Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ate some more burnt hoss flesh

In reply to my post about James Thurber and "No News, or What Killed the Dog," Rick Bowes writes:
Wow! That's my story with variations. The Thurber Carnival, the classic 1945 compilation which includes the entire My Life And Hard Times, was what my parents read to me at bedtime. At age four and five, stories like "The Night The Ghost Got In" and "The Night The Bed Fell" were funny/scary magic. When I was maybe ten or eleven - this was in the mid '50's when any old family house had '78's and phonographs to play them - a friend on a rainy afternoon played "No News...". It was revelation - The Dead Sea Scrolls - were as nothing. Thanks for reminding me.
"Funny/scary magic" is exactly how I felt about My Life and Hard Times. I've often thought that book, in the right hands, would make a riotous kids' movie, on the order of A Christmas Story. (One shudders, of course, to imagine it in the wrong hands.)

Two afterthoughts on "No News, or What Killed the Dog":

According to a brief bio by professional clown Bruce "Charlie" Johnson, now-forgotten vaudeville and Ziegfeld headliner Nat Wills (1873-1917) performed "No News, or What Killed the Dog" as a one-sided telephone conversation -- so it not only was an early variation of "The Aristocrats," but an ancestor of Bob Newhart's celebrated telephone routines and the brilliant scene of the president's bad-news phone call in Dr. Strangelove.

Archeophone Records plans a 26-track CD of Wills' greatest hits, the first track, of course, being "No News, or What Killed the Dog." I'd pay extra for a bonus track that repeats in the same spot as the recording in the Thurber household.

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