May 9, 2006
Dr. Seuss and Dr. T.
This is a rare original photo of Ted Geisel--Dr. Seuss--looking over art direction and storyboards for his one totally Seussian feature film, "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T". The gentleman with him is the art director--I think; I scanned this at home and forgot to jot down the text of the caption on the back. I'll do that tonight and update it.
If you've never seen this film, well...it's something else. I'm not sure overall how good it is--it definitely drags at times, and some of the musical numbers don't work, in my opinion--but it's got plenty of truly weird stuff never seen before or since, an epic performances by Hans Conreid as a piano teacher/despot of a fantastical dream world (his rendition of "Dress Me!" is outrageously over the top camp--while at the same time being simply a goofy Dr. Seuss idea and song) and Tommy Rettig as the kid who has pure Seuss filling his head. It's sentimental and sadistic by turns. Weirdness galore.
I do not think Ted drew these storyboards, by the way. Make sure you click on the image to enlarge it.
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Dr. T...the film Geisel purportedly hated so much, it put him off from Hollywood and filmmaking from then on. Happily, that didn't seem to apply for television!
At the Playhouse Pictures closing sale, I bought a little datebook from 1957 that had belonged to Ade Woolery. It has Ted Geisel's address and phone number and a note about a meeting to discuss Grinch. What would Grinch have looked like if Playhouse had made it instead of Jones?
Thanks for stopping by me blog.
How do you know Mark Mayerson, by the way?
Keep up the great posting!
When I first saw this post title at a glace I thought it said "Dr. Seuss and Mr. T" That would be quite a combination! Anyways, I've never heard of this film before I might have to look it up.
I read his autobiography, but it never really mentioned one thing - how much work did Geisel himself do on shorts made from his stories? Did he ever work on boards?
Jeff-yes, I'd read that too; he sure LOOKS miserable in some of the photos I've seen on the set! ; )
Steve--man, that's just TOO freaking cool....I love stuff like that.
Alan--I know Mark by reputation! We've never met, but anyone interested in animated cartoons has heard his name again and again, or read it. I was contacted by him a while back when I posted a bit of the "Nifty Nineties" drafts. He knows his stuff!
Brian-definitely look it up; it's a mixed bag--some of it is imho awful--but some is genius, just so so Seussian and weird. And again--Hans Conried is a hoot and a half. Worth it for him alone. AND the set design! I know several people, one in particular, who are obsessed with the "5 finger beanies". See the film & you'll know what I mean. ; )
Jim-As far as I know, in things like the "Horton" WB Clampett short, Geisel did no hands-on, but they adapted it fathfully; with "Gerald McBoing Boing" at UPA, again--he sold the story, that's it. He wrote some of the very best "Pvt. SNAFU" shorts during the war, while working with Chuck Jones, etc. on those things, and by virtue of the writing they're really Seuss like, but again--not his designs.
On this magnum opus, "Dr. T", he wrote the script, the libretto for the songs and clearly had a big hand in designing the overall look of the film and the ideas are from his overall concepts(I haven't seen storyboards that were drawn by Seuss at all--and there are lots of boards--but I would bet he did a good number of concept paintings)...but the film is not a success and I think this had to do with direction, pacing, editing--that kind of stuff. Seuss was putting himself way out in front with this big production and the end product infuriated him. Watching it now, I think fans take the good and leave the not-so-good, but any artist as idiosyncratic as Seuss was is going to be very(understandably) proprietary about his personal vision put into a big budget movie machine.
Thanks for commenting, guys!
Seuss's lyrics for the "Dress Me" song are genius and reveal a rarely-seen facet of his inexhaustible depth as a creative mind. He seems to actually get ticked at its endless verses, then slugs his way right back out of it, all of this conveyed in Conreid's brilliant vocal performance. If the rest of the picture were as good as that song, Seuss might've been given more live action projects. It didn't help that RKO was going bankrupt around the time that it came out, either.
Just added it to the netflix queue. Thanks again for another recommendation!
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