Animation producer, actor and former “Bozo the Clown” performer Larry Harmon was going gangbusters in the 1960s, having bought the rights to Bozo The Clown and Laurel & Hardy. He was franchising a live-hosted Bozo show to TV stations all across the US, producing Bozo cartoons, Popeye cartoons (for King Features) and licensing the rights to Laurel and Hardy (later producing a Laurel & Hardy cartoon series with Hanna Barbera).Harmon was one of many (including Hanna and Barbera themselves) who wrote a regular column for The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Anniversary issue, dispensing wisdom from his experiences, reporting on what he was up to, and what plans the had for his media empire. Here are several of his columns from the 1960s, forwarded to us from to our pal Ned Comstock of the USC Cinema Arts Library.
This first one from 1961 takes on the fact that Walt Disney had dominated the animated feature field – and Harmon’s belief there was room for more producers of feature length productions. He mentions the then-recent 101 Dalmatians and an anonymous anime release (possibly AIP’s Alakazam The Great – or maybe MGM’s dub of Magic Boy).
He’s right, of course. The animated feature field by the early 1960s was under developed. Outside of UPA’s 1001 Abrabian Nights (and Disney, of course) America was late to the game. The following year would bring UPA’s Gay Puree, followed by Warner Bros. The Incredible Mr. Limpet and Hanna Barbera’s Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear… but serious competition to Disney was quite a few years off.
Harmon was essentially announcing his plans here to make a Bozo The Clown animated feature. He planned to follow that with a series of Laurel & Hardy cartoons (and features), as well as a musical feature starring well-known singers (as opposed to anonymous performers, he says, which were the norm). It’s too bad his plans never came to fruition – we can only imagine what a 75 minute Bozo cartoon would be like. However, Harmon was spot-on with his prediction for a star-fronted musical animated feature… his colleagues at King Features would soon produce Yellow Submarine (cashing in on The Beatles) in 1968, which would meet with great success.
Harmon’s column the following year is a less ambitious statement – noting the world, and kids in particular, were getting more sophisticated. Science fiction and technological progress were the trends of the ‘space age’. Perhaps he was beginning to see the handwriting the wall for hosted TV kiddie shows?
This column, a few years later, mourns the recent loss of Stan Laurel (in 1965). It’s also Harmon’s way of relating his relationship to the man – and solidifying his right to claim that he (and he alone) is the official bridge from the golden age of Laurel and Hardy to their potential new screen future (one he would control).
It should be noted Harmon’s HB Laurel and Hardy cartoons (156 of them) also made their debut this year – 1966.