Friday, April 7, 2017

Happy Birthday, Jim Garner!

As is a yearly tradition here on The Cartoon Cave, April 7th is dedicated to my favourite actor, Jim Garner. Unfortunately, due to time constraints I had to go with a less ambitious illustration than I had originally planned to do. So I fell back on drawing Jim once again as Jim Rockford from The Rockford Files. If Rockford is looking a bit concerned here, it's because I sketched him from one of the episodes, Hotel of Fear where he's having to deal with the shenanigans of Angel Martin, played so brilliantly by Stuart Margolin.

By the way, I'd like to dedicate this year's caricature of Garner to Robert Howe, who runs the wonderful tribute page to Jim on Facebook, The Official James Garner Fan Page. For a number of years, Rob's kept the spotlight shining brightly on Jim Garner and his career, and this is especially appreciated by all of Jim's fans in these years following Jim's passing in July 2014. Here's to you, Rob!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Well, I heard the sad news today that we lost "Mr. Warmth", the brilliantly acerbic comedian, Don Rickles, at the age of 90. Those of us who came of age in the 60s and 70s will always fondly remember Rickles for his appearances on The Tonight Show and especially on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, where he humourously skewered so many of his fellow celebs with his comedic insults. I'm betting that as he walked through those pearly gates, he flipped a quarter to St. Peter and told him, "You're a helluva doorman!"
So long, Rickles - we'll miss ya'!

Here's a great clip from The Tonight Show where Rickles drops in during Johnny Carson's interview with Frank Sinatra:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Happy Birthday, Jerry Reed!

I've written at length about ol' Jerry Reed in this previous post. Back in the 70s and 80s, Jerry was my favourite male country music star, as he was such an entertaining and manic personality in addition to being an incredible guitar talent. I remember reading in an interview with Jerry that he never thought of himself as a great singer, but rather, he felt he was more of a stylist with a brash, mostly humourous approach to his songs. In fact, he compared himself to Phil Harris, the former bandleader and vocalist also known for his brash, breezy humour, and even recorded one of Phil's hit songs, The Darktown Poker Club, although with the slight title change, The Uptown Poker Club, to reflect Jerry's more uptempo beat.

Anytime I need to lift my mood, I put on one of my Jerry Reed CDs or original LP records, and that crazy rascal can always get me smiling. Jerry would have hit the age of 80 today if he were still around, and I sure do miss him. I'd like to dedicate this tribute post to Jerry's daughters, Seidina and Lottie, in the hopes that they know just how much their Dad was loved by his legion of fans.

Also, since the summer of 2017 will mark the 40th anniversary of the crowdpleaser, Smokey and the Bandit, here's Jerry (who played trucker, Cledus "Snowman" Snow) singing his hit song from that film, Eastbound and Down. Pick it, Son!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Mary Tyler Moore

This week we lost a bonafide TV legend with the passing of Mary Tyler Moore at age 80. We’re at a point in time now where many of our favourite TV stars from the 1960s and 70s are starting to disappear, and that saddens me greatly when I think back to how important they were to the popular culture of my youth. 

Though she first gained stardom on The Dick Van Dyke Show from 1961 to 1966, Mary really hit it big just a few years later on CBS with her own The Mary Tyler Moore Show starting in 1970. This show, along with others like All In The Family and The Bob Newhart Show were part of a new era on CBS that featured more contemporary, sophisticated themes after what was known as "Rural Purge", in which folksy, small town series were being cancelled (despite still high ratings) in favour of shows that would attract viewers who were young urban professionals. Mary Tyler Moore and her MTM Productions would become one of the major players in this new media trend.

In honour of Mary, I’ve been revisiting The Mary Tyler Moore Show these last few days and it really is a warm and nostalgic trip back in time to what I believe to be a much more genuinely entertaining era of TV. It’s a great ensemble cast, for one thing, where Mary herself plays it relatively straight as Mary Richards, the fresh-faced, newly hired associate news producer, allowing the rich cast of comedic characters to shine around her. In the struggling local TV newsroom that forms the premise of the series there’s gruff, domineering boss/news producer, Lou Grant; the under-appreciated and sarcastic news writer, Murray Slaughter; and of course the delightfully vainglorious anchorman, Ted Baxter. Rounding things out on the homefront are Mary’s elitist landlady, Phyllis Lindstrom, and her best friend and neighbour, the lovelorn but sassy Rhoda Morgenstern.

What’s striking about the series is the basic decency and genuine goodness of its central character, Mary Richards, which I’m sure comes about naturally through the delightfully charming Mary Tyler Moore herself who really does typify the All-American Girl. One can’t help but root for Mary, and I’m sure that all viewers just fell in love with her. That era of TV is still magical to me, as I don’t think that same type of character could exist today in modern TV’s cynical and edgy style of sitcoms, sadly enough. Also, back in the early 70s, in those pre-VCR (and way before PVR) years, viewers had to make a point of staying home to watch these shows as they were broadcast, or miss out altogether. As a result, we all had a shared culture where viewers were aware of most of what was on our dozen or so TV channels, and would talk about the shows with each other at school or the office the day after they aired. We also watched these series on the one TV in the living room along with our family members, so I think that families were much closer and shared similar values as a result.

And Mary Tyler Moore was one of the most beloved and iconic TV stars of that 70‘s era, which is why there was such an emotional outpouring of adoration and sadness throughout social media at the news of her passing. So dear Mary, thanks for your legacy of great entertainment. There will never be another one as special as you, and you always did turn the world on with that big beautiful smile!

Monday, August 8, 2016

And The Angels Sing For Pete Fountain

I was very sorry to hear that we lost the legendary Dixieland clarinetist, Pete Fountain this past Saturday, August 6th at the age of 86. I grew up listening to Pete’s music when I was a kid, as my dear Dad was a huge fan and played his jazz records regularly on the family hi-fi. In my Dad’s opinion, Pete Fountain was right up there with Louis Armstrong when it came to playing Dixieland jazz. Though I was quite young at the time, I loved what I heard and I inherited my Dad’s taste in “hot” jazz music.

I remember when I was a teen in the 1970s, Pete Fountain used to make regular guest appearances on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, where he would play an extended jazz session alongside Doc Severinsen and the NBC orchestra. Pete was a native of New Orleans, and I know he was often called upon to participate in the annual Mardi Gras parade. I’m sure that the people of New Orleans are now mourning the loss of one of their favorite sons. RIP Pete Fountain.

Here's a clip of one of Pete Fountain's guest appearances on The Tonight Show!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, I also learned that we lost Ricci Martin, son of the great Dean Martin on that same day as well. Ricci’s death was particularly tragic, as he was only 62. In recent years Ricci Martin had brought his touring show entitled A Son Remembers- Dean Martin’s Music and More to Mississauga’s Stage West hotel. My Mom and I had seen him in performance on two different tours there, and I had gotten to meet with him and present to him a caricature I did of his famous father. Ricci was a very dear guy, very gracious and generous with his fans, and I wrote about having met with him in an earlier blog post. I am heartbroken at his untimely passing, and I send my condolences to his family.

I’d like to dedicate this post and caricature to my late father and mother, John and Ann Emslie, for their instilling in me a love of great music. Thanks, Mom and Dad - I love and miss you both very much! 

Monday, May 9, 2016

In Praise Of William Schallert

I heard earlier today that we lost the veteran character actor, William Schallert at the ripe old age of 93. Whether or not you know his name, anybody who grew up with TV from the 1960s and 70s will undoubtedly recognize that face, and probably his voice as well!

William Schallert will probably best be remembered in his dual roles as Martin Lane and twin brother Kenneth, fathers of twin cousins, Patty and Cathy respectively, on The Patty Duke Show. And it is a sad coincidence that we lost Patty Duke herself only this past March. Schallert can be seen in this show episode at the 4:45 mark:

But he was also a very familiar face appearing on countless TV series of the era in guest star roles, including Perry Mason, The Lucy Show, Mission: Impossible, The Wild Wild West, and the famous Star Trek episode, The Trouble With Tribbles. Get Smart fans will also fondly remember Schallert as the ancient Admiral Hargrade, the original Chief of Control.

Although he was usually cast as the easygoing, lanky and likeable gentleman and fatherly type, there were the rare occasions where he was cast against type as the villain. One of these roles had Schallert cast as a sharpshooting hired killer in the episode, The Empty Hours on the early police drama, 87th Precinct, based on the series of crime novels by Ed McBain (of which I am a huge fan!)

William Schallert was primarily a TV actor, but he did make a number of films as well. When I think back on it, I suspect that my introduction to him was when he played the gentle and understanding Professor Quigley in Disney's 1969 comedy, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. He was the foil to Joe Flynn's bombastic and frugal college head, Dean Higgins, where he championed the students' various causes against a highly reluctant college administration.

I mentioned earlier that TV viewers of that era would likely know William Schallert's voice, even when heard separately from his familiar image. That's because Schallert's pleasant, folksy voice was pitching numerous products on TV commercials throughout the 60s and 70s. There was one voiceover he did that I was not aware of as being him, though. One of the regular commercial assignments he had was as Milton the Toaster, the animated character on the Kellogg's Pop Tart ads. Here he affects a Brooklyn accent, so I didn't find out it was him until years later!

William Schallert was one of the last oldest surviving veterans of 1960's TV, so his passing really does make many of us sad and wistfully nostalgic for that innocent and vastly entertaining era. RIP William Schallert, and thanks for all the wonderful memories!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Happy Birthday, Eric Goldberg!

I see that today, May 1st, is the birthday of that master Disney animator, Eric Goldberg. Here's a photo of myself and Eric when he came to do a presentation at Sheridan College back in September 2013. Eric is a delightful, jolly little fellow, and his sprightly animation for Disney famously includes the Genie from Aladdin, which Eric caricatured to resemble his voice actor, the great Robin Williams. I have written about that in this previous blog post.

Other characters that Eric has skillfully brought to life in Disney films include Phil, the grouchy little satyr who reluctantly agrees to act as personal trainer to Hercules (who looks uncannily like his voice actor too - Danny Devito!) He also animated Louis, the alligator and aspiring Dixieland jazz trumpeter from The Princess And The Frog. More recently, Eric revived Donald Duck, José Carioca the parrot, and Panchito the rooster, known collectively as The Three Caballeros, for the renovated boat ride in the Mexican pavilion at EPCOT's World Showcase. Which was a fitting assignment, given that the original film characters were masterminded by the legendary animator, Ward Kimball, and Eric is very much this generation's equivalent of Ward, with the accent on highly cartooned design and rapid fire movement in much of his output.

But my favourite animation by Eric Goldberg is the brilliant Rhapsody In Blue segment from Disney's Fantasia 2000, which he directed with so much passion (with wife, Susan Goldberg art directing), as he got to base the overall look on the style of one of his artistic heroes, New York's legendary Broadway caricaturist, Al Hirschfeld. I too share Eric's admiration for Hirschfeld, as he has been the biggest influence on my own approach to drawing caricatures.

I know that Eric was just up this way again only a week ago, giving a lecture and workshop at the Toronto TAAFI animation festival. I regret not being there to see him myself, but I've heard back from several of my former Sheridan College students who were thrilled to hear his lecture and learn animation tips from him. I'm sure it would have been a most enjoyable event.

Happy Birthday to you, Eric Goldberg!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Happy Birthday, Jim Garner!

"Aw, c'mon Dennis!"
"Sorry, Jimbo, but I can't help you out this time".

This scene played itself out many times over on the hit NBC series, The Rockford Files, whenever private investigator Jim Rockford would pop into LAPD headquarters hoping his buddy, Sgt. Dennis Becker would run a licence plate for him or agree to provide any other professional favour that only the police can.

So on what would have been the 88th birthday of my favourite actor, James Garner, I'd also like to pay tribute to Jim's dear friend and colleague, Joe Santos, who played Sgt. Becker and whom we sadly lost just a few weeks ago on March 18, 2016, after he suffered a heart attack at the age of 84.

Joe Santos was completely believable as the constantly beleaguered, overworked and under-appreciated Sgt. Dennis Becker, with his Brooklyn accent and moon face always sporting a hangdog expression. Though he was Rockford's best friend off-duty, on the job Dennis had to be careful not to be seen doing Jim any favours that might go against official police protocol, lest he be caught by one of his superiors, either Lt. Diehl or Lt. Chapman, both of whom detested poor Rockford and still viewed him as a bad news ex-con (despite his being innocent of his charge and given a full pardon after being released from prison). Fortunately, friendship and loyalty always won out in the end, with Dennis following up on Rockford's tips and often showing up with his fellow cops just in the nick of time to get Jim out of a tight spot in the climax of many episodes.

The Rockford Files had one of the best ensemble casts of any TV detective show back in the 1970s, and due to Jim Garner's legendary generosity to his fellow actors, all his co-stars remained loyal friends to Jim off-screen as well. Though Joe Santos played many other roles in his long career (including the role of Frank Sinatra's father, Marty, in the 1992 TV miniseries, Sinatra), he will always be best remembered as harried but loveable Dennis Becker, who happily, eventually got promoted to Lieutenant for all his hard work and dedication!

So here's to both Jim Garner and Joe Santos - two wonderful actors and good friends, both on and off screen!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Happy Birthday, David Frankham!

This dashing young fellow is British actor, David Frankham, as he appeared in the 1961 adventure film, Master of the World. It was the second of three films in which he co-starred alongside Vincent Price, the other two being Return of the Fly (1958) and Tales of Terror (1962). In fact, David credits Price with getting him cast in this role when the original actor had to bow out. 

But today is a very special day, as today Mr. Frankham hits the age of 90 years old, and is still quite the spry fellow living down in warm and sunny New Mexico!

Science fiction TV fans may recall David Frankham from his guest roles in The Outer Limits (“Nightmare”) and Star Trek (“Is There in Truth No Beauty?”) However, to many longtime Disney fans like myself, David Frankham will always be beloved as the voice of Sgt. Tibbs, the heroic little tabby cat who helped rescue the puppies in Disney’s animated classic, One Hundred and One Dalmatians.

I’ve written before of how the Disney artists would often try to incorporate some of the physical features and mannerisms from the actors who provided their voices. And I believe that they were able to translate some of Mr. Frankham’s facial features into the feline features of Tibbs. The little cat shares his big soulful eyes, small pointed nose that juts out sharply, and especially the pouting lower lip on a small mouth. 

As it happens, Sgt. Tibbs is my favourite character from the film, as I love the irony of a skinny little cat risking his nine lives trying to protect 101 puppies, knowing full well that as grown-up dogs they’d likely give him a lot of grief! Tibbs moves in quick zigzag patterns, in contrast to the slow plodding movements of The Colonel, his sheepdog commander, and so that also makes him the natural choice to embark on a stealth mission, as he can easily dart through small confined spaces undetected by the two Cockney villains, Horace and Jasper. David Frankham created a quick, attentive vocal mannerism to match his physical movements, and the little cat is so respectful of his superiors, eager to carry out his mission to the best of his abilities. In short, Mr. Frankham and the Disney animators have combined their talents to create a heroic and memorable little personality that will live on in the hearts of all Disney fans forever!

So in closing, I want to wish David Frankham a very Happy 90th Birthday and sincere thanks for playing a part in my childhood movie memories!

Here he is in the trailer for Roger Corman's Master of the World (1961):

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"Nudge, Nudge, Say No More!"

Back in the beginning of May 2015, I'd received a freelance assignment that intrigued me and turned out to be a lot of fun to do. The request came from the Just For Laughs company, who are based in Montreal and put together various comedy specials for TV, as well as the Just For Laughs live comedy festivals featuring many well-known and up and coming stand-up comedians.

It turns out they were putting together a comedy tour featuring Monty Python alumni, John Cleese and Eric Idle, where the two of them would sit and chat on stage, reminiscing about their work on Monty Python's Flying Circus and the movies that the TV show begat. It was my caricature of John Cleese in his role as the Minister of Silly Walks from a few years back that the folks from Just For Laughs had seen on Google images, leading to their hiring me for this assignment, and they wanted Cleese still depicted in that role. For Eric, I suggested his "Nudge, Nudge" character, as that seemed to me his most iconic role and very representative of Eric's style of humour. They agreed, and I forged ahead on the caricature of this funny duo!

The show itself was only scheduled through October, and was limited to Florida and a few other southern state playdates. Cleese himself joked about how it was really just a good excuse for an all-expenses paid Florida vacation for he and Eric! Though I unfortunately did not see the show myself, friends of mine who did were good enough to send me a photo of my caricature projected large on a screen above the stage before the show got underway. 

Then, just a week before Christmas I received an early present. The folks from Just For Laughs had not only honoured my request for a poster as a souvenir, but they'd had John and Eric autograph it for me as well! It was certainly a big thrill, and a great addition to my collection of autographed caricatures I've amassed over many years. Here is that signed poster:

Just today, I was alerted to this Daily Mail article on John Cleese and his outspoken criticism of how today's political correctness is attempting to restrict what a comedian is allowed to say, particularly in venues on the college and university circuit. Cleese is in good company, as other comedians such as Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, and Bill Maher have made similar observations. And having taught at a college for eleven years myself, I share these views also. Students are not as easygoing as they used to be, and these comedians are quite right to be concerned about the future of comedy when subjected to arbitrary restrictions out of fear of it being considered "offensive".

Here's a video of John Cleese speaking his mind on this unfortunate phenomenon: