Monday 31 May 2021

No Help From the Audience, Please

Tex Avery had “theatre audience” members interact with the action on the screen in a number of his Warner Bros. cartoons. One is Thugs With Dirty Mugs, where “Killer” starts outlining his robbery plan to his gang, but then a silhouette comes into view at the bottom of the screen. It’s the same thing that happens when someone in a theatre gets in the way of the projection; their shadow appears on the screen.

Killer stops and tells the silhouette audience guy to sit down until the picture is over.

Dissolve to the next scene of the police chief pacing. “I could trap that Killer if I could only get a tip off on his next job,” he says to himself. Suddenly the silhouette rises and waves a hat. He tips off the captain. “I sat through this picture twice,” he adds to solidify his veracity. The chief thanks him, rushes out the door, then comes back in, leans toward him, and says “You little tattletale!” as the shadow recoils. That ends the silhoutte’s part in the plot.

Jack Miller is the storywriter for this 1939, one of my favourite Avery cartoons at Warners. Danny Webb is Killer. The chief (and one of the henchmen) is John Deering.

Sunday 30 May 2021

The Shrewd Showman

Ups and downs greeted Jack Benny’s broadcasting career, but few could boast they were on the air regularly for 33 years.

That’s despite the fact that Jack went through a revolving door of sponsors in the early years and his career could have ended with any non-renewal. But his shows were popular, therefore agencies and potential advertisers were interested in signing with him.

Benny’s popularity was explained by many newspaper columnists to their readers (and, presumably, listeners). One example is in Bruce Nicole’s “Behind the Mike” column of the Lincoln Journal and Star, May 5, 1940. It also outlines the time-line to get the broadcast on the air.

The comedian's job of making people laugh is the toughest phase of broadcasting. Perhaps that is why the turnover of radio comics is exceedingly high. But tonight a radio comedian who has conducted one of radio's most popular shows for the past eight years will mark the start of his ninth year on the air.
The comedian is Jack Benny who came to radio from vaudeville and the stage and is now paid $10,000 a week for his efforts and an additional $15,000 weekly for time and talent.
Benny had an advantage over other comedians who came to radio when vaudeville folded. His vaudeville act consisted of "ear" gags rather than "eye and ear" gags. His humor could be propelled across the footlights by his voice alone. A shrewd showman, Benny saw that gags wouldn't be enough to sustain him on the air for a long period. So he mapped out a formula which has drawn to his weekly program millions of regular listeners.
The Benny character in radio has been based on Jack's philosophy that the performance must be real— at least the listeners must think so while the show is on the air. His character on the air is aimed dead-center at the universal tendency to howl at the self-confident man who makes a fool of himself. He isn't the wise guy that knows all the answers, but on the other end of the gun. He is the target for most of the gags because he is a combination of everybody's faults.
His cast also represents characters whom everyone knows in real life—Phil Harris the typical fresh guy; Mary Livingstone, the fresh dame; and Dennis Day the very naive character. There's also another block in the Benny comedy foundation. It is his ability to outline quickly a basic situation so that the listener can readily grasp its fundamentals. He doesn't depend on the conventional question-and-answer routine. He builds a crystal-clear picture of himself in a given situation and because it is so clear, it's simple for the audience to follow him through the laugh-provoking complications that develop out of a situation. This is because they understand completely the basic humor of the situation and his relation to it.
For example, when Benny was on the skis during his mythical trip to Yosemite it was a real situation, a real person engaged in a struggle to master a problem. Gags about skis or skiing which were probably plentiful but never used, because the situation was in itself humorous. Benny's situations are never contrived for the purpose of working around to a preconceived gag or a specific joke which does not fit properly into the idea of the show. His laughs are placed where the audience is least expecting them.
How does he go about getting the laughs? Benny is a workman. His humor is the result of long and carefully rehearsed effort. Unlike his friend Fred Allen, who is the master of the quick retort and writes his show from inspiration, Benny builds his show slowly and methodically.
Following his Sunday night broadcast, Benny and his two script writers, Bill Morrow and Ed Beloin, get together on an idea for the next week's show. Out of this huddle comes a theme for the program. Monday and Tuesday Morrow and Beloin work out a rough draft and present it to Benny on Wednesday. The three of them spend Wednesday and Thursday polishing up the script. They spend from eight to eighteen hours a day, depending on whether they're clicking or not.
Friday they rest and Saturday the cast is called for the first rehearsal, sometimes in the studio sometimes at Jack's home. The whole cast comments on the script, changes are made. Then Benny, Beloin and Morrow, together with the producer of the show mull over the script until late Saturday night.
The cast rehearses all day Sunday until 4 p. m.. (Pacific coast time) when the first show goes on the air. Sometimes the scripts are revised for the rebroadcast to the Pacific coast three hours later. While this is the routine, the infinite labor of getting the right line and situation to produce the right effect often boils down to laboring over a one minute dialogue for several hours. Even the slips made in rehearsals, if they sound funny, are put into the script. All the informalities which suggest spontaneity to the listener have been carefully rehearsed.
They also make the studio audience laugh. That's important, Jack thinks, because if the studio crowd doesn't laugh the air audience feels the show is a flop.

Saturday 29 May 2021

Happy He's Murray

Television would have been quite different if CBS’ “A Man on the Beach” had become a hit series in 1958.

It starred people who went on to TV fame after “Beach” failed—Max Baer and Gavin MacLeod.

MacLeod’s real breakout role was on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” He had a series before that. He appeared as Happy at the outset of “McHale’s Navy” before walking away for a movie role. He wasn’t missed. The cast was far too big and the comedy antics were soon given to Joe Flynn and Tim Conway, not MacLeod and the rest of Quinton McHale’s ragtag Bilko wannabes.

Occasionally he got focused in what were likely handouts from the network to fill entertainment columns. One mentioned how Carl Ballantine ad-libbed with a pair of scissors and removed what little of MacLeod’s hair he had left. Another called him the show’s good-luck charm because every time he announced his wife was expecting, the ratings went up or the show got renewed.

MacLeod was kind of “the other guy” when he was cast as writer Murray Slaughter on “Mary Tyler Moore.” Ed Asner and Ted Knight got meatier newsroom characters to play. UPI columnist Vernon Scott seems a little challenged to find something interesting about MacLeod himself in this wire story of February 20, 1971; the earliest national attention I can find that MacLeod received.

McLeod Likes To Write And Paint

HOLLYWOOD (UPI) – Gavin MacLeod, the harried news writer on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," is an unharried family man who writes plays, not news, in his spare time.
A native of Mount Kisco, N.Y., MacLeod is married to Joan Roovik.
She was a Rockette and he an usher at the famed Radio City Music Hall when they met at a church communion breakfast.
They were a steady twosome for a couple of years before they married and moved to California.
Their children are Keith, 10; David, 9; Julia, 8; and Meghan, 6.
Thanks to the children, the family also includes a St. Bernard named Gillian of Moose Lake; three eats, Georgie Boy, Sam and Owl, and two nameless lizards.
Fortunately for their neighbors, the MacLeods live on a half acre of San Fernando valley real estate in the foothills of Santa Monica mountains. Gavin has his eye on a larger home and grounds where the family can keep a horse and own a swimming pool.
Their current house has three bedrooms—which means two daughters and two sons in each of the kids’ rooms—and is decorated in the popular French Country style. MacLeod is a collector of abstract and impressionistic oil paintings by young California artists.
He dabbles in art himself. And it is not uncommon to see all the family on a weekend painting canvases or sculpting in clay. MacLeod says it is an excellent way to communicate with his off- springs.
He works on the CBS show five days a week, usually arriving at the studio at 9:30 a.m. after a 45-minute freeway ride.
Almost invariably he is home for dinner. Unlike many a husband who boasts of his wife's dexterity in the kitchen, MacLeod says Joan is a good cook when she wants to be. Translation: when there is company.
The MacLeods don't entertain often, but when they do, Joan can cook up a stuffed cornish game hen with the best of them.
Sunday morning is a special delight for the younger MacLeods. Old Dad struggles out of bed and prepares breakfast for the entire family.
His specialty is making hotcakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, snowmen and other figures. Little Meg is especially delighted with her father's talent for fancy pancakes.
Actor MacLeod has worked in 18 movies, including “Kelly’s Heroes,” and has appeared in 250 television shows. At the moment he would like to see “The Mary Tyler Moore” show run for the next decade or so.

In the early years, the show’s writers would make him the centre of plots on occasion, though one episode about Murray driving a cab was pretty much stolen by Joyce Bulifant as Murray’s wife. Time took care of things as the characters became more three-dimensional as the seasons chugged along.

This syndicated story appeared in papers around July 15, 1972:

Gavin Likes Nice Role

Hollywood (NEA)—GAVIN MacLEOD is a member of what is probably television's finest comedic ensemble company, The Mary Tyler Moore Show on CBS. This is a fairly big surprise to MacLeod, because of some years he was typed as depraved.
As Murray Slaughter, Mary's newsroom pal, MacLeod is certainly one of the good guys. And he likes being a good guy. It has helped his home life and it is giving him a pleasant public image.
"For years," MacLeod says, "I always played the depraved, the vile, the awful. And, really, it affected my home life. I remember once, I was in 'The Connection,' and I'd come home and I'd use vile language around the house. Fortunately, we only had one child at the time and he was just a baby."
HE SAYS he hasn't any idea how the men who put The Mary Tyler Moore Show came to think of him as a good guy. He knows they saw him in an episode of Hawaii Five-0 playing a depraved, vile, awful drug pusher—and they asked him to come in and read.
“I don’t know how it happened,” he says, “But I love being nice. And the public thinks I’m nice because Mary likes me on the show. People stop me after church and in supermarkets and it’s always, ‘Hi, Murray,’ with a big smile. It’s a great feeling.”
Now that he's discovered the joys of being a good guy, he wants to do more of the same. At the moment, he’s studying singing. He wants to do stage musicals. And he and his wife, Joan, who was a Radio City Music Hall Rockette when they met, want to start their own small stage theater, perhaps somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
MacLeod is from Pleasantville, N.Y., which is the home address of The Reader's Digest. His father died when he was 13 and from then on he's always worked. His first job was as a waiter—"I was the youngest waiter in Pleasantville"—and on his first day he spilled soup on a customer. But he decided he’d rather act than spill soup, so he worked hard and won a scholarship in drama to Ithaca College in upstate New York. That’s where he learned to act—and get his first taste of being depraved.

MacLeod got fired from the WJM newsroom in 1977 and immediately boarded “The Love Boat” for a long and lucrative voyage. It never aspired to be anything other than cheesy fun and it made MacLeod even more popular with an aging TV audience.

His TV career was bookended with boats, but he was at his finest with an ensemble cast that’s lauded by many as among the best ever on the small screen.

Better to Have an Ache in the Stomach Than in the Head

Walter Lantz talked about taking the plunge. Leon Schlesinger toyed with it. Hugh Harman kept saying he wanted to do it. But only Max and Dave Fleischer jumped into the feature cartoon waters with Walt Disney in the 1930s.

Of course, the Fleischers’ distributor was pushing for it—and Paramount Pictures pretty much put up the money. So it was that an animated adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels was crafted in southern Florida by the Fleischer studio.

If nothing else, the film generated huge amounts of publicity. There were plenty of newspaper columns and magazine stories with colour pictures. We’ve presented a few here on this blog. Let’s give you another syndicated column that appeared in papers in November 1939. There’s the inevitable reference to Disney’s Snow White, a bunch of numbers, and visions of empty Pepto-Bismol bottles in Max’s office.

Florida Challenges Hollywood With Feature Cartoon Gulliver
Max Fleischer Putting Finishing Touches On Him At Miami

MIAMI, Fla., Nov. 22.—A New Yorker with a stomachache came down here a year ago with a pocketful of pencils and an idea. Today he signs one of the largest weekly payrolls in Florida.
Max Fleischer, who makes movies without actors, scenery, stages or Hollywood hysteria, still had the stomachache when I saw him. "But," the former Brooklyn cartoonist sighed, "in the movies it's better to have an ache in the stomach than in the head."
For years Fleischer turned out animated cartoons on Broadway. His Koko, the clown, popped out of an ink well at the start of a picture, did his didoes, then slid reluctantly back.
Fleischer started Florida's only movie studio with 300 employees. Today he has 700, who draw a total of more than $1,000,000 a year. Part of this new wealth is attributable to a man who has been dead a long time—the satirical Dean Swift—and his "Gulliver's Travels." Fleischer is just finishing the job of making Gulliver's adventures into a feature picture in colors. It has taken 18 months and marks Florida's first full-length screen challenge to California.
Into its making have gone 105,000 individual drawings. Using 12 tons of paint on the picture, Fleischer has his own paint factory turning out 1,350 actual shades of colors.
With a total cost for this picture that he estimates at close to $2,000,000, Fleischer hasn't a movie star on the lot. He hasn't even a lot, for the feature which he hopes will outdo Walt Disney's $6,000,000 success, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," is acted on drawing tables. The beauty of making movies with pencils and brushes is that you don't need any "flesh"—no $10,000-a-week mortals—to eat up the budget.
The story only cost the few dollars paid for a copy of the book. Yet, Fleischer says, the story as he has screened it represents about $50,000 paid to authors and gag men who provided the script, and more thousands paid Robin and Rainger, the song-writing team, for the musical score.
Fleischer believes the animated feature picture is the highest form of the cinema, and by far the finest medium for fantasy. But he doesn't see any likelihood that pen-and-brush movies will be produced in commercial quantities very soon. There aren't so many people who can draw, and of them only a small percentage can adapt themselves to the technique of animation. One feature-length animated picture a year, he believes, is the best a studio can do.
Fleischer movies can teach Hollywood spendthrifts some film economy. Hollywood has been known to shoot 600,000 feet of film to get only 2,000 that reach the screen; Fleischer's cutting room on this picture had mere 600 feet left over.
The unfortunate part of the hectic months of the studio's existence is that Fleischer still has his stomach ache.
"Do you think?" he asked anxiously, "that my eating half a dozen hot dogs a day could have anything to do with it?"

The Mongomery Advertiser was one the papers that published the above story. It added its own sidebar in the edition of Nov. 26, 1939.

Spang, Jr., On Fleischer Staff
The work of a young Montgomery artist, Frank Spangler, Jr., son of The Advertiser's noted cartoonist, "Spang " will be seen here early next year in Max Fleischer's feature-length cartoon, "Gulliver's Travels," which may provide some keen competition for Walt Disney's forthcoming "Pinnochio."
Young Spangler has been in Miami for some time and has been working top speed in Fleischer's "Special Effects Department," or that department given the task of preparing the scenes where there is fast action, as in duels, races, or moving vehicles.
The Fleischer Studio, according to a letter received from the youthful artist yesterday, is engaged in a revolutionary process of creating special effects, that of using transparent colors for water scenes or in depicting reflections on glass.
It is said in the letter that the entire staff is now working overtime to catch up on short subjects which had to be sidetracked for the preparation of "Gulliver's Travels."
Frank Spangler, Jr., finds himself intensely interested in the motion picture cartoon which, he says, is "still in its infancy."
He reports that 13 tons of paint have been used in the production of "Gulliver's Travels;" that 49,000 pencils have been consumed; that there are 115.000 composite scenes; that 16 tons of drawing paper have been used, and that inked lines, if extended end-on-end, would extend at least 600 miles.
The world premiere, according to Spangler, will be held at Miami on Dec. 1.

Spangler, Jr. didn’t maintain his career at Fleischer. For one thing, the war got in the way. He was a bombardier who also drew nose art on planes, then became a commercial artist and poultry farmer in Montgomery after the war. He also became a Mason and joined the Alcazar Shrine Band. But there may not have been a career with the Fleischers anyway. Paramount seized control of their studio, got out of the feature business, and moved it back to New York City.

RIP, Canadian Spiderman

He was the host of “Take 30.”

He was the silent movie-esque petty crook on “This is the Law.”

I suspect the only people who know this are Canadians. The world knows him as a dentist-wannabe elf on a stop-motion TV Christmas special, and/or Peter Parker/Spidey in the tacky-but-loved ‘60s TV cartoon version of Spiderman (“IN COLOR,” ABC assures us).

Paul Soles, reports say, has passed away at the age of 90.

Soles was part of a neat little troupe of voice actors based in Toronto in the 1960s who lent their voices for cartoons at what was likely at a combined price for a session than Mel Blanc got in an hour. They were good, solid actors. Peg Dixon and Paul Kligman had been radio and stage actors in Vancouver many years earlier. Soles worked on stage, too, before gravitating to the pioneering days of Canadian television in 1953. You can find his credit list elsewhere on-line.

Basically, Soles copied radio Superman Bud Collyer, who had a resonant voice for the superhero and a lighter version for his alter ego. But here’s a story from Victoria Aherne of the Canadian Press wire service from November 2018 where Soles talks about his cartoon work.

Paul Soles recalls days as original Spidey
TORONTO — When Toronto actor Paul Soles snagged the lead role in Stan Lee's original "Spider-Man" animated series in the 1960s, he was caught in a web of worry.
No one had ever portrayed the teenage Peter Parker and his arachnid-powered alter-ego onscreen before, and Soles certainly never felt like a superhero growing up.
"When it came time to dream up a voice for Peter Parker and Spidey, I was at a loss," Soles, 88, recalled in a phone interview this week as he discussed the legacy of Lee, the legendary Marvel comic-book writer who died Monday.
"I was like the proverbial 19-pound weakling who gets the sand kicked in his face. I never considered myself a superhero or how he would sound. But as it turned out over the years, that is what Lee apparently intended."
Lee wanted Spidey to be more of a human superhero, said Soles. And the actor understood teenage Peter Parker's feelings of being an outsider amongst his peers, while bringing a deep and authoritative richness to the voice of his web-slinging personality.
Soles had previously voiced another misfit character, Hermey the elf, in the 1964 stop-motion animated TV special "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
And growing up Jewish in Toronto from 1930-onward, Soles also felt at times like he wasn't accepted "by the vast majority."
"That helped me find a common ground to be able to at least play the character with those characteristics, with those qualities that I think Stan had in mind," he said.
"That, in a sense, was a bit of a bond and why it was fun to do the character."
Created by Lee, the original "Spider-Man" animated series was produced in Canada and the U.S., and ran on ABC from 1967 to 1970 with a cast of mostly Canadians.
Soles said producers had heard from Orson Welles and other great American performers "that the best pool of English-speaking actors was in Canada" and came up here to make "Rudolph," "Spider-Man" and other projects.
The cast didn't get to see the "Spider-Man" animation before recording and had to just go off drawings and the script, which often had Soles declaring: "Walloping web snappers."
The theme song, composed by Paul Francis Webster and J. Robert Harris, began with the instantly recognizable, groovy big-band music and lyrics: "Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can."
Some producers and cast members had doubts that a friendly-neighbourhood character who "gets zits, can't get it on with the girls and has trouble with friends" would be a believable superhero in viewers' eyes, said Soles.
"Everybody said, 'What kind of a superhero is that?'" he recalled. "That it worked out and connected with people -- that's Stan Lee.
"That was the creativity and genius of Lee as an author, to understand what it is that people respond to or look forward to or look for in the way of mythical figures and heroes and exemplars.
"There aren't many people over the years who've created characters in the world of theatre, drama, acting, whatever, who have such a universal appeal."
Soles' other connections to Lee include playing supporting characters in "The Marvel Super Heroes" animated series in 1966, and appearing as a pizza restaurant owner named Stanley in the 2008 film "The Incredible Hulk."
He also talks about his Spider-Man work at comic-book conventions while continuing his acting career, on projects including the digital series "My 90-Year-Old Roommate."
Soles got to meet Lee once -- when they were on the CBC game show "Beyond Reason" in the 1979-80 season -- but feels Lee's work made a big impact on his life.
"To meet people who can remember back when they were kids watching the cartoons and proclaiming a life-long allegiance to the story, the values, the ethics, and meeting them at these comic cons is astounding," Soles said.
"You realize the profundity or the depth to which these tales connected with people."

As you can see, Soles stayed active until his death. He had a few animated klinkers over the years—such as Shamus Culhane’s “Max the 2000 Year Old Mouse,” featuring Bernard Cowan and the Capitol Hi-Q library—but he’s left behind some well-remembered roles. And I suspect we’ll be hearing him as Santa’s Rankin-Bass elf Hermey every Christmas for some years to come.

Friday 28 May 2021

You Can Say That, But Not That

There’s nothing like inconsistency in foul language.

Take for example the Ub Iwerks cartoon Room Runners (1932). Flip the Frog lands at the bottom of the stairs and says, quite clearly, “Damn!”

Later in the cartoon, the rooming house manager spies Flip trying to skip out on his rent. After a take, she says “Well, I’ll be....” and mouths “damned” but it’s not on the soundtrack.

A telephone gets in a “Damn!” in The Cuckoo Murder Mystery, a 1930 Flip cartoon, while a bull says it in the 1933 Flip short Bulloney. Flip says it Ragtime Romeo in 1931, mouths it in 1932’s Funny Face, while a chequers-losing horse utters it in Fire-Fire, also in 1932.

Those of you who keep track of this kind of thing will know if there were other Flip cartoons where it happened.

Thursday 27 May 2021

And If Ya Feel Like Singin'...

The cat that hated people (from the Tex Avery cartoon of the same name) enumerated why he hated people before deciding, at the end of the cartoon, they weren’t so bad after all.

He did it in a series of sight gags. Here’s one where the cat explains what happens when you feel like singing (if you’re a cat on a fence outside at night, that is).

The cat plops away with the boot inside him (and a solo oboe playing) as Tex wipes into the next scene.

Walter Clinton, Louie Schmitt, Grant Simmons and Bill Shull are the animators, with Pat McGeehan voicing the cat.

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Eva of Hooterville

Green Acres started out as an attempt to get two prime-time series to cross over so viewers would tune in both of them. It ended as a surreal tale of a rural town where the odd was normal. Both Green Acres and Petticoat Junction were apparently set in Hooterville. They were like two different towns, as if the Green Acres version had fallen into an alternate universe.

It made perfect sense, then, to plop into the proceedings a Hungarian actress who was known for marriages, sisters and not much else.

For someone whose accent was difficult to cut through, Eva Gabor was always quotable. Here are two pieces by Hal Humphrey of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, the first from August 14, 1965 (before the series started) and the other from October 2, 1968. Albert was signed for the show in April (Producer Paul Henning had wanted Gale Gordon) while Gabor was inked near the end of June and John Daly was hired in July to narrate the pilot (CBS turned down a request to have Walter Cronkite do it). Pat Buttram was added to the cast in August, with Variety reporting he was to get third billing and appear in 10 of the first 13 episodes.

Eva Gabor To Star In Corny TV Show 'Green Acres' On CBS

HOLLYWOOD — The first question popping into mind while watching Eva Gabor film a scene for a new TV series called Green Acres is, "What's a chic Hungarian like her doing in a barnyard?"
Eva's answer is not too convincing. She says that she loves to work and especially to do broad comedy.
"I did Present Laughter' with Noel Coward, and isn't that broad comedy?" Eva replies defensively.
Broad, yes, but Noel Coward never had Eva Gabor chasing a rooster while wearing a Jean Louis negligee, which is one of her ecapades in an early Green Acres episode.
In addition to being regularly involved with such corn-hall hijinks in Green Acres every Wednesday night at 9 (CBS) beginning Sept. 16, Eva also must find time to make occasional appearances in that other bucolic bash known as Petticoat Junction, a CBS series which inexplicably is about to begin a third TV season Incredible as it may seem, there is to be what someone already has gleefully tagged as a "cross-pollination" between Green Acres and Petticoat Junction. Eva and her TV husband (Eddie Albert) moves to Hooterville Valley because he has a yen to return to the land, and Hooterville Valley happens to he where Petticoat Junction is located along with Kate Bradley (Bed Benaderet), proprietor of the Shady Rest Hotel, and a gaggle of unforgettable characters.
Each week this rural version of Peyton Place with a laugh track and its interchanging characters is designed to keep the viewer hooked for a half-hour on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The producers had some difficulty getting Miss Benaderet to cross-pollinate until she received extra compensation, but that is all settled now.
Eva does not say what her contract calls for, moneywise. "It is confusing, I have so many managers and agents, but I am sure they worked out something nice."
Apparently Eva had the lords of Hooterville over somewhat of a barrel. She was not cast in the role until late June and then would not hear of doing a weekly series without Gene Hibbs, one of Hollywood's most expensive and expert makeup men, and Peggy Shannon, a hairdresser of equal stature in her field. Put them with the famous dress designer Jean Louis and his gowns and we have one of TV's most expensive one-women packages.
About the funniest thing to happen so far in this goulash Eva finds herself a part of was her first visit to the Petticoat Junction set where the mountain dialects are thicker than goat cheese.
"People say they don't understand my accent Migawd! I haven't understood a word said yet on that Petticoat show. Is that English?"
It isn't likely there will be any cross pollination of the Hungarian and Hooterville dialects, however.
"Nothing ruins my accent," affirms Eva. "I tried for years. I went to Columbia University to lose it, and it was no use."
She may be underestimating the power of our hillbilly dialect, which has been growing more widespread in this country every year. A form of it is even spoken in the White House now, and joining Eddie Albert and Eva in Green Acres is Pat Buttram who thinks "right" is spelled R-A-T like in "rat now."

Humphrey hears Gabor’s odd take on a husband-wife relationship in this column. For someone who depended on a husband for everything, she sure dumped them a lot. I think Brown was her fourth. He was gone within a few years of this story.

Eva Gabor Says U.S. Women Better Wives

HOLLYWOOD—Eva Gabor would like us to know that American women are more beautiful than European women ("American women have great figures"), and that they also make as good wives as those in Europe.
"I never bought this ides that European women make better wives. I think that must have been started by some clever European woman. American women make good mothers and surely know how to run the house," says Hungarian-born Eva who co-stars as Eddie Albert's wife in the CBS comedy series, Green Acres.
I suggested to Eva that perhaps there were more career women in the United States than in Europe, giving credence to the rumor (or canard, as Eva believes) that European women make better wives.
"Why in the world would a woman want to compete with a man? The whole idea is repulsive. I work, but I am also a woman, and if I don't have a happy home, I have nothing. My husband is my anchor. He's everything," Eva says, without taking a breath.
She has been married to Richard Brown (former stockbroker and now an executive at Filmways TV Productions which turns out Green Acres) for nine years and insists she depends on him for "everything."
"When I lose the house key, as I did the other day, I call Richard to find out what I should do," says Eva.
"You didn't have any ideas?"
"Of course, but he would know better what to do. What's the use of having a husband who doesn't know better than you do? I don't want to be independent. I still ask Richard his opinion before I buy a dress."
Eva goes on to say, too, that she offers a lot as a wife. She redecorated a home they bought in Palm Springs recently. This she did on her own, but still consulted Richard now and then. As for the money she makes from Green Acres, which is considerable, Eva refuses to discuss whether it's more than Richard makes.
"I don't even want to know about it. Yes, I make a lot of money, but Richard takes care of that entirely. If a career woman is too self-reliant, she should unlearn it a bit, and have a better marriage."
Now, the question is, has Eva's philosophy on marriage come from her European background, or from her years in the United States where she has lived a good while ("since I was a kid, but I won't tell you when that was, because then you'd know my age").
Eva considers what she has said is just common sense for any woman, no matter where she comes from.
"You have to be feminine, A woman should look like a woman, and if she wears pants, she should do it when nobody sees her," Eva adds.
This season (the fourth) had an episode of "Green Acres" calling for Eva to wear coveralls, but designed by Nolan Miller, her new couturier, and are blue satin. Apparently, these pants she doesn't count.
After taping a guest appearance in which she sang and danced on the "Phyllis Diller Show," Eva began taking singing lessons.
"I thought if I'm going to be singing, it might be useful and interesting to know what I'm doing," she says.
Filming a weekly series and being the kind of wife Eva believes in is a difficult assignment. She's a bit unhappy, too, that "Green Acres" is airing a half-hour later this season, because she's very superstitious.
"But I'm prepared to stagger along for this fourth year, because I know how difficult it is in our business to get a hit. I just hope that new time doesn't affect it. Wouldn't you think they'd leave things alone when they're successful?"

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Drybrush Sylvester

Here’s how the ink and paint department handles some dry-brush work in Kit For Cat, a 1948 cartoon from the Friz Freleng unit.

Sylvester is trying to find refuge from the cold by knocking on Elmer’s door. Elmer opens it, Sylvester bangs on his head, then realises it’s his meal ticket at the door, so he flips over and pretends to be frozen stiff.

Ken Champin, Virgil Ross, Manny Perez and Gerry Chiniquy are the animators on this cartoon, with good gags and situations from Mike Maltese and Tedd Pierce. At one point, the kitten Sylvester is trying to get rid of turns on a radio mystery show, starring Mel Blanc as Melvin and Bea Benaderet as Beatrice. Arthur Q. Bryan fudds it up. For a guy who said he hated using Elmer, Friz made some solid, funny cartoons with him.

Monday 24 May 2021

Hans Conried, Taxidermist Killer

A taxidermist with murder on his mind comes into focus as Woody Woodpecker emerges from being blacked out in Woody Dines Out. Woody glances at a sign then realises what’s about to happen.

A head shake, a shock take and then three drawings of Woody going back to his “pass out” position.

Don Williams is the credited animator but Emery Hawkins, Pat Matthews and others worked on it. Showman’s Trade Review of May 20, 1944 says “Walt Lantz has signed Hans Conreid and Jack Mather to record voices for his Cartune, ‘Woody Dines Out’,” but Mather isn’t heard in this one. The cartoon was released in May 1945.

Sunday 23 May 2021

A Writer Gets in on the Feud

It was supposed to last for the first 2½ months of 1937, but nobody wanted to let it go. That included Paramount Pictures, which put the Jack Benny/Fred Allen feud on the big screen in the feature Love Thy Neighbor three years later. And to promote it, James F. Scheer wrote this feature story in the December 1940 edition of Hollywood magazine.

Benny made for good copy for the magazine; earlier in the year, it did a pictorial on Buck Benny Rides Again, and published a few stock pictures of Jack, including one with his daughter Joan.

Scheer’s story is pure fan-rag baloney. It treats the feud as serious though, in reality, the two former vaudevillians had hung out together when Jack’s show was still based in New York. The “insults” are the product of someone’s imagination, either Scheer or maybe some Paramount publicity writers. I doubt Jack Benny would use “olfactory” in a sentence. The story ignores all of Jack’s vaudeville career prior to enlisting in the service in 1917. It is true Benny chain-smoked cigars in the ‘30s and Allen chewed on chaw. And Fred and Portland really did have a very modest apartment in New York City.

This Can’t Be Love

■ This is the saga of two residents of glass houses who have been throwing stones, fists, half-Nelsons, slurs, and, among other sundry properties, the well-known Bull at one another.
It is the saga of Fred (Two-Fist) Allen and, as Fred says, "Jack (Two-Face) Benny," anti-one-another stars of Paramount's musicomedy Love Thy Neighbor, whose other entries on the asset side include Mary Martin and that colored duo, Rochester and Theresa Harris.
The actual enmity, friendship, or whatever-it-is-ship of Benny Kubelsky, as Jack Benny was christened on the day the Waukegan, Illinois, stork airmailed him to Mom Benny, and John F. Sullivan, alias Fred Allen, cannot be packed into a few words.
Not even in a few paragraphs. Some say Buck Benny feels mildly nauseous toward Allen. Others say Fred feels the same way toward Benny. But unless you prod one with slurring barbs from the other, you are likely to find them as eloquent about one another as Geronimo.
Take a walk down Paramount's Avenue D. But walk on the wide whitewashed line in the center — that is, if you don't want to become a participant in the Allen-Benny feud, which has been raging since '36.
The right half is painted "Fred Allen's Side"; the left half, "Jack Benny's Side." Their dressing rooms face one another a hand-grenade distance across Avenue D.
A black-lettered sign on Sound Stage A warns: DANGER— FLYING QUIPS! And gals and guys, once you're in there, you're on your own.
Among those who find Benny and Allen not exactly Damon and Pythias is George McCall, radio commentator, who does not dare visit the set since he joined Captain Allen's Slur-Slingers, Company 1492 1/2, by saying, "When they put Benny's footprints in the lobby of Grauman's Chinese Theater, Fred Allen's footprints walked away."
Sources close to the scene say Captain Buck Benny's Company is "too reserved and gentlemanly to point out that neither combatant has yet dropped an oxford in Sid Grauman's wet cement."
But the Bennyites won't refuse to admit that the script of Love Thy Neighbor calls for wrestling and fistcuffing for Neighbors Fred Allen and Jack Benny, respectively. They want the best man to win, knowing it is Benny, despite the pugilistic, Cambridge, Massachusetts, name of Fred Allen — John F. Sullivan. He is, however, no relative of boxing's John L.
On the set of Love Thy Neighbor, the boys either let their barbs fly at one another in person or deliver them by word or note through third parties. "So Allen is taking boxing lessons?" Benny laughed and plopped into his canvas-backed chair. Slicked up in a black overcoat, top hat, knitted white silk scarf, mirror-shine patent leather shoes, and a New Year's Eve whoopee horn in his pocket, he flexed a bicep menacingly. "No doubt he's preparing for things to come." Allen espionage agents reported this to their chief, who cracked bitingly, "It might be a tough battle, but Jack has the advantage. I'm only two-fisted. He's two-faced!"
Answered Benny, "The only things athletic about Fred are his feet. He's so afraid of pain that I suspect he takes a local anesthetic when he gets a manicure." Face screwed into a typical Allenesque grimace, Fred shot back, "Benny has so few red corpuscles that he can't even see red. He is so anemic that when he wheel-chaired past a dozen kennels of bloodhounds at a local prize dog show, not one of them lifted a nostril with an acknowledging sniff."
That should have put Jack in the hands of the receivers, but after a five-minute conference with gag-writers Bill Morrow and Eddie Beloin, he preserved his dignity by sending only a stern note of reply to Allen:
"Despite Mr. Allen's physical culture campaign, it is doubtful whether he could go one round by himself. Strength is such an absent quality in Mr. Allen's makeup, which I hesitate to refer to as physical makeup, that if we put on the gloves together and began to spar, I would be shadow boxing inside three seconds."

■ Amid this verbal and written exchange of lefts and rights, the timorous bystander who wishes to preserve his neutrality wonders just how this Allen-Benny feud made its debut.
Well, to abbreviate it, the feud had its coming out in the New York winter season of 1936 — to be exact, the raw cold evening of December 30. Fred Allen customarily invited a handful of amateurs to participate in each week's broadcast, and on that night Stewart Canin, a ten-year-old violinist bowed his way through a tricky solo, The Bee.
"That should make Jack Benny mighty ashamed of himself," ad-libbed the ace ad-libber. "He's been trying to play that piece for forty years and hasn't succeeded yet."
It was just a quip that passed in the night — apparently.
Next Sunday Jack made a remark that "a certain reformed juggler" had done him an injustice and retorted, "When I was ten years old, I could play The Bee too."
Thus came love to Neighbors Benny and Allen, who have been swapping slams from Hollywood and New York ever since.

■ Jack was born on St. Valentine's Day — "and what a boon to the comic valentine industry," Fred dryly admits. Like most kids, Jack went to Junior and Senior High school with only a mild distaste for teachers. His distaste for working in his dad's haberdashery shop was anything but mild.
Helping customers select chapeaux for bald pates and orange neckties with barber-pole stripes to match a cerise suit went against the Benny artistic grain, which began to assert itself when Jack traded a Honus Wagner bat, a pair of clamp skates, a Hohner harmonica, and two bucks for his first fiddle.
Every exercise in the books and Rubinstein's Melody in F took an awful beating — as did neighbors who were not psychic enough to see a future in music for Jack.
Anyhow, as a high school student, he tried, to crash Waukegan's only theater with his own orchestra. He did, but his bandsmen didn't. After all, the manager could use only one ticket-taker. Later Jack established a non-stop talk record, convinced the manager he should be on the stage fiddling, and did until fire inspectors closed the theater because of old age.
Then it was vaudeville. During World War I, he played in The Great Lakes Review for sailors training at the Great Lakes Naval Station. Nobody threw him even a rusty penny. In desperation he began talking more and playing less. He passed the hat, got it filled with coins, jokingly asked for "a second helping," and got it.
On that day Buck Benny became a monologuist and began getting regular bookings. Fred Allen's name was just another item in Variety and Billboard to Jack. They hadn't actually met until six months before their feud started.
In rapid order Jack made his debut in The Hollywood Review at M-G-M, went to New York for a leading role in Earl Carroll's Vanities, and broadcast one night as guest of a columnist. Next week he was signed to a long-term radio contract. Every Sunday night listener knows the rest.

■ Fred Allen says his life really began at about half the age Walter Pitkin claims life begins.
As a young fellow who set "returned" books back in the proper stalls at the Boston Public Library for twenty cents an hour, Fred spied a tome on juggling. Eureka! He read it from frontispiece to rear cover, and when the librarian wasn't around, practiced juggling books.
He had Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, and Shelley up in the air all at once for the first time in their history when the head librarian walked into the room. Fred's animated hands froze. Shakespeare slapped the concrete floor. Shelley nose-dived. Milton ended up sprawled on Shakespeare, and Chaucer landed — kerplunk! — on the librarian's high forehead. End of act two!
An improved juggler, Fred went on the stage, copped a prize at a Boston theater one night, and was about to receive the award from the famous fighter, John L. Sullivan, master of ceremonies, when the great John L. asked him his name. Fred said it as it was written on his birth certificate — John F. Sullivan. "Sullivan?" barked John L. "That's no name for a juggler."
It wasn't. So when Fred — and a hundred others — wanted an audition for a vaudeville troupe, he changed his name to Allen, because the person in charge asked for applicants in alphabetical order.
Early in his career, he earned his reputation as the acme of ad-libbers. He dropped one of his circling ten-pins and a couple of tennis balls, and the loud m-cee asked, "Where did you learn how to start to try to juggle?"
Fred glanced out at the audience and retorted in his twangy, nasal best: "I studied a correspondence course in baggage smashing!"
Fred, whose mind is perpetual motion machinery on jokes and witticisms, hesitated in tackling radio, thinking he might not be funny unseen. It didn't take him long to learn he was wrong.
Since 1936, Allen and Benny have known each other — from a distance. Fred dislikes Hollywood. Jack likes Hollywood. Consequently, the boys have never really been together long enough to know each other well.
But what Fred started on that winter night's broadcast doesn't seem to stop.

■ When Fred and his party got off at the Union Station in Los Angeles to begin work in Love Thy Neighbor, Benny wasn't there. He was at NBC rehearsing that evening's program, but he had a committee of beauteous babes, carrying insulting signs, and a city official — a street sweeper — to greet Fred.
"Benny wouldn't dare meet me himself," rasped Allen. "He's afraid I'd pull his hair out — and he'd have to go home to get some more!"
Jack waived the remark and approached Fred the next day, extending the olive branch.
"I'm not one to bear a grudge," he explains. "We offered Allen and his party the chance to stay with us. But in his usual sour fashion he refused. Mary and I were very disappointed. We had gone to the trouble of cleaning out the whole cellar."
And, later, when Jack had returned from his Hawaiian trip, he broke into the conference of Producer-Director Mark Sandrich, Allen, and script writers, asking them to delay the picture.
"I'm in swell condition," said Jack, "but I think I should have a short rest before going to work with Allen, because I am somewhat weary mentally. I was met in Honolulu by 27,000 people, which is four fans and two Kanakas more than greeted Shirley Temple. They were lovely to me, but they all put leis around my neck. And carrying 27,000 leis — it is bad luck to take them off — sort of dulls the mind and the olfactory nerves after three weeks."
Allen, frowning his vinegar frown, disgust puckering his eyes, said dryly, "The only reason there weren't 27,000 people to greet Benny on his return here is that extras cost more in Los Angeles than they do in Honolulu — and Benny wouldn't put out that much dough!"
Before Love Thy Neighbor went into production, Producer-Director Mark Sandrich promised Fred that Jack would positively not play The Bee in the picture.
"He won't?" screamed Allen. "He can't!"
So history is becoming repetitious, and Benny feels the sting of The Bee.
And speaking of Jack, he was chatting through his teeth which were clenching the ever-present, roly-poly, brown cigar:
"You know, one of the most charming qualities is tolerance — tolerance for Allen. How many headlines have you ever read to this effect: 'Comedian Benny Tears Out Jugular Vein of Obscure Radio Performer?' None — yet!"
Allen was outside earshot. Allen espionage agents were out of sight, and the remark fell on ears but not the right ones.
The whole setup is crazy — this Love Thy Neighbor business. Benny and Allen have been slamming each other for years. And now attacks are more venomous than ever. Jack doesn't like Fred's habit of chewing tobacco. Fred doesn't like Jack's smoking so many cigars. Jack thinks Fred's boxing is done purely in the mind. Fred thinks Jack's vigorous "in the hills" hiking is something dreamed up in the minds of Benny's publicists.
Allen likes living in a two-by-nothing apartment with his wife, Portland, officiating at the range. Benny likes lavish surroundings — a dozen baths and a swimming pool. Allen is almost a Peter the Hermit.
Benny is a social-smoothy who loves company in quantity. There is one thing Jack likes about Fred — "His lovely middle name: Florence."

■ As tastes differ, so do Benny and Allen. They do not associate from lack of common interests, rather than from animosity. Let anyone outside the Benny circle toss a disparaging remark at Allen, and watch Jack blow a fuse. Let anyone disparage Benny, to Allen, and watch Allen come back with a slicing remark.
They are each other's common sadistic property, and let no man try to put in an oar. It's a case of brother abuse brother — but with a limited entry.
Neighbors Allen and Benny may dispute about who should get top billing in the picture; they may wrangle because Fred has seventeen changes of costume and Jack has but three; they may spar about which of them will cop the Oscar for 1940, but it is all good, wholesome, homecooked stuff.
In a philosophical mood, Fred often wonders whether he or Jack, whom he calls "the streamlined Joe Miller," will leave his humorist's footprints on the sands of time. He is not sure about this.
But there is one thing about which he is reasonably certain. It's the footprints in the lobby of Grauman's Chinese Theater, and he says, "If Sid Grauman ever stoops to inviting Jack Benny to put his footprints in the lobby of the theater, I'll keep my feet at home!"

Saturday 22 May 2021

Terry Lind

When the 1940s rolled around and credits loosened up on theatrical cartoons, named appeared briefly, and then vanished.

One is Terry Lind, a background painter with the Walter Lantz studio. Lind started there in September 1944, with a screen credit for the first time on The Loose Nut, released on December 17, 1945. Her name appears on most of the studio’s cartoons released in 1946 and then she disappears. Yes, Terry Lind is not a “he.”

She also turned up at Warner Bros. but with cartoons made so far in advance, but it’s tough to say when she actually worked there. And with credits wiped off Merrie Melodies of the day and replaced with a Blue Ribbon title, it’s unknown how many cartoons she worked on. Surviving screen credits show she painted the backgrounds for Rhapsody Rabbit, released November 9, 1946, and the Oscar-winning Tweetie Pie, released May 3, 1947. Author Joe Adamson’s research found Lind painted the backgrounds for the former in April 1946. Her name appears on the original credits Friz Freleng’s OF Thee I Sting, released August 17, 1946 (thanks to Devon Baxter, who copied the credit portion of the reel).

Some more digging found a maddening reference to Lind in the December 20, 1944 edition of “Top Cel,” the newsletter of the New York local of the Screen Cartoonists Guild. It simply says “Terry Lind back at work after illness.” But where? Not all the news involved East Coast studios (eg. the same issue announced Bernadette and Sidnet Pillet were now working for Lantz).

It turns out Lind was employed by the Fleischers in Miami. The Pittsburgh Press published this story in 1939.

Noted Paintings Useless When Film Is Done

HOLLYWOOD, Nov. 27 – More than 100 paintings by some of the foremost artists of the country today became mere bits of paper, in so far as the Fleisher Studios were concerned.
The paintings are backgrounds for scenes in “Gulliver’s Travels.” They are the equivalent of sets in non-cartoon movies.
The backgrounds are finished pieces of work drawn with such minute detail that no flaw can be detected when the scene is amplified 100 times by projecting it on a movie screen. All of them are water colors.
However, once the characters in “Gulliver’s Travels” have been superimposed on paintings and photographed, the paintings have no further value to the studio. The paintings are the work of such artists as Louis Jambor, Erich Schenck, Robert Connavale, Shane Miller, Robert Little, Henry Farnham, Helen Freeman, Hemia Calpini, Robert Owen, Terry Lind, Louis Sylvester, Harry Wylie and Starke Davis.

Fortunately, the studio didn’t junk them. Not right away. On January 7, 1940, the News revealed a showing of the artwork by the background department at the studios of Associated Artists in the Leamington Hotel. There were oils by Robert Little, oils and drawings by Shane Miller and Robert Connavale, and water colours and etchings by Earl Klein, Ralph Wolfe and Lind, among others.

So who was Terry Lind? Fortunately, the Miami Herald reported on some of her background in Doris Reno’s column published August 24, 1941.

A TALENTED and attractive young lady out at the Fleischer Studios can either remember her childhood with extraordinary detail or else she knows children who let her in on secrets—or else, finally, she's still in possession of a child's heart—for those adorable drawings of child attitudes and moods she has over at Washington Art Galleries (in the Washington Storage Company building, Miami Beach) simply insist ou the truth of one of the above statements.
Terry Lind's child water-colors — for children as well as about them—show children in straight short colored frocks in varying attitudes skipping; hesitating, advancing, with flowers growing out of their hair with enchanted bands and feet that grasp at all fairy things in a child’s world. They are rhythmic, well-designed and organized, necessarily modern but one thing is important to repeat—they are not like so many of the modern books labeled "children's books" designed in make their appeal to parents while purporting to be made for the child alone. Terry Lind's child fantasies express childhood to parents and elders but they are for children and children like them.
Terry, one of the background artists out at Fleischer's, was born in Cleveland, studied at the School of Art there and at John Huntington Polytechnic school. Later, in New York, she was assistant medical artist at the College for Physicians and Surgeons and drew literally books full of diseases and psychopathic charts. After that she designed silks for a New York textile studio before removing to Miami three years ago for the express purpose or being with Fleischer's. Terry has more sophisticated water-colors and etchings at the Washington Galleries, too—Balinese dancers, sit sorts of strange Oriental studies. But I’ll take the child things, thank you.

The Herald’s Reno checked in with her again on August 31, 1947, stating Lind “has just founded in Hollywood her own studio for doing color backgrounds for technicolor pictures. After leaving Miami she worked for Walt Disney on animation then did background work for the "woodpecker" cartoons.” She last appears in the 1941 Miami directory. The 1944, 1946 and 1948 California Voters Lists have a Miss Theresa A. Lind, artist, at 12329 Huston Avenue in Los Angeles. That’s where our trail goes cold. I can find no birth or death record even resembling part of her name that could be her.

Did she have a different name at birth? Did she have two legal names? The answers are probably out there somewhere.

My thanks to Devon Baxter for his help in photo-clipping and trying to help unravel the mystery.