Dr. Seuss: Nabob of Nonsense


These TV Guide ads are from the 1970 debut screening of Horton Hears a Who — which I watched! (“Boil that dust speck, boil that dust speck!) I also watched the premiers of The Cat in the Hat (1971) and The Lorax (1972), but none of the subsequent ones. And naturally the annual screenings of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) which I was too young to see on its first performance. These TV specials (along with The Wizard of Oz, of course) were my first introduction to the concept of book-to-screen adaptation. Even an average kid will spot the differences and compare and contrast, I think. For me, engaging in such analysis has turned out to be a life long exercise. And then there’s re-enacting the shows on the playground the next day — another lifelong exercise. This is over and above the joy of reading the author’s original books, which combine a surreal visual sensibility, a love of rhyme, and a rare talent for generating memorable nonsense syllables (many writers attempt this; very few are gifted with the musicality of Dr. Seuss).

Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991), like so many cartoonists, comic artists, and illustrators, was of German-American stock. Raised in Springfield, Mass., he went to Dartmouth, briefly attended Oxford, then began his career in the advertising world in the late 1920s. His first kids’ book And To Think That I Saw it On Mulberry Street, was published in 1937. As a kid, I knew and cherished about 10-12 of his books. When my own kids were little, I doubled the number. And this is STILL only about a third of his output over a 50+ year career.

I used to have a post here about his 1953 movie The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, one of my favorite, most bizarre cinematic oddities of all time. I think I took it down; it was linked to a plug for an upcoming screening I think. I’ll have to do a new one. Right now there’s just this post on its star Peter Lind Hayes. A deeper appreciation or several on Dr. Seuss’s art are called for than I can provide today, but I’ll return to the topic. Short term, I just wanted to share the finds above in honor of his natal day.