Monday, December 31, 2018

Rick Parker: Harold Lloyd

Time's almost up! As we count down the hours and minutes to the the start of 2019, I'd like for us momentarily to put aside our contemporary watches and smart phones and to recall instead the iconic image of Harold Lloyd hanging from the clock face in the 1923 silent classic "Safety Last!" This comes, of course, from the climactic scene in which Harold—the character shares Lloyd's full name—is forced to climb a skyscraper as a publicity stunt. The colorful image shown here this New Year's Eve is an interpretation by Rick Parker.

Rick Parker
Harold Lloyd

The striking thing is that the famous shot doesn't seem to occur in the film.
Video Still 1:04:06

See for yourself, starting at around 1:03:00.
Harold Lloyd
"Safety Last!" (1923)

The iconic view we are all familiar with is evidently a publicity still:
Publicity Still

It becomes apparent that the camera angle in this publicity still is different from that in the film. We can see more of the adjacent window and it is here fully closed. The word Majestic is visible just to the right of the clock, while we don't even see that near corner of that building during the clock business in the actual film. There is an awful lot of sleight of hand that went into the filming of the movie's thrilling final scene, and that trickery evidently  extended into the shooting of the publicity still as well. Note that Rick Parker, in creating his image, had to deal with Lloyd's blurry feet in the photo. He opted to clarify their outlines.

Note:  Thanks to Rick Parker for providing his wonderful image just in time to welcome in the new year. This is Rick's first appearance on Attempted Bloggery. Happy New Year, Rick! 

And a Happy New Year to all!

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My Entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #644

Here is my entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #644 for the double issue of December 24 and 31, 2018. The drawing is by Bob Eckstein.
"Now why would you need solar?"

These captions were subpar:
"Of course, greens fees are included."
"As a retirement community we still try to be kid-friendly."
"It's a great view, but I wouldn't stick my head out the window."

"Now just because you're retiring, you don't need to downsize everything."
"Look, I'm going to stick my neck out for you—figuratively."
"Why should you have to downsize?"

January 7, 2019 Update:  The Finalists

January 14, 2019 Update:  I voted for the third caption even though the first one was the closest to my own. Magnanimous of me, right?

January 21, 2019 Update:  The Winner

Note:  Last week cartoonist Mort Gerberg
showed us a rather punchy pianist. My caption didn't score a knockout, but perhaps I could have been a contender. See Contest #643.

This is Bob Eckstein's first appearance on this blog. What should his handicap be?

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Sunday, December 30, 2018

Perry Barlow: Sizing Up the New Year

It is New Year's Eve eighty years ago in the pages of Collier's. Perry Barlow's older couple has not quite gotten into the spirit of the festivities. Note how deftly Barlow sets the scene and contrasts the impassive couple in the foreground with the energetic partygoers everywhere else.
"Now, let's see, I take about a seven and three eighths[.]"
Perry Barlow
Collier's, January 7, 1939, page 43

Scan by Dick Buchanan

Note:  Hats off to Dick Buchanan for sending along this scan of a festive Perry Barlow cartoon. This is Dick's fortieth contribution to Attempted Bloggery, but then I have been known to undercount. Dick's claim to fame is that he keeps the monumental Dick Buchanan Cartoon Clip Files. From these he contributes regularly to Mike Lynch Cartoons, most recently a post entitled "From the Dick Buchanan Files: More Vintage Gag Cartoons 1947 - 1962." Go visit. You won't find these anywhere else. Yes, you can wear your party hat.


Saturday, December 29, 2018

eBay 101: Naming Names

The title of an eBay listing this past month seems pretty straightforward:  "John Ruge Listed Artist 1940's WWII WPA Era Cartoon Illustration Pepsi Cola #1." That #1 indicates this is one of four eBay listings with original art by John Ruge. Here's what his signature looks like in listing #2:
John Ruge's signature

Note that eBay listing #1 has a markedly different signature. Attentive readers of this blog may recognize it instead as the signature of cartoonist William Von Riegen. Like John Ruge's signature, it contains the letter R. All right, to be fair, if you were the eBay seller and if you didn't have three examples of John Ruge's signature right in front of you, you might be able to convince yourself that William Von Riegen's signature reads John Ruge.
"But, Sarge, someone had to come along to take back the empty bottles."
William Von Riegen
Original advertising art

So, is this a freestanding magazine gag cartoon? Or is it an example, rather, of advertising art, as I am suggesting? Von Riegen has written Pepsi Cola on the label of just about every bottle. To me, that degree of deliberate product placement constitutes advertising until proven otherwise.
"But, Sarge, someone had to come along to take back the empty bottles."
William Von Riegen
Original advertising art

Note how loosely yet skillfully Von Riegen handles facial expression, posture, hands, clothing folds, uniforms, military equipment, and all those soda bottles.
"But, Sarge, someone had to come along to take back the empty bottles."
William Von Riegen
Original advertising art

Not John Ruge's signature:
Signature of William Von Riegen

It's remarkable how well Von Riegen handles the three-dimensionality of his characters's heads, and especially their lips:

There's a good variation in tone throughout:

The name of the product appears multiple times.

Almost all the bottles are at an angle, ensuring that the image does not appear static.

The back of the art contains no hint as to where this might have been published.

William Von Riegen
eBay Listing Ended December 16, 2018

William Von Riegen
eBay Item Description

William Von Riegen
eBay Bid History
One bid just four seconds before the auction closes. Well done.

In summary then, only three of these four John Ruge eBay listings are actually by John Ruge:

Note:  This piece apparently dates from World War II. Does anyone know the specifics of where it was published? Are there other known examples of Pepsi advertising by William Von Riegen, if that is indeed what this is?


Friday, December 28, 2018

eBay 101: New Yorker Cartoon Doggerel

Aside from the drawing, above, discussed in yesterday's post, a second illustration currently offered by eBay seller toys24-7 is listed as "Original NEW YORKER Cartoon 1939 GYPSY & ELEANOR NEW YORKER Cartoon Art 1939." The title literally doubles down on the unfounded claim that this seller's artwork has a New Yorker publication history while implying perhaps that Gypsy & Eleanor are some sort of popular pet and child pair we should all immediately recognize, like Tige and Buster Brown.
This is Sunday and I'd like to know where Eleanor is?
The drawing seems not so much a New Yorker–type gag cartoon as a cutesy memento created to remind a girl that her dog misses her when she is out on Sunday, perhaps at church or Sunday school. (The date stamped on the drawing—April 27, 1939—is actually a Thursday.) The incorrect use of the question mark is as good an indication as any, if one were needed, that this drawing was not ever subject to the New Yorker's rigorous editorial process.
This is Sunday and I'd like to know where Eleanor is?
In general, every New Yorker cartoon original has some sort of writing, stamp, or printer's directions written on the back. This drawing, of course, does not.

eBay Listing Retrieved December 19, 2018

ebay Item Description

Like the seller's other amateur wash drawing of the girl (might this be Eleanor?) slipping in the puddle, the drawing of the dog with the chalkboard has had its price discounted twice in rapid succession, with many more reductions likely to come in its unlikely search for a buyer. The Best Offer option is still in place. But at what price point exactly would this become an enticing purchase?

Some readers might find it helpful to see an actual New Yorker dog cartoon from 1939. This one is provided as a public service:
"I said the hounds of Spring are on Winter's
traces—but let it pass, let it pass!"

James Thurber
The New Yorker, March 18, 1939, page 17

So that's what a New Yorker cartoon looks like! James Thurber's well-read woman is quoting Swinburne, if you were wondering...

December 30, 2018 Update:  The asking prices continue to fall.

January 1, 2019 Update:

January 5, 2019 Update:


Thursday, December 27, 2018

eBay 101: Falling Upon a New Yorker Cartoon?

An eBay seller has recently listed a wash drawing with the intriguing title "Original NEW YORKER Cartoon Art 1930s." The initial Buy It Now price was a robust $2,000, albeit with a Make Offer option. The seller, toys24-7 based in Scottsdale, Arizona, has earned an eBay rating over 2700 of which 99.5% of the feedback is positive. That's impressive. So let's have a look.

The artwork, if we can call it that, depicts a girl slipping and falling in a puddle of water. The technique is sloppy and unprofessional. The grasp of anatomy is not even rudimentary. For example, both legs have an extra angulation at mid-thigh. This is more of an illustrated pratfall than a gag cartoon anyway. It is probably meant to be cute. There is no signature and no written caption, although there seems to be some deliberately-obliterated writing on the lower margin of the full sheet:

The verso, as by now one might expect, has no New Yorker markings and indeed no markings of any kind to indicate it was published anywhere. To anyone not trying to sell it, this is obviously the work of an amateur.

eBay Listing Retrieved December 19, 2018

eBay Item Description

Now actively monitoring my browsing of the auction site, eBay soon wrote to tell me the item and one other similar drawing were discounted to $1,500.

But wait. Already these have been marked down to $1,250 each. Even the seller recognizes these are grossly overpriced. Alas, they will remain overpriced however much they are discounted after Christmas.

For those like toys24-7 who may never have seen a 1930s New Yorker cartoon, here's one example, and it even includes a puddle:
"Oh, don't be an ass, Herbert!"
Perry Barlow
The New Yorker, April 20, 1935, page 18

I confess—I chose a good one.

So what is this eBay seller really in possession of? It certainly never appeared in the New Yorker or in any other magazine for that matter. My best guess is that it's a wash drawing done by an amateur perhaps attempting to ape the style of Grace Drayton, famous for her Campbell Soup Kids. I don't have an example of her art depicting a fall into a puddle exactly, but here's a Campbell's Kid eager for some water sport.
Grace Drayton
Campbell's Soup advertisement

A 1921 ad, on the other hand, shows how she handled the subject of ice skating. (Imagine, if you will, a leisure activity taking place on a big frozen puddle.)
Grace Drayton
Campbell's Soup advertisement, 1921

Grace Drayton
Campbell's Soup advertisement, 1921

Look, sellers on eBay have the same weakness we all do. Without doing their homework, they want to believe every slapdash find of theirs is of great cultural significance and value. Naturally then at least some eBay sellers are a little too eager to conclude that whatever random drawing they have chanced upon must certainly be a lost masterpiece once published in the New Yorker.

But we know better, don't we? Of course we do.

December 30, 2018 Update:  The asking prices continue to drop.

January 1, 2019 Update:

January 5, 2019 Update:

Note: After all these years of my writing this blog, one might think it's unfair of me to go after someone for knowing less about New Yorker cartoons than I do. Unfair or not, rest assured I have no intention of letting up.

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Ice Skating


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