Thursday 31 January 2019

Thumbing the Goat

Pat Powers pushed the Ub Iwerks’ ComiColor cartoons by telling theatres they were a) in colour, and b) featured fairy tales beloved by all children.

He didn’t advertise their humour because, to be honest, there wasn’t a lot. In Tom Thumb (1936), the title character is swallowed by a goat and goes down a rainbow-coloured esophagus (if a rainbow were brown). He bumps against a detour sign. I think this is supposed to be a gag.

More brown shades inside the stomach.

I guess Iwerks’ idea of funny was “look at the silly expressions the goat makes.” I like the design and the animation (some drawings seem to be reused) but I’m not laughing.

In fairness, the ComiColors were invented to compete against Disney’s Silly Symphonies, which weren’t designed to be amusing, either.

Carl Stalling’s semi dance-band music just bops along not really emphasizing or counterpointing any of the action.

No animators are credited.

Wednesday 30 January 2019

From Broadway to a Chimp

Why do actors sign up for obvious turkeys?

Let’s get an answer from Anita Gillette, who went from being a rising star on Broadway to Me and the Chimp in ten years. Who, in their right mind, would star opposite a short simian and Ted Bessell, who showed about as limited a range as anyone on a TV comedy in the ‘60s?

I like Anita Gillette. I think of her mainly of her appearances on the syndicated version of What’s My Line? in the ‘70s with Soupy Sales. She was pleasant, upbeat and had a sense of humour, the kind of person you’d like to talk with. Little did I know at the time about her breakthrough on the Great White Way. In fact, I didn’t know about it until I started working on this post. Here’s an Associated Press wire story from 1961 which sums up what happened and her rather short career to that point.
Anna Maria's Understudy Deplores Producer's Praise
Anita Gillette Says Statement She Was Better Than Star Was 'a Little Unprofessional'

Chicago Tribune Press Service
NEW YORK. Aug. 9—Surrounded by her 10-month-old son, Timothy, her dachshund dog and her Siamese cat, pint-sized Anita Gillette said today she was "on a cloud" after her smash performance the past two nights as Anna Maria Alberghetti's understudy in the Broadway musical. "Carnival."
But the hazel-eyed actress, who took the star's role because Anna Maria is in the hospital, said she thought it was "unnecessary and a little unprofessional" for Producer David Merrick to tell the press that he wished he had been "clairvoyant enough to know at the beginning that she was that much better than Miss Alberghetti."
In the living room of the ground-floor Manhattan apartment, where she lives with her husband, William Gillette, 31, a research physiologist in New York Hospital. Anita said:
"Thought He Was Kidding"
"I thought he (Mr. Merrick) was just kidding when he told me that during the performance. Then, when he said it for the press (after the show) I thought maybe he had had an argument with Miss Alberghetti. . . . He could say something like that to me but to say it to the press was something else."
Anita, who is under 5 foot 1, weighs 102 pounds, and who will be 24 next week, played the taxing role to an enthusiastic, standing-room-only audience at the Monday night performance.
"Miss Alberghetti does a marvelous job." Anita continued. "I do different things than she, and maybe Merrick liked my interpretation better. It's not a carbon copy of what she does.
"Last night I was in such a state of nerves I didn't even hear the applause after the first act. The show people said it was tremendous.
"I was very nervous . . . scared to death and I kept picking away at the sides of my fingernails," Anita said.
"Scared to Death"
At the close of the show, she received a telephone call from Anna Maria, who entered LeRoy, Sanitarium Sunday night for an abdominal disorder.
They spoke about 10 minutes and "the only thing she said was that she felt someone was frying to start a feud between us. She sent her congratulations, and she also sent me flowers and a telegram," Anita added.
Anita has been in an off-Broadway show, understudied in "Gypsy." had the lead in 1959 in the St. Louis Municipal Opera production of "Babes in Toyland," and in 1960 won a Daniel Blum Theater World Award.
Anita racked up some nice Broadway credits in the ‘60s and did some television. She gave it all up to move to Hollywood and work with a chimp. (I believe my reaction to the show, reading about it at the time, was “they’ve got to be kidding.”)

Why did she do it?

She explains in Richard Shull’s “Inside TV” column in Florida Today, published January 22, 1972.
Ten Years on Broadway 'Prepare' Anita Gillette for 'Chimp' Series
One thing and another and Broadway star Anita Gillette wound up 3,300 miles from home co-starring with a Hollywood actor-type, a chimpanzee and two child actors in a funky new midseason TV show.
She laughs about it, but at times her laughter has a hysterical edge to it.
The pert brunette Is a part of the new CBS cultural offering, "Me and the Chimp." The show originally was titled "The Chimp and I," but its star, Ted Bessell, insisted on the title change, even at the expense of grammar, to give his character precedence. That's indicative of something.
Anita takes the present turn in her career philosophically. "I thought I knew good plays, and you wouldn't believe the flops I was In," she said. "And I know nothing about television, so I won't attempt to say anything.
"Let's face it, no television is Shakespeare. The public makes the hits. I go to work and I do my job," she said.
But please, Anita, you must admit "Me and the Chimp" isn't the sort of title to inspire confidence.
"There's no way you can explain the show," she said. "Of course, well get clobbered by the press with this. The name invites it. But you know our motto in the theater 'Illegitimus non carborundum.' Don't let the —— wear you down."
She gave the impression she still was a bit dazed at the idea of playing a mother role in a TV situation comedy, especially one in which the family included a chimpanzee.
As she explained it, after 10 years on Broadway as star or leading lady of 15 shows, she went to Hollywood to try for a role with Darrln McGavin in a pilot film for a proposed series for next season. Barbara Feldon got the part.
"My agent urged me to take this. He pointed out that not one in 25 of the pilot films ever get to be a series, but this was a series definitely committed to be on a network.
"When he told me the title, I said, 'I spent 10 years setting ready for this!' Then I read the script and I found It was funny. "So instead of two weeks, It looks as if I'm in Hollywood forever. I still go home to New York on weekends. I left my kids in school there. (She's divorced with sons 7 and 11.) I've never been away from them before," Anita said.
So, how does she manage in Hollywood alone?
Well, she explained, she has a little apartment at the Sunset-Martini Apartments, a haven for dislocated New York actors who are la Hollywood - based series. Jack Klugman of "The Odd Couple" and Florence Henderson of "The Brady Bunch" are among the tenants who also commute home to New York.
"I break my back pulling the bed out every night. And I'm all alone, so I take lots of baths and read Agatha Christie novels," she said. "It ain't home, baby."
According to the story premise, Anita and the two children on the show adopt a stray chimp against the wishes of Bessell, who plays the father.
On April 3, 1972, CBS announced its new fall line-up. The Glen Campbell Show didn’t make the cut. Neither did Arnie, which starred Herschel “Charlie the Tuna” Bernardi. And neither did Me and the Chimp. Instead CBS announced it was scheduling some new comedies called M*A*S*H and Cousin Maude and one with Bob Newhart. They all did slightly better than a sitcom with a chimp and Ted Bessell, which was pulled after 13 weeks.

If you wonder why Bessell did the show, he told Gannett News Service’s Tom Green in 1972 “‘It's crazy,’ I said. ‘I'm not going to do a show with a monkey.’ Well, my manager read it and said it was good. Then I read it and I thought it was funny.” Gillette’s memory of the show wasn’t fun to Gannett’s Mike Hughes in 1985. She said “Working with the chimps wasn’t as bad as working with Ted Bessell. I think he was having a nervous breakdown.” (Bessell denied having a breakdown but admitted “I don’t think I was in terrific condition at the time”).

Whether Gillette or Bessell got new managers with better advice is unknown, but Bessell moved into directing while Gillette continued to appear on the stage and in television. In fact, Gillette is still working today and you can find out what she’s up to on her web site.

Tuesday 29 January 2019

I'm A-Steppin'

Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam. Their earliest cartoons were flat-out funny. If I had to pick a favourite, it might be Bugs Bunny Rides Again, but High Diving Hare (1949) would be up there, too. Director Friz Freleng’s timing of Tedd Pierce’s gags couldn’t be better.

The premise is simple. Bugs keeps tricking the combustible Sam into dropping off a high diving platform. One scene has the old “I dare you to step across this line” routine. You know what’ll happen. But Pierce throws in a little post-script where Sam zips back up to Bugs, says “I hate you!” and then resumes his inevitable plummet.

I like some of the poses, too.

Pete Burness was apparently responsible for this animation. The usuals in Friz’s unit at the time—Gerry Chiniquy (he loved drawing Bugs cross-eyed with a stretched face), Manny Perez, Ken Champin and the graceful Virgil Ross animated other scenes.

Monday 28 January 2019

Fighting With Shadows

Don Patterson tries a silhouette scene in the Woody Woodpecker cartoon Socko in Morocco (1954). Our hero is a member of the Foreign Legion tasked with protecting the Princess Salami from Sheik El Rancid (played by Buzz Buzzard). The stealthy sheik makes his move.

The sheik is frightened.

Patterson and writer Homer Brightman turn the silhouettes into a gag.

Patterson was a good director. There must be a story behind why his directing stint at Lantz was so short. I detect some Patterson animation in this cartoon. Herman Cohen, Ray Abrams and Ken Southworth receive animation credits.

Sunday 27 January 2019

Wonga and Wife

The Jack Benny show was dismantled piece-by-piece as the 1950s wore on. Mary Livingstone somehow had a cold or something and then eventually pre-recorded what shows she appeared on. Dennis Day was occupied with television and shows in Vegas so there were weeks when he was absent. But the biggest blow was the loss of Phil Harris, who left at the end of the 1951-52 season amidst conflicting explanations.

Harris was a one-of-a-kind character (though Dean Martin’s TV persona borrowed parts of the Harris personality) and larger-than-life. He was impossible to replace. It’d be tough to pick who got the most laughs—Harris or Eddie Anderson.

The Benny show was a launching pad for Harris’ own comedy programme with his wife, Alice Faye, first on “The Fitch Bandwagon” in 1946 and then on their own radio show from 1948 to 1954. They were married for 54 years.

Harris and Faye didn’t move their show over to television, even though he had a long-term contract with NBC. They seem to have preferred enjoying their wealth by relaxing in Palm Springs.

It’s been a while since we posted some clippings about Wonga Philip Harris and his lovely wife. Let’s rectify that. Our first piece is from 1947, the second from 1963.

Phil, the Kids, Radio Concern To Alice Faye
The Movie Folks Wish She Hadn't Gone Away

Hollywood, April 12 (AP)—A gal who can walk away and leave you wishing she hadn't—that's Alice Faye.
After all these years and two babies, the lovely Alice is as lovely as ever. Still possessor of the best figure in Hollywood—broad-shouldered, slim-hipped and full-bosomed—Alice lives on a hillside at nearby Encino with none to appreciate her beauty but her bandsman-cut-up husband, Phil Harris.
TCF Wishes She'd Return
Twentieth Century-Fox, to whom Alice owes two movies, thinks she ought to get back in pictures. Twentieth is so certain the public would like to see Alice again it is re-releasing Alexander's Ragtime Band. But Alice can't quite make up her mind.
The money no longer is important. She made quite a chunk in the movies, and kept it. Phil is one of Jack Benny's headliners (at about $80,000 a year), and Phil and Alice have their own radio program.
The Faye-Harris show, less than a year old, enjoys a Hooperating around 20.4, compared with Jack Benny's 29 and Edgar Bergen's 24.6. Some critics wonder, however, if the rating would be so high if the Faye-Harris show were not sandwiched in between Benny and Bergen — one of radio's best Sunday spots.
Even so, Alice is not satisfied with the rating, but she isn't unduly concerned. Her greatest interest these days is her family—five-year-old Alice, Jr. and three-year-old Phyllis—and "just keeping Phil (an ex-man-about-town) happy."
Phil, apparently, is happy. His home life bears about as much resemblance to his hard-drinking, lame-brain radio roles as a quart of milk does to a fifth of bourbon.
During his spare time, Harris is a pretty fair amateur gardener. Every tree and shrub on his once-barren eight acres was planted by the maestro himself. The Harrises currently are having swimming pool trouble. Somehow or other, one of the drain pipes clogged.
"Now we gotta drill down through three feet of concrete," moans Harris, "and listen to them guys chutta-chutta-chutting with drills and swinging picks all day long."
Phil will do anything for a laugh. He's been that way ever since he was a drummer in Nashville, Tenn., in the early '20s. It was this love for a gag that first put him out in front of a band doing "variety" numbers. Over the years Phil has developed a terrifically rapid delivery. He's one of the fastest men with a gag in radio. Alice says that's the one thing she dislikes about their own show.
“I can't keep up with the guy,” she says. “Nobody could.
“When we first started, he used to bawl me out good for flupping my lines. Now I'm beginning to get the hang of it. But every Sunday I wonder whether I'm going to get a pat or a push.”
Second Marriage for Each
Alice, 32, and Phil, 41, have been married six years. Each has a divorce in the past. She once was married to Tony Martin; Phil to an Australian actress, Marcia Ralston. Their friends think this marriage has as good a chance as the next one. Two beautiful blonde children (Alice Jr. is as pretty as her mother and almost as good an actress) would seem to cinch the matter.
"I like a drink now and then as much as anybody," says Harris. "We have our moments, but never in front of the kids. That's the main thing. You got to be careful with kids."
You also have to be careful, Phil says, with the public. His booze-hound characterization on Benny's show is beginning to backfire. He refuses to have his picture taken with anything resembling liquor around.
"It's just a gag," says Phil, sounding puzzled and hurt, "but them people are really getting down on me."

Phil and Alice Won't Sing Duets

Hollywood, Jan. 18—Alice Faye and husband Phil Harris will appear together on television next week for the first time in seven years.
The gorgeous blonde and her Southern Fried husband, however, still refuse to sing a duet.
"Look," said Phil during a rehearsal break for the Red Skelton show, "everybody does duets, and they do 'em pretty good. Alice and I have never done a number together and when we do I think it should be something outstanding."
Alice nodded agreement. So the Harris family will be winging their own numbers individually on the Skelton Show Tuesday at 8:30 p. m.
The arrival of the couple in Hollywood always causes something of a stir. They were among the first movietown celebrities to move to Palm Springs permanently, and since then other stars have followed, including Skelton.
"It's an entirely different way of life down at the Springs," Alice said. "We do all our own cooking. And we go to bed early and get up early. Phil's a wonderful chef."
"I've been cooking most of my life," the comedian agreed. "I specialize in all them Southern dishes, especially cornbread. If I don't have cornbread at least twice a week I'm a miserable man."
Because Palm Springs temperatures rise to 115 degrees in the summer and rarely fall below 100 for months on end, the Harrises were asked how they stood the gaff.
"It's not as bad as it sounds," said Harris. "I play golf almost every day of my life out there. The humidity is real low."
"Almost every house is equipped with air conditioning and a swimming pool," Alice went on. "And you get accustomed to the heat."
"We do a lot of traveling during the summer anyhow," Phil put in. "I'm crazy about hunting so I head up to Colorado or northern California on hunting trips during the hot season."
Among other stars with homes in the famed resort are Debbie Reynolds, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, the Marx Brothers and Lucille Ball. Even Ex-President Eisenhower makes a yearly pilgrimage there.
"We moved to the Springs 11 years ago," Harris said, "and were among the original members to build the Thunderbird golf course. It was the second golf club in Palm Springs. Now there are 19 courses in the area."
"And Phil's played all of them," Alice said.
Both members of the Harris family said they'd like to become more active in show biz, now that their two daughters have left the nest.
"Word got out that I didn't want to work," Phil said unhappily. "That's not true. I want to get back in action, but doing worthwhile things. There's no point in getting into a situation comedy where I lock myself in a closet and someone pours a bucket of water on my head.
"All that has been done before by funnier people than me."
Alice, too, would like to try her hand at some guest shots in TV drama—even if it does mean leaving Palm Springs sunshine for Hollywood's smog.

Saturday 26 January 2019

TV Animation, 1961

Theatrical animation in 1961? It was sputtering and wheezing. Television animation in 1961? That was a different story.

Remember this was before the big Saturday morning cartoon industry existed. That was a time period where old cartoons were dumped. TV animation meant syndication and when The Flintstones became a smash in 1960, studios tried to chow down on the prime-time pie. The prime-time animation fad was gone almost after it started as most new shows on the 1961 schedule were failures long before the season ended (but then provided already-produced fodder for Saturday mornings).

Daily Variety kept abreast of the animation industry several times a year. Here’s a story from May 3, 1961 which gives you an idea of the number of cartoons being made, as well as some dollar-figures.

1961 TOTAL RUNS TO $14,000,000

Hollywood, May 2.
Cartoon an animation biz is zooming. Never as much going on as now, according to Lawrence Kilty, biz rep for Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists Union, IATSE local 839. Exec figures $14,000,000 being spent on overall pen sketches production this year. Compared to live action shorts, he realizes, this is puny.
“But there’s more cartoon and animated production going on now than ever before in our history.” Of estimated figure, Kilty sees $12,000,000 being spent on teevee films, as entertainment and commercials.
Format Films, one of the largest, if not most active animated producers, is spending $1,500,000 on its program. Snowball, Inc., with its 85 men working, estimates spending $1,500,000 million too. Hanna-Barbera, has five successful teevee series, and 12 “Loopy de Loop” theatrical shorts being made for Columbia, is going full blast with a staff of 150.
Day of pen-and-inker, whether b. & w. or color, is here. They (he and she) never had it so good. And Kilty insists no other country can do better producing cartoons. If producers think they can make cartoons or animations abroad cheaper and better, union head challenges anyone for proof.
Noted in volume of teevee shorts are 6 to 7 min. subjects, many of which are put together in groups of three for half hour shows. This is particularly true with “Popeye” subjects, “Beany and Cecil,” “Dick Tracy” and “Mr. Magoo.”
Most animations in work have been sold for teeveeing next season, according to studio heads. Pilots on several new series are either in work or fini, with outlook good, according to producers.
Activity and local cartoon and animation studios, including all phases of production, follows:
26 half hour tv “Alvin and the Chipmunks” in production; 26 half hour tv “The Shrimp” preparing; maximum 26, maximum of 32 “Calvin and the Colonel” half hours; “King Leonardo,” 34 half hours in work’ “Fractured Fairy-tales,” 32 6-min. subjects; 27 finished; 26 “Beetle Bailey” 7 ½ min. segs; 28 7 min. “Popeyes”; working on new series “Keemar, Invisible Boy” for tv, three pilots fini; half hour “Sir Loin and the Dragon,” half hour “Cat Tales,” and 7-min. “Shaggy Dog Tales.” In preparation, half dozen theatrical shorts and two features, “Icarus Montgolfier Wright” and “The Illustrated Man” from Ray Bradbury.
Five tv weekly shows in production: “Yogi Bear” (26), “Huckleberry Hound” (26), “Quick Draw McGraw” (26), “Flintstones” (30), “Top Cat” (30). Also making 12 “Loopy de Loop” for Columbia, along with feature “Yogi Bear.” Company shoots 4,500 animated feet weekly.
Preparing “Bozo the Clown.” Hopes to make half hour Laurel & Hardy tv cartoons, if copyrights can be cleared.
78 “Beany & Cecil” segs for ABC-TV half hour shows, 22 fine.
(United Productions of Am.)
For tv: “Dick Tracy” (130 5-min. segs), “Mr. Magoo” (104 5-min. segs), GE commercials of 7-10 mins or less. Finished ATT industrial, 18 mins, “Mr. Digit and the Battle of Babbling Brook.” Also producing 3 6-min theatrical shorts for own distribution system.
Feature, “Sword and the Stones” [sic] in preparation, 2 shorts for Buena Vista. Also, 4 ATT series in next 18 months, each at $400,000. Additionally, working on NBC-TV weekly show, come Fall, to be known as “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” with Pro. Ludvig Von Drake, Donald’s uncle, emceeing opening show. New characters to be introduced from time to time.
Plans tv and theatricals, 18 of the latter, and “Beary Family” tv series.
20 theatrical shorts. Also “Bugs Bunny” teevee half hour show. No limited sked on latter.

Friday 25 January 2019

To Smear or Not to Smear

Bobe Cannon’s smear animation pops up in a number of spots in To Duck or Not to Duck, a 1943 Warner Bros. cartoon starring Daffy Duck. But there’s also some graceful animation that you’d expect out of Cannon, too.

The best part of the cartoon is the side commentary from the dog who isn’t named Larrimore.

Tedd Pierce gets the story credit.

Thursday 24 January 2019

It's Never Too Late for Cubby!

In one frame, here’s why I like the Van Beuren cartoons.

In Love’s Labor Won (1933), Cubby treats a wiener dog as a jumping rope and an accordion, dances with some sunflowers and then skips into his girl-friend’s house where a stuffed chair and a tiger rug happily sing the cartoon’s main theme as a parrot jumps around.

It’s like a Fleischer cartoon that’s not gagged or animated as well, but it’s still enjoyable. Gene Rodemich always fills the soundtrack with great music. Three fine contemporary songs are heard in this cartoon including “Get Yourself a Girl (and Fall in Love),” a 1932 tune by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel popularised by Eddie Cantor.

Margie Hines plays Cubby’s girl-friend and taps on some bullrushes like the NBC chimes. Cubby is played an unidentified singer.

Poor Cubby petered out as a star in 1934 as a changing of the guard put Burt Gillett in charge with marching orders to make the cartoons better.

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Morgan's One-Week Failure

Not too many people can say their TV show was cancelled after one broadcast. Henry Morgan could.

Morgan was a caustic wit who didn’t put up with a lot of stupidity. Unfortunately broadcasting is sometimes loaded with stupidity and Morgan found himself bouncing around a lot before being plunked into the panel of the quiz show I’ve Got a Secret. Morgan had some brief TV ventures but none so brief as his job hosting “So You Think You Know Music.”

The show was the brainchild of Ted Cott, an executive with the Du Mont network before moving over the NBC TV. He created it on radio for CBS in 1939. Early network TV grabbed all kinds of ideas from radio and “So You Think You Know Music” was one of them. In 1951, Morgan had his troubles on the tube. His Great Talent Hunt, a sarcastic send-up of various amateur hours, was taken off the air. He was then given a format similar to his former network radio with satire and sketches. It was cancelled. Then he had to deal with being listed in Red Channels, the book that enumerated Communists in the media based on its author’s whims and guesses.

That being out of the way, Morgan was signed to host “So You Think You Know Music” on New York’s local NBC station. It debuted September 20, 1951. It was cancelled almost instantly and replaced the following week by an old Bruce Cabot movie.

The TV columnist of the Brooklyn Eagle mused amusingly on what must have happened to bring about its demise. And, yes, the Steve Krantz being “quoted” is the same one whose name you see on the 1967 Spider-Man TV cartoons and various features directed by Ralph Bakshi. At the time, he was a producer at WNBT, where he moved up to programme manager in May 1953. This story appeared on September 28, 1951

Bob Lanigan's TV Review
One week ago yesterday, at 10:30 p.m., a show called "So You Think You Know Music" was seen on WNBT for the first time.
I wasn't present when a group of NBC vice presidents filed out of the conference room after having decided that this show was "In." Nor was I lurking about the corridors, eavesdropping, when one of these vice presidents fell out of line and entered a door marked "Steve Krantz, Producer." Nevertheless, I imagine the following conversation ensued between the anonymous vice president and Producer Krantz:
Vice Pres.: Steve, the boys decided that you will produce our new show.
Krantz: (Innocently.) What boys?
Vice Pres.: (Angrily.) You know dam well what boys.
Five vice presidents and me—er, I mean I. That's WHAT boys!
Krantz: I was only clowning.
Vice Pres.: Well, save your comedy for NBC-TV's "Show of Shows" 9:30 p.m. Saturdays. No, that's Max Liebman's baby. Forget it. and try to concentrate on what I'm saying, will you, Steve?
Krantz: Sure, boss; shoot.
Vice Pres.: Steve, this show we want you to produce is different, and we think if you give it some of your deft touches, it will be dynamite.
Krantz: That's what you always say—and look what happens.
Vice Pres.: (Sternly) Watch that, Krantz! Now listen closely, Steve, and I'll give you the format. This is a panel quiz — all about music, and is designed to put music lovers on their mettle. There are a lot of them, you know.
Krantz: Mettles?
Vice Pres.: I'll ignore that. Now to go on. For a moderator we have Henry Morgan.
Krantz: What does Morgan know about music?
Vice Pres.: Nothing — he can't even carry a tune! We'll give him cards with all the answers. Steve, with your deft touches, and Henry Morgan, this show can't miss.
Krantz: What if Morgan misses the cards. He's very absent-minded, you know.
Vice Pres.: Stop worrying, and start thinking about a sponsor. We've got to put this show over with a bang.
(Slaps closed fist into open palm, indicating bang.)
Krantz: What about the panel?
Vice Pres.: So far, we've got Ezio Pinza's daughter, Emily, or some name like that. Then there's some Italian soprano who got off the boat yesterday. She doesn't speak much English but you've got to agree it adds an international flavor. Right?
Krantz: (Enthusiastically.) Sure! And I think we can get Skitch Henderson. He wasn't doing anything a little while ago when I saw him downstairs in the Cromwell Pharmacy ordering a malted milk with an egg. A fried egg.
Vice Pres.: Good boy! Now you're in the spirit of this thing, Steve. For a fourth member, we'll grab some George Spelvin out of the audience.
Krantz: Fine. But what about the questions on music?
Vice Pres.: (Laughing.) Steve, I got to hand it to you. You think of everything. Smart as you are, we beat you to it this time. (He motions Steve closer and whispers behind his hand.) The questions we dreamed up about music are all authentic, but so difficult no one but Toscanini will know the answers—and he'll be in bed.
Krantz: Yeah—but—
Vice Pres: If no one knows the answer?, no one can show their ignorance by criticizing the show. Get it?
Krantz: (Makes circle with thumb and forefinger of right hand, and winks.) Got it.
Editor's Note: "So You Think You Know Music," starring Henry Morgan, and produced by Steve Krantz, was not repeated on WNBT at 10:30 p.m. last night.

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.