Friday 31 July 2020

Dog Bites Man the Terry Way

The drawing of a suburban man and his dog looks fairly ordinary in this scene from Lucky Dog, a 1956 Terrytoon directed by Connie Rasinski.

Wait! Did I say “Terrytoon”? You know that means some weird shapes will suddenly hit the screen.

As an added bonus, this cartoon features the Terry Splash™.

Thursday 30 July 2020

Corny Concerto Stretch In-Betweens

The fey Bugs Bunny twirls and zips from the scene in A Corny Concerto, Bob Clampett’s send-up of Disney’s Fantasia.

Cut to the shocked dog.

Bugs appears. The drawing is similar to a smear in Freleng’s A Hare Grows in Manhattan (1947).

The dog backs up. Multiple Bugs hands ties his tail to the tree.

The dog runs forward and springs back.

Bob McKimson is the credited animator on screen but Virgil Ross, Sid Sutherland and Rod Scribner should be here as well.

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Gisele MacKenzie's Horse Play

There’s a down side to fame. Yes, you get lots of money and a comfortable life. But you can also attract leeches and kooks.

The 1950s were a more innocent time is the conclusion of many people who were never there. Perhaps it’s true in some ways. Today we hear about stalkers who are dangerous. Way-back-when, they were, well, just eccentric.

Here are some examples cited by one of Canada’s singing exports to the U.S.—Gisele MacKenzie. She had her biggest fame on the American side of the line in the ‘50s, appearing on stage with Jack Benny, smoothly singing on Your Hit Parade and even having her own network show. She also had to deal with obsessed men, as revealed in this story that appeared in newspapers of May 16, 1958. Unfortunately, the ending leaves readers hanging in mid-air.
Follows Gisele All Over.

International News Service.
HOLLYWOOD—Gisele MacKenzie, since her emergence as a national celebrity, has found a lot of wonderful people in the world but a lot of crackpots, too. "There was the time," she laughed, "that some guy followed me all over the country just so he could pop out from behind the potted palms and yell, 'boo, I'm here.'
"So he's here," she said, "so I didn't even know this guy!"
This amorous character became such a nuisance that the cops chased him out of Las Vegas during one of Gisele's engagements there. But that didn't stop him. When the singing star left for Canada, he hopped into his trusty auto—dressed in pink bermuda shorts yet—and chugged all the way to Winnipeg just to "surprise" her.
"He did too," she grinned, "and he surprised the cops too who chased him out of town again!"
Then there was the old farm hand, who, completely smitten by Gisele, wrote and told her he loved her and in fact had decided to marry her—all she had to do was set the date.
But then he heard her sing a sexy song and wrote furiously: "The deal is off. You are obviously a woman of the world and I don't think you'd made a good wife after all. However, I feel I owe you something, so I'm going to send you my horse!"
Gisele said he enclosed a picture of the animal a sway-backed, rawboned nag that had all the earmarks of having ploughed its last furrow.
"The horse never arrived," she added, "and you can imagine how sad I was."
One of the worst experiences that ever befell Gisele concerned a Wall Street tycoon who had delusions of marriage with the singer to the point where he wrote her passionate letters telling her it was all right for them to wed and that his wife had even agreed to a $300,000 settlement!
"I never met this guy either," she declared. "And after that, I didn't want to."
Romantically speaking, no more suitors need apply. Gisele is all sewed up—with her brand new husband, Bob Shuttleworth, who she says, won her in a raffle!
No doubt when Gisele faded from TV screens, the obsessive fans faded away, too. Gisele wasn’t bothered when others took over the spotlight. She had a family.

Here’s a Vancouver Sun “Where are they now”-type story about Gisele MacKenzie from the April 24, 1971 edition. Her brother Georges was living on the West Coast where he became an executive with the CBC French-language operations. We doubt he was ever stalked by fans but the darndest things happen in broadcasting.
Gisele: no postcard mother
"Go find out whatever happened to Gisele MacKenzie" is what the orders were for an interview at CBUT, where she was waiting out a pre-rehearsal period before doing two guest appearances with The Irish Rovers.
Well, the answer is that nothing has happened to Gisele MacKenzie that doesn't happen to people in show business.
After all, it's been 20 years since Gisele left Canada for New York and Hollywood and she isn't up here now to fill any Canadian content for the CBC, because she's been a U.S. citizen for the past decade.
She was married to her agent, Bob Shuttleworth, for seven years, and five years ago they divorced. She has two children, Mackenzie, who's 10, and Gigi, who's nine.
And because she decided not to be a "postcard mother," Gisele MacKenzie passed up big-time stardom, settling for good and steady work that kept her as close as possible to her Encino, Calif., home.
She's just finished starring in Mame and today, after a reunion with singing brother George LaFleche and his family, she flew south to put the final touches to her syndicated TV show, and to do more recordings, theatre, musical comedy, TV commercials. And movies. "I belong there," the tall, positive-thinking Miss MacKenzie declared between bites from a hamburger.
In came George LaFleche, who admitted he got his first singing job in Toronto because he was Gisele's brother. "And I was terrible," he exclaimed. He's still Gisele's brother, but it doesn't bother him anymore. He's proud of his sister.
Their close relationship goes all the way back to Winnipeg when Gisele took violin lessons and George played the cello. The difference was she enjoyed her music, overcame her laziness, and was forced to work hard.
She and George compared notes on dogs and children and he came off second best again, because Gisele, the actress, knew how to put over her harrowing experiences as a mother whose offspring refuse to practise piano.
"They knew how to play, especially Mac. But it got so that they were unlearning everything. I had to go out of the house because I couldn't stand to listen to them play.
"I got a brainwave. It was, I thought, like taking medals away from a soldier. I said, ‘I am going to deprive you of your piano lessons; I want you never to insult my piano again by putting your hands on it.’"
Then she ripped up reams of sheet music and that was that.
"I wasn't going to waste any more money. And it wasn't worth the aggravation," the singing star concluded.
"Did it work?" asked brother George.
"No. They practically cheered," replied mother Gisele.
Having described herself as a strict disciplinarian—and that includes dishing out corporal punishment—Miss MacKenzie said she's going to have to think up something new.
She used to say to them, Okay, no watching TV for a week.
That used to hurt. But not now. It's a relief not watching television for a week.
Just about then she cleared the dressing room to change, first going over some fresh repartee with brother George, because they discovered Channel 2's Irish Rovers' Show has been sold to the U.S. and nobody down there knows that Gisele MacKenzie and George LaFleche are related.
And that was the last seen of Gisele MacKenzie until May 10 and May 17, when her two guest shots will be aired.
By the way. You really want to know what's happened to Gisele MacKenzie? She sings better than she ever did.
Gisele died in 2003. She survived both the trappings and downsides of fame, even though she never did get a horse out of it.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Hey, Audience, Have Some Water

Tom and Jerry use a water-filled elephant to stop packs of angry, marauding lions at a circus at the end of Tight Rope Tricks (1933). Hmm. There are frames where the stream of water isn’t connected to the elephant’s trunk.

The Van Beuren story department wonders about the next gag. “I know!” says John Foster or someone else, “Let’s have Tom turn the water onto the theatre audience.” So Tom does.

Dissolve into the final scene. The lions drown (now there’s comedy!). Floating up from the sea of water (how much was in that elephant, anyway?) are Tom, Jerry, the female tight-rope walker (voiced by Margie Hines) and a happy elephant. Jerry dances on top of the elephant for no particular reason as the iris closes to end another Van Beuren cartoon.

George Rufle gets a “by” credit along with Foster, with musical accompaniment scored by Gene Rodemich.

Monday 27 July 2020

What's 80, Doc?

There was a Bugs Bunny before July 27, 1940. Studio publicity materials refer to earlier rabbits that appeared in Warner Bros. cartoons as Bugs Bunny. Chuck Jones even made an Elmer Fudd vs grey rabbit (with no name on screen) cartoon earlier in the year called Elmer’s Candid Camera.

But once Tex Avery took the rabbit, had Bob Givens redesign him, got Mel Blanc to come up with a snazzier voice, avoided the unfunny self-mumbles and added strong comic routines, it was a whole new game. Warners quickly started referring to the Avery rabbit in the press as a brand-new character and demanded Leon Schlesinger’s staff to make more cartoons with the wise-ass, Givens-designed rabbit.

Here’s a great routine, one that Avery would never have tried after leaving Warners because his humour at MGM didn’t unfold slowly there; it was pretty much slam-bang/on-to-the-next-gag. The scene works because the audience wonders what it is the rabbit’s going to go. And Avery (with gagman Rich Hogan) built it brick by brick.

Elmer leaves bait for Bugs. (“Wabbits wuvv cawwots,” he reveals).

Cut to a close-up of the carrot and Bugs’ hand extending from the rabbit hole. The hand feels around, discovers the carrot, taps and strokes it with a finger. Now here’s a finger with personality!


The hand grabs it. Zoom back down the hole.

Cut to Elmer racing to the hole and aiming his rifle. Cut again to the close-up. The hand feels around again, touched the gun, toings it with a finger to produce a gun-like metallic sound, retreats to the hole, then returns the mostly-eaten character to the ground, pats the gun barrel and the hand disappears.

That’s a good routine right there but Avery hasn’t finished milking it. After about a 24-frame pause, the hand emerges to reclaim its prize. Elmer lowers the gun as Carl Stalling plays a horn stab for emphasis. The hand taps a finger as if deciding what to do next. Then the fingers walk past the carrot to “While Strolling Through the Park One Day” before the hand suddenly backhands the vegetable and goes back into the hole.

Virgil Ross is credited with the animation in the short. Whether these scenes are his, or Bob McKimson’s, or someone else’s, I don’t know.

If you haven’t had enough of Bugs’ birthday, read what we posted for the wabbit’s 75th in this post.

Sunday 26 July 2020

Cigars and Ad-Libs

The way one writer put it, Jack Benny practically went in and winged his radio show.

Even at the start of his career, that was doubtful. Benny worked closely with all his writers, one of them relating in later years how they would spend time debating whether one word was funnier than another during story conferences at the Benny home (or, sometimes, in Palm Springs).

A writer for the Universal News Service profiled Benny and his show in her feature column of March 4, 1936 as part of a series on radio stars (she also profiled Burns and Allen). We transcribe it below. Universal, by the way, merged with Hearst’s International News Service the following year.

The script for the first appearance of Mary Livingstone on the show exists and it is hardly the ad-lib fest described below. Her debut was carefully integrated into the broadcast.

It appears newspapers used archived photos to accompany this article; I’ve found several different ones. The photos you see with this post are from other sources. You’ll note a cast photo. It is from later in 1936 when Phil Harris took over from Johnny Green at the start of the 1936-37 season. I’m using it because I like it and the one I found with Green is very fuzzy.

Nobody Cares If Jack Benny Doesn’t Rehearse—He's 'Tops'
Radio Comedian Prefers to 'Get in the Mood’

By Dorothy Roe.
NEW YORK, N. Y. (U.N.S.)—Jack Benny points his cigar severely at Mary Livingstone and demands: “Woman, don't you know we have to go on the air in 20 minutes?” Mary powders her nose, ruffles her script and trills: "Wouldn't it be funny if we didn't go on tonight?"
Jack replies severely: “Whaddaya mean funny?”
Mary widens her immense brown eyes and says innocently: “Well, I'll bet a lot of people would think we were funnier if we didn't say anything at all.” That is a sample of a Jack Benny rehearsal. Jack and Mary, who is his wife, always intend to rehearse. They go down to the NBC studios sometimes a whole hour and a half before their program goes on the air. But then Don Wilson, their cherubic announcer; Kenny Baker, their youthful tenor; Johnny Green, their orchestra leader; Harry Conn, their script writer, and the other members of the cast always have a lot of new gags and what with this and what with that, time marches on.
First Place.
But nobody seems to care whether Jack and Mary rehearse or not. The fact that the radio public has just voted them first place over all air programs for the second year in succession proves that.
And if the sounds of merriment that come through your radio of a Sunday evening make you think Jack and Mary and the boys and girls are having a good time earning their daily bread, you guessed right.
Radio's Number 1 comedian goes on the air with less preparation than probably any other artist of the air waves.
"In The Mood."
Benny, bland, carefree, chewing his eternal cigar, explains: “If we rehearse too much, the program would be wooden. You see, we gotta be in the mood.”
One reading of the script, with the entire cast, and one so-called "dress rehearsal" with the micro phone takes care of the preparation for the program, and that, it is explained, is done chiefly for timing.
Benny often changes his script after the program has started on the air, and Mary knows how to keep up with his ad libs.
It was an accident, as a matter of fact, that launched Mary Livingstone on an air career along with her famous husband. One night the script ran short during a broadcast, and Jack had to improvise. He called to Mary, who was sitting with the audience, and started an argument over the mike! Mary kept saying in scared voice: “Hush, Jack, you're on the air. All those people will hear you.”
And the radio audience loved it. An avalanche of telegrams and mail proved that. So from then on Mary Livingstone was a part of the act.
Jack explains:
“Mary doesn't have to act. She just naturally has a deadpan voice. She not only is my best pal and severest critic, but my ideal deadpan straight man.”
From the Heart.
And that may be a new kind of romantic compliment, but it came from the heart.
While most radio script writers keep from two to six weeks ahead with their programs, the Benny gang never even thinks of what the Sunday night act is to be until along about Thursday.
Then Benny gets together with Conn, and the two map out the rough outlines of the script.
Nothing more is done about it until Saturday morning, when Benny reads through the script with his director and sponsors; that's to be sure the script is safe—that there is no danger of libel or censorship or any of the bogey men of radio.
“Skip It.”
The only real rehearsal takes place just before the program goes on the air and that is a performance which usually has even the studio page boys holding their sides. It goes something like this:
Jack: “Where are you reading? I'm on Page 9.”
Mary: “Well, I’m on Page 3. Skip it.”
During a broadcast Jack chews a cigar, makes faces at the audience, executes a few dance steps now and then, and hangs his head prettily during applause.
Broadcasts are held in one of the huge N.B.C. studios, before an audience of 1,500, admitted by cards from the sponsors or the broadcasting company.
Both Jack and Mary throw the pages of their script on the floor as the broadcast progresses, and if anybody reads the wrong lines, that's all right. It gives them a chance at ad lib, which they would rather do than eat.
Pinch Hitting.
Sometimes the announcer, roly poly Don Wilson, goes into such roars of laughter during a broadcast that he is unable to talk, whereupon Benny nobly pinch hits. All members of the company, including the orchestra leader and Jack's secretary, are pressed into service before the 30-minute period on the air is over. And they love it. So does the public.
Jack fell in love with Mary Livingstone one day in Los Angeles, when she called him a ham actor and hired six little boys to sit in the front row at his show and not laugh. They have an adopted baby, Joan Naomi, 21 months old.
Their closest friends are George Burns and Gracie Allen and their ambition is to get a million dollars so they won't have to be funny any more.