The Story of Sally O’Neil

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Possibly the single best thing about running Scrappyland is that when people decide to research Scrappy on the web, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they will find their way here–even if they start out wholly ignorant of him, as so many people regrettably are.

That was the case with Brandon Manzione, who bought a photo of Sally O’Neil, an actress who appeared in silent films and early talkies, and wondered why she was brandishing a carton of candy bars emblazoned with SCRAPPY logos. He Googled around, found my writings on Scrappy candy, and dropped me a note.

I can’t blame Brandon for not having heard of Scrappy; I was unfamiliar with Sally O’Neil until I got his email. I was pretty sure why she would pose with Scrappy bars, though, and a quick visit to IMDB confirmed my hunch. Runkel Bros.’ Scrappy candy dated from 1935–it was promoted to a fare-the-well in Scrappy’s Own Magazine that year–and I assumed that O’Neil made a Columbia film at that time and that the studio pressed her into service to shill for Scrappy, as it was wont to do.

Yup: O’Neil costarred with Victor Jory in a 1935 Columbia release, Too Tough to Kill, about a plot to blow up a tunnel out west. She played a newspaper reporter, and I’m sorry to report that the Independent Exhibitors’ Film Bulletin dismissed the movie as “no better than passable for the city dumps and cheap rural houses.” I’m not even sure what a “city dump” is in this case, but it can’t be good.

Even in 1935, O’Neil (1908-1968) was winding down her career. (She made only one more film after Too Tough to Kill.) Born Virginia Louise Noonan, she worked in Vaudeville as “Chotsie” Noonan–a stage name I wish she’d hung onto–before entering the movie business. Some of her silent features, including Don’t, Mike, and The Auction Block, are sadly presumed to be lost; she was also in Buster Keaton’s 1926 feature Battling Butler, which survives, and which I may have seen decades ago, as “the mountain girl.” In the sound era, she starred in 1931’s The Brat, which I assume must be interesting if only because of the fact that it was directed by John Ford.

image-30I was also briefly excited by IMDB’s contention that O’Neil was in 45 Minutes From Hollywood, the 1926 Hal Roach short that starred Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy–without managing to put them together in even one scene–until I learned that the website apparently confused Sally with her sister, who was born Susan Noonan and acted as Sue O’Neil before switching to Molly O’Day.

Sally’s star is said to have fallen in the talkie era because of her thick New Jersey accent and stage fright. A 1932 movie-fan magazine I ran across told a less conventional tale of career woe: Her beloved brother “Hutch” was convicted (perhaps unjustly) of stealing a couple of fur coats that belonged to bandleader Ted Lewis. He was sentenced to seven years in California’s Folsom State Prison, which sounds excessive even if he was guilty; Sally supposedly took off two years to be with the poor guy and spent all her money to defend him.

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By the time frame of Too Tough to Kill, O’Neil may have been considered to have become a bit of a has-been: One magazine article about her carried the headline “I Wonder What’s Become of Sally.” But at least Columbia still thought she was enough of a celeb to help move Scrappy candy, which helps to make up for the fact that it misspelled her last name on the photo in which she did so.

And hey, at around the same time, the Safe-Kurl people of Cincinnati, Ohio, apparently paid her–handsomely, I hope–to endorse their miracle electric hair waver. I just wish she looked happier in the ad…

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Etcheverry on Scrappy (and Oswald and Toby)

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If there were a patron saint of Scrappy research, it would probably be Paul Etcheverry. Thirty-five years ago he and Will Friedwald wrote the seminal Scrappy filmography. And now, at this “Way Too Damn Lazy to Write a Blog” blog, he’s published part one of an article on the Mintz studio, with plenty of art, embedded cartoons, and, most importantly, wisdom. Go read.

Scrappy and Oswald: Together Again

No particular reason for this post other than that I own small figures of two cartoon characters who worked for Charles Mintz–and they seem to enjoy hanging out together.

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The Heroic Exploits of Scrappy

Hey, remember when Frank Miller rebooted the Scrappy franchise with the grim, dystopian Dark Scamp? Well..me neither. But Ed Loera does. He also remembers Siegel and Shuster’s Scrappy, George Lucas’s Scrappy, and others. And he pays tribute to them in these nifty pieces of artwork, which he gave me permission to reproduce:

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Ed says that he created these because he “wanted to pay tribute to Scrappyland in his own way,” and that the Cappy America piece is a work in progress. He features his art and sells prints, Scrappy-themed and otherwise, at his Wondrousworx website.

What Oopy and Yippy Were Doing in 2004

Over on Facebook, Jerry Beck alerted me to the existence of a poster designed by Chip Kidd that features blown-up partial images of Oopy and Yippy. My jaw dropped when I saw it, and I immediately wondered if it was a harbingerĀ of some imminent Great Scrappy Revival.

It turns out that it was produced a dozen years ago, for the 2004 Miami Book Fair. And here it is:

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I only had to glance at it for a millisecond to recognize the source imagery that Kidd mined:

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That’s the legendary Scrappy Puppet Theater, and Kidd clearly zoomed in on Oopy and Yippy’s heads, then made minor adjustments such as filling in Oopy’s cowlick, which is normally–and oddly–the same color as his skin. (Oopy with a filled-in cowlick looks a lot like Scrappy, which makes sense.)

A few questions:

Do I know why Kidd and/or the fair thought depicting Oopy and Yippy was a relevant way to celebrate books? No, especially since the characters’ only appearances in print were in a few kids’ tomes such as a Big Little Book about 80 years ago.

Did Kidd credit Mintz or Columbia, or otherwise acknowledge that his work was a Roy Lichtenstein-esque borrowing of existing art? Not that I can see, though perhaps it’s there in type too small to read. If he didn’t, I think that’s a shame, especially since hardly anybody attending a book fair in 2004 would know.

Would I hang the poster on my wall? Maybe, if I could find a copy for sale.

Scrappy II: The Adventure Continues

You’re waited more than long enough for another installment of the Scrappy newspaper comic strip, which may never have appeared in an actual newspaper, but did run in Wags, a comic weekly published in Australia and the UK. (Here, in case you missed them, are the first six strips.)

The Scrappy strip was produced by Eisner & Iger Associates. I’m still not the least bit sure which artist or artists in its employ worked on it–more thoughts on that in a future post–but I find that the strip, while a bit crude, is surprisingly engaging. These strips introduce Mr. De Welth, the kleptomaniac millionaire, who’s a genuinely entertaining character. And whoever is drawing this seems to be having fun.

Bottom line: I think that the odds are that the persons or persons responsible for this work did other comics, too, and we’ll be able to figure out who deserves the credit.

I find one panel in this sequence especially tantalizing:

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With its dramatic staging, that’s either a one-panel contribution by someone other than the person who drew the rest of Scrappy, or proof that the Scrappy artist also did stuff other than a silly strip drawn in a very rough approximation of a third-tier animation studio’s style. Could it be Lou Fine? Mort Meskin? Will Eisner himself?

Anyhow, here’s more Scrappy for you. Stay tuned for further adventures.

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Breaking News About Scrappy’s Hands

Back in 2012, I wrote about a 1935 Scrappy doll and included a wonderful photograph of the Three Stooges posing with an example of it. As I noted, the Stooges’ version differed from the one in the Scrappyland collection in one obvious way: theirs seemed to have fabric hands rather than ones made of the same hard, composite material as the doll’s head and feet. I wondered at the time whether the doll in the photo was a prototype.

Well, over on eBay, someone’s selling two Scrappy dolls as a lot, and they’re nearly identical to each other. Except…well, examine this photo for yourself:

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Judging from the frequency with which it turns up on eBay, this Scrappy doll was reasonably popular. But that left-hand Scrappy is the first I’ve seen with the cloth mitts from the Stooge photo, and apparent proof that such a version got out in the wild. No collection of Scrappy dolls is truly complete without one.

The Scrappy Comic Strip! (Part One)

If you were alive in the UK or Australia in the late 1930s and read a comic book called Wags, you may be intimately familiar with the Scrappy comic strip. Otherwise, your opportunities to be exposed to it–at least in English–have been severely limited. Comics historian In 2010, comics historian Ken Quattro provided one example on his Comics Detective site. And that’s about it.

Me, I’ve shared examples of the strip in French and bizarrely retouched into the adventures of Shorty Shortcake. But it was only recently that I acquired some Scrappy tearsheets from somebody’s bound volume of Wags, circa 1938. I’ll post them here in a few chunks, with a bit of commentary.

Like much Scrappyana, the Scrappy strip is tantalizingly mysterious. Thanks to strip expert Allan Holtz, we know that the 1937 edition of Editor & Publisher included a listing for a Scrappy strip (“by Charles Mintz”) from Eisner & Iger Associates, an outfit run by Will Eisner and Jerry Iger. I know of no evidence it ever made its way into a newspaper, but Eisner and Iger made good use of what they’d put together by selling it to the French publishers of Bilboquet, repackaging it in Wags, and eventually de-Mintzing it to come up with Wonderworld comics’ Shorty Shortcake.

We don’t know who wrote or drew the strip, other than the safe assumption that Charles Mintz had nothing to do with it. Presumably, it was one or more artists from the Eisner-Iger shop rather than anyone who worked on Scrappy cartoons. I’ll have some more thoughts on candidates in future installments, but for now, I’ll just admit that I don’t see any evidence that Will Eisner himself did any of the art, as fun a notion as that is. (We’re actually looking for at least two artists, I think, since the style of the first strip varies sharply from later installments.)

Anyhow, here you go: chapters 1-6 of “Scrappy and the Border Patrol,” a tale which has virtually nothing to do with anything that ever appeared in a Scrappy animated cartoon other than the fact that it stars Scrappy, Margy, and Yippy. (Sorry, Oopy.)

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Note that the “Universal Phoenix Features Syndicate” mentioned in the copyright notice was run by Eisner and Iger. I’m not sure offhand whether the repurposed strips were dailies or Sundays–and actually, come to think of it, I’m not even positive that the entire Wags run of Scrappy consisted of repurposed newspaper strips. Like I said, it’s tantalizing and mysterious.

More strips–and thoughts–to come.

The Elusive Scrappy Runkel Wrapper, Captured

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Have I ever mentioned that Scrappyana is the best imaginable subject to pursue as a collector? On one hand, it’s small enough in scope that it’s possible to be a completist. On the other, it’s full of surprises, since it’s not so well documented that you know exactly what’s out there to collect.

In the case of Scrappy wrappers for Runkel Bros. chocolate, I knew that they existed–in fact, I’d written about them–but wasn’t sure I’d ever get my hands on any examples. After all, how much packaging for 1930s candy has survived for eighty years? But I’m now the proud owner of the circa-1935 wrapper you see above–which, since it has a Scrappy drawing and “jingle” on its flipside, was designed to be collected. (There were apparently at least 113 in the series.)

The highpoint of Scrappy’s association with the Runkel people was Scrappy’s Own Magazine, which was sponsored by the chocolatier and apparently published in late 1935. Here’s a page from the publication, showing some Scrappy chocolate and explaining that his relationship with Runkel came about because he tried their products and was impressed.

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I didn’t know much about Runkel Bros., so I Googled around and found a site run by a contemporary Runkel. He seems to say both that the company folded in 1936 and that it was acquired by Nestle in 1982. So take your choice–being associated with Scrappy either almost immediately drove it out of business, or led to decades of success and the attention of one of the biggest names in chocolate.

In either case, eBay has some nice examples of other Runkel Bros. packaging–the kind that doesn’t have Scrappy on it. Here’s some Runkel Liberty cocoa, which sure looks more patriotic than Swiss Miss.

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Scrappy and Eugene: The Photographic Evidence

Back in 2013, I wrote about Eugene Talmadge (1884-1946), a member of the Scrappy Club who also happened to be the governor of Georgia. In 1934, he and his secretary helped Columbia’s Ted Toddy promote Scrappy by accepting membership in the club, a moment reported on at the time by the Film Daily.

I’m happy to report that I just discovered that the Motion Picture Herald also covered this development–and ran a picture:

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That’s Talmadge’s secretary, Eva Drew, at the left; she was inducted as the first honorary member of the girls’ division of the Scrappy Club (in Georgia, at least–and I wasn’t aware that the organization was segragated by gender). Talmadge is in the center, looking pleasantly bemused. And Columbia’s Toddy is at right, literally glad-handing the governor.

And boy, I’d love to be able to see what Toddy is holding-he seems to be presenting a document to Talmadge, and has something that may be a folder tucked under his arm. I imagine that he’s presenting the governor with an honorary Scrappy Club membership certificate, and I’d love to think it still exists. Perhaps Herman Talmadge III–great-grandson of Eugene, whose name he recently fought to keep on a bridge between Georgia and South Carolina–has it proudly framed on his wall.