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.
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.
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.
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.