Rascally, Mysterious Film Still

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As has occasionally been the case in previous posts, I found this while digging through our flat files looking for something else. I barely remember purchasing it on eBay so it must have been quite awhile ago. For whatever reason it has been sitting and waiting to be rediscovered and shared with you all on Pictorama today.

In part, I may have put this aside because I have no idea exactly what film this still is from. At first glance I assumed it was one of the Little Rascals shorts, but on further reflection I am not so sure. I would love anyone with thoughts or knowledge to weigh in on this. Meanwhile, while dogs and pups ruled on those shorts, cats very rarely played a role outside of being chased by the aforementioned dogs – surely the cat was in part what made me buy this however. And not to say that this black and whiter didn’t play a key role in this film – nary a dog to be seen at the moment. Nice looking kitty though, I must say. I believe I bought this around the same time I purchased the photo in the post Flying to the Moon.

I wonder about cats in films like this. Just wandering through it seems – occasionally cued to chase or be chased, or are toted around like arm decoration. They don’t seem to distinguish themselves for the most part. Rarely does it seem you see the same one twice. I have this feeling sometimes that there were just cats running about the place and when it came time to need one for a scene they scooped a handy generic one up. I have wondered about cats in some of the early photos with models, such as the one in the post Painted Puss. As I think about it though, one could argue that the life of a photo studio cat was better than that of a film lot cat. After all they had to be pretty for their pictures to be taken. A life of greater leisure and care I imagine. Still, I think it depends though – those films lot cats probably had quite a raucous and interesting time, complete with mice, dogs, kids and kitty crew. More fun if you were the right kind of cat.

 

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Painted Puss, from Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

 

 

 

Can You, Canoe?

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Truth in advertising, this photo looks much better here than it does in person thanks to Kim’s Photoshop enabling. However, in all fairness to me, this is closer to what it looked like when advertised on eBay. I assumed that this was a photo postcard and was shocked when it arrived to find that it is about three times as large, poorly and sloppily printed. It almost looks like an early, primitive (and ham handed) reprint process.

Judging from the clothes it is from the teens – those early swimsuits, stockings and shoes were what attracted me to this image to begin with. Instead of seeming onerous, as those outfits sometimes do when associated with sand and water, these togs seem sort of fitting for a day on the water canoeing. I like the bits of decoration on them – the bow on one, the white piping on the other. The dark haired girl has such a sweet face! The one who scooped up the kitten looks a bit accusatory, glaring at the camera. It is a pretty, tiny kit, just about to enter the gawky adolescent stage of cat. She or he looks all white but that might be an illusion of the sepia toned film. The state of the grass and the scattered leaves makes me wonder if it is perhaps early fall instead of summer as I originally assumed.

There is a gracious looking porch behind them and even though everything is out of focus beyond the canoe, it is an inviting yard – some place I wouldn’t mind spending part of the summer I think. A family camp perhaps, way upstate New York or in Maine. The canoe is a dandy too and I especially like the caned seat we can catch a glimpse of. For all my having grown up on the water I have actually never been in a canoe – only rowboats with flat bottoms. The river where I grew up was too tidal for canoes, although I did kayak in it once. My father had a kayak he would take out occasionally and he let Loren and I try it. I loved it! I have a vague memory that it freaked my other out and that is why I probably didn’t do it more. Like kayaks I imagine that canoes roll over and dump you out fairly easily.

While rowing seems somewhat self-evident, you only need to watch a bunch of inexperienced rowers in Central Park to realize that there are a few tricks to it. For one thing I can’t tell you how many people attempt to row backward, pointing the square back of the boat forward and making it quite hard for themselves. There is also the matter of pulling the oars either together or in coordinated even strokes, or you will go in circles – which leads us to turning. Lots of those park rowboats are constantly sideswiping each other – occasionally plowing right into one another because they have not considered steering. I like rowing and given the opportunity I think I would do it often. (I have tried it at the gym, but generally find it static and less enjoyable.)

Our rowboat was kept tied to a floating dock and was really there for the primary purpose of getting out to our sailboat which was moored a few hundred feet out, where the it was close to the channel and the water was usually deep enough for it. Once in a blue moon Loren and I would just take the rowboat out – I suspect (but don’t remember specifically) against my mother’s objections. One of our chores was to bail out the rowboat after it rained. This was a messy, mosquito-ridden task which was executed with 2/3 of a plastic milk jug if I remember correctly. We hated it and would always fight over doing it, although my memory is that, perhaps as a result, we usually ended up doing it together.

There was one of those days when I guess we had been fighting over it – although maybe not especially because sometimes Loren could just be unexpectedly devilish too. While I was in the boat bailing and she was still on the dock, she untied it. Off I quickly drifted – without any oars! Loren, being a very strong swimmer and realizing there was no choice, ultimately jumped in and swam back with me in tow before the tide took me too far out. Nonetheless, it lived on in family lore and I would trot it out as proof of her older sisterly abuse, as one’s younger sibling will.

Mary Charles Ap-purrs on WABC Columbia

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It has been a while since I purchased and shared a press photo, although I do find them a splendid category of their own. (I think the most recent one prior to this can be found at this link, my post for Old Tom, the Washington Post Office Cat, which goes back aways.) I especially like press photos because I generally learn something while they take me down tributaries of history and information. This one proved a bit challenging, but before I go down that road, let’s spend a moment with the photo which I really like regardless of the ultimate success of Mary’s career.

Of course I purchased this photograph because of this splendid white puss being held up to that really great WABC Columbia-branded microphone, adorably set up just for his cat height! He is long-haired without quite appearing Persian to me – but check out those tufts of hair around his toes. Kitty, Nazir is his name, does not look especially happy about the proceedings, I must say, although they did get a shot with him looking right at the mic. Mary has a fairly plain Jane sort of look for a famous personality, but I like that and I also like her happily patterned dress, shoes, couch and odd tapestry on the wall. It feels like this is really her apartment and is homey.

As you have gathered by now, this image is of radio singer and impersonator Mary Charles and her cat Nazir. Pasted on the back there is a scrap of typed paper that reads as follows:

For Release Sat. P.M.’s, Feb. 28 and Sun. A.M.’s Mar. 1st
COLUMBIA BROADCASTING SYSTEM PHOTO
BEDTIME STORY FOR THE MICE
IT “AP-PURRS” MARY CHARLES, COLUMBIA BROADCASTING SYSTEM SONGSTRESS, IS ENCOUNTERING DIFFICULTIES IN TRAINING HER PRIZE-WINNING PERSIAN CAT, “NAZIR”, IN THE PROPER MICROPHONE TECHNIQUE. MARY AND “NAZIR”SEEM TO HAVE DIFFERENT IDEAS ON WHAT “TALKING ON THE AIR” MEANS.

Mary Charles proved to be an extraordinarily common name which slowed the Google search, before landing on a singer who sang with Al Bowlly on Let’s Put out the Lights and All of Me with Ambrose. I am on the fence, but I have been slowly won over to thinking it is that Mary Charles. However, the evidence built slowly.

First, I was able to find some text from the Brooklyn Beagle in (I think) 1931 which tells her story roughly as follows:

MARY CHARLES Your Ear paraphrased advice of Horace Greeley, “Go West young lady, go West,” Mary turned up in one of the leading roles of the Chicago presentation of “Sweet Adeline.” The star fell ill and the show never went on the boards. Mary was seeing the world, but ill-luck was taking all the fun out of it. To Talkie Short! And Radio Songs Back in New York, Mary went to work in the Cazanova Club with Jack Buchanan, British musical comedy satellite. From supper club work she went to the Paramount studios to make some talkie shorts with Charles Ruggles. Shortly after this Paramount decided to make use of her talents on its Paramount on Parade program. After being on any number of programs as a guest artist, she is at present featured in a weekly Saturday night W A B C broadcast listed quietly, Mary Charles. She is best known for her popular and character songs as well at her impersonations of stage personalities. Was born in Philadelphia in 1907. Her father was Irish and her mother English. Keeps a beautiful white cat in her apartment. Her uncle is Dean Charles of Westminster Abbey. At the age of 17 she was trundled off the Berlin to study voice. Her parents desired her to be a concert singer. And were they mad when some years later she announced her intention of going on the stage? Over 99 percent of the Mary Charles fan mail is from men. Claims that she is not especially partial to men but when she is, it’s Englishmen who have the inside track. Admits that she is inordinately fond of gossip. Once she was the feature of the La Palina hour, and when that program terminated President W. P. Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting Company had an inspiration for a broadcast to be built around her talents. His idea was to dramatize songs. It was a good one. Doesn’t speak a word of French, but is the possessor of a dialect that sounds just like any one of fifty million Frenchmen on his second English lesson. Songs in this flood her with fan mall from Montreal. Most of the time she wears sports clothes tweed. For years she had the idea that she was one redheaded damself who could wear red. Her friends laughed at her and they were right. Is very fond of the theater. Travel ‘Makes Her Appreciate New York’ Thinks that the biggest advantage her years of travel have given her ‘Is that she now knows ‘Just how indispensable New York Is.’ (Chamber of Commerce copy, if you wish.) When she was a kid could execute a buck and wing that was nobody’s business. Gave it up as the lessons were too strenuous. Was she ever In vaudeville? Yes. Mary is one of those vaudevillians who has played the Palace Theater, too. She was somebody’s French maid there for a week. Her pet peeve is those music publishers who try to get her to “plug” their this and thats. Positively refuses to sing songs for friendship. Thinks Morton Downey and Rudy Vallee are two very nice persons. Likes the former’s sense of the funny. Her favorite songs are those deep, deep blues but, darn it all, a soprano can’t sing those. 

I found a few other references to her – appearances and snippets of information, but sadly nothing else about her charming cat. (Which I am very curious about – how does a cat become famous when living with a radio singer?) When she is written about, she is frequently called out for being a red head and another newspaper snippet mentioned her red-headed self as having recently returned from England, another clue which gave me pause. Radio Digest magazine, June 1931, included her in an article round up of how performers had been discovered and they site her as having applied for an audition and winning out over 149 other aspirants trying out at the same time. She is also called out frequently as an impersonator – evidently of other stars although I know not who.

So, if any of you knowledgable types about all things early 20th century music can weigh in I would appreciate it. For now I will include a Youtube link – an Al Bowlly tune where Mary Charles’s American accent is definitely on display, Let’s Put Out the Lights (and go to bed). I believe this is indeed the Mary Charles who was mom to cat Nazir and shown here.

Symmetry

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I found this photo and it immediately put a smile on my face so of course I set about acquiring it for the Pictorama collection and present it here now for your enjoyment. Twin striped kitties, tails up and ready for action, with this (I’m going to guess) little girl in a great knit outfit, a pointed cap to top it off. From a formal perspective I love this photo; the textures are great – scrubby grass, tabby striped kitties and the white wool’s patterns. And then there is the one-two cat divide with the kid in the middle – yay! I even like the way the hat runs off the top of the photo drawing your eye up. Hotsy-totsy photographer. No idea where this was located, but the horizon goes more or less forever and, right or wrong, somehow makes me think of the midwest in the 1940’s.

It surprised me that this is a photo rather than a photo postcard, which I frankly assumed it was when I purchased it online. (Yep, you regular Pictorama readers probably realize that I don’t seem to read listings all that carefully, especially when it comes to size. Gets me into trouble sometimes. See prior post Big Mickey for example!) There is evidence that this photo was in an album, but nothing has been written on the back.

I have written before about the glory of being a small child with cat friends like this. Kitty companionship when you are little is a really wondrous thing and somehow the communication between little beings like this, even cross species, is very straightforward. The luxury of having these two adolescent sibling specimens for your very own! I can remember telling my cat Snoopy endless stories and tidbits of child lore and he was very attentive and seemed utterly interested in it all. These days I try not to burden Blackie and Cookie with too much information, but sometimes there’s nothing like sitting down with your kitty for a heart-to-heart conversation.

 

Seattle, Washington, August 20, 1942

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The post office delivered yesterday and we at Pictorama are back on board writing about these two wonderful photo album pages purchased recently. Kim and I are often opining about how sad it is to see albums being broken up – single photos torn out and sold, or even pages like these taken from an album. Still, I purchased these pages while weighing whether or not to purchase an entire album of photos from someone else. They were asking a sizable amount and without being able to see the full album online it seemed dubious and in the end I did not bid – so perhaps selling them whole is indeed a problem. Still, these beauties beg the question of what the full album looked like – was it all illustrated like this? Sad to think of the pages scattered and the family story never coming back together to be told again.

The dated page has the better photos of the two in my opinion. I love the one of the three women all holding cats. Their Seattle yard is very lush – a leafy paradise really, with the sun pouring in behind them. The cats appear to be wriggling to varying degrees in their photo pose holds here. Big white kitty resembles the platinum blonde holding him or her, but the woman with the hat and gloves is my favorite – so proper yet cat friendly. (That dark outfit was covered in white hair when they were done.) Above that photo is sort of a candid one of a group of romping cats and kittens, also tucked away among more greenery. Same white kitty, but this time holding court among the kits it seems – perhaps the mom cat I now think? Looks like an adorable group kicking capering around and enjoying themselves. In the final photo on this page, white kitty continues to be the focus convincing me she is Mom, this time with just two kits. The white paint illustrations are good – swiped poses perhaps? Great animated tummy pose – Cookie assumes this one frequently.

The second page has Watkins’ Home for Strays on the sign next to this hobo-come-Puss ‘n Boots kitty drawing, complete with bindle tossed over his shoulder, fluffy tailed. There’s something a tad wonky about the direction of one of the booted paw feet, but it is a spirited and ambitious illustration. Sadly, there is a photo missing from the lower left of this page – only the black corner holders remain indicating where the bottom of that photo was held. The prize on this page is white kitty and a black cat atop a bird cage. I believe there is a bird in the cage (bottom left – unfortunate birdie which must have been very stressed indeed) and these two pusses are intensely interested. The photo at the top shows the three matching kittens, one sporting a bow this time. It is a poor photo, but shows off these fine youngster kitties for one more view.

The Watkins documented themselves in a highly decorative fashion as a very cat friendly family. Therefore ultimately, where better for these stray pages to find a home than my cat photo collection?

Painted Puss

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This rather lurid painted photo caught my eye recently – I guess it was something about the saucy looking woman with this cat draped around her shoulders. (My cat Zippy used to occasionally climb up around my neck when he was a youngster – while I was sitting at the drawing table. It seemed very sweet, but was a little tough on the neck and shoulders after a few minutes. I don’t know how he got the idea – I have never had another cat that did this.) Somehow the colored cat’s fur and woman’s hair have more or less merged into one here. The painted cat expression can’t hide a certain annoyance when we look closely – somehow they managed to leave kit’s whiskers white as well as some chin hairs. She, on the other hand and if somewhat garishly painted, has quite the come hither look. You boys better watch out!

This is a German card and the postmark is illegible. It was sent to someone in Holstein and there is a pencil note written in German which I have not attempted to translate, but the sender’s name is Erna Steine.

This photo reminds me that my maternal grandmother had matching high school graduation photo portraits, cap and gown, of my mother and her brother, my Uncle John, hanging in her living room. They were the first hand-painted photos that I ever saw and I was always fascinated by them. My mother’s in particular looked nothing like herself. I wouldn’t say that it had as much impact on me as the somewhat terrifying, dramatically technicolor picture of Jesus in her bedroom (that’s another whole story – Kim and I were just discussing that yesterday) which more or less scarred and colored my views on Christ for years, but it stayed with me and formed and lodged an image of my high school mother in my mind.

My Uncle John looks exactly like a younger version of him in his photo – all red hair and green eyes. As for my mother, perhaps it is the fact that my mother truly never wears make-up. (I wonder sometimes how I can be her daughter since I have delighted in it since my early teens.) The painted photo gives her vivid lipstick and rouge. My mother’s nose was also broken in an accident after that time, and it was set slightly differently – bottom line, she is barely recognizable. Yet of course, in another way she is, especially when I look at the photo with adult eyes. When my grandmother’s house was cleared out and ultimately sold, I believe my mother ended up with both photos. My parents have just moved and almost everything is still in boxes – I must remember to ask where those photos are. I would like to have them someday.

More Mascots

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: These uniformed fellows (police? firemen?) take a great photo and we are so glad that they snatched up the scrap of a pup and kitten for this photo immortalization. I have several posts that address the sub-genre of cat mascots including Butch most recently, but also Mascots and Mascot – U.S.S. Custodian. I assume that the cats in particular had a role beyond mascot – that of reducing the rodent population – but you can see from photos like this one that mascot pride and real affection play a role too. These are pets truly, first and foremost.

This card was never sent and is on what I think of as a slightly earlier paper stock, giving the photo a somewhat iridescent (solarized?) quality. It has no writing on it and, oddly, was printed wrong side up on the postcard backing.

I am sure among you there is someone who will know at a glance how these fellows are employed. Their jumpsuit style uniforms pushed me toward firemen, but I am open to opinion and information. The guy in the center is clearly a real card, cap askew and a trouble making grin on his face. However, it is the men up front holding kit and dog who we really look at. The pup has a, “let me at ’em” thing going on with the cat who, in the great tradition of cats, can barely waste a glance at him look of slight irritation. My guess is that the two of them probably spent a lot of time mixing it up and that poor eager Mr. Puppy spent some time with cat scratches on that nose of his.

A wily cat knows, however, that a frontal attack is rarely necessary when you can jump high and fit behind things that a dog cannot. Years ago I remember my sister’s cat Milkbone teasing the pitbull-mastiff mix Ron, letting him chase her around the house just so she could jump out of reach or behind something at the very last moment. (Despite her name, Milkbone was not destined to be anyone’s chew toy.) Growing up our cats enjoyed a more symbiotic relationship with the German Shepard, Duchess – one of occasional annoyance at food stealing and whatnot, but generally genial. Sadly, not all dogs are benign with cats, but we will assume that these two grew up together and forged a working relationship.