Basil Wolverton’s Vaudeville connection

A sample of Wolverton’s work:

I recently purchased “The Wolverton Bible” through Amazon. I have always enjoyed Wolverton’s illustration. The book includes an introduction by Grant Geissman, and I found this fun fact:

Before becoming a cartoonist, Wolverton had actually started out as a young Vaudeville performer in theaters in Oregon and Washington.  “Eventually I heard or read,” recalled Wolverton, “that a two bit actor earns even less than a two bit cartoonist”

The introduction goes on to say the Wolverton was a devout Christian and took the job of illustrating the Bible very seriously.

On this excellent site, I learned this fun trivia fact about him.

Other sources of income were provided by his job as a journalist/cartoonist for the Portland News. One of his most exciting assignments was visiting the set of the film ‘The General’ and meeting Buster Keaton in person.

Wolverton’s work has a very sculpted quality about it, and it begs to be animated. I found this really well-done claymation based on his designs.

For a nice bio of Basil, with illustrations, I recommend THIS PAGE

Joe Frisco – Vaudeville dancer

This dancer smokes, literally.

I can’t imagine we’ll ever see cigarettes in American animated films again, but they are great props. Cruella DeVille wouldn’t have been the same without her quellazaire.

Infinite pockets

There is a clown tradition of having coats with vast pockets capable of holding incredible amounts. You may remember Harpo Marx pulling ridiculous objects from his coat, or having hundreds of table knives falling from his sleeves. I remember the old Felix the cat who carried his “bag of tricks”. And it’s not too far from Inspector Gadget having exactly the tool he needs embedded in his body. It’s a form of magic. And magic is fun.

Here is a great example. Adolf Proper, the original Banana Man from vaudeville. He worked under the stage name A. Robins, and could draw an entire music shop from his coat.

Of course pulling rabbits out of hats is wonderful when it’s live. For animated characters the magic is clearly fake, so it needs to be clever or funny in some other way as well.

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