Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Hedda on Huck

Long before there were catty show-biz gossips on the internet, there were catty show-biz gossips in newspapers. And two of the biggest catty show-biz gossips in print during the glittery-est era in Tinseltown were Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper.

Louella was parodied (in a not-so-catty way) for immortality’s sake in the great Bugs Bunny cartoon ‘A Hare Grows in Manhattan’ as Lola Beverly (with Bea Benadaret doing a gushy voice instead of Lolly’s real-life nasal whine). Hedda—and I’ll stand corrected—seems to have escaped the brush of the animated satirist, perhaps because she and her hat collection became an obvious self-parody, leaving nothing to satirise.

However, Mrs. Hopper found time to put aside innuendo about Cary Grant and Randolph Scott living together and from knifing Louella in print to be swept up in one of Joe Barbera’s numerous fired-to-riches tales to promote the Hanna-Barbera studio. Evidently, Joe must have granted one mass interview to a bunch of Hollywood media or he cracked the same lines to them individually about the same time. This column is from newspapers of April 26, 1960. Two days later, Barbera’s identical “We have no time clocks” quote appeared in a rival New York Times column on the studio.

What’s nice to read is credit being given to the cartoon’s writers and voice artists. And you get an idea of the kind of potential money MGM stupidly threw away by its disdain for the concept of making cartoons for TV.

Looking at Hollywood
Speed Cartooning Puts Pair Back in Business

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were dropped at Metro after 20 years because a new studio head decided the “Tom & Jerry” cartoons, which they originated, made so much money on reissues they didn't need new ones. That was two and a half years ago. It looked as if the cartoon industry was washed up and Hanna and Barbera with it. But as things turned out, that kick in the pants was a major piece of luck: They got up from a prone position and developed a new streamlined method of animation. It brought theatrical cartoons, which had begun to die because of the expense of making them by hand process, back into our theaters.
“We’ve just made 12 cartoons in one month for theaters,” they told me. “Where we used to do eight a year, we now do 179 with approximately the same sized staff, due to our new streamlined technique. Even Walt Disney hasn’t been making many cartoons lately; it’s lucky for us he slowed down as we were entering the field.”
Deal Set in 15 Minutes
Not everyone can bounce up from disaster like these men. At first it looked like the end of the line. But “Tom and Jerry” had always made money and won seven Academy Awards. No human star ever got more than two or three.
“We were turned down by MCA, Ziv, and Twentieth Century-Fox, none of whom could see cartoon stories for TV. Then we went to Screen Gems, put the story board on the floor, explained it, and in 15 minutes we had a deal. We were turned down originally by Columbia also. Our first is a theatrical series, ‘Loopy De Loop,’ a charming French wolf; now we’ve signed a five-year deal. We have four half-hour shows—three on TV, another coming up this fall.”
They own their own company, and George Sidney holds stock in it. Hanna and Barbera are doing animation on two sequences of “Pepe”; one a dream sequence where Cantinflas on horseback fights windmills, while in the other he fights the bull.
“Our ‘Huckleberry Hound’ and ‘Quick Draw McGraw’ are wonderfully successful. High school and college kids go for ‘Huck’ and ‘Yogi Bear.’ Ohio State adopted them for their homecoming theme. Yale Alumni magazine named Huck as one of their favorite shows, and at the University of Washington, a fraternity changed its dinner hour so they could see Huck.”
Artists Catch On Fast.
The entire Metro cartoon staff came to work for them. People who’d operated by the old slow method for 20 years switched to the quick way like a bunch of kids. “Our story men. Warren Foster and Mike Maltese, are all of 50, and they’re fabulous. No one ages in our business and these men have been in cartooning since they were kids. Mike came to us from Warners, and has a delicious sense of humor. He used to do eight theatrical cartoons a year, but wrote 78 stories for us in nine months—the entire McGraw series. Two of our voice men—Don Messick and Daws Butler—are remarkable. They move from one voice to another, each do eight or nine voices, sometimes as many as seven in one cartoon. Butler does Huck, Yogi, Jinx [sic], Dixie, McGraw, Snooper, Oggie Doggie [sic] and Doggie Daddy and Babalu. [sic] And remember, we do four cartoons at one sitting.”
"We have no time clocks, no closed doors, no memos. The cartoons are all in color—Kellogg is spending an estimated $12 million on shows and time. And they’re made in Japanese, Spanish, French, go all over Latin America, England, New Zealand, and Australia. We’re hot in the merchandise field, too. Our Yogi Bears and Huck Hounds sell from $2.50 to $10 each, and Whitman Publishing company has some 30 books and games on our cartoons.”
(Released by the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, Inc., 1960)


  1. Yes. One of the great Hollywood rivalries of all time. Louella and Hedda. They could make or break a career in their heyday. In " A Cast Of Friends " by Bill Hanna, he talks about he and Joe being dropped by MGM, pooling the absolute last of thier finances, working around the clock, not seeing the family, bringing in the animators, writers, hiring Daws and Don after listening to hundreds of audition tapes....basically putting it all on the line....they took a BIG risk, and it paid off big time.

  2. Hey Yowp,

    Thanks so much for this great blog!

  3. Joe Barbera really liked Character merchandising, didn't he?

  4. In what may have been the last thing she did before her death in 1966, she voiced the character of Hedda Hatter in H-B's version of ALICE IN WONDERLAND (or, WHAT'S A NICE KID LIKE YOU DOING IN A PLACE LIKE THIS?) which aired on ABC. Janet Waldo voiced the title character, and their version of the Caterpillar is a two-headed one--Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble. Reed and Blanc do the voices, but Henry Corden supposedly is doing Fred's singing.