Friday, October 13, 2017

Born Today October 13: Harry Hershfield


Cartoonist, writer, and radio personality Harry Hershfield was born on this day in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Jewish immigrant parents.  When he was just 14 years of age, he created his first cartoon character Homeless Hector.  This wound up running as a strip in the Chicago Daily News  in 1899.  Hershfield later studied in Chicago at both the Frank Holmes School of Illustration and the Chicago Art Institute.  By 1907, he was drawing for the San Francisco Chronicle, where he had relocated.  In 1909, he was hired to work at William Randolph Heart's New York Herald Tribune. He then bounced around at a couple of New York papers drawing some of his most famous strips.  In 1911, his Desperate Desmond made it's way into a film for the first time.  Desperate Desmond Almost Succeeds was made as a live action comedy short. Desperate Desmond made an appearance in 6 more films during the years 1911 and 1912.  His Abie the Agent was then featured in two films in 1917: Iska Worreh and Abie Kabibble Outwitted His Rivals; both of these films were animated.  None of his characters have been used in films since then.  By the 1920's he was stumbling into a role that he would come to be in great demand for in the 1930's; that of a toastmaster of banquets and, later, master of ceremonies.  He also appeared in 1924 romantic comedy The Great White Way as a cameo, along with a host of others (the film is now presumed lost).  He was hired in the spring of 1938 to head up MGM's cartoon  studio's story department; he joked at the time that they were so welcoming of him that they threw him a farewell dinner.  Though he had a myriad of legal troubles with Hearst during the 1930's, his popularity, particularly with charities, as master of ceremonies laid open another path in his life: radio work.  He was immensely popular on the radio in the 1940's--so much so, that he was dubbed the "Jewish Will Rogers."  During the 1950's, he was seen on early versions of television variety shows.  His last television appearance was in 1961 on The Jack Par Show.  Hershfield lived out the rest of his life in New York and passed away in a Manhattan hospital on the 15th of December in 1974 at the age of 89.  I can find no information on his burial.  

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