Friday 31 March 2023

A Giant Mouse?!

Mr. Terry! Mr. Terry! I have another great idea for a cartoon.
What’s that, Tommy?
There’s the house cat, you see, and this circus animal comes into his home, and he mistakes it for a giant mouse. And the giant mouse keeps beating him up!
Tommy, that sounds like...
Oh, no, Mr. Terry. The animal isn’t a kangaroo. It’s an elephant.
Well, that’s good. As I always say, “Never steal more than you can carry.”

Okay, the dialogue likely didn’t happen. But it is a fact that Bob McKimson’s giant mouse appeared in Hop, Look and Listen (1948), Hippety Hopper (1949) and Pop 'Im, Pop (1950) on theatre screens before Manny Davis’ The Elephant Mouse (1951), written by Tom Morrison for Terrytoons.

One thing McKimson did not have was Jim Tyer. Now, I’m not any kind of expert at identifying animators, but I feel safe in assuming the animation below is by Tyer. He doesn’t do a simple head turn on the cat. Look at the way the head sweeps.


Love the Terry Brake Squeal? It’s in this cartoon. Love the imitation Ed Wynn voice that Gandy Goose had? It’s in this cartoon? Like the routine where alley cats, who don’t believe there’s a giant mouse, shove their buddy cat back into the house? That’s here, too. (In fairness, the brake squeal is from a production record. Bob and Ray used it on radio, too).

Evidently, Paul Terry was looking for new stars. He tried Dingbat. Dingbat lasted five cartoons (see note in comment section). This was the second cartoon starring Half Pint (who gets his own title card). It was the last one.

Thursday 30 March 2023

The Great Lov-aire

Charles Boyer’s Oscar-nominated performance as the womanising Pepe Le Moko in Algiers (1938) inspired a lot of Boyer impressions (almost always including the word “Casbah”), not to mention the basis of Pepe Le Pew at Warner Bros., though Mel Blanc didn’t impersonate Boyer.

However, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera employed Boyer’s voice (by Jerry Mann, I suspect) in Solid Serenade (1946), a cartoon best known for Tom singing “Is You Is, Or Is You Ain’t, My Baby.”

In this scene animated by Mike Lah (who drew Tom with more angles and little teeth), the cat mistakes Killer the dog for his girl-friend cat, emoting a la Boyer “You set my soul on fire.” Of course, his eyes are closed, so he doesn’t know it’s the dog.

Scott Bradley plays “That Old Feeling” in the background.

Toodles (or whatever name she is here) strolls over. Tom opens his eyes and realises something is wrong. The reactions are all in pantomime.

Cut to a wider shot as Tom extricates himself from the scene.

Besides Lah, Ed Barge and Ken Muse are credited animators, though Ray Patterson was responsible for the opening and Pete Burness turned out footage as well.

Note: This post was written before Keith Scott's book on cartoon voice actors came out. Jerry Mann is pretending to be Boyer in a soundtrack re-used from The Zoot Cat (1944).

Wednesday 29 March 2023

From Van Dyke to Hartman to Cosmic Cow

A number of actresses popped up somewhat regularly on television in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Some of them got starring or featured roles on comedy shows.

One was Nancy Dussault.

She started out as a cast member in the 1955 version of the Waa-Mu show at Northwestern University near Chicago and made her way to Broadway, where she was nominated for two Tonys in the 1960s.

Anyone wanting fame and fortune back then would likely find it on television rather than the Great White Way, so Dussault began appearing on Tonight, To Tell the Truth, The Bell Telephone Hour and The Garry Moore Show, to name a few.

But once she got some regular employment, there were some hiccups. First, she was hired to play agent Charlie Brill’s wife on The New Dick Van Dyke Show in 1971. She lasted two seasons. But the show kept going. She was dumped in a re-write of the premise of the show which left no room for Brill and, therefore, no room for Dussault. As columnists observed, there was no cast chemistry. One quoted Fanny Flagg as saying she got nothing to do on the show.

This is part of a story from the Berkshore Eagle of July 12, 1973.

The Lively World
by Milton R. Bass
DO YOU REMEMBER kooky Carol Davis of "The New Dick Van Dyke Show"? I ask you this because the Van Dyke ratings this past year were low enough to indicate that not too many people watched it on a regular basis. Well, the role of Carol Davis, described by the star of the show as “a woman so totally honest that she sometimes appeared dumb," was played by Nancy Dussault, who is currently thrilling audiences with her beautiful singing in "The Gershwin Years" at the Berkshire Theatre Festival.
Miss Dussault has been a singer since she enrolled at Northwestern University at the age of 16 and after receiving her bachelor's degree in music, she made her mark both on and off Broadway in "Sound of Music." "Bajour," "Carousel" and "Whispers in the Wind."
It was while she was acting in Pinero's "Trelawney of the Wells" that Carl Reiner caught her performance and decided that she must be part of the Van Dyke television show, which he was then putting together Miss Dussault first was tested for the role of Van Dyke's wife, which was eventually given to Hope Lange, but then they decided she would be perfect as "the nitwit," and she was stuck in the desert for two years.
Stuck is the exact word for the situation because in order to get Van Dyke out of retirement, CBS had to promise to film the show near his home in Cave Creek. Ariz. There was a studio available in nearby Carefree, Ariz., and most of the cast commuted from Phoenix, the closest place with real people.
Miss Dussault makes a face when you ask her what she did during nonworking hours. "I learned to shoot pool." she begins, and then she’s unable to come up with any other excitement. She and Fannie Flagg chummed aground together, and attended rodeos, saloon-hopped, took tennis lessons and swam in pools, but outside of the snakes and scorpions, there weren't too many interesting characters. Van Dyke is a terribly quiet, shy man who keeps to himself pretty much so there was no mad center of activity from which the cast and crew could spin off. The studio did furnish them with cars, but they were so low-powered that they had to "turn off the lights, the radio and the air conditioner" if they wanted to pass somebody. Consequently, there were no long trips of exploration. If you break down in the desert you don't want to have to walk on a road that is also a thoroughfare for rattlesnakes and scorpions.
The disorientation of the cast was reflected in the show itself, which never caught fire, and this season, CBS dropped the whole cast except for Van Dyke and Lang and moved production to Los Angeles. Word from out there indicates that this has not solved the problems of the series, and it is doubtful if it will continue much beyond its first cycle this fall.
Meanwhile, Miss Dussault made a pilot for CBS, “The Nancy Dussault Show," which was created by Carl Reiner from Miss Dussault's own experience of being married to a non show-biz person and the resulting problems. No sponsor has indicated hot interest, but CBS is keeping Miss Dussault under contract with thoughts of maybe reshooting a pilot for possible use as a midseason replacement.

The self-titled show was blown off at the same time as two other failed pilots in a movie-of-the-week time slot. It featured Lawrence Pressman, Karen Morrow, Rip Taylor and John Byner. One of the other shows was pilot for Ted Bessell.

Dussault’s next television experience was even worse. Dussault could sing, act and dance. She wasn’t an interviewer, but that’s what she was hired to do. Then she was un-hired.

Perhaps her best-known role followed. A Britcom was re-tooled into a vehicle for Ted Knight called Too Close For Comfort. He played a cartoonist who created Cosmic Cow (which showed up as a puppet; Knight had been a ventriloquist in his early TV days). It lasted three years on ABC then another three in first-run syndication. The final season was re-jigged but, unlike Van Dyke, Dussault survived the storyline overhaul.

Here’s a story from the Pittsburgh Press of March 7, 1982. To be honest, she doesn’t sound too enthusiastic about the sitcom.

Comfort’s Nice, But She’d Rather Sing
By Jerry Krupnick
NOBODY ever told Nancy Dussault why ABC refused to renew her contract as David Hartman's original co-host on "Good Morning America."
"I kept asking for an explanation, asking for help, but nobody would give me a hint," recalls Miss Dussault, who now is having greater success on the ABC situation comedy "Too Close for Comfort."
"I still don't know if I was one of David Hartman's victims or one of his friends, although I am almost sure I am the latter."
Hartman, host of "Good Morning America" since it began, has a martinet reputation. The corridors of ABC are said to be strewn with the bodies of on-and off-camera people who somehow crossed him, though Hartman comes across on the tube as the original Mr. Nice Guy.
Now that is all behind Nancy Dussault, who has become—without planning it that way—a heroine of American 40-plus womanhood.
In "Too Close for Comfort," which is completing its second season and rates very highly in the ABC lineup, she and Ted Knight play a middle-aged couple who live in the top half of a San Francisco duplex with their two nubile daughters in the apartment below.
As the wife and mother, Miss Dussault is an oasis of sanity in this desert of wiggles and worries. She's sensible, bright—and pregnant. At the age of 42, she's about to have a baby, much to the alternate delight and distress of her husband and daughters.
Miss Dussault's character is reasonable and cheerful in a situation that certainly was unplanned but could work out for the best.
"Nobody prepared me for the storyline," the actress says. "They just sprung it on me one day. 'How'd you like to be pregnant this season?' And that wasn't even a proposition.
"But it works and I like it. It's funny, but even when I remove those pillows and go out, people still believe I'm pregnant. They figure that's the real reason for the plot."
"Too Close for Comfort" has shot its last show of the season, with those pillows getting a lot of work. But it all ends as a cliff-hanger, we have to wait until next season for the birth.
This sets up Knight for many gags built around his fear of having another girl in the family, considering the suffering he goes through each week with the two on the first floor.
"I know the major criticism of the show has been its 'jiggly' aspects," Miss Dussault says. "And it has bothered me, along with bothering Ted. Hopefully, we have had some input in changing the direction a little bit. Our story is not simply, 'See how they jiggle.' Basically, we're concerned with parental reactions to what has become a much more permissive age.
"The only difficulty is that, as with all half-hour situation comedies, everything must be done by telegram. You never get a chance in that short time for a decent conversation. You're either setting up a gag or pushing the story along. So it's difficult to keep it completely real and honest. It's much easier to do the jiggling.
"Still, we try."
Though she's happy to be in a successful TV sitcom, Miss Dussault says her heart still belongs to Broadway musical theater.
That's where it all began for her, as the ingenue lead with Phil Silvers and Nancy Walker in "Do Re Mi." She was an instant hit, winning the coveted Theater World Award and being nominated for a Tony as best featured player in a musical.
"Suddenly," she recalls, "I was this year's hot ingenue. I made the rounds of all the parties. It was terrific. I was in demand."
She stepped into the Mary Martin role for the final year on Broadway of "The Sound of Music." She was cast opposite Chita Rivera in a flawed but still memorable musical called "Bajour." She was a regular on the TV panel show circuit, on Ed Sullivan, with Garry Moore.
So why is she in "Too Close for Comfort"?
"Hah," she says, "my agent told me that right now I had better work in a comedy series or not work at all. This is a business of, 'How quickly they forget.' Now, with the constant weekly exposure, I'm able to do other things. "And I think I had better get back into musicals before it's too late. I still sing a lot, but nobody has asked me for Broadway lately and there just don't seem to be too many parts I would be right for."
If one did come along, would she shift career gears again?
"Yeahhh," Nancy Dussault says dreamily, not leaving much doubt.

Dussault’s career didn’t end with the sitcom, though her profile may have been a little lower. She appeared on stage (her “I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road” was parodied by SCTV as “I’m Taking My Own Head, Screwing It on Right, and No Man’s Gonna Tell Me That It Ain’t”), in a telethon for several years, recorded some CDs and, in her ‘70s, became a cabaret actress. She was also coaxed into joining David Hartman on camera for a 40th anniversary show of Good Morning, America. Methinks the behind-the-scenes antics of GMA might have made a more entertaining series than anything else on the tube featuring Dussault. With or without Cosmic Cow.

Tuesday 28 March 2023

I Can't Stand Me

Dog/trees. “Well, I’ve been sick.” “I don’t care what you say, I’m (fill in blank).” Man-on-man greeting. All of them Tex Avery gag favourites, and all found in Wacky Wild Life (1940).

Another gag involves Cartoon Rule 514: animated skunks always smell. Tex and gagman Dave Monahan pull a variation on this one that I quite like. A skunk strolls onto the screen. Narrator Bob Bruce helpfully informs us: “Animals as well as humans have learned to avoid this little fellow—the skunk.”

The camera pans right for the punch-line.

Carl Stalling toodles around with a flute and woodwinds theme of his own for this scene. There’s familiar public domain music here and there, along with Stalling favourite “Cheyenne.” The short opens with J.S. Zamecnik’s “Indian Dawn.”

Virgil Ross gets the animation credit. Chuck McKimson, Rod Scribner and Sid Sutherland have footage in this one, too, along with some effects animation at the start (by Ace Gamer?). Avery finds a place to pan over a Johnny Johnsen background with an overlay. The cartoon was reissued in 1953.

Monday 27 March 2023

The Background Balloons of Balloon Land

One of the most creative cartoons that came out of the Ub Iwerks studio was Balloon Land (1935) where the balloon characters gang up on the evil Pincushion Man, who threatens to annihilate them all with his pins.

It’s unfortunate the story men, animators and background artist are never identified. Besides Iwerks, the only credit goes to Carl Stalling for the musical score, as I suspect he composed some songs for this one (commercial recordings were also used for mood music).

The designs are great in this cartoon. We get a tree balloon with an owl face.

And an angry balloon tree.

Those two trees are animated. Then there are balloon trees in the background with faces on them. The last two are part of one background painting that appears in several scenes.

Here are some blooming balloon bushes in the background.

A glance through several trade papers show favourable reviews for Balloon Land, mainly based on its novelty. The Motion Picture Herald of the period gave a release date of September 30, 1935 and it appears the Hays Office gave it a seal of approval before October 26th. The Film Daily reviewed it on October 23rd but I have not found it in theatre ads before December.

Sunday 26 March 2023

A McNulty in the Life of Dennis Day

Jack Benny’s radio show in the 1930s was incredibly popular, even without the elements that people today consider an essential part of it.

Benny hit the air in May 1932. Don Wilson didn’t show up until 1934 after Jack went through a series of announcers. Four seasons went by before Phil Harris was added to the cast as the orchestra leader. And it wasn’t until October seven years later that Eugene Patrick McNulty became the show’s vocalist under the name Dennis Day. Aside from a period during the war, Day stuck with Benny until the radio show ended in 1955, though he appeared less and less due to personal appearances.

In time, Day proved to be versatile. The huge boost Benny gave his career turned him into star material. In July 1946, he went to New York to sign a deal to star in A Day in the Life of Dennis Day on NBC for Colgate, which also inked Benny’s utility man, Mel Blanc, to his own programme. Day was a success (Blanc was not) and made the jump to television (unfortunately for him, he was opposite I Love Lucy).

While in New York, he chatted to the press. Here are a couple of feature stories, explaining the creation and care of Dennis Day. And while the INS wire story doesn’t say it, the “prima donna” singer it is referring to was the man Day replaced on the Benny show, Kenny Baker. When Fred Allen’s Texaco Star Theatre was cut from an hour to a half-hour, Baker was booted.

Dennis Day's New Program Set For Fall
Bashful Boy Has Come Long Way In Radio Since 1939
International News Service Staff Writer
NEW YORK, July 20—On an autumn night in 1939, with more than 30 million tuned in, a shy baby-faced college boy shivered up to a mike. It was the chance of a lifetime and the very green Dennis Day was scared. Jack Benny had him on two weeks option. That meant make good or else.
“Say 'Hello,' Dennis”
Benny began to put him at ease, or tried to. He had Dennis’ mother written into the script. She fussed with his tie and made over him. Then Jack said:
“This is the mike, Dennis. Say hello to the mike.”
The young singer said hello in a high childish voice four tones above his normal speaking level. It established him as a character. Then he sang and that made him a singer.
Now at 29, the young bachelor is scared again, despite his years with Benny and a recent triumphant concert tour with symphony orchestras. He is about to achieve what Radio City reverently calls stardom. In October, he begins his own NBC program, a light comedy story called a “Day in the Life of Dennis Day,” in which he will act and sing two or three songs. Dennis will also continue with the Benny show Sunday nights.
And Still Scared
“I’m just as scared as I was in 1939,” he said. “You know, you get used to being a stooge. This one I'll have to carry myself.”
With these shakes and his own native humility, which is almost as that displayed on the air, Day is not likely to make the mistake another young singer we know of made several years ago.
He, too, had been built up by a comedian and then set up his own shop. The difference was that this fellow became a prima donna. He didn’t like the writing for his spots. He complained continually to the sponsor, an oil man, who was in no mood for complaints since the German subs were sinking his tankers at the time.
Then, the singer made the mistake of singing a song with German words. That did it. He still isn’t back on the air.
Apt To Stay Modest
As noted, Day is not likely to change his hat size, although he’s been acclaimed not only as a singer and actor but as one of the greatest mimics in radio. While we were there, he launched easily into amazing replicas of Fred Allen’s “Titus Moody,” Bob Hope's Jerry Colonna and Satan’s Hitler and Mussolini.
His imitations, which he’ll do occasionally on his own show, began as a gag among friends and became a professional asset, or more money in the bank, on the Benny program last season.
Like others on the show, Dennis has more than a contractual loyalty to Benny.
“Jack’s the greatest showman, the greatest man for timing in radio,” he says. “And he feels that the bigger the other performers on his show are, the bigger his program is.”

Louis Lacy Stevenson, who penned the “Lights of New York” column for the Bell Syndicate, also chatted with Day. This appeared July 30, 1946.

New York
Dennis Day’s appendix changed his entire career. Learned that in a chat with the dark-haired, smiling, brown-eyed, soft-spoken young singer just after he’d returned from a concert tour which included appearances with the Cleveland and Milwaukee symphony orchestras. Bora in the Bronx, Dennis was a boy soprano in school and at St. Patrick’s cathedral. When he went on to Manhattan college, he sang in the glee club. Still, the thought of singing professionally had never entered his mind. His ambition was to become a lawyer and he took a pre-law course at Manhattan. Just when he was ready to enter the law school, his appendix went on a rampage. Instead of going to school, he went to the hospital for an operation. By the time he was out, the term was well under way. As a fill in and to earn some needed money he sang on a sustaining program on radio station WHN.
❖  ❖  ❖
After Day had been singing for about three months—with the idea of being a disciple of Blackstone still in the back of his head—he did a program on the Columbia Broadcasting system and two of his songs were recorded. Just about that time, Kenny Baker was leaving Jack Benny’s program. The Day record was sent to Benny's agent and by accident, Day told me, was heard by Mary Livingstone. The result was that when Benny came on to New York, Day received a summons to meet him. The call, however, didn’t tell Day whom he was to meet so he was no end astonished when he came face to face with Jack. He managed to get through with an audition. He then waited for comments. None were forthcoming. So he departed with the feeling that that was the end of the whole matter and that perhaps, it would be the law for him after all.
❖  ❖  ❖
"Two weeks after the audition, I got a real surprise,” continued Day, "Jack Benny sent me a ticket to California. In fact, he sent a round trip ticket—evidently he was taking no chances on being stuck with me on the west coast if I didn't make good. Full of hope, I took the first train I could grab. After I reached Hollywood, I didn’t have to wait long for an audition. Again, there was no comment and what was more important to me, contract. All I could do was hang around and wait for the verdict. Hanging around and waiting was all the harder because I had no indication of what that verdict would be. A week before ray ticket ran out, I was signed. That was in 1939, and I have been with Jack over since, with the exception of the two years I spent in the navy." Day didn’t say who cashed in the unusued portion of his ticket.
❖  ❖  ❖
In the navy, Day was transferred from the amphibious force to the service force and in Hawaii, he organized a navy show that toured the entire Pacific area. Among those in it were Claud Thornhill, orchestra leader, Tommy Riggs and Jackie Cooper. He was discharged last March with the rank of ensign and immediately went back with Benny. He will return to the Benny show on September 29. Before that, he will go on another concert tour being booked for Denver in August and Tucson in September. His reason for his present visit to New York was to complete plans for his new radio show which will open on NBC October 3. It will consist of singing and situation comedy with Day doing both singing and the comedy.
❖  ❖  ❖
Not until Day made an appearance on the Fred Allen program recently was it generally known that he is a mimic as well as a singer. On the Allen show he impersonated Titus Moody, the Mad Russian, Jerry Colonna and W. C. Fields. He has a number of other characters some of which he probably will use on his own show. In the past, he merely “clowned around” with the imitations for the amusement of himself and friends. He’s good at those imitations too—even at close range. I can testify to that because, while we were talking, he passed out some samples. He also informed me that the Benny show was going to be different next season. “I’m going to get a raise,” he explained. Day is unmarried. His reason, “Nobody ever asked me.”
❖  ❖  ❖
As this was being written, Day is in active negotiations with three major studios for motion picture roIes. One is doing Johnny Appleseed for Walt Disney; another to play the lead opposite James Cagney in another picture, and a part in the musical “Up in Central Park,” opposite Deanna Durbin. So before long, Dennis will have his Day on the screen.

Before his New York trek, and after he returned to the Benny show on St. Patrick’s Day, he met with Bob Thomas of the Associated Press, who reported:

“Denny’s back and Benny’s got him.” I dropped in to have lunch with Dennis Day and asked him how he liked being out of the Navy and back on the Jack Benny show.
“It’s great,” he said. “I like the salary much better than in the Navy.” He said he now gets $35 a week but I do think Mr. Benny gives him more than that.
Dennis said he had a pretty rough time in the Navy with people who expected him to portray his radio self all the time.
“It was particularly bad when I got to be an officer,” he said. He was a lieutenant (jg).
Among the singer’s most vivid memories of the Navy days was standing on top of a wardrobe closet in the University of Arizona gym and singing without accompaniment to his 600 fellow cadets and bunk mates. After that, working for Mr. Benny should be a pleasure.

Day’s series debuted on October 3, 1946. Kind of.

It’s an odd show. Much like Verna Felton was brought in as laugh insurance when Day debuted with Benny in 1939, Jack was brought in for Dennis’ first show and carries a lot of the load. Frank Galen’s storyline is strung together by announcer Verne Smith about how Day was offered a show by Colgate and how he convinced Benny to let him do it. None of the regular cast of the new programme, with the exception of Sharon Douglas, appears. Benny’s announcer, Don Wilson, shows up for added support, and an incidental voice is supplied by Herb Vigran, who was heard periodically with Benny.

What’s even odder is the plot was apparently completely different than what was originally planned. The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin, published on the 3rd, gives this as a preview, none of which happened:
Day and Benny will try various formats that have produced successful radio shows in the past: Baby Snooks, Sherlock Holmes, Lum and Abner, Blondie, Kay Kyser and the Gang Busters. Finally, they’ll do Allen’s Alley. Benny will take the role of Allen, and Day will play Mrs. Nussbaum, Senator Claghorn and Titus Moody.
The paper added Day would be singing Franz Lehar’s “Yours Is My Heart Alone,” which didn’t happen, either. Why there was such a huge change is unclear.

Variety of October 3rd gave additional writing credits to Russell Beggs, Arthur Allsburg and future TV comedy writers Frank Fox and Bill Davenport. The trade paper on the 9th identified Frank Barton as the second announcer on the Colgate Dental Crème spot.

The following week, the full regular cast appeared. To add to the oddness, Day played Dennis Day, a soda jerk in Weaverville, not Dennis Day, the Jack Benny show singer. Verna Felton didn’t play Dennis’ mother, but his girl friend’s.

You can hear the initial programme below. It was broadcast on 120 stations. Alas, there are no chimes after the unidentified NBC staff announcer (who can be heard on some Benny shows).

Saturday 25 March 2023

Aquasmoke and Ogden T. Baloo's Mongoose

Jay Ward sent out the best news releases.

Ward had the best satiric and silly writers this side of Your Show of Shows—some ended up in live action—and the really hip TV columnists quoted from them liberally.

Rocky and Bullwinkle got caught up in the Great Prime Time Cartoon Invasion of 1961. That’s when The Flintstones became a hit in 1960 and, suddenly, all the networks wanted their own animated ratings grabbers. The aforementioned moose and squirrel were already on the air. They were simply picked up by another network and were shoved into what was considered prime-time then.

We’ve reprinted several columns praising Ward’s humour. Let’s give you two more. The first is from the Modesto Bee of July 16, 1961. Ward is pushing phoney TV shows, in addition to two of his efforts that never got bought—the puppet show Watts Gnu? and Simpson and Delaney. It took several years for Super Chicken to be appear, but as part of George of the Jungle.

The reference to “Sam the native” was an in-joke. No such series was planned. It was a jab at Bill Conrad and his somewhat limited ability to play character parts.

Jay Ward And Bil1 Scott Are Ready To Flood TV Market
By Pat Morrison

Producers Jay Ward and Bill Scott are a couple of zany characters who should be on the threshold of television success.
For many, they already have made it. The two produce Rocky And His Friends, a cartoon series seen at 5:30 PM Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays on ABC-TV. Ward and Scott think of it as their "subliminal show" since the sponsors and network have been content to leave it virtually untouched by any promotion.
But things should change come fall when the show moves over to NBC-TV in the time slot immediately preceding Walt Disney's new color offering on Sunday evening.
If the series clicks, they have about 20 other shows ready to go such as Super Chicken, Watts Gnu?, Simpson And Delaney and Fractured Flickers.
“We're not worried about our big backlog of unsold shows,” Scott said recently. "When one sells they'll all sell and we'll be rich, rich, rich!"
In an effort to unload some of this backlog, the partners have launched a campaign among advertising agencies, TV editors and trade papers.
On Mother’s Day weekend one ad ran: “Free — make a long distance phone call to your mom any place in the USA. All you have to do is buy a Jay Ward TV series, 39 weeks just $2 million.” Frequent mail promotions have offered the Jay Ward Series Of The Month Club. “With the purchase of every two series for $2 million, club members are entitled to a bonus series.” Selections could be made from such possibilities as Touch Football Highlights “originating from Palm Beach, Washington, DC, and Hyannis Port.” Others were Aquasmoke "combining the most popular features of westerns and underwater shows," Championship Mah Jong and The Unreachables "based on the stories of a group of law abiding Italians who fight corruption and evil among the Irish, German and French.”
Other mailings have proposed the Jay Ward Peace Corps for "work among the underprivileged advertising agencies," Jay Ward Summer Camp for tired TV columnists and editors and the Jay Ward Cerise Saving Stamps.
As bold as they might appear, the two basically are cowards. Their executive producer is someone named Ponsonby Britt, who gets screen credit for the Rocky shows.
Ponsonby is highly fictional but he has a prepared biography in case anyone asks. “Britt is a tall, spare fellow of 40 odd with a sparkling blue eye — his other eye, which is brown, is rather dull." Background material on the two cartoonists is a little harder to come by. “I was born in San Francisco in 1920 with a silver spoon in my mouth,” Ward admits.
Scott claims: “I was born in Philadelphia in 1920 of poor but poor parents. In 1924 I ran away from home with my mother and father and settled in Trenton, NJ.”
There will be some changes made when the cartoon series is moved from ABC to NBC. Rocky will be aced out by his pal Bullwinkle Moose. Next year the program will be called The Bullwinkle Show and will introduce a whole new set of characters, including Dudley DoRight of the mounted police and Sam the native.
The characters will sound familiar because people like Edward Everett Horton, Hans Conried, radio Gunsmoke’s Matt Dillon (Bill Conrad) and Paul Frees do many of the voices.
“We go for actors," said Scott, who is the voice of Dudley DoRight. "It’s like picking out the fish for your guppy tank. What we look for is a community fish to join our group."

Here’s what the Akron Beacon Journal’s entertainment page had to say on August 2, 1961. This one brings us phoney TV executives at phoney TV stations in phoney towns.

Nonsense, Fellows, Sheer Nonsense


Beacon Journal Radio-TV Writer
A staggering amount of mail comes across a TV columnist's desk every week, much of it promotional material from networks, agencies, production companies and public relations firms.
Despite the volume, it's easy to wade through. Half of it goes into the circular file unopened.
ANOTHER 30 per cent can be disposed of by opening the letter and reading only the first paragraph.
That takes care of promotional blurbs which start out. "There are 7,425 beads in the flapper dress worn by Dorothy Provine in the Oct. 23 episode of "The Roaring Twenties..."
The only person who could possibly be interested in such trivia is the nut who counted the beads.
Feature stories comprise another 15 per cent, little human interest tales about the fellow who greases axles for "Wagon Train" or the chap who loads the blanks in Marshal Dillon's revolver.
These features may be digested (burp!) in their entirety, but they usually wind up in the wastebasket with the other 80 per cent.
OF THE remaining 5 per cent, 4 7/8 per cent may be usuable in some form.
What about that missing one-eighth of one per cent? Oh, that's the correspondence from Jay Ward Productions.
Jay Ward is the creator of "Rocky and His Friends" (an ABC-TV cartoon series). Jay Ward doesn't give a tinker's damn whether or not you read his promotional releases.
On the theory nobody is reading them anyway, Jay Ward throws all sorts of nonsense into his promotional releases and all sorts of columnists read them avidly.
LIKE his latest effort, plugging a forthcoming NBC-TV cartoon series, "The Bullwinkle Show" (Bullwinkle is a moose, in case you're one of those serious types). It's a personal biography of Bullwinkle.
The biography states Bullwinkle "is the finest example of the great North American Clod."
"After distinguished service in the Armed Forces as a destroyer radar mast and an officers' club hat-rack, Bullwinkle decided to study acting under the great student of Stanislavski, Francis the Talking Horse . . . After several off Broadway roles (in Laos and Yucca Flats). Bullwinkle hit the Great White Way in 'Irma La Moose' and 'Charley's Antlers.' (The Great White Way, incidentally, is the main street of Frostbite Falls, which is snowed in 11 months of the year.")
HOW HAS Jay Ward plugged "The Bullwinkle Show?"
"Williard Porter, station manager of KWQA, Flack, Tex., hit John Nance Garner with a cream pie as he was leaving a Rotary Club luncheon. . . .
"Fern Kurdle, TV editor of the Washington Shopping News, Washington, D. C., bit Sen. Everett Dirksen on the ankle during a "Capital Reports" broadcast. ...
"Ogden T. Baloo, publicist for KIVP, Como, Wash., staged a cobra-mongoose battle in the lobby of the RKO theater. Unfortunately, both unexpectedly turned on him and he died within 45 seconds. . . .
"Clyde Cooberly, program manager of KEDT-TV, Auburn, Cal., joined the John Birch Society completely naked. . . .
"Ted Urie, general manager of WROT-TV, Bisby, Conn., consummated a proxy marriage with Winnie Ruth Judd."
Jay Ward, you're sick. But you're our kind of sick.

Bullwinkle et al splashed their irreverance on NBC for three seasons, though the last one was on late Saturday mornings/early Saturday afternoons. Ward accused the network of actively disliking the show and refusing to promote it. Ward came up with other concepts; only George of the Jungle was picked up as a series. It’s perhaps one of the great tragedies of television of the 1960s that more of a place wasn’t found for Jay Ward and Bill Scott, and more of their facetious promotions.

Friday 24 March 2023

That Cow's Twisted

Walt Disney’s The Ugly Duckling (1931) sticks to the basic premise without a lot of gags.

Disney’s version involves a tornado approaching one of Uncle Walt’s ubiquitous farms. Here’s what happens to a rubber hose cow.

That’s one of the gags, maybe the best one.

The William Tell Overture finds its way into the score.

As usual, Disney credits no one.

Thursday 23 March 2023

If Tex Avery Can Make One of These...

The Mintz studio goes for Warner Bros. style humour in Scrappy’s Added Attraction, with credits given to future Warners cartoon staffers Art Davis and Sid Marcus.

There’s parody. There are characters talking to the off-screen narrator. There’s a radio/pop culture reference (the bad guy emulates the Mad Russian and says “How DO you DO!?”). There’s a KFWB (Warner Bros.) announcer; at least I swear the narrator is Jack Lescoulie. And there’s “real life” intruding in the action on screen.

Here’s a scene of a bad guy chasing the girl. Suddenly, the “film” breaks and has to be stitched back together by the narrator before the cartoon can continue.

Whoever did the layouts had a bit of fun, as there are all kinds of angles and shadows to mimic feature films.

Danny Webb supplies some voices. Mel Blanc does not, as best as I can tell.

Wednesday 22 March 2023

Lou's Boss

There were two things I noticed about Lou Grant when the show first aired. One was it was a drama, meaning it wouldn’t be including cameos by Ted Baxter or Rhoda Morgenstern. The other was a familiar voice had a body that was being seen on camera.

Mason Adams made an extremely good living voicing commercials. Yet he obviously had a desire to stand in front of the camera. To borrow from a phrase he ended TV spots for Smuckers regularly: he had to be good. The show was on for five seasons and he was nominated for Emmys in three of them.

Adams had been a star years earlier, but only aging housewives would have remembered. He spent 15 years as the lead in the soap Pepper Young’s Family, leaving the role only because NBC radio replaced the show on April 27, 1959. The Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin was quite proud of him. The paper pointed out in one 1947 edition that Adams was known at the University of Wisconsin as Mason Abrams, was a member of the Wisconsin Players, won the Frankenburger Oratorical Award and conducted a speech clinic. Oddly, Adams wasn’t from Wisconsin. He was from Brooklyn. You’d never guess listening to him.

Here’s a little profile from the Ft. Lauderdale News of March 5, 1949. The writer insists on calling him “Pepper.”

‘Pepper Youngs’ Visit
Soap Opera Hero Says 2-Week Beach Vacation All Too Short
Pepper Young left his radio family in New York long enough to enjoy a Ft. Lauderdale vacation with his real wife, Mrs. Mason Adams. Vacation scene is the home of the radio soap serial author, Elaine Carrington, 2820 N Atlantic blvd. Trading posts, Elaine is in New York while Pepper and Mrs. Adams have full run of the writer's picturesque home, "Journey's End," which is located right on the ocean.
"Two weeks vacation in Ft. Lauderdale is all too short," the 30-odd-year-old Pepper said Wednesday. Mrs. Adams, diminutive brunette sporting a sun burned nose and wearing a yellow sun dress claims it will be hard to face civilized clothes and the New York rush after the idyllic peace of two weeks on the Florida coast.
Mason Adams, who met his very young looking wife seven years ago while teaching dramatics at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, has been Mrs. Carrington's fictional "Pepper Young" for four years. Before her marriage to Pepper, Mrs. Adams was Sheila Tanchan, of London, England.
Shortly after they met, Pepper joined the Army Air Force and received training at Miami Beach. He was unable to make the grade as a flyer, however, due to an eyesight deficiency. It was in 1944 he donned the role of Pepper Young in Elaine Carrington’s soap opera of the air waves.
When questioned regarding his climb up the ladder to his present nationally known place in radio, Pepper replied.
"The usual amount of Broad way floperoos. The usual amount of blunders. The usual amount of sudden good luck."
This well built, serious faced young actor has a delightful expression of being intensely sympathetic, understanding, and, at once, deeply amused. He is wholely plain spoken and natural and obviously very much in love with his real life wife, Mrs. Mason Adams.

Adams appeared in Road of Life (also an NBC show), but did more than soaps. He was a featured player on a number of episodes of Inner Sanctum.

Network radio wound down, but radio commercials did not. Adams found work aplenty doing voice-overs on a radio and TV—in addition to stage work—until Lou Grant came along in 1977.

Here’s a column from the Newspaper Enterprise Association, July 13, 1980.

Mason Adams
There's No Role Like Hume

HOLLYWOOD — Mason Adams is the veteran actor who plays Charlie Hume the managing editor on CBS’ fine show "Lou Grant." For Adams, it is a role that is making his life enjoyable.
Not that it wasn't enjoyable before. Adams seems to be a man who lives life totally, and he has always been a successful actor. But now, with his emergence on "Lou Grant,” everything is just a touch rosier.
He and his witty charming wife Margot make a good couple. Mason says that Margot has total recall, while "I have total forget.” Indeed, at critical junctures in the conversation, Margot is always there to fill in a name or a date. He seems to supply all the verbs in their joint speech, while she chips in with the proper nouns.
For Mason Adams, film is something new. He is around 60, but all his career, until lately, has been spent on stage and the radio. If his voice is very familiar to you, it is because you spent your flaming youth listening to Mason Adams starring on the radio serial, "Pepper Young's Family,” for almost 20 years.
Finally, he made his first film appearance in a TV movie about hockey, “The Deadliest Season.” It was filmed in the East — Hartford, Conn., to be precise — and they cast most of the parts in the East, too. That's how Adams got his film career going.
"From then on,” he says, “everything has happened serendipitously."
The MTM people saw “The Deadliest Season" at the time when they were putting the "Lou Grant" cast together. They brought Mason Adams to California and he became, suddenly, a television series regular.
Serendipity and its mysterious works continued. He was seen in "Lou Grant" and so, recently, played his first feature film role in a movie called "The Final Conflict." He played the president of the United States.
It was only a one-day role, but that one day happened to be in England, so Margot and Mason parlayed the part into a two-week vacation trip, motoring around much of Great Britain.
Mason Adams, who comes originally from New York, got his first taste of being the center of attraction when he fell off a wall and everybody who watched that event applauded He loved the sensation of being applauded.
"I have been interested in performing ever since," he says.
His parents felt, however, that he should first prepare himself for another career, just in case. So he got his master’s degree (from the University of Wisconsin) and taught speech in New York for a year or so.
Among his pupils was one lazy, class-cutting young man, who became Marlon Brando. Adams says he would like to say he recognized his magnificence then, but all he thought at the time was that the young man was lazy and class-cutting.
Adams has been working steadily, busily and happily in New York all these years. Radio, he says, gave him a good living for a long time. But when he saw the handwriting on the wall — it read "Radio Is Pooping Out" — he began doing commercials. All the while, he did plays, on and off Broadway, but somehow never did any film.
Now that he has his feet (and the rest of him) wet in the film pool, he likes it. He finds that he enjoys the limelight he is basking in, too.

Adams appeared in some small film roles after that, and in theatre until 2002. And there were still plenty of commercials that helped the bank account. He died at his home on April 26, 2005 at age 86.

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Out-Foxed Background

Tex Avery’s Of Fox and Hounds (1940) at Warner Bros. opened with a pan shot of a fox hunting club, with trees, a sign and a stone fence.

Avery’s Out-Foxed (1949) at MGM begins the exact same way.

The foreground trees, stone fence and sign are on an overlay which has been shot differently than the main drawing to add depth, so the frames can’t be clipped together. We’ll have to do them separately.

By comparison, here are some almost equivalent (and unrestored) frames from Hounds. It’s not the exact same background, but must have been used as an inspiration to the second one, which is longer on the right side to accommodate the hounds and the huntsman that arent in the Warner’s short.

Johnny Johnsen was responsible for both background paintings. He was a generation older than Avery. The Los Angeles Times published one of Johnsen’s sketches in its Sunday Arts section on August 6, 1905 with the explanation:

The interesting pen-and-ink drawing which we reproduce this week was done by John D. Johnsen, a young Norwegian-American, hardly twenty years of age, who is a student of the Los Angeles School of Art and Design. Mr. Johnson, who has been a student of the school only nine months, shows much more than the usual promise. His work is as vigorous and direct as his own personality. His aim is to become an illustrator, and his quick rendering of courtroom scenes, street; crowds, etc., show much aptitude for a most difficult branch of the illustrator's art. The art world of Los Angeles will watch his development with much interest—for he will soon prove himself a force to be reckoned with.

Johnsen also held a patent on a process to produce colour printing plates, according to the Times of August 30, 1917. You can learn more about him in this post.

Avery’s animators are Mike Lah, Walt Clinton, Bobe Cannon and Grant Simmons. This is the second of five shorts at MGM that Cannon worked on after coming from Disney and before moving on to UPA in 1947.