Help Needed – Napoleon on Film?

Today I won’t be imparting information, I’m looking to be a consumer. I’ve been talking extensively with Jay Lafave, who is the son of syndicate owner Arthur J. Lafave (of the Lafave Syndicate, natcherly), and a few points have us stumped. They all involve film adaptations of the comic strip Napoleon.

His brother distinctly remembers that there was a feature-length movie of the Napoleon comic strip produced in the 1940s. He recalls that it was shortly after the war, it was live-action and it was on the short side, so presumably a B-movie. He recalls watching it in a Cleveland theatre. The Lafaves don’t recall much more about it except that documentation in their files might indicate that it involved director/producer King Vidor, MGM, or a production company called Viking Productions. I checked IMDB and can find no trace of such a movie. Can anyone help?

Jay also has documentation that indicates Napoleon cartoonist Clifford McBride was filmed at work for an episode of the Unusual Occupations series of theatrical short subjects. Anyone know if the filmed segment made it into a finished episode, which episode he was in, or whether the series exists on video?

Lastly, were there ever any Napoleon animated cartoons?

Much thanks to anyone who can help us out. Lafave is trying to get his memories of his dad’s business down on paper for posterity and these questions have us all baffled.

4 comments on “Help Needed – Napoleon on Film?

  1. Hello, Allan—-Viking Productions was the name of King Vidor’s own company. As for animation, Clifford McBride was a friend of cartoonist/puppeteer Bob Clampett of BEANY AND CECIL and Warner Bros. Cartoon fame. In the mid-40’s, Clampett produced a short pilot film for a proposed series, using stop-motion figures of NAPOLEON and Uncle Elby. Vague reasons of “not being able to secure rights” is often given as the reason it never got off the ground, Clampett himself not being very helpful on this odd aspect of his career. ——Cole Johnsing.

  2. Hello, Allan—-From MINDROT #13, Nov. 1978: BOB CLAMPETT interview by Jim Korkis: “There were two well-known characters I was interested in filming. One was Edgar Bergen’s CHARLIE MCCARTHY and the other was Clifford McBride’s NAPOLEON AND UNCLE ELBY, a popular comic strip featuring a dog with very human reactions. After stirring Cliff’s interest, I worked up a NAPOLEON puppet…..But I wasn’t just going to do NAPOLEON as a puppet show. I planned it as a live action series with a real actor playing Unle Elby. McBride felt that Gene Lockhart would be perfect. And I was going to use a trained dog whose body and size matched Napoleon’s. But, it was impossible to find a dog that had a face that looked like Napoleon. So, what I planned to do was to build a life-sized head with the comic strip dog’s likeness, that would fit over the head of the actual dog. I would film the long shots of Uncle Elby and Napoleon with the dog wearing the false head. Then for close-ups I would film a puppet head which was an exact duplicate of the one on the dog. Now, the dog as drawn in the comic strip had wonderful human facial expressions. It was for this puppet that I originated the method of doing facial expressions such as the smile, the frown, etc. Then we ran into some sort of problem with the rights. So I transferred all the development of multiple facial expressions to my Cecil puppet…..” Well, that doesn’t indicate whether they even completed a NAPOLEON film or not. Perhaps the results weren’t all that good, I mean, an artificial head on a dog?!——Cole Johnson.

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