Large Association of Movie Blogs
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, September 24, 2021

Producer-writer-satirist-voice actor Bill Scott gets his due in new documentary

Jay Ward Productions, as well as the incredible work of comedians and animation voice actors in general, is on our minds here at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog.

We were thrilled and delighted to see the rough cut of a new documentary about the life, times and career of the great Jay Ward Productions producer, head writer and voice actor Bill Scott.

Bill Scott: The Portrait of a Moose is now up on YouTube. The film was put together by Amber Jones, the ultimate Jay Ward Productions aficionado, with assistance from Kamden Spies of the Termite Terrace headlines website and The Spies Report on Cartoon Research. Amber and Kamden have produced something special here.

I loved it and especially love seeing all these great people from animation - from Mark Evanier to Mark Kausler to Keith Scott to Frank Welker to Will Ryan, Corey Burton, Frank Welker, Billy West, June Foray, Daws Butler, Jay Ward, Skip Craig, Jymn Magon, Brian Cummings and more - who have made the world a better place.

Hope this will be merely the first of many documentaries produced and written by Amber Jones, a very talented filmmaker, researcher, historian, narrator and voice over artist from northwest England who has been posting splendid interviews with animation voice actors on her You Tube channel.

Invariably, Jay Ward cartoons will get the writer of this blog ROFL, only every time.

Looks like the Rocket J. Squirrel lovin' rapscallions at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog are not the only ones thinking frequently of Bill, Bullwinkle and legendary cartoon voice artists these days.

There's an amazing, beautifully written and exhaustively researched article on the celebrated Rocky and Bullwinkle statue on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood by journalist Harry McCracken.

Mark Evanier noted it on his excellent News From Me website.

In The Moose and the Showgirl: The life and times of the Bullwinkle statue, 1961-2021, Harry has turned up tons of information I was not aware of.

Not to be outdone, Keith Scott, radio and cartoon voices expert, impressionist, Jay Ward Productions historian and author of The Moose That Roared: The Story of Jay Ward, Bill Scott, a Flying Squirrel, and a Talking Moose, has penned an outstanding article about voice actors who worked on the cartoons of the Walter Lantz Studio.

Keith has a new book in the works on voice actors in radio and animated cartoons. Since he is the expert on that topic, we can't wait to read it.

The Jay Ward fans at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog recommend Maurino Amoruso's film Of Moose and Men: The Rocky & Bullwinkle Story, which begins with clips from the devastatingly funny "Moosylvania" story.

For more info, in addition to Keith Scott's book, we also highly recommend The Art Of Jay Ward Productions blog, especially the post on the Campaign for Moosylvania; unfortunately, the accompanying book is now out-of-print, so check your local used book stores for a copy.

Here's the one, the only June Foray at Larry Edmunds Bookshop with the author of said book and blog, animator and director Darrell Van Citters.

We respectfully tip a top hat worn by Bullwinkle J. Moose to Bill Scott and the multi-talented artists and actors involved in the Jay Ward shows: June Foray, Paul Frees, Bill Conrad, Daws Butler, Edward Everett Horton, Hans Conried, Charlie Ruggles, Walter Tetley, Hal Smith and Chris Allen.

We'll follow that respectful hat tip by watching a DVD of Fractured Flickers, a creative and HIGHLY irreverent use of public domain "found footage."

Fractured Flickers was hosted by an ever-incredulous Hans Conried and at one point included a 1918 clip in which Tarzan goes out for pizza.

Indeed, it is no great surprise that Lon Chaney Jr. did not see any humor whatsoever in seeing clips of his father's bravura, epic, unbeatable performance in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame entirely recast and featuring the tortured Quasimodo as "Dinky Dunstan, Boy Cheerleader" on Fractured Flickers.

Thanks for the laughs, Bill Scott and the ace writers at Jay Ward Productions: Lloyd Turner, Allen Burns, Chris Hayward, Chris Jenkyns, Jim Critchfield and George Atkins! And thanks for your superb documentary, Amber Jones and Kamden Spies!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

R.I.P. Norm Macdonald

One of our all-time favorite standup comedians, the brilliant Norm Macdonald, has passed of cancer at 61.
photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank

Norm will be much missed.

We'll defer to Norm's contemporaries and colleagues in comedy now.

Jim Carrey
My dear friend Norm MacDonald passed after a brave 10 year battle. He was one of our most precious gems. An honest and courageous comedy genius. I love him.

Jim Gaffigan
Oh my God. We lost a legend. Norm was punishingly funny. A unique special point of view and completely organic. RIPNormMacDonald

Gilbert Gottfried
This photo was taken after I was a guest on Norm's show. At dinner the laughs just continued nonstop. He will be missed. RIP Norm Macdonald

David Letterman
I was always delighted by his bizarre mind and earnest gaze. (I’m trying to avoid using the phrase, “twinkle in his eyes”).
He was a lifetime Cy Young winner in comedy. Gone, but impossible to forget.

Seth MacFarlane
To so many people in comedy, me included, there was nobody funnier than Norm MacDonald. You always hoped he would hang around after the work was done, just so you could hear his stories and get a laugh. So hilarious and so generous with his personality. I’m gonna miss him.

Steve Martin
We loved Norm MacDonald. One of a kind.

Lorne Michaels
"Today is a sad day. All of us here at SNL mourn the loss of Norm Macdonald, one of the most impactful comedic voices of his or any other generation. There are so many things that we'll miss about Norm -- from his unflinching integrity to his generosity to his consistent ability to surprise. But most of all he was just plain funny. No one was funny like Norm."

Conan O'Brien
I am absolutely devastated about Norm Macdonald.

Norm had the most unique comedic voice I have ever encountered and he was so relentlessly and uncompromisingly funny. I will never laugh that hard again. I'm so sad for all of us today.

Patton Oswalt
Good bye, Norm. You were never not 100% hilarious.

Adam Sandler
Every one of us loved Norm. Some of the hardest laughs of my life with this man. Most fearless funny original guy we knew. An incredible dad. A great friend. A legend. Love u pal.

Sarah Silverman
Norm was in a comedy genre of his own. No one like him on this planet. Please do yourself a favor and watch his stuff. He was one of a kind of all time.

Jon Stewart
No one could make you break like Norm Macdonald. Hilarious and unique. Fuck cancer.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Monkee-ing Around on a Sunday

A recent listening of an outstanding interview with Mike Nesmith of The Monkees, The First National Band and Elephant Parts fame on Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast led to today's blogpost, as did a fun fact: today just happens to be the 55th anniversary of the premiere of The Monkees on NBC-TV on September 12, 1966.

The lads - Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork - still hold a soft spot for many of us of a certain age, those of us who were elementary school students when The Monkees TV show (a.k.a. A Hard Day's Night meets The Marx Brothers) and first three albums hit the pop culture zeitgeist.

For starters, we recommend watching the Hey Hey Were The Monkees documentary, directed by Alan Boyd & The Monkees. For those not steeped in the group's history and mid-1960's pop culture, this is an excellent primer.

As is the following. . .

Hit songs by The Monkees, musically closest to the contemporaneous Pacific Northwest garage rockers turned popsters Paul Revere & The Raiders, had an enduring impact and have been covered by very diverse recording artists. One enthusiastic and enjoyable example is Run DMC's cover of Mike Nesmith's song Mary Mary.

To answer the question of who, besides Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, were The Usual Suspects in the story of The Monkees, the short list includes Don Kirschner, Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, Jeff Barry, Chip Douglas, Paul Mazursky, Larry Tucker, Bob Rafelson, Burt Schneider, James Frawley, Gerald Gardner, Dee Caruso, The Wrecking Crew, (Brill Building songwriters) Neil Diamond, Carole King and Gerry Goffin . . . and none other than Jack Nicholson.

Kirschner, the hitmaker with the magic touch, produced the first two Monkees albums, which featured a slew of songs by Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart. Working with Kirschner: Jeff Barry.

Boyce & Hart wrote incredibly catchy tunes both for The Monkees 1966-1967 heydey and the later reunion albums and tours (Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart).

The Monkees TV show was developed by (future feature film director) Paul Mazursky, Larry Tucker, Burt Schneider and Bob Rafelson.

Among the scenarists on The Monkees TV show - in between stints on the U.S. variation on That Was The Week That Was and as head writers on season 4 of Get Smart - were Gerald Gardner and Dee Caruso.

Hollywood studio virtuosos The Wrecking Crew provided inspired backing on darn near every pop record waxed in mid-1960's Los Angeles, from Brian Wilson to The Mamas & The Papas to Arthur Lee & Love. They're all over the first two Monkees albums, and appear to a lesser degree on subsequent records (after The Monkees demanded they be allowed to play on their own records and Kirshner was fired), beginning with Headquarters, produced by Chip Douglas.

Always wondered if that EPIC drum riff on The Monkees theme song was Hal Blaine and whether it was Glen Campbell or Tommy Tedesco who played the outstanding lead guitar break. Who wrote the hits (in addition to Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart)? the Kingston Trio's John Stewart wrote one of their best songs, Daydream Believer, and Neil Diamond, Carole King and Gerry Goffin penned many more excellent tunes.

Rafelson and his friend Jack Nicholson concluded that it was time, after the cancellation of the TV series in 1968, to finish off The Monkees as surely as if the boys were a rival gang in a 1930's Warner Brothers crime flick starring Jimmy Cagney.

The plan: casting the beloved TV stars and bubblegum popsters in a bizarre stream-of-consciousness movie utterly counter to their wholesome image and titled Head. The objective: kill The Monkees once and for all. The uncredited scribes of Dangerous Minds wrote all about the film, which acheived its objective and then some.

This worked like a charm - this anti-Monkees experimental feature, written and produced by Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson, and directed by Rafelson, bombed at the box office, but not necessarily with the group's 420-soaked fans.

Hopefully, there were pizzas, tacos and plenty of crunchy snack items available at concessions for whatever stoned-out audiences showed up.

We're fans of this psychedelic anti-movie, especially the scene in which the Prefab Four are dandruff in Victor Mature's scalp. This is with the full understanding that continuity as such and any links whatsoever between the various segments are not a factor at any point in the film.

As fate would have it Monkee $$$$$$ from record sales would fund two subseqent projects of Rafelson and Nicholsen. . . Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces, which he followed with The King of Marvin Gardens (1972).

Their last TV appearance was on the special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee, which aired on NBC on April 14, 1969. This is entirely a musical special and would be this writer's pick of all their TV work, much as The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees remains this music aficionado's favorite of all the Prefab Four albums.

After prog rockers Brian Auger & The Trinity introduce them, the lads do their individual specialties: Micky belting out r&b flavored rock/soul, Mike offering his spin on quirky country rock and Davy returning to his Broadway musical theatre roots. At one point, Micky sings with Brian Auger & The Trinity and does a duet with the group's commanding vocalist, Julie Driscoll.

As the Monkees were splitting up in 1969, with Peter Tork having already left, the band made a memorable appearance on The Joey Bishop Show. Micky's Stax-Volt take on "I'm A Believer" is a very good reimagining of the song.

The Monkees re-formed and toured again starting in 1986, after MTV revived their TV show to great popular success. Young fans who saw The Monkees for the first time on MTV and Nickelodeon got to see them in concert.

One can purchase Monkees albums at Rhino Records and buy Nesmith's records and videos on Michael Nesmith's Videoranch. It has been a few years since this blogger has revisited the music of The Monkees, its offshoots (Boyce & Hart) and especially Mike Nesmith’s solo records with First National Band and other groups. Like The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, the PreFab 4's best and most fully realized album, Nesmith's first solo record, The Wichita Train Whistle Sings, is a goody.

Thankfully, Mike (a.k.a. "Nez" "Wool Cap") and Micky are very much with us in 2021 and still making music, having just started the Monkees Farewell Tour.

The Monkees and The Box Tops share a certain era in pop music and cachet, along with the other pop/rock band with a TV show, Paul Revere & The Raiders (who Boyce & Hart also penned songs for). It’s tough to say whether the catchy as catchy can be songs from More Of The Monkees, the Raiders' Midnight Ride album or the hit Box Tops singles The Letter, Soul Deep and Cry Like A Baby win the prize for best ear worm ever; they may all be tied for that honor. Meanwhile, the post-1960's solo albums of The Monkees' Mike Nesmith and The Box Tops' Alex Chilton (with and without Big Star) remain Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog favorites.

While a year or two after The Monkees' first album, the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Yardbirds (morphing into Led Zeppelin), Traffic, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, the San Francisco bands (Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother & The Holding Company) and the impassioned soul music of Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and James Brown would be spinning repeatedly and emphatically on our turntables and in our brains en masse, along with The Beatles and Rolling Stones (alas, Brian Wilson's symphonic pop suite "SMiLE" would not see the official light of day until 1993), in 1966, The Monkees were the cat's meow for us 1956-1959 babies.

We extend respectful tips of the top hats worn in a Monkees episode to Mike Nesmith, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart and the many backing band musicians who have contributed to their tours. Thanks, gentlemen, for making the transition from a TV show to a real touring band, starting in 1966, and entertaining succeeding generations well into the 21st century.

For more cool stuff on the Prefab Four, check out Michael Nesmith’s Videoranch on YouTube, the Culture Sonar website, The Monkees Live Almanac, Andrew Sandoval's book The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story, the numerous reviews of Monkees episodes by prolific writer on 1950’s and 1960’s television David Lawler posted on The Blissville Podcast.

Friday, September 03, 2021

Labor Day Weekend Cartoons for 2021

The truth is we LOVE cartoons, even those loved by no one, including the artists who made them, at this blog and, Labor Day is no exception. While the posts on the Cartoon Research website covered Industrial Cartoons at length, Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog shall nonetheless offer our two cents on Labor Day cartoons we'll be watching this weekend. We'll start with Otto Messmer's fearless Felix The Cat, who proves himself a most effective feline organizer in Felix Revolts.

Bugs Bunny, while fighting to keep his home, tackles labor/management issues at a construction site and tangles with a brawny, bullheaded and boneheaded foreman - a bad boss if there ever was one - in Homeless Hare, directed by Chuck Jones.

Also much beloved here is Porky's Bear Facts, a particularly hilarious B&W Looney Tune directed by Friz Freleng.

Porky's Bear Facts is part of a sub-genre of subversive cartoons that turn the Grasshopper & The Ants fable upside-down. What particularly cracks this blogger up is the song that the bear living in the dilapidated, deteriorating and ramshackle shack next to industrious Farmer Porky sings, beginning at 1:25 . . . HILARIOUS! Even better: in a dig at human nature, the cartoon animal anti-protagonists learn absolutely nothing and are even more slovenly at the end. For those who yearned to hear the line "and then. . . the ants dropped dead of heart attacks," this is your cartoon.

And speaking of derelict bears and cartoons which skewer a Disney-esque "good work is its own reward" premise mercilessly, there's The House That Jack Built (1939), one among many Columbia Color Rhapsody cartoons cranked out by the prolific production crew led by Art Davis and Sid Marcus. The premise: a seedy panhandler bear and his goofy ostrich pal, a scuzzy "Ham & Bud" style duo if there ever was one, interfere with the obnoxiously industrious Jack Beaver's attempts to clean house.

A post on the Cartoons Of 1939 blog that panned The House That Jack Built offered a very perceptive observation about it, "This cartoon is feverish; not that it moves quickly, just that it feels like it was born of a fevered brain." EXACTLY!

In typical Columbia cartoon fashion, "Jack Beaver" is such a jerk that he manages to make the bear and ostrich look good. At one point, in a gag that would be used to considerably greater effect a few years later in Mexican Joy Ride with Daffy Duck, the embattled beaver pulls a rifle possessing the fire power of a tommy gun used in the infamous 1929 St. Valentine Day's Massacre on the grimy pair.

Love the loosey-goosey animation on Joe the Ostrich throughout.

Don't know if this is Art Davis' animation - that would be for the experts and especially those possessing Charles Mintz Studio drafts to answer - but the movement is quite lively indeed. The mayhem-filled ostrich sequences and those involving the "Termite Wrecking Co." are the standouts. In the singular opinion of Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, while The House That Jack Built does not compare to the brilliantly funny cartoons Bob Clampett was directing at Schlesinger/WB in 1939, it beats the heck out of the Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies made by the Ben Hardaway & Cal Dalton unit, as well as Chuck Jones' early attempts to imitate Disney - and everything emerging from the Walter Lantz Studio and Terrytoons then.

Shifting gears entirely, here's Hell Bent For Election, sponsored by UAW and made to promote FDR's 1944 campaign by a crew including many moonlighting artists from the Warner Brothers and Screen Gems studios and directed by Chuck Jones. It's a fascinating history lesson and among the first films by United Productions Of America (a.k.a. UPA).

Again, Jonathan Boschen’s series of articles on the Cartoon Research website remain the last word on Labor Day themed animation: Industrial Cartoons part one, page two and page three.