Sunday 31 March 2019

Preparation B (For Benny)

Jack Benny could ad-lib. He preferred polishing his scripts with his writers, in some cases spending time debating whether a word—one word—was going to play well. That didn’t stop him from throwing in a one-liner or make an aside shout-out to someone listening (he once ended a stretch of radio show dialogue with Blanche Stewart with the word “Brenda,” Stewart’s role on the Bob Hope Show).

Here’s a piece from the San Francisco Examiner of October 15, 1961 that starts out about Benny’s ad-libbing and then meanders over to his violin concerts, the longevity of his staff and how he got his stage name.

The Truth About Jack Benny's Ad Libs
By Dwight Newton

FRED ALLEN once said that Jack Benny couldn't ad lib "I do" at his own wedding.
Substitute "wouldn't" for "couldn't" and you have the key to Jack's long term success in show business.
Jack never ad libs anything if he can possibly avoid it. He insist that all dialogue be fully memorized, that all action be thoroughly rehearsed. He won't even permit a teleprompter on his show, nor cue cards.
Jack's TV gospel can be summarized in one word: Preparation.
The payoff to always being prepared has led to a double anniversary tonight—the beginning of Jack's 30th consecutive season in network broadcasting, and his 12th in television (9:30 p. m., channels 5-3E-8-10-12-30).
His star guest will be another veteran of the comedy circuit, Phil Silvers, who'll bring along three surprise guests—including Garry Moore and Alan King, I understand. Betty Johnson will be the songbird of the night. The story line concerns Jack's visit to New York for a talk with his sponsor about his new contract.
It may be a turkey. Jack has had many of them. It may be a hilarious half hour. Jack has had many more of those. One thing is certain. It will be the best he can offer under the circumstances. Jack never short changes the public deliberately.
He is in good shape for this season, having filmed 12 programs in advance. One stars Raymond "Perry Mason" Burr defending Jack against charges of a capital crime.
ANOTHER headlines Tennessee Ernie Ford. En route from NBC last year to ABC next year, Ernie stopped by CBS to do this one comedy show for Jack.
Mr. and Mrs. Jimmy Stewart will return for the third time. Other programs already filmed feature Bobby Rydell, Mickey Rooney, Jane Morgan, Shari Lewis, and Roberta Peters who sang on the recent "Carnegie Hall Salutes Jack Benny" program."
That was a spellbinder, the TV musical treat of the year climaxed as Jack on the violin dueted with Isaac Stern in front of the Philadelphia Orchestra. For the first time, Jack let home viewers see a portion of the act that has raised over $2,000,000 for symphony orchestras throughout the country.
The fiddle that foundered so often on "Love in Bloom" has become a financial boon to serious music. Last season, Jack performed with symphony orchestras in Indianapolis, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Dallas and New York--and with our own symphony orchestra two years ago. He plays Mendelssohn and Rimsky-Korsakov, draws the crowds, charges up to $150 a seat and evokes classic humor lines from master musicians.
Says Isaac Stern: "When Jack walks out in tails in front of 90 musicians, he looks like the greatest of soloists. What a shame he has to play!"
The fiddle is a continuing Benny trademark along with the Maxwell, the toupe, the age 39 constancy, and the stinginess. Said Benny a while back: "The good things that really happened to me were by accident. I never thought that if I was a stingy character or a lousy violinist this would keep me going 25 years later."
Well, they didn't really. It was Benny who kept them going by applying the Benny Law of thorough preparation before each performance. Add to this his unique talent for hiring able associates and holding them. His senior writers, Sam Perrin and George Balzar [sic], have been with him for 19 years, the others for 12 years. He has had only four vocalists in 30 years—Frank Parker, Kenny Baker, Larry Stevens and Dennis Day. Rochester was hired to play a Pullman porter on one radio show only and remained for a quarter of a century.
DON WILSON has been his announcer for 28 years. Benny recalls that he auditioned for announcers and signed Don because he laughed loudest at Benny's quips. They'll all be back this season with veteran Frank Nelson, musical director Mahlon Merrick (28 years) and Benny Rubin, a lifetime friend who gave Benny his first handle, Jack.
Jack was born Benny Kubelsky and changed it to Ben Benny when he went into vaudeville as a violinist. At the St. Louis Orpheum one week, the Vaudeville Managers Association sent a wire requesting he change it. Ben Benny was too similar to Ben Bernie, a vaudeville fiddler of much greater fame.
Benny Rubin was on the same bill. As they discussed it at dinner that night a sailor came by the table and said "Hi, Jack." "That's it!" exclaimed Benny Rubin. "Jack—Jack Benny," And Jack Benny it has been ever since.
Two weeks ago, the Jack Benny name coined by Benny Rubin received new recognition when Jack returned to his hometown, Waukegan, Ill., for the dedication of a new Jack Benny Junior High School. Jack filmed the event and the school dedication will be the scene of next Sunday's telecast.

Saturday 30 March 2019

Fallout of Bert the Turtle

It may be the most famous and naïve cartoon involving the Cold War.

Duck and Cover was a live action short with animated portions telling kids that when their neighbourhood gets nuked, just fall to the ground, cover your body with your arms, and you’ll be okay. What about radiation? Well, the cartoon kind of glossed over that point. That’s probably why the film has become a camp favourite and written about extensively.

The cartoon was made by Archer Productions, a company set up by former Disney artist Lars Colonius in New York in early 1949. Broadcasting magazine of February 20, 1950 revealed “all of his staff also are former Disney animators” (among them were John Ployardt and Carl Fallberg). The company had made more than 40 TV and film commercials by that point, with Chevrolet as its first client, followed by Blatz Beer and Pepsi-Cola before it somehow won the contract to make Duck and Cover.

The New York Herald Tribune told readers about the film’s impending debut in its issue of December 2, 1951.
Cartoon Turtle To Teach Pupils Air-Raid Rules
U.S. Putting Out 3,000,000 Leaflets in Which ‘Bert’ Says: ‘Duck and Cover’

WASHINGTON. Dec. 1—A new cartoon character, “Bert the Turtle,” will make his bow next week to American school children, but he will have a grim purpose—teaching them how to "duck and cover" in the event of atomic bombing.
The Federal Civil Defense Administration is distributing to states and territories 3,000,000 copies of a 16-page illustrated booklet entitled "Bert the Turtle Says Duck and Cover." Additional millions of the cartoon booklet are expected to be distributed to school children throughout the country.
“Bert” also is a motion picture and radio star. He appears in a ten-minute movie of the same title as the booklet, to be distributed later this month.
He likewise will be heard throughout the country on a transcribed radio program running 14 minutes, 30 seconds. Platters are now being sent to state civil defense directors for distribution to local defense units.
Bert Shows the Way
The cartoon leaflet opens with Bert, equipped with air raid helmet, strolling along nonchalantly upright, while a monkey, swinging from a nearby tree, holds a lighted firecracker on a stick over his head. Bert sees it: and the legend is "Bert ducks and covers—he's smart, but he has his shelter on his back—you must learn to find shelter."
The atomic bomb, the booklet says in the two succeeding pages, is a new danger which explodes with a flash brighter than any ever seen before by school children, and they must be ready to protect themselves.
"Like Bert, you DUCK to avoid things flying through the air," the leaflet advises, showing Bert withdrawn into his shell alongside a small boy, prone, with his head covered.
Civil defense sirens and other alarms will warn of an attack, usually the booklet continues, whereupon all must take shelter. But if there is no warning, children in school must take shelter under or behind desks and other objects, it adds, noting “there is always something to shelter you indoors.”
Speed Stressed
Outdoors, counsels the booklet, which shows children abandoning toys and bicycles to take shelter behind walls and trees, even a hollow in the ground, is better than no protection, while in a bus or automobile, children should crouch behind or under seats.
“But remember, do it instantly—don’t stand and look! Duck and cover,” is Bert the Turtle’s parting admonition.
The Government Printing Office will sell copies of the booklet for five cents each, or 100 for $2. Plates and mats will be made available to communities wishing to reproduce it for free distribution.
The film starring Bert the Turtle was produced by Archer Productions, Inc., of New York City, in co-operation with the Federal Civil Defense Administration and the National Education Association. It will be distributed by Castle Films division of World Films, Inc., New York City, on a non-exclusive basis to film dealers, camera supply store, 16 mm. film libraries and other channels through which prints may be purchased or rented. The 16 mm. sound print sells for $17.50.
Archer Productions’ opus appeared on television. WCBS ran it on Saturday, February 22, 1952 at 6 p.m. then again at 6:20 p.m.

Now it was ready to make its debut in schools. The Herald Tribune was there. This story appeared in its issue of March 7, 1952.
City Film Shows Pupils What to Do in Atom Raid
10-Min. ‘Duck and Cover’ a Hit at Class Premiere; Every School to See It

The first of the city’s school children to see “Duck and Cover,” a ten-minute film on the precautions youngsters should take in case of an atomic bomb attack, gave every indication that the movie will become a smash hit.
The thirty-two sixth-graders at Public School 33, W. 27th St. and Ninth Ave., who were the first to view the film, fifty-eight copies of which will now circulate throughout the city’s public, private and parochial schools, fulfilled the fondest hopes of the educators who selected it.
“Very instructive,” “not too frightening for children” and “interesting and funny in spots” were the unanimous conclusions of the amateur critics who agreed further that the film was “not too babyish” for high school students nor “too grown up” for first-graders.
First Indorsed by N. E. A.
The film, written by Ray J. Mauer and produced by Archer Productions, Inc., is the first on civil defense to be indorsed by the National Education Association. Part animation and part live action, it takes as its symbol a cartoon character, “Bert the Turtle,” who ducks and takes cover at the first sign of danger and does not uncover until all danger is past. Almost all the live actors are city school children. The atomic blast is depicted only by a bright flash.
Morris C. Finkel, principal of the school, said the film would be tried first on sixth-grade classes, then fifth, and on down. For yesterday’s trial, Sol Kraft, a teacher in charge of the district educational film library housed in the school, conducted the lesson while the classroom teacher, Miss Rosalie Donlin, and Mr. Finkel observed it.
One Bit of Slapstick
The showing was “motivated” by a class discussion of accidents, precautionary measures and quick action in emergencies. After the film was shown, the lesson was “clinched” by questions about what principles of emergency action they had learned and by answering questions the students had as a result of the film.

Today, we may view Duck and Cover as a quaint relic from a time of American paranoia about Russian nukes (which also gave birth to fallout shelters) but back then, some people were deadly serious in wanting to ban poor old Bert. The Worker of April 6, 1952 reported on a conference to “Safeguard the Welfare of Our Children and Our Homes” where a recommendation was made that “American Women for Peace” protest the film, claiming school atom bomb drills were objectionable. In reading between the lines, their solution to America’s nuclear fears was simply to end wars.

Another “Committee” with an elongated title (membership number unknown) met to turn its turtle noses up at the cartoon, using a bit of convoluted logic to reach its conclusions and offering only a vague solution of basically shielding kids from any discomfort. This story appeared in the New York Times on November 21, 1952. I’ve omitted a portion that lists some of the attendees.
Experts Think Movie Promotes Rather Than Eases Tensions, but Some Aren’t So Sure
Showing in schools of the film “Duck and Cover,” a movie intended to help train children in immediate self-protection in case of atomic attack, is “inadvisable,” members of the Committee for the Study of War Tensions in Children held this week. The film, which was made under the aegis of the Federal Civil Defense Administration and the National Educational Association, performs an “actual disservice” to children, they declared. Showings of the film have been going on in local schools since spring.
The movie was shown before an audience of psychiatrists, psychologists, educators, social workers and parents, at a meeting called by the committee Monday night in the New Lincoln School, 31 West 110th Street. A panel discussion, which included active audience participation, followed the showing.
Serious Limitations Found
At the first public showing of the film in January a grade school principal held that air raid drills instead of alarming youngsters gave them a sense of security that came from knowing what to do. The opposite was held to be true by almost everyone who spoke at the meeting. The criticisms varied widely, but all but a few speakers agreed with the committee’s statement that the film had “serious limitations” and was more apt to “promote anxiety and tension in children” than to help them escape physical and emotional injury.
Dr. Clark [Kenneth Clark, a psychologist] said he personally was deeply distressed by the film, but that his young son, who had seen it in school, appeared to take it as a matter of fact and without undue concern. He questioned whether the film’s effect on children could be gauged by adults on the basis of their own reactions and urged research on the problem. Dr. Hilde Bruch, psychoanalyst and pediatrician, expressed a similar point of view.
In the main, however, participants in the discussion strongly opposed showing the film. Protective and civil defense measures are essentially the responsibility of adults, the committee officially held, and to involve children—especially when there is so much uncertainty about the whole procedure—“can only create fears in children with which their resources are inadequate to deal.”
The committee concluded that the community and the schools should instead “turn their attention more positively toward counteracting the contagion of fear and tension already being promulgated among children by TV, the movies, the radio and sections of the press.”

Archer Productions survived a few more years. Sponsor magazine reported on March 10, 1952 the company was producing a soap opera with a musical theme, and a comedy based on the King Features strip, Hubert, but it doesn’t appear any of these projects went anywhere. Colonius opened Lars Colonius Productions by 1955, then sold the business in 1966 to Jack Zander’s Pelican Films where he became the man in charge of animation.

Duck and Cover came and went. Kids don’t appear to have been stressed out about it one way or another. The short was rediscovered in 1982 and found its way into The Atomic Café, an independent documentary film looking back at Cold War propaganda. It got a release on home video in 1991 in U.S. Government Classics. Then the internet came along and, eventually, video sharing sites where Bert, Cub Scout Tony, the flash of light, and Robert Middleton’s soothing fatherly voice were posted for millions around world for instant pleasure.

You can watch it below.

Friday 29 March 2019

Giant Mouse

Sylvester fights the “giant mouse” in Who’s Kitten Who? (1950). A few of a nice set of drawings used in a cycle in this scene.

Oh, the shame of it!

Phil De Lara, Emery Hawkins, Chuck McKimson and Rod Scribner are the animators. Tedd Pierce wrote this version of the Sylvester-Hippety Hopper concept that director Bob McKimson ran into the ground.

Thursday 28 March 2019

Stick Man Saves the Girl

The animators at Van Beuren parodied movie making and 1890s stage melodramas in Makin’ ‘Em Move, a fun little cartoon released in 1931.

You’ll recognise the plot without me explaining it. I like the slide on the screen while the reels are being changed. The audience stomps their feet impatiently.

Asbestos curtains were a must at theatres to prevent further deadly fires like the one at the Iroquois Theatre in Chicago in 1903 that killed 600 people.

The use of stick figures is a novel idea, certainly for 1931.

John Foster and Harry Bailey are on the credits with music by Gene Rodemich.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

When Mr. C. Was Mr. L.

Quick! Name someone who appeared in both the film Divorce, American Style and the TV show Love, American Style.

I haven’t researched all the possible answers, but one who comes to mind is Tom Bosley.

A certain generation will always think of Bosley as Howard Cunningham on Happy Days because the show was a huge success, ‘70s feathered hairstyles in the ‘50s notwithstanding. Bosley was fortunate enough to pick up starring roles in other shows—Wait Till Your Father Gets Home and The Father Dowling Mysteries. He narrated a nostalgic clip trip called That’s Hollywood. But his first regular role, I believe, is on a series that you may never have seen. It was The Debbie Reynolds Show, which aired in 1969-70.

If you were to ask me what the series was about, I couldn’t tell you, other than I sort of remember it kind of being like I Love Lucy except without the physical comedy. That didn’t leave much.

United Press International interviewed Bosley at the time about his nascent career. It’s interesting the wire service would devote a column to someone pretty much unknown on a show that featured a huge film star. He comes across as a regular guy in this interview, which is how he came across in his TV roles, certainly on Happy Days. This column appeared in papers around February 4, 1970.

Actor Came West for Film And Stayed
By Vernon Scott

HOLLYWOOD (UPI)— Tom Bosley, the round, funny man on The Debbie Reynolds Show," is less humorous but equally rotund away from the television cameras.
A dedicated actor who suffered hunger pangs in New York for eight years before finding acting jobs, Bosley starred in the title role on Broadway in "Fiorello!" from November, 1959, to October, 1961.
Bosley came West several years ago for what he thought would be a brief stay while he appeared in a movie He is still here.
Bosley and his wife Jean, married eight years, are the parents of Amy Elizabeth, 3 1/2, who shares a two-bedroom apartment with her mother and father in Beverly Hills.
The actor, who plays Debbie's brother-in-law in the NBC series, discovered that Beverly Hills apartments are larger but just as costly as those in Manhattan.
His apartment house is equipped with a swimming pool in which Bosley splashes gleefully whenever possible. Jean has furnished their quarters with a few pieces brought west from their old apartment. The couple currently is redecorating the living room with contemporary furniture.
A native of Chicago, Bosley is undergoing a difficult change of loyalty.
Since childhood he has been an ardent fan of the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago Bears, both of which had less than triumphant seasons on the diamond and gridiron. The transplanted Bosley has season tickets for Los Angeles Rams football games and cheers for the Dodgers with misgivings.
One of his first professional assignments in Hollywood was a role in the movie, "Divorce, American Style," which starred Miss Reynolds.
Bosley said this affiliation is responsible for his present part in the series. Debbie recalled his brand of comedy and asked the producers to cast him in the role of Bob Landers, the accountant.
Bosley is aided in his characterization by the fact that his brother in Chicago is an accountant. “I use my brother as an image for the character,” says Bosley, “except he is bigger and smarter than I am.”
Bosley is 42 years old and a motion picture buff. He and Jean dine out frequently and then take in a movie. He also enjoys sailing on the boats of friends both here and in the Windy City.
His working schedule varies. The show is filmed on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Mondays and Tuesdays are long rehearsal days. But Friday demands only a two-hour run-through of the script and then a lengthy weekend of relaxation.
He lives a convenient seven minutes from MGM studios where the series is filmed and manages to have dinner at home with Jean and Amy almost every night.
An admitted loner, Bosley is happiest sitting in his living room listening to classical music on his new stereo set.

Tuesday 26 March 2019

The Correct Time for Murder

The victim (played by Kent Rogers) is warned in Tex Avery’s Who Killed Who? (1943). He will be killed at midnight.

The clock strikes 12. The hands waver every time it hits the top of the hour. You’ll notice the clock reads “BooooLova Watch Time.” For years on radio, time signals would be sponsored by Bulova, which informed the listener it was “Bulova Watch Time.”

Since this is a horror picture, the cuckoo bird is a skeleton, who announces the time “at the sou-und of the gun.” The cuckoo (played by Sara Berner) then listens for the gun.

The bird is not disappointed. Cut to the gun going off three times, sounding like the NBC chimes heard for over four decades on radio and TV.

No animators are credited in this cartoon, but I suspect there are people who might be able to pick out some of Preston Blair’s scenes.

Monday 25 March 2019

Boxing the Cat

The bad guy cat gets his head stuck in a sewer grate while chasing Andy Panda’s goldfish, who turns it into a punching bag before hammering it out of the scene.

Emery Hawkins shares screen credit with La Verne Harding in Fish Fry, a 1944 cartoon directed by Shamus Culhane, but Les Kline animated this scene.

Sunday 24 March 2019

He Didn't Want to Be Discovered

Frank Fontaine wasn’t discovered by Jack Benny, but his career zoomed forward thanks his first exposure on the Benny radio show.

You can say the same thing about Joe Besser.

Besser only appeared on radio three times with Benny over a 12-year period, as well as a number of TV episodes. But his debut routine on the January 17, 1943 radio show got him noticed. It couldn’t be helped. Besser wailed and screamed his catchphrases. The audience busted up.

It’s surprising to read that the ear-ringing Besser on the radio was petrified in real life. He didn’t want to go on the air. Here’s an article about him from the St Louis Star, December 16, 1943.

Besser went on to star in short films for Columbia (including the later Three Stooges shorts), supported Joey Bishop on a sitcom, and voiced animated cartoons for Hanna-Barbera. He was 80 when he died in 1988.

St. Louisan In 'Sons O' Fun' Swings Words
Comedian Besser Clicks But, 'Not So Fa-a-a-st, You'


ONE Sunday night last winter a new character was introduced by a radio comedian on his weekly program. That character, and he is a character, had only a half dozen lines to say during the half-hour program, but the next morning he awoke to find himself the radio hit of the year. His telephone was ringing every five minutes with contract offers from New York and Hollywood, and so confused was he, that he could only crawl back to bed, hide his head under the pillow, and cry out the words that made him famous, "Not so faaaast."
The character, of course, is Joe Besser, one of the star performers with Olsen and Johnson in "Sons O' Fun," currently playing at the American Theater, This is the first visit Joe has made to his home here in eight years, and one of the few visits he has made since 1922 when he became assistant to Thurston the magician. Joe couldn't resist coloring the act with his own coy personality. Thurston's dignity at first may have been outraged by Joe's whimsy, but the audiences approved, so the magician finally dropped his own objections.
Joe's fame fall [fell] on him a little late, but he's reconciled by the old proverb, "Better late than never." He was widely known in vaudeville but when that institution died most of its famous reputations died with it. Before "Sons O' Fun" he had been in only one other Broadway production. That was the Shubert's "Passing Show of 1932," which passed in two weeks and didn't go anywhere.
It was in "Sons o' Fun" that Jack Benny discovered him, and in a way that was a sad day for Joe, for the last thing he wanted in this world was to be discovered, especially for a radio program. He's scared to death of mikes and always has avoided them like plagues, but Benny wouldn't listen to him. Joe said "No" and went home, but there, waiting for him, was his wife, who, although she didn't say anything, says Joe, "looked at me like I was an oyster." So he called Benny and said "Yes." But when it came time to go on, he changed his mind again and said "No." Finally Benny went to his dressing room and dragged him bodily into a cab and took him to the broadcasting station. "Look, Mr. Benny," says Besser, "I gotta bad throat. See, I can't talk. Honest, I can't speak above a whisper, See?" So Benny, who understands mike fright in all forms, pampered him and agreed to cut his part down so he could stick his head into the studio several times, say his line and then run. Joe felt a little better about it then, but he would have preferred to run before saying his line, and he almost did.
AFTER making several appearances with Benny, Joe went over to Fred Allen's program. He had got over a little of his mike fright, but not all of it, and Fred had to continue coddling him. Now Joe doesn't mind it much, but he still wouldn't go on alone. "I know if I'm with a big comic like Jack or Fred that they'll ad lib something clever if I muff a line. But I wouldn't want the responsibility of a show of my own."
Joe's radio success surprised no one more than it did Joe. "Most of my humor is visual," he says, "and I didn't see how it could possibly click on the air." What he perhaps does not realize about himself is that his voice is so full of inflection that it manages to convey the entire man. Hearing him on the radio, one can visualize pretty accurately Joe's jelly-mold physique, his slightly bald head, his cheery smile and blue eyes. When he says, "Shut up, you old cra-zee yieou," one can see the look of pouting indignance come over his face; and when he murmurs "You're cuooet," he obviously has his eyes rolled upward, is wearing his most fetching smile, and is rolling his shoulder against some curvaceous blonde.
What one does miss by not seeing him in the flesh is when, dressed as a buck private, he runs across the stage trailing his gun after him as if it were a scooter, and confronts the top sergeant as though he were the neighborhood bully, slaps his hands and says, "You old cra-zee, I've had enough of your meanness"; and when the sergeant bawls him out for not carrying his gun on his shoulder, he complains, "But it's so hea-vy." Military training has suddenly become just a game among a bunch of big, bad boys ...
Just a few weeks ago, Joe returned from Hollywood, where he made a picture for Columbia called "Hey Rookie." He likes doing films and thinks it's the ideal life for him, so he's going to return in a year or so and maybe settle down in Hollywood. There he can take it a little easier and there's no mike fright or stage fright to upset him. Offstage he is a quiet little fellow who likes to take his time about things and to avoid excitement. He denies having stage fright now, but opening night in St. Louis, just before he went on, he was worrying about his cold. "My throat is sore; my ears are stopped up; I won't hear my cues," he complained. But the other performers paid little attention. One got the idea, somehow, that they had been through this before.
"Not so fa-a-a-st. I can't do tha-a-a-t," he drawls. In other words, that's Joe Besser.

Saturday 23 March 2019

Uncle Johnny

A number of cartoon voice actors are still unknown because even in the 1960s, some producers weren’t putting credits on their animated shorts.

One of them was Johnny Coons, who spent the bulk of his career in radio and television in Chicago. It was there he worked on a cartoon and puppet show called Uncle Mistletoe with a cartoonist named Sam Singer. Coons provided all the voices. Singer would take “Florence the Pen” and sketch two drawings. Two cameras would then switch back and forth between the drawings, making it look like they were moving! No doubt such cheesy, ultra-low budget “animation” inspired Singer when he went to California, set up cartoon operations and produced some of the most deadly bad TV animation in history. Coons hosted several children’s shows in the 1950s, both local and national, from Chicago.

Before we get to Coons’ animation career, let’s give you some of his background. He had been in radio in Chicago for several years when this story was published in the Jackson (Tennessee) Sun on April 4, 1948. There is no byline.
Johnny Coons Plays Clipper King On ‘Sky King’ Show
Although he grew up in a medical atmosphere and his family thought he would be a doctor, Johnny Coons never had any doubts in his mind that he would be anything but an actor. His father is a surgeon in Lebanon, Ind., one brother is an interne and another is completing medical school. Proof that appearing in the colorful make-believe world of stage and radio rather than in the colorless mask and gown of the operating theater was the right choice for Johnny, can be seen by looking through his scrapbook. However. Johnny did not turn his back entirely on the medical profession for he married a nurse.
Since Oct. 28. 1946, he has been portraying Clipper King in WTJS-ABC's juvenile dramatic show. Sky King, heard from 5:30 to 6:00 p.m., on alternate days with Jack Armstrong. His past radio stints have included important roles in Bachelor's Children, Captain Midnight and Vic and Sade in which he had four roles—Marvin Sprawl, Smelly Clark, Orville Wheeney and L. J. Gertner.
This Indiana boy began his professional career after graduating from high school. His family had him enrolled in pre-medical school at Wabash College but he never got there. Instead he went to New York City to Alviene Dramatic Academy for a year. Then he joined a vaudeville outfit as a magician for a year. After one season of touring throughout the Midwest, he returned to Broadway to appear in "Bright Honor" and later in stock companies in Winthrop. Maine, and Bay Shore. Long Island. He was offered a role in the "Dead End" touring company and for half a year was a Dead End Kid. The tour brought him to Los Angeles and he remained there for several years doing movies for Columbia and Selznick International.
From movies Johnny moved into radio and soon was doing dramatic stints on network programs originating in the film capital. Johnny decided to return to the midwest radio capital because he specialized in juvenile roles and parts calling for trick voices. He felt Chicago radio had more to offer him. Now he's content to remain in the Windy City permanently.
The Coons' apartment on the Near North Side is his hobby, he says. He did all the decorating himself and selected the modern furniture for it. "There's alwavs something to be done around the place and I enjoy being my own carpenter-electrician-plumber." Mr. and Mrs. Coons are not night clubbers. They prefer to do their entertaining at home, quietly. Besides, this gives Johnny a chance to demonstrate some of the feats of legerdemain which he performed on the stage.
Although he sold his equipment (valued at $5,000) several years ago, he is able to baffle and entertain still without using rabbits, trick tables and hats. Last summer Johnny had reason to be grateful that he was surrounded by members of the medical profession. He fractured a wrist on a picnic and had a local doctor take care of it. Weeks later it was found that the bone had been incorrectly set. Johnny returned home to his father who removed part of the bone and reset it. Johnny's nurse-wife took care of him and the arm afterwards, changing the dressings and tending it for the next several weeks.
There is only one aversion which this actor admits having. He hates to wear ties. He favors casual clothes and except on strictly formal occasions is never seen wearing a tie. He would like to operate a men's haberdashery store but says that as long as he's in radio he wouldn't have the time. With the experience and background this Coons lad has. it is doubtful if radio will ever give him the opportunity of opening his store.
Coons left Chicago for Hollywood in late 1959. He worked on a number of cartoon series. Larry Wolters reported in the Chicago Tribune of October 1, 1960 that “Mister Magoo, voiced by Jim Backus, has added some new voices. Johnny Coons of Chicago TV has become the voice of Presley, and James Nugent is Beatnik Magoo.” Coons was represented by Charles Stern, the agent for June Foray and Paul Frees among others, and made money in the mid-‘60s voicing national commercials. He also hosted a couple of different children’s shows on KHJ-TV before returning to Chicago in 1969.

Another endeavour of Coons’ involved a toy for young children. He was interviewed by a number of newspapers about it, and his opinion of the fantasy/adventure cartoons on Saturday mornings at the time. The interviews also revealed another UPA cartoon he voiced. This is from the Baltimore Sun, October 29, 1968.
Supplies Voices Comments For Little Hen

REMEMBER the role of Clipper in the radio show, “Sky King”? Or the character Panhandle Pete in a children's television show? Or Mumbles in the televised cartoon Dick Tracy or the Italian baby in a spaghetti commercial?
These are only a few of the several hundred characters that owe their voices to Johnny Coons, voice impersonator. And for about 30 years Mr. Coons, has portrayed old men, young boys, cartoon personalities and others in radio soap operas and dramas, children's shows, movies, television series and commercials.
Talking Puzzle
More recently Mr. Coons is projecting his voice into a talking puzzle for children 3 to 7 years old in the roles of a tugboat, a fire chief, an air-plane, Humpty Dumpty and some farm animals, and it is an undertaking that he is very enthusiastic about.
Mr. Coons' career began in New York city theater and then skipped across country to the West Coast and radio in the Thirties. When television started becoming popular, Mr. Coons went on the air with a puppet show. “There were fifteen characters that I provided voices for,” he said. “And since many of them were on stage at the same time, they were difficult to keep track of. I used a lot of colored pencils in those days.”
Stood On Table
Then Mr. Coons appeared in front of the camera instead of behind it for a change. Panhandle Pete was the character he portrayed—in miniature. Through trick photography Mr. Coons was made Lilliputian in size, and he stood on a table to talk to Jennifer, the other half of the cast. Still appearing as himself, Mr. Coons emceed the “Uncle Johnny Coons Show,” in which, wearing a derby, he entertained children for several years.
“Anything with children is great,” Mr. Coons remarked. “But I think they are missing the boat on children's shows today. It's not comedy; it's high adventure, if you will, violent adventure.”
Strictly Americana
Having been in the children's field for about 25 years, Mr. Coons feels he knows what youngsters would like—and he has an idea for a show that is "stri[c]tly Americana."
“There is a lot to see and learn about in this country, because every state is interested. We could photograph some of these really interesting places, and if the program was presented in the right way and at the right level . . .” he proposed.
And even in this age when children are said to grow up faster than they did a decade or so ago, Mr. Coons believes that a show like this could succeed. “I think very young children, say 3 to 8 years old, haven’t changed in that they could be led the same route as we were. Let them learn about the birds and bees as birds and bees in the sense of nature,” he added.
He would also like to see the return of the emcee as a personal character, a role that is missing on most children's programs today.
In the talking puzzles, Mr. Coons provides the role of the “missing emcee.” Each puzzle begins with a short introduction and then the tugboat (fire, chief, airplane, etc.) describes its job—Mr. Coon's voice in both cases. “It's a simple, basic thing that children have liked for years,” he stated, perhaps even giving some philos[o]phy on his ambitions.
Coons died in 1975; sadly, his son died two days later in his father’s home after flying from Hawaii for his father’s funeral.

In you’re wondering what Coons sounded like, listen to this children’s record. The voice should sound somewhat familiar.

We mentioned Coons played Presley on the TV Magoo cartoons. He used a W.C. Fields voice but you can recognise it as Coons. You needn’t sit through the full cartoon.

What else did he voice?

Well, there are no voice credits but it would seem he was Bozo the Clown for Larry Harmon Productions. You can hear him starting at the 0:20 mark. The introduction is from the throat of the mighty Paul Frees. Again, feel free not to subject yourself to the entire cartoon.

And, finally, one more.

Sam Singer apparently hired his old co-worker from Chicago to voice Salty the Parrot in the first go-around of the Sinbad, Jr. cartoons. (Evidently Singer had some problems and production was taken over by Hanna-Barbera who re-cast all the parts). It sure sounds like Coons doing an old-timer voice. The dialogue starts at the 0:38 mark. Compare it to the way he sounds on the children’s record and see what you think.

Friday 22 March 2019

Have a Bite of Chicken

Miss Prissy’s son bites Foghorn Leghorn in A Broken Leghorn. Here are some of the drawings, including some in-betweens.

The take is actually the third frame. Director Bob McKimson had six drawings on twos as Foggy slightly scrunches his head before bursting up for the scream. It emphasises the big eyes and small pupils.

Warren Batchelder and Tom Ray join Ted Bonnicksen and George Grandpré in animating this one. It either had a long gestation period or sat on a shelf. The other cartoons that went into production around the same time were released in 1956. This was released in 1959. McKimson’s cartoons before and after this one began production had Russ Dyson as an animator; he died on September 29, 1956.

Thursday 21 March 2019

Naughty Neighbors Backgrounds

You know how some Hollywood musicals just scream to a stop for an uninteresting singing number? That’s what happens in Bob Clampett’s, go-through-the-motions, Porky Pig cartoon Naughty Neighbors (1939).

The cartoon stops for a pretty much gag-less musical number, as Mel Blanc as Porky and some woman ridiculously sped up as Petunia croon “Would You Like to Take a Walk.” Writer Warren Foster doesn’t even bother trying to imbue this with a sense of parody of musicals which halt everything because stars are expected to sing in a musical.

Instead, let’s look at frames of some of the backgrounds. There’s a pan near the start of the cartoon where we get a rural scene with a pun.

The pan comes to a stop here.

A nice farm country road.

I like the layout of this one. Porky and Petunia are still walking and singing in the distance.

There’s no doubt the backgrounds are by Dick Thomas. A few of them have the same scratchy grass that he painted in his cartoons at Hanna-Barbera in the early ‘60s.

The start of this cartoon is butchered in the recent Porky Pig DVD but I don’t want to beat that dead horse other than to say it spoiled Clampett’s opening gag.

Wednesday 20 March 2019

She Doesn't Sound Like an Old Essex

Yes, she was known for cartoons. And, yes, she was known for being Talky Tina. And, yes, she appeared on records and radio with Stan Freberg. But June Foray did so much more than this during her career.

June’s vocal qualities were in demand to loop dialogue. In other words, after a film was completed, June would be called in to dub over the voice of someone on screen for whatever reason.

Here’s a syndicated newspaper column that began appearing around November 20, 1959 that talked about her dubbing work.

Rigging Isn't Just for the Quiz Shows
Body is the Body Of the TV Star ... But Her Voice is the Voice of 'Ghost'

HOLLYWOOD Since the national sport at the moment is exposing everything on TV which isn't strictly on the up-and-up, you may as well have the facts about some of those sexy starlets emoting on your home screen.
Male viewers, especially, must have noticed that these young glamor queens usually possess soft, sultry voices.
As an example, in a recent Laramie episode a well-upholstered heroine looked into a cowpoke's eye and purred, "You've got to take me with you," with a come-hither voice Mae West would envy.
In real life, as it happens, this particular damsel's vocal chords sound like the starter on an old Essex.
THE DULCET TONES you heard were those of a diminutive ex-radio actress by the name of June Foray.
Miss Foray is a voice bootlegger. And she is so busy dubbing her repertoire of voices for TV "actresses" that she has difficulty finding time for her stock in trade TV and radio commercials.
During the past year the vari-voiced Miss Foray has been used to cover up vocal deficiencies in just about every Western on TV, besides some of the top adventure shows, including 77 Sunset Strip.
ONE OF HER MOST recent jobs was "looping" (dubbing) all of the dialogue for a heroine on CBS' Rawhide. The gal in the role had a shape like Marilyn Monroe, but she talked with a Brooklyn accent thicker than Mabel Flapsaddle's.
Miss Foray sat in a projection room, adjusted a pair of earphones on her, then waited for each of Miss Glamour's scenes to be repeated on the screen. Cue lines were marked on the film, and as each one came up, Miss Foray read aloud each line of dialogue.
It is a tricky process, because Miss Foray must "lip-sync" her words to match the lip movements of the girl on the screen. Her voice is then duly recorded on tape and later inserted into the film.
NOW I CAN HEAR someone out there in the audience asking, "Why did they hire this dame with the Brooklyn accent in the first place?"
That, dear viewers, must be answered very delicately. There are cases where the fresh young starlet is a "close friend" of eomeone who pulls a lot of weight on the show.
In other cases, Miss Glamour has a voice like a fishwife's but has other talents, as noted, which compensate for that shortcoming.
THERE ARE TIMES, too, when a voice deficiency is not noticed until too late. Perhaps Miss Glamour has a leaky lisp, which is not detected until the first "dailies" or "rushes" are run off. Production can't be held up while a new girl is cast, so Miss Glamour lisps her way through the show.
An emergency call is put in for Miss Foray or one of the other half-dozen other good voice-dubbers in Hollywood, and Miss Glamour is given a siren's voice to match the rest of her equipment.
MISS FORAY charges $150 for the first two hours of her services! $350 for an eight-hour day.
At this rate she frequently makes more money than the sex-wagon who is borrowing her voice.
NO ONE ELSE doing this work has the range of Miss Foray. For an episode of "The Deputy" she recently dubbed the voice of a small boy, who during rehearsal had picked up his mother's dialect as she coached him in his lines.
Stan Freberg uses Miss Foray for many of the characters in his records and commercials.
"I used to eat my heart out, want to be an actress that people could see," she says, "but now I'm happy just going to the bank."
WITH TV'S SUDDEN passion for doing nothing to deceive its audience, I'm sure that Miss Foray will soon be getting billing at least "Body by Simone LaRue; Voice by June Foray."

Tuesday 19 March 2019

La Frenche Phonee

Fake French was pretty much mandatory in Pepe Le Pew cartoons, and we get a pile (un pile) at the start of Past Perfumance (1955). It’s set in a Paris movie studio in 1913.

Thus we get Rin Tin Tin (a play on “n’est-ce pas” is on the left).

Clara Bow.

Mack Sennett. (The “Quiet” sign, I presume, is a bit of intentional irony).

David Butler was a Warner Bros. director at the time this cartoon came out. He left to become an independent producer by 1956.

“Chimps Elysees” is today’s groaner from writer Mike Maltese.

The movie sets are fairly stylised. Phil De Guard painted the backgrounds from Bob Givens’ layouts. Maurice Noble was still at John Sutherland Productions when this cartoon was made.

The characters are a mix of stylised (you see some above) and standard designs (Pepé, the cat).