EDITOR’S NOTE: With my WARNER CLUB NEWS posts finished, I’ll take a break for the next few weeks before plunging into another series of animation studio newsletters. Look for that to resume on September 10th. In the meantime, why not post a golden age cartoon that none of you have ever seen before, featuring some of the top talents of the era.
Two years ago, our colleague Don Yowp posted about this cartoon on his must-read Tralfaz blog – and I urge you to read his post for much information that he (with input from CR contributor Jonathan Boschen) relays about producer Oscar Productions and distributor Planet Pictures.
In a nutshell, both companies were formed in the wake of the post-war era – an era that also begat Impossible Pictures (Jerky Journies), John Sutherland Productions (Daffy Ditties) and UPA. The idea of both companies (Planet and Oscar) seemed to be trying to produce pictures at a lower budget – simply by going to a smaller, cheaper 16mm format.
Luckily, some of the best artists were available to the newly formed Oscar Productions to make this “pilot” film. Looney Tunes director/animator Norm McCabe, who began freelancing upon his military discharge, found himself back in the director’s chair – this time acting as a producer as well. Dana Coty (who gets a co-writing credit on Famous Studios Lulu In Hollywood) was hired to form a story; Willis Pyle and Harry Love were borrowed to animate most of the picture; Future UPA artisans Abe Liss and Bob McIntosh did layout and background (with Mary Sheridan); Puppetoon (and future Lantz) composer Clarence Wheeler provided a score; and voice-over veteran Frank Graham did vocals.
The end result – as you will see – is an average cartoon. Somewhere inbetween a routine Walter Lantz 1940s effort and a Screen Gems Color Rhapsody. Nothing to distinguish it from mediocre. Even the lead character’s voice is the poorest characterization I’ve ever heard Frank Graham intone (and I’m a huge fan of Graham’s voice work elsewhere).
The whole premise of the film seems misguided and unfocused. The unappealing lead character, Professor J. Waldo Purrington, is some sort of variation on Pinocchio’s Honest John (aka J. Worthington Foulfellow). His efforts to honestly “steal” a fish are unfunny – and if this is supposed to be a “message” film, the message is right there in the title, what more is needed? Trivial side note: the address of the Professor’s home is the actual address of Oscar Productions in Hollywood.
Did they really shoot this film in 16mm? Based on advertising in several trade magazines, Oscar Productions attempted to make back its costs by selling long term leases (5 years for $150) to 16mm venues. If this had any success, why aren’t there any prints of this film around? Methinks the whole venture was a major failure. With all that said, here is the only copy available of Honesty Is The Best Policy – Mike Kazaleh uses his expert eye to determine additional animation credits below the video. Enjoy!
Mike Kazaleh Says: “Upon closer inspection of the print… The original camera element really is 16mm reversal stock. The scenes are cut together with big cement splices!
“Also I can positively ID Cal Dalton as having animated two scenes. The very last scene looks like Norm himself animated it. There are a few bits that may be Phil Monroe’s work – and I spotted two scenes that I think may be Rudy Larriva’s work. I also suspect that Emery Hawkins may have contributed as well.
“Norm’s expressions and overall timing are evident throughout, but I don’t think he animated much except the finale. The fish monger has a resemblance to Willy Pyle’s “Gunner Joe” from the flight training films, but with more hair and a mustache.”
“Here’s a few frame grabs with uncredited animators that I’ve positively identified…