Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Kaye Ballard

Kaye Ballard was loud. Kaye Ballard was animated. That helped make her hysterically funny.

Ballard’s best known for a TV show that was often neither hysterical nor funny. The Mothers-In-Law debuted in 1967 and basically relied on Ballard’s banter with Eve Arden to put it over. But she was around long before that.

We’ll honour her passing yesterday with a couple of old clippings. Here’s a guest column from June 11, 1954 where she talks about her career to that point.
Voice of Broadway
You know how it feels when you play a 20-to-1 shot and it comes in; when that long-awaited legacy arrives; when you meet the man-of-your-dreams. In one of my night club sketches, I do a girl who has inherited $47 million and all she can say is "Yeeoow." That's the way I really feel—YEEOOW!
For 10 years, I knocked hopefully on doors that are only now opening. Many times I thought I should never have left home—home being Cleveland, Ohio. Broadway seemed so far away and unobtainable. But now I can look back on those years and realize that they were just dress rehearsals for the big moment the night "The Golden Apple" opened at the Phoenix Theater on Second Avenue. And thanks to the faith of producers T. Edward Hambleton and Norris Houghton, composer Jerome Moross and lyricist John La Touche, I became a part of that great triumph when an off-Broadway show so captivated the critics and the audiences that it not only moved uptown to the Alvin Theater but won the Drama Critics' Award as the best musical of the season. And it's a wonderful sensation to know that the critics approved of my portrayal of an American type Helen of Troy, circa 1900, for it is a part I love in a musical I adore.
MY FRIENDS thought I was a bit mad to pin my hopes on an off-Broadway production with a limited engagement of only six weeks. They couldn't understand why I would want to give up a sizable weekly income from the night clubs for the off-Broadway pay of $100 per. But I wanted that part—and worked for it harder than I have ever worked in my life.
I suppose it would make the Cinderella legend complete if I could say that as soon as I auditioned for Helen, everyone shrieked "Hallelujah." On the contrary, the producers were looking for a more glamorous Helen and I knew one thing— I'm not the glamorous type. (I actually became a comedienne when I realized in high school my looks were never going to command attention so I might as well be funny and laugh it off.) However, if I couldn't be glamorous, I could surround myself with the glamour fur— mink. And at each of my subsequent auditions, I borrowed various mink gadgets from more affluent friends and paraded forth in either a mink coat, stole, cape or jacket. With all that mink I certainly didn't look as if I needed the job which I felt was smart psychology to use on not-completely-convinced producers. I'm sure they're still wondering who took back all that mink for there's been no sign of any since I got the part. But if they're patient, "The Golden Apple" will help me to buy one— and I'll gladly lend it to any young lady who needs it for that difficult audition.
THE AUDACITY of innocence is one of my favorite themes. The nerve of young people has always been a great source of wonder and delight to me. When I review my first years in show business, I can only be grateful that I started so young for I never could do now the things I did then. While still in West Technical High School, I started ushering at the Palace Theater in Cleveland and from watching the great acts there. I put together an act of my own— mostly stolen. Unfortunately, I was fired from my usherette job when the manager caught me escorting people down the aisle imitating Bette Davis, et al. He didn't know, and neither did I, that two years later I'd be back again—on stage.
Undaunted, I knocked on the door of a very genial agent named Dick Jackson, barged in, told him I was a comedienne and went into my borrowed act with no invitation. Dick, very gently, went to work coaching me, and put me into Chin's Chinese restaurant at a fat $40 a week. He kept me there until I learned to walk on and off stage and then sent me on vaudeville tour of the South. Incidentally, Dick, who has always been my guiding angel, came in from Cleveland to see "The Golden Apple" and I waited breathlessly for his comment. He said it all right—he hated the way I took my bows and promptly showed me how to do it properly.
Then bedlam came into my life. Spike Jones heard about me and told me to look him up in California if I ever wanted a job with his band. A year later, feeling I was getting nowhere fast, I bought a one-way plane ticket to Hollywood and prayed Spike would remember me. Fortunately he did and hired me as a comic tuba player with his band. I toured the country for a year and a half with Spike, playing every major vaudeville house in the U. S. I was quite a sight dressed in an ancient bathing suit, faking the mad sounds that came out of the tuba. But Spike also gave me a featured spot and my singing and comedy routines developed under his expert tutelage. Would I dare do anything like that now? Of course not—a million doubts would be in my mind before I invested all my savings on a wild goose chase because someone told me to look him up. But when you're young in heart, and an eager beaver, thank heavens, you blithely go ahead and take life as it presents itself without too much hesitation.
When the band played the Strand Theater in New York. I knew that this was my town and didn't want to leave it. All I needed was that wonderful man, John Murray Anderson, my first friend in the legitimate theater, to urge me to go out as a single— and I handed in my notice. With Murray to recommend me. The Blue Angel took a chance and my two-week engagement ran into 16. In fact, I parlayed that original stint into a record 66 weeks at the Blue Angel during the last few years.
AND IT was beloved Murray who started me off in the theater, putting me into the national company of "Three To Make Ready." Starring Ray Bolger, we toured the country for 10 months and I continued to learn. Many things I remember about Murray— his patience, his nicknames, his know-how, and, above all, his great sense of humor. It was a sad thing on the opening night of "The Golden Apple" to know that he wouldn't be coming back to my dressing room after the performance to shout, in that inimitable way of his, "Kimmer, you never should have left those cowbells," which is what he always said when he was particularly proud of something I had done. As a matter of fact, I was dressing to go to Murray's funeral when the producers called me for a third "Golden Apple" audition. I hesitated a minute, realized Murray would say "Kimmer, don't you dare come to my funeral when you have a chance to get a job," grabbed a mink coat that had the name "Rose Tobias" in the lining and rushed to the Phoenix. And now through this wonderful musical and those beautiful notices, I've been given a two-year Decca recording contract; just signed an exclusive five-year NBC radio and television deal, and my picture has appeared on the cover of Life Magazine. I don't have a moment to myself and I love it, I'm excited— and proud— and ever so grateful all at the same time.
Here’s a feature story from North American Newspaper Alliance, dated September 9, 1961.
Kaye Is Enchanting Buffoon

New York— (NANA)— EVER HEAR of Katrina Balotta? Probably not, for she became Kaye Ballard, singer, nightclub entertainer. actress— and clown. You'll find her, if you're lucky enough to get tickets, at the Imperial Theater in the biggest hit of her career, the sensation called "Carnival."
Kaye is lively, quick-witted and altogether delightful. She has performed for England's royal family, been kissed (on the forehead) by Clark Gable, and made frequent contributions to the general lunacy of the Jack Paar show.
"I'M ITALIAN all the way down the line," she said at Downey's the other afternoon. "There's not a trace of any thing else. One of my grandmothers was named Ballardo and I just chopped off the last letter. My family comes from southern Italy, so I speak Italian with a southern accent.
"All of my first cousins and an aunt live in Rome and met them when I went over there. They're beautiful people, but they got hysterical when I spoke Italian. I had to get hotel clerk to translate for me I said, 'Tell them I love them.' Can you imagine?" Kaye's brief encounter with Gable, to get to that quickly, took place at the Trocadero in Hollywood while she was appearing with the noisy Spike Jones band. She gets a dazed look when she speaks of it.
"I did an imitation of Judy Garland singing 'Dear Mr. Gable' and he was sitting right there. He invited me over to his table, kissed me on the forehead, and introduced me all around. He should never have died. It made me furious. He should have lived forever."
I remarked that the Trocadero closed some time ago. And she said:
"I've closed several places. I was in the last picture ever made at RKO, 'The Girl Most Likely.' I was on the cover of Life with no story inside. I've had almost luck."
Kaye was born in Cleveland where most of her close relatives still live. She attended West Technical High School there and says she got her dramatic training in art class. "I'd finish my sketch in about twenty minutes, then I'd perform." She appeared in vaudeville in Cleveland and in night clubs and at the Hanna Theater.
HER FATHER, Vincent Balotta, came to New York to see her in "Carnival." It was his first visit here since 1919. "But he said the place hadn't changed much. Everybody asked him how he liked me in the show but my family's very modest about me. He said, 'I liked the whole show.' 'I'm very close to my grand mother, Gabriella Nacarato, who is 85, and who lived with us. She and my mother are coming here as soon as I can get them tickets for the show. I have a brother and two sisters and they have thousands of children."
Kaye got the role of "Carnival" because director Gower Champion wanted her for it. He knew her in Hollywood.
"I sang for David Merrick (producer) and Bob Merrill (composer-lyricist), but never had to read for the part. It was quite different from 'The Golden Apple.' I had to do seven auditions before I got the part in that show. Each time I wore a different fur piece that I borrowed from friends— a full length mink, a mink stole and so on. I wanted them to think I didn't really need the job. After the show opened they never saw me in anything but a cloth coat."
IT WAS while she was appearing in London in Touch and Go" that she did two command performances for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, now Queen Mother. "When I was introduced to Princess Margaret I didn't know what to say to her so I just said, 'I'm crazy about your mother and father.' "
Kaye said she spends all her money on cabs and on paintings for her Ninth Street apartment. "I have some really good paintings. Care to see them sometime? I certainly I would.
Ballard’s life was chronicled in a documentary recently that will be making the rounds of festivals. Despite poor health, she got a chance to see it and was mobbed by fans afterwards. Time and illness took away the “loud” and “animated” part, but Kaye Ballard was still loved and appreciated at age 93.

Deadeye Droopy

The bad-guy cattle rancher in Drag-a-Long Droopy (1954) is a dead shot. Watch that buzzard.

Droopy, of course, is better. Watch those ducks.

Heck Allen provided the story for the short with animation by Grant Simmons, Mike Lah, Bob Bentley and Walt Clinton, plus Ray Patterson on loan from the Hanna-Barbera unit.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Paul Julian's Palace

Animation fans should have no trouble discerning which studio was responsible for this recreated pan background.

It’s from UPA’s The Emperor’s New Clothes (1953). Julian’s best known for his great background work at the Warner Bros. studio. He left it for UPA in 1950. Julian was responsible for design and backgrounds of this short.

Julian’s daughter Alison told UPA chronicler Adam Abraham that the head of the studio, Stephen Bosustow, considered sending Julian and director Ted Parmelee to Hans Christian Andersen’s home country of Denmark to do research for this cartoon, but it turned out not to be so practical.

Julian’s last theatrical credit at UPA was as the director of Baby Boogie, released in 1955.

If you want to view lots of Julian’s work at Warners, go to this great blog. Read a short biography at this site, and check out some of his book illustrations on Michael Sporn’s blog.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

No Luckies, No Autobiography

Vancouver and Jack Benny seem to have met up every few years. In a way it was odd, because no Vancouver radio station broadcast Jack’s show after he changed sponsors to American Tobacco.

At the tail end of the 1953-54 season, Jack made mention on one of his shows that he would be making a personal appearance during the summer break in several cities, including Vancouver. The Vancouver print media was quite happy to interview him about it. And on more than one occasion. The two major dailies sent columnists travel down to Portland, Oregon in advance of the Benny show in Vancouver to talk to him. The papers talked to Benny again when he arrived in Canada.

Jack Wasserman was the Sun’s nightlife columnist for years. He enjoyed partaking of the city’s nightlife, too, as did a number of newspaper reporters whose livers somehow survived the concept of “last call” being a mere suggestion to be ignored. Wasserman collapsed and died while in the middle of telling a joke at a roast in 1977. He was 50. Wedman was the Province’s entertainment editor who concentrated on movies in later years. He died several years ago at age 94.

Both these stories are from July 2, 1954. (Note: the third Vancouver daily paper of the era is not on line to check on its coverage of Benny’s 1954 stop).

Jack Benny to Turn 40; It'll Be National Event


Sun Staff Reporter
PORTLAND, July 2.—Stop the presses. Hold the phone. Flash. Jack Benny is going to turn 40.
The bespectacled radio comic, who turned "39" into a million laughs, made the confession here in Portland where he is appearing with his variety review which opens in Vancouver Wednesday.
"I'll probably be 40 some time next year," he said amiably. "We'll make it a national event."
Although his writers will have to burn the midnight oil to get Benny over this chronological hump, the comedian has actually had plenty of experience in the birthday department. He's had 60 of them, the most recent a few months ago. But you couldn't tell it to look at him.
Even without makeup, sitting across a gin rummy table (he massacred me) Benny looks like a man of possibly 45. No lines are visible, no crows-feet around his eyes. His blue eyes sparkle youthfully behind his horn-rimmed specs (when you play gin rummy with him, there's a different kind of sparkle).
During those three-score years Benny has covered a lot of ground, including Vancouver where he played the Orpheum circuit and met Mary Livingstone when she was a 12-year-old heckler.
Several years later, Jack claims, he had a date with Norah Bayes, but she was sick and so he went on a blind date with a gal who worked behind the hosiery counter of the May Company. Mary again, or as she was known then, Sayde Marks.
The present trip into the Pacific Northwest is in the nature of relaxation for Benny, who has a winter ahead of him that includes his regular weekly radio shows and 16 television shows. Although none of his radio cast is with him, Mary will join Jack next week to visit relatives in Vancouver and Seattle.
For the tour Benny is still the radio character he's been making a household word since 1932, the perennial fall guy, the smart Alec, the guy who has trouble finding a girl friend.
Aiding and abetting this characterization is a high-powered supporting cast that includes Canadian star Gisele Mackenzie and Sammy Davis Jr., and four more acts who could all get by without Benny on the bill except that the star is so great himself.
Gisele, who, like Benny, once had visions of being a concert violinist, plays a pair of gag duets with the maestro that knock the customers off their seats. MORE THAN HUMOR
The violin incidentally is more than just a source of humor for the one-time Waukegan, Ill., wit who got thrown out of high school because he fiddled around so much, but who never became famous until he stopped playing and started talking.
He still practises several hours a day because its necessary "even to play lousy." In fact, he admits, sometimes when he sounds worst it's because he's trying to sound good.
"It's just like anything on a show. You don't start out to make mistakes. They happen easily enough without half trying."
The feud with Fred Allen also started by accident, with a chance wisecrack by Allen. Six months passed before the two comedians got together to discuss their publicity gold mine.
Unlike Bob Hope, who "is always on" and wisecracking all the time, Benny is a serious humorist. In casual conversation he talks about his golf (a 13 handicap but he usually only plays nine holes ("and sometimes I'm absolutely lousy"), or travelling, which he often does with guitar player Frankie Femley [sic], who is actually an existing person.
Before the show Benny is strictly a professional and, again unlike Hope, who hit Vancouver and played golf before arriving at show time, he carefully rehearses his cast on the pitfalls of each new theatre after going over the house himself.
"All I try to do is to have a good show," he explains. "The important thing is not to stink."
That's been the idea ever since Benny first appeared as a guest on Ed Sullivan's radio show in 1932 and said "Hello, folks, this is Jack Benny. There will be a slight pause for everyone to say 'Who cares?'"
Apparently somebody did, because a short time later Benny (born Benjamin Kubelsky) received an offer from a sponsor and the rest, the succession of sponsors, the fantastic price paid by CBS to get Benny to jump from NBC, where he had lifetime rights to the Sunday night 7-7:30 time, is history.
Although he likes television better than radio (right now, anyhow), Benny foresees some dangers in the new medium and quotes his close friend, George Burns (of Burns and Allen) on the subject.
"The trouble with show business is that there's no place for a guy to be lousy.
"If an entertainer gets on television and has a bad night everyone sees it. In the old days on the circuit, when he played a split week between Calgary and Edmonton, you had time to improve before you got to Vancouver.
Benny isn't worried about the show he's got with him this time, though. After opening in San Francisco, the troupe played to all-time record crowds in Dallas, Texas, before hitting the northwest.

Jack Benny Penny-Pinching Role Strictly For Radio, TV Audiences
PORTLAND—"Do you want a drink?" was the first thing Jack Benny asked after we shook hands.
He took his half-finished Scotch and soda from his lips and passed it over. "I don't want more," he explained.
That sounds a bit like the penny-pincher who makes Dennis Day mow his lawn, pays his valet Rochester starvation wages and rides around in a broken-down Maxwell, though he has more money in an underground vault than Fort Knox has gold.
But Benny is no cheapskate away from radio microphones and TV cameras.
Courtesy of the comedian, who's coming to Vancouver next Wednesday to Saturday, I have a cigar (never smoked before), not much appetite (thanks to a lavish dinner for which he picked up the check) and a headache (from Scotch refills) to prove it.
There is further evidence. The man who supposedly stays in a subterranean cellar of a hotel when he's in New York greeted reporters in a two-bedroom, spare telephone next-to-the-toilet Governor's suite in the Multnomah Hotel.
He also put in a phone call from the drawing room to wife Mary Livingstone and he didn't even ask the operator to reverse the charges. "This is Jack Benny speaking. I want to talk to Mrs. Jack Benny in Beverly Hills," he began and it al[l] sounded like a radio show, because the voice was so similar if deeper. He hung up.
"The operator says it will be a minute but if I know Mary, she'll be talking to Claudette Colbert or Barbara Stanwyck. Don't ask me what they have to talk about so long, but they do. Only a minute, she says. Oops." The phone rang and it was Mary.
"Hello, baby," said Benny and before he rang off with a "good-bye, doll," he'd sung happy birthday to a nephew and talked to Mary's mother and father who were celebrating their wedding anniversary.
Benny's an average height. He wears horn-rimmed glasses, without which he's in a haze. He does not wear a toupee though there is a bald spot showing through the back. But he has enough hair on his chest and back to hook a bear rug.
He also is a serious comedian. He doesn't throw jokes around in any extroverted attempt to be funny. He talks sensibly and intelligently and sandwiches his humor, dry and clean, into the conversation.
"Comedians don't live a crazy kind of life," he explained. "They're always thinking," he said, referring to suggestions that he follow Bob Hope and Bmg Crosby and write the story of his life "as told to" someone.
"If could write a book, I'd really to write a book . . . a novel. Let someone else write the life of Jack Benny. I can't write."
His Columbia Broadcasting System radio press agent, Irving Fein, interrupted. "I thought you wrote Caine Mutiny?" he joked, "No," said Benny, without change of pace. "That was Herman Wouk. I wrote 'From Here to Eternity.' James Jones, that's my pen-name."
Benny remembers Vancouver as the spot where he first met Mary Livingstone. She was 12 and he couldn't have been much older because he said he will celebrate his fortieth birthday this year. He have himself away moments later when explained his first date with Mary, years later when she was behind the stocking counter at Macy's. [sic]
"I was supposed to go out with Nora Bayes but she was sick. So Mary's sister brought her along for a foursome," he'd said. Benny really is 60 though he doesn't look it despite his 22 years on radio and one on TV. "No ulcers, either. If radio and TV haven't given me ulcers, food won't."
Mary Livingstone may come along to Vancouver to see an uncle, Harry Wagner, but she won't be in Benny's All-Star Revue at The Auditorium. And she'll only be on the radio "once in a while" next year.
Benny said "Mary wanted to quit years ago but I wouldn't let her. She hates acting for herself."
Later at dinner, an organist played "Love in Bloom", for Benny. He didn't request it or the amateur joke-teller who bored guests silly.
"Mr. Benny didn't even smile," complained the fellow.
Getting into the harassed manner of his radio character, Benny charged "you said that was a true story. My writers told it to me 10 years ago."
He pointed with his cigar, the third he puffed on during the meal despite the the packs of free Lucky Strike cigarets distributed around the table. Here's why: Benny never smokes Luckies—or cigarets—of any kind.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Cartoon Commies

Was Walt Disney being a public spirited citizen trying to preserve American freedom, or was he getting revenge because of the bitter strike at his studio in 1941?

Disney appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947, testifying about/against Herb Sorrell, the Hollywood labour organiser who helped lead the strike. Reams have been written about the strike and its aftermath, but I came across a blistering editorial criticising Disney’s testimony I’d like to share.

Before that, let’s go back and read what Disney said. This story is from the Associated Press wire service. A portion not relevant to Disney has been omitted and replaced with an ellipsis.
Women Voters' League Red, Walt Disney Says
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (AP)—Walt Disney told congressional investigators today that Hollywood Labor Leader Herbert K. Sorrell, whom he "believes" to be a Communist, had boasted of using the national labor relations board "as it suited him."
The daddy of "Donald Duck" and "Mickey Mouse" movies testified at hearings on Communism in Hollywood by the house committee on un-American activities. Disney sent a gasp through the audience when he included the League of Women Voters among Communist front organizations.
Oliver Carlson, who said he was once was a Communist and now teaches in the University of California Extension Division, testified [...] Sorrell is on the board of directors of the Communist school and has been "in long and close association" with Reds.
Sorrell, head of the Conference of Studio Unions, has denied being a Communist.
Disney said he considered Sorrell one at the time of a strike which he said was Red-instigated and which resulted, he testified, in the Communists taking over his artists. He didn't say, and wasn't asked, when the strike was pulled. But he said he still "believes'' Sorrell is a Red.
The man who makes world-famous animated cartoons said he suggested to Sorrell that a collective bargaining election be held under terms of the Wagner labor relations law. He said Sorrell objected and claimed "he used the labor board as it suited him."
Disney said Sorrell threatened to "smear" him and "make a dust bowl" of his studio if he did not give in to union demands.
There was no way to fight back, the producer said, when Sorrell called a strike and, he continued, Communists and Communist groups began a smear campaign. The attackers, he said, included the League of Women Voters and what he called "PM magazine".
The only real grievance, Disney said, was between Sorrell and his employes over an election to determine who should represent the workers in collective bargaining.
Sorrell once asked him, Disney said:
"So you think I'm a Communist?"
He said the labor leader laughed and went on to say: "I used their money to finance my strike in 1937."
There was no further explanation of that point.
Tagging the Communist Party an "un-American thing," Disney said it ought to be "smoked out and shown for what it is." Then, he said, "real liberal groups" can operate free of suspicion.
The only one of his productions that has been shown in Russia, Disney said, is "The Three Little Pigs." Asked why his cartoons are shown all over the world but not in the Soviet Union, the witness said:
"You can't do business with them."
Wait a minute, Uncle Walt. The League of Women Voters a “Communist group”? The League yelped at Disney’s mischaractisation. Walt backtracked. And not very well.

This prompted the Kingsport Times to publish an editorial on November 13, 1947, under the headline “Cartoon Commies.” It spanked Disney in print, and then turned its eye on the Committee and its grandstanding politicians.
The great Investigation of Hollywood produced so much marvelously dizzy testimony that it gave color to the theory that the artistic temperament is allergic to logic, and the mental processes of an artist travel strange paths. The beautiful way these gentlemen felt the inner conviction that so-and-so was a Communist, without bothering with such trifles as evidence, and the calm assumption that their word would be taken for it when they made unsupported statements; this was wonderful to see.
But the dizziest of all was offered by that master of the fantastic—Mr. Walt Disney. Mr. Disney is a genius, and we take off our hats to him. He has made the new art—the animated cartoon—and his work ranges from the childish to the incredibly beautiful. But we must limit our admiration for Mr. Disney to his status of artist. He should stick to the world of fantasy and not descend to the common place level of facts.
In his testimony, Mr. Disney characterized the League of Women Voters as a "Communist front" organization. That was really news, and naturally made good copy. But shortly after he was out of the witness chair, Mr. Disney was asked for the details that made it possible for him to make such a charge. (Somehow or other, the committee didn't think it necessary to get that question in while he was on the stand.) Then it seemed that Mr. Disney was thinking of something a couple of ladies who claimed to be members of the League had said to him back in 1941, and explained that he had no intention of criticizing the League of Women Voters "as of now." Then, after some further thought on the subject, Mr. Disney searched his files, and comes forth with the following explanation, written to the committee: "Since returning to my office, I have reviewed my files, and can now definitely state that while testifying "I was confused by a similarity of names. I intended to refer to the League of Women Shoppers."
There was more language by way of apology, but the end of it is to leave Mr. Disney a laughing stock. We don't know whether he has heard the last of this or not. We do not know anything about the League of Women Shoppers at all, but we have a hunch that the creator of fantasy may be hearing further from that outfit. It may be a Red outfit, but we would want the word of somebody more reliable than Mr. Disney before we would say so. It may be that he is making another little mistake. It may turn out to be the League of Women Flag Pole Sitters he meant.
Unfortunately, Mr. Disney has done more than make himself ridiculous. He has made it clear that it was possible for a committee of the United States Congress engaged in the serious business of investigating subversive political activity to allow irresponsible people to make statements charging others with evil actions, without being required to give one iota of factual evidence to support the charges. We see a picture of this committee of Congress, calmly accepting statements that would destroy the good name of individuals or organizations, knowing full well that the statements would be broadcast to the world. How can sober citizens put any value in the work of such a committee?
Some of those whose names were used may be Reds. But how can we tell what is fact and what is fancy? How can we sift the sheep from the goats, when it is possible for a man or a woman to denounce people without providing evidence? The Committee on Un-American Activities was set up for a good purpose. We believe it would be fine if as a result of its work we can see who is working against the democratic way of life and how they are doing it. But all we have had is confusion worse confounded. The net result of the committee hearings is suspicion and distrust, some of which may be entirely unfair and undeserved and have nothing behind it but the personal grudge of temperamental people of the theatre.
Something needs to be done about the Committee on Un-American Activities. Something needs to be done to put it in the hands of men who have calm judgment and who will keep its work from being a theatrical performance. It doesn't have to be what it has been, and it is handicapped in its real work by being operated as it is.
Unfortunately, the Committee carried on into the 1950s, ruining lives. Walt Disney carried on as well, enriching lives with some enjoyable feature cartoons. And, no doubt, still nursing a grudge against those responsible for pulling his employees onto a picket line.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Bear in Underwear

Oswald is chased into a cave by a vicious bear in Tall Timber (1928).

The fight!

Uh, oh. It seems the bear has a fetish.

Oswald cartoons weren’t in colour in 1928 so the bear has to register embarrassment by its face alternating between black and white.

The bear runs away in that low-kneed stomp that appears in these and some early Harman-Ising cartoons.

Triumphant! Oswald has a fur coat.

Film Daily’s review of this Walt Disney cartoon from June 24, 1928 reads, in part “Oswald the rabbit goes out into the open spaces for a day's sport, and all kinds of queer things happen to him...” I’m sure the pun is unintentional.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Betty White

Who knew Betty White could act?

Through the 1960s and into the ‘70s, I didn’t. I never saw her on anything but game shows. Back then TV Guide listed her as a “television personality” whenever she appeared on anything. Then she got a role on the Mary Tyler Moore Show and all that changed.

Her 1950s TV show was before my time. It was an effort called Life With Elizabeth that a syndicator shopped around to stations, generally independents, to use to fill their schedule.

In its February 1955 edition, TV Radio Mirror talked about White’s career up to that point through the eyes of her mother. Mom’s story seems to have gone through the eyes of some writers; it’s in that a-nobody-who-overcomes-adversity-with-encouragement-to-become-a-star vein that was familiar to show biz gossip magazines at the time.

This was before she met Allen Ludden but still at a time when she loved animals. Mom explains why she did.

My Daughter, Betty White
Those would be proud words for any mother, but I'm especially proud — because of what I know about Betty!
My daughter, Betty White, has a philosophy of life which grew out of a series of hard knocks. In the ten years that she has been climbing up the slim rope of success in the entertainment industry, she has frequently slipped, but she has never given up trying. The philosophy which has. sprung from these struggles? She says it in just five words: "I don't believe in defeat."
Betty learned this lesson very early in her career; she was only two when we moved from Oak Park, Illinois, to California. She went to Horace Mann Junior High School here in Los Angeles, and then to Beverly Hills High School— and in all these years she hoped someday to grow up to be an operatic singer.
Betty worked hard for what she called the "big voice." Rather than go on to college when she finished high school, she decided to continue her study of music, concentrating on her singing career. She had every reason to do so. She did have the raw material of a good voice; it was developing well; and she had the encouragement of her teacher, Felix Hughes, the brother of the writer, Rupert Hughes, and himself once a well-known opera singer. So, with all this behind her, Betty looked forward to a lifetime dream come true: a successful career on the opera stage.
Then fate stepped in. Betty was stricken with a strep throat. It was no ordinary infection; rather, it was very much like a seige, a six-weeks' battle for Betty's life. She was bedridden for almost two months during which time the fever — fought with the then-new sulfa drugs — gradually waned. But, when the fever left her, it took the best part of her voice along with it. During the weeks Betty was recouping her strength, she was able only to smile and croak, "Hello."
Yes, she was a discouraged little girl. But I think it was right then that she decided not to be beaten. True, she had lost everything she had dreamed about, worked toward for years, but she didn't give up. In fact, she told me one day: "Mother," she said, "you know, things aren't so black after all."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well," she said, "it seems obvious to me. I've lost my voice. Everything I've planned on is down the drain. Now there's only one way for my luck to go. It can't get any worse— that means it has to get better!"
And Betty really felt fortunate. She thought her situation quite encouraging. She reasoned that there was only one way she could go now — and that was up.
She decided that, if she couldn't do the "big" things, she would do the best with the tools she had. Though her father and I thought she was still spending her afternoons rebuilding her voice with Mr. Hughes, when she was well enough to be up and about, we eventually found to our surprise that she was out pounding the pavements. She was going from agent to agent, trying to find a job suited to her talents.
Her perseverance payed off. She finally got a one-line bit in a radio commercial, through a Mr. Van Heidensfelt. He was with an agency, and Betty, I think, looked a little pathetic and desperate. She certainly didn't need the job, for she always had a home— but she did want the break she thought the commercial job would give her.
I forget what the exact payment was. Something like twenty-five dollars— and It cost her father thirty-nine-fifty to have her join the federation of radio and TV artists!

So Betty was never an opera singer. After the first disappointment of her illness, she marshaled her courage and reorganized her plan of life. If she couldn't sing, she'd talk. And that's how she launched her career — with that first radio commercial and with many others that followed. It wasn't long before Betty was doing a regular part on The Great Gildersleeve, then regular parts on several radio shows and, finally, television came into the picture.
Betty has won some personal bonuses from her philosophy of life. "I don't believe in defeat" has taught her something of both courage and faith. There was the time, for example, even after she had started in radio, when her progress seemed stymied. She just wasn't getting ahead.
But she felt, inside of herself — or, rather, she knew deep inside of her — that making people happy with entertainment was for her, and in this she had faith. This faith carried her through a bleak period which followed her original radio success. But, during this time, she didn't complain. Instead, she told me one day how she felt:
"Mom," she said, "anybody can keep going when the going is good, but the secret is to hang on when everything seems to be going against you."
I think Betty's first job in television illustrates how faith pays off. Because she knew in her heart that entertaining was for her, she was willing to do anything to keep herself going — even working for nothing. This she did, one day on Joe Landis' early variety show. Where fate had previously stolen her voice, it stepped in again with this first job. Mr. Landis had a long list of singers and possibilities to call on for his show. But, by pure chance, not one of them was able to show up! Betty's name was the last on the list — and, just one hour before showtime, she got the call. She went on, did the song and, on the strength of it, was signed to do a song spot on another show, Wes Battersea's Grab Your Phone.

But this didn't last long, either. I think that, psychologically, this was Betty's low point. She had been trying desperately to break into TV — those two nibbles had encouraged and then disappointed her — and pounding the pavement from one agent's door to another had resulted in only "no work" news. She came in, on the day we call "the very discouraged Thursday," nearly defeated, saying: "Oh, Mom. I just don't know, any more . . . am I beat or am I beat?"
"What do you think?" I said. "Have you forgotten so soon what you told me about hanging on?"
"No," she said, "I haven't forgotten!" She sat up and, proceeding to pull herself out of it, said: "Yup! I will just go out again tomorrow. I still feel it: I just know there must be something!"
At that very instant, the phone rang. It was Al Jarvis. She had known him briefly on the KLAC lot — they had been introduced, but that's all.
"I've seen you on the Grab Your Phone show," he said. "How would you like to try out for a television show I'm starting?"
"Fine," said Betty, thinking it was for one time only.
"Tell me," asked Mr. Jarvis, "can you sing? Dance? Are you willing to do the commercials?"
Betty, stretching it a bit, bravely said "Yes" to everything. Then, hanging up the phone, she reported: "Mother, I think I've got a job for Monday!"
Monday she went in to discover that her job was to run five hours a day, six days a week!

That was Betty's real beginning. At first, she was only to answer the phone on Mr. Jarvis' show, as she had on Grab Your Phone. But the job grew to helping with the commercials, then "setting up" the commercials — then interviewing the guests.
I remember an incident that happened last year, which illustrates Betty's enthusiasm, her optimism, her "don't believe in defeat" attitude. Betty and her orchestra leader, Frank DeVol, were both candidates in the race for Honorary Mayor of Hollywood. Selection of the Mayor was part of an annual Kiwanis campaign to raise money for underprivileged and needy children. All of Hollywood — in fact, everyone — can vote, the votes costing ten cents each, the money going into the Kiwanis Children's Fund.
I remember that, at a luncheon honoring the "mayoral candidates" (Betty, Frank DeVol, Lawrence Welk, Tennessee Ernie, Jack Bailey, and others), there were a number of long Kiwanian faces. Though it was early in the race, there had been such a scant number of ten-cent votes counted that their $3,000 goal looked mighty distant.
But Betty didn't lose her enthusiasm. In fact, knowing that things looked rough, she was more determined than ever to make the campaign a success. Then, at the luncheon, she and Frank DeVol were thrown into an ad-lib skit together — as one mind, it seemed, they began making jokes of the financial situation. Before the luncheon was over, their enthusiasm had spread to all the club members.
No, neither Betty nor Frank DeVol won the title — at that time (though Betty did win this year's campaign) . Jack Bailey, of Queen For A Day, was elected. But the enthusiasm with which all the "mayors" campaigned did make the original $3,000 figure look pale and wan — all together, they raised $10,000!
And, the day after the luncheon, Betty went up to her producers, Don Fedderson and George Tibbles, saying: "That Frank DeVol is a funny man — if he can make the Kiwanians laugh in such a situation, he should be able to make other folks laugh, too. And we work like a charm together. We really ought to find a situation for him on Life With Elizabeth." And that's how Frank came to that show.
But I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself. We were still talking about Al Jarvis and Betty's first success. You know, Betty has always been first to give credit for this success to Mr. Jarvis. Al gave her a schooling she will never forget. And it's fared her well, believe me.

By now, it seems that everything in Betty's career since her first introduction to TV on the Jarvis show is almost anti-climactic. From that beginning, she just seemed to grow. The next big break came when Betty was offered her own program on KLAC, here in Los Angeles. Mr. Don Fedderson, then station manager, had watched Betty take hold of the show, after Mr. Jarvis had gone to another station. When he saw that she was so at home, so successful, he just upped and told her one day: "Betty, from now on we're going to call this The Betty White Show!"
Then Betty started doing a little three-minute spot at night. It was Betty's brain-child, called Alvin And Elizabeth, and it, too, soon grew to five minutes— then more. There were no written sketches, just some things that Betty dreamed up. She finally ran out of ideas and hired George Tibbles to write material for it — but, by then, it was a weekly one-hour show. It was later chopped down to a half-hour of just plain Life With Elizabeth. This was the show which won her the 1952 "Emmy" as the most outstanding personality in TV.
And this year, of course, Life With Elizabeth won her her Billboard magazine awards. She was so surprised! Last year, Lucy and Jack Webb were the two big winners, with Imogene Coca running a close second. It was something Betty always liked to read about as happening to others, but she never dreamed she was under consideration. So it came like a Bolt from the blue, when she read that she had been voted two top awards: "the best actress in any syndicated program" and "best comedy actress"! Jack Webb won again this year, too, and Loretta Young won as the best network actress.
But not all of Betty's life since television has been smooth as cream. She has had to work hard for her success. Her schedule is demanding. She has been so physically tired at times that she was ready to drop. And we've had some emotional problems here in the house, in her private life, that have knocked the props out from under her, too.
You know, Betty's pets play such an important part in her life, and one night we had a tragedy — Betty's Pekingese was taken sick and, in the middle of the night, she took him to the vet's. We had had him for many years, but his time had come, and we lost him. Of course, Betty cried the rest of the night.

Well, some people may scoff. They may think you do not get attached to dogs. But I know better. They are just like children to us. They always become such an important part of our house. Betty, you know, is an only child. And, ever since she was a baby, we've had puppies for her to play with. We hoped they would help take the place of the brothers and sisters she couldn't have — because an auto accident took that possibility away from me shortly after her birth. It's for this reason we've always had dogs to help fill the house. And that's why, when we lose one, it's such a great tragedy.
Betty says that it's "a vacant place to fill." She has made it a policy always to fill that emptiness with a new puppy. She says it doesn't take the same place in your heart the other dog had, but it helps fill up the hurt — and then you get so preoccupied watching the new little puppy in its antics, you fall in love all over again.
The point is that, the night our little Peke died, Betty was prostrated. She cried all night — the very night before she was to make her first and most important film for Life With Elizabeth. Up until then, she had been a West Coast personality — but, the next morning, she was to make the appearance which would introduce her across the nation.
Believe me, that day she had to reach down into her faith to put on a smile, to be cheery in front of the camera. But she never said, "Why did this have to happen to me?" She didn't complain. Rather, as she wiped the tears and went out the door, she said:
"It hurts, Mother. But I guess I'm not the only one in the world with a pain. There must be millions who are far worse off today than we are. . . ."
And that statement illustrates the last point in Betty's philosophy of life: Courage — courage in the face of obstacles. She did not cover herself with self-pity; she did not take the attitude that she was in a situation in which nobody had ever been before. She smiled, went to work, hoping she could bring happiness into someone else's life.
The way I have been telling this makes it sound like I'm bragging about Betty. Of course, a mother would sound that way, but I don't mean to make Betty sound noble — she's nothing of the sort. She's just a regular gal who's learned, the hard way, that — when the going gets rough — faith supplies "staying power." She's learned from experience that she's never alone with her problems — other people have suffered before and won out, probably in the exact situations she found herself in. And these experiences have given her the courage never to believe in defeat.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Wanted: Tom and Jerry By Gene Deitch

There’s an enjoyable little twist in the opening titles of Tall in the Trap, a 1962 Tom and Jerry Western directed by Gene Deitch. There’s a cold open with some character dialogue (reused later in the cartoon) and then instead of stock footage of the MGM lion roaring, there’s a shot of a Wanted poster with a cartoon facsimile of the lion.

A quick pan shows another title card in the form of a poster.

Now comes a parody of the card Paladin carried in the TV show Have Gun Will Travel. The card is flipped around several times to reveal who worked on the cartoon. You’ll notice Deitch darkens the background so the card is easier to read. The chess-piece knight is in a mouse trap as a little pun.

Deitch chose to use a solo guitar played by Jiri Jirmal for much of the score, written by Stephen Konichek.

As you can see, ex-Warner Bros. writer Tedd Pierce freelanced on this, and you may recognise some of the gags as variations of what appeared in Bugs Bunny cartoons.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Bradley Bolke, Everyone's Chum(ley)

In the 1960s, New York City had a small collection of actors who used their voices to make a living in cartoons and commercials. Allen Swift was one. Jackson Beck was another. And so was Bradley Bolke.

Word has come in from historian/author Rick Goldschmidt that Mr. Bolke has passed away at the age of 93. (Bolke is at the far left of the 1953 gag photo you see).

If you were a cartoon credit watcher, you would have seen his name at the end of Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales, playing Chumley opposite Don Adams’ Tennessee starting in the 1963-64 TV season. He also appeared on the TV Casper cartoons in the early ‘60s; it seems to me he did all three members of the Ghostly Trio opposite Norma MacMillan as Casper. Tennessee lasted three seasons on CBS before superheroes and fantasy-world shows shoved him off the Saturday morning network schedule and into syndication.

Bolke was born to Sol and Helen Bolke. He wasn’t the most famous member of the family. His brother was Dayton Allen, one of Steve Allen’s stock players and a cartoon actor as well (Heckle and Jeckle at Terrytoons). “The whole family jokes a lot. A bold sense of humour is just part of who we are,” he told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel on the occasion of his mother’s 100th birthday in 1997. Mother Helen explained it this way: “Sometimes I don’t turn up my hearing aid just so I don’t hear the boys.” She may have been the funniest one in the family. She explained she lived to be 100 because “I’m too darned charming.”

Bolke was more than an actor; he was an athlete in high school in Mount Vernon, New York. The local paper has results in its December 28, 1938 issue about a football kicking contest. Bolke placed just behind another junior, a young man named Ralph Branca, long before his errant pitch resulted in the Shot Heard Round the World and the Miracle on Coogan’s Bluff while pitching for Brooklyn against the New York Giants. Bolke had been appearing in school plays as far back as the fourth grade in 1934. He ran for school president at Davis High School in 1942, where he found time to do comedy on stage. In a performance of “Sweet Swing,” he and his female opposite “were much better than average and surprisingly good for high school performance,” according to the Daily Argus newspaper.

I’ve found one article about Bolke. Peter D. Kramer of the White Plains Journal News chatted with him about his work for Rankin-Bass and elsewhere. It was published December 22, 2012.
Since its 1974 premiere, there has been no year without "The Year Without a Santa Claus," the Rankin/Bass stop-motion Christmas classic about that fictional holiday when the North Pole's most famous resident wanted time off for good behavior.
Every year, Santa has a cold, thinks he's irrelevant, wants to skip Christmas, Mrs. Claus threatens to do the job instead, Heat Miser and Snow Miser battle, and Mother Nature settles the matter.
And every year, Bradley Bolke and his wife, Kitty, tune in to watch it in their Dobbs Ferry apartment. (It's on at 4 p.m. today on ABC Family.) "I have copies of it, but we watch it every year, and every year we watch it -- even though we've seen it God knows how many times -- we say 'This is a good show,'" says the 87-year-old Bolke, whose name is pronounced "BOWL-kee."
Bolke can be forgiven if he's partial to the show: After all, he's in it. He provided the voice for Jangle Bells, one of a pair of slightly dim Christmas elves in Santa's employ, the other being Jingle Bells (voiced by the late Bob McFadden).
The Mount Vernon native found regular work as a commercial and voice actor, which was sort of the family business. Bolke's older brother, Dayton Allen, was a fixture on "The Steve Allen Show," the voice of "Deputy Dawg" and the original Phineas T. Bluster on "The Howdy Doody Show." Allen died in 2004.
"Now, I'm a retired actor," jokes Bolke, who has lived in Dobbs Ferry since 1958. "In fact that's what it says on my unemployment card."
Bolke's most famous cartoon character is the lovably dim Chumley the Walrus, sidekick to the wise-cracking zoo penguin Tennessee Tuxedo. While that entire series was re-released in a boxed set just this year, it hasn't had the staying power of that perennial Christmas bauble with Heat Miser and Snow Miser.
He was also present at the creation of Vaughn Meader's classic comedy album, "The First Family," in which he played a shoe-banging Nikita Khrushchev. That album, which sold faster than any other comedy album to that point, was recorded on Oct. 22, 1962, the same night that President John F. Kennedy was delivering a crucial speech on the Cuban Missile Crisis. The audience was in the studio, unaware that the superpowers were on the verge of a monumental showdown.
"The Year Without a Santa Claus" was taped in one day in New York City, with Shirley Booth (Mrs. Claus) and the cast, minus Mickey Rooney, who added Santa's voice in a separate session.
Eight or nine years ago, they held a reunion of Rankin/Bass actors and creative team at the Museum of Television and Radio. "After it, I asked Arthur (Rankin) if Jangle was a caricature of me and he said it was. I'm thin-faced with a big nose."
Bolke says there was nothing particularly memorable about that recording session, when Jangle emerged from his voicebox. "It turned out to be a classic, but it's the same thing with 'The First Family.' It was another job," he says. "You come home and you don't realize it's going to become a classic."
It turns out Bolke isn't Dobbs Ferry's only tie to "The Year Without a Santa Claus." Rhoda Mann, who played the all-powerful Mother Nature in the show, also lives in the village. "We don't see each other that often, but we talk pretty regularly," says Bolke.
After retiring, Bolke and his wife began to sponsor a $100 humor award at Dobbs Ferry High School, The Bradley and Katherine Bolke Award, to a graduate who "in the opinion of the selection committee, either through performing, writing or any artistic endeavor, is outstanding in humor or wit."
"I still get fan mail," Bolke says, with a bit of wonder in his voice. "I don't know how they find me, but they write to tell me that this is their favorite show, or that Tennessee Tuxedo is their favorite show. It's a certain group that I don't quite understand. It's not very fancy vellum that they write on, it's more loose-leaf spiral notebook paper and I don't think they're allowed to use sharp implements."
"This is my fan base," he says with a giggle.
It’s nice to see that Bolke was remembered by his fans. We hope they’re remembering him today.

Diamonds Before Dolly

You should recognise one person’s name in the newspaper clipping to the right from April 22, 1933. That’s when she was in the San Francisco area before heading east.

A little later came the declaration: “Miss Carol Channing, as a nightclub singer, did a pretty fine burlesque on torch songs.” So wrote Virgil Thomson of the New York Herald Tribune in his review on January 6, 1941 of “No For An Answer” at the Mecca Auditorium.

A modest start for a woman who became one of the legends of the Great White Way, thanks first to the musical “Lend an Ear,” then “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” then her Tony-winning performance in “Hello, Dolly!”

We bid farewell today to one of Broadway’s greats at age 97.

We posted about Miss Channing HERE. So much has been written about her over the years, it’s hard to pick out something to reprint in tribute. I’ve settled on this feature article from March 20, 1959. “Dolly” hadn’t entered her life yet; she was still known for telling the world that diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

Carol Channing Has Been Comedienne Ever Since Although Climb to Stardom Was Hard; Here on Tour
By Mary Kimbrough

Of the Post Dispatch Staff
A SKINNY BLONDE fourth grader in San Francisco wanted to be elected student secretary. When she got up to speak, they laughed. And there, on the platform of Commodore Sloat School, a new comedienne was born.
The skinny figure is slender now and the still-blond hair has a circular part, front to back, right to left, like a scalp-toned tiara. But Carol Channing is still luring the laughs. They meant votes and victory back in the fourth grade. Today, they mean money.
Carol is in St. Louis now, with her husband, Charles Lowe; her wardrobe mistress, Jane Fogt; her son's report card, and Lorelei Lee. Lowe, who produced the show starring his wife in the Chase Club, more or less manages things and orders her hamburgers on rye bread. Jane keeps the snaps on the 11 costume changes and makes sure the clothes are at hand's length for the back-stage quick changes. Young Channing Lowe's first-grade report card, with its A in French and C in physical education, perches on a cabinet shelf in the path of proud parental beams.
Lorelei Lee is supposed to be dead and gone, but don't count her out while Carol is still kicking. She isn't one to forget old and dear friends, especially the money-making type.
Lorelei, the little girl from Little Rock who loved diamonds, made Carol, the big girl from California, what she is today, and a Channing is no ingrate. When she goes into a night club revue such as her current engagement, she makes loom for Lorelei.
The audience wants it that way. To them Lorelei IS Carol.
We were off, plumbing the depths of how and why actors act and audiences listen, and the immense brown eyes achieved the amazing feat of growing even wider. It was a moment for quiet reflection.
"I have to feel my way along," she said thoughtfully, "and decide what path I can take to reach the audience. You reach one by one path, another by another. "But at the end I make a little speech. This is Carol, you see. And if I come out with Lorelei's flat twang, I'm home. The audience loves it. This is what they really think Carol is."
She gazed more deeply into the mental mirror.
"You know," she said, "I think every actor really creates a personality he thinks he really is. Lorelei really is a part of me. Some roles just seem to rub off on an actor, and thereafter the one is a part of the other."

As a matter of fact, her current tour is more or less an escape from type-casting. From Broadway to Carol's home kept coming a stream of scripts featuring a dumb blonde of the 1920s. They didn't hold a candle to Lorelei Lee. So back they went, read but unaccepted. Then the revue was suggested, and Carol gave it her energetic nod.
She does a series of characterizations in her act, even a respectable strip-tease starring the mythical Miss Bertha Blodgett.
But Carol can't keep from imitating people. It's a happy-type, chronic ailment, a kind of bonus you get when you wind her up and start her talking about the people she knows, loves and admires. Her low, husky voice speeds off on tangential journeys, and as her thought rests on other people, suddenly she isn't Carol Channing anymore. She's Sophie Tucker, or Tallulah Bankhead or George Burns or Lorelei.
With dramatic daring, she recently impersonated Sophie Tucker in Las Vegas, not too yards from another night spot where the redoubtable Sophie herself was holding court. Then came the evening when Sophie announced she would come to see for herself.
"I was ossified with fright," Carol recalled. "Sophie swept in, watched the show, then she stood up and applauded. She looked around as though to say, 'Anyone who doesn't laugh will have to face me'."
Today wherever Carol appears, Sophie's gift of orchids is there to greet her.
Even back in the fourth grade of Commodore Sloat School, Carol was imitating. She won the job she campaigned for, so she perforce wrote up and read the minutes. Now, as any club secretary knows, these can he as limp as a wet dishrag, but not Carol's minutes. They had a zing to them. She not only QUOTED Miss Finney, the teacher. She WAS Miss Finney, complete with the pushing up the sleeves. Even the harrassed principal didn't escape the Channing treatment.
This was not calculated to place the name of Carol Channing on Miss Finney's or the principal's list of favorite students, but to Carol's ears, the students' laughter was manna from heaven and a prediction of things to come.
From Commodore Sloat, she went on to high school and then to Bennington College in Vermont, a fashionable institution for young ladies which saw the last of Miss Carol Channing when she landed a minor role in the labor group musical, "No for an Answer."
The road ahead was rough indeed as she stumbled along from one understudy role to Gimbel's bakeshop to another understudy role to Macy's basement. Rough, underpaid and discouraging.
By chance or design, her parents, Mr. and Mrs. George Channing drove to New York about that time, and Carol climbed in the back seat, glad to go back to California. There again, she tried her hand at various jobs until her chance arrived in the form of a role in the musical, "Lend an Ear."
There's a legend about that which the tall comic with the mobile face doesn't deny. With 600 others on stage for auditions, she announced to the bemused producers. "To get a real impression of my abilities, you would normally have to see me do nine numbers. But I know you're pressed for time, so I've cut them down to six."
It worked. She got the role. And from that, she stepped into Lorelei's shoes in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Overnight she was a star, and diamonds were her best friends.
The role was a happy one, from all viewpoints. Gone were the days of poor pay. Time was when Carol, between roles, chose her living quarters cautiously. The blistering hot rooms in the summer, the cold water flats in the winter. The kind with low rent that no one else wanted.
Now she stays in hotel housekeeping suites, and there's an aura of well-being. Easily rests the stardom.
Her husband interrupted the interview with an apology, bearing a gift.
"From your son," he smiled. It was a wristwatch.
"Every time they buy me a gift," she said, "It's a watch."
But no diamonds. She seldom wears them off stage. The only jewelry to be seen as we talked was her wide gold wedding band.
Diamonds, though, have become Carol's hallmark of the theater and night club circuit. In tribute to the glittering Lorelei, she wears a white satin dress, liberally plastered with glass gems, for one of her club numbers, and showers the audience with rhinestone bracelets.
Channing will arrive soon to join his parents during his Easter vacation, a prospect to gladden the heart of any mother, especially one whose career separates her frequently from her child.
But Carol is not one to assume that nearness only means love and affection. She looked hack to her own days at home, and there was a childlike wilfulness in her tone as she remembered. Even now she speaks of her father as "Daddy."
As the Committee on Publication for the Church of Christ, Scientist and member of his church's Board of Lectureship, the late Mr. Channing was absent many times from the family's San Francisco home.
"Yet, somehow, I always knew that Daddy loved me," Carol said. "We didn't have to be together for me to sense that security. It's the same way now with Channing. We can't be with him very much, but he knows we're interested in his welfare and when he is here, he's an important part of the family circle. We don't talk down to him. When we're together, we talk about the theater or the club."
Mom and Pop Lowe couldn't help it. They both turned as one to the cabinet where Channing's report card stood in proud splendor, alone on display. "Look at that," she said. "And be sure to read what the teacher said on the back."
Channing, the teacher had noted, is progressing nicely. For a moment, the theater was far away.

P.S.: There is actually a second name in the clipping above. Louise Erickson starred in the radio show "A Date With Judy," was one of the actresses to play Marjorie in "The Great Gildersleeve," and appeared in a number of teenage roles on the air in the 1940s.

Under the Falling Chesnut Tree

The opening of The Village Smithy, a 1936 Warner Bros. cartoon, contains some of the elements that director Tex Avery would use throughout his career. We have an off-screen narrator reading a famous poem as the scene gets set up in an unusual way. The “spreading chestnut tree” and “village smithy” both fall into the frame.

Tex has the off-screen narrator talk to the on-screen smithy, telling him he’s supposed to be standing (because the poem says so), and then ordering him to turn around and face the camera.

Now the blacksmith shop falls into place. You can see the shop’s shadow before it hits the ground.

Avery has some good irreverent gags in this cartoon, such as the narrator calling for a horse to appear and a camel walks into the frame (which is then pulled out of the picture using an old vaudeville hook).

Cecil Surry and Sid Sutherland receive screen credit for animation. Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett and Virgil Ross no doubt animated as well.

Monday, 14 January 2019

The Fall of the Dog

The thespian dog’s “great inner strength” makes him survive being pushed down a mountain in a baby carriage by the two polite gophers. Or so he thinks. He stiffens in a great pose and falls to the ground with a metallic clack.

This is from Two Gophers From Texas (1948), an inappropriate Warner Bros. tie-in title for a nice cartoon from the Art Davis unit. I love the gophers. Emery Hawkins gives the dog some insane expressions in this short. Don Williams, Bill Melendez and Basil Davidovich animate scenes as well. And you’ve got to love Milt Franklyn’s arrangement of “Sweet Georgia Brown” toward the end of this short, especially the piano. Why isn’t this on DVD?