Sis Sèmper Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Translated from the Latin, roughly, Always Felix. You may remember that aways back I purchased some hand colored images of Felix, shown below, which are similar in that they seem to have both a pre-printed yet hand-painted and drawn quality, leaving me wondering if the outline was somehow printed and then then black of Felix and the colors hand executed later. Both those cards and this one are on a lightweight paper – so although postcard size questionable that they were meant to stand up in the mail to begin with, this one has a torn top edge like it came from a book of some kind. I have seen additional versions of the cards below since I purchased my lot, although I have not acquired more. (Have to leave something out there for the other Felix collectors, right?) Today’s feature, and those below are all, not surprisingly, products of Great Britain and were purchased from sellers there.

Unlike those below, today’s drawing has an embossed quality to the outline of Felix – it was definitely printed, and although at first I thought the black was filled in by hand I am not so sure. The paper stock has wrinkled a bit around the printing area as the pressure and ink filled the paper. Nothing is written on the back.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Obviously, my acquisition featured today was drawn with even more imagination than these other freehand beauties. A portly, gap toothed rendition, there is only something vaguely Felix-y about the pose, legs and tail. However, he has declared himself Felix and he is claimed by someone who has signed this work of art K. Behrens, 5-3-24. If off-model Felix is quite jaunty, giving us the thumbs up sign.

This Felix puts a smile on my face, which was probably the only real goal of K. Behrens in creating it. Still, there is something scratching away in my brain about this odd little tributary of homegrown and hand crafted Felix-iana. Perhaps just imagining a world where handmade Felix dolls and pictures were abundant – an Eden-like vision of a Felix filled world for the early 21st century Felix collector to contemplate.

Advertisements

Pepper Felix

unnamed-14

Pam Toy Post: In a first of several loot from France posts, behold this very odd item I purchased from the fine fellows at Antics Toys and Dolls in Lyon. I found the shop online before my trip and, since I was there on business not pleasure, I considered it a great stroke of luck that I had a rare few free hours in Lyon which allowed me to race over and check it out. The gentlemen there spoke no English (and I no French) and at first they seemed to have no idea what to do with me as a customer with a strong interest in Felix le chat and perhaps a Mickey. Their prices ran high and I dismissed several items which seemed over-priced, especially after Euro to dollar conversion. However, I purchased a small, lovely jointed bear (future post) and left the store.

I wandered down the street, noting with frustration that several antique shops were closed despite the fact that it was 3:30 on a Thursday which would seem to be a time when things would be open. I found a small shop that was, according to the owner, opening next week – although it seemed, for all intents and purposes, to be open. He sold me a lovely rose gold ring with a tiny diamond chip, which he dated around 1903. I would have added ten years to that date but can’t say I am an expert. Then I walked back in the direction I came from and when I walked past the aforementioned toy store something near the window on a shelf caught my eye – Felix! Back in I went and another owner seemed to have appeared in the meanwhile and he, having lived in Stamford, Connecticut for a year or more, spoke some English. Felix was fetched from the window shelf and, strangely, he turned out to be a pepper shaker – no salt shaker sadly, but even alone, a worthy and unusual item. A bargain was struck (after they showed me photos on their phones of the antique cars they own, I showed them photos of my Felix toys on my phone, and we discussed religion in broken English for some reason) and home to NYC Felix has come.

I have never seen this particular model. I would have maybe even thought he was homemade from other parts except for his rather professional poivre sticker, as shown, on the back. Early in my collecting I assumed that early Felix items might be largely French and German. I was surprised to find out that they are almost predominantly British. This item may indeed be the only French item I am aware of in my collection.

unnamed-17

Meanwhile, next I wandered down the street to find Antiquites Marilyn and my purchase there which I will outline in tomorrow, Sunday’s, post.

Felix and Betty Boop Affair

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo found its way to us via Tom Conroy – a friend of Kim’s who has generously sent us many wonderful photos from his collection. Thank you Tom!

Many variations of this photo session abound on eBay and can be found on the internet. Interestingly, this exact image does not appear on the Google photo file. (Although I guess it will now.)  The actress is generally identified as Helen Kane, but Kim was thinking May Questel which lead to an active Google search and discussion in bed with the iPad the other night. Kim leans seriously toward May Questel. I include period photos of May and Helen and I would say it is a tough call indeed!

6401-7  imgres

The question of why Betty Boop is posing with Felix is another one. Clearly there was Betty/Felix empathy – as shown in my post, The Strangeness of French Betty and Felix. Speculation is that at some point the properties were owned by the same company and this low level promotion occurred. Still, as you know, it has long been my philosophy that Felix improves anyone’s status – and we know that Betty had a long-standing affection for dogs, so why not a clever cat?

As a point of strange symmetry (and because you can never have too much Felix) I offer this early photo postcard of a man posing with a Felix cut-out. This has a place of honor with my collection of photos of people posing with large stuffed Felix dolls. I have always guessed that this photographer could not afford a proper stuffed Felix to pose with and did his best.

P#4

Mistinguett – Felix Goes to the Dogs

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  Shown here is a recent acquisition. A press photo of a French stage star posing with her dog – and Felix! Plenty of evidence that, in addition to regular folks, stars enjoyed posing with Felix to help burnish their public image. (My Felix Makes the Picture Better illustrates this point, and look for several of actress Lilian Harvey that will be future posts.)

This one is undated which is unusual for a press photo. Glued to the back is a scrap of paper that reads, MISTINGUETT, the French musical comedy star, concluding her appearance here in ‘Innocent Eyes,’ sailed yesterday with her ‘million dollar legs’ for home abroad the Paris. She was accompanied by her dog, Alfred! And his stuffed playmate, Felix. staff Photo-Steffen

Okay, more about Mistinguett in a moment – but the Felix belonged to her dog? As a toy collector I am, needless to say, a bit horrified. We will assume that, if true, those particular toys are unlikely to show up on eBay today – although an interesting story for someone who finds one with little dog-toothy tears. How often did the Felix-es need replacing I wonder – Felix is almost as big as Alfred. I take comfort in the fact that I deeply suspect that it was a put up job for the photograph and that the pristine Felix toy went on his way with the photographer awaiting his turn with Dolores Costello and others.

There is a huge amount of information about Mistinguett on the internet. Born on April 5, 1875 as Jeanne Bourgeois she evidently decided to be an entertainer at an early age. She took the stage name Mistinguett and became the toast of Paris – the highest paid entertainer of her day. Her actual skill as a singer seems to be questionable, but clearly she had something and was quite the ‘It Girl’ of her time. The lover of Maurice Chevalier and King Alfonso XIII of Spain, she was a famous dancer of the Apache – one of France’s contributions to socially acceptable S&M entertainment. The IMDb database claims that her legs were insured for a mere 50,000 francs – but let’s not quibble. Her long filmography starts in 1908, but with only one film in the sound era, the 1936 Rigolboche, which appears to be available. One review sites her as a bit long in the tooth for the part – understandable since she was 61 at that point. (In all fairness, there’s a leggy photo of her when she was 50 that is pretty hotsy-totsy. It can be viewed, with much additional information on her at www.yodaslair.com/dumboozle/mist/mistdex.html) There are several fuzzy dupey clips of her singing on Youtube and I have spared you any of these.

Innocent Eyes, the show mentioned on the photo, was mounted to feature her and introduce her to American audiences and was pretty soundly panned. She never clicked here. Mistinguett seemed unperturbed however and I snatch a quote from the above mentioned website, In her autobiography, Mistinguett recalls the results of her efforts to learn English for this engagement:  My pronunciation was a great success.  ‘Innocent Eyes’ on my tongue became ‘Innocent Asses.’ I was begged not to improve on it. She was, as my grandmother used to say, a real piece of work.

And I can only guess that she was perhaps less than entertained with the idea of posing with the American film super star, Felix. Perhaps that is how she came to demote him to the role of dog toy!

charles-gesmar-mistinguett-casino-de-paris

 

Are those cat ears? An early poster image borrowed from the Google photo file.

Living the Felix Life

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This plate is the single piece of Felix china I own. Sometimes I fantasize that if I was very wealthy our daily dishes would be a full set of Felix china – perhaps switching off occasionally for Mickey on special occasions. The appealing image of drinking my coffee out of a Felix mug comes to me periodically and I have considered purchasing one for this purpose alone. However, we are a bit hard on the things we use daily around here – cats always leaping and knocking things over, stuffed cabinets where things collide, daily dishwasher wear and tear. Although admittedly the actual destruction of household dishware here is fairly low, the idea of worrying about it is more than I can deal with. Sadly, in such a small apartment, we have little room for displaying china as well so I remain reticent about investing in it.  That is too bad because there is a wealth of it available and the charm for me is seeing it in large quantity and with all the small variations.

My plate is unmarked and I have some question about its origin. I believe I have landed on Wellsville China of Wellsville, Ohio as the maker.  Wellsville China was founded in 1902 was in business until 1959. I believe it was then sold and was in existence in one form or another until the demolition of the building in 2004. Frankly though, the history of the company is a bit hard to piece together. A competitor in the Felix dishware race seems to have been Baltimore’s Bennett China – although the design very similar those dishes seem to be distinguished by an apricot colored edge to their plates whereas mine still has traces of gold around the edges. The Felix images and sayings seem to come from the postcard series – which is huge and I believe British in origin.

A very desirable variation is the Royal Rudolstadt design. I pulled this one off the internet – for sale on Rubylane’s site as I write this – as an example.  (Maybe I need to buy this as a birthday gift to myself…but I digress.) I like this Felix design – squarely between the earliest bony-looking Felix and the later rounded one.

6f902893f7cd13531a3d62aca821c33a

The reality is that we actually do eat off of historic plates – heavy blue and white wear sectioned plates, made in Britain – hard even for us to break. I love them. They came to me through my mother’s family. My great-grandfather owned a bar at the Jersey shore throughout my mother’s childhood and those plates were used to serve the daily blue plate special. Oddly, our other dishes are decorated with a series of New Yorker cartoons and fell into our hands via my father who purchased them, in the box, for under five dollars – his purchase limit on most things. And the tradition of novelty china continues.

Willow plate, our daily china

Willow plate, our daily china

 

Beeeep!

unnamed-14

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: I bought this earlier this week on eBay. I must say, I don’t exactly know what I was thinking, but no one was bidding on it and it was very original. Now that I have it I love it! It makes a loud beep that annoys the cats – as shown with Cookie below, which is always entertaining. I particularly like the sort of hand painted, not-quite-Felix on it.

The wood inside is interesting and have shown you so you can get a sense of it. This was a time when a cheap toy was really made of something! I assume it has seen some high old times – halloween parties, maybe the occasional New Year’s celebration. I intend to keep it handy for any celebration that comes along.

Me and My Felix

Series Q #2Series Q #3Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  It doesn’t surprise me that, if you had a wonderful Felix the Cat doll, you would want your photo taken with it. As many of you already know, my collection in this area is fairly deep.  (Some of it was already immortalized and shared in an early posts, Felix Makes the Picture Better and more so in Ugly Children Good Toys.)  Shown here is a little girl dressed in her finest, holding a delightfully large Felix doll and looking mighty pleased with herself.  It is a photo postcard and nothing has been written on the back. Her Felix is a more pristine example of one I own – I am sparing you a photograph of me holding it!

The other card has a small holiday riff and I will use it as a tip of the cap to the newly launched 2014 holiday season. It is hard to see, but the tinfoil greetings has an impression of holly around it.  This little fellow had to pose in his winter clothes (and hat) in front of a very soft focus bit of outdoor scenery.  Note those snappy buttons on his trousers though! He’s dressed up too.  His Felix on the other hand is an absolutely whacky pop-eyed fellow.  Love those ears standing straight up – part bunny! This also unused and perfectly preserved.

I have wondered if these toys were just props at the photo studio. For some reason the little girl has always struck me as the owner of that Felix, the little boy perhaps not. Maybe because it is a bit less clear that the girl is in a photo studio – the portrait could have been made at home.

Those of you on Facebook know that I can’t resist posting a photo of me with new toy acquisitions. A natural impulse I think – representing a long tradition of proud ownership. On the other hand, who wouldn’t smile in a photo studio if they handed you a huge Felix doll?  I would!