Friday 31 May 2019

A Changing Woodpecker

Shots don’t always match in cartoons when scenes change.

Here are some examples from Misguided Missile, a 1958 Woody Woodpecker cartoon. Someone on the Walter Lantz staff seemed to like to draw Woody more squat and angular than others. These are consecutive drawings. Woody’s taller in the second frame. The guy with the newspaper has longer fingers in the first drawing and the bench (and its shadow) aren’t the same from drawing to drawing.

The next two frames are consecutive as well. Director Paul J. Smith cuts back to the stubby-legged Woody artist. Woody changes size and position and the guy’s hand is suddenly back holding his newspaper.

Bob Bentley and Les Kline are given the screen credits for animation on this cartoon.

Thursday 30 May 2019

Two Points

A bull head-butts matador Flip into a basketball net in Bulloney (1933).

Now one of those gags that disappeared as the ‘30s wore on. The numbers on basketball scoreboard are living and a ‘2’ runs and jumps into place.

The cartoon ends with a group of vicious bulls apparently turning into cows and trotting away. Now that’s bulloney.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Darren the First

Was there ever a show with more replacement actors than Bewitched?

There were two Louise Tates, two Gladys Kravitzes, two Darrin’s fathers and, of course, two Darrins.

Dick York played the original and far superior Darrin Stephens. His departure from the show in 1969 couldn’t be helped, though the decreasing numbers of fans didn’t know the reason until years later.

York was part of a group of actors who made the rounds in Chicago in the radio days before moving to New York. He once recalled he appeared on three radio soaps every weekday, Rosemary, This is Nora Drake and Young Doctor Malone. “I was three different characters—a good guy in the morning, a very bad guy in mid-afternoon and an inbetween guy in late afternoon” he once told columnist Erskine Johnson.

Here’s a story from King Features’ TV Key column of May 8, 1965, when Bewitched was in its first season. York reveals he was surprised at the audience the show attracted.
'Bewitched' Keeping Top Ratings Intact

HOLLYWOOD — "Dear Darrin: Please send me a picture of you and your witch."
This is the kind of mail actor Dick York of the "Bewitched" series receives. He's the fellow who plays husband to Elizabeth Montgomery, the beautiful witch with the puckering lips, who is getting all the attention these days. York doesn't mind being second fiddle—as a father of five kids, he's just glad to be in a hit. And he's rather proud fans believe in the character Darrin Stephens, a man strong enough to handle a bride with such devastating powers.
"Samantha is really trying to be human," says York. "That's part of her charm."
When "Bewitched" leaped to the top of the ratings early last fall, scoffers felt such popularity was only temporary. Weekly magic tricks, they thought, would soon pall and viewers would lose interest in the loving witch and her normal husband.
But the cynics guessed wrong. In New York, for instance, viewers are considered sophisticates, yet the series has a huge following every Thursday.
York Is Surprised
"This surprises me," says York. "I thought we might catch the teen-agers and young couples, but I didn't expect to snare the city slickers. They seem to love being taken in week after week."
Right now plans for next year are hatching. York was ruminating on what avenues the Stephens couple could travel. "There's the thought we should have a child," he says, "or perhaps twins with one inheriting her mother's witching skills.
"I like the idea," Dick continued. "Can you hear me as the proud father saying, 'Will your daughter stop turning my son into a toad!' "
Could a man handle a wife who is a witch?
"I think a man would like to try," answers York. "Life would never be boring. And the children would always be amused by their mother's talents."
Wires Help Tricks
Most of Samantha's tricks are done by wires coated with "invisible paint." and they're impossible to see on film. The "Bewitched" special effects men have been remarkably successful in making objects look as if they're flying in space.
"Sometimes we have mishaps," says York. "In one scene, a tray, filled with sandwiches and rigged by wires, was supposed to pass between Samantha and her mother, Endora (Agnes Moorehead). But, just as it moved between the ladies something happened and sandwiches flew all over. At least it got a big laugh from the crew."
Actor York is in awe of the special effects men's talents. "Our tricks are becoming more complicated." he says. "The more bizarre the better says the public. We can't let up in the magic department."
However, stunts can lose their initial impact. "Most of the laughs are played off the people," says York. "And some stunts are not worth all the effort put into creating them.
"For instance, in one episode, Endora wished to help out in buying the couple a house. The two women stand in an empty room, and Endora says. 'Wouldn't a chair look nice here,' pointing to an empty space. Immediately a chair appears.
"Well, she goes through the house creating furniture and our crew is going crazy running in with chairs, tables and lamps. The idea was to furnish an empty house in a jiffy so a neighbor (Alice Pearce) could enter and do a double take. Then Alice comes on ane does the take, but none of this surprised the audience—they were in on the stunt."
Big Change For York
Playing husband to a witch is a big change from York's last series role, that of a social service worker in the ill-fated series, "Going My Way," starring Gene Kelly, which happened to be opposite "The Beverly Hillbillies" on Wednesday nights.
"True, we got shot down by the opposition," says York, "but we also had our story problems. Originally I was cast as a Protestant minister who had been a boyhood friend of Kelly the priest. Friendly barbs about our youth were supposed to take place.
"I think the producers were afraid to make this comment between two ministers, so I became a social worker. Again, I'm only guessing, but I think Leo McCarey pushed the idea as far as it could go in the pictures 'Going My Way' and 'The Bells of St. Mary's'.' "
Now safely ensconced in a solid hit, York can go home to a wife and five kids without worrying about where the next part is going to come from. As husband to a witch, he holds up his end firmly, and he's head man at home.
"With five kids in the house we always have confusion." he says, and he likes it. "But there are times when I'd like to borrow a few tricks from Samantha."
When York left the series, producer Bill Asher told the Los Angeles Times: “After five years in a part an actor wants to move on to something else—and I don’t blame him.” Asher was less than forthright. He knew Dick York was a sick man.

It was a number of years before York spoke about what was wrong with him. Here’s a story from one syndication service dated April 5, 1989 where he talks about it.
Bedeviled By Disease, Dick York Fights Back

Newspaper Enterprise Association
ROCKFORD, Mich. (NEA) — When Dick York was an actor in Hollywood, starring in the popular TV series "Bewitched," he had a supernaturally entrancing wife named Samantha. The story line was that she would get him out of the scripted predicaments" by wiggling her nose to bring about legerdemanian solutions.
Today Samantha is long gone. But York continues to call on wonderworking to cope with his dilemmas. He has fallen on real-life hardtimes. He is in fact dying of chronic emphysema here in the middle of Michigan. Yet he is still able to wiggle up an enchanting solution to the problem of facing his own mortality.
The solution is beneficence. Wiggle. York has subordinated his own terrible worries to an overriding concern for others. He believes that love is the real magic in the world, and mercy is its manifestation. So he has formed a small charitable group and is devoting what remains of his life to helping homeless people.
The group is called "Dick York Acting for Life," and York runs it out of the living room of his modest rural home. He is joined in the endeavor by his actual wife Joey and a handful of friends around the state. He is thin, frail and always out of breath, but he insists he is not too far gone to be a force for goodwill.
It's bewitching spirit, to be sure. And in this case befitting. York has been wrestling with adversity since he was born into privation during the Great Depression. He says his family was so poor it could not afford to bury a brother when he died, and so, "We had to steal into a cemetery at night to lay him to rest."
York turned to acting to escape the travail, and, at 15, starred in the CBS program, "That Brewster Boy." He went from radio into film work in the 1950s, and then became a familiar face on television during the 1960s. Besides "Bewitched," he appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's shows and on Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone." York was still battling misfortune, however. He injured his back in a Gary Cooper movie, became dependent on pain killing prescriptions, and it caught up with him in 1969. He passed out on the set of "Bewitched" that year, had to be taken to the hospital and was unsympathetically dropped from the show.
The drop soon turned into a free-fall dive. He says he could not get a job "in a school play." His savings disappeared, he ate his way up to 300 pounds, and he lost his home to the mortgage company. He wound up cleaning apartment units to try to make ends meet. In 1976, he was forced to take welfare assistance. Then there was the emphysema. York says he used to be a heavy smoker, but there were other causes too.
York says he is routinely tied to an oxygen tank. And the back pains continue. But he has passed the time when he gave in to despair regarding his condition. Now he concentrates on the misfortunes of others.
The involvement began last year when York read about a congressional rule (the McKinney Act) that was put in effect some time back to give items of government surplus to worthwhile enterprises. He then started calling government agencies in the upper Midwest to get surplus commodities turned over to homeless people in Michigan.
York says he ran squarely into stone walls at first. He likewise got entangled in bureaucratic red tape. He says people would say "yes" one day, then "no" the next, and wonder why he would ask in the first place. Eventually, though, he rallied his small organization, raised donated funds to cover expenses and got results. The results were that in 1988 York says he got enough surplus to "clothe 15,000 people head to foot." In addition, he jimmied hundreds of excess sleeping bags out of the government, and whole truckloads of cots, mattresses and blankets. He also got some food for the homeless sent to the Salvation Army in Grand Rapids.
"The plight of the homeless is everyone's problem," York says, "because any of us could be there at one time or the other. I can see myself as a guy on the street, and I think most people can do that. There's no good just looking the other way; we're going to solve this problem together, or it won't be solved." He stops to catch his breath. And to adjust his oxygen tube. And, remarkably, to smile. "I'm not going to stop with 15.000 people," he goes on. "I want to help millions. I mean millions. Before I die I would like to give clothes, food and adequate housing to every man, woman and child in the United States."
The address for "Dick York Acting for life" is P.O. Box 499, Rockford, Mich. 49341.
York died February 20, 1992, helping others until he physically could not. The Grand Rapids Press told how he donated $15,000 to a group to buy and outfit a mobile kitchen to serve hot meals to firefighters and police at disaster scenes, and the money to buy 1,000 blankets to stock two trailers in case of a major natural disaster.

There were two Darrins. There was only one Dick York.

Tuesday 28 May 2019

Cartoon Lunch Break

Screwy Squirrel and Lonesome Lenny interrupt their chase for a lunch. Screwy swirls in mid-air and produces a workplace picnic.

“Strong union,” is the explanation Screwy gives the audience. Evidently the lunch is mandated in their contract under the Screen Cartoonists Guild.

This was Tex Avery’s last Screwy cartoon. Ray Abrams, Preston Blair, Walt Clinton and Ed Love are the animators.

Monday 27 May 2019

Porky Pig's Feat

Frank Tashlin and his uncredited layout man Dave Hilberman have all kinds of angles and bits of perspective animation in Porky Pig’s Feat (1943). It opens with a shot looking way down at the entrance to a hotel and then pans up. Here’s the bottom of it.

Here are some angles later in the cartoon where Daffy and Porky attempt to escape from the hotel with bedsheets tied together. The manager is hidden in the sewer and gives Porky a hot foot, which shoots him up like a rocket and he and Porky end up back in their room.

Here’s Porky as a rocket.

Phil Monroe is the credited animator, but Cal Dalton, Art Davis and Izzy Ellis likely animated on this as well.

Sunday 26 May 2019

No Love, No Empress, For Benny

Last Sunday, we featured two reviews of the opening night of Jack Benny’s appearance in Vancouver in 1954. Before we leave Vancouver, let’s pass along one unusual newspaper interview given prior to the show. It’s from July 6, 1954.

The writer interpolates Benny’s violin practice as they talk about how the city looked when Benny first appeared there in vaudeville in the early ‘20s. A number of the places he frequented were gone; indeed, the very venue where he played was torn down before 1960.

One error in the story—Mary Livingstone was not born in Vancouver but spent many of her girl years there. Her house on Nelson Street is long gone, too. The same paper, by the way, had a short profile of Mary’s brother Hilliard Marks, who also grew up in Vancouver. I don’t believe Jack ever made the children’s record he talked about, but I wish he had.

‘Plink, Plunk’ Benny Plays, Reminiscing of Old Days
Sun Staff Reporter
Did you every [sic] try to talk sense to somebody while he played the violin (not too well) and dreamed of years—yes, years—before you were born?
Less than half an hour after perennial funnyman Jack Benny hit town Monday night he was in his shirt sleeves fiddling "Love In Bloom."
Plink, plunk, plink, Benny fiddled.
"The old Orpheum Theatre," he mused. "I remember playing in the old Orpheum before the First World War."
Plunk, plunk. Plank.
"Sure would like to see it. Man, what I wouldn't give to see the inside of the old Orpheum once more." Plunk.
"What's it called now? What's that you said? The International Cinema!"
"And that little cafe next door.”
"You know, the one with the long counter down one side and the booths with the curtains on them and all...."
"That's right—Love's. Used to eat there every night after the show. What times those were—I was just 39."
Plunkplunkplunk. Screek.
"Don't laugh. I'm going to have a birthday next year. Make a big thing of it. After all, a man needs a change of scene."
Actually it was a jolly Jack Benny breezed into town. He hardly chiselled anyone as he yak-yukked through the railway station.
He even gave something away— his autograph. Just one, though. That was all he was asked for.
"Ah, popularity," he sighed.
Benny was accompanied by Sammy Davis jr., who is featured in his show along with Giselle Mackenzie, Canadian-born singing star who arrived by car and then had a mild spot of trouble before finding a hotel that would let her two pet long-haired daschunds in.
Benny's wife, Vancouver-born Mary Livingstone, is due in Seattle Wednesday and Benny is "sure" she will spend a day or two here.
Benny, a Maxwell fancier from those earlier days, was greeted by a Maxwell in Vancouver, in this case Holly Maxwell of Famous Artists.
"Can't shake that name anywhere," he muttered.
Benny, not noted as a wise-cracker off the stage, just can't resist a gag and the diminutive Davis kept him hanging on to posts and baggage carts as they passed through the station.
They finally decided before getting into their cars that they would loaf through the evening and then golf this afternoon at Gleneagles.
Then it's down to work preparing for the show which opens in the Georgia Auditorium Wednesday.
But in his shirtsleeves at the hotel, the violin was the thing of the moment.
Plunk, he fiddled.
"I'm going to do a children's record with a big-name violinist when I get back home. It's going to be a good one. That's why they're going to have the other violinist."
Plink, plink.
"I remember, there was another theatre played in, the Empress I think it was." Plink. "It's a supermarket now?" Plunk.
"Say, this auditorium place we're going to play in, it's a big place isn't it? Lots of seats? Lots and lots of room?"
"Then you'll he a nice fella, won't you, and tell all these wonderful people in Vancouver to come down on down? There's LOTS of room? For everybody?" Plink-please-plink.
"You will?"

Saturday 25 May 2019

Angel Puss Protest

Reviewer “Longfellow” in The Independent of July 8, 1944 wrote of the Warner Bros. cartoon Angel Puss: “It is all good, clean fun and suitable for any class of theatre.”

Someone didn’t think so.

The cartoon’s basic plot is familiar—character one believes he’s killed character two; character two heckles and guilt-trips character one. The difference here is the characters are black, speak in dialect and a few stereotype gags are tossed in. African-American audiences were apparently not impressed.

It would appear the Pittsburgh Courier, a black paper, took the concerns to the Hollywood Screen Cartoon Producers Association. It got a response. A story was published October 7, 1944.
Film City Cartoonists Act To Correct Race Caricatures
HOLLYWOOD—The Hollywood Screen Cartoon Producers' association, headed by Walter Lantz of Universal studios, assured The Pittsburgh Courier that they planned to seriously consider at an executive meeting to be held this week, the subject of harmful caricatures of minority races of American citizens. Previously, Mr. Lantz had requested from the publication's Pacific Coast bureau, a specific letter in which he asked that such protests concerning the Negro be contained therein and a suggested plan of correction be outlined.
Listed among members of the association are Universal, Walt Disney Productions, MGM, Paramount, Warner Brothers, Twentieth Century Fox, RKO, and Columbia. Lantz also expressed himself as being personally opposed to any alleged derogatory treatment and he promised to use his good offices for co-operation in the future.
Basis for the spontaneous protest by the long and patient suffering Negro theatre-going public were the many forthright expressions of condemnation made regarding Warner Brothers animated cartoon, "Angel Puss."
Almost in direct irony was the picture's showing in Los Angeles, in that it was sandwiched between the main feature and March of Time's "Americans All." which theme is directly aimed at the lessening of racisms.
It has since been learned that the Warner Brothers had ordered the somewhat considered controversial "Americans All" to be shown in each of their theatres throughout the country as a contributory effort towards breaking down the evils of race prejudice.
In a further effort to throw light on the subject of caricatures, March of Time offices here were contacted.
A spokesman stated they had nothing to do with the placing of their film on the same program as "Angel Puss" or any other such picture.
It was admitted, however, that in consideration of the type of cartoon, poor taste was shown in the matter.
M. C. Pomerace [Bill Pomerance], executive of the Screen Cartoonist Guild, AFL, expressed his approval of The Courier's stand and told the writer that in the past, certain of the membership or the local had expressed distinct dissatisfaction with the type of racial caricature material used in the making of animated film cartoons. At one time, he stated, the matter was brought to the attention of the Office of War Information for correction.
When the subject was bruited to Edward Steltzter [sic], who heads Warner Brothers cartoon department, he stated "Angel Puss" had been obtained when the company had purchased the Schleszinger [sic] interests.
To the best of my knowledge, Angel Puss was never re-issued but it was part of the AAP package of Warners cartoons that began appearing on TV in 1956. I don’t recall seeing the short but it’s not terribly memorable. It’s slow and not really funny. Chuck Jones was the director. He revisited the head-game-playing idea later with Hubie and Bertie (who are actually funny). The one-shot characters in this one were rightfully consigned to cartoon unemployment.

Friday 24 May 2019

It''s Not a Bucket of Water

A little flame lights George’s butt on fire. “Bucket of water!” he cries to Junior. There are two buckets. You can guess which one he’s going to grab.

Then we get white and red coloured cards interlaced between drawings to show the flash of light.

This is from Red Hot Rangers, a 1947 Tex Avery effort. I’m not a fan of George and Junior, though I like the cute little flame and Johnny Johnsen’s establishing background in this cartoon.

The animators are Walt Clinton, Ed Love, Preston Blair and Ray Abrams. The story man is Heck Allen.

Thursday 23 May 2019

You've Lost a Little Weight

Consistency? In a Van Beuren cartoon? Who needs it!

Check out these two frames from Gypped in Egypt (1930). Don Dog is almost two different characters.

I still like this cartoon. I get the impression the Van Beuren staff invented the story while drunk.

Wednesday 22 May 2019

What Would You Call Sour Cream?

Network radio wanted new talent, and they got it in Bob and Ray.

The two first appeared on NBC on July 2, 1951 from 5:45 to 6 p.m. Pretty soon, they were all over the schedule and then put on television as well. To me, radio was their forte; it’s more fun picturing what they’re doing on the air than seeing a picture of it.

The NBC show was a nice little affair. It included brief musical interludes (as did their half-hour local show in Boston before they were pulled to New York) and they added to their cast of characters (in Boston, it was mainly Mary McGoon and Tex Blaisdell).

Here’s a short piece from Kay Gardella’s radio/TV column in the New York Daily News of September 4, 1951. They were still only on radio at this point.

Team On The Beam. ... Radio's newest disc jockey team, Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding (NBC), are usually embroiled in some campaign or other. One is Mary Goon's [sic] (played by Ray) effort to change the name of "sour cream."
Mary says the appellation alone keeps people from eating the nutritious food, so listeners are asked to submit substitute names.
Bob and Ray have developed 20 character interpretations (all voiced by them) for their satirical routines. Another one is Dr. Hugo Sitlo, eminent psychiatrist. Sitlo comes home from a hard day's work and meets his son, Oedipus, at the door. . . . Oedipus: "Hello, daddy." Hugo: "What did you say?" Oedipus: "I just said hello, daddy." Hugo: "Hmmmm, now what did he mean by that?" . . . And on and on it goes.
This zany pair, like so many famous partners in the entertainment world, were separately making a living in radio until they discovered each other in 1946. In five years. Bob and Ray have cataputed to an enviable post on the nation's largest network--NBC. They are currently heard Mondays i through Fridays from 5:45 to 6 P. M., on Saturday evenings from 9:30 to 10:30 and, as of last Monday, the boys replaced Skitch Henderson on WNBC from 6 A. M. to 8:30 A. M., six days a week.
One would think such a schedule would be too much for two young fellows (Bob is 28 and Ray 29). But speaking to them last week after their morning show, we learned this isn't so. "It's just like going home again," explained Ray. "We did a 2 1/2-hour show in Boston every morning." "A morning show," Bob chimed in, "is less strenuous. It's loose and one doesn't have to worry about time. "Also," he continued, the routines are shorter.
Although the boys seem quite confident that they can keep up this fast pace, we are keeping our fingers crossed. We hope their many radio stints will not affect the high quality of their material.

Tuesday 21 May 2019

An Elephant Gun

In Felix Doubles For Darwin (1924), our hero climbs into a hollow log. It turns out to be the trunk of an elephant.

The elephant tries to get him out of his trunk in a cycle of three drawings.

He succeeds but then pulls back the cat, twirls him around then tosses him out of the scene.

This cartoon was on home video—in 1930. You could have bought the reel from Home Film Libraries of New York for $22.50, a pretty steep price in the Depression, I’d say.

Monday 20 May 2019

Let's Try That Again

Daffy zips into the scene in six drawings after his beak is shot around his head in Rabbit Fire (1951).

They have another go at declaring whether it’s rabbit season or duck season. You know what happens.

Ben Washam, Lloyd Vaughan, Ken Harris and Phil Monroe animated the cartoon with woodsy settings by Phil De Guard.