Puppets that move

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Puppets that move

Postby Chris » 27 Jan 2013, 16:48

I find some puppets leave me quite cold. They may be very well carved and costumed, but something just doesn't click. Yet another puppet, perhaps crude, perhaps cute, whatever, but the very appearance of the puppet moves me. I'm sure everyone must feel the same.

As an example here is a picture of a clown I like very much. It's rather dilapidated, but then it is from the late 19th Century. I like the sad face, and the more realistic proportion of the head. I also love the costume.


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Perhaps some others would post pictures of puppets that particularly appeal.
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Re: Puppets that move

Postby lesclarke » 29 Jan 2013, 00:25

One decision that has to be made early on concerns the characterisation of ones Judy. Do you make here nicey-nice and caring, that way she gets lots of sympathy from the audience, or do you make her almost as bad as Punch, more of a brassy pantomime dame type of character? I went for the second option, is that the majority these days?

My favourite Judy is from Gus Whites figures, I just love the expression, a gummy old grandma type.
She looks like she's in the 'nice Judy' category rather than the nasty.

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Info on Gus White can be found by googling etc,
http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cg ... d=25718350
Including..
http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1992-1 ... hite-punch
http://anonymousworks.blogspot.co.uk/20 ... m-gus.html

If anyone finds some really clear pics on their searches, please post a link so we can all have a better look.

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Re: Puppets that move

Postby Chris » 29 Jan 2013, 01:13

Is this a tad clearer?
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Re: Puppets that move

Postby CvdC » 29 Jan 2013, 06:18

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It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, and am often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know that we are both right from our respective points of view. - Gandhi (Having a bob each way.)
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Re: Puppets that move

Postby lesclarke » 29 Jan 2013, 10:07

Oh yes, very nice, thanks for that.
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Re: Puppets that move

Postby Chris » 29 Jan 2013, 11:59

He certainly likes posing doesn't he. I wonder how long that photo took to set up? But what wonderful figures? They're terrific. Inspired, perhaps, by Papernose Woodensconce?
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Re: Puppets that move

Postby Richard Coombs » 29 Jan 2013, 12:37

Thank you both Chris' for all those pics.

What wonderful , wonderful puppets.

The heads are very big! ...but they are also gloriously characterful and really draw you in towards them visually.
The costumes are superb and very varied . I love the top hats !

I dont know if the hats were made by the puppet maker ( did he make the puppets himself ? ..do we know that much ?) In any case costumes may have been made by a different person to whoever did the carving .

It is also quite possible the Hats may have been made by a different person to whoever sewed the clothes ...they actually look like proper miniature 'felted' hats, which would have meant stretching soaked felt over a wooden block ( perhaps made by an actual 'hatter' keen to show of their skills)

It is also an amazing array of props ...you can just make out the gallows and noose flat on the floor ...a bottle of milk to feed baby..the boxers are perched above what looks like a coffin ...and I adore the magnificent (and again large !) sausage machine.
Also It is nice to see such an abundance of sausages- it may be more than one string of porkers ..but even so form what can be made out in the pic they would still be very long strings of bangers.

The only disappointment in the whole shooting match for me is the crocodile - if indeed that is what it is right behind Mr Punches head?) It looks like it is made from two parts of a 1970s loo brush holder - the sort that had plastic 'petals' that opened to retrieve the brush ..then closed again around it.

Yes Im not daft I know this pre-dated the 70's ..but those who remember those loo-brush thingies will know what I mean.
Anyhow compared to the rest of the puppets the Croc lacks lustre.

The Maker obviously had a real flair for capturing human faces , a skill which sadly did not seem to extend to the Croc.

Somewhere here in another thread , I advised a new maker to attempt the crocodile last , as compared to other figures I think it requires more difficult combinations of making skills .
That certainly seems bourn out here.

But Boy Oh Boy ! , these are exciting looking puppets !

I would have loved to have seen this mans Show.

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Re: Puppets that move

Postby Richard Coombs » 29 Jan 2013, 12:54

An observation .

The sausage machines delivery spout points slightly upwards.
This I like ...and it shows that the builder really gave consideration to what the audience would see when this prop was being used.

From their viewpoint the audience would not see 'into' the spout and be in any danger of seeing fingers pushing sausages.
Also as the individual sausages are very long and whatever is inside the cloth tube look solid ( wood perhaps ?) - certainly not cotton wool anyhow.
This would mean the sausages would 'stand up' quite proud as they exit the tube- and at that same raised angle as the tube , until the 'join' between each was reached and each sausage 'fell'.

So in action and use this would have been very comical.

Les Clarke made some splendid sausage machines last year , I thought I would be making mine about now ( but the Queens etc mean I wont get to do mine now until 2014 )
Les gave his side spouts ...a good option for not seeing fingers etc.
I think a side spout beats a front spout.

But now having seen these photos ...I think an angled-up spout ( wherever it is positioned ) beats a spout that is 'level' front or side.

So again , Thanks to both for the photos ... enjoyable AND useful .
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Re: Puppets that move

Postby lesclarke » 29 Jan 2013, 14:12

Hi Richard, yes, the Croc is a bit odd looking, who knows where he got the design from. Perhaps he had some readymade shapes available for the head! But it is an individual style.

The second of the links I posted , from the Baltimore Sun, goes on to tell how Gus White got into Punch & Judy, after seeing a show that disappointed him, and that he carved the figures himself...

"Gus White was a sign painter turned puppeteer, equally gifted as a wood-carver, inventor, ventriloquist and portrait painter. In their early 20s, he and a friend, Alexander Bonnell, saw a carnival Punch and Judy show which "wasn't much," according to a 1931 story in the Middletown, N.Y., Times Herald. Apparently the puppeteer wasn't very original and didn't have many characters. White thought he could do better."

He went to work carving and painting puppet heads and dressed them up. Punch, the cold-hearted scoundrel who beat his wife and children, turned his foes into sausage, and outsmarted even the devil, has a large rosy-tone dislocated nose, a lecherous grin with two snagged teeth, carved leather ears, and one brown glazed eye (the other is closed in a wicked wink). It's hard to imagine that Punch and Judy shows once were considered family entertainment.

White's first performance was in 1878 in the Kaisertown, N.Y., schoolhouse, as part of Bonnell's magic lantern show. The audience laughed and soon they had other engagements. White made more figures (eventually there were 32) and developed plots while traveling the countryside, sometimes earning $15 to $20 a performance. Soon he branched out on his own, initially calling his act "Prof. Gus White and His Family of Funny Folks." He constructed a special stage, bought a tent and played the Orange County, N.Y., Fair in the 1880s. When passing the hat wasn't enough, White built his ticket booth. After that, nobody attended his show without buying a 10-cent ticket."

Great sausage machine, one can almost imagine it 'clanking' into action. By the way, one advantage of a side spout on a sausage machine is that it allows a character to look down the spout and suggest that the machine is 'blocked up' ...possibly leading on to him suggesting he may just climb inside and see if he can fix it !
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Re: Puppets that move

Postby Chris » 29 Jan 2013, 14:32

I wonder whether that is a crocodile. It looks more like a vicious Easter Egg! Seriously, it looks as though its a surprise item that pops out of box so it could be a fish, or a non-descript monster. It need not necessarilly be a croc just because it has an opening mouth. From the quality and characterisation of the other figures he obviously could have made a much better job if he had wanted a crocodile. Also I'm not sure at what time the croc came into the show in US.
I note also in the description it mentions the devil, and turning people into sausages, but no mention of croc?

Another observation, I think he probably used puppets with a rod to the head.
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Re: Puppets that move

Postby Richard Coombs » 29 Jan 2013, 14:50

I suspect you are right on both counts Chris.

Although Dragons ( ex St George) were around probably since the dawn of Punch , Crocodiles are a relative newcomer in the UK - if we are to believe that both the Publishing of Peter Pan ( 1904 ?) and london Zoo getting it first breeding pair of Crocs ( about the same time , or a year later?) kicked off crocodile-mania.

No reason why the sausage machine could not have been used to make sausages well before there was a Croc to devour them.

The very act of mincing characters into sausages was the comic act ...the croc swallowing them was ( dare I say it ?) the "Prestige" added to that concept


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Re: Puppets that move

Postby Chris » 30 Jan 2013, 11:27

Both sausages and the sausage machine certainly do pre-date the crocodile as you speculate Richard. The sausages arrived with Joey the Clown. In the Harlequinade of the English Victorian Pantomime (Every pantomime ended with a spectacular transformation of all the principals into Commedia dell arte characters) in the slapstick tomfoolery of Harlequin and Clown there was often a sequence where a string of sausages were stolen from the butchers shop by the Clown. There followed lots of business by them being passed from character to character, usually involving a chase. Sometimes a dog stole the sausages. Sometimes the dog was eventually caught after eating them, and put into the sausage machine and the bangers were reborn! In a version we did at the Harlequin Puppet Theatre the sausages then re-formed into a sort of skeleton dog and chased the Clown offstage, barking like mad.

Pictures of Joe Grimaldi, the inspiration for the Punch Show Joey, sometimes depict him with a string of sausages hanging from a pocket.
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Re: Puppets that move

Postby Richard Coombs » 30 Jan 2013, 15:46

Thanks for that Chris ..fascinating stuff.
I knew about Mr Grimaldis Pantomime fame as a Dame , and obviously as THE Clown of Clowns , hence why we get 'Joey" in Punch.

But the panto /sausage stuff , wonderful.

A Book ..A Book !
You and Geoff felix should pool your knowledge and photos and do a book about birth of Pantomine , and Mr Punchs borrowing form the genre .

Put me down for five copies :-)

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Re: Puppets that move

Postby Chris » 30 Jan 2013, 17:31

After a bit more research I think we can safely assume that we are not looking at a crocodile in that picture.
White was performing in the 1880s in the US. According to McPharlin, the American puppet historian, the earliest published text to include the Crocodile is dated 1902. I have a picture of John Diffenderfer's (an American amateur Punch Showman) Crocodile made out of tin, wood and black oilcloth. The picture is undated but Diffenderfer's dates are 1966 to 1933. So this indicates that although the crocodile did pre-date Peter Pan it wasn't an established member of the cast in the US at the time White would be building his show.

I tend to think that the dragon that you mention, a popular character in the mystery plays, could easily have migrated to the puppet theatre and been adopted by profs as an alternative to the devil. It is easy to understand how the dragon could morph into the croc. The great Punch maker Quisto used to offer the choice of either a crocodile or a dragon. Les and I both have Quisto dragons in our collections.

The late Michael Byrom, maverick Punch historian, published his theory that the crocodle came from France inspired by a puppet made by George Sand from an old green velvet slipper. He makes a fairly convincing argument although I have never been sure just how serious he was. His tongue may well have been where he parked his swazzle.

In Comic Tales and Sketches (1852) Albert Smith writes: "the drama of Punch has suffered material change in the last few years. The baby, Jack Ketch, the gallows and ... (we hesitate to write his name) the - enemy of mankind, have almost disappeared. Their places have been supplied by a Clown....Jim Crow......and a spectre made of wood, with an enormous mouth of red cloth. We do not like these innovations."
Now what I am wondering, was this spectre with an enormous mouth an early appearance of the crocodile or was it a vicious Easter Egg?
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Re: Puppets that move

Postby lesclarke » 30 Jan 2013, 20:46

...or a whale, or a shark, or an oyster!
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