Thursday, June 17, 2010

What Hath Charlie Shows Wrought?

Mark Kausler, I believe it was, commented several months ago here about Charlie Shows and wondered what it was he actually did on The Huckleberry Hound Show. It’s a pertinent question. Certainly I don’t think Mark would be impertinent to a famous Hanna-Barbera cartoon dog such as myself.

Shows was a man of many careers, as you shall read, but his credit on the Huck show simply read ‘Dialogue.’ In the later syndicated cartoon credits, it was coupled with ‘Story Sketches’ and the name of Dan Gordon, who was well-known as a sketch artist. Shows aspired to be a cartoonist and certainly could draw, as you can see by this panel (right) from a WW2-era periodical.

Years later, in his 1996 autobiography, Bill Hanna gave Shows credit for “story and script material.” But while contemporary newspaper articles you can read on this blog have Joe and Bill praising the work of Gordon, and the writing of Mike Maltese and Warren Foster, not a word is mentioned about Charlie Shows. The impression Barbera leaves is that one Joseph Roland Barbera was responsible for the story ideas for all the cartoons. So where does that leave Shows? Surely H-B Enterprises wouldn’t spend its meagre start-up capital for someone who only came up with a few lines to shoehorn into preconceived stories?

Similarly, Hoyt Curtin has told about how he dashed off the theme for The Huckleberry Hound Show. Hanna takes credit in his book for the lyrics. But ASCAP, the composer’s society, also lists Shows as a co-writer, and therefore entitled to royalties. Both Hanna and Curtin were silent about his role.

But let’s spend some time telling you about Charles W. Shows via several newspaper stories. If you want a chronological biography, you’ll have to snip together bits from the various writes.

Shows was a native of El Paso, born May 15, 1912. The Los Angeles City Directory for 1942 reveals he was working as a trainman for the Southern Pacific Railway. But that career was left out when he got big play in his hometown’s Herald-Post on February 5, 1951:


EI Pasoan Scores with Coast Television show
Charles Shows Gets Academy Award
A former El Pasoan has been honored by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in Hollywood. He is Charles Shows, writer-director of the television children’s show, “Time for Beany.”
For the second straight year, “Time for Beany” won the annual Emmy award as the best children’s program in the United States.
Winning Academy awards is a habit with Shows, who graduated from Paso High School. For two and a half years he was an El Paso police officer.
Shows has won four Academy Awards. Two of these were as writer of “Time for Beany.”
Writes Animal Pictures
Formerly he wrote the motion picture series for Paramount called “Speaking of Animals.” That series won two awards from the Motion Picture Academy and was consistently in the top 10 of its kind in both the United States and England.
Shows received his early training as a writer in El Paso.
He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Shows, longtime El Paso residents, who formerly lived at 514 North Mesa avenue. They recently moved to Mississippi.
Seeks Hollywood Career
Shows left El Paso to seek a career in Hollywood and started by writing humor for magazines. His sense of humor attracted a Paramount producer who signed him to write Paramount short subjects.
During the four years Shows wrote for Paramount, he received credits on 30 Paramount shorts and also wrote two feature pictures, one starring Bob Burns, and another starring Stuart Erwin.
Pioneers in Television
Realizing the power of the new medium of television, Shows left Paramount and started writing for Paramount television station KTLA in Hollywood. In its first year, “Time for Beany” became an outstanding TV show on the West Coast. It is seen elsewhere in the nation on film.

Why did Shows leave Beany? The Los Angeles Times of July 1, 1952 said he was “branching out for himself.” But author-voice artist Keith Scott revealed Shows was upset with his $75-a-week salary from producer Bob Clampett, who apparently took in six figures a week from the popular puppets (Bill Scott complained to Clampett on Shows’ behalf—and his own—and was promptly fired). Perhaps he had six-figure visions of his own for he came up with his own puppet show. Whatever the reason, Shows—in character—hinted that something happened, in this story from the Long Beach Press-Telegram dated January 16, 1952:

Former Police Officer Creates ‘Patches’ on TV
By TOM E. DANSON
HOLLYWOOD. My little friend, the mythical “Wacky Rabbit,” got me off into a corner the other day to tell a lot of secrets about his creator, Charles Shows, who is responsible for the “Adventures of Patches” television show T-viewed every week day over KNBH, Channel 4, at 6 p. m. Never expecting to wind up in show business or television, Charles Shows set the first “bricks of experience” in his present foundation as a police detective in his hometown of El Paso, Texas. It was while in this public service (that Shows refers to as accepted out of necessity) many of the gimmicks of confidence games and criminal procedures came to his attention.
Thus, when he first scripted the original of the now very popular TV show, “Racket Squad,” this past experience was indeed a great help. Shows, meanwhile, has sold the rights to this program to Hal Roach on a royalty per picture basis.
“Want to know how Charlie got started in animal and children characters in TV?” Wacky asked me (and I’d be nuts if I thought that Wacky could talk, but he did—and I listened!) “well Shows came to California in 1940 with the express desire of getting into Disney Studios, because he also was a cartoonist and an artist. This didn’t work, but he did get a job at Paramount Studios writing animal shorts titled “Speaking of Animals’.”
Wacky giggled and snorted a few times and continued. “We’re almost getting up to the time where I come in—but not quite.
Charlie wrote and directed the ‘Beany’ show from the time it started up until about three months ago, when he . . .”
About that time Shows walked in and interrupted with. “Guess I’d better take over now before Wacky gets everything all mixed up. Yes, after ‘Beany,’ I got the idea of ‘Patches.’ I felt there was a definite need for a good, clean, moral children’s show—completely without violence or anything frightening — with a heavy accent toward fantasy and imagination.”
Thus, “The Adventures of Patches” was born with the imaginary rabbit as a vehicle to take the young lad on his many and strange adventures.
Sets are by Bill Oberlin, who lives in Glendale, and the actors are Don Messick as “Patches,” Larry Harmon as “The Wacky Rabbit,” and the “Scarecrow,” music is by Eddie Baxter, who reads directly from the script, fitting the proper organ moods to the situation.

Messick, I’m sure you know. Oberlin later worked for Jay Ward. By a twist of fate, Harmon hired Shows after his stint at Hanna-Barbera to write Popeye TV cartoons.

Shows managed to syndicate Patches with Ainsworth TV in October 1952 but was at Disney by 1954 and Hanna-Barbera three years later, with a brief stop working for Shamus Culhane in between.

By 1963, it seems Shows either tired of show biz or couldn’t get a job. So back he went to El Paso, where the Herald-Post took up his life’s tale on June 12, 1963. The way Charlie tells it, he was the one who came up with the plots for H-B cartoons. And he explains how.


Writer Who Started Career in El Paso Seeks and Finds Fortune in Hollywood
By SANDY McDONALD
Almost 30 years ago, a young writer began his career in the Sports Department of The Herald-Post. He went away to seek his fortune. He found it.
Charles Shows said Herald-Post Sports Editor Bob Ingram gave him the push he needed.
“I was just out of high school and I wasn’t too sure I could write,” he said. “Bob helped me learn some of the secrets of writing and told me I had what it took to make the big time. He advised me to go to a city where writers were in greater demand than El Paso.
“I’M GLAD I took his advice. He said he was going to be here a long time, and I see he was right.
“After a couple of years with the El Paso Police Department, I went to the West Coast. In 1944 a short I wrote for Paramount Pictures took an Oscar.
“From this show, ‘Speaking of Animals,’ I got ideas that I was able to use on ‘Ruff and Ready,’ [sic] ‘Huckleberry Hound,’ ‘Yogi Bear’ and other shows that I have written.
“The most popular show I wrote was ‘Racket Squad’ which was based on things I learned while I was on the El Paso Police Force. I sold this to Hal Roach in 1948 and it is still on the air. I think it is one of the oldest shows on television.
“WITH MORE than 1500 show credits behind me I think I can say the life of a television writer is not glamorous. It is hard work. A man must work at least eight hours a day writing, regardless of how he feels. Once you learn to write, you can write humor even though you feel so sick you can hardly move.
“Under the pressure of trying to write hours of material a week, you can’t produce quality scripts. You just fall into the formula stuff you know will work. If you want to know what is really wrong with television, this is it. A man can’t afford to spend months on a story to make it right for the pay for a single script. There are a few dedicated writers who will work on one show a week, but most of us can’t afford it.
“A MEDIOCRE story is often used because the writer is such an extrovert that he is able to sell the script by his acting out the roles before the buyer. The buyer doesn’t realize until after he has purchased the show that it is really bad.
“A lot of time is spent with the people who buy the scripts. Many really good writers let all of the soft living of the Coast, with its parties and swimming pools, go to their heads. They are ruined after about a year and end up as hack writers.
“In order to write successfully in the big markets of television, a writer must work hard every day. He must keep up his contacts, or he won’t sell. It is a tough, dog eat dog, life.
“IN 1957 Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna came to me with an idea they had for an animated series. We made ‘Ruff and Ready’ first. On the basis of that show, Kellogg's decided to buy a series. We worked out ‘Huckleberry Hound’ which won an Emmy as the best children’s series in 1959.
“I received three Emmys for the series I started, ‘Time for Beany.’ The first one was in 1950. It won the following two years in its category.
“The best outfit I worked for as Walt Disney. He believes writers and producers are a class apart from the rest of his people. I produced 22 shows for him and enjoyed it very much. At first I worked as a writer, then moved on up until I was one of the few writer-director-producers in the industry.
"WHEN YOU have an idea for Walt Disney you go in and tell him what you want. If he likes it you have the authority and budget in a few minutes. From there it is up to you. You make a good show your own way. If you think it takes a three-day week to do it, you work that way, but it had better be good. Disney will not tolerate a failure. The first bad one and out you go.
“The last job I did was in France, producing films for American television. It sounded like an adventure, so I left for Europe. I also produced an hour film for French TV starring Simon [sic] Signoret.
“I decided to retire to my old home town of El Paso. I am writing a joint American-French movie script. I might try selling some articles to magazines. I wanted to rest and do some serious writing.”

Shows’ view of the Rio Grande didn’t last long. Back he went “to the soft living of the Coast” to work for Hanna-Barbera Records. He also wrote a book on Walt Disney in 1980 and plugged it in a story in the San Diego Union-Tribune of Feb. 6, 1980. Not a word he wrote about Hanna-Barbera cartoons. But, remarkably, the role he played in other things had ballooned over the ensuring years, to hear Shows tell it. The article by Carol Olten reads, in part:

Shows was hired by the Disney Studios after “Time for Beany,” the early television series which he wrote and directed, skyrocketed in the ratings. He had developed “Beany” on a lark and a bet that the show wouldn’t last two days.
“I had been writing a television show called “Speaking of Animals,” he revealed. “Another fellow came to me with this character named Beany. He wanted funny stuff and Beany talking back and forth with other characters like ‘Kukla, Fran and Ollie.’ I started writing real smart aleck stuff and ended up with a complete, 15-minute story every night with little cliff-hanger endings. It swept the town.” “Beany” also won an Emmy Award but Shows didn’t make any money in the razzle-dazzle days of early television, he said. “I was always signing my stupid name in the wrong places.”
Shows also wrote and made a pilot called “Don’t Be a Sucker.” Later, he said, it was swiped out from under him and became the immensely popular “Racket Squad.” Similar circumstances developed with “Bozo the Clown.” “I wrote 104 of those things and was so stupid I gave them away,” he said.

There’s an irony that Shows avoids mentioning Clampett’s name. Clampett became notorious for claiming to have created or developed every major character at the Schlesinger Studio. Not only does Shows claim he was the creator of Racket Squad (as opposed to the ‘humble scribe’ he originally made himself to be), on his own web page he made the remarkable statement:

Charles Shows originated the popular cartoon series, “The Flintstones”.

Shows’ web site went off-line after his death but thanks to the magic of archive.org, you can see his home page HERE and his Flintstones claim HERE.

Shows died in Cathedral City, California on October 27, 2001. He left behind a grandson, a motivational speaker you may have heard about named Tony Robbins.

So, what was it Shows did on The Huckleberry Hound Show? Was he responsible for the story-lines, gags, Yogi’s rhymes, the catchphrase “I hate meeces to pieces!”? We’ll probably never really know. I’d like to think he was one of a number of talented people who joined together to create lasting memories for several generations of cartoon lovers. And that’s a pretty good legacy to me.

13 comments:

  1. Charlie should have drawn more pretty girls instead of making the bad episodes.

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  2. Great post, Yowp! Until now, Charlie Shows seemed like a mystery to me because I never knew who he was except that he was the guy who was always credited along with cartoonist Dan Gordon on these early H-B cartoons, and for a long while, I always wondered about him and what he really did for these cartoons. Now I know that he was a writer, a producer, a policeman, and a cartoonist, all-in-one! Amazing. What a versatile talent he was.

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  3. Shows post-HB work with Larry Harmon productions on his Bozo and KFS Popeye cartoons does pretty much pin him down as the rhyme king of TV cartoons. I suppose since the bulk of their MGM shorts really didn't rely on dialog and the TV cartoons had no choice but to rely on it, Charles was hired as something of a security blanket for Bill and Joe, to make sure the cartoons had something for Daws and Don to say that would stand out a little (and I wonder, given Butler's association with "Time for Beany" and his own problems and eventual deapture over Clampett's cheapness and credit-grabbing, if their past association on KTLA may have helped Shows end up at Hanna-Barbera when they needed a supporting script writer).

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  4. We should not forget Charlie Shows’ most notable credit… supplying YOUR CATCHPHRASE – (Yowp! Yowp!)

    Did he also supply the “exasperated sigh”, when you slapped your head in frustration that one time vs. Yogi? Or was that an ad-lib on your part? Nice work, if it was!

    GREAT STUFF, really! Credits being what they were, we will likely never know the truth, but this sheds more light on the career of Mr. Shows than ever before in one place!

    Sorry, folks… but I always loved his rhyming dialogue – and have tried to occasionally tribute it in the American English scripting I occasionally do for Donald Duck comic books.

    For instance, I tried to use Shows’ line from “The Buzzin’ Bear” (?) for one of the Beagle Boys lassoing Donald: “I’ll rope the dope, I hope!” It morphed into something else in the editorial process, but the words “rope the dope” remained in print.

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  5. Daws Butler was also in a few late "Speaking Of Animals" shorts. So were Freberg and June Foray. It was here that Daws met Shows - it is such a pity that everyone is dead, otherwise we could get clarification on whether Butler recommended Shows to H-B or vice versa, or that a totally different scenario happened. However the West Coast animation industry was very close knit and in that sense it was very small town, where everyone knew and shared contacts. Great articles Yowp!

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  6. Joe, I'd like to think, much like Alan Reed did later, that I asked Joe Barbera in the recording session if I could ad-lib my dialogue.

    I guess it's an individual taste, but I find some of Shows' rhymes clever, others I find contrived. Kinda like rap lyrics.

    Keith, a more interesting question for me is "Why did Shows leave Disney"? I have the full San Diego Union article where he goes on and on about all the important stuff he did for Disney. I gather from your book that Shows was out of work at the time he went to Hanna-Barbera, so it wasn't like he left one to go to the other. I realise Disney ended up laying off people, but I didn't think that was in 1956-7.

    Maybe he quit over money. Shows was part of a 1958 award won by the Writers Guild against Disney in what looks like a demarcation dispute involving writers and researchers. I didn't post that, or the full Union article as they weren't germane to his work at HB (and the post was long) but maybe I'll do another piece. I'd like to find more of his cartoons; he started doing sports cartoons. He doesn't strike me as a Disney-calibre artist.

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  7. I'd think that Daws would have had the inside track at recommending Shows for HB, as opposed to the other way around. There's no way to know for sure, but Bill and Joe had been using Daws in their T&J cartoon with Spike for several years, and he had even done close approximations of the future Huck voice (Tom in "Mucho Mouse") and Yogi voice (the unlicensed dog in "Give and Tyke") in the final season of the T&J series. So I'd imagine that they had Daws pretty much in mind as one of their first hires even as those cartoons were in production, once they knew MGM was shutting down the animation unit and they were going to be trying to make limited animation, dialog-heavy cartoons for TV from now on.

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  8. I have since found a note in my files that Daws in fact recommended Charles Shows for TIME FOR BEANY, so the relationship went back even further than the early H-B timeframe.

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  9. It shows (pardon the pun) what a great friend Daws Butler was. Don Messick said Daws recommended him to Tex Avery and started his cartoon career, and Doug Young said Daws recommended him to Joe Barbera.

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  10. Read all of this info.. interesting..

    Jim Shows

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  11. I have been a fan of Charles Shows, since birth. I know all the behind the scene stuff and how "Cut Throat" the business is and always has been.

    I will say my Dad had a lot of respect for "Walt Disney" and Hanna and Barbara.. and not to fond of Bob Clampett..

    I am proud to be his son... James N. Shows

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  12. Jim, hello! Thanks for stopping in.

    I'm afraid I tend to be a little hard on some of your dad's work at H-B in 1958. But he was at a decided disadvantage because a lot of the cartoons he was involved in were put together by Joe Barbera in a way that dialogue wasn't necessary.. but he was expected to come up with something. Despite that, it would appear he's directly responsible for some attributes of cartoon characters everyone still loves today. And he started from scratch; he wasn't working with fully-formed characters there's always some evolutionary trial-and-error about what works.

    And, no doubt, there are piles of things that went on when your dad was at H-B the first time around we don't know about. But it would appear Bill and Joe respected his talent enough to bring him back to adapt material for the H-B record label in the '60s.

    I'm sorry his site isn't up any more. It was a wonderful tribute to many of the things he accomplished in show business. At least I can link to an archived version people can read.

    As for Bob Clampett, there are a number of former co-workers who weren't exactly crazy about him.

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  13. & I am proud to be his grand-daughter.

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