All Hail Cora Sue Collins

Cora Sue Collins is something we don’t have enough of anymore: a bonafide 1930s movie star. She made dozens of movies with major performers of the era–oftentimes playing the same characters as them. In Queen Christina (1933), for instance, Garbo was Christina and Cora Sue was Christina as a child.

In 1936, Cora Sue was in The Devil’s Squadron for Columbia. Among her promotional duties was posing with Scrappy products in a number of photographs, such as this one…

corasuecolors

In March of this year, TCM held an event in Los Angeles. At an unofficial get-together for attendees at the Roosevelt Hotel, Cora Sue spoke about her career in Hollywood. You can watch it here and read a nice write-up here.

The video is great entertainment. Cora Sue is a spunky, funny storyteller–and still very much recognizable as the little girl showing off Scrappy merchandise in 79-year-old photos.

corasue2015

Here’s to you, Cora Sue–you’re a lifetime member of Friends of Scrappy for sure.

The Boy Who Was Scrappy

Confession time: I know very little about the voices in Scrappy cartoons. Actually, come to think about it, about the only thing I’ve known–and only because voice maven Keith Scott told me–is that Robert “Bobby” Winckler (1927-1989) was Scrappy’s voice in some shorts.

But now I know at least a tiny bit more. Jerry Beck alerted me to the existence of a Robert “Bobby” Winckler fan group on Facebook–apparently run by his son, William Winckler–and it has some great photos and a couple of items which reference his Scrappy work.

I’ve borrowed a few images from the Bobby Winckler Facebook page and elsewhere for this post.

Here’s Bobby Winckler as a child actor on a Hollywood backlot, circa 1933. He made more than 80 live-action films, including a number of Our Gang shorts, Knute Rockne All American, and Preston Sturges’ iconic Sullivan’s Travels, and was also busy on the radio (where he played W.C. Fields’ son, among other roles).

winckler-backlot

Here he is (center) serving in WWII with two friends on St. Patrick’s Day 1945 in Manila.

winckler-manila

Winckler eventually became a successful Hollywood lawyer, counting Spanky McFarland, Adam West, and Billy Barty among his clients. In 1980, he ran as a Republican for a seat in the U.S. Congress representing California’s 23rd district.

voteforwinckler

He lost the race–but here he is, presumably in the 1980s, with his Knute Rockne costar Dutch Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

winckler-reagan

Now for the Scrappy stuff. Here’s a Hollywood Radio Artists’ Directory listing which mentions his work in the series. It uses a variant spelling of his last name; as far as I know, he was not related to Charles Mintz’s wife, the former Margaret Winkler.

winckler-directory

And this is a sample of the script for The City Slicker (1938), one of the films in which Winckler voiced Scrappy.

winckler-script

And here’s The City Slicker itself–which I’m afraid features a last-gasp version of Scrappy who’s been unappealingly redesigned and who, really, has few redeeming qualities of any sort, aside from his voice.

According to online sources, Bobby Winckler also voiced Hans and Fritz in MGM’s Captain and the Kids cartoons and Petey Parrot in the Warner Bros. cartoon I Wanna Be a Sailor (1937), and was the field mouse in Bambi. Voice acting was a sideline for him, but a long-standing one: In the 1980s, he performed in his son William’s English-language dub of Japan’s Tekkaman animated series.

That’s all I have to tell you about Robert “Bobby” Winckler. But here’s another Scrappy voice tidbit: Andrew Leal tells me that Hollywood veteran Leone Ledoux–who was an adult, and female–also voiced the character. Stay tuned for any information on her which I can cobble together.

The Long-Lost Scrappyland Video

Slightly over a decade ago, Jerry Beck hosted an ASIFA-Hollywood screening of Scrappy cartoons named after this website. It featured amazingly good prints provided by Columbia; a small exhibit of Scrappyana; and a panel discussion about Scrappy between Jerry, myself, and Dr. Richard Huemer, the son of Scrappy’s creator.

We’ve long had a page of photos from this event. But Friend of Scrappy Art Binninger attended the event and recorded it using his video camera. And he recently digitized his tape and put it on YouTube. It’s basically the whole event except for the Scrappy cartoons themselves, and it was a joy to see it again after all these years.

Herewith, a few screengrabs from Art’s video.

Dr. Huemer and I talk Scrappy…

huemer

Scrappy stuff…

scrappystuff

Jerry presents an award to Raven Loc, winner of the costume contest (she came as a brilliantly monochromatic Margy)…

margyaward

Many thanks to Art for all the memories–and for making this available to folks who weren’t lucky enough to be there. It was the best Scrappy retrospective I’ve ever attended. O.K., it was also the only one–but I hope that won’t be true forever.

Scrappy Goes GIF

The animated GIF file format wasn’t invented until 1987. But if it had existed in the 1930s, boy, would animators have loved it. They were already creating hypnotic little loops of animation and repeating them–mostly, perhaps, for economy’s sake, though it often accentuated comic rhythm. They just had no way to distribute those loops on their own as mini-entertainments.

Today we do. So I was moved to create a few GIFs from moments in The Beer Parade (1933), one of the most memorable of all Scrappy cartoons. I snagged from from a YouTube version of the cartoon which an anonymous benefactor appears to have videotaped off the screen at the 2005 Scrappy screening in LA, which explains the silhouetted heads at the bottom.

As far as I know, these may be the world’s first Scrappy GIFs. Feel free to copy them and spread the boozy merriment near and far.

parade-6

parade-5

parade-4

parade-3

parade-2

parade-1

What Price Scrappy?

It’s possible that there’s stuff relating to Scrappy that’s so mundane that it isn’t worthy of attention at Scrappyland. Then again, maybe not.

Jerry Beck alerted me to these two bills which Columbia sent out to an L.A. theater in 1937–both referencing Scrappy–and I’m glad I was able to acquire them and share them with you here.

scrappybill-1

Here’s a bill which–with a little IMDB research–lets us deduce that Columbia charged $4 rental for a live-action two-reeler, $3 for a color cartoon, and $2 for a black-and-white cartoon. The paperwork was sent to Los Angeles’s Muse Theater on May 26, 1937, and seems to be for the following shorts:

  • “Caught Act” is Caught in the Act, an Andy Clyde short released on March 5, 1936.
  • Li’l Ainjil is a rather famous Mintz Krazy Kat, as Mintz Krazy Kats go–the only one done in an approximation of George Herriman’s style. It was released on March 19, 1936.
  • Movie Maniacs is a Three Stooges released on February 20, 1936.
  • “Dr. Bluebird” is Doctor Bluebirda Scrappy cartoon! One of the few color ones, a Color Rhapsody released on February 5, 1936.
  • “Share Wealth” is Share the Wealth, another Andy Clyde film, released on March 16, 1936.
  • “Snobbery” is surely¬†Highway Snobbery, a Krazy cartoon released on August 9, 1936.
  • I’m assuming “Blunders” is “Midnight Blunders, a live-action Columbia short which IMDB describes as “frankly racist.” It was released on April 21, 1936.
  • Football Bugs is a Color Rhapsody released on April 29, 1936. I haven’t seen it, but I presume it involves bugs who play football.
  • Half Shot Shooters was another Stooges short, released on April 30.
  • Unless you can convince me otherwise, I shall work under the assumption that “Go Getters” is Gold Getters, a Scrappy released on March 1, 1935. If you’ve seen it, you will remember the maniacally infectious title song.

Note that all these cartoons were quite old by the time the Muse showed them. Maybe someone more knowledgeable about film distribution in the 1930s than me can explain whether there’s anything interesting about that fact.

Here’s another bill sent to the Muse a day later. This one is demanding 15 cents for a two-column ad for a Scrappy cartoon. (Boy, I’d love to track down the ad itself.)
scrappybill-2

Bonus ephemera: From the Huntington Library’s collection, here’s a 1950s photo of the Muse Theater (towards the left). It had already closed and was scheduled to be demolished.

musetheater

I wonder: How many theaters which showed Scrappy cartoons are still extant? Not too many, I assume, though Radio City Music Hall apparently did and is still very much with us.

Weekend at Oopy’s

Thunderbean Animation’s Steve Stanchfield is a friend of fans of vintage animation everywhere. He’s also a friend of Scrappy. For his latest Cartoon Research column, he shared the eighteenth Scrappy cartoon, The Bad Genius (1932). And since he posted it on YouTube, I share it here with you.

This isn’t one of my favorite Scrappys. But I agree with Steve that the animation and posing of Oopy for the film’s vaguely Weekend at Bernie’s-like conceit is pretty nifty. And many thanks to Steve for his kind words about this site.

Scrappy, Edith, and Jackie: Together Again

Edith Fellows, Cora Sue Collins, Jackie Moran, and Dickie Walters. All were Columbia child stars, and all were called into service to help promote Scrappy. We’ve brought you photographs of the kids with Scrappy merch several times over the years–here, here, and here. And at long last, I’ve scared up some more of these stills.

Here’s Edith Fellows with a bunch of Scrappy balloons–a piece of Scrappyana which I’ve never seen before.

Edith Fellows with Scrappy balloons

And here she is wearing a Scrappy Thrift Club pin and brandishing her Scrappy bank and Scrappy Thrift Club membership card.

Edith Fellows and Scrappy bank

This is Scrappyland’s own Scrappy Thrift Club card, whose original owner apparently decided to make an unfortunate joke when filling it out.

edith-card

Here’s the bank itself (ours is in a darker shade than Edith’s).

Scrappy bank

And here’s the Scrappy pin she’s wearing.

edith-thrift

Here are Edith and Jackie Moran, her costar in a 1936 Columbia feature titled And So They Were Married, wearing snappy Scrappy cloisonne pins.

edith-pin

Lastly, here’s an extreme close-up of the pin itself, from the Scrappyland collection. (It’s nicely done, with a surprisingly posh feel–maybe the closest thing I’ve seen to a Scrappy luxury item.)

Scrappy pin

That photo of Edith and Jackie was apparently taken in April 1936. I’m not sure when the two of Edith alone were, although the box the Scrappy bank came in carried a 1935 copyright.

At this point, it seems like there’s a pretty decent chance that even more of these photos of child stars and Scrappy are out here. Keep an eye out for them for me, would you?

The Saga of 7000 Santa Monica Blvd.

For years, this site has featured a couple of photographs of the Charles Mintz Studio staff which apparently date from 1930 or 1931 and were provided to us by Dick Huemer’s son, Dr. Richard Huemer. They were taken when the studio was located at 1154 N. Western Ave. in Los Angeles.

A bit later, the company moved a couple of miles away to larger quarters at 7000 Santa Monica Blvd. Here, courtesy of Tim Cohea, is a staff photo taken outside its new home (click on it for a larger version).

Mintz Staff 1932

As you can see, someone scrawled “1932” on the bottom left-hand corner of the photo at some point. In 2009, Mike Barrier published a snapshot taken outside the studio and figured–based on Film Daily Yearbook entries–that Mintz moved into this facility in 1933. Let’s just say that this photo was taken circa 1932-1933.

In 2006, Mark Mayerson published some nifty photographs of Irv Spector and friends hanging around outside 7000 Santa Monica Blvd. Mark’s post also included a copy of the above photo (provided by Jerry Beck) with identifications by Mintz staffers Ed Friedman and Ben Shehnkman. Here they are:

  • Back row: unknown, Herb Rothwell, I. Ellis, Frank Fisher, unknown, unknown, I. Klein, unknown, Manny Gould, fourteen unknown women (presumably of the ink and paint department), Clark Watson, unknown, unknown, Don Patterson, Sid Glenar, Rudy Zamora, Jules Engel, unknown, Phil Davis, Ray Patterson, Joe Vough
  • Middle row: four unknown women, Bud Crabb, unknown, unknown, Al Rose, Al Gould, unknown, Ed Solomon, unknown, Felix Alegre, unknown, unknown, Preston Blair
  • Front row: Ben Shenkman, unknown, Sid Davis, Ed Moore, John Roth, Emery Hawkins, Lou Lilly, Bill Higgens, Charles Mintz himself, unknown, unknown, Ed Rehberg, Irv Spector, Judge Whitaker

It’s tough to line up every identification with the correct person in the photo, but the names are a good reminder that a bunch of people who were prominent in the animation industry for decades to come worked at Mintz. The photo also includes nearly three times as many people as the more populous of the two earlier group shots, suggesting that the studio had done a lot of growing.

Here’s a 1936 photo of the studio’s exterior that Jud Hurd–best known as the editor of Cartoonist Profiles, but also, briefly, a Mintz employee–published in his book Cartoon Success Secrets.

Jud Hurd

7000 Santa Monica Blvd. wasn’t built for the Mintz operation, but it was a rather new building when the company moved in. An article by James V. Roy at ScottyMoore.net, the official site of Elvis Presley’s guitarist, says that it was erected by the Victor Talking Machine Company in 1929. That was also the year that Victor was acquired by RCA.

In November 1930, The Film Daily Reported that RCA Photophone, the RCA division involved in synchronized movie sound, was headquartered at 7000 Santa Monica.

RCA Photophone

By February 1932, according to The Film Daily–and for reasons unknown to me–RCA had left the building. Something called Wafilms, headed by Walter Futter, moved in.

Wafilms

As of November 1932, Sol Lesser, who would shortly acquire the movie rights to Tarzan, was running his Principal Pictures studio out of the facility. Here’s a Film Daily ad.

Principal Pictures

Whether Mintz occupied the building at the same time as Wafilms and/or Principal, I don’t know. But the “The Charles Mintz Studio” emblazoned over the entrance suggests it became the primary tenant. According to Mike Barrier’s post, it would remain at 7000 Santa Monica until 1940, when Columbia moved the operation–then known as Screen Gems–to a building less than a mile away at 861 Seward Street.

In October 1941, Broadcasting reported that something called Miller Radiofilm was moving into Mintz’s old quarters.

Miller Radio

What happened to the property after that? I provided a clue six paragraphs ago when I referenced the official Scotty Moore site. What’s it doing discussing the history of 7000 Santa Monica Blvd?

That’s simple. The building became the headquarters of Radio Recorders, a company which became legendary as the finest recording facility in Los Angeles.

Elvis and Dudley Brooks in the studio at Radio Recorders, 1957. From Elvis-ForEveryone.com

Elvis and Dudley Brooks in studio at Radio Recorders, 1957. From Elvis For Everyone

I’m not positive when Radio Recorders moved into the building, but it wasn’t all that long after Mintz/Screen Gems left it. The 1944 Billboard Music Year Book lists the company and gives that address.

Radio Recorders stayed there for years, expanded into an annex around the corner, and played host to recording sessions by Presley as well as Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, The Beach Boys, Pat Boone, The Carpenters, Rosemary Clooney, Ornette Coleman, Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke, Bing Crosby, Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Peggy Lee, Johnny Mercer, Charlie Parker, Buddy Rich, Igor Stravinsky, Stevie Wonder, Frank Zappa, and…well, you get the idea. Everything from “Jailhouse Rock” to “Purple People Eater” to Mel Blanc’s Capitol Records Bugs Bunny and the Tortoise album was created there.

Basically, we’ve all spent our lives listening to music recorded at the former Charles Mintz Studio. We just didn’t know it–or at least I didn’t.

When Record Recorders closed at the end of 1977, Billboard called it the end of an era. In recent decades, several different companies operated production facilities at its former studios, including one which reverted to the original name. But when I pulled up the address in Google Maps Street View, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t even positive the original building was still standing.

Turned out that it was there, but apparently unoccupied. Note the “Available” sign.

7000 Santa Monica Blvd. August 2014

There’s a sign commemorating Record Recorders outside the building, above a “No Trucks” symbol. Here’s a closer look, borrowed from Discover Los Angeles.

Radio Recorders sign

It says that the building dates to 1928, disagreeing slightly with the Scotty Moore site. But I don’t see any evidence that anyone remembers that the Mintz Studio was once on the premises. If nobody remembers your cartoons, you don’t get a plaque.

Still, the building, though now obscured by gates and a humongous tree, is readily recognizable from that 1932-ish staff photo.

7000 Santa Monica Blvd.

Incidentally, Street View also reveals that the lot across the street at 7001 Santa Monica, where a lumber materials store stood in the 1930s, as indicated in the photos Mark Mayerson posted, is now a Shakey’s.

And that’s the story of 7000 Santa Monica Blvd. Except for one thing.

After Google Street View captured that image with the for-rent sign, the building got rented. As of last month, it’s the home of LAXART, which describes itself as “an independent contemporary art space supporting artistic and curatorial freedom.” That doesn’t sound like it has much in common with Charles Mintz’s goals when he was producing Scrappy and Krazy Kat cartoons there. But it feels good to know that the building is still standing, still occupied, and still a place where creativity happens. And hey, it’s open to the public–so the next time I’m in L.A., I plan to drop in.

Postscript: No piece about the present status of former Mintz Studio buildings is complete without a nod to Joe Campana’s marvelous “Ghosts of the Charles Mintz Studio,” a 2007 visit to Mintz’s earlier Western Ave. neighborhood.

What if Scrappy Had Lived?

As you may well know if you’re reading this website–and you are–Columbia’s Scrappy cartoon series lasted from 1931-1941. He wasn’t drawn in a consistent fashion during that time: In fact, he sometimes looked like he was different people in different scenes in the same cartoon.

But when the Scrappy cartoons ended in 1941, the character was frozen in time. He has remained a creature of the 1930s, unaffected by later trends in animation design.

But…

Here’s a box from home-movie purveyor Official Films. It contains a Krazy Kat cartoon, Railroad Rhythm. But the box, which I’m guessing dates from the 1950s or 1960s, features a number of characters–and two of them are Scrappy and Oopy drawn in a distinctly more modern style.

modernscrappy

Here’s a close-up:

modscrappy2

Basically, if UPA had decided to produce a Scrappy cartoon, it might have looked something like this. And given that its cartoons were released though Columbia, it probably could have done so, although I’ll bet the idea never, ever crossed anyone’s mind.

Why Scrappy and his brother got streamlined for this packaging, we’ll never know. Perhaps Official wanted to bring the characters up to date. Or maybe the artist simply drew them in his or her own style rather than mimicking the Mintz look. The box also depicts Krazy Kat using a stock image from the 1930s, so the whole approach is mysterious.

Bonus: Dailey’s Studio in Delano, California–the store which originally sold this home movie, and affixed its sticker to the box, covering Scrappy’s cowlick in the process–is apparently still in business. Judging from how it looks in Google Maps Street View, it may not have changed much since it was selling old Mintz cartoons on 8mm:

dailey

Scrappy at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair

When the Scrappy series began in 1931, it had a premise. It really was about a little boy doing little-boy things, and cartoons such as Yelp Wanted and The Little Pest, despite their extreme lack of structure, had at least rudimentary plots.

By the time Columbia released The World’s Affair in 1933, however, all that had changed. This cartoon shows multiple telltale signs that a studio has tired of a series: It has a topical hook (it’s set at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair), it’s a spot-gag cartoon, and it’s rife with celebrity caricatures.

The cartoon begins with an elaborate production number featuring Fred Fisher’s song “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)”–which was apparently already a standard even though it was a mere eleven years old at the time. Then a bunch of spot gags involving inventions, technical progress being the theme of this World’s Fair even more than usual.

And then in rush the celebrities: an especially loose-limbed FDR, Mussolini with a bucket of spaghetti, Von Hindenburg with a mug of beer for Scrappy, George V, Chevalier (who gets beer down the trousers), Gandhi and Durante in their diapers, Einstein, and others. They’re all swell folks.

Between this short, Scrappy’s Party, Movie Struck, and Hollywood Babies, an awful lot of the Scrappy cartoons of 1933 were celebfests. (I sort of like old cartoons which are overly dependent on caricatures, such as Mother Goose Goes Hollywood and Hollywood Steps Out, but I feel sheepish admitting it.)

Scrappy and Oopy don’t have all that much to do in The World’s Affair except grin, wear top hats, and tap dance, but they do it well. (Oh, and Oopy gets to smoke a cigar.) The animation of them is pretty darn charming–which is good, since the “story” and gags are so lazy.

Here’s a bit of good news: The Scrappy series eventually got a second wind. Some of the best shorts appeared long after thing one, including The Puppet Murder Case and Let’s Ring Doorbells, both of which were released in 1936. Neither of those ones are on YouTube at the moment, but I hope to be able to share them here someday.

Bonus non-Scrappy footage: Here’s some live-action newsreel footage of the 1933 World’s Fair.