An Anniversary Felix Redux

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Once in awhile I surprise myself and see something on eBay I decide I really want, bar the expense, in a way that I cannot quite explain. Now admittedly, really, who wouldn’t want this really spectacular item? Still, why I decide sometimes that I will go to the wall for something and other times just decide it will be too expensive and move on, I’m not sure. As it happens, it did not matter – as I am the luckiest wife in the world – Kim knew of my yearnings and bought this lovely item for me for our anniversary yesterday. (And to think I just bought him a book!) More on the anniversary in a bit below.

As savvy Pictorama readers may know, I own another version of this, purchased almost exactly a year ago, and crowed over in my post Felix Trinket Tray. I show that item here. As you can see, it is the exact same bottom, unpainted, with a somewhat ham handed Felix at the top. He is in the reverse position of the painted version just acquired.

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Felix the Cat Trinket Tray, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

That one never made it to my office, but I think this one will. I am an utter sucker for this version of Felix. It is as if he has come out of his thinking pose into an “Ah ha” resolution moment. He is the earlier, pointy design I like best. Little lead figures of this style exist and I almost wonder if they didn’t just stick one of those on. (And for all I know there are all sorts of non-Felix figures sprouting off atop these brass desk caddy bases.) I am thinking of the Pixieland Kew version of small painted lead toys, like soldiers. (There are versions by other companies with different Felix designs.) Here is one I pulled off the internet and it looks like a fit. I do not own one, but to my knowledge they are the same size as my man atop his perch. Meanwhile, I am quite sure I will be all the smarter at work for having him on my desk.

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Pixieland Kew Felix, not in Pictorama collection

 

I am not sure I will ever entirely unravel the mysteries of the myriad way the British threw together these items during the height of the Felix fueled mayhem. I am just grateful for their sheer abundance which has resulted in a good survival rate ninety years later.

For those who are counting anniversaries, this year is #17 on the marriage side, although we tend to add another six for our time together prior to that. (I admit that I noted to myself that getting married in 2000 was a good idea because it would be easy to remember. Columbus Day is a marker too. Unlike Kim whose mind locks onto dates, mine has always been mushy and wandering on that score.) The anniversary of our first date comes up in a few weeks, over Veteran’s Day. I wrote about that way back at the beginning of Pictorama and just turned that post up here, Anniversary Special. In looking back I remembered that Kim helped me track down and buy this nice Snowy last year. (He was also blogged in the post, Snowy.) I am suddenly overwhelmed to realize that when I traveled to France last fall for the Met that my new job was not even a twinkle in my eye yet. Time does indeed fly, and you never know what anniversary you may be celebrating in a year.

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Snowy was last year’s anniversary gift!

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More Felix Sing-a-long!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Happily somehow things always return to Felix here at Pictorama. I like to think that indefinitely, every so often, I will stumble across yet another unexpected example of the British fascination with Felix which extended to ditties like this one – Felix gracing the cover and doing the big sell. (However, as noted in my post Musical Meow! which features French sheet music, currently adorning the walls of my office, illustrates that the Brits were not alone in this mania abroad.) I have a few other sheet music posts that include Felix illustrated tunes, Felix – Here He Is Again , Musical Meow! and Musical Interlude and they are, if you pardon the pun, like cat nip to me. On this one he is doing my favorite Felix trick where his tail flies off on its own, in this case to form a ? – a hotsy-totsy Felix best!

In researching the note at the bottom, Dedicated to FELIX THE FILM CAT/Appearing exclusively in Pathe’s ‘Eve & Everybody’s Film Review’ I hit pay dirt on Felix lore. In the interesting short article that can be found in its entirety at British Universities Film and Video Council site about Eve & Everybody’s Review I found out Felix details that tied together things in a way I didn’t know. Pic and Eve (as it became known) was a series founded in 1921 and running until ’33 aimed at women – hobbies, unusual careers, fashion, etc. under the slogan fashion, fun and fancy. It mostly drew on stock footage for its shorts, but also featured shorts of cartoons. This is the series that was used to launch the Felix cartoons in Great Britain to great acclaim, and became the machine that helped churn out much of the British Felix merchandise treasured by the likes of me close to a hundred years later- sheet music, pins, and china figurines. (Krazy Kat had his turn as well, but does not appear to capture the imagination of the Brits the way Felix did.) It was the distributor of Felix cartoons until 1926 when the Ideal company began to distribute them in their entirety as free-standing entities.

This sheet music appeared on my computer screen during an early morning, pre-work, search on eBay. It was for immediate purchase and it was mine before my morning coffee had even had a chance to kick in. Mornings here at the combined Pictorama and Deitch Studio environs goes something like this – at about 4:30 Blackie begins to stir (some of us believe that it is at Cookie’s insistence, but since I try to sleep through this I cannot verify it) and we attempt to hold him at bay until at least 5:00. Kim gets up; I roll over for anywhere from another 15 to 45 minutes of sleep. Tummies full, the cats are already working on their daytime napping by the time I pour myself some cold coffee from the fridge and sit down with it, a green smoothie (made the day before) and some fresh berries in front of the computer. Kim is already hard at work as I read the paper online (interesting bits aloud), check the limited social media that interests me (laugh at funny animal videos and photos mostly) and give a fast check to the most interesting searches I follow on eBay. On a lucky day last week this was the first thing I saw and bang! It was mine.

Enough about me however. This is a splendid piece of sheet music I have never seen previously. There is no date associated with it. It was previously owned by the H. Austin Storry, Ltd. Pinaoforte & … Warehouse, 14 & 16 Palmerston, Southsea…as per the stamp at the bottom right and from what I can make out of it. Hard to beat the name of this tune, Who threw the water on the Tom Cat’s back?  The author is A. Emmett Adams, is best known for The Bells of St. Mary’s, a hit of 1917. Without knowing for sure, we’ll assume that this Felix ditty is a jauntier song. I could not find a transcription of this being played, but surely anything that advertises itself as Me-ow! Splash! A Melody with a ‘Smack’ must be sort of jolly. The lyrics, in part, go like this:

Felix loved a Tabby Cat
How she used to purr!
All the cats for miles around were sure he’d marry her!
One night he proposed and just as Tabby answered Yes!
Someone dampened their spirits in a rude way more or less;

Chorus:
Who threw the water on the Tom Cat’s back when he spoke to his lady friend?
Who broke the water jug at two o’clock,
Followed at three by the kitchen clock?
Bang! went a pair of boots, crash went a  piece of soap
Right on his best girl’s head.
So she bolted down the mews,
Leaving Felix musing there are other cats instead.
The final verse:
As I try to sleep at night,
When the world is still
Cats sing oratorious beneath my window sill!
Do I get up? I should worry

I just lie in bed!
Somone’s gone mad round the corner 
So I think instead…
Chorus

All this and they threw in two fox trots at the back, When you and I were dancing and Love in the Summertime. Quite a bargain I say and while I paid quite a bit more than 2 pence, I am very happy with my buy as well.

 

Ornamentation

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is an incredibly tiny photo – only about 2″x2″ cut from something larger. It was at one time pasted into an album, perhaps a page of many, small cut out images in a 1920’s collage. This Felix is a familiar Schoenhut model toy which was hugely popular. Someone has plunked our friendly Felix toy down on the front end of this gorgeous looking early Chevrolet. Ironically Felix has a notable history with Chevy, thanks to a long lived dealership in Los Angeles. I touched on this in a post called Felix Sells, after being inspired by a single early dealership envelope which I saw on eBay, but failed to purchase. As I am not especially knowledgable about cars, I cannot hazard a guess about the model of this one and therefore the possible year completely eludes me. Still, we can assume that it was while Felix was first hitting the big time and star that he was, he was simply everywhere.

Originally motometers perched atop of early car hoods and served a purpose, gaging car temperature. They became more decorative over time (believe me, I only know this because I watch American Pickers, and some of the ones they find are gorgeous), but then eventually temperature gauges moved into the car, where we will assume they were more useful. The spot on the hood was inherited by, also increasingly decorative, hood ornaments – and Felix was a favorite. Below I show the most common version, the LeJeune Felix hood ornament. (Louis LeJeune hood ornaments is a British company which still exists and was founded in 1910, so they were still the new kids on the block when they hit it big with this Felix,  probably in the late ’20’s.)

These abound for sale on eBay and I have never purchased one, in part, because it would need to be mounted. (Remember, our cramped studio apartment does not allow for a lot of construction projects or tools.) If I see a nice mounted one I would love it. Felix is at his early squared off best, portrayed in his thinking/pacing mode. I do very much like the idea of him on the prow of my car! This one is resplendent – in fully painted glory. Generally you see an unpainted version (and modern castings) available.

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Painted version of the Le Jeune Felix hood ornament, not in the Pictorama collection, alas! From a Hake’s sale catalogue.

 

Another version of a Felix hood ornament, shown below, came up while researching this. Not sure of the maker or year. One can imagine this one in fully original shiny brass glory however – wowza! There were another few variations where a metal Felix had been married to another ornament in a homemade version. I was unable to capture those. Still here he is in his thinking walk; he seems far less concerned however. This Felix is strolling.

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All this to say, it would have been an easily understood joke of the day to take a Felix toy and stick it on the front of your Chevy and take the photo I have acquired.

Although somewhat less popular today, hood ornaments still exist. I have a friend who has a nice one of a beaver on the front of her car and he has graced the front of a series of her SUV’s as I understand. A similar but more widespread practice today seems to be tying old stuffed animals to the front of trucks, something I have wondered about. Perhaps it comes out of an entirely different motivation.

If I owned a car (which would require that I drive a car – really another story) I would consider affixing this Felix with his bent, thoughtful walk to the hood. After all, contemplation is good and speed isn’t everything.

 

Tableta Okal

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This very odd bit came up on eBay recently and it was decidedly more interesting than good. There seems to be something of an influx of Spanish related Felix items being sold be an American seller or sellers and I have dabbled a bit, but mostly watched from the sidelines. I did purchase and write about Periquito, the Spanish Felix of Chocolate Cards awhile back, and recently a different line of chocolate cards has also appeared which may eventually lure me in. There’s also a brand of very appealing and rarified off-model Felix decorated tin toys which is extremely high end. Unlikely I will add any of those to my collection, although I never say never. I have wondered if the item featured in The Strangeness of French Betty and Felix (and shown below) while purchased in Paris and wooden, not tine, wasn’t actually of this origin, but it is without maker’s mark so I cannot say for sure.

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As many of you Spanish speakers probably already realize, this card actually advertises a children’s laxative. Ick! It has employed the double whammy of invoking Mickey Mouse’s shape along with (a version of shall we say?) of Felix playing an accordion. Since children, Spanish or otherwise, don’t tend to buy their own laxative I wonder a bit at the practice.  We will assume if asked Disney and Sullivan wouldn’t have approved of it. I have devoted many posts to the various ways that Felix was pressed into service by ambitious advertisers of generations past. Meanwhile, this item is also a clear descendent of the Victorian trade cards I have written about, although clearly not so lovingly lithographed as those in Bogue’s Soap.

Gratefully I do not remember a parallel item in my childhood. I do remember bubble bath in child friendly character containers, which is clearly far more benign. By the time my brother, almost seven years younger than me, arrived on the scene advertising tie ins had graduated to child themed cereals – Count Chocula being an example and vitamins in the shape of, if I remember correctly, The Flintstones. Of course we live in a different world of advertising (well, of almost everything I sometimes think) and we now have everything from Gummy Bear Hair Vitamins and melatonin (thank you Eileen for pointing those out recently) to Choco Chimps Organic cereal, which I guess has taken the place of the aforementioned Count Chocula? Caveat emptor I say! But let the collecting continue.

Itsy Bitsy Photos

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: To start with we at Pictorama must acknowledge a significant debt to the modern miracle of Photoshop as well as Mr. Deitch who was at the controls. These photos suffered miserably from ham handed amateur printing – and perhaps equally unskilled shooting of the original photos as well. This trio of photos are pallid and over-exposed in their original forms, and have undoubtedly faded additionally with age as well. Nonetheless I saw the potential when they went on sale. While it is sad to have photos in my collection that cannot really be enjoyed on their own, it is nice for them to have another life here at Pictorama. They appear to have come out of albums and none of them have any information along with them. Clearly they meant enough to the people in them to have kept them all these years, overexposure not withstanding.

Meanwhile, I am just mad for the Felix the Cat costume! It is just the sort I have always hoped to find on eBay and snatch up for myself. It is hard to see, but this little girl has her pageboy cut hair tucked smartly into the cat-eared cap – those ears are the best part of the costume for me! However, worth noting that there are girl and boy Felix-es dancing on the front, smaller supporting white cats in each corner, and the capper of a long tail draped behind her. It is a splendid costume and she is very pleased with herself, as she should be. No less notable are the spiffy, shiny, Mary Janes both are sporting here with their costumes. Our Miss Moffett is no less pleased with herself and this dress, which I hope ultimately saw additional wearings because it is so beautiful. It is so cleverly designed and beautifully made, and the big fat spider tied with a ribbon bow to her arm is a perfect finishing touch. (Full disclosure, there is another photo of just her, an 8″x10″ sold with the group, but it is blurry and it didn’t seem worth including.) I like the almost haughty expression on Miss Moffet’s face too – she is embodying her role fully.

Our little Mother Goose below appears a bit younger, but no less costume proud. Nor should she be with her delightfully frilly dress and this nice stuffed white goose. She has a sweet, shy smile in her photo, peering out under the brim of her peaked hat. If only the photographer had been as skilled as the talented soul who made these costumes. It must have been very frustrating to only have these poor faded remembrances of them and this magical Halloween celebration!

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Last in this group and appearing to have been taken by someone else entirely, although perhaps even a different day, are these youngsters dressed up like the graces. As Kim said, this photo appears to be moments before a better one was taken in which they organized themselves a bit better in their poses. Still, there is plenty of charm in this candid photo of these girls, costumed up and enjoying themselves in this long-ago, overgrown backyard, all of which probably lived on in memory for each of them as a very fine time indeed.

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Saucy Felix

Pam’s Pictorama: This pattern of Felix china has long attracted me and I have very much wanted to own at least a specimen example and now I do. It is Royal Rudolstadt made in 1925, or so it appears from what I read online, although this dish is unmarked. While the Felix-es around the edges look very regular and professional, there’s something sort of wonderfully wonky about the Felix face in the middle. I have always liked the way the figures around the edge look almost as if they would animate if you spin the plate. (They don’t.)

This set of dishes brings the tally of Felix china that I am aware of to three different designs. The others range broadly, from the one I wrote about in Living the Felix Life which is very professional looking and Felix is exactly the same on each to the one in the post here, Dishing Felix, which looks very much like it was copied freehand.

Today’s dish falls soundly between the others aesthetically and I assume it is a tea cup saucer. What a racy tea set this must have been! I have seen cups and creamers from it, but oddly never a tea or coffee pot. I believe pieces are also trimmed in yellow, green and blue and in fact this may be the first pink one I have seen. None of these dishes impresses me as having been made for children. I do believe I would be more inclined to have tea parties if I owned this full set!

I briefly considered buying these as high end cat dishes which, among other things, would make poor Kim a nervous wreck as he is often the one handling the dishes at feeding time. (I neither get up early enough, nor do I get home early enough for Mr. Blackie and Ms. Cookie it seems.) The kits have rather splendid cat dishes anyway and I have decided to show them here as well while we are on the subject. They don’t rise to the level of Felix Royal Rudolstadt by any means, but I think are definitely a step above plastic – and C&B are always happy to see them.

Isle of Man, 1924

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: When I started collecting photos of people posing with enormous Felix the Cat dolls, taken at resorts across Britain and Australia, it was the sheer boffo wackiness of their existence that enticed me. (If you are a new reader there are many of these posts as I have a fairly substantial collection and you can see a sample in these posts:  Vacation FelixAnother Aussie FelixFelix Photo, the Cut-outs, Part 1 for starters.) However stranger still in some ways, is the existence of photos like these, where people are posing with a lovely, large but not huge, Felix doll – about the size of one (or two or – okay, several) I own. The Isle of Man is, of course, a resort area and these appear to be vacationing folks. But even as a devotee of stuffed Felix toys (a connoisseur you might even say) exactly how and why a photographer was handing over a large Felix for folks to hold when they were having their photo taken does mystify even me a bit. I am sorry I wasn’t there to enjoy it, and it certainly speaks to Felix’s extraordinary world fame and how beloved he was at the time. Everyone wanted to memorialize that memory of hanging with Felix I guess.

In my post Felix Family Photo it is a similar case and I show the photo featured in it below as well. Another family that scooped up Felix and posed. Just seems to be something people did – not just kids posing with their toys! A family affair.

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Our photos, at top, today are quite small, snap shots that barely even seem to have been taken and printed by a professional photographer except for the commercial set in the one. Poorly printed and over-exposed (I somehow imagine that the fellow taking these was tippling a bit) we are once again depending on the magic of Photoshop to improve upon them. Less than perfect though they may be, they were treasured and kept by someone, or numerous someones, for many years before coming to rest here.

It is clearly the same couple and despite the man’s disappearing cap, one assumes the same day and session. I cannot read the jaunty sign behind them on the photo set. (Almost looks like Free Weight?) It took a fair amount of study to realize that, in both photos, Felix is holding a little Felix doll! (Kim managed a detail of it from one of the photos.) Wow! Amazing! On the back of each picture, written neatly in pencil is, taken at Douglas I. of Man and additionally on one 1924. Douglas is the capital of this resort locale. This makes a fine entry into a casual examination of summer vacation photos, as I head toward my own well-earned vacation at the end of August. I can only hope that somehow it too will be Felix filled.