Sure animals can be good actors.
And we’re not talking animation here, we’re talking LIVE ACTION. So, naturally, they should be awarded prizes when they give the best performance of the year.
The first animal star of the movies was, undoubtedly, Rin-Tin-Tin. It is said that he, single handedly, built the Warner Brothers into a major studio. He certainly was their favorite star. He was always on time, knew his part and made no demands.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here today with tidbits about some of our favorite animal spirits in Hollywood.
Yesterday we discussed Asta (aka Skippy), the famous dog of the 1930s. Back in August we talked about “Orangey” the cat who won Patsy Awards in 1952 and 1961 for his performances in Rhubarb and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
So what were these Patsys Awards, anyway, and what happened to them? And why didn’t Asta and Rin Tin Tin and Lassie win Patsys?
Well, the Patsy Awards were started in 1951, long after the film careers of Hollywood’s most celebrated animals had concluded. But the television versions of all three were awarded Patsys.
The first patsy winner was Francis, who’d captivated audiences in Universal’s series of Francis, the Talking Mule features. (Yup, that’s Francis above with human sidekick, Donald O’Connor.)
By the way, don’t scoff at those mulish features. The cast of 1950’s Francis The Talking Mule included two actors, Ray Collins and Patricia Medina, who were closely associated with director Orson Welles. Collins portrayed “James W. Gettys”, the corrupt politician in Citizen Kane, while Medina put in a sexy performance as “Mily,” an American floozy in Europe in Mr. Arkadin. Also on hand in a bit part in Francis was Tony Curtis.
Anyway, guess who presented the first Patsy Awards at a ceremony held in Hollywood in 1951? None other than future president, Ronald Reagan.
That’s not as odd as it seems since in that year Reagan had costarred with a feisty chimpanzee in Universal’s Bedtime For Bonzo. The chimp was billed simply as “Bonzo.”
We wonder: because they were so heavily into the animal movie business at the time did Universal played a strategic role in setting up the Patsy Awards as a convenient promotional gimmick. Thoughts, anyone?
In any case, the Awards were discontinued in the 80s, then revived, and today are somewhat in limbo. But a new award, the Pawscar, has been established by the American Humane Society to honor animal stars’ exceptional performances.