Archive for cartoonist

Illustrator Hy Mayer: On the Very First Bill at the Palace

Posted in German, Silent Film, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., VISUAL ART with tags , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2016 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of illustrator, cartoonist and animator Henry “Hy” Mayer (1868-1954). Originally from Germany, Mayer began his career as an illustrator in Munich, then worked his way west to Paris, then London, then finally New York, moving to the U.S. in 1886. He illustrated several children’s books, became a political cartoonist for the New York Times in 1904, and chief cartoonist at Puck starting in 1914.

Starting in 1909 Mayer began contributing animations for films to Universal Studios, where he turned out several popular series for over a decade. From 1920 through 1926 he created the “Such is Life” Series for Film Book Offices of America (later to be part of RKO).

Like many cartoonists, Mayer also played big time vaudeville and revues. He was on the very first bill at the Palace in 1913, and was also featured in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1913. His personal appearances seem limited however. Much more often, his popular films would be incorporated into vaudeville bills as attractions themselves.

Mayer also designed many posters and programs for show like the Ziegfeld Follies, and art for sheet music covers.

For more on vaudeville  historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

Harry Hershfield: The Jewish Will Rogers

Posted in Comedy, Jews/ Show Biz, Radio (Old Time Radio), Stars of Vaudeville, Television, Vaudeville etc., VISUAL ART with tags , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2015 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Harry Hershfield (1885-1974), known in his day as “the Jewish Will Rogers“.

Iowa native Hershfield started out as a teenage cartoonist for Chicago newspapers, before moving to New York and working for the Hearst syndicate and other papers there. His strips included “If I’m Wrong, Sue Me!” and “Meyer the Buyer”. Very progressive!

From cartooning, Hershfield branched out into being a toastmaster and master of ceremonies. Many prominent cartoonists (e.g. Rube Goldberg, Winsor McCay) worked in big time vaudeville. Hershfield is known to have brought his comedy to the Palace Theatre, the biggest vaudeville house of all.

In the 40’s he worked in radio, on such shows as One Man’s Opinion, Abie the Agent, Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One and Can You Top This? In the early 50s, he was a frequent guest panelist on television as well.

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The Hilton Sisters feeding some of their birthday cake to Marcus Loew (left) and Harry Herhfield (right)

For more on vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. For more on silent and slapstick film history don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc

Bud Fisher: Cartoonist on Stage

Posted in Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., VISUAL ART with tags , , , , , , on April 3, 2011 by travsd

A couple of reasons why cartoonist Harry Conway “Bud” Fisher (born this day in 1885) rates a shout out here. One, after his hit comic strip “Mutt and Jeff” became a national sensation in the nineteen teens, silent film versions of the strip, and personal appearances by Fisher himself were big time vaudeville acts. But secondly, the characters themselves — the tall, gangly racetrack habitue Mutt and his diminutive, crazy sidekick Jeff — undoubtedly influenced some two man comedy acts. Considered the first comic strip, “Mutt and Jeff” made Fisher a fortune, allowing to turn over its daily production to assistants while he lived the high life. He passed away in 1954. The strip itself was still being produced and syndicated in the 1980s.

To learn more about vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Winsor McCay: Cartoonist in Vaudeville

Posted in PLUGS, Silent Film, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., VISUAL ART with tags , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2010 by travsd

Born this day (according to some, including himself) circa 1867-1871, cartoonist Winsor McCay is much revered today for his highly whimsical, dreamlike comic strips like Little Nemo in Slumberland and Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend. More to the point here, starting in 1911, he toured vaudeville with short animated films using his characters like Gertie the Dinosaur and others. McCay would lecture and magically interact with the films. My friends from the Silent Clowns screening series have shown some of these — get on their list, and they’ll tip you off the next time it’s on one of their bills! After about 10 years of touring the circuits, McCay began to concentrate on editorial cartoons. He passed away in 1934.

Now here’s his creation “Gertie the Dinosaur” in a film from 1914. The titles are lines the cartoonist would have spoken to the animated film as part of his vaudeville act. The scenes at the end are a recap of the framing device that begins the film (available in a different youtube clip) in which fellow cartoonist George McManus bets him that he can’t make such a film.

To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Rube Goldberg: Cartoonist on the Big Time

Posted in Jews/ Show Biz, Stars of Vaudeville, Vaudeville etc., VISUAL ART with tags , , , , , on July 4, 2010 by travsd

Probably no surprise here, eh? Cartoonist Rube Goldberg (born this day in 1883) first started doodling for the local papers in his native San Francisco before moving to New York in 1907. In very short order, he was creating several popular comic strips of his own, and famous for the crazy imaginary contraptions that still bear his name, and that kids still pay tribute to (whether they know it or not) when they play the game Mousetrap. In 1911, he started playing vaudeville as well, with an act that combined stand-up, fortune telling and drawing cartoons from audience suggestions. He worked the big time for a number of years. (For example, he headlined at the opening performance of the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham, AL in 1914). Goldberg’s strips began to be nationally syndicated in 1915.

In 1930, he wrote the debut feature film of Ted Healy and the Three Stooges, called Soup to Nuts (yes, it does feature crazy inventions). (Incidentally, the movie is amazing–well worth watching). In the 40s, Goldberg graduated from strips to editorial cartoons. He passed away in 1970, long after having merited his own entry in the dictionary.

To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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