Tuesday, April 14, 2009


For several weeks now I've had an MGM folder with the title M. Flamingo And Others sitting next to my scanner. For a while the artwork mystified me. For my father, the drawing line is unique. Alternately, I kept thinking I either wanted to put this online or put it back in the box, because I couldn't quite put my finger on what was going on here.
It finally hit me yesterday and I kicked myself for not coming to the conclusion earlier. The somewhat squiggly and scratchy lines, drawn on MGM stock, do not really lend itself well to animation. But those long lean limbs that taper at the wrists and ankles, along with the pointy feet and the way the hands are (mostly) drawn, finally convinced me. My father, often a cartooning chameleon, is copping the style of a famous cartoonist, playwrite and screenwriter (to name just a few attributes) that he admired greatly.

You may disagree with me, but I've no doubt that in all these drawings my father is riffing somewhat on Jules Feiffer. In the 1960s-70s my father thought Feiffer had the best thing going, particularly as far as a newspaper strip was concerned. In the L.A. Times -- at the time -- the paper didn't even publish the strip in the usual comic strip pages; Feiffer had his own space near the editorial section, if I recollect correctly.

Below, even my father's penmanship seems to mildly take on
Feiffer's own calligraphic quality.

I find no online record that MGM ever made any Feifferesque animation. Coincidentally, Feiffer illustrated Juster's Phantom Tollbooth, which of course you know became an MGM production. My own take on all of these drawings is that, in an admittedly indirect way, they seem to take on Feiffer's spin on the middle-aged man dilemma...although maybe I'm just projecting out here.

Below, a pack of Tareyton cigarettes, probably atop
my father's drawing desk at the time, infiltrate their way into the picture.

In 1971 my dad, using his Academy card, took me to see Feiffer's Carnal Knowledge at the La Reina theater on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. (This was before the La Reina was turned into a mini-mall several decades ago.) Boy, did that movie ever do a number on my adolescent libido!


Anonymous said...

Feiffer or not, your father is a monster. A MONSTER! I can only imagine what this would have played like as a piece of animation if it were done to any decent standard. We could have all forgotten about Filmation.

p spector said...

Thanks Mom!

J Lee said...

Ann Margaret's chest was a thing of great awe and magnificence in "Carnal Knowledge" for your average teenager circa 1971, wasn't it? (I just don't remember her being drawn like that in that episode of "The Flintstones").

p spector said...

Brother, don't get me further down that path. I'm already half-regressed since I posted it.

Will Finn said...

Hmmm. You know it looks more like a cartoon version of Jaques Tati's "M. Hulot" character to me, although I concur with your dad's high assesment of Jules F. LITTLE MURDERS is one of my all-time favorite movies.

Awesome drawings in any event.

Mark Newgarden said...

Will Finn, you beat me to the punch! I concur on the Tati caricature here-for sure! Maybe some great business mind at MGM was actually trying to develop an animated version of Monsieur Hulot? Or an animated title sequence? Or a pure rip-off?

p spector said...

Okay, now that you two have mentioned Tati I see exactly what you mean -- it's almost too obvious in regard to something such as Mr. Hulot's Holiday. So, maybe it was an exec's word that prompted it. I can tell you though, that I don't think my father ever personally knew of Tati's work; he just wasn't up on foreign film. I didn't discover Tati myself until the 1980's, and Holiday was 1953. In 1971, IMO generally a horrible time for animation in general, this would have been a pipedream.