Tuesday 30 June 2020

The Eyes of Fuzzy Wuzzy

1940s Columbia cartoons are great examples about how you can steal stuff from all kinds of great studios and directors but still come up with seven minutes of screen fare that makes no sense.

I would have written about Kongo Roo (1946) years back but Thad Komorowski did such a perfect job in a review on a blog post in 2008 that nothing more needed to be said (alas, the post is long gone).

In this cartoon, writer Cal Howard borrows from both Warner Bros. cartoons and Tex Avery but finishes off the cartoon with something that makes absolute no sense to put that true Columbia stamp on it.

In one scene, hunter Fuzzy Wuzzy (played by Jack Mather?) hides in a kangaroo’s pouch. They both look at each other and then we get an Avery-like telescoping eye-take before the two characters slam into each other and Fuzzy Wuzzy goes back in the pouch.

There’s actually some good timing from director Howard Swift and decent animation. But I still can’t figure out why a cartoon not set in the Congo is named “Kongo-Roo” or what kind of ethnic accent the ostrich (it can’t be an emu, it puts its head in the ground) has, among a bunch of things.

Monday 29 June 2020

Ain't We Got Cycle Animation

Ain't We Got Fun (1937) feels like a Friz Freleng cartoon with all the singing/dancing little animals but it’s actually by the masterful Tex Avery.

Buried amidst the proceedings is a piece of cycle animation when the abusive mice are throwing eggs at the old man who owns the house. 16 drawings take up one second of animation.

Here’s an endless loop of the cycle, slowed down from what you see on the screen. Notice the weight and balance on the main mouse.

The original screen credits state that Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones animated this. A Tex/Clampett/Jones team should have come up with something screamingly funny. This isn’t. But it has its moments. The lady mouse asking the elevator operator where the mousetraps are is the best line, and the self-satisfied look of the mouse with the cop whistle (coming after he couldn’t whistle a warning) is one of those comes-out-of-nowhere gags.

Sunday 28 June 2020

Yes, Virginia, There is a Carmichael

There were people who believed that Jack Benny actually had an overworked, underpaid help-of-all-trades named Rochester. And Eddie Anderson apparently didn’t want people to think otherwise.

At least, that’s if you wish to believe what he told the October 1950 edition of Radio and TV Mirror. Anderson kind of stays in character through the interview, but he also lets readers know it’s all in fun as he talks about the real Jack Benny as well.

Rochester was a unique character on radio. He was the hired help who only behaved like it when absolutely necessary. He smoked Benny’s cigars, ate Benny’s food, wore Benny’s clothes, partied in Benny’s house, sabotaged Benny’s violin and zinged one-liners at him like the rest of the cast. He did to his boss what, I suspect, listeners would do to theirs if they had the courage. By the time Benny was on TV regularly, they were more like an old couple than boss and employee. Judging by audience applause, Rochester was the most popular person on the show next to Benny.

The toupee, "The Bee", the perpetual age of thirty-nine, the Maxwell—put them all together and they spell Jack Benny. Here Rochester brushes away the moths and takes you into the vault to show you what's truth, what's fiction concerning his boss
as told to GLADYS HALL

Editor's Note: What's the real story behind Jack Benny? Where does myth leave off and man begin? Millions of Benny fans want to know — the editors of Radio Mirror decided to find out. The logical person to ask, of course, was Benny's man Rochester. And the logical person to send was ace interviewer, Gladys Hall. Such a collaboration was bound to reveal one thing, and here it is — the real story behind Jack Benny.

Coming out of a restaurant one day, Jack Benny handed the hat-check girl a dollar bill. But she handed it right back to him, saying, "Please, Mr. Benny, leave me some illusions!" Benny's man Rochester feels the same way.
"I like the Boss stingy," says he. "I like him the way he is on his radio show, all the way. If the Boss just suddenly became generous overnight, I'd be out of business!"
Bearing this in mind, Rochester has a lot of fun telling fibs about the Boss. He lets people think that Jack really is the character he plays on the air.
"When I'm asked — and I often am — whether Mr. Benny is really cheap, I say, 'Well, he's never hurt his arm throwing money away!' When a fan wants to know whether Mr. Benny collects anything, like stamps, for instance, or first editions, or antique firearms, I say 'Money. The Boss does very well collecting money.'
"Believe it or not, I've even been asked whether it's true that poor Dennis Day gets only twelve dollars a week for the radio show and, in addition, has to mow Mr. Benny's lawn. But I never let on that Dennis makes enough to hire a staff of gardeners and never lays hand to a lawnmower on his own place, let alone Mr. Benny's."
Rochester travels around the country with the Boss — to Waukegan which, as everyone knows, is Jack's home, to Plainfield, which is Mary Livingstone's home town and to the big cities for personal appearance tours.
"I meet hundreds and hundreds of people and most of them seem serious in believing that the Boss, in real life, is the same as the character they listen to over CBS every Sunday night at seven. And with all the work he's done building this character in the mind of the public, I feel he should stay with it. I believe his fans feel likewise.
"I know that when people ask me is there really a Maxwell, they get a kick when I tell them there sure enough is that claptrap old vintage '24 Maxwell, that I drive Mr. Benny around in that old creak, park it alongside all those Cadillacs in Hollywood, and the parking attendant wants to know if the Joad family back in town. It doesn't seem necessary to me to mention the Packard job the Boss really drives.
"And when I'm asked is there sure enough that bear, Carmichael, roaming around the set, I say, 'There sure enough is that ornery fur rug!'
"Why, if I was to let on there isn't any Carmichael or that the Boss doesn't own a toupee and has his own hair (at least some of it) and his own teeth (most of them), and that the Ronald Colmans don't live next door, it would be like finding out there isn't any Santa Claus, wouldn't it?
"In my considered opinion it would. Yet I may be wrong because, well, it's funny the way people feel about Mr. Benny. As I say, I believe they want to believe he's the character he plays on his show yet they're always trying to get the low down on him. Like hardly a week passes that a number of people don't go to the house next door trying to get the low down on the Boss from Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Colman. The doorbell of that house rings so often that the people who live there, a business couple, have been obliged to put a sign over the doorbell: 'Ronald Colman Does Not Live Here.' "

Rochester's right-hand man in keeping the Boss in his radio character is Fred Allen, who writes things like this about Jack:
"Before shoes were invented, Jack was a heel. His false teeth are so loose, they are always clicking. Jack has no more hair than an elbow. He is so anemic that if he stays out at night he has to get a transfusion so his eyes will be bloodshot in the morning."
"But," says Rochester, "you won't catch Mr. Allen letting on that when he is in Hollywood, he and his Missus, Portland Hoffa, go to dinner at the Bennys' house always once, sometimes twice, in exchange for which the Allens take the Bennys out to dinner every other night they are in town. And I try not to give away that although the Boss and Mary Livingstone are not married on the show, they've been happily married for twenty-three years. Even though Hollywood is supposed to be a wild place for divorce and rumors of divorce, there has never been a rumor about the Boss and his boss, Miss Livingstone."
Rochester has another assistant in Mary. She does her bit to keep Jack in character on the air — and in the home, too.
"The Boss likes to tell about the time right after he and Miss Livingstone were married. The Friars in New York gave a big stag dinner in his honor. It was the first time the Boss was a guest of honor and he says he felt very important. Then, right in the middle of the eulogizings, a telegram arrived from Miss Livingstone, which was read to the guests. It said 'When you come home tonight, be sure to put out the garbage.'
"But Miss Livingstone will come to the defense of the Boss at the drop of his toupee. She never wanted to be an actress. She just stepped in the show one night to help the Boss out, and after that the audience wouldn't let her go. But she prefers her real life roles of Mrs. Jack Benny, housewife, and the mother of Joan Benny, fifteen years old, to the part she plays on the air.
"Being so disposed, she doesn't go for publicity and interviews and the such. But one day she did bust loose and tell a reporter, 'My husband, Jack Benny, is the most maligned man in town — and all by his own doing. Lest any of my fiddling husband's fans believe any of this self-inflicted abuse, I'd like to go on record and say that Jack is not anemic, is in perfect physical condition, has his own teeth and hair, can play a pretty good violin, and, in my opinion, is the greatest guy in the world.' "

Rochester himself confirms that a more generous man than Jack Benny never lived. "When he goes to a restaurant, or a night club or a drive-in," says Rochester, "he always overtips. He pays out five thousand dollars a year in tips alone, just out of the bigness of that out-sized heart of his — and to prove that he isn't the stingiest man in town. He pays the people on his show, even the bit players, more than radio actors are paid on comparable shows— that is, if there are any shows on the air comparable to Mr. Benny's show. It's still No. 1 on the networks — and that's after eighteen consecutive years!
"When the high cost of his cast is called to his attention, the Boss always says, 'I get a lot of money, why shouldn't those who work with me get likewise?' There's one instance where I don't mind revealing Mr. Benny out of character!
"But when I ask the Boss what is the definition of likewise,' he just says 'Rochester!' in such a hurt tone I say no more, I haven't the heart.
"But you can always kid with the Boss, that's the point I'm making — and did you notice that he says 'those who work with me?' This may be a small point to make but there's a big difference, for my money, between the man who says 'those who work with me' and the man who says 'those who work for me . . .'
"Another fib I tell about Mr. Benny is when I'm asked whether I enjoy hearing him play the violin to which I reply, 'By all means, no!'
"The fact is, Mr. Benny started out in life to be a concert violinist. To play the violin, and play it well, was his serious ambition and his cherished dream. He does play it well, too, or did before he started to use the instrument as just a gag. The great Jascha Heifetz once said of Mr. Benny that he has a wonderful wrist action and could have made a great violinist. Mr. Heifetz meant it, too. But since the only thing we on the show ever hear the Boss play is that awful 'Love In Bloom' and I say 'By all means, no!'
"Everyone who knows the Boss or hears him on the air admires his wonderful showmanship, his faultless timing. But no one admires him so much as those who work with him. To work with him, especially at rehearsals, is to see the Boss at his super-duperest. To begin with, he's very prompt. He's so prompt that although the rest of us are on time, he's ahead of time! He is also the most considerate man I have ever met. If the Boss wants me, or any member of the cast to meet him at an off time, it's always, 'What time will be good for you?' There's never any of this 'Be here at nine sharp' stuff.
"He just loves the show, the Boss does. He's that conscientious, that sincere about it that he never says 'Good enough' to a single line, one bit of business, unless it's better than that. He'll throw a whole script away, if he has to, and work all weekend on a new one. He works as hard on the show now, after eighteen years on the air, as if next Sunday was his first broadcast. Yet it's all relaxed, all easy-does-it, with us all having fun just like we sound like we're having on the air.
"For the warm-up Sundays, the Boss always plays his violin. Members of the cast throw pennies at him, he picks them up, puts them in his pocket and never gives them back neither — no Boss, not you!

"There's not a lazy bone in Mr. Benny's body. He is an inveterate early riser. On the Coast he gets up at seven o'clock, has breakfast in the kitchen with the cook, goes to the Hillcrest Golf Club and has shot nine holes of golf before Phil Harris wakes up enough to remember what it is he likes about the South.
"Mr. Benny wishes he could shoot below par like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. In fact, he'd rather be sixty-fourth on the Hooper rating, so he says, and first in golf. But his only real frustration is that he didn't become a great violinist. The Boss really takes this to heart. He loves the violin. Any town he's in, if there's a great violinist playing there, he'll drop anything — even a golf club — to rush off to hear him.
"If ever I should cut loose and unveil the truth about the Boss as he is in private life, I'd speak particularly, I believe, about his home life which goes along like one of those old sweet songs he sometimes plays when he's alone, on his violin. They live a very quiet life, the Boss and Miss Livingstone. Especially quiet now that Joan, the pretty little apple of her Daddy's eye, is in boarding school. They have a circle of good friends, among which are Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor, the Bill Goetzs, the Gary Coopers, and, of course, the Ronald Colmans and the Fred Allens.
"When they invite their friends over they usually run a picture in their projection room — even 'The Horn Blew At Midnight' which, in my opinion, is sabotaging hospitality. Or they play gin rummy. On trips, such as when we take the show to New York, the Boss and Miss Livingstone, or maybe it'll be the Boss and Don Wilson, play gin rummy all the way, the whole way!
"But if I want to keep Mr. Benny in his radio character, I can't go on about his home life. If I do, I'll disillusion the people who actually believe I live in Mr. Benny's house as the man's man-of-all-work I am every Sunday night on the show. Some people believe it so much they take it to heart. Like the time I had a letter from a woman trying to persuade me to sue the Boss because of the amount of compensation I get for the amount of work I do. She was so indignant, she felt so sorry for me, she said that if I'd sue she'd help pay for the lawyer!
"I didn't answer the letter. I just let the matter drop. I ain't never going to peach on the Boss, not even to my own praise and glory — no Boss, not me!"

Saturday 27 June 2020

The Life of Mrs Paul Terry

It’s a question that, no doubt, has crossed your mind time and time again: What’s it like to be Mrs. Paul Terry?

Wonder no longer.

The answer can be found in the Larchmont Times of September 7, 1939. It interviewed her about her life. Mrs. Terry leaves one with the impression that she engaged in what wives of men in a certain higher income bracket did back then—a lot of clubbing with other women in a similar station in life, and superficial dabbling in the arts. It was not a taxing existence. Still she seems to have a been a well-intended, socially-minded person.

To show you how times have changed, the article was written when the social protocol was to refer to a wife by her husband’s name. This is why nowhere in the story is her first name mentioned; she is called “Mrs. Paul Terry.” In thinking about it, this must have changed around the time of the women’s liberation movement in the ‘60s. Anyway, Mrs. Terry’s first name was Irma.

You may wish to chuckle about the reference in the story that Mrs. Terry had a recipe for a cake. It’s doubtful she stepped foot in the kitchen. At the time, the Terrys had two live-in servants, Myron and Annie Trottie; the husband was a chauffeur/butler, the wife was a maid/cook.

Unfortunately, the copy of the newspaper on-line is faded and some words are unintelligible.

Irma Terry was born in Hungary on July 5, 1900 and died in Rye, New York on January 7, 1969 after approximately six weeks in hospital. Paul Terry was still alive, his former studio had ceased operations.

Wife Of Paul Terry Met Him When Both Were Cartoonists
“My husband's work to me is one of the most fascinating occupations I can imagine," said Mrs. Paul Terry, wife of the inventor of the Terrytoon cartoons. “I probably am so enthused over it because I used to draw and love art."
It is apparent that Mrs. Terry is an artist although today her entire interests center around her home and family. She is a delightfully natural person, void of all the superficialities that often come with prominence. She has a mind that grasps rather at the beauty of life than at the sundry passing fancies. Her life is full and as she says she enjoys every minute of it.
Before Mrs. Terry was married she was a cartoon designer and even after her marriage she continued her work. From her childhood on she was interested in art and when she grew up attended the Academy of Design in New York. Her ambition in life was to be a poster artist.
Her First Employment
“I shall never forget my first position," said Mrs. Terry. “One of the department stores in New York advertised for an errand boy to do commercial art. In my great desire to get ahead and be an artist I applied for the job. The employer, needless to say, was greatly amused and hired me. However I didn't have to run errands, but modeled hats and drew jewelry for the advertising department."
Shortly after this Mrs. Terry did free lance work and drew many posters for neighborhood theatres and later took up cartooning. It was while doing this that she met Mr. Terry.
“I sometimes feel that I shouldn't give up drawing," Mrs. Terry said, “but there seem to be so many other things to keep me busy. 1 read a great deal and am greatly interested in autobiography Someday I should like to write a book."
Short story writing and poetry interest Mrs. Terry. She admits that she has a flair for memorizing selections from notable works such as Shakespeare and Shelley and regrets that if you asked her the recipe she used last week in making a cake she would have to refer you to the cook book.
“This seems strange to many people, but I think it is just the difference in the workings of one’s own mind," explained Mrs. Terry. “I always am able to remember perfectly the things that make the greatest impression on me whether they are important or not.”
Several years ago the cartoonist’s wife attended Columbia School of Journalism and also took a writing course at the New Rochelle Library. She has written a great many short poems most of which are used on place cards and personal messages.
“I have written several serious types of poem," she said, “but none of them have I thought of submitting for publication.
This Winter Mrs. Terry is planning on learning braille in the hope that she will be able to write some books for the blind. At the present time she is greatly taken up with her ten-year-old daughter. Patty, who at her early age has shown a remarkable ability for acting.
“One evening last year." said Mrs. Terry, “when we were having dinner, Patty stood up and recited long sections from 'Snow White.' Of course Mr. Terry and I were amazed at the beautiful manner in which she gave the interpretation. Some of our friends later heard her and she presented it at an entertainment given by her dancing school."
Nothing Too Difficult
“This ability of hers," continued Mrs. Terry, “manifests itself in many ways. Both she and my husband will tackle anything Nothing is too difficult for either of them. Patty makes masks and costumes for the plays which she writes and produces. She and several of her friends have a club room above the garage where they do all their work. She also helps her father by speaking children's parts in his cartoons."
Being an only child, Mrs. Terry feels that she cannot give her daughter enough attention. She says that she and her daughter are best friends. The fact that Patty has no sisters or brothers seems to make her more self sufficient," explained Mrs. Terry. “She is never lonesome and always is able to amuse herself. I guess it is my part to play neither sister and brother.

Fifteen years ago Mrs. Terry remarked they moved to 115 Beach Avenue Larchmont, from New York. “A group of artists, including Herb Roth, the ghost writer of the Timed Soul cartoons, decided to move up here," she stated. “We were going to form a colony of our own. All of us thought we would buy a large piece of property and build the type of home on it that we desired. Even that might have been perfect if one had not wished to live in the [], one in the valley, and one by the water. It goes without everyone moved where they wanted and our little colony was never formed."
The Terrys, according to Mrs. Terry, have kept their old friendships and made a great new close associates. "People of [] types fascinate her but most of their friends are artists.
“Artists understand human nature," she retorted, “perhaps better than anyone else for they are in such close contact with it. The artist puts himself into each experience and is anxious to get the most out of everything. I have noticed in particular that he is not anxious for wealth but for amassing the beauty of the world in all his endeavors."
Likes To Entertain
With a deep fondness for being with people, Mrs. Terry entertains a great deal. She believes the best way for having a good time is to let your guests do exactly as they wish and not worry whether or not they are enjoying themselves.
“Young brides," says Mrs. Terry, “go to all kinds of trouble over company and the result is usually that everyone feels uncomfortable. I have learned that the freer people feel the more they enjoy visiting me."
This understanding woman knows as much about cartooning as her husband and spends many evenings discussing his work with him. She says the process of making a film cartoon is in many ways the same as producing a feature picture, including preparation of story, music scoring and building of sets with this important difference: The story is sketched instead of being written, the sets are drawn by an artist instead of being built on a stage, and the actors are all drawings instead of human beings. . . thus the players will perform as the artist's mind sees fit and there is “no display of temperment."
It is easy to see why this thoroughly satisfying person gets so much out of life because she never considers anything more important than people who contribute the joys and sorrows to it.

Friday 26 June 2020

Another Ball of Dogs

The Bosko cartoon Big Man of the North (released by Warner Bros. in 1931) is a rehash of the Oswald silent short Ozzie of the Mounted (1928) made by Walt Disney.

Animator and friend-to-all-animation-fans Mark Kausler points out it even includes the same “ball of dogs” gag.

Here is the version by Disney’s people (who pretty much were the same people who worked on Bosko).

Thursday 25 June 2020

Wile E. Fox

Wile E. Coyote wasn’t around in 1939, but his expressions were being refined by then.

Chuck Jones has a fox character in Robin Hood Makes Good who grimaces at the camera just like Wile E. would do more than a decade later.

Jones was big on side glances, even early in his career (this cartoon was apparently his third directorial job). Here’s an example when the fox tries to chomp down on a squirrel but gets only daisies instead.

If anyone think Jones’ Good Night Elmer drags, it has an excuse. It’s a cartoon about sleep. This cartoon looks like it’ll never get moving with that extended “Who’ll be Robin Hood” sequence opening things. Berneice Hansell and Margaret Hill Talbot are heard on the soundtrack; I think Talbot is two of the squirrels but it’s hard to tell.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

The Thief of Bad Gags

How long did Milton Berle have a reputation of stealing everyone else’s material?

Years before he went into television.

Back in the days when Ed Sullivan was a Broadway columnist, he wrote about it. Here’s a chunk of his New York Daily News column of August 19, 1932.
HE swears it's true, and I have ever found young Milton Berle to be an honorable and truthful man, so we will run it here and let you be the judge.
"At 3 o'clock, yesterday morning," says Milt, "I was passing the Palace. Right ahead of me a drunk was staggering along. At 46th St. he stopped at a letter box, and he stopped so suddenly that I bumped into him. 'Give me a penny, buddy,' he mumbled.
"I'd just been paid at the Capitol, so I gave him a penny. Deliberately he dropped it into the letter box. As the penny dropped out of sight, he looked at the hands of the Paramount clock, bleary-eyed, and squawked: 'How d'you like that? I lost twelve pounds since I weighed myself here last night.'"
About Mister Berle
ADVERTISING experts might be interested in studying the strange case of Milton Berle. His experience on Broadway, since he made his debut not long ago as a vaudeville comedian, apparently proves that there is no such thing as bad advertising. The old gag, "Say any thing at all about me so long as you spell my name right, is proved to be a fact.
As a matter of record, Berle owes his success, like the first Ford car, to the ridicule which other comedians have directed at him. They've panned him so much and kept his name so persistently in the limelight, that the youngster can thank his attackers for making him. Chief complaint against Berle has been that he has "stolen" material from other comedians. He has been described as a composite picture of Jackie Osterman, Ted Healy, Ken Murray, Bert Lahr and Jack Benny.
The witty Osterman expressed this best when the promoter of a certain benefit asked Osterman to bring along a lot of acts. "I could bring five comedians," cracked Osterman, "but Berle is playing at the Capitol."
Every comedian in town has coined gags about Berle, none of them complimentary, but all serving the one definite purpose of keeping his name alive. As a result, the youngster is going along great. His ingratiating personality appeals to the audiences and, right now, he's sitting pretty with an Earl Carroll contract for the next "Vanities."
Broadway, which is violent in its likes and dislikes, has been torn asunder in attempting to determine whether this kid is a great comedian or a flash in the pan. In the meantime, and because of all the excitement, the youngster is working every week while the layoffs stand in front of the Palace and coin jokes about him.
Sullivan’s story was hardly a revelation. In 1948, columnist Jack O’Brian wrote about an ad placed by Irving Brecher in Variety during the Depression when the future screenwriter was still an usher: “Berle-proof gags for sale—so bad, even Milton Berle won’t steal them.” Berle ended up not stealing them. Instead, he hired Brecher to write for him.

It seems odd there would be any debate today about whether Berle would be a flash-in-the-pan. But who was to know in 1932 that the alignment of the stars in the entertainment universe in 1948 would shoot Berle to huge popularity. He had been signed by Texaco for a radio show that it moved over to television. Networks were finally operating in prime time Monday through Friday, though the majority of the few TV stations then were in the eastern US. Berle’s video brashness captured the growing audience.

Let’s jump almost another 50 years. It’s November 6, 1996.
‘There's Only One Milton Berle’
So say his admirers in a gag-filled tribute to the TV pioneer

By Frazier Moore
Of the Associated Press
NEW YORK—MILTON Berle faces a room full of people in tuxes and gowns. He thanks them for coming and for bestowing on him this, his zillionth honor. Then he recalls that he was in this very Manhattan banquet room a year ago.
"But not to entertain," he says, teeth bared in his rabbity grin. "It was for a seminar. A seminar on premature ejaculation. I left early."
At age 88, Milton Berle just won't quit. In his astringent, blaring voice, he goes on to recount an exchange between "two guys over 90," one of whom is recently remarried. No, the man admits, his bride is hardly a looker, she can't cook and she's none too great in the bedroom.
"So why did you marry her?"
"Because she drives at night!"
With some 20 minutes of such gags and shtick did Berle return the favor, as the New York chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recently gave "Mr. Television" its first Lifetime Achievement Award.
Attendees, each of whom had paid several hundred dollars to pay homage, heard Berle lionized by New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former "Golden Girl" Bea Arthur, even-older-than-Berle funnyman Henny Youngman and who-knew-he-was-funny Hugh Downs, who made special mention of Berle's generosity.
"Earlier this year, I had surgery for double-knee replacements," Downs said. "Milton Berle was my donor."
Then veteran comic Joey Adams weighed in.
"There's only one Milton Berle," he declared. "I found that out by looking in the telephone directory."
But dust from ancient jokes like that had no time to settle. There was too much to unearth from Berle's long career.
He played an infant in silent films and modeled as the Buster Brown Shoes kid. He headlined in nightclubs, made a few films and had several radio series.
But the real reason for this Emmy gala, the real reason for Berle's unshakeable status as a legend and a pioneer, came down to a pivotal phase of his hamsmanship that began long ago, when Harry Truman was president, but which barely lasted into Dwight Eisenhower's second term.
These days, "Mad About You" and "Something So Right" occupy NBC's 7-to-8-p.m. Tuesday slot, just as lots of shows have lighted there in seasons past. But no one has outright owned that TV hour, or any other, like Berle, who on Sept. 21, 1948, became host of the "Texaco Star Theater." And an instant sensation. Berle brought with him the boisterous, anything-for-a-laugh tradition his vaudeville years had taught him. Then he delivered it to the public en masse, as if by magic, on their television screens.
Maybe vaudeville was dead, but "vaudeo" was born.
Successful? Early on, about three-quarters of all TVs were tuned to Uncle Miltie on Tuesday nights. By comparison, last week's top-rated series, "E.R.," won about 16 percent.
Granted, the total number of TVs was minuscule in those days. There were only a half-million when Berle went on the air; today, the number of homes with at least one TV totals 97 million.
But if Berle's reach seems picayune by today's standards, his impact helps account for why TV is everywhere today. It was Berle who lit the fuse. Back then, he guaranteed viewers something irresistible to watch, and gave everyone who didn't own a TV a powerful incentive to buy one (by 1951, when his show's popularity crested, almost one in every four homes had acquired a set).
Meanwhile, his riotous acceptance demonstrated to other, more chary entertainers that TV was the Promised Land after all.
"From Burns to Benny to Gleason, they asked me at first, 'What are you doing this for?' " Berle tells a reporter.
"I said, 'Well, we gotta go with the progress.' I'm proud of having the guts, or whatya call chutzpah, to be the first one to jump into TV and take a shot." But it's more than that and always will be, which is why Milton Berle is worth remembering (as if he would ever let us forget).
It's why he's Mr. Television. Berle does nothing less than help explain TV for all of us who watch it.
He helps explain the viewer in us to ourselves.
Milton Berle may have been adept at stealing gags, but he didn’t steal fame. He created it on his own.

Tuesday 23 June 2020

Outhouse of Tomorrow

A joke about post-war pre-fabricated housing opens House of Tomorrow (1949). The hands of (presumably) narrator Frank Graham open a little package.

Cut to a wider shot.

“And there it is! Modern in every respect!”

Up pops an outhouse.

Jack Cosgriff and Rich Hogan helped Avery gag this one.

Monday 22 June 2020


Woody Woodpecker realises he’s lost his dime in Bathing Buddies (1946). Here he is turning around, one drawing per frame.

Paul J. Smith and Bernard Garbutt receive the animation credits on screen but this scene is by Emery Hawkins. Read more here.