The Strangeness of French Betty and Felix

 

Pam’s Pictoram Toy (?) Post: Don’t know why, but this item has been on my mind lately so I thought I would write about it. Those of you who followed my purchases in the flea markets of Paris a couple of years ago (heaven!) might remember this. Never saw anything like it when I bought it, nor have I seen anything that was a kissing cousin to it since.  It is a lightweight wood and decorated on all other sides with the sort of alligator print you see on the edges. Too flimsy for a lunch box – a purse perhaps? I guess the French really are different from us, yes? I mean, to think they live in a country where women once walked down the street carrying accessories such as this. Really a very civilized place.

Aside from its use (and practicality, or lack thereof) what in the name of goodness is going on in that image?  Betty, complete with beauty mark (but maybe minus a mouth?) seems to be getting a come hither look from that goose – and Felix is playing some nefarious role peeking out from that tree.  All playing out in front of a castle-esque building in the background – I like to imagine that Betty has an apartment in that building – like the cartoon Betty’s Penthouse:

Although that was a more urban setting. Still, her place with a turret or a balcony?

Betty looks worried here – and I think she’s got good reason. Felix and the goose are up to no good. (Really, I hate to see an evil Felix.) This appears to be an unlicensed piece. Absolutely no manufacturing information.  Needless to say the moment I saw it I knew I had to have it.  While the owner of the stall did politely allow me to bargain a bit (as I said, very civilized place) my memory of it was that I was holding it possessively the entire time, and did a very bad job of hiding the fact that I absolutely was not leaving without it. (As I remember, Kim kicked in a bit to help make the transaction happen.) I know I paid a lot for it, but like many a really fine purchase, I don’t remember how much, even roughly.  Just that it is mine – oh happy toy lust!

 

Fear of Celluloid

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Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: The parade of toys continues as I detour into an area I have entered into with trepidation, celluloid! As you can tell from these fellows above, it is a fragile medium for toys and generally I amaze that any of these guys have lasted this long. Given the somewhat rough and tumble nature of our lives in our cramped, cat-filled apartment I have become the steward of these precious bits of ancient plastic with some reluctance.

With the exception of the cat playing the fiddle below, a gift from Kim, these were all purchased on eBay for very little money and I deeply suspected I was the only one who appreciated what they were. The cat with the parasol is the most recent purchase, last February I believe. I think it is very beautiful – almost as if it was made of ivory rather than plastic. The Felix next to him is missing his tail and the strings holding him together are looking for an excuse to break. He came with that small indentation in his chest. However, I have quite simply never, ever seen one like him. The smiling kitty that rounds out the group is clearly a kissing cousin to the one with the fiddle. These are both Japanese toys – there are other cats in the band along with the fiddle player but I have never been able to lay claim to another. The fiddle player was closer to black when I first got him and has faded to this red color over time.

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In some ways the transient nature of these toys does add to their appeal, however I think I had better get them put away before Cookie and Blackie wake up from their naps!

The Mysteries of Felix

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  Today’s post is of one of my favorite series of photos.  All three were purchased on Ebay, tiny photos – sort of 3 inches, smaller than reproduced here. The first two I purchased together, the third considerably later and from a different seller. They all came from Portland (which, as some of you know already, is emerging in my mind as the el dorado for whacky old photo finds) and are so similar – I have to wonder what the story might be.

They are on photo paper, but poorly printed. How can they be so similar and unrelated?  If they were some sort of multiple prints what on earth was the reason or the origin? That the first two show the Felix person holding a white cat – and that old car! – well, what more could I ask for? (Love those white Felix cat tummies too!) If memory serves I lost out on a second image of Felix on the car. These didn’t come cheap and I think I was just out of money. I have posted them on FB in the past and the image on the car either circled back to me on the internet, or there are other copies out there. I haven’t ever seen the other two any place else. These photos were the first in my acquisition of strange photos of people wearing Felix masks, and still among the ones I like very best!

Mickey Marches In

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  Jumping off on our parade theme from earlier this week, Cats on Parade, I offer these two photos I purchased last year on eBay under the theory, where there are cats, mice will surely follow. There is no indication of date, but there is a Philadelphia studio stamp on the back, For Duplicates of this Photograph order by number which appears on face of this print or on Back, Hood-Weintraub, 501 Keith Theatre Bldg. Phila, PA. [sic] Also scrawled in pencil on the back of the top one, “We posed for this before the parade began. Can you find me. don’t we look Cute. see how wet the streets are. it had rained in the early morning” [sic – all and below.]  Same studio stamp on the back of the other and this in the same hand, “you surely ought to find me in this. looks how I am stepping out.  this was taken on Broad St just below Aunt Edith” Does make you wonder who “me” is – I have spent some time looking at these and contemplating which one me might be.

While this may be Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day parade – evidently the oldest in the country having started in 1920, I vote instead for the Mummer’s New Year’s Day parade.  Wikipedia tells us that it is 130 years old and believed to be “one of the oldest folks festivals in the country.” Just because it is really great, I offer here this spectacular snippet from New York’s Thanksgiving parade in 1935:

However, when you see this clip from the 1926 Mummer’s Parade, you’ll see where I got the clue that this is where these photos are from!

(The tail end of this shows an equally good Rose Parade clip from the period – as an aside, Kim tells me his dad, Gene, designed a winning float for one for an ice cream company around 1946 or so!)

While my heart will always belong to Felix and those donning Felix costumes, (see Felix on Parade and Felix Mask-o-Rama) who wouldn’t love these folks dressing up in Mickey clothes?  Braving foul weather and sallying cheerfully forward nonetheless. We should all take a page from their book. 

Norakuro, the Japanese Felix?

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Pam’s Pictorama Curiosity Post: Pictured above is a bowl and saucer with the jaunty Japanese chacter Norakuro that I picked up on eBay for a song – only because it was listed incorrectly, I’m sure. The amazing thing about this piece is that when you hold the bowl up to the light, voila! – the geisha appears in the bottom!  I love this fat cat-like dog and have had an eye out for a stuffed toy of him for a long time, but to date to no avail.  The few toys I have seen are astronomically expensive, (at the time of writing this two wooden toys are listed on eBay under Felix for upwards of $800), but one of these days I hope a stuffed one will cross my path when I am feeling flush.  I have also included a trading card which I assume is him (although he’s gained weight) or a rip-off similar character.  Alas. since I do not read Japanese I cannot say for sure. 

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Lastly, I have included a link to a specimen cartoon on Youtube. It is in Japanese, but like most cartoons you can get most of the gist of it without understanding the dialogue. He isn’t as clever as Felix and his movements are distinctly Japanese – yet you can’t help but assume that they were looking at those early Felix cartoons. He’s in the army, rather than the sumo wrestler mode here. In the cartoon he practices looking fierce and samurai with his sword in the mirror before going out to drill.  He is most charming in his early comic book form.  I love to look at them – do wish I could read them!

Franken-Felix, Part 1

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Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post:  I have in my collection a whole shelf of what I call Franken-Felixes. This one here is a sort of do-it-yourself Felix and he falls loosely into this greater category, which is made up more of mismatched Felix parts reassembled and we will devote some time to exploring those at greater lengths in the future.  I have a soft spot for them. Meanwhile, this Felix doesn’t really appear to be from a pattern (those exist – even one to be knitted! – sadly, I don’t knit) but he sports a fairly professional design – if terribly off-model in a rather unique way. Maybe it was Krazy Kat they were looking at? However, should there be any doubt about his identity, they’ve taken the trouble to write his name on his bow tie! 

Felix on Parade

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  As you can see it isn’t like the Brits and the Aussie’s had this Felix thing all sewn up! Here are two photos of Felix parade floats in the US.  One is a photo postcard (Oregon Laundry) and the other is a tiny snapshot. On top, the Rose Festival in Portland, OR,’29 – man, they could do my laundry any day! My hat’s off to the fine people of Portland, OR which seems, oddly, to be a hotbed of Felix photo activity. Go Portland!

The snapshot, identified as the Bamberger’s Parade, Thanksgiving, ’31. Presumably this is Newark, NJ – a fine little home movie color film snippet, Bamberger’s Thanksgiving Parade circa 1933,  is absolutely worth the four and a half minutes on NJ.com and suffering through the commercial at the beginning.  Felix doesn’t show up, but Mickey puts in a very brief appearance. An indication that perhaps by ’33 or so Felix’s star was starting to fade a bit in the USA, and Mickey was the big kid on the block now. Mickey parade photos to follow in the future!

Mickey and Felix Costumes, Part 1

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Mysterious applications of Mickey and Felix as costumes really could be their own category! Starting with this is a tiny photo which really defies easy explanation – someone dressed as a long-nosed, slightly off-model (paunchy) Mickey on skies or snow shoes.  Hard to imagine what was going on here, or that he remained standing long.

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Back of card reads (complete with lack of punctuation):

Mrs. W Stoodley
Folly Farms
Lovewkerne (?) Som

mother
am glad it is much cooler now but our place is cooler inside than out.  The children had their carnival yesterday but this is the one.  Will

This Felix costume is much jollier and a lot more sensible – as such.  I’m sure he raised a lot of money for them. In fact, so much, that they did it more than once!

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This card features stuffed Felix dolls for the action – mine of this type is posted too so you can get a better look – irresistible to put these together – another example of rather brilliant photo collage work.  Nothing on the back of this card so we don’t know which came first.  They were purchased separately over the course of several years and the seller of this card said he had never seen anything like it.  I sent him a scan of the other – both of these came from British sellers.  I say Hooray for Felix!

Felix Tintype – Little Gem

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Came across this while I was doing my post earlier today and thought I would add it. While at some point I want to do something comprehensive on the Felix tintype, they are fun one at a time too.  While the quality on these is generally pretty hideous – they hang on a dark, interior wall in the apartment where they get a minimum of light so they don’t darken further – I find them utterly irresistible, and have paid dearly for most of the ones I have – about a half-dozen.  This is among the least faded images.

Among those that got away was one with a stuffed Mickey Mouse – Australian I think.  Can’t win ’em all – but always surprised I haven’t seen others of Mickey.  (I also lost out on a photo of people posing with Spark Plug the horse – Hake’s auction I think – which went for a fortune.  Again, the only one I’ve ever seen.  Where do these things go?  Were there that many more taken with Felix?)

Anyway, here we have everyone in 1925 all tricked out for their day at the British Empire Exhibition with Felix – the parasol is a nice touch!

Felix Mask-a-rama

 

Pam Pictorama Photo Post:  There are times when you really do wish you knew what the heck was going on in a photo and this is one of them – although the speculation is entertaining too.  Halcyon days of the past when people got together and all dressed up like Felix.  (Over time I have come to realize that this was much more common with Mickey Mouse masks – people seemed to put those on at the drop of a hat.)  I always think of these guys as a glee club or something like that – of course I would like it better if they were all wearing their Felix masks – maybe I will find that variation some day if I am very lucky.