Archive for Harrison Cady

Tribute to a Once Famous Uncle

Posted in BOOKS & AUTHORS, ME, VISUAL ART with tags , , on September 20, 2011 by travsd

The only person in my family even remotely “famous” in the last century or so (apart from a great aunt who dated Jerry Van Dyke — true story) is someone you’ve STILL probably never heard of, so allow me the liberty of filling you in.

I am distantly related (I think he’s my great-great-uncle) to children’s illustrator Harrison Cady, best known for his association with Thorton W. Burgess’s “Peter Rabbit” stories.  This is, of course not the same Peter Rabbit as Beatrix Potter’s more famous creation, which adds a layer of indignity to the obscurity. My maternal grandmother, my favorite and most influential grandparent, was the Cady connection.

Reddy Fox

In high school, I got to play Reddy Fox, one of my own relative’s co-creations, in a  school play based on Burgess’s books. I didn’t tell any of the other kids about the connection because I was afraid they wouldn’t believe me. (There are times when a reputation for habitual, extravagant embellishment of the truth in pursuit of attention has its drawbacks).  But to this day, Reddy Fox — and I mean this — was one of my greatest theatrical creations. But if you weren’t five years old and in southern Rhode Island in 1982, chances are good you probably haven’t seen it.

At NYU film school I was thrilled when my favorite professor John Canemaker named Cady as one of the seminal influences on the young Walt Disney. Something about dressing small forest animals in human clothing, I believe…

Here’s the thumbnail bio:

Cady was born in 1877 (date unknown) in Gardner, Massachusetts where his father ran a local general store. At a young age he entered an apprenticeship with a local painter, and was still a teenager when he published his first illustration. He moved to New York City at age 18 and within a year found work as an illustrator with the Brooklyn Eagle, where he remained for four years, while also freelancing to other publications. From there he joined Life as a staff artist and cartoonist for a number of years.

He association with Burgess spanned five decades, beginning with Baby Possum Has a Scare (c. 1912), The Adventures of Reddy Fox (1913) and Buster Bear Invites Old Mr. Toad to Dine (c. 1914), The series continued into the 1950s with At Paddy the Beaver’s Pond (1950), followed by the reprint The Animal World of Thornton Burgess (1962).

During his 70+ year career he was to illustrate for such publications as Boys’ Life, The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping and Country Gentleman. He passed away in 1970. A lot of material on Cady is on deposit in the collections of the Smithsonian.

At any rate, the knowledge that I was related to this once-famous man, that I actually possessed books full of his illustrations was one of the things that inspired me when I was a kid. And so I write a tribute to him today! He deserves to be much better known! Walt Disney would agree.

 

Easter Parade — Not!

Posted in HOLIDAYS, FESTIVALS, MEMORIALS & PARADES, Hollywood (History) with tags , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2011 by travsd

Feeling all Eastery, and wanting to do some Easterish Easter thing on this Easterly Easter?

Well, then for God’s sake, DON’T watch Easter Parade, the 1948 Irving Berlin musical that has absolutely NOTHING to do with Easter, except for the fact that the beginning and ending scenes happen to be set on Easter Day. But in no way, shape or form is the movie about Easter or even an Easter Parade.  The film is a flimsy, craven excuse to make hay out of the titular song…and little else. It seems to me as though MGM’s famous Freed Unit simply dusted off some pre-existing script and shoe-horned it under the Easter Parade title. You could have attached it to any old song and called it any old title and made just as much sense. “Eatin’ a Hamburger”. “Walkin’ Down the Beach, Y’all”. “Look! What’s that Up in the Road Ahead?” All of these titles would have worked just as well.  It’s about this dance team, played by Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, which breaks up then gets back together. I think it would be an easy matter for me to get more  emotionally involved watching a test pattern or static. As a base, I intrinsically hate movies like this, but then to have them gyp you on the Easter angle — it downright galvanizes one, converting mere indifference into an active tizzy.

At that point there’s only one thing to do. Watch a REAL Easter movie. Might I suggest the 1971 Rankin-Bass television special Here Comes Peter Cottontail, featuring the voices of Danny Kaye, Vincent Price, Casey Kasem, and Paul Frees. Incidentally, the tale is based on the Thornton W. Burgess stories illustrated by my great-great uncle Harrison Cady, who will be profiled on this blog in a few weeks.

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