Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Obscurity of the Day: Hollywood Husband (+ a Phantom Feature)
Considered one of the premier newspaper cheesecake artists of the 1930s, Jefferson Machamer suffered the fate of many who were stars in that genre. Charles Dana Gibson, John Held Jr. and others found that the public's taste for pretty girl drawings was fickle. After years at the top of the heap, each would abruptly discover that their particular brand of cheesecake had been branded obsolete.
Machamer's Gags And Gals page, a staple of the New York Mirror's Sunday comic section, ended in 1938 after a seven year run, but Machamer evidently saw the writing on the wall. He took a cue from the experiences of his predecessors and tried to branch out. In 1936-38 he wrote and acted in a series of Hollywood short comedy films. Unfortunately this new career fizzled along with Gags and Gals, and Machamer was left looking for a new assignment.
That came at the beginning of 1940 when McNaught Syndicate began distributing his last comic strip, Hollywood Husband. This tale of a star-struck woman who drags her husband to Hollywood was a slice of life for Machamer, who was married to movie actress Pauline Moore. The story plays out as a light-hearted version of A Star Is Born, but you can see an undercurrent of Machamer's distaste for Hollywood glitz in the story.
The strip began as a daily-only on January 29 1940, and a Sunday seems to have been added starting April 28. The art often seemed a bit rushed, and Machamer couldn't seem to make up his mind whether he wanted to play the story for comedy or drama -- not a good start for a new feature. The strip ended up lasting less than a year, ending on October 27.
PS -- the bane of website cross-pollination will have you assuming that Machamer did a feature called The Baffles for the Los Angeles Times in the early 40s. I was able to trace this factoid back as far as Maurice Horn's World Enyclopedia of Cartoons, in an entry credited to Rick Marschall. The description there, "a small-town family in Hollywood", sounds to me suspiciously like Hollywood Husband with a different title applied. The fact that the essay makes no mention of Hollywood Husband is another tell-tale.
I checked Dave Strickler's Los Angeles Times index and found no mention of The Baffles, but he does show that Hollywood Husband did indeed run in that paper.
Until evidence to the contrary shows up, I'm going to put Machamer's The Baffles down as another phantom feature.
You betcha. Elza Poppin had a nice long 5 year run as a daily from King Features. Ving Fuller did the first six months, then Swanson got it. The strip began because of the popularity of their Broadway show. The movie which came in 1941 was a bit of a flop. The duo's madcap comedy that went over so well on stage fell flat on screen. I stayed up late once to see the movie and it was pretty bad -- the screwball comedy seemed forced and over-scripted.