Saturday, August 20, 2016

"I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)" by The Electric Prunes

It has been a long week and it feels like all I have written on this blog of late are eulogies for those who have recently died. I'll then end this week with something happier. Here is a clip of The Electric Prunes performing their classic song  "I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)" on American Bandstand in 1967.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Godspeed Jack Riley

Jack Riley, who played Dr. Hartley's overly neurotic, cynical, and selfish patient Elliot Carlin on The Bob Newhart Show, was a regular on the short-lived Sixties series Occasional Wife, and provided the voice of Stu Pickles on the animated shows Rugrats and its spinoff All Grown Up, died today at the age of 80. The cause was pneumonia.

Jack Riley was born on December 30 1935 in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He served in the United States Army before becoming a radio personality in his native Cleveland. With Jeff Baxter he had his own show, The Baxter & Riley Show, that aired on the radio station WERE.

It was in 1962 that he made his film debut in an uncredited part in Days of Wine and Roses. He made his television debut as a regular on the sitcom Occasional Wife in 1966, playing lead character Peter Christopher's office rival Wally Frick. In the Sixties he guest starred on the shows Gomer Pyle: USMC; The Flying Nun; I Dream of Jeannie; Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Bracken's World, Pat Paulsen's Half a Comedy Hour; Love, American Style; The Partridge Family, Hogan's Heroes; and The Red Skelton Hour. He appeared in the film Catch-22 (1970).

It was in 1972 that Jack Riley first appeared as Elliot Carlin, Dr. Hartley's cynical and overly neurotic patient on The Bob Newhart Show. Elliot proved to be one of the most popular of the patients on the show, and Jack Riley continued to appear in the role until the show ended its run in 1978. He was a regular on The Tim Conway Show. During the Seventies Jack Riley also guest starred on The Red Skelton Show, The Good Life, Getting Together, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cannon, Columbo, The Girl With Something Extra, Kung Fu, The Snoop Sisters, Happy Days, Police Woman, Barnaby Jones, Harry O, Alice, The Rockford Files, Barney Miller, and Too Close for Comfort. Surprisingly given how often he was on television, Jack Riley also found time to appear in several movies in the Seventies. He appeared in two films directed  by Mel Brooks during the decade: Silent Movie (1976) and High Anxiety (1977). He would appear in more films made by the director in the coming decade. He also appeared in the films The Todd Killings (1971), The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973), The Long Goodbye (1973), California Split (1974), The World's Greatest Lover (1977), Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978), and Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (1979).

In the Eighties Jack Riley was a regular on the short lived show Roxie. He guest starred on such shows as Fantasy Island, Simon & Simon, Romance Theatre, One Day at a Time, The Love Boat, Riptide, Diff'rent Strokes, St. Elsewhere (reprising his role as Elliot Carlin), Blacke's Magic, ALF (on which he reprised his role of Elliot Carlin), Charles in Charge, Newhart (playing a very similar role in Elliott Carlin), My Two Dads, and Night Court. He appeared in the films History of the World: Part I (1981), Frances (1982), To Be or Not to Be (1983), Finders Keepers (1984), Night Patrol (1984), Spaceballs (1987), Rented Lips (1988), and Payback (1990).

It was in 1992 that Jack Riley began providing the voice of Stu Pickles on the long-running animated series Rugrats. He was a regular on the series Son of the Beach. He guest starred on such shows as Night Court, Babes, Harry and the Hendersons, Civil Wars, Family Matters, Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, Married with Children, Dave's World, Friends, Coach, Seinfeld, George & Leo, Baywatch, The Drew Carey Show, and Touched by an Angel. He appeared in the films A Dangerous Woman (1993), Theodore Rex (1995), Venus Envy (1997), Boogie Nights (1997), and Chairman of the Board (1998).

In the Naughts Jack Riley continued to provide the voice of Stu Pickles on Rugrats and reprised the role on its spinoff All Grown Up!. He guest starred on the shows Lucky; That 70's Show; Yes, Dear; and Easy to Assemble. He appeared in the films Burl's (2003), Room 6 (2006), Papa's Bag (2007), and Nora Falls (2009).

I think there can be no doubt that Jack Riley will always be remembered as Elliot Carlin on The Bob Newhart Show. He was easily one of the most popular patients on the show, and I think easily one of the greatest supporting characters on television. In fact, the character was so successful that Jack Riley often found himself playing similar characters in guest shots on TV and in small parts in films. That having been said, Jack Riley was immensely talented and capable of playing a wide variety of roles. Indeed, Stu Pickles on Rugrats couldn't be any further from Elliot Carlin. Easy going and absent minded, he seemed unaffected by the sort of anxieties that plagued Elliot daily. He played a wide variety of small roles in films: an executive in Silent Movie, a desk clerk in High Anxiety, Dobish in To Be or Not To Be, and so on. Throughout his career he made frequent guest appearances on television. On Night Court alone he guest starred in the roles of Emil Dutton, Warren Wilson, Dr. Flick, Beepo the Clown, and Jim Wimberly. Jack Riley was a very prolific actor and it was all because he was so very talented.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Glenn Yarborough Passes On

Folk singer Glenn Yarborough, who had a successful career with both The Limeliters and as a solo artist, died on August 11 2016 at the age of 86.

Glenn Yarborough was born on January 12 1930 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His parents were both social workers. He was still very young when the family moved to New York City. Young Glenn Yarborough sang as a soprano in the choir of Grace Church in Manhattan. After he graduated from high school Mr. Yarborough attended St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland. It was in 1951 that he released his first album, Follow the Drinking Gourd/The Reaper's Ghost, on the minor label Stafford Records. He served in the United States Army during the Korean War. He performed as part of Special Services (the entertainment branch of the Army) in both Korea and Japan.

Following the war Glenn Yarborough performed as a solo artist playing coffee clubs throughout the country. He recorded the album Come and Sit by My Side for Tradition Records in 1957 before signing to Elektra Records. His first album for Elektra Records was Songs By Glenn Yarbrough (AKA Here We Go, Baby) in 1957. With Marilyn Child he recorded the album Marilyn Child and Glenn Yarbrough Sing Folk Songs for Elektra in 1958. It was during this period that he became owner of a club the Limelite, an Aspen, Colorado.

It was in 1959 that Glenn Yarborough formed The Limeliters with  Lou Gottlieb and Alex Hassilev, their name taken from Mr. Yarborough's nightclub. Their first album, Limeliters, was released on Elektra in 1960. The Limeliters recorded several albums on the RCA Victor label before Glenn Yarborough left the group in 1963. His first solo album in years, Time to Move On, was released on RCA Victor in 1964. In 1965 he had a major hit with "Baby the Rain Must Fall", which peaked at no. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was followed by "It's Gonna Be Fine", which peaked at no. 54.

By the early Seventies Glenn Yarborough had become dissatisfied with fame and performing and his output of albums and singles slowed. He spent much of his time in the early Seventies sailing on sailboat the Jubilee. He reunited with The Limeliters in 1974 and the album Reunion - Glenn Yarbrough and The Limeliters was released on Stax Records. He released another solo album in 1974 and one more before the decade of the Seventies ended.

Much of the next few decades Glenn Yarborough spent sailing. He returned to performing once in a while. In 1994 he released his first album since the Seventies, Family Portrait. He recorded several more albums before the end of the decade.

There can be no doubt that Glenn Yarborough had an incredible voice. It was a full rich tenor that gave nearly any song he sung an impact few other singers could.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Arthur Hiller R.I.P.

Arthur Hiller, the director known for such films as The Americanization of Emily (1964), The Hospital (1971), The Out-of-Towners (1970), Plaza Suite (1971), and The In-Laws (1971), died today at the age of 92.

Arthur Hiller was born on November 13 1923 in Edmonton, Alberta. His father operated a second-hand music store in Edmonton. When Arthur Hiller was around seven or eight years old his parents began putting on plays for the Jewish community there. Young Mr. Hiller helped build and paint sets. He made his acting debut when he was eleven.

After he graduated from high school, Arthur Hiller joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. He served as a navigator on bombers that flew over Europe during World War II. Following the war he attended the University of Toronto. Initially studying law and psychology, he found himself drawn to entertainment. He graduated in 1947 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Arthur Hiller began his career working for CBC Radio, but soon found himself directing television programmes for the CBC. It was in 1956 that he moved to the United States. He made his American television debut directing an episode of Matinee Theatre. In the late Fifties he directed episodes of such shows as The Ford Television Theatre, Zane Grey Theatre, Playhouse 90, Climax!, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, Wagon Train, The Third Man, Goodyear Theatre, Perry Mason, Thriller, Gunsmoke, and The Rifleman. In 1957 he made his feature film debut with the movie The Careless Years.

The early Sixties saw Arthur Hiller continue to direct television programmes. He directed such shows as The Dick Powell Theatre, Naked City, The Detectives, Route 66, Ben Casey, The Addams Family, and Insight. By the middle of the decade, however, he had shifted to feature films. He directed the 1963 Disney film Miracle of the White Stallions, followed by The Wheeler Dealers (1963) the same year. His following film was The Americanization of Emily (1964). With a screenplay by  Paddy Chayefsky, the film won critical acclaim and was nominated for two Academy Awards. It also did moderately well at the box office. Arthur Hiller's film output in the mid to late Sixties was a variety of genres. Promise Her Anything (1965) was a romantic comedy. Penelope (1966) was a Sixties-style, screwball comedy starring Natalie Wood. These two films were followed by the war drama Tobruk (1967). Mr. Hiller closed out the decade with the comedy The Tiger Makes Out (1967), the comedy-drama Popi (1969), and the classic Neil Simon comedy The Out of Towners (1970). His final film of the Sixties was also his biggest box office success, Love Story (1970).

The Seventies saw Arthur Hiller work again with Neil Simon, directing the playwright's Plaza Suite (1971). He also worked once more with Paddy Chayfesky, directing The Hospital (1972). He directed the musical Man of La Mancha (1972), the drama The Man in the Glass Booth (1975), the biopic W.C. Fields and Me (1976), and the horror film Nightwing (1979). He also directed the classic comedies Silver Streak (1976) and The In-Laws (1979).

During the Eighties Mr. Hiller directed the films Making Love (1982), Author! Author! (1982), Romantic Comedy (1983), The Lonely Guy (1984), Teachers (1984), Outrageous Fortune (1987), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), and Taking Care of Business (1990). From the Nineties into the Naughts he directed Married to It (1991), The Babe (1992), Carpool (1996), An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1997--credited to "Alan Smithee"), and Pucked (2006).

Arthur Hiller was the President of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) from 1989 to 1993. He was also  member of the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress from 1989 to 2005, and President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1993 to 1997.

While the quality of his output varied over the years, for me there is little doubt that Arthur Hiller was a gifted director. I would number him among the best television directors of all time. He directed some of my favourite Naked City episodes, including "Ooftus Goofus". He also directed some of my favourite Route 66 episodes, including "Welcome to Amity" and "Go Read the River". In his television career he worked on some of the greatest TV shows of all time, including Playhouse 90, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Thriller, Gunsmoke, and the aforementioned Naked City and Route 66.

Of course, Arthur Hiller's fame would stem from his feature films, and he directed many classics. He seemed to have a particular gift for comedy, starting with The Wheeler Dealers in 1963. I have always thought that Penelope (1966) is one of the most underrated comedies of the Sixties, and I hope one day it is recognised as a classic. To me The Out of Towners is among Neil Simon's best works adapted to film. Plaza Suite (1971) and The In-Laws (1971) number among the best comedies of the Seventies.

That is not to say that Mr. Hiller was incapable of directing fine dramas. The Man in the Glass Booth (1975) was one of the more remarkable dramas to emerge from the Seventies. And while Love Story (1970) might have its problems, its direction is not one of them. Many of his other films were often as much drama as they were comedies. The Americanization of Emily (1964) was not only nominated for two Oscars and a BAFTA Award, but is now regarded as a classic by many. The Hospital (1971) won awards for Paddy Chayefesky's screenplay and received largely positive reviews. While I suspect Arthur Hiller will be best remembered for his comedies, he was a versatile director who worked in several genres. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Fyvush Finkel Passes On

Fyvush Finkel, well known for his performances in Yiddish theatre and for appearing on the TV shows Picket Fences and Boston Public, died on August 14 2016 at the age of 93.

Fyvush Finkel was born Philip Finkel  in Brooklyn, New York on October 9 1922. He made his stage debut when he was only 9 years old. He had a thriving career as a child actor in the Yiddish theatres of the Lower East Side of Manhattan until he was around 14 or 15 years old. His voice having changed, young Mr. Finkel began attending a vocational school with the goal of taking up a trade. Instead, after graduating high school, he began acting as part of a Jewish theatre's stock company in Pittsburgh. Mr. Finkel found steady work in Yiddish theatre until the Fifties when ethnic theatres as a whole began dying off.

Fyvush Finkel made his film debut in 1950 in Monticello, Here We Come. In 1964 he made his Broadway debut in Fiddler on the Roof. He made his television debut in an episode of Kojak in 1977. In 1981 he appeared in a revival of Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway. In the Eighties he appeared in the films Off Beat (1986), Seize the Day (1986), Brighton Beach Memoirs (1986), and Q & A (1990). He appeared in on miniseries Evergreen. He appeared on Broadway one last time in a revival of  Cafe Crown in 1989.

It was in 1992 that Fyvush Finkel began playing irascible lawyer Douglas Wambaugh on the TV show Picket Fences. He remained with the show its entire run and even guest starred as Wambaugh on the show Chicago Hope. Later in the decade he was a regular on the short lived revival of Fantasy Island and the TV series Boston Public. In the Nineties he guest starred on the show Early Edition. He appeared in the films Mobsters (1991), The Pickle (1993), For Love or Money (1993), Nixon (1995), and The Crew (2000). In 1991 he put together a pastiche of Yiddish theatre called Finkel's Follies that ran Off Broadway.

In the Naughts he guest starred on the shows The Wedding Bells, Harry's Law, and Blue Bloods. He appeared in the films The Um (2008),  A Serious Man (2009), and The Other Men in Black (2013).

Fyvush Finkel was a fine actor and performer. He was certainly gifted with a good sense of humour. He had perfect comic timing, a knack for delivering lines, and a knack for very funny one-liners. This made Mr. Finkel perfect for comic or semi-comic roles, and he was at home playing anything from cantankerous attorney Wambaugh on Picket Fences to a character who may or may not be a dybbuk in A Serious Man. Even when he appeared only briefly on screen, Fyvush Finkel was memorable.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mark of the Vampire Starring Lionel Barrymore

Lionel Barrymore is not a name one readily associates with horror movies. In fact, in his entire career he only appeared in two films that clearly belonged to the genre. Both were films directed by Tod Browning :  Mark of the Vampire (1935) and The Devil-Doll (1936). Today Mark of the Vampire is probably the best known of the two films. And while its ending is debated to this day, Mark of the Vampire is generally considered a classic.

Mark of the Vampire centres on murders in a small, Eastern European village. The local villagers suspect the late Count Mora (played by Bela Lugosi) and his daughter Luna (played by Carroll Borland) have returned from the dead and are responsible for the crimes. Investigating the crimes are  Inspector Neumann (played by Lionel Atwill) of the police and Professor Zelen (played by Lionel Barrymore), an expert in demonology.

Mark of the Vampire was essentially a remake of Tod Browning's silent film London After Midnight (1927).  In turn London After Midnight was based on Mr. Browning's short story "The Hypnotist". Sadly, London After Midnight is a lost film, the last known copy having been destroyed in a fire that struck MGM Vault #7 in 1967. While London After Midnight was set in London, however, the working title of Mark of the Vampire was Vampires of Prague. Despite its working title, however, Mark of the Vampire is set in a village that seems much smaller and much more rural than Prague. In large part because of the more stringent enforcement of the Production Code that began in 1935, Mark of the Vampire would see some changes before its shooting script. As originally conceived, Count Mora murdered his daughter and then killed himself, and there were some strong incestuous overtones to their relationship. MGM had any reference to suicide and any hint of incest cut from the script.

MGM did face one major hurdle in releasing Mark of the Vampire. Universal filed an injunction against the film's release claiming it was too close to their film Dracula. Ultimately Universal lost their day in court, perhaps because Dracula and Mark of the Vampire have very little in common beyond Bela Lugosi and Tod Browning's visual style. 

Mark of the Vampire opened to largely positive reviews. The New York Times critic Frank S. Nugent wrote of the film, "Like most good ghost stories, it's a lot of fun, even though you don't believe a word of it." In The Hollywood Reporter review it was written of Mark of the Vampire that "It's well-produced, well-acted, well-directed by that old master of screaming thrill, Tod Browning." Not only did Mark of the Vampire get largely positive reviews, but, contrary to popular belief, it did not bomb at the box office. Mark of the Vampire made $563,000 world-wide upon its initial release. Ultimately the film did make a small profit.

Although Mark of the Vampire is often considered a Bela Lugosi's film, it is Lionel Barrymore who is the film's star. Indeed, MGM's contract with Mr. Lugosi specified that he would receive at least second billing and no actor's name would appear in larger type than his, with one notable exception--Lionel Barrymore. As it turned out, in the end Bela Lugosi was third billed. As might be expected Lionel Barrymore was top billed (and his name was in the largest type), but then MGM starlet Elizabeth Allan was second billed. 

At any rate, Lionel Barrymore certainly received much more screen time than Bela Lugosi. And Mr. Barrymore put that time to good use. He played Professor Zelen over the top, at times seeming like an affectionate grandfather and at others a stern schoolmaster. What is more, his  knowledge regarding vampires constantly seems to be changing. At times one has to suspect the professor is simply making things up as he goes along. This being the case, that Lionel Barrymore hams it up a bit as Professor Zelen actually enhanced the role (and the film as well) more so than if he had played the role straight. Unlike Van Helsing in the various Dracula movies over the years, Professor Zelen is simply playing the role of vampire hunter, when in truth he is simply a very good detective. 

Lionel Barrymore would have a slightly more outrageous role in Tod Browning's next film The Devil-Doll, after which he would make no more films that could clearly be considered horror. This is perhaps regrettable, as Lionel Barrymore brought a great deal to the genre in the two horror movies he made. Regardless, while Professor Zelen may not be one of his best remembered roles, it is certainly one of his most interesting.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Cartoons Never Were Just for Kids: Why Sausage Party is Nothing New

This weekend saw the release of Sausage Party, Seth Rogen's R-rated, computer animated comedy. While many journalists acknowledged that an R-rated animated film was nothing new, there were inevitably those few who behaved as if Sausage Party was somehow novel in being an animated film aimed at adults. As any student of animation history knows, this is hardly the case. Animation has a long history of films aimed primarily at adults, to the point that it is difficult to say that cartoons ever were just for kids, even if that attitude is still somewhat common.

I am not sure when the attitude that "cartoons are just for kids" actually arose, but it seems to me that it has existed for decades. The January 17 1939 issue of Look magazine contained an article entitled, "Hollywood Censors Its Cartoons". The article contains a famous quote from Leon Schlesinger (head of Leon Schlesinger Productions, which would later become Warner Bros. Cartoons), "We cannot forget that while the cartoon today is excellent entertainment for young and old, it is primarily the favourite motion picture fare for children. Hence we always must keep their best interest at heart by making our product proper for their impressionable minds."

Of course, here I have to say that I suspect Mr. Schlesinger was merely playing to the crowd. While the cartoons produced by Leon Schlesinger Productions and later Warner Bros.certainly did appeal to children, I think anyone who has ever watched them would agree that they were clearly made for adults or general audiences. After all, they often contain jokes, innuendos, pop culture references,and even situations that probably went over the heads of many children. That having been said, the fact that Leon Schlesinger felt that he had to give the impression of making cartoons acceptable for children points to the possibility that at least some people at the time thought of cartoons as primarily entertainment made for children.

It seems to me that the idea that cartoons were made primarily for children probably became more pronounced with the arrival of television. Leon Schlesinger had observed that the cartoons were "...the favourite motion picture fare for children...", and this was not lost on the networks and local television stations in the early days of the medium. By the late Fifties it was not unusual for local children's shows to be filled with old theatrical shorts. It was in 1955 that CBS debuted Mighty Mouse Playhouse, an anthology of old Terrytoons shorts that was also the first Saturday morning cartoon. By the mid-Sixties all three networks had blocks of cartoons scheduled on Saturday morning. What is more, the Fifties saw the emergence of cartoons made specifically for television, including Crusader Rabbit, Ruff and Reddy, and others. While most of the old theatrical shorts and even many of the early television cartoons were not made just for children, the fact that they were being used as children's programming probably made the attitude that much more prevalent.

While the attitude that "cartoons are just for kids" has probably existed for decades and was probably made more prevalent by television's use of cartoons, cartoons have been made for adults, or at least general audiences, from the very beginning. During the Silent Era it seems fairly clear that the "Felix the Cat" theatrical shorts were made with adults in mind. Multiple "Felix the Cat" cartoons make reference to both Prohibition (then still in effect) and drinking. The "Krazy Kat" cartoons of the Silent Era were fairly loyal to the spirit of the comic strip, widely applauded for its complex characters and cartoonist George Herriman's verbal ingenuity. Even Walt Disney's cartoons of  the era were made with a more general audience than simply children in mind. One of the earliest cases of the censorship of a cartoon involved Mr. Disney's "Alice Solves a Puzzle" (1925).  The Pennsylvania Censorship Board demanded he cut scenes related to bootleg whiskey. There was even at least one pornographic cartoon produced in the Silent Era. It is not known who created the short "Eveready Harton in Buried Treasure", but it was made in 1928 and apparently developed in Cuba because no American film labs would touch it. While I doubt many outright pornographic cartoons were produced in the early days of film, the fact is that most animated cartoons of the era were made for adults or general audiences rather than exclusively for children.

The advent of sound did nothing to change the fact that most cartoons were made for general audiences or even primarily for adults. Indeed, one need look no further than the Fleischer Brothers' early "Betty Boop" theatrical shorts. As originally conceived Betty Boop was highly sexualised, wearing a dress that was fairly short for the era and clung to her hourglass figure like a second skin. There was a good deal of sexual innuendo in the "Betty Boop" films, and often content of a sexual nature. Indeed, the shorts "Chess-Nuts" and  "Boop-Oop-A-Doop" feature Betty having to defend her honour against a lecherous king and a lecherous circus ringmaster respectively. The original "Betty Boop" cartoons could be as racy as any pre-Code feature film. Not surprisingly, when the Production Code started being more stringently enforced in 1934, Betty Boop started dressing more modestly and the sexual content in her cartoons disappeared.

Of course, even with the end of the Pre-Code Era (roughly 1929 to 1934), cartoons were still being made to appeal to general audiences and even adults. As mentioned earlier, the Warner Bros. cartoons often featured content that young children probably wouldn't appreciate or even understand. What is more, Warner Bros. was not alone in this. Tex Avery's famous cartoon "Red Hot Riding Hood" was released by MGM in 1943. Then as now it was clearly a theatrical short made with adults in mind, not children. Reportedly the MPAA Production Code Administration demanded cuts to the short before they would give it their seal of approval.  "Red Hot Riding Hood" was so successful that it inspired several sequels, all of which are also clearly made for adults. These were hardly isolated cases during the Golden Age of American Animation. In fact, it seems more times than not, when a cartoon was not meant for general audiences, it was meant to appeal to grown ups rather than kids.

Even with the advent of television's Saturday morning cartoon block aimed primarily at children, the Sixties still saw animated works made to appeal to an older crowd. In the early Sixties American television entered into a cycle of prime-time cartoons aimed primarily at adults. These included such shows as The Bullwinkle Show, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and Top Cat. Later in the decade there was the release of the feature film Yellow Submarine (1968). While Yellow Submarine can certainly be appreciated by children, its puns, pop culture references, and double entendres make it so that it is probably more appreciated by teenagers and adults.

The decline of the Production Code and the creation of the MPAA ratings system would ultimately allow animated films to go where they rarely had before. Fritz the Cat (1972), directed by Ralph Bakshi and based on the character created by Robert Crumb, became the first animated film ever to be rated "X". The film launched Ralph Bakshi in his career as animated feature film director, making animated films that appealed primarily to adults, including Heavy Traffic (1973), Wizards (1977), and American Pop (1981). Fritz the Cat would be followed by other "X" rated animated features (not all submitted to the MPAA), including Dirty Duck (1974), Shame of the Jungle (1975), and Once Upon a Girl (1976).  Of course, during the Seventies there were other animated features made for adults that were not "X" rated. With its dark themes and violence, Watership Down (1978) is clearly an animated film that was not made with young children in mind. The late Sixties and early Seventies also saw theatrical shorts geared for adults, including "Bambi Meets Godzilla" (1968), "Escalation" (1968), and "Thank You Mask Man" (1971--based on Lenny Bruce's comedy routine).

Since the Seventies there have been several animated feature films clearly meant for adults, films that have received "PG-13' and even "R" ratings. Heavy Metal (1981), The Plague Dogs (1982), Rock and Rule (1983), South Park: Bigger, Louder, and Uncut (1999), and yet others. Of course, since the Nineties television has seen several animated shows made primarily for adults, including The Simpsons, King of the Hill, South Park, Family Guy, and others. What is more, I would argue that the computer animated films produced by Pixar and DreamWorks were made with general audiences in mind rather than children. After all, in many of the films there are jokes and other things that only teenagers and adults would understand. What is more, the 21st Century has seen its share of R-rated animated films. The stop-motion animation film Anomalisa (2015), which was nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Film, was rated R. What is more, Sausage Party might not even be the first computer animated film to be R-rated, depending on one's definition of computer animation. Given Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theatres (2007) was made using Adobe Flash, the argument could be made that it was the first computer animated, R-rated film.

Of course, so far I have just discussed Western Animation. In Japan the idea that "cartoons are only for kids" has never existed, so that there have always been animated works meant to appeal primarily to adults alongside ones made primarily for children. What is more, since the Eighties such Japanese animated films as Akira (1988), Grave of the Fireflies (1988), Ghost in the Shell (1995), and Hayao Miyazaki's films have received widespread exposure here in the United States.

 Ultimately I find it hard to conceive that anyone today could think that an animated film would be remarkable in that it was made for adults. While I suppose that many journalists might not know about the animation produced in the Silent Era and the Golden Age of American Animation, I wouldn't think one has to be a student of animation to remember such relatively recent films as Heavy Metal (1981), South Park: Bigger, Louder, and Uncut (1999),  Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theatres (2007), and yet others, not to mention the various animated TV series that have aired since the Nineties. I really cannot explain how any journalist writing about film today could not know about these films and TV shows, not unless they have literally ignored animation for decades. If that is the case, then they certainly should let someone else with a bit more expertise write about the subject. Cartoons never have been just for kids, and that may well be truer in the 21st Century than it ever has been.