Saturday 31 October 2020

Cartoon's Cavett

One of the many fun sidelights of watching Warner Bros. cartoons from the ‘30s and ‘40s is to spot gags that are not designed for the theatre audience. They were made by the artists for their own self-amusement. Paul Julian especially seems to have liked scrawling staff members names on backgrounds he painted for Friz Freleng. In other instances, staffers appeared in caricature, such as in Page Miss Glory (1936), where we see part of Tex Avery’s unit as farmers.

These were never meant as actual gags except in one instance that I can recall. In Hollywood Steps Out, the panning camera stops at a table where Henry Binder and Leon Schlesinger are sitting. The Merrie Melodies theme plays in the background. A rough cut was screened for Schlesinger on April 23, 1941, and The Hollywood Reporter of the next day suggested the gag was done solely to surprise and kid their boss.

There’s a really obscure in-joke in Fagin’s Freshmen, a cartoon from the Hardaway-Dalton unit released in November 1939. Observe the name in these backgrounds (artist unknown).

The reference is to Louie Cavett. I don’t know whether he was an assistant animator, an in-betweener or another kind of artist, but I do know one thing about him—the poster reading “Do you need money?” was on the mark.

“He was a loan shark,” the late Martha Sigall recalled. She revealed he would loan money and charge interest. Her comments came on a commentary track over a Schlesinger gag reel which features a voice saying “Do you need money? See Louie Cavett.”

Here’s what little we can tell you about Cavett (accent on the last syllable; it’s not pronounced like Dick Cavett). He was born on April 2, 1914 in Los Angeles. Where he went to art school is yet to be found, but he’s listed on the 1934 city directory as a commercial artist. The 1936 Voters List gives his occupation as “cartoonist.”

He was married in July 1939 and still working at Schlesinger’s. But he didn’t stay much longer after that. He was gone by late January 1940. His 1940 draft card reveals he was employed by Norris Stamping. Cavett was called up in 1943 and died in a military training exercise in North Carolina on January 6, 1944. His death certificate states he died instantly and accidentally of a fractured skull after parachuting.

He never received screen credit; by 1939 the only artists who got their name on a title card were animators and even then it was one and on a rotating basis. But we are happy to point out that Louie did get his name projected in theatres thanks to this cartoon.

Friday 30 October 2020

Pop Goes the Cat

You’d think the natural reaction would be to run when you get into trouble. But not Tom in High Steaks. Twice he’s just sat there chewing his nails and then lets out a big grin.

Mind you, if Tom ran away, there wouldn’t be much of a conflict in the plot unless something impedes him.

Director Gene Deitch or his animators doted on spikey coloured rings for impact in these Czech-made Tom and Jerrys. The rings litter this cartoon. One example:

Tom’s anger-challenged owner (voiced by the fine Allen Swift) forces cola (aka “kola”) into Tom.

Unmatched shot. These are consecutive frames.

The camera work is really odd here. The camera slowly trucks back, which makes perfect sense. But then the camera suddenly goes back to the position it started and begins to truck back again. The scene is 12 frames before the cut and looks really jerky because of this.

More impact rings. Actually, the second one isn’t. The body merely stretches up (it doesn’t snap) but we get the jagged ring anyway.

To add to the strangeness, the score is full of reverbed jazz that changes time signatures, though parts fit the action nicely (such as the idling car at the end of the cartoon). And fans of the Tod Dockstader “Boinng-nng!” will not be disappointed.

This was the fourth of the 13 Tom and Jerrys produced for MGM by William Snyder. Vaclav Bedrich gets an “animation direction credit.”

Thursday 29 October 2020

I'm Comin'

Petey Parrot’s mother (played by Elvia Allman) runs to the rescue of her son, who is drowning after a storm wafts its way over a lake.

“I’m comin’!” she yells. Suddenly, her run turns into a finger-wagging strut and she starts singing “I’m comin’ ‘cause my head is bendin’ low.” Then she resumes her run, desperately shouting “I’m comin’!” again.

This cartoon was shown over and over when I was a kid and I always liked this gag because I knew the song (“Old Black Joe”) and it somehow seemed right the parrot should turn buoyant and briefly sidetrack into its lyrics.

Tex Avery has another “interrupt” gag in the cartoon when the noisy, talkative parrot stops, pokes his head at the audience and says “Ain’t I the talkin’est little guy?”

I understand Petey is played by child actor Robert Winkler. It would appear (and none of this is confirmed) he was born February 18, 1931 in Los Angeles. It looks like he went to Santa Monica City College and gave up acting in the late ‘40s. If he’s still around and reading this, he’s more than welcome to post a comment.

Wednesday 28 October 2020

The Logic of TV's Gracie Allen

George Burns and Gracie Allen took their radio show to television, and made it even better.

It wasn’t just because of Burns’ decision to stand at the front of the stage and set up the situation by talking directly to the audience. I think it’s because Gracie came across as far more human when you actually see her carrying through with her odd ideas.

What was clever about Gracie is somewhere in her thought process, there’s a kernel of logic that prompts her motivation but it detours in some illogical direction.

(As a side note, I also like Harry Von Zell on the TV version. He wasn’t a great actor but he played off George and Gracie very well).

The series was nominated for nine Emmys over eight years and could have carried on longer if Gracie hadn’t retired in 1958. She was taking heart medication at the time, and a heart attack claimed her life in 1964.

The Associated Press published a feature story on the Burns and Allen show on April 24, 1954. Burns wrote a number of books; anyone who has read them will recognise some of the things mentioned in this extended column.

Gracie Not Really Crazy, Just Comic, Says George
HOLLYWOOD, April 24 (AP)—After 31 years in the business, George Burns and Gracie Allen are drawing their biggest audiences ever—and there it no sign of the show closing.
the husband-wife team comprises one of the most unique acts to the business. George is hailed as the best straight man going. Gracie has become the trade mark of the dumb female. But there is method in her madness.
"Gracie is not really crazy," analyzes George, speaking of his wife's TV character. "If she were, we couldn't get a day's work. "Gracie has a sort of illogical logic. To her, everybody else is a little nuts, and after listening to her, you think maybe she's right For instance, a cop will tell her he's tired because he has been pounding a beat all day. She'll say, 'That serves you right; you should get married and let pour wife do the cooking.'
"She will put the salt in the pepper shaker end vice versa, explaining that if she picks up the wrong one, she'll be right. Or she'll shorten the lamp cords in order to save electricity. That's the way her mind works.
"There must be women like that. She must strike a reminiscent chord with people or the show wouldn't be as popular as it is. As a matter of fact men often write or tell me their wives are just like Gracie. All I can say is that I'm wasting $5,000 a week paying writers to create such a character if those men have the same type of wife at home."
George, on the other hand, is very much like his TV self. He's an easy-talking fellow with a droll sense of humor that makes him a favorite companion of other Hollywood comedians. His best friend, Jack Benny, starts laughing whenever George opens his mouth. He has often called Burns the comedian's comedian.
What's more, George actually likes to sing to real life. "I'm always getting up at parties and singing a few old songs," he says. "I can never understand why everybody leaves the room."
The Burns and Allen show is filmed every Wednesday in an aged studio to the heart of Hollywood.
On the set just before lunch one day, the stars were playing a scene in the familiar Burns living room with Harry Von Zell and Larry Keating. It looked very much like a movie set except there were only two cameras and a smaller crew of workers.
They shot an involved comedy scene in one take and George strolled off to lunch at a small bar on Santa Monica blvd., a block and a half away.
As we walked, George told about their strenuous routine. He works on three shows at once—editing the last one, shooting the current one, and helping to write the next one. Writing is the tough spot, he says. He spends much of the weekend on the script, conferring with Director Frederick DeCordova on Sunday mornings. The show is rehearsed on Tuesday and shot the next day.
"We never shoot the script from beginning to end," he explained. "We have to do it in pieces and then put it all together. It's not too bad that way. We know the continuity because we have rehearsed it the day before."
Gracie's week is not much easier. She has her clothes to plan and a great deal of memorizing to do. "Her lines are hard, because she's often playing straight for herself," George added. "She'll have lines like 'I said this and then he said that,' etc. There's no one to feed her a cue. Also, her lines are so wacky they take a lot of memorizing."
Despite their heavy schedule, George and Gracie find tune to go out a couple of nights a week and entertain often at their Beverly Hills home. And George generally lunches and exchanges jokes at the comedian's round table at Hillcrest Country Club with such gagmen as Harpo and Groucho Marx, Benny, Lou Holtz, Phil Silvers and Danny Thomas. We arrived at the dimly-lit bar and George ordered a Gibson cocktail and a steak—"and bring a sharp knife."
He said they make 40 half-hour films a year, grinding out one each week. I asked him if he found the routine wearing.
"No, I thrive on it," he replied with a smile. "I think it's much easier to do a show every week than every other week or once a month. You get into the swing of things and. maintain a pace."
"Material? Sure, it's hard to get. But you have to keep turning them out. Something amazed me the other day. A comedian with another TV series told me he was laying off for a week because his writers didn't produce a script!
"Can you imagine that? Would you fail to put out a newspaper because the reporters didn't feel like writing?"
He added philosophically: "I say you can handle any job as long as you like your work, and I've always lived show business." His life certainly proves that. Born Nathan Birnbaum in New York 58 years ago, he started singing in saloons with other kids before he was 10. In succeeding years he became a trick roller skater, dancing teacher and vaudeville comedian. While playing in New Jersey he met a San Francisco girl who had flung and danced with her three sisters and in an Irish troupe.
That was Gracie. Since George was losing his partner, he invited Gracie to join his act. She accepted.
"I could see her natural flair for comedy from the start," he remembered. "We began with me as the comedian. But she got all the laughs with her straight lines! So I made myself the straight man and let her carry the comedy."
Three years after they formed the act they were married—Jan. 7, 1926 in Cleveland. They scored in vaudeville and transferred their zany comedy to radio. After a decade of success on the air lanes, their popularity began to slip.
"The radio show wasn't going very well," George says. "We were still doing the man-woman kind of comedy we had done in vaudeville. There was no indication in the act; we were married. Gracie was always making a play for the singer or the orchestra leader, and people began to resent it. They figured she was too old for that.
"So we tried a story line on the basis, that we were married. The entire nature of the act changed. We worked out natural situations that people seemed to like. The show picked up again."
The idea for the TV format came during a lunch with CBS bigwigs, including President William Paley.
"We'd like to have you and Gracie get into television," Paley remarked.
"It sounds fine," Burns replied, "but what kind of a show would we have?"
"Well, I've always read about what a great job you do with monologues at the Friars' Club and other places," said Paley. "I'd like to have the chance to see you do something like that."
So it was decided to have George play a sort of one-man offstage Greek chorus who knows what the TV characters are going to do and tells the audience about it in a wry manner. The device is considered by many professionals to be the best format in TV comedy. And it worked for George and Gracie.
As Burns was finishing up his steak , medium-well, I asked whether he thought the show could wear out its welcome by appearing every week.
"I don't think there's any danger in our case," he replied. "If we were actors appearing in a different role every week—yes. But we play ourselves. People get used to us and seem to like us."

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Swinging the Sultan

In the climax battle between good and evil in Insultin' the Sultan, our hero Willie Whopper swings the nasty sultan by the beard. The stretch snaps the beard off (with stars representing pain).

The sultan spins and morphs into a barber pole, losing his clothes along the way before crashing into a pillar in his palace.

The sultan morphs again. Look! He’s one of those favourites of early ‘30s animated cartoons, Mahatma Gandhi.

A mounted goat head on the wall turns and bleats at him. Now that’s comedy!

Bernie Wolf and Grim Natwick are the credited animators. Art Turkisher supplies the score.

A Podcast For Fans of Old Animation

There’s everything right with a podcast that tackles the subjects of
a) The Van Beuren studio that made amateurish, oddly-plotted cartoons.
b) The short-shrifted Art Davis unit at the Warner Bros. studio which made cartoons with their own feel but still came up with top-flight shorts starring Daffy Duck and Porky Pig.

These were the most recent topics at the Cartoon Logic podcast hosted by Thad Komorowski and Bob Jaques. They added Charlie Judkins on the Van Beuren cast to lend his insights about the studio. Listeners got an excellent look at part of the animation situation in New York City in the mid-20s in addition to the (somewhat) rise and fall of Amadee Van Beuren’s cartoon enterprise (he made live-action shorts as well).

The Van Beuren cartoons aren’t funny like a Bugs Bunny cartoon. The best of them trot along and then something strange would come out of nowhere. They also have the benefit (well, until he got fired) of music by bandleader Gene Rodemich. There was no attempt to score to the action on the screen. Rodemich would set a mood with popular tunes of the day, with the action taking a breather for a song. Unfortunately, the cartoons simply didn’t compare well to the ones put out by other studios and an attempt at boosting them under new studio head Burt Gillett turned out to be too little, too late. The studio was shut down by R-K-O.

As for Art Davis, he seems to have been given a ragtag group of artists (including Bill Melendez, who later put the Peanuts specials on TV) and, eventually, a couple of rookie story men then told to come up with Warners cartoons. There’s something quirky about Davis’ output, but they created some very enjoyable shorts. The last, Bye Bye Bluebeard, written by Sid Marcus after the rookies were fired (one being Bill Scott of Bullwinkle fame), had some fine visual touches. But the studio decided it could not afford the expense of four units, so Davis’ was shut down. A shame, in the minds of many Davis fans.

Bob and Thad touch on much more than this, and in a far more intelligent way than I just have. You can catch their Van Beuren podcast at this link, which can also direct you to their Patreon page.

Oh, and for those of you who want to hear one of the songs heard in Van Beuren’s Magic Mummy, here’s a 1932 version by the Dorseys.

Monday 26 October 2020


Cycles? We’ve got a bunch of them in I Love Mountain Music, a 1933 Warner Bros. cartoon.

Prohibition hadn’t quite ended in the U.S. when this cartoon was released, but a congressman is celebrating nonetheless. He’s waving his pint of beer and yelling “Whoopie!” in 24 drawings. Other cycles in the same scene are of different length. Sherlock Holmes waves his magnifying glass in 12 drawings, a boxer claps his gloves, a Chinese man thrusts his fists into the air and a showgirl claps her hands in eight frames while George Arliss (left of the congressman) claps in four frames.

Yes, the congressman loses the squares on his vest in one frame.

This is actually a 36-frame cycle. There is a 12-frame hold on the congressman after he finishes raising his beer.

Friz Freleng and Larry Martin are the credited animators.

Though it seems to have been omnipresent in Warners cartoons, the song I Like Mountain Music was heard in only eight of them.

Sunday 25 October 2020

Dennis Day, Black Sheep

It’s hard to think of Dennis Day, the innocent foil of the Jack Benny show, as a “bad boy.” Mind you, a “bad boy” in the 1930s was a bit different than it is today. Back then, it could mean skipping class and not listening to your parents. Day did both.

Both Benny and Day had something in common. Both had parents that hoped their child turned out differently. Benny’s parents wanted him to be a virtuoso concert violinist. Day’s parents wanted him to be a lawyer. Both wanted to do, and ended up doing, something else.

The American Weekly, a newspaper magazine supplement, profiled Day in its September 25, 1949, using the “bad boy” angle as a ‘40s version of clickbait.

Mamma’s Boy
It's a New Role for Dennis Day, but He Likes It and Hopes It Fits

By Paul I. Murphy
COMPLETELY submissive to his overbearing radio mother, tenor-comedian Dennis Day is known as the perfect mother's boy by his millions of listeners.
One of his best fans knows better, however.
She's Mrs. Patrick McNulty, his real mother.
A far-cry from her radio counterpart, small, mild-mannered Mrs. McNulty had her hands full raising young, riotous Dennis. In fact, it's still hard for her to believe that the one-time black sheep of the McNulty clan is really such a success, especially in the role of the mother's boy.
Dennis Day was born Eugene Patrick Dennis McNulty in New York City's Bronx, on May 21, 1918.
From the start, Dennis was different from his brothers. As babies, they were gentle and quiet. Dennis would bellow and persistently shake his crib for attention. Mother was worn out catering to his demands.
The other McNulty boys were studious.
Dennis hated school, and cut classes.
His brothers planned their professional careers early. Dennis brushed aside thoughts of business.
"About the only time I can get Dennis to obey is to threaten to take him out of the choir at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City," Mrs. McNulty explained to his teachers at the parochial schools he attended. Friends sympathized with his parents, because he was frequently in trouble.
"Dennis doesn't seem to have the respect for our judgment that his brothers have," she would say.
While his brothers studied their lessons, Dennis was running around.
Once he failed to return home for several days.
"Dennis, if this happens again," his father told him, "I'll order you out of this house forever."
Several months later he left home again. He worked as a waiter, bellhop and pin-boy to make money to pay for singing lessons.
Upon the pleadings of his mother, he returned home again.
It was a major victory for Mrs. McNulty when she got him to attend Manhattan College.
"Who wants to be a businessman?" he told his mother. "I'll go to college, but someday you'll probably regret forcing me."
His marks were good, although his attendance was poor. On his days away from college he earned money, to continue his singing instructions.
The McNultys knew nothing about his labors to further the career he dreamed of. All they knew was that he was cutting classes too often and their hard earned money for his education was being squandered.
Every career his parents mapped out for him he refused.
"I could never be happy as an attorney or a business executive," he told them.
“Don't you want to follow the successful examples set by your brothers?” his father asked.
"Perhaps I can find success as a singer," Dennis said.
His parents were shocked.
"Don't you ever listen to the advice we give you, Dennis?" Mrs. McNulty asked.
After much pleading, the McNultys finally persuaded their son to attend law school.
But Dennis hated every day he pored over legal books. Music was running through running through brain and fingers.
His girl friend, pretty Peggy Ellen Almquist, sympathized with his ambitions.
"Don't you think you should listen to your parents' advice, though, Dennis?" she asked. "They want to see you become a success."
"That's just it, Peggy," he replied. "I could never be a succeess at anything but singing. I want to make my parents proud of me, particularly mother. That’s why, someday I’m going to prove to them that I'm not such a failure after all by becoming a successful vocalist."
Several weeks later Dennis read that famed singer Kenny Baker was retiring from the Jack Benny program, and that auditions were being held to select his successor.
Dennis couldn't raise funds to audition. So he did the next best thing. He borrowed $2 from a friend to make a recording of his voice.
Playing a hunch, he sent the disc to Mary Livingston, in care of the Jack Benny program. Wanting a short, catchy radio name, he used Dennis Day. Mary listened to the record.
Before it was half finished, she had Jack listening, too.
The Bennys were so impressed that a telegram was sent to Dennis. It said that auditions were being held up until he could arrive in Hollywood for a try-out. Unknown to his family, Dennis put on a drive among his friends for transportation fare to the Coast.
That was 1939.
Dennis was hired almost immediately, and has been a permanent fixture of the Jack Benny program ever since, in addition to his own coast-to-coast show, "A Day in the Life of Dennis Day."
Eventually young McNulty changed his name legally to Dennis Day.
In 1948 he changed the name of Peggy Ellen Ahlmquist to Day, too, following his time in the U. S. Navy.
Today Dennis Day earns $10,000 a week for personal appearances plus another $100,000 a year from radio, recording and mimic jobs. Now his brothers work for him, helping to manage his profitable interests.
"But the most important thing of all is that I have proved to mother that her black sheep wasn't so black after all," says Dennis.
"That's why I decided before I went on the radio that I would play a mother's boy on the air. I always wanted to be mother's favorite. I hope I have earned that title now.
"You see, a bad boy learned that it pays off to be a good boy."
To that Mrs. McNulty nods her smiling approval.

Saturday 24 October 2020

Fred Quimby—The Authorised Story

Fred Quimby could lift a pencil. But he couldn’t draw a cartoon with it. Yet he spent years in charge of, or overseeing, cartoon operations at MGM.

If you think about it, it’s a wonder Quimby kept his job. In 1937, Metro decided to have its own cartoon studio on the lot instead of relying outside on contractors (first, Ub Iwerks, then Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising) for animated shorts.

Things became a disaster. Animators hired from New York didn’t get along with the ones from West Coast. Harry Hershfield and Milt Gross were brought in the run things and were quickly shoved out. Studio politics got so bad that Friz Freleng wasted little time in getting back into his car and pointing it at Leon Schlesinger’s ratty building on Van Ness and Fernwood. Quimby was forced to bring back Harman and Ising, who he didn’t want in the first place. This was all in about two years.

What kind of executive runs things that way? Well, a guy who had owned a theatre, been a film salesman and was without any apparent artistic creativity.

Quimby’s office must have been built on a pile of horseshoes. Somehow, two of Ising’s underlings—a failed director and an ex-writer for Terrytoons—were allowed to make their own cartoon that became a huge hit and an Oscar nominee. Quimby gave Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera their own unit to make more Tom and Jerrys and rack up Oscars (granted, he was opposed to the idea of a cat and mouse series at the start). Then he had the good fortune of picking up an at-liberty cartoon director named Tex Avery. Oh, and a strike over at Walt Disney’s allowed him to populate his studio with top new animators—Ken Muse, Ray Patterson and Preston Blair among them.

We profiled Fred C. in this post, but Metro did it, too, in the April-May 1940 edition of Short Story, the studio’s magazine dealing with its short subject programme. It conveniently ignores Quimby’s arrest in 1921 on a charge of illegal interstate transport of film (something that would be absolutely ridiculous today, given technology).

One wonders which radio network wanted him to “take charge of television development” as there was only one experimental station west of Chicago and a handful in the eastern states. And if he supervised “Gray’s Elegy,” he supervised it out of existence because it never got finished (animator/historian Mark Kausler got a first-hand story on that from Hugh Harman).

Quimby retired around the start of 1956—likely for health reasons—and died in 1965 at the age of 79.

THIRTY-FIVE years ago, a lean, lanky lad of fourteen jogged contentedly over the plains of Montana, alone except for his spotted pony. It was an unusual animal, but no more unusual than the boy. For other boys his age were riding horses now. In this country a boy waited for the day when he could own a man-sized horse with even more anticipation than his Dude cousin did his first pair of long trousers. His friends often taunted him because his pony couldn't keep up with them. But the boy was loyal. His pony was short but it was substantial and it got him there just the same. He decided to stick to his pony.
Still a ponyboy at heart, Fred Quimby has been figuratively riding a short horse ever since. Today he is foremost among Hollywood's altogether too few champions of the screen's little short subject. And if he was determined about his pony, he's stubborn as a mule about his shorts.
First Quimby had to sell himself on short subjects. That was back in 1913 when he operated a movie emporium in Missoula, Montana. Then he began his everlasting job of selling them to others, taking charge of the Denver and Salt Lake City territory for Pathe, the industry's largest shorts producers at the time. Even in those days the exhibitors smiled when Quimby sat down to expound about the importance of shorts. Nobody took shorts that seriously they told him. But they did condescend to buy a few and their disparaging attitude only served to stiffen Quimby's resolve to defend these belittled little pictures against all odds.
Within three years Quimby's singular sincerity about shorts had carried him to the post of general manager and member of the Pathe board of directors. In 1924 Fox Films called upon him to reorganize and enlarge their short subject activities. And in 1927 when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer decided to establish a short subject department under the guidance of the best qualified executive in the industry Fred Quimby was the logical choice for the job.
Today as manager of the Metro shorts department, he has achieved the longest career on record in the short subject field. Others have used shorts freely and frankly as only a stepping stone to the larger rewards in the realm of feature pictures. Quimby has had such opportunities too. He has turned down better jobs than some of his friends were ever offered. Not long ago one of the big radio networks prevailed upon him to take full charge of television development. His friends chide him when he passes up these opportunities to escape from shorts much as they did about that pony. But his answer is just the same — he'll stick to shorts. By this time he's pretty well stuck with them. He's made shorts his hobby as well as his work. And he's happy about the whole thing.
Certainly the short subject needs a Quimby — or preferably a number of Quimbys — today more than ever before. Where he used to fight for shorts against features, to get increased budgets for production and corresponding larger revenues from exhibitors, he now has to fight against double features. In fact, the advent of double billing all but wiped out the shorts entirely. They have been scorned by critics, spurned by exhibitors, scoffed at by industry wiseacres and slighted by nearly everyone concerned. Through it all, Quimby's job has been a discouraging and a thankless one but his abiding faith in shorts remains unshaken.
The principle upon which Quimby bases his belief in shorts can be very simply stated. He believes that quantity does not make quality — in entertainment any more.
On the other hand, he contends that it is very possible for a ten-minute short to leave a greater impression on an audience than a two-hour feature, just as a good short story is often remembered longer than a dozen novels. He likes to recall that Lincoln's 250-word Gettysburg address still lives while the 14,000 word oration delivered by Everett on the same occasion was forgotten the next day. By the same token, he believes that many feature stories could be improved by producing them in shorter form. Particularly he deplores the Hollywood system of buying stories originally written as shorts and stretching them into features. It is the same idea, he reasons, as pouring water — and cold water, at that — into a good cup of coffee.
Quimby is currently devoting his special attention to the birds and bees of the animated cartoons. Foreseeing the present popularity of this type of short, Quimby persuaded Metro to become the first and only major Studio to operate its own cartoon plant. Believing that the surface of cartoon potentialities has hardly been scratched, he seeks to introduce new ideas into the field. To this end he has for the past two years supervised the cartoon experiments of co- producers Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising, a notable example of which was the widely acclaimed "Peace on Earth." Here for the first time the cartoon turned its satire on a serious and timely topic in order to show the futility of war. "Gray's Elegy," a far cry from the ordinary cartoon themes, is now in production.
Man and boy, Quimby's career has been characterized by his ordinary stick-to-it-iveness. He still indulges his boyhood appetite for chewing gum and candy, keeps his desk stocked with the stuff. His absorbing interest in shorts calls for long hours at his desk and leaves little time for outside interests. He arises at 6:30 every morning, invariably goes straight home from work. He is shy, sensitive and sentimental, still knows how to blush. He has been playing golf for years but is still taking lessons. Occasionally, he finds time to go to the races where he always bets — you guessed it — on the littlest horse on the track.

Friday 23 October 2020

Spring is Here Again

Winter is threatening trees in the Van Beuren short Spring Antics (1932).

But behold! The sun is rising. After winking at us, it warms up. It’s tough to see in this poor-quality transfer (aren’t there better ones out there?) but some kind of long-tailed imps with devil horns are stoking coal into the sun’s burner. Gene Rodemich plays a knock-off of the “Anvil Chorus” in the background.

Old Man Winter melts. That means spring is here again!

There’s usually odd fun in a Van Beuren cartoon. This isn’t as odd as some of them are, but we get a swishy goose, a groundhog’s shadow kicking the groundhog back into its burrow, an animal of indeterminate species tapping a microphone like the NBC chimes and conducting with its tail, and some Disney-like dancing (though not animated nearly as well).

Things pep up a little more than half-way through the cartoon with a quartet (frog, turtle, bear, squirrel) singing the song you hear below.

John Foster and Manny Davis get the “by” credit.

Thursday 22 October 2020

Sic the Sicko

What does a war dog (Allied variety) do when he sees a picture of Adolf Hitler?

Yes, we get the inevitable Buy Bonds plug, too.

Ken Muse, Pete Burness, Irv Spence and Jack Zander are the credited animators on the 1943 release War Dogs from the Hanna-Barbera unit at MGM. I want to say this is a Muse scene. Frank Bingman is the narrator.