April 12, 2014 posted by

Playhouse Revisited

Once again we delve into the Playhouse Pictures files to bring you a selection of stupendous spots and stills, along with a very special surprise.

The spots are from 1957 and 1958, when Playhouse was entering a very prolific period. 1957 was also when the studio moved from 749 North Highland Avenue to its final location at 1401 North LaBrea Avenue.

And now, on with the show…

Sun Detergent


Designed by Saul Bass. It’s downright nice to see a soap that enjoys its work so much. From 1958.

Bob’s Big Boy


A series of four ten-second spots for the Bob’s Big Boy restaurants made in 1957 and narrated by Herschel Bernardi. The name “Bob’s” was intentionally left off of the picture track to allow the animation to be used for the other Big Boy franchises.

Click this image (above)  to get a better look at the comic book pages!

Click this image (above) to get a better look at the comic book pages!

Ford – Gondola


Made in 1957 to plug the ’58 models. Directed by Bill Melendez. Animation by Pat Mathews. Designed by Chris Jenkyns. Vocal by Herschel Bernardi.

Falstaff Old Pro – Enemy Players

Another Old Pro spot, this one featuring the hapless Elwood. Directed by Bill Melendez. Animated by Herman Cohen. Designed by Sterling Sturtevant. Eddie Mayhoff is The Old Pro. From 1958.



Here are three early Burgie Man spots featuring the voice of Eugene Bollay. Directed and animated by Robert Cannon. From 1957.

The Video That Never Happened

Back in 1992, when our own Jerry Beck was still a partner in Streamline Pictures, we had discussed the idea of making a series of video tapes containing commercials from the vault of Playhouse Pictures. We ran the idea past Gerry Woolery, and he gave us permission to proceed. At that point Jerry and I wrote out a plan for a series of five tapes, along with their possible content.

We figured the first tape would be a broad overview of the studio’s output, and we thought it might nice to have a host to introduce them.

It may have been at the wake for Ade Woolery that I asked the lovely and talented June Foray if she would like to host the first tape. June, like so many people in the cartoon business loved Ade, and she agreed to do it on the spot.

In the days leading up to the taping of the introduction, Jerry and I went through some ten hours of commercials and selected about forty-five minutes worth. Then one afternoon, probably the day before shooting, we wrote the copy.

The video was shot with one camera in and about Playhouse pictures. You can see a bit of the exterior along with the sounds of traffic rolling down LaBrea Avenue. You can also see one of the animation cameras, the paint room, and the editing room. The editing room especially fills me with nostalgia. I can still hear the sound of the clattery green Moviola to this day. Most of the cans in the background contain reels of sound effects, all on 35mm magnetic film. There’s a shot in one of the screening rooms where you can see the Duck Factory Emmy’s in the background.

June was of course very gracious and charming, and she read our corny copy like a real trooper. Here then is about four and a half minutes that I cut out of the raw video using some cheap software. (This was from a dub with timecode. The original video master is still missing at the time of this posting.)

To the best of my recollection, the reason the video remained uncompleted was because Jerry left Streamline Pictures. His former partner Carl Macek was uninterested in releasing the tapes, so that was the end of it. The least we can do is post it here – enjoy this little trip through to one of the great animation studios from the golden age of TV commercials.


  • Mike:
    It’s too bad the Playhouse Pictures series didn’t come to fruition.It would have been a definite must have for collectors.June did her usual excellent job. She’s one classy and talented lady!

    • Lord knows I’d be asking around for that tape and getting nowhere simply not finding it a the best shops. Too bad Uncle Carl saw no potential there.

  • As a former Streamline Pictures employee, this is of great interest to me. Streamline never really produced any original videos; it was always someone else’s production. Carl Macek dismissed the idea of the Playhouse Pictures videos, saying that nobody would be interested in buying a video of nothing but old, mostly black-&-white TV commercials. Nobody thought that it would be a big seller, but as a labor of love, it would have probably made back its expenses. Streamline’s only original creations were the model kits and the two books that almost nobody knew about; Bob Cabeen’s “Tainted Treats” humorous horror tales & poetry, and George Clayton Johnson’s “Twilight Zone Scripts and Stories”, the collection of GCJ’s fantasy stories that were adapted into TZ screenplays, and his TZ screenplays based on others’ script ideas.

    • Certainly wasn’t in the right biz for anything outside licensing/releasing tapes as it was but interesting they put out books at all. A Playhouse Pictures Retrospective would’ve been bitchin’!

  • “A series of four ten-second spots for the Bob’s Big Boy restaurants made in 1957 and narrated by Herschel Bernardi. The name “Bob’s” was intentionally left off of the picture track to allow the animation to be used for the other Big Boy franchises.”

    That would make sense if these ads were seen throughout the country as many Big Boy franchisees were known through their respective namesakes (Elias Bros., Frisch’s, Shoney’s, TJ’s to name a few). Don’t suppose Mr. Bernardi had to redo the same lines over and over for each franchise that way (Manners, Azar’s, Elby’s, I can go on).

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