Thursday 31 December 2020

Bursting Dream Bubbles

The Little Match Girl (1937) was a tour de force by the Columbia cartoon studio, with a story credit going to Sid Marcus and animation to Art Davis, who once called it “a heck of a good picture.” Unfortunately, the artists responsible for the layouts and backgrounds never got any credit and their work is far above and beyond anything the old Charlie Mintz studio had put on the screen. The choice of colours is outstanding in many places.

Here’s a neat cinematic touch. Bubbles rise and swirl. A large red one comes toward the screen, and bursts, revealing the next scene. This happens several times.

Emery Hawkins is one of the uncredited animators and Mark Kausler says he designed the doll-like title character, whose dream is violently snuffed out along with her life, as an angel takes her body into the stars. It was justly nominated for an Oscar.

Davis told interviewer Milt Gray “I don’t know what it would look like today.” I suspect it would bring out emotions in viewers just like it did during the Depression.

Wednesday 30 December 2020

Entertainment Headlines, 60 Years Ago

When years come to a close, the media likes to look back. It’s easy filler. The story’s pretty much been written. And, for whatever, reason, people like to look back, though I imagine a lot of people this year would like to look forward and hope the pandemic will soon be a memory.

So let’s look back at a look back. Here’s a column from the end of 1960 looking back at the “big stories” in entertainment that year. Apparently, weddings were the big thing for the Associated Press that year.

It Was Quite A Year For Hollywood
(AP Movie-TV Writer)
HOLLYWOOD (AP)—Oh, it was quite a year!
Any year is bound to bring a lion's share of news and surprises from the town called Hollywood. In 1960 it was more so. Rarely have a year's events seemed so varied.
Some news was momentous, some monumentally trivial, some sad, some amusing. As the first year of the new decade ended, it appeared that despite its business woes, Hollywood would continue to add its contribution to American culture and legend, for better or worse.
Here are the 10 stories that seemed the most newsy and or significant to this reporter during 1960:
1. The death of Clark Gable. No movie death in recent years received such worldwide prominence. The reason was simple: Gable had been a part of everyone's life for more than 30 years.
2. The movie strikes. The already invalided film industry seemed in grave danger of extinction when hit by strikes of writers and actors. The gentlemanly strikes, without picketing or name-calling, ended in compromise when the guilds realized the producers wouldn't give them a royalty on old films sold to TV.
3. The Desilu schism. TV's most famous team came to a personal and corporate division when Lucille Ball divorced Desi Arnaz.
4. The Monroe-Miller split. Marilyn was seldom out of the news, and her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller was rumored in danger of a backstage romance with Yves Montand. The marriage shattered, but the Montand issue remained unsettled.
5. New moral attitudes. Hollywood films were bolder and franker in 1960. This brought a wave of reaction from Roman Catholic bishops and Protestants, too, with indication of rough relations ahead between the film industry and the moralists.
6. Ben-Hur wins big race. The chariot race was nothing compared to "Ben-Hur's" triumph in the academy sweepstakes: A record 11 Oscars.
7. The squared-off triangle. Debbie Reynolds wedded Harry Karl quietly. She formerly was married to singer Eddie Fisher, now husband of Elizabeth Taylor.
8. Liz's ailments. Few toothaches earned as much coverage as Liz Taylor's, which delayed filming of "Cleopatra" amid much turmoil.
9. Hollywood's runaways. The most significant business development was the rise of production overseas. Main reasons: Tax breaks for stars living abroad; subsidies and cheaper coats.
10. Million-dollar-wedding. Starlet Jill St. John supplied the Cinderella tale of the year by marrying heir-speedster Lance Reventlow.
And there was other news, too. Gary Crosby made it a grand slam by marrying a Las Vegas chorine, like his brothers. Elvis was back. Eva Marie Saint startled a banquet by using a word that is unprintable except in war novels. Hollywood helped put on a party in July for Peter Lawford's brother-in-law.
Brilliant Buddy Adler was a cancer casualty. An era ended with the passing of Mack Sennett. Wagonmaster Ward Bond died suddenly. An unfriendly witness, Dalton Trumbo, wrote two of the year's biggest epics. Frank Sinatra tussled in a parking lot.
Cheryl Crane spent a restless year, and James Garner proved a real maverick by escaping from Warners. Sammy Davis, Jr. got married.
Yes, quite a year. Fasten your safety belts, here comes another one.

Mr. Thomas neglected any events involving animated cartoons in his 1960 highlights so, as this blog touches upon that particular subject, let us put together a short list in no particular order.

1. Prime Time Adult Cartoon. The Flintstones debuted on ABC, marking the first time cartoons had made the big time, ie. the big-bucks world of prime time. It was no more adult than Woody Woodpecker, but I guess anything that isn’t a nursery rhyme or full of kiddie animals is "adult."
2. UPA Gets Sold. Hank Saperstein shoved Steve Bosustow out of the picture and took over what had been the artiest theatrical studio. Soon he was making TV cartoons with Dick Tracy, who did nothing while familiar stereotypes solved cases. At least it kept Irv Spence employed.
3. On With the Show. ABC (and CBC in Canada) began airing a half-hour Bugs Bunny Show, with really fun wrap-around cartoons tying the show together in a theme. This marked the start of Bugs’ perennial appearance on network TV.
4. New Cartoons for Saturday mornings. Until now, kids up on Saturday mornings were forced to watch old theatrical cartoons or a series (Ruff and Reddy) with some old theatricals. 1960 saw the first full-half hour of new animation strictly for TV on NBC thanks to King Leonardo and His Short Subjects. Slowly but surely, more and more new TV cartoons took the place of used movie shorts.
5. Like, I Am What I Am. Al Brodax unloaded cheap Popeye cartoons on the television market, subjecting kids to Gene Deitch’s creepy boiiiings and Kent Hultgren’s Popeye butt-chin for the first time. Still, I have a soft spot for Coffee House because that Brutusk is, like, out of this orbit, man.
6. And the Winner Is... The Huckleberry Hound Show won an Emmy, the first cartoon to do so and the first syndicated show to be given that honour. The Emmy apparently ran past the same table seven times.

By the way, Coffee House wasn’t the only cartoon in 1960 where you can hear Jack Mercer as a quasi-beatnik. Dig this crazy one from Paramount. By then, Paramount’s animation was so ho-hum, they didn’t even bother showing the cat get zapped when his tail inevitably gets plugged into a light socket by a mouse. I think that’s Bob McFadden doing the other voice but I can’t sit through the whole thing to listen to it. Sorry if the aspect ratio is wrong.

Tuesday 29 December 2020

Cat Got Your Tongue?

Tom sticks out his tongue at the bulldog in The Framed Cat (1950). So the dog clobbers him with the bone to cut off the cat’s tongue while it flaps in mid-air for a couple of seconds.

There’s a soundtrack edit at 3:54. I have no idea what, if anything, was taken out of the cartoon.

Ken Muse, Ed Barge, Ray Patterson and Irv Spence are the credited animators. Someone draws the dog (is he Spike or Butch in this cartoon?) with two teeth filling his mouth (animated on twos); I have no idea who did that. My wild guess is Jerry Mann supplied the dialogue.

Monday 28 December 2020

You've Seen These Gags Before

You’ll be waiting a whole cartoon to get any laughs out of the Bugs Hardaway-Cal Dalton short Gold Rush Daze. They just aren’t there. Three years earlier, Tex Avery (wait for it) MINED the same scenario in Gold Diggers of ‘49, which had original and funny bits. This one just has a few lame puns like one you just read.

I don’t know when the first sucker/transformation gag ever showed up in a cartoon, but it’s in this 1939 short.

The owner of the Eureka Bar grabs the sucker, hauls him inside, and forces him to sit down at a card table with some other guy. Why? Beats me. The cards shuffle themselves in mid-air (that’s a gag?) and then the guy slowly pulls five cards out of his vest.

Yes, it’s the old “five aces” gag. I must admit Carl Stalling’s honky-tonk piano adds some atmosphere.

This whole scene becomes pointless when someone runs into the bar and yells “They’ve found gold in the hills!” The plot changes altogether.

Mel Millar gets the story credit, while Gil Turner is the credited animator. Joe Twerp and Mel Blanc provide voices.

Sunday 27 December 2020

Farewell, NBC, says Jack Benny

Jack Benny was no cheapskate. But Jack Benny was not one to put up with the U.S. government siphoning away huge amounts of his radio pay cheque in income tax. So his wily managers at MCA figured out how to package him into a corporation that would be taxed at a lower rate, and then shopped around the corporation to the radio networks.

There’s been a lot of dot-connecting and speculation over the years about what went on behind the scenes, but we can unequivocally remark that a deal was signed by CBS, and Jack Benny’s show left NBC after December 26, 1948.

Benny had been known and loved by radio audiences for years so the move brought a lot of attention from inside and outside the industry—the government wasn’t going to lose all that tax money without a fight. Papers quoted from the final NBC broadcast. Trades talked about NBC trying to sign Martin and Lewis before the network dumped Horace Heidt’s young people’s talent show into the Benny slot and pushed it as the number-one time slot in radio; Variety reported on one on-air promo from an unusually cheeky NBC—a sexy-voiced woman exclaimed “Darling, you’re wonderful . . . but Horace Heidt at 7 is even more wonderful.” That didn’t stop the spot from no longer being number one on NBC any longer. (Variety shrewdly sold box ads to CBS stations heralding the impending Benny arrival.

Fellow radio comedians couldn’t resist making fun of what was a very public move. What they had to say was documented by the New York Times Herald’s John Crosby in his December 30, 1948 column. Crosby was generally a Benny fan; occasionally, he’d complain about the show’s repetitiveness but he knew (as did Benny) that’s what the audience wanted, and it paid off in ratings. The reference to “Mr. Gitzell” is puzzling. I’m pretty sure Crosby knew Frank Nelson and Mr. Kitzel were two different characters. Maybe his copy editor was testing the contents of a bottle in a desk drawer before looking at the column and sending it to the composing room.
Radio In Review
Death of a Joke

Jack Benny bowed off NBC last Sunday after 17 years with gracious thanks for a pleasant relationship, thus ending an era and terminating a joke that has served the comedians well the last few weeks. Benny, who owned the 7 p.m. time (EST) on NBC, the only radio personality so honored, will be heard hereafter at the same time on CBS and to commemorate this great migration from one kilocycle to another I have collected a little list of jokes that has circulated about it.
Commenting on Benny's possession of 7 o'clock, Fred Allen commented: "Benny is the only comedian who ever owned a slice of eternity and he's giving it up for a paltry $2,000,000." The general stampede to CBS provoked Allen to remark that "even Eisenhower has gone over to Columbia." And last Sunday, Portland Hoffa remarked "After all these years, it'll seem funny without Jack Benny."
"It always seems funnier without Jack Benny than with him," said Mr. A.
* * *
Bob Hope spoke up the other night as follows: "Gee, the poor little Christmas tree all alone on that lot. It must feel like Fred Allen on Sunday night." Later, he was overheard to remark: "And if I'm not telling the truth may I never get an offer from another network."
The only person who kept silent during this gagfest was Mr. Benny himself. He kept quiet that is, up until the last minute. Then Rochester told his master: "There's an airplane over the house skywriting 'Jack Benny moves to . . ."
"Moves to where?" asked Benny.
"I don't know. NBC's anti-aircraft shot it down."
So much for the jokes which had that special intermural intimacy characteristic of running gags in radio. As to Benny himself taking his switch from one network to another as an excuse to discuss someone who requires no particular explanation he is certainly a remarkable man. A couple of years ago his program dove headlong in popular favor. No one quite knows whether it was because the show was tired or the public was tired. Then he suddenly bounded back to the top again.
This year he was picked by radio editors in Motion Picture Daily's annual poll as Champion of Champions, a title more appropriate to a dog show than to a radio comedian, and also as best comedian. I don't know as I'd call him best comedian exactly. He is certainly the most durable and the most consistent. Almost accidentally, he appears to have solved the problem of entertaining a few people in a living room, not just once a year but once a week.
* * *
He has surrounded himself with diverse people each with his or her separate characteristics—the cynical, efficient Rochester; the rowdy Phil Harris, the innocent Dennis Day, the hearty Don Wilson, the acid Mary Livingston; and, when necessary, others equally well-defined—the suave Ronald Colman, the rude ticket salesman, Mr. Gitzell [sic]. The Benny program is closer to a vaudeville act than it appears on the surface. Each of these people appears and displays his special personality for a minute or two like a juggler doing his act.
This is the most economical of all comedy. A single joke can be bandied about by Wilson, by Harris, by Mary, by Dennis Day—each giving it his own inflection. The joke ripens as it goes along like a family joke.
Benny, the master of inflection and timing, unlike Fred Allen or Edgar Bergen, is no deep thinker. But he's the best editor in the business of the material his writers provide. It's a great gift, worth Benny's weight in gold. Well, actually, it's worth more than that. Two million dollars weigh quite a lot more than Benny.
Earlier this year, this humble blog posted this story of one newspaper reviewer listening to the first CBS show. However, Variety, in its December 29, 1948 edition, set aside some space for a humorous speculation dialogue of what might happen on the first night of the network change in the home of likely the only couple in America that did not know about the change. It was written by Alan Lipscott, one of the men who laboured on scripts for the Jackie Gleason version of The Life of Riley.
Asleep at the Switch

The Time: Sunday, Jan. 2. 7 p.m.
The Place: A flat in Brooklyn.
The Wife: Doris.
The Husband: Joe.

Doris: Seven o'clock, Joe. It's time for Benny.
Joe: (Chuckles, as he fiddles with dials on radio). Ah, that Rochester. What a joke he cracked last Sunday about the . . . what's the number of the station, honey?
Doris: Again with that "What's the number of the station, honey?" The same question every Sunday for the past 15 years. How can you be so stupid?
Joe: Well, what's the number?
Doris: How should I know! How many times have I told you, the number is written down on a paper bag behind the third tube in the radio! Such a shmo I never. . . .
Joe: (interrupting) Pipe down already. I got the paper bag. It's 660. (Dials) Here. . . .660, right on the button. Now, let's keep quiet and listen.
Doris: Dear, it's not Benny.
Joe: It's 660. I'm not a dope, you know.
Doris: Dope, or no dope, on the program you just tuned in, somebody's giving away money. It can't be Jack Benny. Now, please, dear, tune in 660. F. E. Boone must be finished already and. . .
Joe: Here wise guy, look for yourself.
Doris: (looks at dial) I must admit, you're right. It is 660. (Looks at wrist watch) Maybe my watch is wrong.
Joe: Could be. Remember, yesterday, you fished it out of the drain?
Doris: But the clock on the mantlepiece has the same time.
Joe: Could also be a cheap clock. Remember, it was your brother's wedding present.
Doris: I'll dial the time operator, (dials phone) Thank you. Joe, it's time for Benny.
Joe: You can't trust those operators. Always got boys on their minds.
(Clanking of a can heard outside kitchen door).
Doris: Joe, it's time for Benny. The garbage man is here.
Joe: Still no proof. Maybe he's still working on daylight saving.
Doris: Joe, I'm warning you. If I miss Dennis Day's song, and it's your fault, you can start looking for another wife and children.
Joe: For God's sake, Doris. You saw for yourself. It's 660!
Doris: (Frustrated) What'll I talk about in the butcher shop tomorrow? I'll feel so ignorant. Joe, honey, please, once more look at the paper bag.
Joe: (Pokes around in back of radio) Alright I'll burn my fingers again. Ouch! Here it is. Still 660.
Doris: (Quietly) Joe, wait a minute.
Joe: I'm waiting.
Doris: Maybe today ain't Sunday.
Joe: It's gotta be Sunday. The bank calendar says so. See for yourself.
Doris: But dear, that's the same bank where you pick up blotters that don't blot.
Joe: Aw g'wan! It must be Sunday, otherwise why did we have chicken for dinner.
Doris: You got a point there.
Joe: And how could your two nephews and your sister be here for dinner if it wasn't Sunday? They work every other day.
Doris: (tearfully) All I know is, if the Colmans are on tonight and I miss them, I'll kill myself.
Joe: Look, maybe Benny is sick. Too much New Year's celebration. That's it, he must be drunk.
Doris: Men with blue eyes don't get drunk. Phil Harris yes, but Benny, no!
Joe: (Still fooling with dials) Maybe the earthquake in California made a big mishmash of the meridians and knocked the whole time schedule for a loop. Could happen, you know. I was just reading last week, where Einstein said. . . .
Doris: (sore) Joe, will you stop with that Einstein already. All I know is, that I'm not in the kitchen washing dishes and you're not on the couch snoring, so it must be time for Benny.
Joe: (dials furiously. Suddenly he tunes in on Benny saying "Hmmm." Very excited) Doris, I got him. I, I, I, got him. It's Benny already. Sure. Nobody can say "Hmmmm" like he can. Shhh! Now be quiet!
Doris: (Whispering) On 660. like on the paper bag?
Joe: (Whispers back) No, on 880. Shhh!
Doris: What's 880?
Joe: How should I know?
Doris: It must be the radio.
Joe: Yeah! I'll have it fixed the first thing tomorrow.
Doris: Yeah! And before you do anything, put the number 880 on the paper bag behind the third tube.
Joe: Good idea.
Doris: And cross out 660.
(Pokes around in back of radio.)
Doris: Shhh! Quiet, dear. Dennis is going to sing.
Changing networks weren’t the only thing Jack and his gang were doing at the start of 1949. That story next week.

Saturday 26 December 2020

Ted and His Colour Snowman

Ted Eshbaugh had huge hopes for his experiments in colour cartoons. Instead, he’s pretty much a footnote in animation history, likely best-known for The Sunshine Makers.

His work trying to perfect a colour system was profiled in several places in 1931-32, with talk about his Goofy Goat cartoon and his effort to bring an animated The Wizard of Oz in bright hues to movie screens.

In between the two, he and his staff crafted The Snowman. He hoped to produce a series called “Musicolor Fantasies” (Boston Globe, Nov. 2, 1932).

Some familiar names are on the credits. The music was written by Carl Stalling, pre-Schlesinger. Frank Tipper and Bill Mason both animated for Walter Lantz into the early 1940s. Co-producer Howard C. Bonsall was a land developer who opened up large areas near Malibu for residential development. His son was Shull Bonsall, who gained a somewhat infamous reputation when he forced Alex Anderson and Jay Ward out of a Crusader Rabbit revival on television in the mid-‘50s. This is the only foray into animation by Howard Bonsall that I have found.

Here’s an article on The Snowman from the Los Angeles Daily News of September 7, 1933.


“Extra! Snow-man ‘Frankenstein’ runs wild over north pole, tears down igloos and menaces lives of Arctic denizens. Eskimo hero saves the day by turning on the aurora borealis and melts icy villain.” No, this is not the latest news flash from Iceland, but the original and comically entertaining plot of Ted Eshbaugh’s latest musicolor fantasy cartoon, “The Snow Man,” which is having its western premier showing with “The Masquerader” at Tally’s Criterion this week.
Audiences which have already viewed the new Eshbaugh cartoon have been amazed by the clarity and beauty of his color treatment, which greatly enhances the fast moving melodrama of animal land in the far north. Two of his scenes in the picture, are considered by critics and artists to be the most beautiful color cartoon work reproduced on the screen.
One of the scenes shows four little deer drinking from an azure blue pool in the snow, with their brown reflections actually animated in the rippling water. The other is the spectacular climax where the little Eskimo turns on the aurora borealis, which appears in a maze of radiating color schemes vividly animated behind the grotesque figure of Snow Man.
There is a reason for Ted Eshbaugh’s leadership in the field of color cartoons. Through his years of research in translating color to the screen in natural shades, he was able to blaze the trail for animated cartoons in color. The Los Angeles museum recently honored Eshbaugh in recognition of his service as the creator of the first successful full-length cartoon in sound and color by placing a print of his initial color production, "Goofy Goat, on permanent exhibition. This picture was released more than two years ago, before any other animated cartoon company had been able to accomplish the feat. Coming to Hollywood about 10 years ago after winning awards for his art work in the Boston and Chicago art institutes, Eshbaugh carved a niche for himself in the motion picture industry by virtue of his original ideas and creative genius. Today, at 27, he is one of the youngest film producers in Hollywood and is well on the road to success.
The young artist’s naive sense of humor is well represented in "The Snow Man. The locale is the north pole, and Ted has surrounded the story with a background of picturesque blue and blue-green shades blended into the snowy atmosphere. The little Eskimo and his animal friends are seen building a snow man, and as they caper about, it suddenly comes to life and runs rampant as they scatter in terror. In his path is an ice cathedral in which a walrus choirmaster is leading the chorus of penguin choir boys, singing the “Little Church in the Wildwood.” The monster chases them away and does a hilarious Jimmy Durante at the organ. Continuing his rampage, he finally corners the animals on the edge of an ice precipice just as the Eskimo reaches the north pole power plant and switches on the aurora to save the day. This was reproduced in the cinecolor process.
Ted Eshbaugh is also the creator of the first color cartoon of the famous "Wizard of Oz stories, and has already produced his initial version of those popular adventures of little Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin-Woodman and the Wizard. This cartoon feature, produced in technicolor, will soon follow “The Snow Man,” which has its eastern premiere in one of New York's biggest showhouses this week.

In 1934, Eshbaugh left the West Coast for the Van Beuren studio in New York. When it closed, he continued to produce industrial/commercial cartoons. Among them, according to his obituary in Variety, were “The Dale Carnegie Story,” “The Frank Bettger Story,” several colour spectaculars for the Radio City Music Hall, and sequences for “Around the World With Mike Todd.”

Ted Edgar Eshbaugh was born in Des Moines on Feb. 5, 1906. He died in New York City on July 4, 1969.

Here are some shots from The Snowman. These are consecutive frames. The evil snowbeing somehow is missing a hat.

Here’s where the Eskimo boy runs into the weather control centre to turn up the heat and melt the evil snowman. Eshbaugh shows a good sense of using colour. At first the frames alternate in a lighter blue colour. Then the Eskimo jacks up the temperature more and you can see how the frame flashes red. Finally, the heat is maximised into the danger zone and the snowman melts.

Interestingly, the short has the same end gag Tex Avery employed years later in Bad Luck Blackie. The snowman has an evil, Billy Bletcher-like laugh through the cartoon. At the end, the fish he swallowed is saved when he melts. The fish adopts the evil laugh as the iris closes. In the Avery cartoon, it makes sense for the tormented kitten to laugh as it has become the tormenter. Here the laugh seems random and forced, but maybe that’s me.

In November 2013, both this blog and Jerry Beck’s had posts about Eshbaugh. Read them here and here.

Friday 25 December 2020

Thursday 24 December 2020

Celebrity Toys For Little Boy

Columbia tried pulling heart strings in its lavishly-animated 1937 holiday season short The Little Match Girl. But before that, it tugged a little in Gifts From the Air, released January 1, 1937. (Why a Christmas cartoon would be released in January is something only Columbia could explain).

But besides a poor, ragged boy who lives in a clapboard shack, what do we get? Because it’s a 1930s cartoon from the Mintz studio, it can mean only one thing—celebrity caricatures!

In an ingenious shot, Santa and his bag of toys comes through the round loudspeaker for the radio (yeah, the kid can’t afford an untattered blanket, but he has a radio). And St. Nick brings your favourite stars in toy form.

He’s riding a duck. And he’s selling it! It must be Joe Penner.

The roly-poly toy is Paul Whiteman on one side and Kate Smith on the other. Hello, everybody!

Yowsah! Ben Bernie is speaking into a microphone.

So-oooooe, Graham! It’s Ed Wynn, the fire chief.

One toy claps his balls (ie. hands) together just like Eddie Cantor. He bumps into a jack-in-the-box, though it’s more like a Mad Russian-in-a-box. Dave Rubinoff pops out of the Russian’s beard.

Bing Crosby is a goat. He’s run down by Wynn and dies. They sure didn’t like Crosby at Hollywood animation studios, did they?

No Laurel and Hardy or Jack Benny. Maybe next time.

The short was re-issued December 18, 1937 (The Little Match Girl appeared in theatres in November) and again November 25, 1955.

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Felix is Here

You know who that is, don’t you? Yes, it’s Felix the Cat. Not that “Bag of Tricks” TV Felix with the Popeye music in the background, but the silent era Felix, where he could morph into anything. He was a real actor displaying all kinds of emotions and, I propose, the first real silent film cartoon star (of those characters made expressly for the screen).

There are a few Felixs in various states of wear and tear on the internet, but now’s your chance to have some almost 100-year-old cartoons starring the cat that sparked blatant imitations at the Fables and Disney studios. Tommy Stathes is finally able to release, through his Cartoon Roots series, a two-disc set with 15 cartoons, including several made by Otto Messmer before he turned to Felix.

The Felix cartoons are from the early ‘20s, before Bill Nolan showed up to make Felix a rounder, easier-to-animate figure.

The Motion Picture News of April 8, 1922 reported:
Miss M. J. Winkler, distributor of the new “ Felix ” cartoon comics the series of which are animated by the Pat Sullivan studios, announces this week the completion of “ Felix Makes Good ” third of the series of twelve subjects, the rights to which she controls for world-wide distribution.
Pat Sullivan completed last week the work of editing, titling and assembling his latest subject, and a sample print of “Felix Makes Good” was rushed to the offices of Miss Winkler for private review.
The picture it is announced, is now available for release on the independent market.
Felix Makes Good sees our hero lose his tail, then battle mice who frame him as he tries to settle into a new home owned by a kind, cat-loving lady. Felix Lends a Hand involves a magic carpet ride to Egypt. Felix Tries for Treasure features fish-puns aplenty, including a real loan shark, as he goes underwater in search of valuable pearls. Those are just some of the shorts on the set.

Cartoon Roots sets are exceptionally well done and this one has the benefit of graceful piano accompaniment by Charlie Judkins. I’m afraid, for me, the Mighty Wurlitzer with umpteen stops and bell and sound generators is a bit much. These cartoons have nice, simple arrangements.

Oh, order you say. Try this link.

NOTE!! This set includes a DVD. REPEAT! It is a DVD set. Don’t mutter “Oh, I don’t have a Blu-Ray player.” There is a DVD, as well as a Blu-Ray.

DVD. Okay, I hope that’s clear.


P.S. I have nothing to do with Cartoon Roots and have not been asked to plug this. I do this only as a public service to all Felix fans.

Signing Santa and Hopscotching Hope

Some seasonal satire came from the typewriter of entertainment columnist Erskine Johnson 60 Christmases ago.

Johnson (photo, right) “was known more for concentrating on humorous and anecdotal material in interviews,” as his obit in Variety put it. Perhaps that’s why he never had the fame/notoriety of show biz gossipers like Parsons and Winchell, despite wide circulation of his column and hosting shows on both radio and TV.

He had been a city editor of the Los Angeles Record when he went to work as an assistant to National Enterprise Association columnist Danny Thomas. He took over the column when Thomas left in the late ‘30s and retired about 30 years later. Johnson died in 1984.

Here are two of his holiday columns from December 1960. The first involves a familiar target of 1950s satirists, ad agencies, courtesy of Herb Sargent, the Steve Allen writer known years later for his work on Saturday Night Live. The second is an interview with Bob “Marilyn Maxwell’s Under the Mistletoe” Hope. Like any column about Hope, it’s full of old one-liners as Johnson ties it in to ol’ Ski Nose’s Christmas tour to cheer up the troops.

Jim Dandy Santa Claus Special Prepared by Sargent
HOLLYWOOD—(NEA)—Christmas comes but once a year, Herb Sargent was saying, "which means, to television programmers, that it is not a holiday, not a tradition, but a special event. TV loves special events."
Sargent is one of TV's best writers of specials—the last Bing Crosby outing, the next Pat Boone special—but the "special event" of Christmas, he was saying, is a problem "because the obvious star, Santa Claus, is usually unavailable due to a previous commitment that evening."
Were he available, however . . .
WELL, SARGENT THOUGHT, here's how it might be born. The time: April. (You can't start too early. Someone else might get the idea first.)
The place: Conference room. Seated around the conference table are a TV executive, a talent agent, a TV censor, a TV producer and an advertising agency man. Subject: Christmas special.
TV Exec: "Gentlemen this year we may be able to get Santa Claus. The real one."
Adman: "I don't know about Santa Claus. I have several clients for a Christmas special but they want something an audience can believe in. Like Arthur Godfrey."
Agent: "Listen, if you guys don't believe in my boy, what am I doing here?"
TV Exec: "Relax. We all believe in your boy. Now let's figure out who might buy him for: 90 minutes."
ADMAN: "YOU KNOW this limits me. Right away we have to knock out razor blades and electric shaver, unless he'll . . ."
Agent: "No, he WON'T."
Adman: "Okay. The sleigh eliminates the automobile people . . .”
Censor: "The sleigh reminds me. He can't whip those reindeer. You know the FCC and network feeling on violence."
Adman: "Does he smoke?"
Agent: "A pipe."
Adman: "There goes the cigarette account. And I suppose we're stuck with that coming-down-the-chimney routine."
Agent: "That's his act."
Producer: "Even if you do find him a sponsor, what kind of a show can we do? Everybody knows his routine. He won't work any other way. The red suit, the bag of presents, the reindeer, the Ho, ho, ho bit—that's a show?"
Censor: "I think those elves are in poor taste, anyway."
ADMAN: "FELLOWS. I don't know who'd buy him."
Agent: "What's going on? I thought we had a deal."
TV Exec: "Not without a show we don't."
Agent: " 'Person to Person' wants him. I thought I was doing you a favor by giving you first crack at him."
TV Exec: "We appreciate that, but as you can see we have problems. He's too familiar. There's no sponsor identification, no image."
Agent: "Oh, well. That's the business. Now how about a Jingle Bells ballet and the Vienna Boys' Choir . . .?"
Censor: "I don't know about Vienna .... the international situation."
Sargent was sure that's the way it would go.

Traveler Bob Plans Flight to Visit Armed Forces in the Caribbean

Newspaper Enterprise Association
Hollywood — One of Uncle Sam's big Air Force planes and that sleigh with its eight reindeer will be airborne about the same time again just before Christmas. Of course, riding that sleigh will be the familiar, pug-nosed, red-suited man. In the plane will be someone almost as familiar — ski-nosed Bob Hope.
In a way, Bob Hope and Santa Claus are in the same business. What Santa means to little children, Hope represents to our uniformed men and women stationed outside the United States.
The comedian celebrates his 20th anniversary as Roving Robert film star with the business card "Have Jokes—Will Travel," by making his ninth annual Christmas entertainment tour. This year his troupe will visit armed forces in the Caribbean.
He has been to the Caribbean before—in 1944—and he has been just about everywhere else during war and peace in 20 go-go years as the serviceman's best friend. He will be telling jet age jokes to lads whose fathers in the service in California in 1941 laughed it up with Hope nine months before Pearl Harbor.
The statistics of his Odysseys are staggering, a mass of dates and remote places around the world. His GI audiences of nearly 12 millions to date can well give “Thanks for the Memories,” Hope's theme music.
He has flown nearly two and a half million miles—10,000 hours aloft—from North Africa, Sicily and Italy in 1943. Alaska to Guadalcanal and Tarawa in 1944. Nice and Bremen and Nurnbere and Munich in 1945 to bloody Bayonet Bowl in Korea. He has given, nearly 2,500 individual shows.
His travels once cued one of his writers, Larry Klein, to tell him:
"You know, Bob, if you had your life to live all over again, you wouldn't have time to do it."
Between hot and cold theaters of war, he has been in and out of U. S. camps and hospitals like a man in a revolving door.
In 1943. Mr. Inexhaustible traveled 1,300 miles in 11 days to appear in 33 different places in England and went on three bombing raids in Algiers, Bizerte and Palermo.
"But I must admit I thought, ‘This is it. I've had it.’"
Yet he was still going strong when he beat the Marines by 20 minutes to the beach at Wonsan. I couldn't believe it until Maj. Gen. Edward M. Almond and newsmen met us at the airport. It was a bloodless invasion but we didn't know we were there AHEAD of time.
He was in time to catch jungle rot malady in Biak in 1944. 'It still comes out between my toes on hot humid days."
Bob did not go it alone The GIs have fond memories of Frances Langford and Jerry Colonna, Marilyn Maxwell and Jayne Mansfield and others who traveled with him. World War 2 was just the beginning for Bob. He hopped on the airlift to Berlin on a plane loaded with coal in 1948 for Christmas. His 1957 Christmas trip to the Far East covered 16,201 miles and 77 air hours. En route to Hawaii by plane, he put out a show via radio to the crew of a Coast Guard ship 20,000 feet below.
Men and women in uniform have memories about Hope's chatter:
"Last night I slept in the barracks. You know what barracks are—a crap game with a roof. What a place to meet professional gamblers. I won't say they were loaded, but it’s the first time I ever saw dice leave skid marks.
“A discharge—that’s a little piece of paper that changes a lieutenant's name from 'Sir' to ‘Stinky.’”
Bob Hope's gags are tailored to the problems, gripes of the servicemen overseas—“in Alaska, where guys wished they were in Africa and in Africa, where they wished they were in Alaska. In the South Pacific, where they knew a guy was island happy when he started to look at the men's fashion pages.”
"The greatest years of my life," Bob Hope says today, at 57, as he goes on looking for camps and hospitals he may have missed. "Wouldn't it be a kick to do a show on the moon?"
That wouldn't surprise his wife, Dolores, about whom he has quipped: "She's very sweet about my absences although I notice that the towels in our bathroom are marked Hers and Welcome Traveler."
Thanks for the memories, Bob.