Sunday, November 23, 2008

YouTube - a nice place to catch Keaton commericals of the past

Keaton for Ford

Simon Pure Beer

Alka Seltzer

It also presents classic television appearances...
Candid Camera

What's My Line

Make the Connection

And Interviews...

CBC Archives: Buster Keaton on Telescope, 1964

Industrial Strength Keaton includes others. With luck, we'll see it back in print soon.

Alka Seltzer (1958) [5 spots]

Northwest Orient Airlines (1958)

Simon Pure Beer (1958) [6 spots]

Shamrock Oil / Outtakes (1959)
* Audio commentary track
* Director's interview track

Milky Way (1961)

Pure Oil (1965)

Country Club Malt Liquor (1958) [3 spots]

Ford Econoline (1963)

Jeep - Lessons in Living (1960)
* Only surviving complete Jeep commercial
* Recently discovered fragments from previously undocumented Jeep commercials.

Pure Oil (1965)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A little more on McGowan

Sheet Music.

Digging around, I found McGowan ties to sheet music - a common thread among the Actors' Colony members.

The first is a shot of the music for "The Love Nest" from George M. Cohan's Musical comedy, Mary. This was sung by John "Jack" McGowan and Janet Velie.

McGowan is credited as co-writer of the song, "Birds of a Feather" with music written by Irving Berlin. Like "The Love Nest", the image is found at the Indiana University Sheet Music Collection site. Follow this link to find a piano version of the tune.

Title: Birds of a feather / / by Jack McGowan and Edgar Moran.
Title: I'm a lonesome little bird.
Composer: McGowan, Jack, d. 1977.
Contributor: Moran, Edgar.
Extent: 1 score (5 p.) : ; ill. ; ; 31 cm.
Place of publication: New York :
Publisher: Irving Berlin, Inc., /
Date of publication: 1921.
Call Number: M1 .S8 III 1920-1929
Note: For voice and piano.
First Line: I'm a lonesome little bird.
Chorus First Line: Birds of a feather.
Note: Publisher's advertising includes musical incipits.
Subject: Songs with piano.

Another McGowan song, "I Have to Laugh" appears to have another Muskegon tie. It is listed in the book
Brunswick opened a manufacturing plant in Muskegon in 1906, which would ultimately become the cornerstone of the company. In 1923, the company opened a record pressing plant in town.

I'm still looking for a photograph of McGowan.

Anyone? Anyone?
(44 seconds in...)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Has anyone heard of John "Jack" McGowan?

I was digging around the internet one evening when I stumbled across a book called "American Playwrights of Today". Of course, today was really a reference to the 1930's so I had to shift my perception of time back a bit. What caught my attention was that the book referenced a gentleman who was born in Muskegon in 1894, who "drifted into theater, with which both his parents had been connected." His name was John McGowan.

Of course, my recall of the surname, and its tie to Muskegon comes from the restaurant that once was located at the "end of the trolley line" back in the days of the Actors' Colony.

In addition, in the biography of Keaton co-star and former colony member, "Big Joe" Roberts, their is also a reference to a McGowan.

In 1914, Roberts and his wife (Lillian Stuart) teamed with Johnnie McGowan, for another tour of "On the Road." McGowan was renowned as a singer, performing "You Were Made to Love" and "You Have Something I Want."
Could Johnnie McGowan be John McGowan?

Well, the time fame certainly fit.

More digging turned up additional detail on the career of Mr. McGowan. At the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections, I discovered that McGowan had donated papers covering his career as an actor, playwright and director. In addition, I found a brief biography.
John McGowan was born on January 12, 1894 in Muskegon, Michigan. He ran away from home when a freshman in high school, making his way to Flint Michigan, and then to Chicago, where he became a singer of illustrated songs for ten dollars a week.

There followed short stints in a two-act with a vaudeville actor and in the chorus of The Winning Miss. The producer of that show kept McGowan for three years in a series of tabloid shows for which he wrote many of thee jokes and songs. After developing a great desire to write for the theatre, McGowan realized that he had to catch up on his reading of the classics in order to fill the serious gaps in his knowledge.

In Danville, Illinois, in 1913, he met Howard Gale, advance-man for the Cohan and Harris road company of Officer 666 (a stage comedy from 1912) . Gale invited McGowan to come to New York to meet George M. Cohan when his present contract expired in June, 1914. Unfortunately, at nineteen, McGowan was simply too young to fit the part which Cohan, 36, had written originally for himself.

McGowan would later sign a three year contract with Florenz Ziegfield. He would later renew his association with Cohan, while writing for vaudeville, and soon after, Broadway.

From a book title, The Days We Danced, by Doris Eaton Travis, I learned that McGowan was a "red-headed Irishman with big blue eyes" would would move on to Hollywood, working for MGM under the name Jack McGowan around 1933. The Internet Movie Database site lists his extensive credentials.

According to a newspaper reference, McGowan married Betty Wyman on January 1, 1938. The former Elizabeth Calvin, became well-know to the public as the Lucky Strike girl. She would later appear in the Hollywood production "Vogues of 1938".

While in Hollywood, McGowan would work on adapting some of his Broadway success for the big screen. This included Girl Crazy, a 1930 musical he co-authored with Guy Bolton. The movie version, released in 1943, starred Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. In 1947, a McGowan story "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" was scripted for film Isobel Lennart. The cast included Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, Peter Lawford and Jimmy Durante.

To date, I've found little more on McGowan's career.

It appears that he passed away in 1977.

Anyone out there able to fill in more details?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Now this is cool!

Some of you may remember the image from Keaton's date book that I posted in this blog's earliest entry. It showed a smiling character "JOY" deboarding a train. Written on the page are the words,




In a post on the BusterKeatonFans discussion group hosted by Yahoo, Steven Rowe points out that the character "JOY" featured in the drawing comes from a popular comic strip titled "Joys and Glooms".

It was produced by T.E. Powers, and "was popular enough to get some animated films in 1912 -1923 time frame."

Vergil Noble then responds:

Thanks so much for pointing out the cartooning of T. E. Powers, Steven. After a quick search I found his 1939 obituary which includes the statements: Mr. Powers' political cartoons had a wide following and two elflike characters, "Joy" and "Gloom," with which he enlivened his drawings-always signed "T. E. Powers"- became one of the trademarks of his work during a career which made him one of the country's best known and most successful cartoonists.....

The characters "Joy" and "Gloom" which he used so often, cavorted in the corners of his cartoon. If optimism was in order, "Joy" chased "Gloom," and vice versa. "Gloom" was a mournful imp with a black beard, and "Joy" wore an eternal grin.

A note to the obit also states that Powers is reputed to be the first cartoonist to produce a newspaper comic strip in color (he drew several strips over the years in addition to his more famous editorial cartooning for the Hearst papers).

Found a couple of his cartoons posted at an on-line auction house, but none with the marginal figures. I then discovered that, in addition to two 1916 animated films, the Joy and Gloom Toy Co. was founded in 1926. An antique toy seller posts one actual item and ads for all four known toys they sold. The second ad leaves no doubt that Keaton knew the Powers cartoons and copied his style. Keaton's "Joy" is almost identical to the one depicted in that ad, particularly the half-circle skirt of the figure.
How cool is that!

The image I show is from a copy of date book page that hangs in the Muskegon Convention and Visitors Bureau in the old Union Station in downtown Muskegon. The train station was restored several years ago.

How I love this research stuff!!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Classic Video

Check out the new video on the site. I dug around the archives to unearth these two long-lost clips. Click on the images to watch. I hope you enjoy them!

Even Buster Keaton paid homage to McCay

Keaton in "The Three Ages"

McCay emerges in his masterpiece,
"Gertie the Dinosaur"

Winsor McCay

Check out the blog
Meeting McCay
Did you know that Spring Lake, MI was the childhood home to animation pioneer Winsor McCay? The city is a mere 15 miles away from Bluffton.
"Even Buster Keaton paid homage to McCay, in his 1923 film The Three Ages. He asked his writer, Clyde Bruckman, 'Remember Gertie the Dinosaur? . . . The first cartoon comedy ever made. I saw it in a nickelodeon when I was fourteen. I'll ride in on an animated cartoon.' "

"Before Mickey: The Animated Film"
by Donald Crafton