Thursday, June 21, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Marcus the Boarding House Goat
In response to several requests, here's a comic strip by Larry Semon. Semon was a comedian in silent films, and you can read an extended bio and appreciation of him here, here and here (the bio is in three parts), his IMDB filmography here, and an extensive research site here.
I won't presume to talk about his film career (haven't seen a single one of his movies, sorry to say), but I'll venture that he was a much greater artistic success on the screen than in the funny papers. Despite the hype that some movie historians give to his cartooning career, Semon was never more than an itinerant penman in the newspaper field. His first comic strip series was for the Philadelphia Record in 1908, then he switched over to the North American in 1909-10, then on to New York for stints at the Evening Telegram (1910-12) and finished up with a brief appearance at the New York World.
Marcus the Boarding House Goat was his only World series, and if it represents the apex of his cartooning career, the mountain surely wasn't Himalayan in scale. The strip ran about once a week from December 24 1912 to March 29 1913.
As a cartoonist he made a darn fine movie actor, if ya get my drift.
PS - this post also a tip of the tam for film and comics historian Cole Johnson, who today forsook email and favored me with a marathon phone gabfest. Did we really talk for three hours? Geez, what a couple of hens we are. Seriously though, it was a terrific pleasure to talk with someone who so perfectly mirrors my lunatic fascination with all the minutiae of newspaper cartooning. What a bit of nirvana to be able to pow-wow about the vagaries of WNU, Associated Editors, Roger Bean, C. Toles, Eddie Eks etc etc with a kindred spirit.
This site has some quicktime clips from his movies:
They are rather small on the screen, but they give you an idea.
Unfortunately, his most widely available movie is the bad 1925 feature version of "The Wizard of Oz". Larry was the scarecrow and Oliver Hardy was the Tin Man. Very little of Baum's story survived.
Joe Thompson ;0)
Intriguingly, the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley has 6 original Larry strips in the Gus Arriola collection--apparently Arriola collected them, which was a big surprise to me. (What a coincidence that your Boarding House Goat example includes a Mexican character.) I just went up there and looked at them in person. They're cute, although not particularly original in style: there's a character who looks a bit like Mac from Tillie the Toiler, and another who resembles Sunshine from Barney Google. I didn't actually see a character I thought really looked like Semon, although I was so occupied with reproduction issues that I forgot to really think about that. Maddeningly, I was not allowed to get any pictures that I can share, but the Library is open to the public, so anyone in the area can go look at them (although you have to run a huge security gauntlet).