry-friendly Business Screen Magazine, in its June 1967 edition, profiled O’Gulliver, with the drawings below.
A Humorous Parable on the Problem of BIG Government
U. S. Chamber of Commerce Pictures a Congressman's Visit to "Animalia"

THE Government of the United States is the biggest entity in the country today. It is the biggest employer. Biggest borrower. Biggest lender. It is the biggest landowner, the biggest tenant. It is the greatest single customer of this country's industrial production. It is the biggest in almost everything — and it is getting bigger all the time.
Starting with these ominous facts, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, in association with Hanna-Barbera Studios, has produced an immensely amusing, but highly-significant film. The film's story takes the form of a humorous parable, in which a mythical U.S. Congressman. Mark O'Gulliver, becomes shipwrecked on a remote Pacific isle — among a community of hilarious animals whose society, unfortunately, is all too similar to our own. For in trying to find his way back to civilization, Mark O'Gulliver encounters all the frustrations, the obstacles, indeed, the paralysis which results from stuffy bureaucracy.
Serious Note Beneath a Light Approach
The 25-minute color film, an animated cartoon titled The Incredible Voyage of Mark O'Gulliver, is most entertaining. The animation is superb and the animal-characters are delightful. But, for all its humor and wit, the film poses some ominous questions about Big Government. As originally conceived, our society was to embrace a range of interests so vast that no one interest or branch of government could become the dominant power. This concept was embodied in our system of checks and balances, as everyone knows.
But times have changed. and the composition of government has changed also. The administrative tasks of government have become so immense that a gigantic bureaucracy has grown up within the past fifty years.
Now, a bureaucracy possesses certain features which automatically make it a hazard. First of all, a bureaucracy is hierarchy — a pyramid of authority, with power transferred from the pinnacle down toward the broader base. Second, all activities are governed by fixed, written rules. And finally people are hired to perform certain specialized functions which are impersonal and supposed to lie outside the political realm. All of this leads to inflexibility.
The hazards of this kind of organization are vividly portrayed in the film. We see, for instance, how government by the true legislative process has become eroded with government by bureaucratic fiat. And the film illustrates other pitfalls inherent in big government: decision-making reduced to thoughtless routine; the self-perpetuation of bureaucratic inertia.
Where to Obtain a Print of This Film
The film may be used by local chambers of commerce, business groups, trade associations, schools, unions, church and civic groups interested in public affairs. It has been cleared for television showings.
Prints and full information may be had from the Audio-Visual Department of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, 1615 H St.. N. W.. Washington. D. C. 20006.

If you’re curious about what the film looked like, you can view it below at the 6:44. Carl Urbano, one of the original Tom and Jerry animators for Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna in 1940, is the director. Art Scott, whose career took him to Disney, his own studio and Bob Clampett’s Snowball before arriving at Hanna-Barbera, wrote the film, while UPA veteran Bob Dranko is the designer. Interestingly, the studio didn’t get Ted Nichols or Hoyt Curtin to write the score. It was put in the hands of Dean Elliott, who was writing music for the Chuck Jones’ Tom and Jerrys.

There are no voice credits, but you’ll recognise Don Messick, Allen Melvin, Hal Smith and John Stephenson, who does a poetic not-quite sing-speak at the end.

I should warn you someone has spliced in unrelated films throughout this version. You can see and hear Joy Hodges sing “Daddy” which should be familiar to lovers of cartoons.