Sunday, 15 March 2015

Frank Bellamy and "How the West was won"

Updated -see bottom of page
Radio Times 22  Dec 1973- 4 Jan 1974 p.27
I can't tell you how many westerns I've watched in my lifetime, but my dad, who loved western novels, and films died in 1982 and we watched loads together. But what's an 'oater'?
 
The thing that really caught my attention in the 1970s was Frank Bellamy's artwork in the Radio Times. I'd seen his "Heros the Spartan" and "Thunderbirds" comic strips, his "Captain Scarlet" and "Joe 90" covers, his Sunday Times work and of course his "Garth" strip in the Daily Mirror. But it was the design element of his work I loved.

One of my favourites appeared in the Radio Times, the UK's leading magazine at the time, published then by the BBC itself with only BBC programmes listed, dated 22 December 1973 - 4 January 1974. At that time Philip Jenkinson was reviewing the upcoming films for the Christmas period. This is what he said about "How the West was won":

Star-packed oater about three generations of Western pioneers. The best 'episode' is George Marshall's railroad sequence, but everywhere the giant screen visuals are too gimmicky for their own good. Terrific musical score

Did you see the word? Apparently, 'oater' refers to the feed bags that horses had and therefore were very common in westerns. Did you ever see one in a movie? I might have seen one, but 'common'? I don't think so, so where did that word come from?  The Oxford English Dictionary says it's a colloquialism for "horse opera also a radio programme or book of this nature" Its first usage recorded by them is "1946 Time 29 Apr. 94/2 The first successful storytelling movie made in the U.S...was what the trade calls an oater—a Western."

Oh well, let's get on. Why am I so obsessed with the word 'oater', it's because it appears beneath Bellamy's splendid drawing.

Radio Times cover 22  Dec 1973- 4 Jan 1974
Bellamy uses the episodic nature of the film itself and shows scenes representative of the Wild West.he shows buffalo, U.S. cavalry, an 'iron horse' a raft in a river, and some Indians (as they were called back then - my dad wouldn't have known the phrase 'native Americans')

The way that Bellamy has shown the wide angles of the three projectors process "Cinerama" is brilliant in my opinion. The title wraps from left to right and crosses the last word which fades from right to left. The curves continue to the right to show an apparent complete screen but it actually isn't equal in terms of the full screen curves and the edge of the filmstrip with its sprockets emphasises this incompleteness as we wouldn't see this in the cinema. The loaded scenery in the bottom right balances the left side of the image where, if we follow the receding word 'WEST' (notice it's in that stocky Playbill font!), we see a wagon travelling away from us, but also those famous Bellamy 'swirls' are emphasising the forced perspective in the word 'West'. Beautiful design! The experience in designing cinema cut-outs in the 1930s back in his home town of Kettering must have inspired his love of film and brought out this imaginative scene.

But interestingly the figure in the bottom right caught my attention as I immediately realised that it matches one of Alan Davis' polaroids that he rescued from the Bellamy house rubbish sacks

Cowboy shooting gun
Alan Davis polaroid
Thanks go to Alan for permission to use the photograph. He's a star!

As is Bill Storie for reminding me he's seen this somewhere else:

I knew I'd seen that cowboy before !! Wonder if the Hombre strip was intended to be a spin-off from the movie?? Was also a bit surprised to see the Radio Times pic again after so many years - haven't seen it since first published in the magazine - but in my mind's eye the version I thought I'd seen then had a steam train racing towards what looked like a wall of logs or a barrier of some sort and about to impact it rather violently. Weird - dunno if I'm thinking of another Radio Times illo by another artist - the old neurons are a bit fuzzy these days but even when younger I recall seeing that image somewhere and always attributing it to Frank. 

Blow-up from the famous photo of Frank in his studio

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Frank Bellamy and Home Notes magazine

I don't think you'll enjoy this post on Frank Bellamy. Remember I warned you!

 
Home Notes 27 July 1951

 Home Notes, which was first published in 1894 by C. Arthur Pearson, Ltd., on every Friday  contained, as the Writers and Artists Year Book 1949 stated:

“Love stories from 2000 to 4000 words in length. Well written serials from 40,000 to 60,000 words. Dramatic but not sensational. Articles of topical, love, and domestic interest, 500 to 1000 words. Original designs in knitting or crochet.[…] Illustration: Three-colour cover and centrespread. Story and article illustrations in colour, line or wash”.  

Artists that appeared around the same time as Frank Bellamy were Fred Laurent, Ray Bailey, Peter Kay, Philip Townsend, and Leslie Caswell (with whom Mike Noble worked – who also worked on TV21 with Bellamy in the sixties).

Home Notes (23rd Feb 1951)
"Don't envy Louise", by Nancy Pearce p.15
"Louise pushed at him with her hands. 'Don't spoil our evening like this, Terry!'"

In total I have found Bellamy produced 5 pieces in black and white washes illustrating romance stories for Home Notes in 1951 with titles such as "Don't envy Louise", "Nicholas comes to dinner", and "Impatient heart". Little wonder then that “he hated those sort of girlie illustrations, static things which he hated drawing. It wasn’t his cup of tea at all, but he did them for the money. He wanted to draw something with a bit of guts to it.” (Nancy Bellamy from the interview with Alan Woollcombe, Speakeasy #100, 16 page insert, 1989 to accompany "The Unseen Frank Bellamy" exhibition).

Home Notes (30th March 1951)"Nicholas comes to dinner" by Norah Smaridge, p.6
"Sylvia wanted him for what he could give her, but Patty, shyly and secretly, loved him with all her heart."

During this period he also is known to have entered some of his own (non-commercial) work in his local Merton and Morden Art and Crafts Exhibition (18th to 23rd June 1951) perhaps to get out of the rut he had gotten himself into. The good news was that he was soon to go freelance and by the end of that year International Artists, Ltd. (founded in 1933), wrote to Bellamy to confirm they would act as his agent.

Home Notes (16th March 1951), p.7. "Something to remember" by Margaret Bathe
"'It's not my fault', he said angrily, 'if you wanted luxury, you should have married some other man'."

I only own two of these magazines so have scanned photocopies to fill the gaps for your pleasure and delight!


Home Notes (30th Nov 1951) "It happened on Sunday" by Constance Howard pp.12-13
"'I can't go on any longer,' she said, 'it's too much to bear

Home Notes (27th July 1951), "Impatient heart" by Judith Blaney, p.15
"'Oh darling!', she whispered, ' I thought you would never come home'".

Now finally, I want to ask for your help...Those of you who do this sort of research, wading through tons of paper and trying to identify an artist's work with no more than a guess, will know what I mean.

This piece appears in Home Notes 6 July 1951 issue and as I was wading through the Home Notes magazines for this period (I would have looked both sides of 1951) I spotted this little advert in a page of adverts. The style of the banner and the cartoon style remind me so much of Bellamy's Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph work on the 1940s but how can we know if it is his work? I suppose we have to identify it and say....maybe! What do you think?
Home Notes 1951 6 July p.36

Is this Bellamy?
Well, that's his romance illustrations, except I should mention here too the piece that Tim Barnes kindly shared with me. I think it was once owned by Mike Lake but we have no idea where and if it ever appeared. The style and look is so like the Home Notes work I have always thought it was done for that publication. Why is it in red? Maybe a filter would be placed over it before publication? Anyone out there go any idea?

"Romance illustration" supplied by Tim Barnes
I personally really enjoy these era of Bellamy's work, he continued using various techniques in Boy's Own Paper before his Mickey Mouse work in line and black and white only. Such a versatile artist. So did you enjoy this or not?