Animation History
October 10, 2017 posted by Jerry Beck

Louella Parsons on the Great Disney Films

EDITOR’S NOTE: Late yesterday, Greg Ehrbar informed me that his regularly scheduled “Animation Spin” column would not appear this week due to the wildfires that have broken out all over California. Greg and his family live near the Anaheim Hills (near Disneyland) and have been ordered to evacuate as fire seriously threatens their neighborhood. We wish Greg and his clan best wishes and a safe return home as soon as possible.

In Greg’s place today, I’m posting a set of Disney movie reviews from Hollywood columnist Louella Parsons that were sent to me via USC cinema librarian Ned Comstock. How and when I was going to post these I did not know – but caught in a pinch, I post them today in hopes they’ll provide you some insight or entertainment. Thanks for understanding. – Jerry Beck

 

A luncheon for cartoonist George MacManus, 1/16/52, with (left to right) LA Examiner Publisher Richard A. Carrington Jr., McManus, Louella Parsons, Walt Disney and George Jessel.

Louella Parsons – spoofed as “Lolly”, who interviewed Bugs Bunny in A Hare Grows In Mahattan (1947); and who was caricatured in Frank Tashlin’s The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos (1937) as “Louella Possums” – was in reality one of the most powerful journalists and gossip columnists in Hollywood of the “Golden Age”.

She was primarily associated with Hearst newspapers for most of her career. According to Wikipedia: “Parsons saw herself as the social and moral arbiter of Hollywood. Her judgments were considered the final word in many cases, and her disfavor was feared by many more than that of movie critics. Eventually, Parson’s daily gossip column appeared in more than 400 newspapers, and read by 20 million people around the world.”

So her word weighed heavily with the public – and to the major producers at the studios. Her opinion could make or break a film. The good news – she was quite the fan of Mr. Walt Disney. Disney offered a unique alternative to the standard Hollywood fare – and it was plain to see the art and craft involved in Walt’s earliest films. Disney was plenty popular with the public and her advocacy of Disney’s films rubbed off the other way – it also made her look good.

Thanks to Ned Comstock at USC, we have this set of Parson’s rave reviews for Walt Disney’s feature cartoons. Whatever her intentions, her enthusiastic reviews are certainly hard to disagree with. We get a chance, through these columns, to experience an adult’s point of view as she watches each Disney film as they come out, in their own time.

And her writing, such as it is, is pretty good. I love that she compares Dopey to the “Yellow Kid” (Parsons was old enough to remember the debut appearance of that character), and that she attempts to credit some of the artists, such as Dave Hand, Freddy Moore and Bill Tytla.

Parsons is truly impressed with these films, each apparently more miraculous than the last. But this was the prevailing attitude of the press and public at the time. Disney was a miracle man – producing one fantasy masterpiece after another.

(click on each to enlarge)

8 Comments

  • Hope Greg and his family are safe from those wildfires hitting the Anaheim Hills area. I saw smoke from the “Canyon Fire 2” myself — the last time I saw a wildfire this nasty hitting the hill region of the OC was over a decade ago.

    • I also hope Greg and family are safe,too..also that the Happiest Place on Earth doesn’t become the Smokiest Place on Earth..

  • I too live in Cali but close to the Mexican border. I hope Greg, his familia, and his home escape unscathed.

  • “But this was the prevailing attitude of the press and public at the time.”>
    ANd it has been. and always will be (to people with taste). Disney
    ‘s WERE masterpieces. BTW since you mention Louella O.Parsons, you gotta mention her arch rival, the one and only Hedda Hopper.:-)

  • Best wishes to Greg – and to my cousin, who lives in Sonoma.

  • Greg, I sincerely hope that you and your family are safe. May the Great Spirit give speed and stamina to the fire fighters who save our lives in California every day.

    I love these Parsons reviews, so good natured and sweet. I wish I could have been at the premiere of Snow White and seen Joe Penner, Burns and Allen and Jack Benny turning out to see a “cartoon”, as Walt put it. Thanks for posting these, Jerry.

  • We just got back to Anaheim Hills after the evacuation and were very fortunate to find our house still standing. Several other homes nearby were not so fortunate because the high winds had blown lit embers from the canyon. This is the sort of thing that is staggering in its ability to define life’s priorities in sharp focus. One thing that is very clear is how grateful I am for your prayers, good wishes and thoughts. Many thanks to you all.

    • Glad to hear you’re safe. Let’s have a celebratory lunch soon once things have calmed down.

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