Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s addition to my suddenly burgeoning Felix collection is an oddity which I admittedly know very little about. It is an ice fishing decoy. These are said to be handmade by Native Americans, or so I have read in more than one description. The carving appears to be executed by hand, but the glass eyes and metal “fins” as well as the overall design seem to have been a pattern. I have seen a couple of these before albeit not many, and I have not run across one for sale until now. I purchased it from a seller who deals in fishing lures and offered little information, his being a fishing lure site, not a Felix one.
An online listing for a previous auction which promised decoys in the likeness of Felix and Mickey Mouse explains that such a decoy would have be jiggled on stick in the water, via hole cut in the ice and this would attract the fish which would then be speared. This answers my question about how a lure with no hook held a fish, not understanding it was more decoy than lure as such. Felix’s tail moves and presumably his size, shape, the shining glass eyes and the moving tail was enough to tempt a fish into making a move in the dark water under the ice.
I found the Mickey on Pinterest, below, and as you can see it is the same general design with additional Mickey-esque details added. Mickey seems to be more or less as rarified as Felix in terms of availability; there are some listings for both for past auctions, but not many images or any currently for sale. One photo of a Felix lure shows some small differences in the carving, making him slightly more Felix-y if you will. Mickey has fingers and a bit more detail seems to have been added to him – although his tail is more nominal. Unlike the vast majority of my Felix items which tend to skew to Great Britain as their place of origin, this is a resoundingly American item and shows how ubiquitous Felix and Mickey items were here as well.
I paid up for this Felix – ask me my age all you want, but do not ask what I have paid for my high priced Felix items! However, I would say at a quick look it is in line with what hand carved ice fishing lures go for – although I suspect that if one was really hunting them you might find one going for sufficiently less, but probably not from a lure specialist. Since this was the first I have ever seen available I jumped in and now will not need to devote future years to thumbing through fish lure auctions. (Unless of course I want that Mickey Mouse.) I purchased him uncontested on eBay, although an odd thing did happen as I was notified that the item had been removed from sale. I was therefore surprised when my bid won him a week later.
While I may not know the details of ice fishing as such, I come from fishing lure making stock. My grandfather (Frank Wheeling, my mom’s dad) had a workshop in his garage where he made lures and repaired outboard motors for extra money. As a small child I was mostly forbidden to enter beyond the doorway (think hot lead for sinkers, metal hooks and who knows what else I could have gotten into) so I do not remember any of the specifics beyond the smell which was a mixture of petrol, paint, wood and innumerable other things I guess. Sadly he died when I was still very young so my memories of him and his shop are very early. (I have written about their house and yard in posts that can be read here and here.)
The beach community I grew up in was at one time famous for ice boating and along with that there were always some ice fishing huts. Although I lived on a river on the ocean side of the peninsula, there is a second river, the Navesink, to the west of us on the Shrewsbury, and it froze solid on occasion. We would go skating there (it was a glorious expanse of ice to skate on) and also watch the wooden ice boats race. These wooden boats go incredibly fast and because they are made of wood they make a certain wonderful sound on the ice.
When skating we would pass small ice fishing huts, but I never was inside one nor do I know precisely what they were catching that was worth sitting out there in the cold. I assume it was the same fish we caught in the summer with less trouble? I have been told that in Minnesota people set up on the ice for the long haul and have very elaborate huts that are brought onto the ice or erected. These were simple and tiny for the most part, just a bit of protection from the wind I guess.
Looking carefully at Felix I would say he has been much used – the metal fins have some use and rust on them. He has wear marks, on his ears in particular. His tummy has these wooden inserts and I would guess this is how he is filled with lead there to give him the heft that was needed for him to sink in the water. He has a small rusted hook behind his ears for attaching him to the stick or pole and as mentioned, his tail moves side to side and his eyes are glass. His come hither fishing days are behind him and he has come to rest here in the Pictorama collection with his less hardworking Felix brethren.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: For readers who feel like maybe there has been a lot of wandering around in these Pictorama posts lately, I have a very Felix-centric post for you today. I scooped up this single page a few weeks ago. I don’t read French so I pressed our friend Rika Deryckere into service and she was kind enough to do a splendid job of translating this for me (and Pictorama readers) as presented below. Thank you Rika!
Much to my surprise, it is a philosophical opining on our friend Felix the Cat by the French theorist, critic and film maker Jean Mitry. Mitry (1904-1988) has a small bio on Wikipedia citing him as the first person to take French cinema out of the club and into the university. He authored several books, film philsophy, critique and semiotics, and was the co-founder of the Cinémathèque Française. There is an annual award in his honor at the Pordonne Film Festival, given to individuals who have distinguished themselves in recovering and preserving film heritage.
This page was carefully removed from wherever it appeared and has come to me with no indication of the magazine it was excised from. Some of my more erudite film readers may know a lot more about this and I invite you to share if you do. It was certainly my introduction to it. I love the way it is illustrated and some of the non-Felix cats intrigue me.
Meanwhile, in a strange nexus of worlds, Kim points out that the passage where Mitry talks about Felix dividing himself into many and then coming back together brings us right to Waldo’s origin story. It is found in Deja Vu, most easily found in the collection All Waldo Comics.
There it seems Felix (yes, Felix), working for the CIA at the time, recruits Waldo and under Felix’s tutelage somehow the nine lives of cats becomes multiple Waldo – who in turn need to be dealt with in Waldo-Deitchian fashion. Hence, for those of you who have wondered, the reason that Waldo sports a #1 on his chest, as he is the original…and the universe here at Deitch Studio spins merrily forward! I share a few sample pages above and below from that story – and then onto the translation.
Le dessin animé
The Animated drawing
Félix – le – chat
Felix the cat
La gloire des vedettes est menacée.Un être étrange est apparu.Plus malin et plus simple, il s’est emparé du cinéma en sautant à pieds joints au beau milieu de l’écran.
The glory of the stars is threatened. A strange being appeared. Smarter and simpler, he took over the cinema by jumping with both feet into the middle of the screen.
Tache d’encre tombée du pinceau de Patt Sullivan, il s’est étalé sous la forme d’un chat. Ne me demandez point pourquoi on le nomme Félix, nul ne le sait et lui il s’en moque. Personnage important il n’écoute que lui-même, agit à sa guise, suit sa fantaisie, sans avoir de compte à rendre à personne.
Ink stain from Patt Sullivan’s brush, it sprawled out in the shape of a cat. Don’t ask me why he is called Felix, no one knows and he doesn’t care. An important character, he listens only to himself, acts as he pleases, follows his fantasie, without being accountable to anyone.
Il vit à l’ombre du pinceau curieux qui l’entraîne dans les plus folles aventures et le rattrape au vol après avoir fait mine de l’abandonner. Cependant il n’est jamais en peine de quoi que ce soit.
He lives in the shadow of the curious brush that takes him on the craziest adventures and catches him in flight after pretending to abandon him. However, he is never at all worried about anything.
Etre surnaturel, il trouve toujours toute ressource en lui-même et possède la faculté d’agir sur sa personnalité.
Supernatural being, he always finds every resource in himself and has the ability to act on his personality.
Changeant selon les événement, grand ou petit, terrible ou misérable, il se promène au milieu d’un monde créé pour lui. Héros d’un univers magique, incarnation du miracle et de la légende, le voici qui s’élève sur le bout de petits pieds et lance par-dessus la balustrade des nuits un bonjour en copain à son grand frère Charlot. Mais, Félix, avantagés par les facultés invraisemblables de son aventure, évite d’une pirouette les cataclysmes les plus épouvantables, — mieux, il s’en sert pour triompher de ces ennemis en les retournant contre la logique.
Changing according to the event, big or small, terrible or miserable, he walks in the middle of a world created for him. Hero of a magical universe, incarnation of miracle and legend, here he rises on the tip of little feet and over the balustrade of the nights says hello as a friend to his big brother Charlot. But, Felix, favored by the incredible faculties of his adventure, avoids the most appalling cataclysms with a pirouette – better, he uses them to triumph over these enemies by turning them against logic.
Et celle-ci, la ridicule pipelette hargneuse qui vous oblige à se décrotter de toute poésie avant de rentrer chez soi, si fière de sa raison, loge étriquée, monotone et sans air, la méchante logique disparaît dès qu’elle le vois poindre à l’horizon.
And this one, the ridiculous surly blabbermouth which forces you to get rid of all poetry before returning home, so proud of its reason, cramped, monotonous and airless, the evil logic disappears as soon as it sees it dawning at the horizon.
Car Félix porte avec lui tous ces petits lutins espiègles que l’on nomme insouciance, féerie, irréel, imprévu, mystère-du-temps-présent, esprit-de-contradiction. Et la mégère rentre dans sa tôle car il est, lui, le champion de la liberté et de la fantaisie, son ennemi triomphant.
Because Felix carries with him all these mischievous little elves that we call recklessness, fairyland, unreal, unforeseen, mystery-of-time-present, spirit-of-contradiction. And the shrew comes back to his senses because he himself is the champion of freedom and fantasy, his triumphant enemy.
Il a battu en brèche les vieux préjugés asthmatiques, les convictions ancrées dans leurs tanières de certitudes comme les crabes dévoreurs de poissons.
He shattered old asthmatic prejudices, convictions anchored in their dens of certainties like crabs that eat fish.
Il est vainqueur. Et quand il paraît au coin de la page blanche, il se demande sous quel aspect il va se mettre en scène afin de mieux pouvoir tourner en ridicule les choses que nous croyons immuables et qu’il se charge de transformer malgré elles selon son imagination ou son caprice.
He is victorious. And when he appears at the corner of the blank page, he wonders in what aspect he is going to stage himself in order to better be able to ridicule the things that we believe to be immutable and that he is responsible for transforming in spite of them according to his imagination or his whim.
Je me souviens de l’avoir rencontré au carrefour d’un village en quelque lieu de féerie nocturne. La drame rôdait sous l’aspect d’un chien râgeur, amant de la belle.
I remember meeting him at the crossroads of a village in some fairy-tale place. The drama lurked in the guise of an angry dog, lover of the Beauty.
Surprit, Félix tombe, mais il se ressaisit bien vite. Il veut vaincre, il veut être plus fort que lui-même. Et voici que s’opère le miracle : il se dédouble, il se multiplie et devient plusieurs « lui-même » qui tombent à bras raccourcis sur le chien jusqu’ à plus soif.
Surprised, Felix falls, but he quickly pulls himself together. He wants to win, he wants to be stronger than himself. And here is where the miracle takes place: it splits, it multiplies and becomes several “itself” who fall with short arms on the dog until the end.
Après quoi tous les petits Félix seconds, satisfaits de leur rôle, rentrent les uns dans les autres et redeviennent l’unique Félix-le-chat.
After which all the little Félix’s seconds, satisfied with their role, fit into each other and become the unique Félix-the-cat again.
Et Félix possède toutes choses aussi bien que lui même. Il est dieu.
And Felix owns all things as well as himself. He is god.
Il agit sur tout et sur tous. Il n’est pas de désir ou de volonté si apparemment impossible ou invraisemblable qu’il ne puisse satisfaire, et qu’il ne satisfasse.
He acts on everything and everyone. There is no desire or will so seemingly impossible or implausible that it cannot satisfy, and does not satisfy.
Triomphe de l’illusion, de l’arbitraire, de l’acte libre. Triomphe de la poésie dans ce qu’elle a de plus secret, de plus inattendu.
Triumph of illusion, of arbitrariness, of free action. The triumph of poetry in its most secret, most unexpected.
Seul au monde, Félix peut dire : « Je m’abstrait, donc je suis », et je suis quand je veut, où je veux et comme bon me semble.
Alone in the world, Felix can say: “I abstract myself, therefore I am”, and I am when I want, where I want and as I see fit.
Poète surréaliste, plus fort qu’aucun autre, il vit son propre rêve. Il jongle avec les étoiles et transforme tout à son image. Aperçoit-il la « belleé tout en haut de l’Inaccessible » dans les nuages, si haut, si loin qu’il ne puisse y parvenir?
Surrealist poet, stronger than any other, he lives his own dream. He juggles with the stars and transforms everything in his image. Does he see the “beauty at the top of the Inaccessible” in the clouds, so high, so far that he cannot reach it?
Que feriez-vous à sa place? Eh bien, il attrape son regard, son regard qui fixe sans cesse ce joint si haut, l’accroche à une branche d’arbre et poursuit sa marche élastique sur ce fil conducteur.
What would you do in his place? Well, he catches her gaze, her gaze wish is transfixed, joins so high, hooks it to a tree branch and continues its elastic walk on this common thread.
Il se sert même de ses points d’exclamation et les transforme à dessein en massues, en patins à glace ou en ailes d’aéroplane. Il est le magicien de notre temps, et s’il s’est emparé du cinéma comme du reste, c’est pour s’en servir selon sa fantaisie de poète vagabond, humoriste et philosphe, selon son bon plaisir …
… qui est le nôtre aussi bien.
He even uses his exclamation marks and purposely transforms them into clubs, ice skates or airplane wings. He is the magician of our time, and if he has seized the cinema as well as the rest, it is to use it according to his fancy as a wandering poet, humorist and philospher, according to his good pleasure … … Which is ours as well.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have what I consider a very entertaining detour today which I hope serves as a sort of Pictorama pick me up for readers. The photo I am featuring today is one I have owned now for a very long time, I think it is safe to say it has been on our wall for more than a decade. (In fact I just found evidence that it was on sale on ebay in 2008.) I do not remember what I paid for it, however I do remember it came dear and it was a real dog fight at the time. It holds something of a place of honor on the walls here at Deitch Studio.
In researching yesterday’s post I stumbled across a photo from the same session. We took our photo off the wall to have a better look and since it stubbornly refused to allow itself to be hung again, I decided it was telling me it was time to tell share it and tell the story.
Clearly Pat Sullivan and a woman I am informed is his assistant and wife, Marjorie, are sorting through this enormous pile of submissions for a Draw Felix the Cat contest. If you look carefully in the pile you can see ads for the contest as well as drawings. The Felix in the corner is a large cut out which appears to be made of wood. The real treats in this photo are what is hanging on the wall behind them to the extent we can see it.
Aside from that great poster for the cartoon Gym Gems featured on the back wall, we’ve looked at it under magnification and have found the following – above the desk and nearest Sullivan there is: a portrait drawing of Mabel Normand, signed; a photo of Sullivan and wife in a car with an enormous Felix (I really want that one!); two signed photos of Charlie Chaplin; a drawing of a woman in a dancing costume and two other signed photos of male actors we can neither recognize nor read.
There is a reproduction of the Met’s painting by Pierre-August Cot, The Storm, of a young couple dashing through the rain. (Kim also had a color reproduction of this on our wall for many years until it faded into blurriness.) There is a piece of cartoon art under the poster for Felix Minds the Kid but the information is no longer retrievable. Lastly, there is a photo of two wooden Felix toys which appear to be writing, Hello Pat and a drawing of a nude woman from the back which is ornately signed, but I cannot make that out either.
While researching yesterday’s post, I stumbled across another version of that photo, clearly taken the very same day, with Marjorie and Pat in the same clothes. In this version, they are virtually buried under the drawing entries now, as is the desk and if you were to ask me I would say Marjorie is getting tired of this. (A poster for Felix Revolts has been revealed as well as two more drawings which I cannot make out. The top one, just revealing Felix, might be sheet music?) The nice composition statue of Felix which is barely visible in my photo is nicely revealed in this one.
Collection of the State Library NSW
The most interesting thing that I noted is that the Felix in this photo appears to be drawn in, unlike the wooden one placed in the earlier photo, complete with shadow and all. It was clearly used for newspaper reproduction with the telltale sign of the gray paint to emphasize and edit the image.
Meanwhile, written at the bottom of this photo it states: George Taylor’s old Sydney cartoonist friend – Pat Sullivan and his wife Marjorie wading through some of the final selections from hundreds of thousands of entries in the “Draw Felix” competition in New York in 1923. He was already acclaimed ‘the most popular American Cartoonist’. But he was born in SYDNEY! This photo is identified as being from the State Library in New South Wales.
I don’t know where the writing at the bottom originates, but the date on the contest is wrong because Gym Gems doesn’t come out until 1926. A quick search on George Taylor of Sydney in the 1920’s points to a journalist and aviation pioneer of the time as a likely candidate of the origin of the photo and whose dates are fairly parallel to Sullivan’s.
It was the image below, also from the State Library NSW, that inspired my entire collection of photos of people posing with giant stuffed Felix-es – and eventually this blog. It was the first one I ever saw and years later when I had my first chance to snatch one up I snapped to it.