Oregon Cartoon Institute

Posts Tagged ‘Dennis Nyback’

Tour Mel Blanc’s Portland: July 23 & July 30

In News on July 22, 2011 at 2:03 am

Where are you in Mel Blanc’s Portland?

Find out on July 23 and on July 30. The tour begins at 1:00 PM at the Hollywood Theater.

Suggested admission: $10.00! Remember to bring train fare for the MAX; we’ll be headed  to downtown Portland.

Here are some of the stops. Tour guides Bill Crawford and Dennis Nyback will provide the historical context for each site. Some stops will include screenings of  films from Dennis Nyback’s archive.

All quotes, unless otherwise indicated, are from That’s Not All Folks! My Life In The Golden Age Of Cartoons And Radio, by Mel Blanc and Philip Bashe.

Hollywood Theater:

Mel Blanc writes: “Once each show (Cobwebs and Nuts, for which he served as writer, producer, director and star) had taken shape, we relaxed, sometimes by driving down to the Hollywood Theater for a late afternoon movie.”

Steel Bridge:

Mel Blanc writes about playing hooky with high school friends: “Betcha can’t dive off the bridge,” he challenged, pointing to the steel structure connecting the east and west halves of the city. It had to be at least thirty feet high. Too young and impulsive to assess the potential dangers, the three of us dove in repeatedly, sometimes turning somersaults in midair.”

Sharon Wood Wortman, Portland’s leading bridge historian, confirms that the Steel Bridge is the only Portland bridge which matches the description Mel Blanc gives. She adds that he would have been trespassing on railroad property, since the lower level was at that time was reserved for trains, and pedestrians were forbidden.

Multnomah Hotel (now Embassy Suites): 

Ronald Kramer writes in Pioneer Mikes, A History of Radio and Television in Oregon: “Blanc was playing violin in Herman Kenin’s Orchestra when Degree Team member Harry Grannatt heard him sing and play his ukulele during one of the Multnomah Hotel’s Breakfast Club programs.

Mel Blanc writes: “For the next two years, when I wasn’t behind the microphone, I was playing dance halls throughout the Northwest…At intervals, I’d set down my cumbersome instrument and step out front to sing, all the while watching impeccably attired young men make plays for begowned girls with bobbed hair.”

Charles F. Berg Building:

Mel Blanc writes: “Our little radio troupe was called the Degree Team, and all members were accorded descriptive appellations. My friend, Harry Granitt, an insurance salesman, was nearly seven feet tall, hence his sobriquet The Grand Stringbean. Charles Berg, who ran a downtown department store, was The Grand Screecher. Because of my faculty for fetching laughs, I became The Grand Snicker.”

The Degree Team was the collective name of the innovative media pioneers who performed on KGW radio as The Hoot Owls, a program conceived and produced by Charles F. Berg, whose name appears on his downtown building.

Lincoln High School (now Lincoln Hall):

Mel Blanc writes: “Lincoln High had a cavernous hallway that produced a resounding echo; acoustically optimal, I determined, for trying out this new voice I’d been practicing: a shrill cackling laugh.”

Mel Blanc failed to match that manic cackle up with Happy Rabbit, the prototype for Bugs Bunny. He finally found a home for it with Woody Woodpecker.

This is not a complete list! Just some of the stops on the tour.

Because several of the buildings on the tour are architecturally significant, we have invited Sara Garrett, the executive director of MotivSpace, along as a guest speaker.  Sara received her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Physics and Building Science from Portland State University, and is completing the final steps for her Masters in Architecture with the University of Toronto.

In addition to our walking tours, a visit to the Oregon Jewish Museum’s Mel Blanc exhibit is a great way to explore the importance Mel Blanc’s Portland years played in his overall development as an artist.

“Despite what some might term the “frivolous” nature of my job, I consider myself an artist, and cartoons, art.” Mel Blanc

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The Mel Blanc Project  is a series of public history/art education events made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.


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No Truth To The Rumor Johnny Depp Attending Mel Blanc Day @ Lincoln Hall! (Although We Wouldn’t Let On If There Was)

In News on June 29, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Yes, he has gone on record with his love for Bugs Bunny. Yes, he looks like Portland could definitely show him a good time. No, we have no reason to believe Johnny Depp is attending the fourth and final Mel Blanc Lecture, which will be delivered tonight in Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park Avenue, at 7:30 PM.

But if it takes the hope of seeing one of America’s great screen actors sitting next to you in Mel Blanc’s high school auditorium to get you to come to this event, please continue to crush on Johnny, and come tonight as we honor Mel Blanc (1908 – 1989).

This event is free.

Here’s some more Mel Blanc love, from another Hollywood peer:

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People who will be there: Dennis Nyback, Anne Richardson, Craig Adams, Robyn Tenenbaum, Sean McGrath, Courtenay Hameister, Amos Hunter, Honky Tonk Prison, VOX: A Spoken Word Chorus, Karin Magaldi, and, on 16mm film, Mel Blanc himself.

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The Mel Blanc Project  is a series of public history/art education events made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.

Join the Portlanders who have deepened their knowledge by attending the entire lecture series,  Mel Blanc: The Portland Years.

Mel Blanc Day @ Lincoln Hall/ Wednesday June 29, 7:30 PM. Free admission!

In News on June 26, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Hoot Owls, Cobwebs & Nuts: Portland Radio Nurtures Mel Blanc

In the fourth and final lecture in the Mel Blanc Lecture Series, which takes place 7:30 PM at 1620 SW Park Avenue on June 29, we will turn our attention to radio.

What role did Portland radio play in creating the Man With A Thousand Voices?

KGW’s Hoot Owls, a weekly hour and a half long show with more than one million listeners, began broadcasting from the Oregonian Tower in 1923. Mel Blanc became a card carrying member, as a listener, that same year. He joined the cast in 1927. He moved to KEX to create in his own daily  show, Cobwebs & Nuts, in 1933. He left for Los Angeles in 1935.

We asked Craig Adams and Robyn Tenenbaum to come help us unravel the question of the influence Portland radio had on Mel Blanc.  We call these events “lectures”, but it might be more accurate to call them onstage conversations, which the audience is invited to join.

Portland early radio historian Craig Adams will talk about Portland’s early adopters, who created radio here when it was a brand new technology/artform. He’ll tell us about the radio Mel Blanc grew up with, and later came to help create.

Robyn Tenenbaum, producer of Live Wire Radio, brings two of Live Wire’s most illustrious stars, Courtenay Hameister and Sean McGrath, with her. All three will provide their updated perspective of Portland radio.

Film archivist Dennis Nyback will show a GI Journal, featuring Mel Blanc performing live as a voice artist. A rare 16mm film, which also features Lucille Ball and Jerry Colonna. Dennis will also show I Love To Singa (1936), a Warner Brothers cartoon spoofing The Jazz Singer which stars a young Owl Jolson making his radio debut.

Vox, a vocal/spoken word choir, will perform Mayor Sam Adams’ official proclamation that June 29, 2011 is Mel Blanc Day in Portland.

Mel Blanc T shirts will be given to the winners of our Mel Blanc Trivia Contest.

Opening the evening is Portland’s hot ukulele band, Honky Tonk Prison, led by Amos Hunter.

At the end of the evening, Craig Adams and Robyn Tenenbaum will induct Mel Blanc into Oregon Cartoon Institute’s Hall of Fame.

This evening is co-sponsored by Oregon Cartoon Institute and PSU School of Fine & Performing Arts.

Lincoln Hall, Mel Blanc’s former high school, is located at 1620 SW Park Avenue, in Portland.

Special thanks to civic minded Oregon Cartoon Institute member and calligrapher extraordinaire, S. W. Conser!

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Oregon Cartoon Institute’s Mel Blanc Project  is a series of public history/art education events made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.

Another recommended method of deepening your knowledge is to attend the entire lecture series,  Mel Blanc: The Portland Years.

Pedalpalooza Mel Blanc Bike Tour/June 18, 3:00 PM @ Lair Hill Park

In News on June 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm

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Mel Blanc, man of 1,000 voices, best known as the voice of Bugs Bunny and a host of Looney Tunes voices and personalities, grew up right here in Portland! Join historian Dennis Nyback (collector of rare, forbidden and forgotten films and fascinating morsels of Portland history) on a tour of Mel’s Portland. Be prepared to discover some quirky facts of Portland in the late 1920s and early 1930s! Stop by the Oregon Jewish Museum exhibit or check out the Mel Blanc Project Lecture Series taking place this month to learn more about this legend.
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What: Mel Blanc Bike Tour

When: June 18, 3:00 PM

Where: Lair Hill Park, SW 2nd Ave and Woods St Take Trimet (Meet us inside the park!)
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Who: Led by Meghan Sinnot & Dennis Nyback

Here’s more information about Mel Blanc.

The Mel Blanc Project  is a series of public history/art education events made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.

Another recommended method of deepening your knowledge is to attend the entire lecture series,  Mel Blanc: The Portland Years.

I’m In The Market For You: Portland Pop Stars Inspire Mel Blanc @ IFCC/ Wednesday, June 15, 7:00 PM

In News on June 10, 2011 at 4:09 am

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

7:00 PM

Ethos at IFCC, 5340 North Interstate Avenue, Portland, Oregon

Admission: $10 ($9.00 for PSU students, Ethos Music Center students, members of Oregon Historical Society, and members of Oregon Jewish Museum)  

Purchase a ticket for this event here.

This lecture will introduce the audience to three Oregon performers whose ascent to stardom Mel Blanc directly witnessed. Portland born and raised George Olsen shot to national stardom when Fanny Brice heard him and brought him to the Ziegfeld Follies in New York. He became a Broadway star and sold millions of records — all in front of Mel Blanc’s impressionable eyes.

Lee Morse was an Oregon born, Idaho raised singer who also sold tons of records, and was a big star on the radio.

Del Porter was a friend of Mel Blanc’s, a fellow musician, who as part of the singing group The Foursome, performed on Broadway and appeared behind Eleanor Powell in Born To Dance (1936). Porter was from Newburg. In the following clip he sings with Spike Jones and the City Slickers, a band which evolved from  Del Porter’s own band, The Feather Merchants.

Guest speakers: Dennis Nyback, singer & historian of American popular song, and Rick Meyers, musician & music historian. Dennis and Rick have performed together in the past, and this lecture may well burst into song – as these two music historians discuss the music Mel Blanc heard, and made, here in Portland.

Films: Dennis will show films of Portland bandleader turned national superstar George Olsen, Oregon born singer-songwriter Lee Morse, and Del Porter, the Newberg born friend of Mel Blanc’s who beat him to the Big Screen.

Purchase a ticket for this event here.

The Mel Blanc Project  is a series of public history/art education events made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.

Another recommended method of deepening your knowledge is to attend the entire lecture series,  Mel Blanc: The Portland Years.


Now Cut That Out! Portland Theaters Educate Mel Blanc @ IFCC / Wednesday, June 8, 7:00 PM

In News on June 1, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

7:00 PM

Ethos at IFCC, 5340 North Interstate Avenue, Portland, OR

Admission: $10 ($9.00 for PSU students, Ethos Music Center students and faculty, members of Oregon Historical Society, and members of Oregon Jewish Museum)

Purchase a ticket for this event here.

This lecture will introduce a downtown Portland bristling with theaters, a world inhabited by Mel Blanc first as a consumer and later as an entertainer. Because Portland was on the Orpheum and Pantages vaudeville circuits, Mel Blanc was exposed to all the big name comedy acts – the same ones which played New York and Los Angeles theaters.

Guest speakers: Local theater historians Steve Stone and Gary Lacher, co-authors of Theaters of Portland, talk about the Portland Mel Blanc grew up in, with downtown streets lined with vaudeville theaters and movie houses, and a mayor, George Baker, who was himself in show business. Stone and Lacher will describe the theaters Mel Blanc attended, and Dennis Nyback will give a quick overview of the intersection between vaudeville and Hollywood.

Films: Dennis Nyback will show films of some of the vaudeville performers (Jack Benny, Groucho Marx, Eddie Cantor) Mel Blanc would have seen perform live during his Portland years. Later Blanc would perform alongside these same stars on national radio and television.

 

 

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Purchase a ticket for this event here.

The Mel Blanc Project  is a series of public history/art education events made possible in part by a grant from the Kinsman Foundation and by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation.

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.

Another recommended method of deepening your knowledge is to attend the entire lecture series,  Mel Blanc: The Portland Years.

Bugs Ain’t A New Yorker, Doc!

In News on May 31, 2011 at 7:32 am

To the Editor,

In the October 8, 2010 Sunday New York Times, Dan Barry describes the voice of Bugs Bunny as one of “those many distinctive voices channeled by Mel Blanc” and correctly identifies Bugs’ accent as a “Brooklyn-Bronx blend”.

Just for the record, Mel Blanc grew up in Portland, Oregon.  He developed his amazing vocal chops doing voices on Portland radio starting in 1927.   When he made the leap from Portland to Hollywood, he arrived a fully formed voice artist.  It is a tribute to Mel Blanc’s craft and talent, and one might add genius, that the world thinks Bugs grew up in Flatbush.

Sincerely,

 Dennis Nyback

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.

Another recommended method of deepening your knowledge is to attend Mel Blanc: The Portland Years, our upcoming lecture series.

Radio Daze: Hollywood Behind The Microphone

In News on May 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm

What: Screening Series Night 4

Where: The Secret Society
              116 NE Russell
              Portland, OR

When: Tuesday, May 31, 7:00pm – 10:00pm

How Much: $6 suggested donation

Radio Daze: Hollywood Behind The Microphone

Mel Blanc first performed on radio when he was 15 years old. Although he would become more famous for his work in animation, radio was Mel Blanc’s first love. He remained active in it his entire life. This program includes Dennis Nyback’s favorite radio themed cartoons and short films from 1929 to 1943.
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Coo Coo Nut Grove  (1936) WB Cartoon.
Caricatures of
Jean Harlow,
Bette Davis,
Joe E. Brown,
Hugh Herbert,
W.C. Fields,
Clark Gable,
Groucho and Harpo Marx,
Johnny Weissmuller,
Mae West,
Lionel and John Barrymore,
Laurel and Hardy,
Edward G. Robinson,
Fred Astaire,
and George Raft dance and drink.  A caricatured Ben Bernie MC’s as the radio broadcasting bandleader.  Jokes comment on the feud between Ben Bernie and radio journalist Walter Winchell.
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Hi De Ho (1934)  Live action short. Cab Calloway appears at the Cotton Club, on a show being broadcast on the radio.  One of his fans is a railroad porter who is worried that while he is on the road his wife ( Fredi Washington) will betray him. Cab advises the man to buy a radio to keep his wife happy and at home.
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Captain Henry’s Radio Show (1933)   Live action. One of the most popular radio shows on the 1930s was the Maxwell House Showboat  This film shows a broadcast which includes the popular radio performers Annette Hanshaw and Lanny Ross.
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I Love to Singa  (1936)  WB Cartoon   Young Owl Jolson is a disappointment to his classical music loving father.  Kicked out of the house, he finds redemption singing jazz on an amateur hour radio show hosted by Jack Bunny.

Midnight Melodies (1936)  Loretta Lee,  Ed Paul,  Jack Gilford   Live action. Incredibly rare film featuring the Ed Paul Orchestra doing a radio broadcast.  Featured throughout is the  young comedian Jack Gilford, making his first of many film and television appearances, but eight years before his next film appearance.

GI Journal with Mel Blanc (c1944) Live action. Army-Navy Screen Magazine recreation of a radio broadcast features Mel Blanc as the character Sad Sack. Extremely rare footage of Blanc performing live. Also featuring Lucille Ball and  Kay Kyser.

God Bless America (1943)  Live action. Technicolor clip from This is the Army (1943).  Features  Kate Smith introducing the famous Irving Berlin song in the form of a radio broadcast heard by the nation and by soldiers over seas.  Among the listeners are George Murphy, who later became a United States Senator, and a fresh faced nobody named Ronald Reagan.

All films from The Nyback Collection

For more information about Mel Blanc, see the Archives of this website.

Another recommended method of deepening your knowledge is to attend Mel Blanc: The Portland Years, our upcoming lecture series.

It Was Against The Law: Mel Blanc, Prohibition and the Speakeasy Era

In News on May 21, 2011 at 5:05 pm

What: Screening Series Night 3

Where: The Secret Society
              116 NE Russell
              Portland, OR

When: Tuesday, May 24 · 7:00pm – 10:00pm

How Much: $6 suggested donation

It Was Against The Law: Mel Blanc, Prohibition and the Speakeasy Era

Mel Blanc was 12 years old when Prohibition began, an adult when it ended. This program includes cartoons, short films, and newsreel footage which brings to life the era of rolled stockings, short skirts and hip flasks. Includes Bing Crosby in The Big Broadcast  (1932), Felix the Cat in Woos Whoopee (1929), Betty Boop in Betty Boop For President (1932), and newsreel footage of bottle smashing speakeasy raids.
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Clink Clink   (Soundie 1943)  Mel  Blanc sings with the Spike Jones boys about the evil of booze in pre-Prohibition America.
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Woos Whoopee  1928  Felix The Cat goes on a speakeasy drunken spree while his wife waits at home.
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Hearst Metrotone News  (1929 sound Newsreel) Coast Guard patrols and nabs rum runners.
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The Big Broadcast ( 1932, excerpt) With Bing Crosby, identified as a speakeasy patron.
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Project XX The Jazz Age (1956  Excerpt)  Television documentary with newsreel  footage of Texas Guinan and other speakeasy action.
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Hell Bound (1931, Excerpt)  Clip shows speakeasy scene with Lola Lane singing while Leo Carrillo watches and guns are discretely shown.
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Pathe News(1928  Silent  Newsreel )   SF Agents Destroy Booze
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Hollywood and the Stars:  How to Succeed as a Gangster (1963, excerpt)  TV doc shows real speakeasy and gangster footage.  Then it shows clips from films made during Prohibition exploiting the issue.  James Cagney and  Edward G. Robinson are featured.  Joseph Cotton narrates.
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The Rich Drink and get ready for the Revolution  (c1973 , Excerpt)  This clip is from a TV doc on the Depression.
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Betty Boop for President  (1932)  Cartoon spoofs the political process but slyly promotes FDR and the end of Prohibition.
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Murder at the Vanities (1934, excerpt)  The musical number, Cocktails for Two, which  celebrates the end of Prohibition.  This Arthur Johnston song later became Spike Jones’ greatest hit.
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All films from The Nyback Collection.

7:00 PM@ Secret Society, 116 NE Russell, Portland, Oregon

Admission by donation