Thursday, 25 February 2021

J.L. Will Hear of This

Daffy Duck didn’t talk to an unseen artist for the first time in Duck Amuck, released in 1953. He did it in Ain’t That Ducky eight years earlier.

He’s treated better in the first cartoon.

Daffy looks around. Cut to a closer shot. “Hey, what’s the idea? What’s the idea? There’s supposed to be a barrel for me to hide in.” Daffy points to a spot on the ground, then whips out a sheaf of papers and points. “It says so right here in the script.”



“Somebody’s been layin’ down on the job,” he continues and points upward. “J.L. will hear of this!”



The artist quickly draws and paints in the barrel. The cartoon can now continue.



Mike Maltese came up with outraged Daffy gag for both cartoons, this one for Friz Freleng. Gerry Chiniquy gets the animation credit, and Paul Julian paints the backgrounds.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Bud Hiestand

It’s safe to say when you think of people who voiced animated cartoons in the Golden Age, Bud Hiestand’s name doesn’t come to mind. There’s a reason. Hiestand’s voice was only heard in a few theatrical cartoons and, even then, they weren’t originally designed to be shown in movie houses.

He was employed by John Sutherland Productions to narrate its industrial shorts. Some ended up being released by MGM, such as Meet King Joe (right), Why Play Leap Frog? and Make Mine Freedom.

Like just about everyone who voiced cartoons back then, he came from radio. He has a cartoon connection there, too, being the announcer on The Mel Blanc Show.

Another cartoon connection of sorts would be that Hiestand replaced William “Voice of Bluto” Pennell on the NBC Westinghouse Program in March 1943. Pennell was off to war. Hiestand would follow two months later.

Here’s an article about him from the great publication, Radio Life, of January 4, 1948.

Being Sidetracked From a Radio Career Merely Meant, for "Bud," Aiding One of the Most Gigantic Operations of Wartime Radio
By ROBBIE COLE

JOHN HIESTAND is probably best known to listeners and studio audiences as the "Dean" of the Kay Kyser show. There, in a bright red robe and blue mortar-board hat, he works at the mike with the "Prof" throughout the "Comedy of Errors," and herds the contestants on stage as they compete for their prizes. John’s held down this post for eight years, on and off.
Around radio circles Mr. Hiestand is known as "Bud." The childhood nickname sticks with the now six-foot-one-and-a-half-inch announcer as a result of his having entered radio at an age when "Bud" was a very suitable moniker. Now it's as much part of the big blond man as is his 185 pounds.
Since 1933, John has been heard as both actor and announcer on a string of shows as long as your arm, ranging from the old Joe Penner and Robert Benchley programs, Al Pearce, Olsen and Johnson, and more recently, Burns and Allen, Frank Morgan's show. "Screen Guild," "Cavalcade," "Let George Do It," and many more.
"My radio beginning didn't carry even the dignity of those clear channel stations that were such crucibles of radio men. I began by digging a ditch," Bud quips. The ditch he laughs about ran from a Burlingame. California, high school room to the football field, and therein Bud and his class mates laid the cable that first piped the Hiestand tones audienceward as he announced the home games. In the ensuing twenty-three years, the cables have graduated magnificently in size and range.
After a time break that took care of graduation from Stanford University, Hiestand's background of advancement continued in the Pasadena Playhouse, early network stints, and lending a voice to films in the role of announcer or commentator, traveling with the Theater League, Inc., and even taking a small band around the world on the famous Dollar Line.
The travel line in the Hiestand hand must be a strong one, for even after firm establishment in the usually confining radio world, John wound up trekking some 40,000 miles with Kay Kyser before John, himself, made his one departure from radio row.
The leave-taking occurred in 1943. Withdrawing from the West Coast announcing line-up in April of that year, John kissed his wife and four-year-old daughter goodbye, and hied himself off to Sydney, Australia, where he joined the rapidly growing OWI staff. For a while, the work consisted of promoting cultural relations between the U. S. and Australia by means of documentary films, educational radio programs, still pictures, press backgrounds . . . anything showing American aims and ways of thought. It was during this time Hiestand originated "Last Week in the U. S. A.," then stayed on the air as its commentator for a year.
Opportunity Opens
At this stage, the New Guinea campaign opened up the way for. OWI's actual propaganda function of psychological warfare, directly under the supervision of General MacArthur.
Listening to John Hiestand talk about the days when he was writer-producer-announcer of the Philippine Hour is like reading a background to the stirring book, "A Guerilla in the Philippines." He'll reminisce volubly and fascinatingly about the "hitch-hike" rides in planes loaded with cases of shells, about magically digging up buried press and type to print propaganda leaflets distributed by ships flying low over Corregidor or cruisers stealing into the bay after dark. When it was all over, Hiestand turned over his desk as Acting Chief of the OWI for the theater to his hard-working roommate, and headed for home, family and the Kyser show.
"Working the Kyser show is like no other, as far as I'm concerned. It becomes a family thing after so many years. We've all had the same laughs, the same trips, and all of us admire the way Kay goes on year after year pulling the crowds in wherever he plays. Kyser's a real showman," sums up the man who has had plenty of opportunity to look over showmen.
Hiestand is married to Jeane Wood, daughter of Sam Wood, and sister of K. T. Stevens. He and Mrs. Hiestand met in a little theater production.
"Jeane gave up actual participation in little theater or radio when we were married, and almost gave up attending shortly thereafter. She had come to a show I was doing, the old Jello program. I was reading the commercial, giving it everything I had, and just as I came to the flavor list, beginning with ‘strawberry,’ I looked down into the audience, right into Jeane's eyes. Then, very clearly and loudly, I started to proclaim the six wonderful flavors, beginning with ‘strawb-e-l-l-e’! It was months before Jeane would attend a broadcast . . . if I was on it."
When John isn't spieling or the Hiestands aren't househunting, John divides his energies between being an ardent hobbyist at color photography, and his new offices, home of "John Hiestand and Associates," a radio properties and production organization. That makes "the Dean" officially an announcer, actor, packager of shows, producer and agent.


Hiestand performed in about 30 roles at the Pasadena Playhouse between 1930 and 1934. His first radio job was doing remotes from the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles over KFI. One of his radio shows, voice historian Keith Scott wants you to know, was the Mickey Mouse radio show that ran for 26 weeks in 1938, and included an uncredited Mel Blanc (the only person allowed an air credit was orchestra leader Felix Mills). By 1940, he had appeared in more than 40 movies, all as announcers (Broadcasting, Oct. 1, 1940). He continued acting and appeared in a 3-D film (The Glass Web, Universal, 1953). He was one of the last announcers on a network radio variety show being heard on the 1955-56 season of The Edgar Bergen Show.

Hiestand still had some cartoon work ahead. He was employed by Playhouse Pictures for voice-overs, and got screen credit on Ken Snyder's quasi-educational animated TV series The Funny Company in 1963.

He died of cancer in Newport Beach, California, on Feb. 5, 1987 at age 80.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Not The Illusion of Life

The Karnival Kid (1929) has a great opening scene where crazy, funny stuff keeps happening. It ends with a cow blowing one of those snake-like party favours at the audience. It turns into a head that rattles its eyes and tongue. The cow then does a silly, rubber-hose dance out of the scene.



Early Disney is fun Disney. Who needs “illusion of life”?

Here’s the head cycle animation. Six drawings, one per frame. We’ve slowed it down.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Rabbit Take

The snow in the The First Snow (1947) lasts only 24 seconds, which isn’t much of a first snow. But director Mannie Davis doesn’t want to block our view to the real purpose of the cartoon—a fox chasing around some kiddie rabbits for a wintery dinner.

Here’s a rabbit take. The take is held for four frames.



Clumsy mumsey rabbit trips on the ice and a carriage with the baby bunnies is grabbed by the fox. “Can no one save these innocent little rabbits?” asks the narrator. You already know what’s going to happen. Mighty Mouse whips the fox gang and snatches the carriage out of harm’s way just in time. You guessed wrong if you thought it would land on an ice flow and head precipitously to a waterfall. This is a Terrytoon. That would cost a fortune to animate. The carriage goes over a cliff instead. All you need is a verticle moving background of a sky.

Almost all your Terrytoon favourites are here. The strawberry box crumple sound effect, the drum thump, the double-time chase music with eighth notes riding up and down the scale. Oh, and this.



Yes, the Terry Splash™. And we get this old routine...



...the split ears going past a tree.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Tralfaz Sunday Theatre—The Wink and Alex of Tomorrow

What’s 1999 going to be like?

It’s going to have creepy music on the beach, a golden-coloured Seattle car and dad will be Wink Martindale.

And it will be narrated by Alexander Scourby.

The Philco-Ford Corporation decided to celebrate its 75th anniversary in 1967, with, among other things, a half-hour industrial film looking into the future. So, it hired the future host of “Gambit” and the future Kara of “Star Trek” (yes, Wink is married to Marj Dusay in this).

You can watch the video below but first, I want to post a little story about Scourby.

He was the voice of National Geographic Specials when I was a kid and it seems when producers wanted a narrator for a subject on anything to do with the liberal or fine arts, Scourby was the one they hired. In other words, he’d be more likely heard elucidating on the life of Debussy than calling a monster truck pull. Mind you, this was a man announcing the radio soap “Joyce Jordan, Girl Interne” in the late ‘30s.

This wire story was published January 20, 1963.

The Voice Does Commercials and Bible Classics
By CYNTHIA LOWRY

NEW YORK—(AP)—The world of show business, there are two Alexander Scourbys.
One is a prominent actor, a dark-haired, mature man who, if he isn't playing a weak judge, a society doctor or a. rich man with a difficult son, is likely to turn up with a crepe mustache and a remarkably accurate British, Greek, German, Mexican or Polish accent. You run into him frequently in the theater, in the movies or—mostly—on television.
The other is a disembodied voice—rich, deep, reassuring, substantial and elegant. You can't listen to television or radio for long without hearing — and recognizing — the voice.
It urges you to protect yourself with a certain mouthwash, to cover "big hurts" with a certain brand of adhesive tape and bandage, to use only a certain brand of gasoline and oil, reduce painlessly with a certain diet food, to make yourself positively irresistible with a certain perfume or kind of eye make-up.
Less frequently, but often, the voice is narrating what is inevitably a special, high-budget, high-level program. It is the creamy, mellifluous tones accompany such religious classics as "The Way of the Cross, "The Coming of Christ" and "He Is Risen." It is the warm, poised phrasing filling it the biographical details of "The World of Jacqueline Kennedy," or of Jimmy Doolittle or of Benny Goodman.
* * *
OF COURSE, the actor and the voice involve the same man, although Alexander Scourby himself admits a little sadly that his professional career sometimes seems to be going in two directions at the same time.
Speaking of his popularity as the unseen spokesman for so many commercial products, Scourby confessed:
The financial rewards are great. In fact, the money is so good it can be rather frightening for an actor. For one thing, it is kind of demoralizing to make a living without really working."
"But then when I got my call and found I had to report for makeup at 4:30 a. m. I found myself resenting it."
Scourby is frank to admit, however, that the demand for his voice has marked advantages.
"Actors always have a problem of employment," he said. "And when television picked up and went west, a lot of actors had to pack up and follow it. I didn't have to. I could still live in New York and be available for theater work."
* * *
SCOURBY KNOWS about actor's unemployment. He was born in Brooklyn where his parents, natives of Greece, ran a wholesale bakery. He emerged from college with a yen for acting but in the midst of the great depression of the 1930s.
There was little theater around, so his first post-college job was driving the family pie-wagon, delivering to restaurants. Then he was taken on as an apprentice at the Civic Repertory Theater which Eva LeGallienne had launched.
Today, Scourby's flexible voice contains no vestige of the easily-recognized Brooklyn accent.
"I've always been susceptible to accents," he said. "I went to West Virginia University for only a year and a half, and when I got back, people thought I was a southerner. After working with the repertory theater, I think it was closer to British — they were very strict about the broad A. But now. I've done so many things I think my natural speech is a sort of mish-mash."
• * *
SCOURBY MADE his Broadway debut in 1936 as the player king in Leslie Howard's "Hamlet." When it closed he made his first recordings for the American Foundation for the Blind—and has been recording for them ever since. During the years he has made full recordings of over 250 books— including three of the Bible "War and Peace," and—most recently, "Ship of Fools."
He has played in a lot of Shakespeare, some with Maurice Evans, and done all sorts of live theater jobs. Early in his career he discovered radio, and during its hey-day sometimes was playing running parts in as many as five soap operas at one time.
When television was learning how to present superior documentary shows, Scourby immediately was in great demand for the "voice-over narrator"—meaning that unseen voice.
"I'm lucky," he said. "I have a reputation as a good reader. Great actors aren't necessarily good readers, and conversely, good readers aren't necesarily good actors. There's something about facing a microphone—I remember hearing Alfred Lunt, a really great one, the first time he ever broadcast. You could tell he was frightened stiff, the way he was enunciating every syllable of every word."
• * •
THE SCOURBYS-his wife, Actress Lori March, and their daughter Alexandra—live in an apartment near Columbia University, and spend weekends at their Connecticut farm.
"Some times I wonder what I am doing here," said Scourby.
"It wasn't at all the sort of thing I wanted when I went into the theater. I wanted to be an actor — a real actor, playing lots of parts. But I don't for a minute forget how fortunate I am."


About this film, the Library of Congress says:

A whimsical yet serious-minded look into the future sponsored by the appliance and radio manufacturer. In the “1999 House of Tomorrow,” each family member’s activities are enabled by a central computer and revolve around products remarkably similar to those made by the sponsor. Power comes from a self-contained fuel cell, which supports environmental controls, an automatic cooking system, and a computer-assisted “education room.”
Note: Produced in Eastmancolor. Renowned interior decorator Paul McCobb designed the futuristic home.


St. Joseph, Jack Benny and Cockatoos

The Benny-Allen feud wasn’t just for radio and motion pictures. The venue shifted to newspapers on occasion.

Fred Allen couldn’t resist getting in his phoney digs at Jack Benny whenever a reporter or columnist interviewed him. But when Benny announced he was going to St. Joseph, Missouri (“they love me there”), Allen plunked himself in front of his typewriter and went on the attack.

Here’s how it was recorded on the front page of the St. Joseph News-Press of February 13, 1945 (we can’t reproduce the photo with this story).
ALLEN FORECASTS DIRE THINGS . . . Fred Allen, Jack Benny's chum, has written to the St. Joseph Lions Club in regard to the approaching visit of Jack Benny. The letter follows:
"Am sorry to learn that St. Joe intends to lower its social status through planning a welcome for Mr. Benny.
"Mr. Benny was born in Chicago. The city has yet to live it down.
"Mr. Benny spent some time in Waukegan as a boy. The city has labored under a blight from which it has yet to recover.
"Mr. Benny later came to New York but was asked to leave about the same time Tammany received a similar request.
"Mr. Benny has spent some time in Hollywood and I understand tourist travel has declined 71 per cent.
"What effect his visit will have on St. Joe I am loath to venture. I trust that you will make him an honorary member of the St. Joseph Lions Club. Too bad he isn't coming in March. We could use that gag about ‘If Mr. Benny comes in as a ham he can go out as a lion.’”
Sincerely, FRED ALLEN.
Mr. Allen also sent the above photograph to be presented to Jack. The inscription reads, "For Jack Benny. If they loved you in St. Joe this means the end of a beautiful friendship. "P. S.: I played the Crystal Theater in St. Joe. Ask the manager how I went."
While Allen was joking with his long-time friend, it seems not everyone loved him in St. Joseph. The editors of both the News-Press and St. Joseph Union-Observer were Benny defenders against cranks and malcontents. This story comes the latter paper of February 16, when Jack and his troupe were still in the city.
The following episode was observed on one of the city bus lines. Four dear old ladies of uncertain age were en route to an all day bridge party, and were discussing the tables prizes, food, et ceteria.
While many of us are enthusiastic in our admiration of Jack Benny, we fear there are those who think differently.
During a pause one of the ladies remarked, "So Jack Benny is coming here to entertain us and it is costing him $20,000! He could do a lot more with all that money than to come here and make a monkey out of himself. Why don't he do something to bring the dear boys back home? If I had $20,000 to spend I bet I could do better than that."
An elderly man spoke up: "Well, lady, we have to do something to keep up the morale."
"Morale! Morale! Why don't we do something to hurry the end of this war and stop all this nonsense. Morale, indeed!"
"Well, lady," said this man, "you are going to waste this day at bridge and, I suppose, gossip and eating too much. Why don't you try the Red Cross? You could do a lot more to win the war down there than where you are going. And let me ask you this, have you been to the blood bank?"
Perhaps this man was talking out of turn, but to many of us who labor long hours and have to stand up going home from work it does seem that these women of leisure could be better employed. They might try making shirts for the men who are fighting our war.
This editorial is from the News-Press of August 20, 1945
Somehow we cannot get excited about the $10,000 damage suit filed by someone somewhere against Jack Benny.
Plaintiff asserts he suggested a free broadcast by Benny admitting blood donors, that Benny did not take up the idea then, but did use it in St. Joseph.
Jack Benny did not fill that Auditorium or arrange the manner in which it should be filled.
The St. Joseph committee debated days how best to arrange for admission. The committee decided on the blood donor plan and put it into effect. The committee had charge of all ticket distribution.
If Jack Benny has $10,000 to throw away over this legal aftermath of his visit to St Joseph may we offer the suggestion he send the money to the St Joseph committee? If the blood donor idea is worth $10,000, brothers and sisters, we believe we can promise on behalf of the committee the 10 grand will go to a worthy cause, such as providing a legal commission to devise ways and means of prohibiting senseless damage suits.
By the way, in case you’re wondering when Benny played St. Joe, it was the week of November 1, 1915. Variety’s weekly roundup of who-was-playing-where doesn’t mention the duo, but the News-Press published two days beforehand did.
AT THE CRYSTAL. "Happy’s Millions," presented by William Morrow and company, will be the feature of the new vaudeville bill opening at the Crystal for an engagement of a half week tomorrow. "Happy’s Millions" is a Western singing comedy playlet. The company comprises eight persons, among them a midget who plays the part of Cupid. The sketch has special scenery, a number of catchy musical numbers and abundant comedy. "Happy's Millions" has been presented in many vaudeville theaters of consequence in this country and England, and has been on the road steadily for more than fourteen years. Special settings and numerous electrical affects are required for the radium specter, billed as "vaudeville's latest mysterious creation." "Ten Minutes of Syncopation" is furnished in the violin and piano act of Benny and Woods, who play both classic and popular numbers. Bert Wheeler and company offer a comedy pantomime, "The Troubles of a Jitney Bus," and Weber and Fields present themselves in the role of "Broadway’s Youthful Prodigies.” Comedy moving pictures complete the bill.
Two weeks earlier, they played the second half of the week in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with Swain’s Cockatoos. It’s the same Swain who later had an act with cats and rats and earlier put one together with alligators. Let’s see bridge-playing busy-bodies tut-tut about them.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

A Panther Lives in Burbank

The most stylish theatrical cartoon series of the 1960? Can it be anything but “Chimp and Zee”?

Well, of course it’s the Pink Panther. (Sorry to any Chimp and Zee fans out there). In a way, the series is an outgrowth of the Warner Bros. cartoons. It was made on the Warners lot by a company run by two ex-Warners cartoon people. And many of the names on the credits—at least at the beginning of the series—are familiar from Warners cartoons.

The Valley Times in North Hollywood profiled DePatie-Freleng Enterprises and the Pink Panther series two years in a row. First up is a feature story from July 13, 1964.

Valley Firm Sparks Film Revolution
By JOHN HOGGATT

Valley Times Entertainment Editor
Sometimes the titles get better reviews than the pictures. It's possible they might defeat themselves with producers.
This wry, half-serious comment came from Friz Freleng, vice president of the Valley company which has started a minor revolution in the movie business.
THIS REVOLUTION has resulted in pleasant viewing of what used to be one of the dullest parts of a movie the showing of the title and those long, endless lists of credits naming everyone from top star to third assistant-powder-puff holder. Now, thanks to the firm of DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, those boring openings have been changed in some films to lively, swinging cartoons.
At lunch recently with Freleng and David H. DePatie, they told me how they got in the business of jazzing up film preludes.
The story started in January, 1963, when Warner Bros. in Burbank closed its cartoon division. DePatie, who had been executive in charge of the division, and Freleng, animation director, formed their own company to make cartoons and commercials.
LEASING THE Warner facilities at which they had worked, the two went into business just 14 months ago and soon were turning out amusing characters like Sharpie and Gillette Bird and Charlie Tuna. Then Blake Edwards was given the assignment of directing The Pink Panther for the Mirisch Corp.
“Edwards decided it would be a natural for an animated title,” DePatie explained, “using something with a panther. At his request we whipped up about 150 versions of a panther trademark. He picked one and we were given complete freedom to develop it.”
The result is history. It came out a four-minute-long cartoon starring a rather smug and slap-happy but lovable pink panther who bumbled his way through the titles and credits, sometimes trying to take all the credit for himself, always adding to fun of the proceedings.
WITH THE release and public response to The Pink Panther and its titles, DePatie-Freleng suddenly zoomed to the top of the heap. In quick succession the firm got the assignment for titles of “The Best Man,” “Sex and the Single Girl,” “The Satan Bug” and “A Shot in the Dark.”
“A Shot in the Dark" is sort of a sequel to Panther with Peter Sellers playing the same character in each, and it too features a zany cartoon as the lead. It opens Wednesday at two theaters in the area.
Why the excitement?
“The producers figured the Panther titles added $1.5 millions to the value of the picture,” DePatie said. “They found out that people were checking theaters closely on screen times to make sure they didn’t miss the titles.
“I DON’T KNOW if anyone bought tickets only because they wanted to watch the titles. But the titles certainly influenced viewers to tell their friends it was a good picture.
“I think it’s a good return on an investment of $10,000 to $15,000.”
But will these good results hold true if every picture has a jazzy credit sequence? I wondered.
“We’re trying to make them all different,” explained Freleng. “For ‘The Best Man,’ you'll remember, we used portraits of the Presidents. In ‘Sex and the Single Girl’ the gimmick is using the Ben Casey genetic symbols for male and female.
“NOW WE’RE working on assignments for titles for Hallelujah Trail, The Great Race and How to Murder Your Wife. Writers have been assigned Just as if these were story projects. But all of us are kicking around ideas. For ‘Hallelujah Trail’ we may use titles with live actors.”
“What about the mechanics of the title productions?” I asked.
“We have a staff of 24 and soon will increase it to 40,” DePatie said. “We’re called in nowadays ahead of picture production so a trademark can be worked out to be used in advertising and promoting the picture. Then we spend a lot of time sifting ideas and finally six to eight weeks for actual production.”
IS THE excitement about the new form of titles going to cause a trend? Will everybody want cartoons to open their pictures?
“That’s hard to say,” Freleng said. “Cartoons are no good, of course, for most serious drama. And they probably will be used only on high-budget films.
“But one thing is for sure the old-style credits were a complete bore for audiences. An[y]thing remedying this should stay popular a long, long time.”




The paper checked in again with the studio and columnist Larry Paulson wrote this for the issue of April 23, 1965. And guess who claimed credit for giving birth to Bugs Bunny? No, not Bob Clampett. It is nice to see the artists getting some credit in the popular press.

A GUY walks into another guys office and says, “How'd you like to make the titles for my new motion picture?” The guy answers “Fine," and a new business is born. It’s another Valley success story—a factory where panthers are painted pink!
The entire pink panther plant is pink, and you can pretty well guess the color of the little guard house by the front gate. The location is California Street in Burbank, and even the residence next door has caught the rosy fever.
Blake Edwards and the Mirisch Company asked Henry Mancini to create the music for "The Pink Panther, and Mancini won three Grammy awards for his efforts. They asked David DePatie and Friz Freleng to create the animation behind the titles, (credits) and they won an Oscar. The movie was a success and some people gave more credit to the titles than to the film.
The rubicund feline star proved to be such a hit that his creators are busy producing a series of 113 theatrical cartoons! Titles include “Pink Phink” (which won the Academy Award for cartoons), “Pink Pajamas” and “We Give Pink Stamps.” Coming up: “Sink Pink” and “Pinkfinger.”
The salon de DeFatie-Freleng now has 50 people doing commercials for television, more animated movie titles, advertising film strips, a public service film, shorts and a joke book. To come: a comic strip for newspapers, comic books, coloring books, toys and stuffed animals and undoubtedly a half-hour TV show.
So the pink panther that cavorted about the screen for a brief two minutes to introduce a movie has really begat a lota Pinks. They’re being created for adults, but of course kids watch anything that moves, and they love Pinky’s sophistication.
Dapper DePatie, the firm’s handsome president, started at Warner Bros. as a film editor when he was just 20. Right off he won an Academy Oscar for “Them.”
Freleng (pronounced Freeling, like in free-wheeling) is a living legend in the anima[t]ion business. Five Oscars are engraved with his name. He fathered such brush and ink stars as Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Sylvester and Tweetie Pie and Daggy Duck [sic].
The two genii let me wander the length and breadth of the Pink Panther place on Warner Bros. back lot. I met affable Harry Love, all-around production man who cart act out a cartoon sequence at the drop of a drawing. Hawley Pratt is the animation director who gets the canny pink cat in and out of situations. John Dunn writes plots and Ken Mundie paints Panther backgrounds which are works of art all by themselves.
These people get assists from Tom O’Loughlin, Bob Kurtz and the rest of the unsung heroes who contribute to these wild cartoons.
But we, the audiences, make stars out of a chosen few. “Presently,” says Freleng, “we like the Pink Panther because he’s up to date and on the abstract side.” He’s the first new theatrical cartoon star in about 10 years since the same Friz Freleng created Speedy Gonzales. Bugs Bunny, and his “What's up, doc?” was born 18 years ago on Freleng’s drawing board, and Freleng gets a boot out of Bugsie's record: Number One cartoon character in the theaters for every one of those 18 years!
Pink Panther is a tougher to train for his motion picture shenanigans than the others—because he doesn’t talk. It’s all pantomime. “That makes it a bit more difficult,” says Freleng. “After all, Charlie Chaplin had to be much more of an actor to make his pantomime convincing than does, say, Phyllis Diller.”
You can’t argue with that. Or with the Pink Panthers success.


92 Panthers were made for theatres and then more for TV. Still later, he was given a son. The Panther was finally getting into Chimp and Zee territory.

Friday, 19 February 2021

I'll Take Mine Neat

“Symbolic of this cold alpine region,” says narrator Bob Bruce over artwork of high mountains by Johnny Johnsen, “is the brave and faithful St. Bernard dog, ever on the alert in search for lost travellers.” We see the dogs enter in perspective from the background.



Cut to the gag.



Carl Stalling plays “Little Brown Jug” in the background, with lighter instrumentation for the little dog.

Crazy Cruise was Tex Avery’s last cartoon for Warner Bros. Bob Clampett took over his unit when he went to MGM in 1941 and finished this. It’s not an auspicious end to his career at Warners; one theatre manager in New Paltz, New York told the Motion Picture Herald: “This is poor material to give us in cartoon form. Someone in the studio might think it funny, but on the screen of a small town theatre it doesn't jell. This can’t be booked as a cartoon, as it’s more of a travelogue, and you know how boring some of those can be.”

And what’s a “cruise” doing at the top of the Alps?

Thursday, 18 February 2021

I Ain't Got No Body

The Van Beuren cartoon studio had a skeleton fetish.

I haven’t counted how many times a skeleton arbitrarily shows up in one of their pre-Cubby (1933) shorts but it seems to be often.

Wot a Night (1931) is chock-full of skeletons. There’s one bathing, one playing the piano, a bunch of them dancing and even a quartet of skeletons in blackface singing a spiritual.

The cartoon ends with the mysterious guys who rode in Tom and Jerry’s cab (without paying) pointing at Tom and Jerry. Our heroes turn into skeletons!



Off they run to end the cartoon.



John Foster and George Stallings get the “by” credit. I don’t know the happy tune that Gene Rodemich opens the cartoon with, but here’s the song the minstrel quartet sings.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Flip

America and Johnny Carson may have discovered Flip Wilson when he appeared on the Tonight Show in 1965 but, as is usually the case, he had been around before then.

In the late 1950s, he was on stage at clubs in Florida where patrons may have been more interested in the advertised exotic dancers. The future Grammy winner had released a comedy album on Imperial Records in 1961 and was emceeing (and doing an act) at the Apollo in Harlem and other black clubs in the central and eastern U.S.

At the height of his career, his TV variety show was hugely popular and racked up 11 Emmy nominations. And then he just faded away, eventually dying of cancer at age 64.

Let’s look back at when his career was taking off at the clubs, as reported by the black press. Both these stories are from 1963. The first is from the Chicago Defender, February 27th.

New Comic Has Flip Tongue, Fly Style
By BOB HUNTER

An up-and-coming (career wise) new comic with a flip tongue and a fly delivery is now starring in a giant rock n’ roll package at the Regal Theater, 47th and S. Parkway. His name—“Flip” Wilson.
The term “new” is used because Flip is just beginning to gain wide-spread fame. Actually, he’s been in the game for eight years or more. Most of that time he was busy picking up the rudiments of his trade.
Now 30 years of age and a settled family, Flip wants the world to know that he intends to stay on the scene a long, long time.
BERT WILLIAMS
How big does he hope to get? “As big as Bert Williams was.” How does he plan to get there? “By telling any kind of jokes that will make people laugh.”
To make people laugh is all he ever wanted to do. “I’ve always wanted to be a comic,” he says. “No other profession entered my mind.”
When did he become a funnyman? “Back in 1953, when I was in the Air Force. The guys thought I was quite a cut-up, so they suggested that I go on stage. I did.” Flip is part of a Regal bill that includes Chuck Jackson, The Drifters, The Shirelles, LaVern Baker, Don Gardner and Dee Dee Ford and many, many more, all backed by Red Saunders’ wailing big band.
BIRDLAND CONTRACT
Wilson has just finished a gig at Birdland in New York City, where he starred with Cannonball Adderley and Thelonious Monk. He’ll be in Chicago for a week, then he returns to New York and the “Living Room.” That engagement will be followed by another stint at Birdland, the most famous jazz house in the world.
Flip won’t say so himself, but he’s the first comic to ever play Birdland on a contract basis. His pact with the club is good for all of 1962, and calls for him to work there six times during the year.
Wilson, who writes about 20 per cent of his own material, has no set routine. “I just go out there and fire away.” However, before he goes “out there” to fire away, he sits among the audience to “feel” the mood.
“Then,” he says, “when I go on stage, the first joke is for them, but the rest are all mine.”
The Jersey City, New Jersey born comic has five brothers and six sisters, plus a mother. Is his father dead? “No, he’s still alive, I guess.”
Switching the conversation to another subject, Wilson revealed that he steers clear of most racial jokes because “they are very touchy.” He believes that people will laugh at them for a while, “but them they become sensitive.”
Some comics have trouble controlling hecklers, but not our star. He has a plan which never fails. “There are hecklers in every audience,” he said, “but if you go out front with a forceful air about yourself they are wary and won’t attack. When one does—I shoot him down, but good.”
Wilson was working in San Francisco hotel as a bell hop when he made up his mind to root-hog-or-die as a comic.
FIRST TIME OUT
“They were having a show at the time,” he said. “But something was wrong. I suggested that a drunk stagger onto the stage. So they said, ‘OK, you’re the drunk’.”
“Anyhow, I went out there. The place was so quiet you could hear a feather floating onto the floor. Understandably I was quiet nervous. Yet somehow I managed to open my mouth. The place broke up. I’ve been making people laugh ever since.” And then he adds, “For pay, that is.”
Like most performers, Flip had to gain confidence in himself. “For two years after I got started, I was always afraid that one day I’d walk out on the stage and nothing would come out. But it still has, and still is.”
Wilson’s real first name is Clerow, but he never uses it. “Isn’t that some tag,” says the star. “I would much rather use Flip than that.”
HELPING HAND
Not too many know it, but Chuck “Tell Him I’m Not Home” Jackson is the big reason for Flip’s amazing rise to the top in the last 18 months. Chuck caught Wilson’s act and liked it so much, he introduced Flip to his managers, Julie and Roy Rifkind.
“To me, there isn’t anyone in show business today, as far as I’m concerned, who is greater a person than Chuck Jackson,” Wilson said. “He told me to come to New York and if his managers couldn’t do anything for me right away he’d pay me $10 a day as long as I was there, and then if I decided to return home, he’d buy the plane ticket. I’ll never forget him, ever.”
Flip’s career has really been sky-rocketing as of late. He has appeared on stage with some of the most renown[ed] jazz and rock ‘n roll artists in the world. They include Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Count Basie, Sam Cooke, Gloria Lynne and many others.
This past season he appeared on the Broadway stage in a production of “Old Bucks and New Wings,” co-starring with the hightly regarded vaudeville team of Smith and Dale. Wilson received great reviews from the critics of New York’s leading newspapers.
FIRST ALBUM
He also has recorded his first comedy album. It’s called “Flippin” and it’s on Imperial Records.
He has scored his greatest success with “preacher” jokes. In the beginning, that’s all he used, but now mixes them up with other material. However, some people still refer to him as “Rev.” Wilson. “They say I look like a preacher, too,” he said.
Wilson’s wife’s name is Blondell. They have three children: Michele, 7, David, 3, and Kevin, 1. “Oh, yes,” he says with a smile. “My wife and I have been married seven years.”
Flip Wilson is a very funny man.


Now a story from the New Amsterdam News of April 13th. We learn about typing prowess.

Comedian “Flip” Wilson Wanted To Be A Teacher
By LES MATTHEWS

“I wanted to be a teacher, specializing in English,” clean shaven comedian, “Flip” Wilson, told this reporter after completing a week at the Apollo Theatre. “I wanted to be a performer, too. Now I’m happy in my chosen vocation,” he said.
“Flip” Wilson who [sic] was born in Jersey City, N.J., and christened Clerow by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Wilson.
He confessed: “I didn’t know the late mayor Frank Hague, but I heard and read a lot about him. I have six sisters, Mart, Doris, Betty, Constance, Lorraine and Eleanor. Wait a minute, I also have five brothers, Lemuel, Vernon, Clifford, William, and Bernard. Can you imagine the fun we had at dinner time?”
No Dancing
“Appearing on the stage is thrilling and a challenge,” continued Flip. “You see I don’t dance, sing or mimic and I have to keep my audience interested and happy. I’m unable to rest during my act with a dance or song. I must have material and improvise others,” the five-foot six comedian said. “I work on new material in the evenings. I don’t allow anything to distract my attention, radio or television.”
“I spend a great deal of time reading, books, magazines, or newspapers. I also spend time with my family. My wife, Blonel, and three youngsters, Michelle, 7; David, 3, and Kevin, 1 at home in Philadelphia when I’m not traveling. I keep on the run.”
In Miami
“I played in Miami for almost four years and I was also fortunate to appear in Chicago several times. During my visit to Chicago I appeared on television and radio shows. I will appear at the Shell House on Long Island and return to the Birdland CafĂ© on Broadway.”
“Flip,” a United States Air Force veteran who was stationed in the Pacific Theater speaks distinctly. He’s really funny.
An excellent bowler with an average of 175, “Flip” is also an excellent typist. He says he drinks moderately and plays a game of cards whenever he can get an interested group together. An excellent listener, according to his manager, Roy Rifkind, “He can stay in a room for hours without saying a word.”


In 1965, Flip was still emceeing and playing with black acts but things were changing. Ads for the hungry i in San Francisco in October 1965 call him “Johnny Carson’s Comedy Find” (though the Examiner called his routine a “monotonous, hesitant, and tasteless string of bad jokes,” including puns about American Indians). Carson put him on in August then two times thereafter in ’65. He hit the Playboy Club circuit. He appeared in Carnegie Hall in November. In summer of ’66, he was a regular on the Kraft Music Hall. If Flip wasn’t on his way before, he was now.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Multiple Snafus

Ben Washam treats us to more stretch in-betweens in No Buddy Atoll, a 1945 Snafu cartoon for the Army/Navy Screen Magazine.

Snafu and a Japanese naval officer inspect each other’s dog tags then both realise who the other guy is—the enemy!



The soundtrack plays “Tea For Two” in the background of this scene. Later in the cartoon, one of the chase tunes is the Paramount-owned “I’ve Got Spurs That Jingle, Jangle, Jingle” which showed up in all kinds of Paramount-owned cartoons.

Since this is the Chuck Jones unit of Warners at work, Ken Harris and Bobe Cannon likely animated portions of this cartoon as well.