Friday 30 March 2007

"Oh, to be a movie star!"

Jules Feiffer's Passionella, 1959, is the book above all others that put the idea in my head that the longform comic strip should become the art of our times. The fact that others chose models of lesser distinction explains why it did not become so.
"The story "Passionella" first appeared in Pageant, but was completely revised and redrawn for this book."
So it says in the indicia. It's fifty pages long. The other stories are "Munro", about a four year old boy who is accidentally drafted. It's about the same length, then there's "George's Moon" and "Boom."

I first came across Feiffer in Time-Life's book of the century in the public library, the volume for the fifties, where he was aligned with Mort Sahl, Shelly Berman, Elaine May, Mike Nichols, and Bob Newhart as part of 'the new humor'. I may have been fourteen or fifteen at the time ('69-70). I hand-copied the two Feiffer half-page strips in there. Not in order to learn something, just so I could keep them. I didn't know about photcopiers yet. From a few yards away you'd swear they actually were photocopies. I still have those drawings, but can't lay my hand on them. I'll reintroduce the subject when they turn up.
Passionella had an interesting history outside of the book itself, finding itself adapted to the Broadway musical stage:
"The Apple Tree is a series of three musical playlets with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, ( who together also wrote Fiddler on the Roof). Each act has its own storyline, but all three are tied together by common musical themes and references, such as references to the color brown.
The first act is based on Mark Twain's The Diary of Adam and Eve; the second act is based on Frank R. Stockton's The Lady or the Tiger? (and has the same ambiguous ending). The third act, based on Jules Feiffer's Passionella, arguably has the most entertaining songs, notably “Oh, to Be a Movie Star.”
The musical opened on October 18, 1966, at the Shubert Theatre in New York, and ran for 463 performances, closing on November 25, 1967. It was produced by Stuart Ostrow, directed by Mike Nichols, and starred Barbara Harris, Alan Alda, and Larry Blyden. Harris won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical."
(lifted from Wikipedia, under The Apple Tree)

The Passionella story itself is currently available in Fantagraphics' fourth volume of their projected complete Feiffer where it apppears alongside assorted other stories which i do not have but i have no doubt will be worth having.



Blogger Unknown said...

Have you read Feiffer's Tantrum? It's a great story about a middle-aged man experiencing a mid-life crisis who has a massive tantrum during which he reverts back to being a child again. Definitely one to look out for.

Great blog by the way, always informative and interesting - especially the thinking behind the process stuff.

30 March 2007 at 06:39:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Richard said...

We're due for a Feiffer renaissance. I recently saw Little Murders for the first time, mainly for the Cerebus connection (Sim reused Lou Jacobi's brilliant turn as the Judge for that weird bit on the moon at the end of Church and State) and it was just terrific. Feiffer's at least as good a playwright as he is a cartoonist based on this film.

30 March 2007 at 06:43:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Jack Ruttan said...

Have you mananged to hang on to all your old drawings, even from when you were a tyke? I purged a lot of my embarassing college and high school stuff last year, and it felt good. At least for a bit. To the historians, I apologise, but you can't make it too easy. They can have fun making up some wild surmises and theories.

30 March 2007 at 07:31:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Hayley Campbell said...

Ah, Munro was my favourite of the lot.

While staying at my grandparents house over Christmas I took it upon myself to explore the loft. Having finished the novel I'd brought with me I figured I could pinch one Dad put up there decades ago.

While poking around for books I also found an A3 sized paper bag from an art shop labelled 'SUMMER 1969'. In it were paintings of cowboys and indians, pink horses, teddy bears and portraits of Mrs Campbell's brood. My aunts and uncles had a look through them and said that the cowboys were Dad's and the rest were paintings they had done when he'd assumed the role of Art Teacher and lured them into his room.

30 March 2007 at 10:23:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently purchased the Fantagraphics edition of Passionella, but haven't cracked the binding yet. Thanks for the reminder.

I also have an old copy of Tantrum ... great book.

30 March 2007 at 11:35:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Jack Ruttan said...

Hayley, Long ago I found my grandmother's illustrations from a commercial art course she took in the 30s or forties in the attic. She never even told me she drew! (I guess I knew she was part of the Calgary, Alberta sketch club).

I think I got what drawing talent I had from her. She was a good writer, too, but kind of subsumed it all being a housewife and school teacher.

Still, I got so much from her. She travelled the world into her 70s, and we used to take long drives in the countryside in her huge Buick sedan.

30 March 2007 at 15:03:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Apple Tree" was recently revived on Broadway in a production featuring Kristin Chenoweth in roles including Feiffer's Ella.

30 March 2007 at 15:25:00 GMT-5  
Blogger James Robert Smith said...

It amazes me that folk have drawings and stories that they saved from their childhoods. I have virtually none of that stuff, athough I produced volumes of such material. This probably due, in part, to the fact that we had some major moves and boxes filled with all kinds of things would get tossed.

Feiffer is great. His books were always around the house when I was growing up. Didn't Martin Short do an adaptation of something by Feiffer? Can't recall...but with Short in it, that was the kiss of death.

30 March 2007 at 18:17:00 GMT-5  
Blogger drjon said...

I've a little falling-apart paperback copy of Passionella. It's a grand thing.

31 March 2007 at 04:30:00 GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have almost no drawings or stories produced when I was younger, aside from specifically school projects, because my response to reading anything I have written approaches physical nausea.

4 April 2007 at 16:30:00 GMT-5  

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