Felix Keeps on Walking

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I was thinking this morning that Pictorama is seeming a tad Felix deficient so I will swell the Felix quotient with two “walkers” that are currently in residence here. One I bought earlier this year from my antiques friends down in Texas (@curiositiesantiques) and the other which just wandered into the apartment from a Pictorama reader who contacted me and sold a few items to me recently, others to appear in future posts. So if you are inclined, settle in for a bit of contemplation on Felix and his favored mode of locomotion.

Youtube video of the cartoon, available at the time of publication. Perhaps the origin of the phrase.

Felix and his walk have always been a matter of some interest. His trademark hands behind the back walk as he thinks and dreams up tricks is a significant aspect of his devilish charm. It has been celebrated in song and film (the very funny lyrics to Felix Kept on Walking can be found here, and an early post I wrote on some of my cat sheet music including this one can be found here), but also graces everything from dishes to postcards. It was used for advertising and sometimes took on a more adult meaning – usually involving an enticing girl cat and sometimes batches of kittens.

Felix Keep on Walking plate, Pams-Pictorama.com

I share two recordings of the tune which were available at the time of publication. The Savoy Havana Band does a jolly instrumental illustrated with great photos, below. While a rendition with the lyrics sung by Clarkson Rose can be found on Youtube here.

Meanwhile, I found an interesting essay which discusses the dialogue between Buster Keaton and Felix from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (which can be found here) noting that Keaton’s film Go West could have been inspired by a Felix cartoon a year earlier, Felix Goes West, and Keaton pays that off with a bit of the Felix walk while contemplating his situation.

The walker from Texas is a somewhat more available model and mine is missing the stick with which to animate it. This one is a simple toy and a stick would have affixed to it for a child to push it forward. There are no indications of where the stick attached and no evidence that this fellow ever had arms. His feet are the only bits animated, head and tail do not move. I like his simple stenciled face – and there are two mysterious purposeful sort of holes in his eye which I cannot image what they were for. His silhouette is a bit bottom heavy rotund. He is made of a light balsa type wood.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

A very similar item is for sale on eBay with the stick in place and as far as I can tell there is a space between back of head and tail where it would have gone. The item on eBay has a date of September 8, 1924 scribbled on the back. I would have thought this was a bit later myself. I think these days we might be a tad concerned about toys for small children that are animated with large sticks out of the back, but as I do not have any small children I cannot say if this is a fact.

The more recent acquisition is by far the more substantial of the two toys, made from thick wood and with a hefty roller and even the stick is a more finished item with a handle making it seem like it is less likely to poke an eye out. This Felix animates with arm movement and he seems to have had a moving tail at one time, there is a slot for it. One arm on mine still moves but the other is disengaged – it would be easy enough to reattach with a tiny nail although I don’t think I am that person. Nonetheless, this fellow does indeed keep on walking.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Walkin’

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: It is a drizzly Sunday, Mother’s Day, morning after a downright stormy yesterday. Kim and I were out and battling it as he needed a new light board. (Light boards hold a special place in my heart as the first gift Kim ever gave me was a light board – we used it for many years before it passed away.) The one we bought is sort of space age flat and bulb-free; we’ll see how that goes.

I needed to pick up a pair of prescription sunglasses (yep, lost mine recently) in the same part of town, but those required a Saturday pick up so no choice but to fight the elements which were fairly ferocious. Photos below from our adventure to the art supply store and the Ukrainian restaurant where we stopped for lunch and to see if the weather would improve a bit. It did not.

A herd of zebra and some giraffes at Blick’s.
The East Village Ukrainian Restaurant on a very wet day yesterday. Christmas lights appear to be a year round decoration.

However, I digress and now onto the toys!

The motion of toys captivates me – wind-ups most frequently, ones that bounce and roll, battery toys on occasion. For this reason I generally acquire toys that still work – granted, usually simple mechanisms and motions. Toys are designed to entertain however and so they bump and hop and scoot along – we are missing something if they can’t do their thing. They make me laugh. Toys are distilled happiness and joy on demand.

Sometimes though the look of a toy is so great I am reminded of what my friend Mel has said which is, it’s okay if it doesn’t work, after all how often are you really going to play with it? This Felix falls in that category, although I am sad not to see him walk, his striped ball bouncing up and down and rolling in his hands! He’s a rare toy – I don’t remember ever seeing this one before. (However, every time I think that I can usually find a pristine version of the toy tucked away in Mel’s collection.) I purchased him on eBay and I paid a king’s ransom for him in a bit of a dog fight.

Today’s Felix bares some resemblance to this French wind-up toy, shown below, which Kim me for Christmas in 2020 and which was sold under a Krazy Kat listing at auction. (I wrote a Boxing Day post about him that can be read here.) That toy is a wind-up however and this one is a more simple friction walker which would have taken advantage of an incline I think.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Unlike the French toy, this one is much lighter and simpler. The head on the one is made of a heavy plaster material and of a lighter version more like papier-mâché on this one. His feet are broad wooden slats which allows him to stand nicely on the shelf despite his disability. I do feel like if I was about 10% smarter I could repair the leg mechanism which seems to be a wire that has gone missing. As we can see, a wooden and cardboard construction make up his body. Sadly his silk suit has torn where his leg broke.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Felix’s garb is a sort of jolly clown costume however, a look which is complemented by his big clownish feet. I especially like his big bow. There is a tiny (very hard to read) tag remaining under one foot which reads, made in Germany.

Despite his disabilities, Felix has a place of pride front and center on a shelf devoted to some of the finest cats in my collection. Mel has a point. I enjoy him each day, just looking at him.