File puptcrit/puptcrit.0707, message 85

To: Leslie Evans <>
Date: Mon, 09 Jul 2007 15:31:00 GMT
Subject: [Puptcrit] Some background on LILI

I don't know if Paul Gallico (author of "Love for 7 Dolls) wanted Burr to play the puppeter in LILI, (there are some who thought that was the case)  but I can see why Burr wouldn't. He was a very private person. and being on a movie screen as a puppeteer might seem almost "biographical".

Confidential Magazine, a gossip and scandal magazine constantly invaded the privacy of public figures. Ironically it was Liberace who successfully sued Confidential, closing the magazine down.
Confidential magazine of course has been replaced by the National Enquirer and other publications available at your market checkout stand (but our very own Jim Gamble got a nice write-up on his puppets once in the Enquirer so it was not all bad).

While I was in the army at Ft Riley KS, a scandal was brewing in Manhattan, Kansas involving local brothels servicing Ft Riley---it seems there were white brothels and black ones, and the line of separation  between the two had become blurred. Omigod, the races got mixed (as if that never had before?) AND CONFIDENTIAL MAGAZINE did a COVER STORY about the BIG SCANDAL in MANHATTAN (NOT NEW YORK). Local groups like Rotary, Kiwanis, etc. bought up ALL the Confidential magazines from local newstands to protect local sensibilities. You had to go all the way to Kansas City to get a copy.

Confidential magazine was read and feared.

Van Johnson later did a movie (the title escapes me at the moment) abour a similar magazine, which used marionettes by Jack Shafton (Hollywood-based puppeteer) as part of the plot. (Van Johnson also attended a performance of "Les Poupees de Paris" at PJ's in West Hollywood in the early 1960s when I was with the show).

Burr was once thinking about suing Gallico for "stealing his idea" for the book---ie: puppets on their own stage talking with a person up front which was the set-up for Kukla, Fran & Ollie on early TV.

 I thought Burr was just kidding. First of all, there were lots of "rip-offs" of the format on little TV stations across the USA---the format could operate in the garage or broom-closet studios of the time with a single camera (cameras were huge objects and very expensive then in 1940s).

"Ding Dong School" aimed at very young kids, and many  regional shows had a human a-la-Fran in front of a hand puppet stage, talking to puppets.

In earlier times, Punch shows had 1 person or 2 out front of the stage (the bottler who collected coins from the audience for example). I remember in the 1930s seeing marionette shows where puppets asked the kids in the audience if somethng was a good idea to do or not. There were lots of precedences for puppets talking with (a) live person(s).

In some editions of Paul Gallico's book, the story was dedicated to Burr Tillstrom. There is no doubt in my mind that without Kukla, Fran & Ollie there would not have been  a book (7 Dolls) on which LILI was based. But the thought of a lawsuit struck me as ridiculous. Fortunately the idea was dropped.

Burr was a great talent, but a major reason he was successful was in 2 words, Beaulah Zachary. She dealt with studio heads and treated Burr like the star he was. Once she even rolled out a red carpet for Burr.

While Burr popularized the format, it was a natural form for early TV. But Punch & Judy or Kasper shows had puppets talk directly to kids in the audience and Fran was kind of a one-person-audience who could converse back & forth with the puppets.

In American TV's early years, Chicago was more inventive than Hollywood or New York, and had also been extremely important in radio shows which preceded TV (after all, Fran was from Chicago radio).

-----Original Message-----
From: Leslie Evans
Sent: Monday, July 9, 2007 1:39 AM
To: Alan Cook
Subject: Re: Lili interview w/ Tom Hatton, 1981


Did you ever see the original story of Lili? The first one, before "Seven Dolls" was called "The Man Who Hated People" and was printed in a 1950 (I think) edition of The Saturday Evening Post. The guy who runs the Unofficial Kuklapolitan Web Page typed it up and put it online last year. If you haven't read it, it's here:

The original story is set  in a TV studio, just like KFO. I guess Gallico fleshed it out later for book form and it became For the Love of Seven Dolls, then eventually Lili and Carnival (the stage version)
The other story about Lili is that Gallico wanted Burr Tillstrom to play Paul, but Beulah Zachary nixed the idea. I don't know if it's true, but it's a good story.

Alan Cook <> wrote:    It is my understanding that LILI was a true sleeper of a film, becoming popular without a lot of help from MGM. Some Theater owners helped publicize it.

At the 1965 UNIMA Festival in Bucharest I met a lot of European puppeteers (12 years after LILI came out) who knew the film fondly.

From: Leslie Evans
 Sent: Sunday, July 8, 2007 7:02 PM
 To: Alan Cook
 Subject: Re: Lili interview w/ Tom Hatton, 1981

I'm glad you enjoyed the clip. I know I sure did. I hope your friends will take it upon themselves to show it to you when you visit them this week. Lili was one of my favorite movies growing up and I'm glad three of the puppets are safe in your museum.
I saw an interview that Leslie Caron did on Turner Classic Movies last week (they ran it after Lili). She mentioned that MGM did not like the film, made fun of it and her and didn't do much to promote it. She indicated she loved the movie and enjoyed working with the puppets very much. I don't know when the interview was done, but she had to be in her late 60s at least (I think she's in her 70s now) and she looked darn good.
Hope you have a wonderful week. If I see you on Youtube again I will let you know!

Leslie Evans

Alan Cook <> wrote:     To Leslie Evans--

Thanks for bringing that posting on youtube to my attention. It took a second try on msntv to hear most of what I said---including that it was after the end of the PofA touring puppet exhibit (1980-1983) so it would at least 1983

I still can't get the tail end. But what I did get was the first time I've heard it played back.

It is like a time machine!


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