Thursday 31 March 2022

They're Still Hungry

A cat is still hungry after he and Woody Woodpecker eat a full-grown moose. “Yeah? So am I,” says Woody. (Note the wiggling fingers in the air).

Woody and the cat need only four drawings to get into position. The dry-brush drawing is held for two frames.

And then the fight scene that fades out to end the cartoon. It’s a cycle of four drawings, one per frame. They’re eventually covered in brush swirls to indicate speed.

Pantry Panic (formerly titled What’s Cookin’) gives an “artists” credit to Alex Lovy and Les Kline, with Bugs Hardaway and Lowell Elliot producing the story. Danny Webb is Woody, the cat and the moose. The cartoon was released November 24, 1941.

Wednesday 30 March 2022

Before Lucy

They kicked Vivian Vance out of town. And that was a good thing.

It happened after August 16, 1932. She was performing with the Albuquerque Little Theatre for nothing, and some people got together with the idea that she should be on Broadway. So a special performance was held that day and every cent from the box office was handed to her to pay for a trip to New York.

The Daily News related this in its September 15th edition, adding Vance hadn’t found work yet. Within a month, she had signed for a chorus part in Music in the Air at the Casino Theatre. She sang in cabarets and eventually made it to Broadway in a show starring Ed Wynn.

Newspapers across the U.S. picked up syndicated Broadway columns. It seems rather odd as someone reading, say, in Kansas, would likely never see a show on the Great White Way. Nonetheless, here’s a syndicated column about Vance that appeared around December 9, 1937.

Albuquerque Sent Her To New York; Now Vivian Vance's Name Is In Lights
As Singing Girl—Chance Came She Was Hired

NEW YORK, Dec. 9.—If you go to see "Hooray for What!" take an especially long look at the blonde with the accent who plays the part of the international spy.
There, in the elongated person of Vivian Vance, you will see a dream walking—and singing. She's the dream of the sun-baked Albuquerque, N. M., and the fact that her name is up in lights on Broadway is the most exciting news out there since the murder of that snake-in-the-grass who was fooling around with the rich rancher's young wife. Four years ago the town opened up the old opery house and turned out for the event of the season—the benefit performance to raise money to send Vivian Jones to Broadway.
Off for Broadway
The play was "The Trial of Mary Dugan," presented by the Albuquerque Little Theater, with Vi playing Mary. It was such a success that before the cashier added up the receipts from the gala performance Vivian was on the train, bound for Broadway and stardom.
She reached Broadway on schedule, but then there were several detours. In private life, Vivian Jones became Mrs. George Kock, of Jackson Heights, wife of a violin player in a dance band.
Professionally, she became Vivian Vance, who sang in a couple of choruses, moaned into the mikes of some of the swankier east side night spots, and understudied Ethel Merman in "Anything Goes" and "Red Hot and Blue."
Name in the Lights
Miss Vance was to have been one of the singing girls in "Hooray for What!" but on the second night of the Boston tryout Kay Thompson stepped out—and presto, there was Vivian Vance with her name in lights.
Those wise to Broadway's ways will tell you that when a girl gets her name in lights it does things to her. and that a few years will find Miss Vance with a Pekingese, an English accent and temperament.
But today, positively giggling with excitement, she talked about herself in an accent that was strictly Alf Landon. She says she guesses she got to talking that way when she lived in Independence, Kan., before the family moved to Albuquerque. She was cheer leader of I. H. S., she said.
"Gee, I guess I got to be glamorous," she said, shaking out her blond hair. "My hair was really this color until I was 16, then it started getting ash blond—you know, just like a mouse."
Likes Plain Food
And while the subject of glamour was up for discussion. Miss Vance added that her favorite meal is one comprising mashed potatoes and gravy, meat, pie and cawfee.
"I'm a good cook, too," she says, "but that's not very glamorous. Say, can I make fried chicken and beaten biscuits and gravy. Boy!
"My car's glamorous, though. It’s cream-colored, a convertible. Boy, I've been crazy about cars ever since I was 11 and that darned old horse threw me. My hip still hurts sometimes.”
The other actors in the company say "Viv's a trouper," which is higher praise than colossal or terrific. They swear she's going places, and for that reason it might be interesting to set down a few facts about her as she appears, after her first night of Broadway success, in case she goes upstage on Albuquerque.
Not a Drinker
She chews gum and wears her hair done up like an Apache squaw at rehearsals. She doesn't like to drink. If she ever approaches Louella Gear as a singer she'll be satisfied.
Her favorite colors are red and blue, and she kids herself about the hump in her nose. She says "Volp" when she takes her cue in a song and dance number, and doesn't argue with the director about anything, or try to tell her partners what to do.
She doesn't go in for massages, and doesn’t have any trouble nowadays keeping her weight at 120—although she admits weighing 154 when she left Albuquerque. She calls her mother "mamma" most of the time, and her father “papa.”
She has no use whatever for “fancy” cooking and thinks the people she works with are just the grandest ever. Albuquerque historians of the future, please note.

The Associated Press put out a squib on Vance’s performance as well.

Varied Reaction
NEW YORK, Dec. 2 (AP) — New York reviewers were generally favorable today although some critics were not overly impressed in their reception of Miss Vivian Vance, Albuquerque, N. M. singer, in her performance in Ed Wynne’s [sic] musical comedy, "Hooray For What."
Miss Vance, said the World Telegram, "has beauty and did her big number, 'Night Of the Embassy Ball,' with impressive naughtiness.
The Herald-Tribune writer found Miss Vance "a blues singer of the Ethel Merman school, handsome and lively as a beautiful international spy.”
Not so enthusiastic was the New York Sun, which said: "June Clyde and Vivian Vance ornament the scenes, if neither of them gives their songs their due.”
"June Clyde and Vivian Vance sing as well as they can, which is nothing remarkable,” was the opinion of the Times.
Jack Whiting, member of the "Hurray For What" cast, was unable to appear last night because of illness.

And the New York Daily News said “Vivian Vance is the torch lady, hailing, I suspect, from the night club circuits. Her voice is a night club voice, at any rate. You get used to it after awhile.”

Despite the write-ups, real fame didn’t come for Vivian Vance just yet. She had to wait 14 more years when she met up with a redhead and a Cuban bandleader on the small screen.

Tuesday 29 March 2022

Look of the Cook

A dough-covered cat lands inside the pants of a cook in Ub Iwerks’ Reducing Crème. That gives whoever animated this scene a chance to hold some poses.

Berny Wolf and Grim Natwick are the credited animators in the 1933 Willie Whopper short. Art Turkisher is responsible for the score.

Monday 28 March 2022

Flea Sees Flea

Homer Flea, who lives on the back of a hobo hound, wakes up and sees something.

No, he’s not interested in a dog’s butt. It’s what’s on the butt.

Yes, it’s a girl flea. Homer reacts by jumping out of his clothes and little hearts pop up, just like they did for the lovelorn skunk in Little ‘Tinker. In fact, that was the next cartoon Avery worked on after beginning this one (interestingly, neither one of those two shorts had story credits).

Walt Clinton, Bob Bentley and Gil Turner received the animation credits in What Price Fleadom, with Johnny Johnsen providing the backgrounds. Pinto Colvig voices the hobo dog.

Sunday 27 March 2022

An Interview?

There are several kinds of celebrity interviews. There’s the kind where they bare their souls and you get something pretty honest. Then there are the fan magazine fluff interviews where the writer will add a helping of fiction if it makes the story read better. And then there are joke interviews where nothing is real and it can’t be taken seriously.

Jack Benny did all three kinds. An example of the last kind is below, taken from Microphone, a newspaper aimed at fans, from November 23, 1934. It’s pretty evident the conversation below never happened. Mary’s character at the outset was somewhat of a ditz. You can see that here. Jack and Mary were on a comedy show so the newspaper did a comedy interview. The photo accompanied the article.

The Bennys At Home, Or Jack And Mary On Speaking Terms
Jack Bares All In An Interview
They Have Tiffs Like Everyone

The scene is the living room of the Mr. and Mrs. (MARY LIVINGSTONE) JACK BENNY apartment in New York City.
It is impossible to give the time or the day because Mr. and Mrs. BENNY are never at home. Or practically never, what with broadcasting, personal appearances, theatrical work and earning a living.
Nevertheless, through the use of tiny mirrors, the BENNYS are in and are observed seated as follows: (Left to write) MARY LIVINGSTONE (she is Mrs. JACK BENNY) and JACK BENNY, who is the husband of MARY LIVINGSTONE. No one else is present except dust on the piano.
A Crisis in the Family
It is apparent (no puns about fatherhood) that there is a crisis in the lives of the BENNYS. JACK is biting his nails and clipping his words. MARY has her words all neatly clipped. A look of deep concern, even care, yes, even anxiety is noted on the faces of both.
JACK is poring over a folder. MARY is pouring a roast beef sandwich. A folder has just arrived by dog train from the National Broadcasting Company. Peeking over JACK'S shoulder (excuse it, please) we find it is a questionnaire sent to JACK to fill out for publicity purposes.
One glance, well perhaps two, and JACK has found that to answer the questions he "must bare all." He can hardly bear it. So can MARY.
There are millions of questions, or so it seems. But hush, the microphone is open. They are speaking—and to each other.
JACK—But MARY, it asks my professional name and my real name. What does that mean?
MARY—Oh, just say you’re my husband and let it go.
JACK—Oh, all right (Writes) "Mr. MARY LIVINGSTONE."
MARY—This next question about where you live and your telephone number. Skip it.
JACK—But MARY . . .
MARY—I said, skip it.
JACK—Have we got a press agent?
JACK—Now it asks, "What do you do?"
MARY—Well, we have fun.
JACK—But it wants to know what we do on the radio.
They "Have Fun"
MARY—Oh! Well, well, tell 'em we have fun. It IS fun, isn't it?
JACK—For you, yes. But think of all the hard work I do. All you do is act natural.
MARY—Is that so? Just because you write dumb lines in for me, I suppose you think I'm that way. I was smart enough to marry you, wasn't I? And besides—
JACK—Jump it. What program are we on now?
MARY—Some General; but I don't remember whether its Tires or Foods.
JACK—Look it up in the papers.
MARY—Ohh, look! It says how tall are you. Well, put down that you have to bend over a little when you kiss me and that you weigh too much to sit on my lap but not enough to ruin your figure and that you've got the nicest complexion, all tanned and everything, and that your hair is fascinatingly black and grey.
JACK—This was a questionnaire, not a romantic novel . . .
MARY—Ain't I telling the truth?
JACK—I know, but let's get on with this. What is my marital status?
MARY—Oh, we have our little tiff the same as other folks.
JACK—No, MARY. You don't get it—my marital status!
MARY—Well, I said you were about five feet and nine inches.
JACK—All right, all right. I'm married. That's the answer.
MARY—That's what I've been telling everybody.
JACK—(Reads) "Where and when were you born?"
MARY—I wasn't there at the time so you'll have to answer it by yourself. And probably get it wrong.
The Aging Mr. Benny
JACK—All right. Chicago, on—but perhaps I shouldn't tell my age.
MARY—Oh, getting temperamental?
JACK—No, just cautious.
MARY—All right, all right. (Reads) "First professional engagement? Any special circumstances? Anecdotes? Humorous incidents ?" How would you answer that one? Hey Toots?
JACK—Excuse me, Miss LIVINGSTONE, this is serious.
MARY—Wrong again. The serious was in Detroit and St. Louis.
JACK—Delete it. Anyway I left school to take a job in vaudeville in a theatre in Waukegan, Ill. The theatre closed the following week.
MARY—Why knock yourself?
JACK—I had nothing to do with it.
MARY—You can believe that—if you care to.
JACK—But I haven't got any anecdotes.
MARY—Well, if you have, save 'em for the program. It needs them.
Using the "Old Ones"
MARY—I'm sorry, JACK. You ARE using all those old ones, aren't you?
MARY—Skip it!
JACK—That settles it. I won't do anything more. You're even stealing my lines in private life.
MARY—Anyway, people don't want to know about you. Just wait until they send me a questionnaire. I can ask as many questions as anybody.
JACK—But you don't ask questions in a questionnaire, you answer them.
MARY—Well, they shouldn't have sent you one, then. Remember the other night when I asked you why you kept me waiting . . .
JACK—Skip it, twice.

Saturday 26 March 2022

Sing Like Stalling

People used to sing in movie theatres.

Why? Maybe it was an outgrowth of “community sings” in the earliest part of the 20th Century. Whatever the reason, animation fans will recall the clever and creative Song Cartoons with the bouncing ball put out by the Fleischer studio. They went back to the silent days, debuting in 1924, though some were made with the DeForest Phono-film system before sound became popular.

However there was an earlier attempt to get people to sing along with individual words on the screen. And a patent application for the process was filed from a logical but surprise source—Carl Stalling.

Before being immortalised in Warner Bros. cartoon credits, before scoring the first Disney sound cartoons, Stalling had been an organist at a number of theatres in Kansas City, Missouri. He developed a system entitled “Method of Recording and Depicting Motion Pictures” in 1923.

This is how his patent application put the purpose of his invention:

The object of the invention is to provide a method for making moving picture films bearing individual words of a song to be projected upon a screen, one at a time, and to appear thereon synchronously with the duration of the musical tone or note of the Song. A further object of the invention is to provide a method for making moving picture films bearing individual words to be projected upon a screen, one at a time, and to appear thereon synchronously with the musical tone or note and the volume of expression of the same, by means of differentiating degrees of light.

In other words, instead of one slide with all the lyrics, or a chorus, the words appeared individually in time with the music. It seems a little silly, to be honest. By the time someone reacts to the word appearing, the score may be on to the next word. Or if it’s an eighth-note long, it appears on the screen far too briefly.

However, Stalling was granted a 27-year patent on April 8, 1924. Whether the process was ever tried at one of his theatres, I don’t know.

If you’d like to read the full document, it can be found here.

Friday 25 March 2022

Not Enough Overlays

We’ve talked before about how directors at Warner Bros. used overlay cels with scenery placed over top of the animation and panned at a different rate than the background painting to give a sense of three dimensions. Tex Avery, in particular, liked to open his cartoon with one of those kinds of setting pans.

Frank Tashlin decides to go nuts with overlays in Little Pancho Vanilla, released October 8, 1938. Here, you see three senoritas carrying fruit and singing, while going behind some overlays.

They make a 180-degree turn from behind a rock. Suddenly, there’s a whole new set of overlays for them to walk behind.

1930s Warners cartoons have the weirdest camera movement. At the start of this scene, Tashlin has the camera truck in and down. You can see the camera is not steady. Then the camera starts panning to the left and pulling back. At the end of the scene, the camera stops, then it trucks down and in a bit to get a shot of the senoritas’ feet, then moves up.

You know, I wish I could get into Tashlin’s cartoons but, for the most part, I can’t. They’re populated (at least in the ‘30s) with huge-eyed characters. This one is full of unlikable characters. Pancho mumbles most of the time. The girls ridicule him. The mama wants to repress her son to be a child forever. The bull has little personality. Nothing really funny happens in Tedd Pierce’s story.

Bob McKimson is the credited animator. I couldn’t tell you who else was in the unit at the time. This is the second-last cartoon of Tashlin’s before he left for Disney. Bob Bentley and Joe D'Igalo were in his unit but they were soon animating in Miami for Max and Dave Fleischer. McKimson became “chief animator” at the Schlesinger studio in August 1939. Tashlin moved from Disney to Columbia back to Warners before finally reaching his goal of going into live action.

Thursday 24 March 2022

Becoming Mr. Mouse

The best part of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse (1947) are the transformation scenes of Jerry after he drinks the potion Tom has concocted.

Al Grandmain was MGM’s effects animator and he gets screen credit for his work.

The little ball becomes a musclebound mouse.

Ken Muse, Ed Barge and Mike Lah are given animation credits; my wild guess is this is Lah’s Tom in this scene.

Scott Bradley comes up with some great dramatic horror music, and there’s excellent using of colour as Tom mixes his concoction.