Author Archive | Bruce Canwell

A Bicentennial Look Back

During a cold, snowy first week of 2017 here in New England, two things occurred to me: [1] we’re overdue for a Fantasy Comics Page in this space, and [2] 2017 marks the 241st anniversary of the acknowledged founding of the United States of America. We’re fewer than ten years away from the USA’s 250th birthday, the Sestercentennial! (Or Semiquincentennial, if you’re cut from Johnny Littlejohn/Hank McCoy polysyllabic cloth — the jury’s out on what the celebration will officially be called.)

When that pair of thoughts collided, I went back into the strips, looking to build a Fantasy Page from the first day of our Bicentennial Year, January 1, 1976. What I put together tickled me, and I hope you’ll enjoy it, too. It features a mix of comedy and adventure strips, popular long-running comics and more obscure fare. We begin with two of my all-time favorite series: Al Capp brings Baby New Year back to Li’l Abner (no one knew it at the time, but the strip had less than two years’ of life remaining), while Tom Ryan ignores the new year entirely in his always-wonderful Tumbleweeds.

Gus Arriola’s work always gives me a smile, so including Gordo on this Fantasy Page is a distinct pleasure — and one might think Flash Gordon could use New Year’s Day as an excuse to take a break from tromping around dungeons and fighting monsters, but this lovely example of Flash’s strip by Dan Barry proves that’s not the case. And who among us has not faced the “good diet resolution” dilemma Tom Batiuk presents in Funky Winkerbean? (Though I hope most of us last longer than this before breaking our resolutions!)

Lolly was a new strip to me, and I enjoy such finds, as well as going back to learn a bit about them. In this case, Lolly was the brainchild of former Disney Studios animator Pete Hansen and ran from 1955 to 1983. Lolly herself is a nicely-designed character, and the balance between her home and work life (she was an office employee, supervised by “Mr. Quimby”) gives her the same sort of plot grist that would make the Mary Tyler Moore Show such a hit throughout most of the ’70s (though Lolly, while appealing, is no Mar’!)

Junior Tracy’s Bicentennial New Year begins earlier than he’d like — note who’s sleeping next to him! You can read the first appearances of the Moon Maid in our just-released Dick Tracy Volume 21. Irwin Hasen was one of the treasures of the comics world, even when newspaper editors mistakenly identified him as “Irwin Hansen;” here’s how his Dondi started off 1976. Snoopy and Woodstock were partying hard in Peanuts, and appropriately, our Fantasy Page ends with a strip created specifically with the Bicentennial in mind, Yankee Doodles. This was also an unknown strip to me when I stumbled across it, but thanks to historian extraordinaire Allan Holtz and his invaluable “Stripper’s Guide” website, I learned this was a feature that lasted only fifty months, and was the product of three creators: Ben Templeton (later of Motley’s Crew fame), Fred W. Martin, and Don Kracke — think of the hilarity that could have ensued if the credits had said, “by Kracke!”

Who knows what sort of comics will arise to take advantage of the Sestercentennial? (Or the Semiquincentennial, should we opt for the longer name …)

Anyway, here’s our look back at January 1, 1976 —

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2_tumbleweeds

3_gordo

4_flash

5_funky

6_lolly

7_tracy

8_dondi

9_peanuts

10_yankee-d

Canyon’s Model Citizens (Part 2 of 2)

Before the pre-New-Year holidays we took a look at what I’d been able to find out about the two models, Loree Thomas and Gen Melia, who posed as Alice Santa Fe and Whitey Barker for Milton Caniff’s “Pipa Island/Red Cross” Steve Canyon storyline, which we just reprinted in Volume 7 of that LOAC series. If you missed it, you can catch up by clicking here.

Milton and models went together like baseball and hot dogs (or spaghetti and meatballs, for those of you with more refined palates), so I went back a bit further to look at a trio of other “Caniffite” models and what we could learn about them following their assignments in support of the Canyon strip …

You may recall these two young ladies from our 6th Steve Canyon volume:

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Terri Keane, in uniform, and Lynn Thompson, in checkered shirt, posed as Scooter McGruder and Poteet Canyon for a photo session in support of a 1957 plotline that revolved around the Civil Air Patrol. Many photos from this assignment were used in publicity materials that appeared in various periodicals; here’s a shot of Caniff and Lynn, from a syndicated newspaper feature that I found in the Des Moines Register:

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It may surprise you to learn Lynn and Terri were both teenagers when they did their Canyon work. This newspaper article, running nationwide in May, 1958, provides a lot of background on both girls, including personal details that would be frowned upon in the 21st Century, though it was a different society, with different mores, sixty years ago:

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Terri also landed a gig on series television in the late ’50s. Here’s an article describing her work:

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If you’d like a brief flash of Terri helping to intro the Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, you can see her at this link.

Arguably the most famous of the Canyon models Caniff used was Bek Steiner, who as Miss Mizzou made quite a splash when she appeared at halftime in the University of Missouri football stadium and doffed her character’s trademark trenchcoat (see our Steve Canyon Volume 3 for the detailed story). Here’s a a brief bit from the November 18, 1952 Macon, Missouri Chronicle-Herald with other information about Bek’s time at the school:

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Newspaper gossip columnists kept track of Bek even after her time as Mizzou ended. In early April, 1953 Dorothy Kilgallen told readers that Bek and musician Marty Mills were “closer than the baseball season,” but just before Memorial Day of that year another gossip feature said, “Don’t know about the chance of Johnny Ray reconciling with Marilyn Morrison. Anything is possible. But he has been paying lots of attention to Bek Steiner, a stunner at the Copacabana in New York.” By the wintertime of ’53, with cold temperatures and snow on the ground in the East and North, Bek had migrated westward, but city editors knew a photo of a beautiful woman in a bikini would warm readers’ hearts and featured a beaming Bek — left leg bent, head tilted to the right, back slightly arched and arms upraised and extended to either side — in a dark bikini. The copies of the story I’ve found are too blurred and dark for reproducing here, but her image was presented all in the name of culture! The caption informs readers, “All that’s changed in 2000 years is the means of capturing feminine beauty for posterity. Bek Steiner, 22-year-old dancer at Las Vegas, N. M., models a Bikini bathing suit, almost exactly like those which appear in mosaics recently excavated in Piazza Amerina, Sicily. Today, the camera captures beauty once preserved in bits of ceramic.”

The next two years were big ones in Bek’s personal life. She wed singer Chuck Nelson in 1954, and in his column It Happened Last Night, gossip monger Earl Wilson covered the nuptials with this tongue-in-cheek snippet:

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By the autumn of 1955 a child was on the way, as Dorothy Kilgallen reported at the bottom of the left column of this column (with a vivacious picture of Bek dominating the right-hand column):

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This is also a fine place to mention J.B. Winter’s fine, fun 2014 look at the character who was perhaps Milton Caniff’s biggest blonde bombshell, Miss Mizzou: A Life Beyond Comics. You can see it at Amazon and the page on that site is well worth visiting, since one of Bek’s friends and her daughter remark on the book in the “Comments” section. They indicate that, as of 2014, Bek Steiner was alive and brightening the lives of family and friends. That is good news indeed for fans like us, because Bek’s fictional counterpart, Miss Mizzou, will be re-teaming with Caniff’s rock-jawed colonel in Steve Canyon Volume 8!

May Your Days Be Merry & Bright —

Dean and Lorraine and my wife and I are traveling (not together!) for the next several days. While we take a bit of a breather please accept our hopes that, whichever winter-solstice holiday you choose to celebrate, you have a mighty happy one!

I’ll be back before New Year’s Day with the second part of our look at Milton Caniff’s models, following their Steve Canyon assignments —

A_Book_Tree

Canyon’s Model Citizens (Part 1 of 2)

With Steve Canyon Volume 7 now on sale, Dean and I were reflecting on what a chock-full package this book proved to be. Previously-unreprinted Canyon strips! A detailed examination of the TV show based on the strip, thanks in large part to John Ellis, the impresario responsible for making the series available on DVD! A nifty “progression” feature showing one of Steve’s action poses evolving from pencil rough to finished inks! A photo of Caniff with then-Vice President Richard Milhous Nixon! Coverage — with pictures and a first-hand account — of Milt and Bunny’s 1960 trip to the Far East! And an extensive look at the development of the “Pipa Island/Red Cross” story, including a page of photos showcasing Caniff with two models, Loree Thomas and Gen Melia.

Milt’s use of models was a tried-and-true practice by the time of the Red Cross adventure, of course. Extending all the way back to his Terry and the Pirates days, with Nedra Harrison as the original model for the Dragon Lady and Kay Stearns serving as the flesh-and-blood April Kane, Caniff knew working with models helped inject verisimilitude into his artwork, while photos of those sessions helped promote his comic strips when included as part of magazine and newspaper publicity articles.

Over three hundred eight-by-ten glossies were shot during Caniff’s session with models Melia and Thomas. We looked at many, many pictures featuring the two ladies in order to select five for publication, and seeing that quintet of of photos again made me wonder when I sat down this week with my copy of Canyon Volume 7: “What else could we learn about Gen and Loree?”

As it turns out, a fair amount …

Roughly a year after portraying Xenia “Whitey” Barker for Caniff, blonde Gen Melia found romance that connected her to Old Hollywood. “The Voice of Broadway,” syndicated gossip columnist Dorothy Kilgallen, printed news of a pending wedding in her May 12, 1961 column:

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Warner LeRoy’s father, Mervyn, directed 1931’s Little Caesar and, after landing at MGM as a producer, green-lighted The Wizard of Oz for that studio; mother Doris was the offspring of Harry Warner, the founder of Warner Bros. Mervyn and Doris had been divorced for almost twenty years by the time Warner and Gen announced their engagement. Mervyn remarried actress Katherine “Kitty” Spiegel in 1946, while shortly after her divorce from Mervyn became final, Doris quickly married director Charles Vidor, perhaps best known for helming A Farewell to Arms in 1957. Doris has a run of bad luck that included an incident at that wedding reception, as reported in this wire service tidbit:

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Note the misspelling of Gen’s first name!

For his part, Warner had early success in the theater and a director and producer. His controversial play Between Two Thieves caused some easily-offended members of the audience to walk out of the show in protest; at one showing a pair from the audience interrupted the performance to try to argue with the actors! Yet it was as a businessman and restaurateur where Warner found his greatest successes: he owned three prime New York locations: The Russian Tea Room, Maxwell’s Plum, and most famous of them all, Tavern on the Green.

Two years after walking down the aisle, Gen and Warner had their only child, Bridget, but even a young daughter could not cement a union buffeted by the stresses and strains of Manhattan’s high society. The couple eventually divorced and each remarried. As Gen Walton, Milton Caniff’s one-time model fell out of the spotlight for the rest of her life, but after years circulating among the “beautiful people,” a lower-profile lifestyle may have been a pleasantly comfortable fit.

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 Steve Canyon aficionados have now met Loree Thomas when she played the part of Alice Santa Fe, one of the long line of ladies who had a crush on America’s favorite bird-colonel, only to have him be oblivious to their feelings. By 1965 Loree was living in Long Beach, New York. She palled about with one Ginger Crossman, with the two gals visiting Ginger’s parents at their summer home in upscale Kennebunk, Maine. While researching this article, I found these two national ads for the same slimming program:

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When we compare the Loree in these 1968-69 ads to the Loree in Caniff’s Red Cross photos, it seems highly unlikely they are the same person, given [A] their physical differences (which seem significant, even given the changes the passage of a decade can bring) and [B] the fact that “our” Loree would have already been married with two children by the time of her shoot with Milton. Still, what are the odds two women would have a name as unusual as “Loree Thomas?” Certainly it could be a coincidence, but here’s a conjecture to mull: what if the slimming-ad Loree is the mother of the “Alice Santa Fe” Loree? TV-personality Loree would have been in an excellent position to assist her daughter’s ambitions  — she might even have been acquainted with Caniff and used that connection to line up the Red Cross gig for teen-aged Loree.

This is all speculation, it’s true. Still — as we’ll see after the Christmas holiday, when Part Two of this series appears — Milton Caniff was definitely willing to use teenaged models …

It Takes All Kinds to Make a World …

In the text features for our LOAC titles we often quote from letters received by the cartoonist in question. Sometimes this is professional correspondence related to the business of syndicating or merchandising the strip and its characters, while other times we cite those individual readers who felt the burning urge to pen either high praise or high dudgeon and mail it to the artist.

But some letters are so far “off the beam” they would have no place inside our books. Let me share the highlights — and I use that term loosely — from one of my very favorites with you …

Postmarked from scenic Brooklyn, New York in September of 1955, the item in question arrived in an envelope bearing this address (pardon the extreme blurriness):

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Sent to, “Mr. Al Capp, Steve Canyon Cartoonist,” in care of the New York Daily Mirror, we see the first sign that something is amiss. As we know (but the writer apparently did not), Al Capp drew Li’l Abner. It was Milton Caniff who created and produced Steve Canyon!

The enclosed letter was typed all in capitals (before that approach was deemed to represent “shouting”). As you can tell from the envelope excerpt above, the copy of the letter I have is too blurred for good reproduction, but I carefully transcribed the contents of the original when I found it during one of our research trips to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at The Ohio State University, so I’m able to replicate the all-caps format and include the various typos and misspellings, as well. Believe me, I couldn’t make this stuff up!

The author begins:

 

DEAR SIR:

RUSSIAS CLAIMS ON PLANETARY DISCOVERY BY COSMIC SPACE SHIPS IN AN ARTICLE OF AUG. ’55 BY REUTERS NEWS DISPATCH, IS A LITTLE PREVIOUS.  IN AUG. OF ’53, PATIENT Z-125 IN WASHINGTON, D.C. REHEARSED THE STATE DEPARTMENT IN RIGHTS OF THE WORD OF  GOD ON FAR PLANETS.

THE EVOLUTION AND PROPAGATION OF THE THREE PLANETS NEAREST THE SUN-STAR ARE IN THE ICE, STONE AND BIBLE MAKING STAGES.  WIT H EARTH THE FARTHEST ADVANCED OF ORBIT EVOLUTION IN THE SUN-STAR UNIVERSE, THE BROTHER AND SISTER PLANETS HAVE BEEN IN COMMUNION WITH THE EARTH EVOLUTION.

BEING HINDERED IN STATIONING, AND ATMOSPHERIC PLANETARY ACCEPTANCE, W  WOULD BE A HURDLE RUSSIA MAY FIND DIFFICULT TO- OVER COME.

 

The author (who shall go nameless) then shifts to a discussion of the goddesses found in “GREEK FAIRY TALES” and a tale of The Resurrection cited as being revealed by “ST MATTHEW TO THE MULTITUDE IN EPISTLE C22.” In closing, the letter’s writer offers this:

 

POEM OF PROSE

A WEDLOCK BEING WAC, MARRIED AND M.D.,

IN THE 1st CHURCH BEILEVEING 6 DAYS FOR A MONTH.

NOW THERE’S 28 DAYS IN ONE MONTH;

BEING, TOO, WELOCKED IN 2nd CHURCH BELIEVING 22 DAYS FOR A MONTH.

THE LADY OF MONTHS THAT PASS.

THAT BEING NEAR THE PHYSICIAN.

THE LADY KNOWS HER Ps AND Qs.

THAT FAR MATHEMATICIAN KNOWS Y PLUS X = ZERO.

 

Finally, by way of apology, the correspondent concluded: “P.S. SORRY I’M NOT A GOOD ODE-IST, PLEASE FOR-GIVE MY SHORT COMINGS.”

Even a wit as keen as Al Capp seemed flummoxed by what he had just read. Still, because he was a swiftie, he saw in the letter an opportunity to throw a couple gentle jabs at his good friend, Caniff. He forwarded the letter to Milton along with a note dated September 22, 1955. In it, Al wrote:

 

“Dear Milt:

“Judging from the contents of this letter … this is one of your readers. It was sent to me because everyone thinks I do all the comic strips.”

 

That humorous note provided the perfect — errr-r-r — Capper to the original letter writer’s impenetrable attempt at communication. But the missive serves as a reminder that, just as in today’s 21st Century world of high-profile stars and instantaneous contact, where stories of “celebrity stalkers” or bedeviling on-line “trolls” regularly make the news, the classic penmen of the past received plenty of letters from those who fit the description of either cranks or crackpots. Technology changes, but the range of human response does not.

And if this little exchange provided you with a smile, remind me someday to reprint the letter Ernie Bushmiller wrote about one particular piece of fan mail …!

Movietone News (The KFS Edition)

I’m hoping that U.S. readers of this space have recovered from the twin effects of turkey-based tryptophan and early-morning Black Friday shopping — and that every American reading these words had a fine and fun Thanksgiving holiday. I still have family visiting for a few days, but while they’re otherwise occupied I wanted to finish our look at some of the classic comic strips that made their way onto the silver screen decades before the wave of comic-books-turned-film-franchises that currently dominate international box offices. Last time we checked out the movie adaptations of “The Big Three” from the Chicago Tribune New York News Syndicate — Terry and the Pirates, Dick Tracy, and Little Orphan Annie — but the other behemoth in strip syndication, King Features, was also always ready to shift its most popular properties to a Hollywood footing. We’ll start this brief overview of King’s cinematic side with arguably their most influential comic strip of all …

Two years after it debuted in newspapers during the start of 1934, Flash Gordon came to movie palaces nationwide in an ambitious thirteen-chapter serial from Universal. As discussed in Volume Two of our Definitive Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim books, this cliffhanger proved so popular it spawned two sequels, was re-edited for release as a theatrical film and, later, as a feature for the syndicated TV market; generations of children grew to adulthood with this serial’s images of the Emperor’s palace, Mongo spaceships, and an always-breathless Dale Arden cemented into their memories. Much the same way the Flash Gordon strip helped bring science fiction to the newspaper masses, the Flash serial introduced SF to thousands of moviegoers.

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Title card for the original Flash Gordon serial. Note the prominent credit for cartoonist Alex Raymond.

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Who could blame King Vultan (John Lipson) if he has trouble diverting his gaze from the comely Jean Rogers? She assayed the role of Flash’s girlfriend, Dale Arden. Like the comic strip Dale, Rogers was a natural brunette, but the serial’s production staff decided audiences would respond better to Dale as a blonde.

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A nifty Flash publicity shot featuring, left-to-right, Priscilla Lawson as a zaftig Princess Aura, Rogers as Dale, and Buster Crabbe as the intrepid Flash Gordon, with Lipson’s Vultan literally looking over his shoulder. Charles Middleton is pitch-perfect as the ruthless, cunning Ming, the merciless ruler of Planet Mongo.

A year later, Universal Pictures brought Flash‘s topper strip, Jungle Jim, to movie audiences as a serial in twelve parts, with Grant Withers playing the part of Jim. More enduring was the late-1948 full-length movie version of the character Columbia distributed, which was a low-budget success, spawning more than a dozen sequels that appeared during a period from the end of the 1940s to the mid-1950s. The actor playing Jim Bradley for Columbia was arguably the most famous Tarzan of them all — multi-Olympic -gold-medalist, swimmer Johnny Weissmuller.

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In his early 40s by the time he left Tarzan’s loincloth behind for Jungle Jim’s safari hat, Weissmuller spent his entire career as a leading man playing either the Lord of the Jungle or the Manhunter of the Malay Peninsula. What other “name” actor can say his fame was built upon only two roles, both of them offshoots of newspaper comic strips?

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From later in the series, a lobby card for 1949’s The Lost Tribe. Note Elena Verdugo among the supporting cast; as discussed in our next Steve Canyon volume, she came close to having a recurring role in the short-lived Canyon TV series as Steve girl friend!

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If the chap in the pith helmet being led by Jim looks familiar, that’s because it’s none other than actor George Reeves in his pre-Superman days!

Since King’s roster of comics included so many humorous features, it’s only natural the biggest gag-strips morphed into cinematic incarnations. Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake’s twenty-eight Blondie films came out from 1938 through the mid-’40s and remained immensely popular as syndicated TV fare well into the 1960s. Less successful in execution to the Blondies, but very good looking in terms of the actors and costuming, are Monogram’s five Jiggs and Maggie pictures, starting with 1946’s Bringing Up Father.  This series starred Joe Yule as the hodcarrier-turned-millionaire Jiggs and Renie Riano as his social-climber wife, Maggie.

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Lobby card for Bringing Up Father. Maggie and Jiggs’s creator, cartoonist George McManus, also appeared in the movie as himself.

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From later in the series, this still is from Jiggs and Maggie in Jackpot Jitters. Like her comic strip counterpart, Riano’s Maggie is never shy about making men toe the line in her presence!

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The Bringing Up Father films received mixed reviews, at best. Their artistic merit can be debated, but certainly the two leads always look as if they might have stepped out of a panel of a McManus comic strip.

This look at comic strips come to life is hardly exhaustive, but it was fun to look back at select offerings with a Library of American Comics flavor. And for my friends who were remarking how extraordinary it is to see comic book properties being featured in 21st Century big-budget blockbusters, this little miniseries of articles might serve as a reminder that comics-to-film is nothing new under the sun … and that, as usual, the comic strips got there before the comic books did!

Movietone News (The CTNYN Edition)

Hollywood has been on my mind a lot the past few weeks.

It started while assembling the week’s worth of puzzles that ran in this space a short time ago; each installment contained one Hollywood connection, and it was great fun sifting through images of wonderful old stars such as Eve Arden and Spencer Tracy.

Over the past couple days days there has been some discussion amongst my oldest friends regarding the new Doctor Strange motion picture from Marvel Studios. When you grew up reading Marvel Comics as we did, and when you dealt with the sneering of the adult population (I remember one bookstore clerk racking up the sale for a fresh stack of comics I was buying and snidely asking, “Are you going to read them all tonight?”), regardless what you think of the finished movie product it’s more than slightly amazing that John & Jane Q. Public now know who Stephen Strange is (and Tony Stark, and Steve Rogers, and Peter Parker, and …). Even more amazing to realize how many members of that public-at-large are shelling out hard-earned coin to see their big-screen adventures.

In the course of that discussion, it hit me that that while audiences watching theatrical versions of Marvel Comics characters is a relatively new phenomenon, the practice of audiences filling movie palaces to see cartoon characters move and talk and generally come to life is anything but new — and yes, it was the comic strips that got there first. That led me to put together this two-part look back at Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, focusing this time on the “crown jewels” of the Chicago Tribune New York News Syndicate.

Milton Caniff’s 1934-1946 run on Terry and the Pirates remains as feisty and entertaining today as it was when it was appearing in daily newspapers across the country. The Columbia Pictures serial version of Terry is less successful than its source material, but back in 1940 comics were considered cheap, throwaway entertainment and chapterplays were simply warm-ups for the featured film, so there were less-discerning filters being applied in those days. Certainly many of the kids attending the Saturday matinee were probably content to see Terry, Pat, Normandie, Connie, and Big Stoop walking, talking, and come to life before their eyes.

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Title card for the Columbia TERRY AND THE PIRATES serial

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“Look, Freddy, look! It’s Big Stoop!” Well, kinda-sorta — in the world of the film TERRY, Big Stoop can talk!

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Spirited conversation between Terry (William Tracy) and Pat (Granville Owen). At age twenty-three, Tracy was definitely “playing young” as teenaged Terry! Owen,. meanwhile, had the distinction of playing both Pat Ryan and Abner Yokum in the same year, since 1940 also saw the release of RKO’s LI’L ABNER movie.

 

As discussed in Volume 5 of our Little Orphan Annie series, 1932 brought RKO’s version of America’s Spunkiest Kid into the cinemas. It fared little better with critics than would Terry, despite featuring one of the premier child stars of the day, Mitzi Green.

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Mitzi Green strokes a pose as Annie. She had previously played Becky Thatcher in Paramount’s adaptations of TOM SAWYER and HUCKLEBERRY FINN.

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Title card to the 1932 LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE. The film was co-written by Tom McNamara, the cartoonist-creator of US BOYS, who went on to a second career as a Hollywood writer and director.

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This title card for the ANNIE motion picture features Harold Gray artwork. Go, Sandy, go!

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What is more charming than a child and a dog? In the 1932 production of LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE, Sandy has been cast as a German Shepard rather than a mutt — the popularity of Rin Tin Tin may have had something to do with that decision …

 

Arguably the best and certainly the the longest-lived of the celluloid versions of the CTNYN “Big Three” is Dick Tracy. America’s Top Manhunter first hit the movie screen in 1937 as a fifteen-chapter Republic Pictures serial, the first in a series of five from that studio.

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Ralph Byrd certainly looks the part of Tracy, assaying the role in all of Republic’s serials, two of the four RKO movies, and a 1950-51 television series.

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Lobby card for the final Republic TRACY serial.

 

RKO followed Republic in 1945 with a series of four Dick Tracy full-length films. Morgan Conway played Tracy in the first two before Ralph Byrd resumed the part for Dick Tracy’s Dilemma and Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome. In this still with June Clayworth from the latter production (1947), it’s clear Byrd still looks great as Tess Trueheart’s one-and-only.

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In case you’re wondering, the “IML” on Miss Clayworth’s jacket are the initials of her character’s name: Irma M. Learned. Yes, she’s Dr. I.M. Learned …

CTNYN wasn’t the only major comic strip syndicator to have its characters entertain movie-goers. We’ll be back soon with a look at a trio of strips from the King Features stable that lived parallel lives in the flicker-pictures.

 

Answers from the 3DBB

(And kudos to everyone who fondly remembers Tennessee Tuxedo & His Tales, from whom I’ve cribbed for the titles of recent posts, including this one …)

As promised, today is the grand unveiling — the answers to each of the five puzzlers we published in this space last week! Each puzzle showed three images, and there was a connection linking image # 1 to image # 2, and image # 2 to image # 3. Your task was to identify those linkages.

I designed each puzzle so the links would have to do with the names of the three characters shown in each set. I mixed in a touch of “old Hollywood” to each puzzle, just to add an extra wrinkle to the proceedings (and so comics experts might find an additional challenge, although let’s face it, comic strip fans are often movie buffs, too). And now, the grand unveiling …

First in the Series: The three images shown are Ouchy Mugouchy (from Will Gould’s hard-hitting detective strip, Red Barry), a young Terry from Terry and the Pirates, and durable British comedian and actor Terry Thomas, perhaps best known for the large gap between his two front teeth and his roles in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines; and The Mouse on the Moon. Those wondering how that trio of names connects clearly haven’t read our recently-released Red Barry, Volume 1. Otherwise, you’d know Ouchy’s real name is Archibald Galahad Lancelot Lee, which makes the connections:

  • Archibald Galahad Lancelot LEE to
  • TERRY LEE to
  • TERRY Thomas

You can find the first puzzle here, if you want to refresh yourself on those three images: First Puzzle

Second in the Series: Gentlemen in the audience, don’t bother to thank me for finding three sterling examples of pulchritude for this puzzle. The connections here are:

  • EVE Jones (from Stan Drake and Elliot Caplin’s primo soap opera strip, The Heart of Juliet Jones) to
  • EVE Arden (whom one of our favorite correspondents, playing along each day, perfectly described as, “forever Our Miss Brooks, and the assistant to James Stewart in  Anatomy of a Murder. Always the wise cracking woman, way ahead of her time.”) to
  • Dale ARDEN (inamorata of the one and only Flash Gordon in the comic strip, films, and books that bear his name)

The second puzzle and its images can be seen here: Second puzzle

Third in the Series: Here the comics characters were certainly easy, but I hoped the motion picture still might trip up some of you. The connections are:

  • DICK Grayson (the redoubtable Robin, from the strip he shared with Batman) to
  • DICK TRACY to
  • Spencer TRACY (unquestionably one of our greatest actors. We see him here in his 1941 triumph, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but he’s also splendid in Thirty Seconds over Tokyo, Father of the Bride, Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, and most especially the nine films he made with Katharine Hepburn, of which Woman of the Year and Adam’s Rib are my personal favorites)

Want another look at those three images? You’ll find them here: Third puzzle

Fourth in the Series: Though earlier this year we had published a collection featuring the character in the first image of this puzzle, I hoped choosing to run an extreme close-up of him might make it difficult for you. And this time I made the connections tie to the first names of all three personages depicted. Those connections are:

  • MIKE Flint (star of Jack WIlliamson/Lee Elias’s science fiction Sunday epic, Beyond Mars) to
  • MICHAEL Caine (another Mike, looking young and very Seventies-ish in this shot, but who of course continues to work in major motion pictures to this day) to
  • MIKE Nomad (hard-charging co-star of the solid Saunders/Overgard adventure strip Steve Roper and Mike Nomad)

Here are the images, if you want a second look at them: Fourth puzzle

Fifth & Final in the Series: I ended on an esoteric and purposefully tough note, though again, in each case the connections between the three subjects was their shared first names. Did the first image stump you? He is:

  • DANNY Hale (star of the eponymous strip that later shifted its title slightly to Dan’l Hale. This self-syndicated strip, by cartoonist Norman Marsh, was billed as “A true-fiction, action-adventure saga of the colorful, long rifle, log cabin, and Indian days of our turbulent frontiers …”) to
  • DANNY Kaye (versatile actor, comedian, song-&-dance man, and baseball fan, perhaps best known for his roles in the films The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Inspector General) to
  • DAN Dunn (Norman Marsh’s breakthrough character, the star of his own decade-long comic strip who also appeared in Big Little Books and in a short-lived pulp magazine and radio show)

You can see the three of them here: Final puzzle

 

If you’d like to learn at least a little bit more about Danny Hale, plus a whole lot more about Norman Marsh (for instance, he was a sailor from the Gilligan School of Seamanship!), plus read the first year of Dan Dunn dailies, be watching early next year for our Dan Dunn – Secret Operative 48 LOAC Essentials volume.  It was a lot of fun putting together that book; both the comics and the cartoonist who created them were quite fascinating!

 

 

Gee, Tennessee — Here’s a Riddle! (Fifth & Final in a Series)

We’ll wrap up this workweek (for many) with the last of our little puzzlers. Can you identify the connections that link image # 1 below to image # 2, and image # 2 to image # 3?

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No awards or prizes are being handed out, but we’ve received communications from some of our favorite LOAC readers who have been enjoying themselves as they play along, which has been very gratifying.

If you missed any of our previous puzzlers, you can find them by clicking on the “Blog” link at the top of this page (as shown on this screenshot), then scrolling down:

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And please join us back here on Monday for the answers to all five portions of our frivolous little quiz …

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