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REMEMBERING
FROGGY THE GREMLIN, PART 2

by Ronald L. Smith

Now where were we...

Oh yes, talking about Froggy arriving on television!

(Sorry to break the story up, but on some computers all the photos and text make for a too-slow download, it does it does...)

The show premiered on Saturday evening, 6:30pm, on NBC.

NBC had the show from August 26, 1950 to May 19, 1951.

ABC took it from August 11, 1951 to April 11, 1953 and aired it at 10:30am.

NBC took it back and began broadcasting on August 22, 1953, same 10:30am time.

Ed McConnell died in 1954.

No evidence suggests that Froggy had anything to do with Ed's passing.

Most of Froggy's fans don't even remember that there was an Ed McConnell at all. They only remember how affable, gravel-voiced Andy would holler that raucous "HEY KIDS!" greeting, and how Froggy would appear, laughing at "the big square" in front of him, and quacking out his familiar "hiya kids, hiya hiya!"

"Andy's Gang" premiered August 20, 1955 at 9:30 am with new host Andy Devine. Click here for a divine portrait of our jolly pal Andy.

Andy had been a star for many years. (There's a link at the bottom to take you to the ANDY DEVINE page on this website). Why, he even had his own comic book for a while! Just click to see it!

Ha ha...but now he was featured in Buster Brown comics! And if you'd like to see him tormented by Froggy in a comic book, click here! .

And, Here's another image of Froggy at work! Ha ha!

"Andy's Gang" was a sorry, low-budget show that was usually padded for at least 20 of the 30 minutes by a banal live-action movie. All told, there were 156 episodes of Smilin' Ed and Andy's long-running show!

Variety was unamused when Andy appeared. In a review by "Jose" on August 24, 1955 the paper complained about the filmed adventures and then the comedy: "Accompanying Devine's contribution are bits of clowning with mechanical toys. Aside from this business being not too funny, Devine is much too big to be playing with dolls."

However, on November 27, 1957, reviewer "Ron" (no relation!) praised the "dancing cat, flying hamster and magic gremlin...Froggy the Gremlin comes on to introduce cousin Harry, a live orangutang. Without use of animation Harry mimicks what's being said or vice versa and the outcome is quite amusing...Devine is affable fun to look at and has the ability to make a pal of every young viewer..."

Most filmed adventures in the series featured the exploits of Gunga Ram (Nino Marcel) an Indian boy who was usually having trouble with elephant poachers or deadly scorpions. Nino also played "Little Fox" the Sioux Indian, but his elephant boy character seemed to be more popular. He even made a movie using the character: "Sabaka" (1955) co-starring Boris Karloff and Victor Jory!

For the Indian adventures, Nino's sidekick Rama (no jokes about his last name being Lama Dingdong) was played by the beloved Vito Scotti, who often appeared live on the show in the guise of a chef, music conductor or some other eccentric lesson-giver.He'd politely lecture the kids...and Froggy would call out terrible suggestions that Vito would instantly repeat and follow...only to become enraged at how he'd been fooled!

Vito was the perfect foil for Froggy...he was animated and excitable, while Froggy was pretty wooden in his movements and had that fixed open-mouth grin. Click here for a bio on Vito Scotti complete with photos and film/tv credits.

(Billy Gilbert, famous stooge for Laurel & Hardy, sometimes appeared as Uncle Fishface (among other roles) and Alan Reed (later the voice of Fred Flintstone) played the pompous poet Algernon Archibald Percival Shortfellow (he played various oddball poets on several radio shows).

The show was filmed without a studio audience...the raucous (and constantly re-run) shot of kids in the studio audience was added later.

In the commercials, happy little Buster Brown was played by little Jerry Marin. Bud Tollefson was the dog Tige. And although some sources insist Andy Devine voiced Froggy the Gremlin, the first few seasons seem to be the work of Archie Presby, the man who played him so often on radio.

Paul Cavanaugh, Peter Coo, Billy Race and Joe Mazzuca were all credited with supplying miscellaneous voices on the show. But I am 90% certain that the original TV Froggy voice was...ARCHIE PRESBY.

Sleuthing is tough work but... a click HERE isolates the elusive Presby at a 1941 meeting of NBC personnel at a San Francisco banquet!

Over the years, Froggy's voice changed from a sinister deep croak to a gooey kind of baritone. Who voiced THAT version of Froggy...I dunno.

Oh...there were two other odd characters on the show.

Some kids were baffled by the strange appearance of "Midnight the Cat and Squeaky." They were on radio and in the comic books, but now turned up played by hideous taxidermy specimens and, for facial close-ups, a real cat and mouse (well, hamster actually!). For reasons unknown, Andy Devine loved to see Midnight, in a dress,perform some pathetic musical number. (Sometimes Andy would sing, as in the memorable episode where he offered "Jesus Loves Me.") Usually Midnight would "dance" by lurching awkwardly in a half-crippled circle. This was accompanied by snivelling Squeaky playing a toy violin, guitar or drum.

Andy would guffaw. The kids would squeal. And Midnight herself would have to admit that the whole thing was..."Nice!"

That was the only word she ever said. A close-up of a lip-licking black cat and that high-pitched dubbed word.

"Nice!"

The word was supplied by June Foray (yes, the woman who would later be the voice for Rocky the Flying Squirrel.)

Who was Andy's favorite? Well, It might be Squeaky, it might, it might. At least, that's what a click HERE will get you! .

When one thinks of "Andy's Gang," that's just about the only word that DOESN'T come to mind. Nice? How about strange...twisted...perverse...subversive...demented...

And...beloved.

Is it too much to imagine that Froggy was secretly watched and applauded by boys and girls who grew up to become great world leaders, actors or criminals?

And what of all the kiddies who heard Andy admonish, at the end of every show, "Don't forget church or Sunday school?" Did they become ministers...or murderers? How about...writers!

The website has uncovered rare manuscripts that could be from e.e. cummings and Dylan Thomas. Yes, great poets have struggled to do justice to Froggy the Gremlin!

Here, in a manuscript signed by e.e. cummings and previously unknown, discovered amid a pile of forged poems, is the epic Froggy poem that he never acknowledged:

hopping on his haunches
mock mock
ha ha
how do you like it, andy?
you giggle gravel
tickled giddy
but he's hopping
harder harder
hop wallop
splintering fireworks, andy
flatulent smoke.
your 300 pounds deflate
into swamp.
rubber froggy
bounces
eternally
away

And if that isn't enough, here, also discovered in that same pile, is this one purported to be from the flowing pen of Dylan Thomas...

Plunk! Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy!
Let your laughter peel and swell with the
Raucous shrieks of the New Cruel Generation!
Your eyes shall never close
Fixed open grin fiercely alive
Raging with furious pranks at man, not God.
Never God. For there is none where children breed
like mosquitoes teeming in the swampy auditorium
And more of them home,
Large embryos 10 inch picture tube children
All ready to explode into the world with
Twangers and anger and pranks!
All to make childhood dreams
Real.

You might think the website is getting a bit carried away. But that's the Gremlin-influence, it is, it is.
{Note...a revised edition of my book of poems...praised by everyone from Julia Child to Yoko Ono, should be out some time this year. They're not quite like the above...for better or worse.}

Froggy remembers the time a teacher mentioned me in class...

Froggy has a great appreciation for the fact that I've published 18 books.

For many of us, there isn't a memory of childhood TV as beloved as Froggy the Gremlin and "Andy's Gang."

We crave it to this very day...

It's possible we'll see new marketing of Froggy the Gremlin.

The Buster Brown company has gone after dealers selling "public domain" video tapes of "Andy's Gang," and it seems likely that this year authorized compilation tapes of Froggy the Gremlin's appearances will become available on the open market!

Remember.... The Froggy Army is On the March!!

So watch out! For now...bye bye...

"Biya, kids, biya, biya..."

LINKS:

Here's a collector who not only owns some neat Froggy stuff (and shows it) and has sound files, but even has her kids drawing pictures of Froggy! Ha...click HERE.

Don't forget THE ANDY DEVINE BIOGRAPHY PAGE...

THE SMILIN' ED BIOGRAPHY PAGE...

THE VITO SCOTTI BIOGRAPHY PAGE...

THE BUSTER BROWN COMIC BOOK and KIM DEITCH PAGE...

THE RUBBER FROGGY REMPEL page

REPAIRING A FROGGY THE GREMLIN...

And here are some other features on the website that aren't nearly as good...

MY BIO and COMIC "DUBIOUS MOMENTS"

LET PEAS BE WITH YOU!

STOOGE FANS' I.Q. TEST

W.C. FIELDS GUESS-YOUR-CARD TRICK

Tribute to OFFICER JOE BOLTON

RON'S "Fun Stuff" WEBSITE MUSEUM

THE COMEDY AUTOGRAPH GALLERY

to e-mail: CYKOTTICK at HOTMAIL.COM