The Frank Tashlin Interview
[Click here to go the Tashlin interview, and here to go to the most recent posting on this page.]
From Keith Scott, voice artist and author of The
Moose That Roared (St. Martin's Press), the definitive history
of the Jay Ward studio: I enjoyed your Tashlin interview, and
truly regret that he died about a year after your meeting, as I'm
sure he would have been a definite followup interview subject.
One trivial bit of clarification re: Tashlin's discussion of The
Jack Benny Program (which I also listened to in MP3): Tashlin,
in discussing the Sunday night Benny show in relation to the period
where he first directed for Leon (1936-38), mentions the Mr. Kitzel
characterthe "running joke" he refers to was Kitzel's
Yiddish-inflected "Mmmmm could be," which was certainly
used often in the Warner cartoons of that period.
Tashlin, in 1971, was probably mixing up radio shows from long ago
in his memorythe comic actor Artie Auerbach actually appeared
in that time-frame on The Joe Penner Show and The Al Pearce
Show (and was indeed named Kitzel in the Pearce show, which
also weekly used "stooge" appearances by Mel Blanc, Phil
Kramer, Cliff Nazarro, and other cartoon voices), but in fact he
didn't appear on Benny's show until January 1946, long after Tashlin
had left the cartoon studio following his third stint.
Coincidentally, Benny used another Yiddish-voiced comic regular
in the period Tashlin referred to, and that was Sam Hearn as Schleppermanhis
catch-phrase, "Hello, straynzer!!" was used in Warner
cartoons like Tex's I Only Have Eyes For You.
Anyway, trivia aside, the point he madethat many cartoon stories
made use of radio comedy-style running gagswas very true.
By the way, the only mistake I saw was in the discussion about Carl
Stalling, where Tashlin says, "...of course the film library
we had at Warners was enormous...," when he obviously meant
the music library.
MB replies: One of these days, I'll remember to check John
Dunning's Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio before citing a
radio reference for a cartoon gag. This is the second time recently
that Keith has caught me in an anachronism (although I think this
is the only one I've published on the site). When Hames Ware and
I watched Elmer's Candid Camera together recently, we were
excited to discover what we thought was a resemblance to the Fibber
McGee-Doc Gamble confrontations in the Bugs-Elmer dialogue, Doc
Gamble having been voiced by Arthur Q. Bryan, the voice of Elmer.
But as Keith pointed out, Bryan didn't begin appearing as Doc Gamble
until 1943, long after Candid Camera was made. And now the
same is true for Mr. Kitzel! Who knew?
From Bob Bergen, who provides the voice for Porky Pig
in the Duck Dodgers television series: Mark Evanier posted
a link to your old interview with Frank Tashlin, which led me to
your Bob Clampett and Chuck Jones interviews. I'm having a blast
reading the history and at times "interesting" recollections
that may or may not be true, depending on who you chose to believe.
I'm envious that you had a chance to spend so much time with these
I met Chuck back in 1990 when WB was holding auditions after Mel
Blanc died. I was on my 10th or 20th callback for Porky and Tweety.
I rarely get nervous at auditions, but I was shaking when I shook
Chuck's hand. He asked me why I was so nervous. I told him, "Playing
these characters for you is like doing Jesus for God!" He got
a kick out of that. Not long after I started voicing several of
the Looney Tunes, but never got to work with Chuck. He decided to
hire Frank Gorshin for the last shorts he did for WB. I later found
out that Chuck thought I was too young at the time (I think I was
in my late twenties or early thirties) to "get" the classic
nuances of the Looney Tunes.
I did an interview with Friz Freleng not long before he died, and
I asked him, why can't they make em like they used to?? He said
it was because back in those days no one was looking over your shoulder
to make sure your work was PC. You made cartoons to entertain yourself,
not the suits at the studio. Pixar has this philosophy. They make
the films they want to see, which is why they are so good.
MB replies: Bob has a Web site, www.bobbergen.com,
that is well worth a visit. I particularly recommend the recording
of a phone call that Bob made to Mel Blanc when Bob was 14 years
old. He had guts, that kid!
From Tim Onosko: That Tashlin interview is terrific. I think
what I really like about it is how it does such a great job of portraying
the guy's scope, you know? It was wonderful to hear about the number
of jobs he had, the people with whom he had relationships, how he
connected with so many others in H'wood at the time. Wow. A wonderful
life, Tashlin had.
My only perspective on these people (other than reading, at the
time, what people like you and Joe Adamson published) was, of course,
Clampett, who took me under his wing, as he did so many others.
And I asked him about Tashlin, and why he didn't follow the same
trajectory. His answer was that Tashlin was the one who "escaped."
Bob told me that he felt that he and Avery (and I suppose by extension,
Jones, although he didn't mention him) were trapped in cartoons,
and that Tashlin somehow was lucky enough to be able to jump from
animation to live action.
I'd love to see that Cantiflas short that Tashlin talks aboutthe
one produced by Sutherland. Do you know if it's available on video
And, finally, your intro clears something up, for me. I was watching
the new DVD of The Disorderly Orderly the other night,
and I watched a (rather dull) outtakes reel that's included on the
disc. I turned on the subtitles so I could better understand the
asides and stuff Lewis was saying, since he wasn't mic'd. And the
subtitles said "Tish," every time Jerry spoke to Tashlin,
who was off camera. I always heard that his nickname was "Tash,"
so I kept playing these segments to try to hear if the subtitler
got it wrong, but no, every time Jerry called him by name, it was
"Tish." Your intro (about Van Boring) clears up that confusion
You were really lucky to have met Tashlin.
Great stuff, Mike. I'm so glad you're posting these.
MB replies: As far as I know, the Sutherland stop-motion
shorts that Tashlin directed are not available on video, but I'd
be delighted if someone could show me that I'm wrong. I'd love to
see them myself.
From Jeff Schiller: Great interview transcript with another
great cartoon director! It's too bad you edited out the "interval
of general discussion about the reaction to the Clampett interview
and about the growing interest in the Warner cartoons and their
history." I come from the "other side" of the bench
where the WB cartoons have already been highly praised/recognized.
It certainly seems from the interviews that you post (especially
Tash's) that the directors never thought they were doing anything
too important at the time of their creation, so I would be very
interested to see how the public interest for these films changed
over time...hearing an early '70s view of this would be interesting.
It's also interesting to see that Frank Tashlin didn't think too
much about Chuck Jones' work. I wonder if this is because (as evidenced
by the interview) he didn't see too many of these cartoons in their
finished state (especially after he left the studio) or because
he didn't bother to turn a critical eye to cartoons in general or
if it's just because the perception about Jones' work gradually
changed over time until it reached the overhyped status of today.
I think I know what your own opinion is on Frank's story of the
creation of Bugs Bunny. I know from Hollywood Cartoons and
your audio commentaries that you feel Max Hare was more of a rural
braggart while Bugs was more of a streetwise kid. Since I haven't
seen the cartoon I have to wonder if Max' personality really has
any kernel of Avery's Bugs in A Wild Hare or if Tashlin
is really only referring to the character design.
The fact that he hated Porky Pig is hilarious!
Anyway, post more of these interviews! I think the best quote in
the interview, and the best testimonial to the Termite Terrace legacy,
"The experience at Warner Brothers, with those cartoons, was
the only time in my life where as a director, I had full control
and no interference."
What a happy accident!
[Posted December 20, 2004]
From Greg Duffell, a Canadian animator: Thank
you for posting the Frank Tashlin interview. I have been fortunate
to own the Edinburgh book for many years, but it was delightful
to read the whole interview again on the computer. I thought Tashlin's
comments about The Bear That Wasn't were very interesting..
It always struck me as strange that the bear had a cigarette in
his mouth, but with audiences I saw it with, it got a big laugh.
I first saw The Bear that Wasn't when I worked for Chuck
Jones in 1994-95. I recall Linda Jones telling me that Tashlin did
not like the film. Linda always gave me the impression that Chuck
was the underdog: that Friz had been far more successful, mainly
because of the Pink Panther.
I also thought it interesting that Tashlin was so impressed by The Dot and the Line. Maurice Noble told me that Chuck abandoned
that film after his version was rejected by the MGM
management. I saw a letter written by the MGM brass to Maurice,
and it's all but evident that they credited him with directing the
film (although contractually it had to be credited to Chuck).
MB replies: Maurice Noble told me in 1989 that he was the de facto director of The Dot and the Line, and I'm
sure that he was. I can't help but wonder how Chuck Jones felt when
that filmnot really his, but with his name on itwon
the Oscar in 1966. He could hardly have taken much satisfaction
in that victory, especially after all the years when his best work
for Warners was passed over, often in favor of inferior Freleng
cartoons. In some respects, Jones was indeed "the underdog."
[Posted April 2, 2005]
From Byron Black: That was a very fine interview, sir. You really did the job on an era, an industry. Rather less harsh on Disney than just about everything else I’ve ever read too, for that matter. Most of the history I’ve read about him, he comes off as a real monster, a real Citizen Kane. Of course my picture of Hollywood has been fatally warped by Gore Vidal and his ilk (Myra Breckenridge , Myron, et al). Thanks and best wishes from Jakarta.
[Posted July 25, 2010]