Sunday, March 31, 2013

Irv Spence's Cartoon Diary: March 31, 1944

The intimidating Mr. Harris hasn't left much of a historical trail. He isn't mentioned in either Joe Barbera's or Bill Hanna's memoirs. His appearances in the cartoon diary may be all that's left of him. He appears to have been a production bean counter and Quimby's bad cop on the floor of the studio.

I don't recall ever seeing an animation credit for Tom MacDonald on a Tom and Jerry cartoon. He might have been an assistant at MGM. He did get an animator's credit at UPA years later, working under Pete Burness' direction on some Mr. Magoo cartoons.

Rough animation by Tom MacDonald for a UPA Mr. Magoo short.

A Magoo short with some Tom MacDonald animation.

Bud Crabbe didn't leave much of an internet footprint either. His son, the cinematographer James Crabe, was also an accomplished magician in his youth known as "Aubrey."  One of his illusions was "The Disembodied Princess." It utilized a cabinet which "Aubrey" had built in shop class and had been painted by his father. The cabinet is now in the collection of Paul Osborne and can be seen on his blog*. So, there is at least this one example of Bud Crabbe's artwork online.

The cabinet can also be seen in use in this video.

Who the third vanishing animator is has been lost to binding of the original folio of Spence's diary.

*This blog also says that Bud Crabbe was an animator at Disney and Walter Lantz.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

Irv Spence's Cartoon Diary: March 25, 1944

Thanks to Tom M. for providing the map and the postcard of the Ridge Route to Bakersfield. "I actually remember traveling on parts of this when I was very little," he wrote. "It was a pretty harrowing trip. All praise Interstate 5!!"

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Irv Spence's Cartoon Diary: March 10, 1944



"Dullness creeps in..."

Because you can never have too much information about an obscure, 69-year-old Dana Andrews vehicle, from the March 10, 1944 Los Angeles Times:

'Purple Heart' Atmosphere Effective'

by Edwin Schallert

Prisoners of the Japanese, suffering brutal treatment at the behest of the nation's military machine, are doubtless as major an item of news as may be discerned today. For which reason "The Purple Heart", offered by Darryl F. Zanuck as the first production following his return to 20th Century-Fox, has a grim, topical and potent interest.

Directed by Lewis Milestone, the feature has many striking dramatic polnts to arrest attentlon, apart from its timeliness. It is an excellent picture in its early stages especlally, fades somewhat into tediousness after that. Its subject, while a particularly vital one, is rather forbidding for the audience pleasure-bent.

Speech Applauded

However, the public at Loew's State yesterday, where I witnessed the showing, applauded at the close of the film. The speech that tells the little yellow traitors off evoked a stirring response that spurred the climax. It gives a lift to the final portion of the picture. Thus it all more or less becomes a question of whether or not this is the type of entertainment desired today, and there seem to be negative as well as positive reponses.

Current program at Loew's, Chinese, Uptown and Carthay Circle theaters suffers in being too much given over to war issues anyway. March of Time reels dealing with postwar job arrangements keep in that groove. It is soundly illuminating, showing how the problems of canceled orders may be met by large manufacturing concerns. But this is documentary.

The only relieving event is, therefore, the Donald Duck cartoon. This discloses Donald disposing of an obnoxious trombone player, with the aid of Jupiter and Vulcan, who send him lightning bolts, and is delightfully and humorously imaginative.

Scenes in "The Purple Heart" which are quite intriguing display the pomp and ceremony of the court of judgment ruled by the Emperor of Japan and Society of the Black Dragon.

Those on trlal are an American bomber crew whose craft was downed in a storm and who were captured by deceit after the Tokyo raid. They are charged with the murder of civilians, destruction of schools and hospitals, all manner of trumped-up evidence being used against them.

Pawns in Rivalry

Suddenly they become the pawns in a conflict of jealousy between the army and the navy. Commander of the army asserts they have come from an aircraft carrier. The commander of the navy opposes this idea, as it is a reflection on his branch of the service.

There is more trickery and intrigue on the part of the military, third degrees and cruelties, all aimed at getting the men to confess how their flight started. They are depicted as a gallant crew ready to face torture and death rather than concede the information, finally openly and searingly defying their ruthless enemy.

Faults and Virtues

For all its pertinence to recent events in the Far East "The Purple Heart" lacks of that great reality which distinguishes finer achievements of this type. It reverts to sentimentalism at odd moments as, for example, the retrospect themed by the bathing of a man's wounds. A great deal of it relies too much on expressions on men's faces rather than strong action. Dullness creeps in on this account during the latter part of the feature.

Performances are worthy as given by Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, Farley Granger, Kevin O'Shea, Donald Barry, Sam Levene, Charles Russell,

John Craven, but outstanding are the oriental impersonations by Rlchard Loo, Peter Chong, H. T. Talang, Key Chang and various others. Talang all but deserves an Academy supporting award, and Benson Fong is good.

And, just in case anybody thought that there was nothing else playing around town that weekend:

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Irv Spence's Cartoon Diary: March 3, 1944

Fred Quimby and Tex Avery

From Joe Barbera's My Life in 'toons:
In the meantime, Tex Avery had scouted out a new form of lunchtime amusement for us. He found a comfortable nook behind one of the great facades that made up, as I recall, a Manhattan streetscape, and he put together a crap game, which soon became a respected lunchtime institution- albeit a short-lived one. Hearing about it, Quimby issued a proclamation forbidding gambling on the lot.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Irv Spence's Cartoon Diary: March 2, 1944

The Academy Awards for 1943 from Grauman's Chinese Theater were broadcast over the radio in two parts. There was a pre-ceremony broadcast over KFWB, with George Jessel, followed by the actual ceremony, hosted by Jack Benny, on KNX. Both broadcasts can be heard here. The announcement of short subject winners is among a long list of awards "presented earlier in the evening" rattled off at the end of the program.

Because of wartime rationing this was the first time the awards were held in a theater rather than a banquet setting and it was the first time the supporting actor and actress winners were presented with a statue instead of a plaque. The statues this year were made of plaster rather than bronze, also due to the war.

And "Yankee Doodle Mouse," released June 26, 1943, was the first of seven Tom and Jerry shorts to win an Academy Award.

Some of the Tom and Jerry crew pose with their seven Oscars in 1953.
L to R: Ed Barge, Irv Spence, Dick Bickenbach, Joe Barbera, Bill Hanna, Ken Muse.
Via Dave Wessels Comix.

The following background layout drawings from "Yankee Doodle Mouse", credited here to Ernie Smythe, were downloaded from the Tom and Jerry Online site.

This nicely reconstructed pan is from one1more2time3:

At 2:44 into the cartoon there is an abrupt and ugly cut where the screen goes black for several frames. The continuity for the initial release indicates that a scene involving ration stamps and another communique from Lt. Jerry was, for some unknown reason, cut from the subsequent re-release of the film. The excised scene has been lost except for this layout drawing.