Shake, Rattle and Roll

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Ah yes, a New Year and Pictorama is back to the toys. Christmas came late this year at Deitch Studio and these two splendid entries found their way from Belgium just before we rang in the New Year. Forget spoons, oh to be the youngster born with these silver rattles in their mouths!

I have bid on Felix rattles once or twice before and have always been bested so I leapt at the chance to purchase this hotsy-totsy one. Those of you who follow my ramblings know I have a special soft spot for off-model, primitive Felix-es like the one employed here. The rattle is marked sterling and I have shined him up a bit to have his photo taken although he is somewhat fragile. There is evidence of some dents that suggest gummy gnawing, although not really any deep dents. He is in an interesting semi-profile pose. (I was given a pocket watch that was my great-grandfather’s a few months ago. I took it to the jeweler to have a chain made so I could wear it that way, and he pointed out a dent where someone had bitten it. He said it was very common to see in gold pocket watches. I gather people would sort of mindlessly chomp on them. I have been puzzling over that adult form of teething ever since.)

The mother of pearl ring is very beautiful. Extremely elegant! If it wasn’t so fragile I would be tempted to wear it as a necklace. It does still rattle as well, a fairly quiet sound, although perhaps a bit noisy for a necklace now that I think about it that way.

The deal was already struck on Felix when the dealer, someone I have now known for a number of years, sent the photo of Bonzo and asked if I would be interested in him as well. Of course I was. After a short conference with Santa in the form or Mr. Deitch, we snatched him up too. Although the rings are more or less the same size, Bonzo is much bigger than Felix and a robust three dimensional rendition. Sleepy Bonzo clutches a baby bottle (you’d never see Felix with one of those I don’t think – not with milk in it anyway) and he has a rattle that is much more like a tinkling bell. (When I took him out of the package Cookie’s eyes lit up at the sound. She was clearly thinking that a lovely antique silver cat toy had just been delivered for her delectation and her attention needed to be directed elsewhere.) Bonzo’s eyes are just barely open, and if you look carefully, his lip is curled in a smile on one side.

Bonzo is less fragile than Felix and really could perhaps even resume his duties as the recipient of child chewing, although we will not test that theory. (Nor will we let Cookie take possession of him.) He is not marked sterling so I will assume he is plate – although he shined up nicely as well, the plate in good condition – after all, how much time did anyone devote to keeping their child’s rattle polished I wonder? A quick internet search shows that the Bonzo rattle is the more available. Although as I say above I have seen Felix rattles, none turn up immediately in a Google search.

I have never purchased a silver rattle as a baby gift, although price notwithstanding, now that I think of it a silver rattle like these is a rather wonderful gift. A quick check informs me that Tiffany is not offering a silver rattle this season – let alone one of Felix or Bonzo. However, the Tiffany bear below appears to be of recent vintage and can be yours on the Tradesy site for prices ranging from a mere $250-$650. I think I will stick with copies of The Story About Ping and The Cricket in Times Square (posts of those favorite childhood books can be found here and here) as my go to baby gift, but I must say the Tiffany bear is a very fair offspring to Felix and especially Bonzo. For those of you with deeper pockets and a generous nature, you might consider such an investment in the future of a baby you know.

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Peter the Great

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: There are things that are so great that you would never even dream them up on your own – and this film still of Peter the Great with this marvelous stuffed (somewhat extra large) Bonzo dog toy falls into that category. I believe if this photo had identified Bonzo in the listing it would have sold more competitively, but Bonzo fans were left in the dark and doggie film lovers were also asleep at the wheel luckily for me. Having said that, I paid a bit dearly for it, but I consider it an absolute find.

For starters, please know that the white writing on the front of this photo is neatly hand-painted on the photo surface in raised letters. On the back, written in pencil is MGM 1924. It also says The Silent Pal Gothan (?), 1925 which is crossed out. (The Silent Pal is a film starring an alternate dog star, Thunder. As this is pretty clearly identified I can’t imagine the initial confusion.) Printed on the back is John Cocci, 613 68th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11220 and typed, EXPLOITATION STILLS SALE AS REPRODUCED IN THE EXPLOITATION SECTION OF THE SERVICE BOOK.

Our film did indeed feature Peter the Great in his first leading role. Like many of his human counterparts, Peter got his start as a stunt double for more famous lead dogs of the day Rin-Tin-Tin and Strongheart. (I garnered this and the following other bio facts about Peter the Great’s brief career from the site Hollywooddogs.com.) Two years after Peter has his starring role here, he is tragically struck by a bullet while jumping to the aide of his master, for whom the bullet was intended. After valiant efforts to save him over several days, he dies with his paws in his master’s hands – thus ends his nascent career and even more sadly his life. His owner, Edward Faust, was awarded $125,000 in suit in the dog’s death which was a sizable sum in 1926.

Our film, although noted as lost on Wikipedia, does have a review on the IMDB database implying otherwise. In addition to Peter, the cast included: Eleanor Boardman, Raymond McKee, Earl Metcalfe, Paul Weigel, and Edna Tichenor. The review is by someone who didn’t seem to think a lot of it, but who was rather taken with Edna Tichenor as the film’s vamp. It appears to have been a typical story of a man wrongly accused who will be executed if his girlfriend and stalwart dog don’t save the day against the ever ticking clock. It evidently provided many opportunities for Peter to show off his talents and stunts. Some internet grabs of lobby cards and another (albeit lesser) film still from the film are supplied below.

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Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection

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Pictorama readers already know I have a soft spot for German Shepherds as I have written about growing up with a beloved one. (For a post that includes some stories about Dutchess have a look here at Mr. Frank, In the Dog House.) You also know that despite being of cat collecting fame I have nonetheless invested in some serious Bonzo in recent years. (For the toy curious, a few of those posts can be found by clicking on any of the following: Going to the Dogs – BonzoBlame it on the Blog 2: Bonzo Dog Edition and Happy Ooloo to Me!) It is hard to say whether Bonzo’s appearance ever made it into this film, if it hit the cutting room floor, or if this photo was actually somehow just promotional in nature. However for me there is no question that this splendid photo of Peter the Great posing with Bonzo of cartoon (and toy) fame, makes it wall worthy even in our cramped apartment.

 

A Mystery Bonzo…and Questions

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: We changing direction a bit today and I present for your consideration, this newly acquired Bonzo dog toy. I found this toy on eBay, made a mistake and didn’t bid – but fortunately for me he did not sell and I purchased him from the seller. I have photographed his wonderful, handwritten tag which seems very old as well. As far as I can tell it say, Bonzo and no 91 on one side and on the other Viola & Madeline Falkenthal 210-08 93rd Ave Bellaire Gardens, Cullens, Long Island. There is an online record of them living in Queens, Madeline Conlon nee Falkenthal 1902-1993 and Viola Albertina Connell, nee Falkenthal, 1906-1983. So strange what you can find on the internet. (I can only assume that they were very fond of their Bonzo toy, and I will of course keep the tag and their link to him.)

Bonzo is unusual in that he seems to only have one moveable arm, his left. There are no repairs so I assume this was intentional, but it does seem odd. He is in very good shape. His tongue seems to have been stitched back on but other than that he seems entirely original and intact. Bonzo also has a wide-eyed, open eyes which are found, but are less typical. That and the very black one ear left me wondering if instead of Bonzo, like Ooloo, he is another character in the Bonzo chronicle. I cannot find any evidence of this, but I am open to suggestions.

I assumed he was made by Chad Valley – the maker of most of the Bonzo dolls from this period seen today – as per my fairly long discourse on them in my posts Blame it on the Blog 2: Bonzo Dog Edition and the more recent Happy Ooloo to Me!. However, once in my possession, I realized he does not have the distinctive Chad Valley label on his foot, nor a Chad Valley pin. The eyes are glass, which is common for the period but not used on the Chad Valley Bonzo toys I have seen. There is, as shown below, a somewhat indistinct face as the only marker. My next thought was a company called Merrythought. They were evidently started in the thirties, in Great Britain, by some folks who left the larger Chad Valley toys. Although I have had trouble tracking down their early trademark, it seems to have been more distinctive label as well.

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So folks, a mystery Bonzo! I am interested in hearing back with any thoughts or clues. Meanwhile I have also included a photo of my Chad Valley fellow for comparison. More on this as my toy sleuthing continues!

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Chad Valley Bonzo

Happy Ooloo to Me!

Pam’s Pictorama: Back in December of ’14 I wrote Blame It on the Blog 2 where I displayed and discussed the perfectly excellent Bonzo Kim had purchased me as a Christmas gift. That acquisition had in part come out of an earlier post devoted to Bonzo (Going to the Dogs – Bonzo) where I had discovered the Chad Valley Bonzo toys. Well, we can blame it on the blog again, because while I was researching those toys – and stumbling onto the lovely Bonzos made by Chad Valley, I found a very rarified toy indeed – Ooloo the Cat!

It seems that cartoon Ooloo, designed by the same artist George Studdy, knocked Bonzo right off center stage at Sketch Magazine where his full page strips and sight gag drawings had been featured on a regular basis. Bonzo had been working the Sketch Magazine gig since 1921, but his appearances had fallen off by 1927. On January 2, 1929, Ooloo made her first appearance in the mag and knocked Bonzo right out of the box. Bonzo made only occasional appearances after that and I read that an appearance five months later in May of that year may have been Bonzo’s last in the magazine. Below is her first, fluffy premiere in Sketch.

However, Bonzo got his revenge fully in the long afterlife of marketing. Bonzo seems to have launched items in his image, both licensed and clearly off-model, that rival Felix and Mickey Mouse both in breadth and sheer number. His longevity, considering the limited reissue of and interest in the actual strips, is extraordinary and reaches not only throughout Europe and the United States, but seems to reach as far as Japan. His ubiquitous, sleepy, dog face image plays out over Valentines, figurines, lamps, a band, toys – you name it! I have personally speculated on the possible influence of his image on the Japanese character Norakuro (featured here Norakuro – the Japanese Felix and also in an early post here, Pam’s Toy Post) but have never established a link.

Ooloo, by comparison, is little known today and sadly toys did not proliferate. As above, I discovered this outstanding Chad Valley Ooloo when researching the toys for the other post. They are indeed rare however and frankly I had little hope of ever acquiring one of these fine specimens. Therefore, I was over the moon when this one appeared on eBay just before my birthday this year! Kim generously stepped in and Ooloo, thanks to the considerate quick packing and shipping of the seller, arrived within days of my birthday. (As a bonus, the seller turned out to be the same wonderful woman in Belgium who sold me Bonzo! A shout out to Regine who certainly has an extraordinary collection of toys.) As I always say, I am one lucky toy collecting woman. Yay!

Ooloo is a truly outstanding addition to this woman’s toy cat collection and a very finely made toy. In the photos I have tried to show some of the touches and details that make this an especially wonderful toy: the bits of color in the ears and around the nose – the tiny stitches under the eyes. Ooloo retains her whiskers and these interesting thread bits on one paw that seem to be claws – I thought they were just pulls in the fabric in the photo but have determined that they were meant to be there. It is a thoughtfully made toy indeed.

Below is an image of an Ooloo perfume bottle, one of the few fairly available Ooloo pieces of merchandise. There may be one or two other toys out there – and be assured I will be ferreting them all out for your pleasure – and mine!

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Nathan Albert Headwear

Pam’s Pictorama Pin Post: I usually limit my forays into pin purchase to Felix and Krazy Kat – I have collected several of the little enamel pins of each. However this little number called my name on eBay the other day and I purchased it for a couple of dollars. I learned from the posting that most of these pins have Nathan Albert Headwear stamped on the back, although oddly this one does not. I thought that nothing would be easier than finding this haberdasher online – or at least some reference. Oddly, although the pins (which are great) exist in abundance in a variety of colors online, I can find pretty much zero about the company. Please enlighten me, any of you readers if you have info!

I wonder if there are many cases of this – a great logo living on well beyond the product it advertises, the product fading into the mists of time. I cannot think of another example, although I occasionally wonder if the Geico Geko will not somehow outlive the memory that he was tied to insurance. Meanwhile, who wouldn’t this splendid cat and fiddle appeal to? On the other hand, what did it have to do with hats? I had trouble getting a good photo of it and have ended up snatching the one off the listing.

It inspired me to dig around a bit and I grabbed up several notable buttons in our household collection, featured below. There is a Countess Aesop Fable pin that would have been sported by the doll, (I believe I purchased the pin alone before buying the doll) of course Bonzo’s Chad Valley pin which is affixed to my Bonzo, and I have (for good measure) included two versions of Kim’s Sunshine Girl pin – one original one from the Kim Deitch archive, and a splendid one that Bill Kartalopoulos had made for an exhibit a few years ago. Last but not least, I have thrown Kim’s Buck Jones Ranger pin in for good measure – certainly a collectible in its own right.

 

Alfred Latell

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  I had my eye on this postcard on eBay for a while – holiday purchases needed to all be complete before I could justify the splurge and buy it. I adore animal imitators from the turn-of-the-century – starting with the 1907 Dancing Pig from France (possibly the very best short film ever) to George Ali as Nana in the 1925 Peter Pan – and all those wonderful early Wizard of Oz films. I love them all! Kim knows my passion for them and this is one of the first drawings he ever gave me – Animal Impersonators – a play on the idea.

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This postcard was used. Addressed on the back to The two Brothers “Mathuss” Cassimo si Paris Theater, Burner Pesth, Hungary. The postmark is illegible but the message reads, in English, Dear Boys, good wishes to you. great success. My sincere good thoughts. Your father. The photo studio is Atelier & Bromsilber which seems to have been a well-known studio.

This photo is my introduction to Alfred Latell whose career evidently started in 1902 and lasted into the 1940’s. Online I found a 1936 ad for a show with Alfred Latell as, yep you guessed it, Bonzo Dog – which is how this card was also advertised. An online Encyclopedia of Vaudeville calls Latell one of the most curious acts in vaudeville. It says, He specialized in the impersonation of animals, not only dressing in various guises but also providing the appropriate noises. He began his career in 1902 and by 1909 had gained considerable notoriety for his imitations of monkeys, billy goats, bears, and dogs. It was the last animal that Latell found the most difficult to imitate, for as he explained in an article in The New York Dramatic Mirror, ‘To play the part of a dog and not to buffoon him, one is obliged to make a close study of his every action. The dog is so close to mankind that he is know more intimately than any other of the domestic beasts, with the exception possibly of the horse…The cat is a difficult animal to impersonate, though not so much as the dog, because of the fact of its slower movements. I have gone out at night with my cat suit on and have sat for hours watching the smaller back yard cats as they stalked along the fence or sat watching the moon rise o’er some neighboring buildings.’

He went to great lengths – rigged up a hind leg, improving his dog movement, and had a special tube made for his mouth which allowed him to appear like he was lapping up milk.  With a string he could raise the fur on the back of the cat suit! He also impersonated birds, ‘The parrot was one of my first bird impersonations, and I found it one of the most difficult of all, because of its crouching posture and the consequent tendency to fall over while walking.  There are nine strings which have to be operated in working the head, bill and wings, and the work is laborious in every sense of the word.” (The Art of Animal Acting, The New York Dramatic Mirror, May 1, 1909.)

Evidently Latell had an act with one and then a subsequent wife – his characters did not speak and he had to perform with a partner who would introduce him and do the talking. The internet is spotted with a mention in Green Book here and an ad in a theatrical paper there. His career peters out with a random performance or two on Broadway in the 1940’s. I was not able to find any film clips of him to share. For another photo of him and a bit more information, I refer you to another WordPress blog post Stars of Vaudeville #561.As a salute to great anthropomorphic animal entertainment, a link to the wonderful French dancing pig below!

Blame it on the Blog 2: Bonzo Dog Edition

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Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: A few weeks back while I was doing some research for my post Going to the Dogs – Bonzo I discovered that the fine British toy makers of Chad Valley made a vast variety of delightful Bonzo dog stuffed toys! And me being me, I had to have one.  I also found out pretty quickly that Bonzo toys are rarefied items and do not go cheap! As I have noticed in some early Felix toys, there seems to be a lot of variation in these toys, many sizes, but their expression as well, so not just any one would entirely do.(For more on my ode to the Chad Valley fine makers of Hygienic Toys, see Felix for a Cause.)  All this has culminated in this wonderful Christmas gift from Kim – welcome to our home Bonzo! Thank you Kim – you’re the very best husband!

As you can see, Bonzo has a bit of sleep sand in his eyes – this seems to be on most of them. Bonzo was, after all, a sleepy fellow. He still has his great little Chad Valley identification button and his Hygienic Toy Made in England Chad Valley Co Ltd tag.  This fellow came from a lovely eBay seller in Belgium who took excellent care to ensure that he reached our shores safely.

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Bonzo is now enjoying a special spot on a shelf with his earlier shown Bonzo brethren. In the interest of further Bonzo education I offer one of the great color full-page spreads snatched from the Google image file and a cartoon below. Ho, ho, ho!

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