Monday, November 03, 2008

Heavy Lifting

Monday Cartoon Day.

Harvey Kurtzman tried to have as many cartoon reports as possible in Help. Apart from the ones I have shown, he had Jack Davis go to a ballgame, sent Arnold Roth to Moscow and Paul Coker went to a Broadway show as well as Cuba. Robert Crumb visited one or two Eastern European countries as wlel, but I am not sure if those pieces were assignments. When everything else failed, Kurtzman gave himself an assignment. He went to the filming of one of movie version of one of the most important television plays of the early sixties, Rod Serling's Requiem For A Heavyweight with mega-stars of that time Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney and Antony Quinn.

It's from Help Vol 2, No. 7, one of the few issues I have double:







His version of the genre was far less gag-based and more of a continuous story as would have been seen in Mad, Trump of Humbug. If you want to know how he did it and how he certainly didn't cut any corners, have a look at his preparation sketches. This and more you can find at: http://kurtzman.typepad.com/photos/kurtzman/index.html. The Requiem pages are on the second index page.

These are courtesy of the The Kurtzman Collection a recent addition to the internet. This wonderful site gives an overview of Kurtzman's career, using many unseen sketches and images from the Kurtzman Estate. As it says on that site, all images used there (an reused here) arte The Kurtzman Etstate. I hope they will get that coffeetaqble book going. And I hope they will get in tough with Glen Bray who has more of this type of stuff.

4 comments:

rowrbazzle said...

Actually, Harvey Kurtzman was here covering the film version of "Requiem for a Heavyweight". The original live television version (starring Jack Palance, Keenan and Ed Wynn)had already aired and had been a huge success making this theatrical version possible.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Ah, that explains it. There is nothing as dumb as a little bit of knowledge

Critical1 said...

Hey, Ger -- thanks for the mention of my Harvey Kurtzman Collection on your always amazing site!

Your recent posts on the travel assignments Harvey was giving out to Help! cartoonists has been terrific -- aside from Crumb's Bulgaria and Harlem sketchbooks, I'd somehow failed to notice the regularity of this feature.

As for Heavyweight, I'd always felt there was some hidden story behind its creation -- it's one of his more spectacularly technical pieces, and Kurtzman just never put that kind of effort into stories for his own publications, especially Help. (This was pre-Annie, after all -- and Harvey had a family to support!)

Since the format of the original art and mock-up was so different from the way it appeared in Help -- four tabloid-sized pages instead of six magazine-sized pages -- I'd always held the suspicion that it was originally commissioned for Esquire, rejected for some reason, and quickly repurposed for Help.

But Esquire's Nov '62 issue had a Patterson boxing cover, and it would've been out of character for editor Harold Hayes, always a big Kurtzman supporter, to have killed anything by Harvey, especially something as slick and timely as Heavyweight.

So just before I started scanning everything a few months ago, I thought to go back to the mock-up and do a closer reading of each line of text. And there was the answer in panel four: "Sketched for SHOW by Harvey Kurtzman."

SHOW Magazine was one of the many ill-fated ventures by the outstandingly eccentric supermarket heir Huntington Hartford. When it came to the arts, Hartford was as profligate as he was reactionary, so his rejection of the story isn't terribly surprising. It's just nice to know Harvey walked away with at least some small chip of Hartford's $100 million!

-Joey Anuff

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Great site Joey! I'd love to know more about it! How did you get in touch with the Estate, etc? Is Denis Kitchen still going ahead with his plans to do a coffee tabel book? Are you in touch with Glen Bray, who really has a load of unused stuff? I am planning with Roy Thomas and Michael Gilbert to devote a section of Michael's Crypt to som eof the rarer war work of HK. And in a couple of weeks I'll be showing some of his comic work for Prize.