Moving the Island

October 12th, 2019

In this post, “Racketty Ann and the Lost World” reaches it’s fifth and final chapter. My favorite page is number 18, as Racketty Ann confides to her captivated audience, that she “moved the island.” I love the lightly inked dinosaurs in the clouds over Racketty Ann’s head and the bold darkness surrounding the raccoons at the bottom of the page. Note the confused expressions on the raccoons faces at the top of page 19 as they try to figure out “How Can You Do That?” and “CAN she do that?” The next panel on page 19 is a dynamic triangular composition as Racketty Ann declaims to the admiring crowd and their pointy little faces seem to be holding up her airplane. On page 20, Racketty Ann revs up her plane and saying “Gotta Go! I’ve got a summit meeting!”, takes off for the last time on a mysterious journey. Cathy gets in a subtle gag in the last panel as the raccoons muse about the fate of the dinosaur island: “She probably moved it to MARS or something.”, and Virgil (or a friend of his) concludes with “She has friends in HIGH PLACES.” In many of her stories, a fantastic premise is gracefully brought back down to normal with a little remark, an understated “shaggy racoon” ending. I hope you enjoyed Cathy’s epic story, an exclusive CATBLOG feature!

Felix is from 8-21 to 8-27-1933 this time. The Dooits visit to the farm is coming to an end, as Felix tries to make the boarders feel at home, farm style. In the 8-26, Danny is afraid his beloved cat will be left behind in the move back to the city, so he puts old fashioned luggage decals all over Felix’s body. The 8-27 Sunday page is full of funny drawings as Felix and Danny get side-tracked to the Circus on their way to the grocery store.  I love those wacky heads of Felix that Otto Messmer drew for the “Felix Movies” toy that’s on top of the page.

Myrtle, from 5-23 to 5-29-1949, continues Myrtle’s fleeting romance with rich kid Walton. I love the 5-23, which contains a rare moment of sentiment as Myrtle hugs Bimbo to comfort him after Walton refuses to shake hands with the sensitive canine.  The 5-28 again features Myrtle’s bi-sexuality as she nearly becomes a he as she disrobes to put on a boy scout uniform, and Sampson tops her by putting on her dress and hat complete with braids! In the Sunday page, 5-29, Hyacinth the cat appears in both panels as Freddie tries to get Arnold to sneak out to a golf match by putting on false whiskers to fool his wife.

Krazy from 12-13 to 12-25-1943, features the never ending battle of wits between Offissa Pupp and Ignatz. They try disguises in the 12-14, Ignatz tries to look like his portrait in the 12-15, and in the 12-16 Iggy tries to manufacture a brick in a mold right in front of the confused Pupp. The 12-20 to 12-25 strips feature a wacky woodpecker. Perhaps Garge saw a Woody Woodpecker in a cinema in 1943. Herriman’s woodpecker taps a hole in Krazy’s door, taps an iron tree trunk, taps Offissa Pupp’s wooden head, and makes iron and clay sculptures of himself to fool the Pupp. The Officer’s Christmas present to the woodpecker is to throw him in jail with Ignatz. “Kwee Pippils, them Wood Peckas”, says Krazy.

BOOK REVIEW:

Boffo!
You will enjoy reading Bill Griffith’s graphic novel biography of Schlitzie, the famous pinhead, star of MGM’s “Freaks”. This book would make a terrific feature picture in itself, you can just see it in black and white with a few color scenes, and maybe getting a real pinhead (or digitally modified) to play the main part. The carnival settings are really well done and well thought out. The ink lines and meticulous attention to the details of the buildings are wonderful to look at. If you are a fan of Carnival or old time Midway subjects-“Freaks”, “Carny (1980)”, “Nightmare Alley”; the details of Schlitzie’s life should be especially interesting. There are intense dramatic moments where Schlitzie gets riled up and says “Y’SEE!” repeatedly. He is at his most monstrous at these points in the story, yet vulnerable. The making of “Freaks” sequence was of course very involving; pg. 100 was especially good as Bill Griffith provides a translation of Schlitzie’s garbled dialog. Pg. 233 really resonated with me, as Griffith draws Schlitzie’s time hanging out in MacArthur Park. I went to Chouinard on Seventh street, which was right across from MacArthur Park and I used to frequent the area quite a bit in 1971, so I could have seen Schlitzie, but sadly, never did. This is a very well done graphic novel and made a very sympathetic character out of a so-called “freak”. Pgs. 240, 241 and 242 are a poignant farewell. Did you ever see the old Jimmy Durante TV show? At the end of every show, Jimmy put on a battered hat and coat, wished Mrs. Calabash “Goodnight” and walked away from camera into a dark set lit with star spotlights back to infinity. Schlitzie walking over the stars of Hollywood Blvd. reminded me of Durante’s finale. The die-cut cover is attention-getting as well. Bill Griffith reportedly spent five years working on this book. Quite an accomplishment when you consider the hours he spends each week on the “Zippy the Pinhead” comic strip. Note that Robert Crumb rates this book as “the best graphic novel of the year”, and Mr. Crumb is never too lavish with his praise.

Dino Tears

September 18th, 2019

Howdy Readers, if you want a quick and easy way to enlarge the pictures on the Catblog, just hold down your “Ctrl” (Control) key and click the + (plus) sign to enlarge and the – (minus) sign to reduce them. Remember to HOLD DOWN the Control key while you are doing this. Enjoy!

Here’s part four of Cathy Hill’s unpublished comic story: “Racketty Ann and The Lost World”. Cathy was truly a prognosticator of our current dilemma, as she attributes the dinosaur’s mortality to the human encroachment of their island. She combines comedy, comment and empathy as she uses comic drawing on pages 14 and 15, and a more sympathetic treatment on page 16. The first panel shows a stegosaurus collapsed in the background while a brontosaur looks after her little one in the foreground.  In  the second panel, Cathy uses dinosaur tears as a mother tyrannosaur looks over her ailing progeny still in the shell.  As you wipe away the tears, enjoy the multiple screens of the videographers on page 14, and the intrusion of the buses, helicopters and motorcycles on page 15. Coming soon, the final chapter of this epic tale.

Felix is from 8-14 to 8-20-1933 this time. Felix saves Danny from the forest fire, much to Papa Dooit’s relief.  However, Pop’s money was burned in the fire and he faces financial ruin, but Danny gets a 200 dollar bonus from the logging company for saving their logs, so Papa is rescued. Poor Felix, however, is left out in the rain and seeks refuge in an empty boot. The Sunday page continues the adventures of Felix and Danny at the circus, trying to dry clean a bear!

Myrtle is from 5-16 to 5-22-1949 this time out. In the 5-16, Myrtle looks kind of like a boy in the first panel as she lifts weights, then reverts to looking like a girl as she puts on her hat with the braids attached. She does this to impress “Walton”, a very rich boy who likes “proper” behavior. Myrtle starts to loosen him up by 5-21, as they are both blowing bubbles in their sodas. The Sunday page features a beautiful Fisher layout, as Freddie spray paints Myrtle, Sampson, Hyacinth and even the little Myrtle doll, much to Susie’s horror.

 

Krazy, from 11-29 to 12-11-1943, is mostly non-continuous gags this time, I like the reference to Kayenta, in the 12-7, and the feline subtext in the 12-10, as Krazy “puts the light out” by placing the lamp on her back porch, in a beautiful panel using intricately cross-hatched blacks to reveal Offissa Pupp’s bewilderment. You will note that the 12-4 to 12-11 strips are a bit taller, that’s because I got them from the San Francisco Examiner, which was one of the few papers to run the Krazy Kat strip in the 1940s, and probably the only one to run the full panels as Herriman drew them. Again, these panels show the little Coconino theater that Garge imagined, the little stage with the floorboards exposed, like in the 12-8 and 12-9. The KFS files don’t have the un-edited panels, but you will see them here in the Catblog!

Kurt’s Corner

Here are more stills from my late brother’s library and his extensive files on Clark Gable. I chose these because they feature Mr. Gable’s checkered career on network radio. This one features Clark and Virginia Bruce performing the Oscar-winning motion picture “Cimarron” on the Lux Radio Theater, 9-26-37. Cimarron won best picture in 1931, and was the only Western which achieved that honor until “Dances With Wolves” in 1990.

From that same year, 1937, here’s Clark on NBC, probably the Chase and Sanborn show, with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. This would have been for the 10-17-37 broadcast, featuring the Stroud twins. This program still exists! Do a search for it.

I’m not sure of the exact date of this great photo of Mr. Gable, but it is probably pre-World War 2. Clark seems to be very happy in this shot, maybe he enjoyed performing on radio, no make up necessary!

And last but not least this time, a rehearsal shot from the Burns and Allen show of 11-21-46, even though the photo is dated 11-26. This was Clark’s first network radio appearance since his World War 2 service, and he seems happy to be performing again. Sadly, this show has not survived, but maybe a collector has it on a reel to reel tape somewhere. “The Hucksters” was Gable’s second MGM film after his return, and he didn’t like the novel the screenplay was based on, saying “It’s filthy and it isn’t entertainment.” Read more about the picture here.

 

Close Up On The Eggs

August 23rd, 2019

Here’s the third part of Cathy Hill’s epic story: Racketty Ann and The Lost World! In pages 9 through 12, Racketty Ann continues her story (I love how the dinosaurs want to listen to her) of her trips to the prehistoric island. The secret is suddenly out when some sailors land on the beach, and the news media descend in pesky profusion. I love page twelve as the videographers are torn between focusing on the dinosaur eggs or framing the tapering limbs of their pretty newscaster (just look at the monitors at the top of the page to see just how torn the videographers were). Cathy loaded these pages with downshots and upshots of the dinosaurs really highlighting their immense bulk; the shading and variety of the line weight helps the effect. The progression from fine lines in the background to heavy lines in the foreground is most evident in page 12. The little paleontologist on page 10 has a Rube Goldberg touch as he rides through the air astride his magnifying glass with his neck nearly snapped in half by a helium balloon.

In Felix from 8-7 to 8-13-1933, Felix and Danny escape a forest fire in the dailies, and Felix battles a ferocious flea in the Sunday page. The tiger scratching Felix in the eleventh panel reminds me of the Warner Bros. Bob Clampett cartoon “An Itch In Time”, where the dog teases the cat into scratching his flea bite, much to the frustration of Elmer Fudd.
The Myrtle strip is from 5-9 to 5-15-1949 this time, Hyacinth the cat is in the second panel of the Sunday page, bored to tears by the family’s elaborations on the old tales “Little Red Riding Hood” and the “Three Little Pigs”.
Herriman’s cat is from 11-16 to 11-27-1943 this time. The early 1940s still influence the gags as Ignatz sings Frank Sinatra’s early hit “All or Nothing At All” in the 11-19. Offissa Pupp’s fascist tendencies emerge in the 11-20, as he squints Nipponese fashion saying: “Divide and Conquer”. Fascist Pupp continues in the 11-24 where he puts Ignatz in jail, declaring “Sin must be locked up, and who but ME to see that it’s done?” It has an “I alone can fix it” overtone, don’t ya think? Authoritarian rule is also parodied in the 11-27, as Ignatz asks Ignatz if he”belliv” s in Free “Spitch” to “Kops”. Offissa Pupp is waiting in the wings to oversee the Degree of “Spitch” he will allow to be “Free in Coconino” in the last panel.
KURT’S CORNER this time features some rare behind the scenes stills of Ronald Colman. This one shows him teaming up with nemesis and radio producer Arch Obeler on a program called “Everything For The Boys” from 1944. Mr. Obeler and Mr. Colman did not get along well, just contrast Colman’s well tailored suit to Obeler’s informal striped shirt and slouch hat. The show was an odd combination of dramatic skits and long distance call-ins from servicemen and women around the world.
Harmon Weizht was the director of the silent feature “Twenty Dollars A Week”, released in 1924, featuring Ronald Colman, George Arliss and Edith Roberts. I like this still which reveals how an insert shot was staged with Edith Roberts’ and Colman’s right hands practicing their signatures in front of an extreme close up lens.
Here’s Ronald Colman celebrating the first anniversary of Twentieth Century Pictures in 1934, when he was making “Clive of India” for Darryl Zanuck. 20th was the collaboration of Zanuck and Joe Schenck who made sound movies for release through United Artists. In 1935, they merged with William Fox’s company to create 20th Century-Fox. Isn’t that a monumental super-colossal birthday cake? I’ll bet that Mr. Colman found the thing a bit pretentious, eh what?
I’m a big radio buff, as was my brother, so mike shots of radio stars thrill me. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to see and hear Mr. Colman playing the part of George Apley on CBS in 1948? Stay tuned to the Catblog for more rare stills from Kurt’s collections. Kurt was especially fond of Sidney Carton in the film “A Tale Of Two Cities” which Colman played against type as an alcoholic reprobate who sacrificed himself on the guillotine in place of Charles Darnay.

Racketty Ann’s Mystery Flight!

July 19th, 2019
Here are pages 5 through eight of “Racketty Ann and the Lost World”. There’s delightful fantasy here as Racketty Ann and Bla Bla take a ride on the back of a Pteranodon to a mysterious island far out in the ocean. I love the scenes in the nest as Racketty Ann fearlessly gets to know the Pteranodon’s family. Racketty Ann is telling them of her adventures with the condors in Peru, when a Tyrannosaurus Rex strolls by. Racketty Ann and Bla Bla do a big reaction take, but Cathy defuses the drama with a homey touch, the Pteranodon just explains that it’s only Floyd on his way to the tar pits. Just look at that expressive use of white out to show the steamy atmosphere of the island, and the last panel of page eight, with all the weighted lines to show light on the faces of the dinosaurs as they confront Racketty Ann and Bla Bla in the center of the panel. Don’t miss Bla-Bla’s reactions to the dinosaurs, either. They are more comical than Daisy the Pup’s antics in “Blondie”!
In Felix from 7-31 to 8-6-1933, Felix and Danny are lost in the woods, and they build a fire to keep them warm overnight. It looks like a forest fire may be inevitable. In the Sunday page, 8-6-33, Felix wrecks Danny’s bed, declaring: “I’m only a jinx.” But a circus contortionist buys it, since it’s a comfortable fit for his twisted up body.
In Myrtle from 5-2 to 5-8-1949, my favorites are the 5-4, as Myrtle sleeps in the doghouse with Bingo, and picks up enough fleas to be sprayed with a DDT gun by Susie. The 5-7 is also amusing as Hyacinth the cat is tied to a school bell to warn her away from the birds. Hyacinth also is stalking birds in the Sunday 5-8, as Myrtle reads an outdated weather forecast in a two year old newspaper. One of the neighborhood gardeners declares that “…atom bombs got the weather all turned around!”
In the Krazys from 11-1 to 11-13-1943, note the strip from 11-2. It was made famous by Gilbert Seldes, a renowned writer and critic who wrote about the Kat in the book; “The Seven Lively Arts”. This is the strip in which Ignatz declares that “the shades of night are falling” and Krazy catches them, saying “I got ’em, I got ’em”. The gags are a bit more violent in this batch, probably reflecting the Wartime tastes as Offissa Pupp sets Ignatz’s tail on fire in the 11-9 and Krazy threatens a pair of shoes in the last panel of the 7-13.
KURT’S CORNER
In this installment of the ongoing tribute to my late brother, I present some more Clark Gable rarities from his wonderful collection. This time Gable shaves off his famous moustache as he enters the Army in 1942 in an amateur snapshot never published. Gable eventually entered Officer Candidate School in Florida and below you will find the graduation program and a copy of his address to his graduating class (autographed). Note that it reads something like one of the characters he played in the movies: “Gentlemen, I’m not going to say to you ‘get on the beam’. You’re on it. The job is to stay on the beam until–in victory–we get the command; ‘Fall Out’ “. I can hear his voice as I read the text of this speech.
Here’s Gable as a Major in 1944 as he edits his film “Combat America”, at the First Motion Picture Unit in Culver City. He could have met Frank Thomas or Rudy Larriva or any of the animators who were stationed there. He’s probably editing nitrate film here, so no smoking, Clark! Clark had a little trouble in getting in and out of bombers, as he was 6 feet, one, quite a bit taller than his fellow soldiers. He flew five combat missions out of England in 1943, flying in the B-17 Flying Fortresses. He came close to being shot in the head, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his efforts. He was one of my brother’s favorite actors. Kurt’s favorite Gable part was Rhett Butler in “Gone With The Wind”.
Remember Folks to click on the images with the right button on your mouse. You will see a menu that says “Display image in another window” or “another tab”, or just “View Image. Click on that and you can make the pictures much larger. Thanks for taking the trouble to read the catblog and enjoy the pictures.

Starting Raccketty Ann and the Lost World!

June 23rd, 2019
Here they are! Cathy Hill’s Mad Raccoons in “Raccketty Ann and the Lost World”! Raccketty Ann is loosely based on Raggedy Ann, a character from old children’s books who was made into charming rag dolls the world over. Raccketty Ann is a real adventurer, she is fearless and remarkably adaptive to nearly any situation, dangerous or not. Her constant companion is “Bla-Bla” a long-suffering canine of indeterminate breed, who loves Raccketty Ann more than any other raccoon. Raccketty Ann’s stories in the community of raccoons were depicted in previously published issues of Mad Raccoons, published by MU Press. The raccoons look up to Raccketty Ann and hang on every word as she regales their imaginations with her tales of travel. In this episode she encounters a Preranodon, wait until you see the other prehistoric creatures she meets!
Felix is from 7-24 to 7-30-1933. Felix is forced to sleep outside by the hard-hearted farmer, and Danny tries to help find Felix a softer bed. The 7-24 strip recalls the story of “Babes In The Woods” as Felix leaves a trail of corn to mark Danny’s way through the woods. The Sunday has Felix trying to crash his way in to the circus, only to be slammed around by athletic trained mice who all look like Messmer’s “Skiddoo” the mouse.

Here’s Myrtle from 4-25 to 4-31-1949. I like the 4-29 and 4-30 dailies as Myrtle’s skirt and sweater are criticized by her mother, and Dad Freddie breaks Mom’s hand mirror as he spanks Myrtle with it. The Sunday page depicts the pioneering days of home TV sets as the neighbors put up makeshift antennas as status symbols even though they don’t yet have the sets to go with them!

Krazy is from 10-18 to 10-30-1943 this time. World War 2 enters the strip in a subtle way in the 10-21. Herriman was in a mood to cross-hatch in the 10-27 through 10-30 strips. The 10-27 takes on a mysterious feel in the last panel, due to the shading, giving the feel of twilight blanketing Krazy as she peacefully dozes under the gaze of Ignatz and Offissa Pupp. Krazy sings a hit song from “Oklahoma”, a hit musical of the early 1940s, as Ignatz hurls a brick at his head. Clocks play a big part in the 10-29 and 10-30 strips, a grandfather clock in the 10-29 and alarm clocks in the 10-30 as Krazy is once again wrapped in cross-hatched twilight in the last panel.

KURT’S CORNER In the corner this time are a collection of very rare stills from my brother’s Clark Gable collection. There are from November of 1937, when Clark was married to Carole Lombard. Gable loved horses and this was probably photographed on his ranch. I like the way he captioned the pictures as a film “Short”, labeling himself as a “Villain” and the Calf and Horse as the “Heroes”. I don’t know who Walt Cady was, who took the pictures. Maybe that’s Mr. Cady helping to brand the calf in the last photo. I have no idea how Kurt came by these rare pieces of Gableana, but aren’t they just fresh off the ranch? Look for more rare photos soon, as my tribute to my sadly missed brother continues.