More Strange Cat Costumes

Horsie and cat

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I feel the need to confide upfront that the image of this photo has been enhanced by the magic of Photoshop at the gifted hands of my multi-talented husband. (Yay Kim!) In fact, I wanted to confirm that it was going to be possible to bring out the image before I purchased it and he fiddled with the eBay scan first. Sadly, it is so light that it is hard to make out – although clearly the information exists in the image or making it darker would not improve it. The image is so bizarre and interesting however, that I couldn’t let it slip by and purchased it, so here we are.

That bit of disclosure out of the way – wowzers! What odd photo indeed! These very indulged children do not look especially pleased or entertained despite the glory of the scene, starting with that splendid horse cart, drawn by that perky pony and those two wonderful colts frolicking nearby. Then there is the handsomely dressed woman on the perfect white horse, riding side saddle – and the view which is something out of a Hudson River School landscape. But of course, what makes it all and has me stop in wonder is that outrageous cat costumed individual in the cart! A glorious costume which is so fluffy that he takes up the entire back of the cart. The mind boggles – did he dress up weekly or even daily for their entertainment? Was there a time when all wealthy children had adults dressing in animal costumes for their entertainment and I have just failed to hear about it? While I do not know their story, I can only hope that were I such a lucky child that I would enjoy it more than they appear to be. However, we will never know.

Mascot – U.S.S. Custodian

XO#8

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I never would have guessed how many photos of cats on ships I would acquire over time. I do find these photos irresistible. The stalwart cats of the sea – the preferred mascot for ships, probably due to their predilection for mice and rats which must abound in the cargo and supply areas of these ships. There seems to be real affection for them – hence the photos, many which include a crew member holding them. It is almost an archetype – hard to imagine a dog being a ship’s mascot. This photo postcard is unused and I can find no information on the T.S.S. Custodian.

This scrappy fellow presents his own archetype of  elder statesmen tabbies.  Ears intact, he hasn’t spent his life scrapping with other kitties, but looking at this barrel chested fellow you can imagine that more than a few rodents fell under his claw paws! He probably knew just where and when to prowl the galley in time for a hand-out too.

I have mentioned Zipper, an alley cat rescue who joined our family when I was still quite little. (See prior post, Old Tommy for more on Zipper.) Zips was very grateful for his adoption, but despite having been rescued when he was very young, he never transcended his alley cat roots. His tail, cruelly broken before he came to us, remained perpetually downturned and crooked at the tip. He lived cheerfully among us, but somehow never quite fully domesticated. Zipper ruled our neighborhood with a roving band of fellow kitty miscreants and there will be many future posts devoted to his antics. Still, as I write this I realize that I don’t believe we have a single photo of Zipper. I don’t remember him ever sitting on a lap or accepting more than a few occasional pets. Our large, gentle cat Snoopy, endured him with a bit of a sniff. Snoopy was top cat of the house, but didn’t need the title of King Cat of Waterman Avenue which seems to have belonged to Zipper.

When I was about 12 we moved several blocks away. Zipper, however, refused to make the move and returned repeatedly to his stomping ground. Luckily, there was an elderly neighbor who had a soft spot for him and said she would take him in. Zipper never had to give up his title and fight for new turf, and when he was ready to retire we were pleased to know he had the devotion of someone who doted on him, fed him delicacies and gave him a proverbial place by the fire.

Quick

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As those of you who have encountered me on Facebook know well, Lilian Harvey (German film actress best known for her early musical films) is one of my obsessions. I love the pre-war, early sound musicals she starred in, am amazed at how much faster the Germans developed in the sound era. Her films are not easy to see in English translation, although they are all there for the most part. Her popularity in Germany never fully diminished and many of her movies are available, tantalizingly widely available in German. Kim and I were lucky to see a number of her films, and others from the period, during a satisfyingly long festival at the Museum of Modern Art a few years ago. It played over the course of several months and we devoted as much free time as we could to seeing as many as possible – we were never disappointed. (The excellent catalogue, Weimar Cinema 1919-1933 is still available on Amazon.)

The other great thing about Lilian Harvey – and I will just touch on this briefly because there are a number of future posts to be done about it – is that she seemed to have a deep personal affection for wonderful stuffed animals, black cats and Felix in particular! Unlike many of the other photos I have shown of Felix and actresses (such as Mistinguett – Felix Goes to the Dogs and Felix Makes the Picture Better) you get the decided feeling that you are seeing Lilian among her very own stuffed animals. Here is another photo from the collection of Tom Conroy which he sent to us a while back. I’ve included details of Felix and Bonzo from the photo.

555133_3288450703056_1741713513_n549568_3288649308021_1068982338_n556252_3288594266645_1605997368_n

During the Weimar Cinema festival we also saw a truly outstanding film (sans Lilian) called Abschied and it was directed by Robert Siodmak. It is the first sound film made by UFA and the mix of music and sound in it is fascinating and really thoughtfully and beautifully done. (In fact, Kim dubbed it one of the best films he has ever seen.) It is about life in a boarding house and one of the characters is a piano player and it is his playing that informs much of the sound track of the film. Leaving Germany, Siodmak finds his way to the United States, as does Harvey briefly, although he sticks and she does not. He goes onto make films such as Phantom Lady and The Spiral Staircase.

Shown in the photo above, hot off of eBay, we see them together, on the set of a film called Quick. In addition to the reproduction and credit information (it is a UFA film) it merely reads as follows: dans le nouveau film Ufaton “Quick” dans la production Erich Pommer Mise en scene par R. Siedmak. Direction de la production: M. Pfeiffer Supervise par Andre Daven. Below is a reproduction of the poster and a brief description of the film. I see it with changeable English titles here: Germanwarfilms.com (a site that now seems to go by the more politically correct name rarefilmsandmore.com) with a tiny snippet, in German, that you can view. I will report back after I acquire it!

206451-quick-0-230-0-341-crop

Quick – 1932 Lilian Harvey plays Eva, a young girl taking some time in a health spa and spending her evenings in the town’s vaudeville theatre enamoured by a heavily made-up clown called Quick. Quick takes a shine to her and tries to woo her without make-up and masquerading as the theatre’s manager. Unable to resolve her feelings for Quick and the theatre manager, Eva is angered when she finally learns that they are one and the same.

Little Red Riding Hood

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Sometimes even I am amazed at the unexpected things that turn up in this tiny apartment. The other day I came across this which I had purchased early in my photo collecting career and tucked away. While I do remember the purchase, on eBay, it was like it was new.

It is a photo postcard and it is printed upside down on the postcard paper – and sloppily as you can see, overexposed and with a messy bottom edge. Still, what a wonderfully whack-a-doodle card this is! Clearly an interesting and homemade (and somewhat terrifying) take on the Little Red Riding Hood story – the “wolf” a bit cat-like (which might explain how it even ended up in my hands) but that axeman more than scary enough to keep any wolf in line. Little Red Riding Hood pales somewhat in comparison to her angelic cohorts who seem to be additions to the story. Grandma does not seem to make the scene at all. By necessity, their story seems to take place on the barren prairie rather than the forest. Still, one assumes a good time was had by all and that it was one heck of a show.

Oddly, the writing on the back of the postcard makes no reference to the image. A neat script on the back says, I suppose you are farming now. I hope you were not sick long. Mrs. Walsh. It is addressed to Max McCandless, St. John, Kansas. It is not stamped and therefore there is no postmark date.

The Little Red Riding Hood story has always interested me. I loved the outfit – the red riding hood I suppose. I grew up on a sanitized version of the story where the woodsman just saved Little Red from the wolf – it was a while before I encountered the original where she has to be cut out of the wolf’s tummy. Ick. I always felt badly for that wolf whose sweet tooth for picnic baskets, little girls and grandmas got him in a whole lot of trouble.

Good Doggie!

Y#5

Pam’s Photo Post: This is in the treasured family photo general category of pics. A handsome, faithful dog who is guarding this cat and her kittens. Of course I love the nice black and while (tuxedo-ish) pattern on the dog. What a very good doggie. Very serious and dedicated.  Looks like a farm or at least a backyard farm as such. Pretty timeless, but there’s something about it that makes me think 1940’s.

The mom is a nice striped tabby and she has her maternal concerned look on. Nature is so funny – mom cats are so protective when they are kits and about a year later they could care less about them. (When I was little our calico, Winkie, had kittens she moved all around the house – evidently to protect them from us humans. Smushing them under furniture, snarling at us if we came near. Then one day she woke up and looked at them and more or less said, “Where did you come from YA BUMS and how can I get rid of you?” Mom declared Winkie an abusive parent and she was right.)

The spotty strip-y kitten is very cute, but of course the black one is my favorite. Blackie’s great granddad perhaps – wonder if there’s a little white star on his chest and little white spots under his arms?

Monkey in the Middle

Scan(1) copy

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is one of those photos where no one really looks like they are having a good time, but is sort of amazing. There is some strange persistence in the universe that cats and monkeys be paired. I don’t know why – the monkey invariably looks bossy and the cat very unhappy. (I have never seen a cat look adoringly at a monkey. Have you?) Although we have a hard time seeing it, this appears to be true here as well. We can barely make out annoyed cat ears – the cat is in the monkey’s grasp! Poor kitty! Meanwhile, the children are taciturn – vaguely beleaguered looking. They don’t appear to be out for a romp with their trained monkey and kitty, do they? I do wonder what the story is.

I have never known a monkey personally, never petted one – although I am entertained by them when I see them, mostly in movies. There is one monkey story handed down in our family. It especially amuses me because it is about my mother who truly is the defender of all animals (domestic and otherwise) and, in the years I have known her, has never met an animal she didn’t like. However, I gather when she was younger and first dating my father they wandered into a pet store one day where there was a monkey in a cage. My mother went up to it and remarked aloud that she didn’t particularly care for monkeys. Well, evidently that little fellow reached out and grabbed the lapel of her jacket and pulled her up to his cage and had to be coerced into letting her go. Needless to say, it didn’t especially endear her to monkeys in the short term – but I know that she would fight for their rights as quickly and courageously as she does any other of our animal friends. That little fellow didn’t know who he was messing with.

Kim’s Elephant Box

unnamed-24unnamed-26 unnamed-27unnamed-28

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This rare item in my personal Kim Deitch collection sits happily on my desk at work as shown here. It is one of three boxes designed and executed by Kim, many years before we met. I am told all three are the same design, all hand drawn and painted by Kim. This one belonged to his mother and came to me after she died. One of the others belongs to his brother Simon and the third went to a girlfriend. (If hers ever turns up on eBay I am first in line! I occasionally fantasize about being wealthy and purchasing back all the interesting Kim Deitch items that have slipped out of his possession over time. I have the collector’s desire for completeness.)

Kim says he wasn’t able to find nice little wooden boxes so he had them made to specification at a box factory – all this happening in California. It is a small box – about 2.5″ x 3.5″. It is, in my opinion, utterly Deitchian in design and execution – the elephant, the elephant butt, the cheerful sun and moon. Perfect. Kim and I share an affection for elephants.

Below is the inside of the box. The marble is one Kim purchased for me on our anniversary several years ago. We were wandering around Chinatown, where we were married, and happened into a shop where I saw these attractive marbles and Kim bought this one for me. It is the only thing that lives in the tiny box, at least for now.

unnamed-29

Felix and His Early TV Turn

XX#1

unnamed-19

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I share a composite of composition Felix statues. One is a variation on a common shot of Felix on his turn table famously posing for the tv camera to focus on. This photo comes to me courtesy of the very generous Tom Conroy. Thank you again Tom! (You may remember that Tom recently supplied the photo for my post Felix and Betty Boop Affair.)

The back of this photo describes this as the scanning-disk pickup of equipment of NBC’s experimental TV station W2XBS in New York in 1930. The internet weighs in with several sites identifying that this first broadcast, with Felix, occurred in 1928. In addition, one site states that Felix was used ongoing, nightly, to focus the cameras and as a sort of test pattern. I especially like this version – a longer shot than you usually see. It is fun to see all the equipment too. Imagine – most of that probably fits on a computer chip of one kind or another today – one that fits in your phone.

As one site devoted to the history of Felix points out – Felix was willing to work cheap and was extremely patient under the bright, hot lights which he was required to remain under as part of this assignment. Needless to say, he was much more cheerful and welcome than most other test patterns. (Late night test patterns! Television stations that went off the air late at night – and the little white dot that remained after you turned the tv off, until it faded away. Ah, childhood.)

The composition Felix in the tv photo is the same ubiquitous one in the Christmas photo I just purchased. (Kim would like to go on the record as not caring for this photo. It evidently does not live up to his standards.) It is a snap shot, nothing on the back and no date – it measures about 3.5″ x 4.5″. This jolly little homey scene of a Christmas long past features the very same standard issue Felix. Hard to say if he was a gift or part of the decorations. I like the small but heavily decorated and be-tinseled table-tree, familiar to those of us who live in apartments. Failing a fireplace the stockings are placed carefully over a chair and tempting packages are stacked up under around Felix and an elephant toy beside him.

I don’t own one of these composition Felix statues, although I wouldn’t mind scooping one up if the right opportunity came along. I always imagined that they were prizes at fairs, although it seems like you must have been able to purchase them as well. To my, admittedly limited, knowledge they seem to have remained consistent in size and appearance over a long period of several decades – a good design lasts.

On a Slow Train Thru’ Arkansas – with Felix

XO#9

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Despite the lousy condition of this postcard I couldn’t resist it. As in previous posts, I wonder about the addition of Felix. In this case, a very low-rent prop indeed. Of course, part of the whole charm of this photo is the vaguely primitive look about the set.

This couple does not personify what I usually think of as capturing the joy of the moment. Barely cracking a smile, they do, nevertheless, have a gentle look of pleasure when you look at them closely. I cannot figure out what the woman has on her head – a paper hat that waitresses wore as part of their uniform is what comes to mind, although given the circumstances perhaps something purchased at the fair or boardwalk resort where they had the photo taken.

It is not used and there is nothing written on the back indicating where or when it hails from. The photographer was a sloppy sort, to say the least. Overexposed and perhaps a bit underdeveloped, with messy edges around the image to boot. However, saved through many decades, this couple clearly felt it was deserving of being saved, and so do I.

Felix Family Photo

XX5

Pam’s Pictorama Photo: I have devoted several posts to stars of film and stage wishing to enhance their appeal by posing with Felix, (see my posts Mistinguett – Felix Goes to the Dogs and Felix Makes the Picture Better among others) however Felix most frequently joined family gatherings in the late twenties and early thirties as shown here. The small photo is a new purchase, from Great Britain. (It is quite small, about 2.25″x3.25″ with nothing on the back.) The beach postcard scene is also from Great Britain I purchased a number of years ago.

So, when I look at the small photo I ask myself – was the family taking a photo that was a knock off of those you paid for at beaches and resorts? Or was Felix just such a part of the family that they spontaneously included him? Their Felix is decidedly smaller than the one in the beach photo. He is a ‘home model’ if you will. Not unlike one (or two) I own. (A frequent fantasy of mine is finding one of these enormous Felix dolls like the ones in the beach photos – some the size of a small person! – and purchasing it. I thought I was on the trail of one once but alas, the trail went cold.) I like the cheeky looking girl in the plaid dress, standing above Felix. Makes you wonder if including him was her idea. And what’s with the kid on the fence a bit further down? Is he part of the family or did he just happen to be on the fence when they took the photo?

The family in the beach photo is more prosperous looking. It is a much larger gathering and everyone is beautifully turned out, despite being at the beach. They have made that lovely sandcastle and I like the way they have tucked Felix in as part of the family (he almost looks like he’s holding the baby!) so it takes a moment or two to even see him at first. There is nothing written on the back of the postcard, but clearly it was a treasured photo of a large family gathering. Who wouldn’t want to join that party? Frankly, I can’t say we ever had family gatherings in my New Jersey childhood that lived up to that. It does set the bar high however.