Friday, March 25, 2011

Happy birthday, Andy Clyde!

I figured that since my BBFF Stacia took the time to give her blog mascot El Brendel a birthday shout-out today that I’d speak up for El’s one time Columbia Studios colleague—a man who was second only to the Three Stooges in the number of two-reel comedies he made for The Lady with the Torch beginning in 1934 and ending in 1956.  A good many people have never had the opportunity to see any of Andy Clyde’s Columbia comedies; they were a regular part of my childhood viewing habits many, many eons ago and because Sony has not seen fit to give them the exposure on DVD that they’ve given the Three Stooges (and, admittedly, Buster Keaton) they exist today only in “I-wish-these-were-better” prints available from my Facebook chum Greg Hilbrich at The Shorts Department.  (Please don’t construe this as being his fault that the prints are sub-standard, by the way—he does what he can with the tools that he has.)  Someday the good folks at Sony will see fit to release such gems as Old Sawbones (1935), Alimony Aches (1935), It Always Happens (1935), Caught in the Act (1936), The Peppery Salt (1936) and too many others to mention on disc and the world will be a saner place.  (I should point out in the interest of fairness that Andy’s 1935 2-reeler Hot Paprika is available on the Icons of Adventure box set released by Sony Home Video in 2008—which is currently available at for $15.55.)

Andrew Allan Clyde was born 119 years ago on this date in Blairgowrie, Perthshire, Scotland—and though he hailed from a prominent theatrical family (his brother David and sister June also went to work in the movie bidness) he chose to make people laugh for a living…which he did beginning in the early 20s working at Mack Sennett’s studio.  Because Sennett was known for being a bit tight with a buck The King of Comedy had a tendency to see his stars migrate to other studios…this, however, worked in Andy’s favor because before long he became the top dog at Studio Sennett.  Clyde’s versatility with makeup allowed him to play a myriad of different roles but the characterization that became his trademark was an “old man” persona (he wore a gray wig and moustache) that allowed him to play a variety of eccentric millionaires or just-plain-addled old coots.  Andy stayed with Sennett until 1932—but because Mack cut his salary when the studio was in a financial crunch he said adios and moved over to Educational Pictures for a series of two-reelers, and then signed on with the new comedy shorts department at Columbia in 1934.  Under the tutelage of department head Jules White, Clyde’s comedies could admittedly be as violent as the Three Stooges at times but Andy himself was always a treasure, blessed with the ability to get a laugh with just a simple raised eyebrow or a plaintive “My oh my oh my!”

In addition to his stint with Columbia Clyde was a popular character actor in films during the 1930s and 1940s, appearing in such features as Million Dollar Legs (1932), The Little Minister (1934), Annie Oakley (1935) and It’s a Wonderful World (1939).  But it’s B-western movie fans who have a greater familiarity with Andy’s work in features—he played California Carlson, sidekick of William “Hopalong Cassidy” Boyd in many of Boyd’s Universal oaters (Clyde also played the part on Hoppy’s radio and TV shows) and then became Whip Wilson’s buddy (usually known as “Winks”) in a series of sagebrush sagas at Monogram.  He also made the rounds on the small screen, with roles on such series as Circus Boy, The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, Colt .45, The Texan, The Tall Man, Dr. Kildare and No Time for Sergeants.  He had regular TV gigs as George MacMichael, cantankerous neighbor/rival to Amos McCoy (Walter Brennan) on the sitcom The Real McCoys and Cully Wilson, friend to Timmy Martin and his family on Lassie.  Lassie would be Andy’s show business swan song; he made a guest appearance on the show (as a different character) about a year before his death on May 18, 1967.

One of my favorite Columbia 2-reelers is The Nightshirt Bandit, a 1938 comedy starring former Hal Roach veteran Charley Chase that was remade a decade later with Andy in the lead role as Go Chase Yourself.  Movie audiences at the time probably didn’t notice that the two comedies were similar (especially since they were spaced ten years apart) but because there was no such time span in my kidvid youth I thought it curious when I first saw Yourself because my young mind was saying: “The last time I watched this it had a younger guy.”  That Clyde’s performance as a college professor (whose expertise is studying the criminal mind) who gets involved with a series of campus burglaries has stayed with me for so many years demonstrates, I think, his first-rate acting prowess and admirable talent to make audiences laugh.  He’s a real favorite here at TDOY, and so I’d like to wish him a very happy birthday…a natal anniversary he not only shares with the El but with my cousin Jennifer as well!

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Happy birthday, Will Eisner!

Jeff Overturf and I might be the only two individuals to be tickled by the above graphic but that’s what you’ll see if you need to “Google” anything today…in honor of the legendary artist-writer-entrepreneur who created comic bookdom’s The Spirit, a cartooning studio and so many other contributions to the world of comics.  Eisner would have been 94 today, but unfortunately left this world for a better one in 2005.

I was first introduced to Eisner’s Spirit in Jules Feiffer’s The Great Comic Book Heroes (Feiffer was one of Will’s collaborators on the strip, along with other greats like Jack Cole and Wally Wood) and became a big fan of the man’s work as a result.  I happened upon the 2008 movie adaptation on one of the On Demand channels a few months back and while I’ll freely acknowledge the movie is a P.O.C. there’s something about its visual style that nicely captured the look of Eisner’s creation if anything else.  (Artist Frank Miller, who directed Sin City [2005], is the man responsible for bring The Spirit to the silver screen; the hollow, empty story and cardboard characterizations pretty much do the film in.)  I remember when the early discussions on making the film were underway I read somewhere where Samuel L. Jackson had agreed to do the movie and I said sort-of-out-loud: “Don’t tell me he’s playing Ebony.”  (As it turns out, he essays the role of The Octopus, the Spirit’s arch nemesis in a performance that allows him to make several trips to the Scenery Salad Bar for some real impressive chewing.)

Happy birthday, Mr. Eisner—one of my great comic book heroes...and thanks to Facebook chum and fellow old-time radio aficionado Sean Doughterty for pointing me toward the Google graphic.  (Sean also celebrates a birthday today.)

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