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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » I'm a real boy! » » Paul Winchell, Jerry and Knuck! What Is The Secret Of Their Appeal? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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daffydoug
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I've been thinking about this, and maybe it's a silly question, but it's something I can't get out of my craw. So I'll toss it out for your thoughts.

What is the appeal of Paul Winchell's figures? What is the secret? (I'm referring to Jerry and Knuck,  of course.

I've seen a lot of figures, and of course, many of them are quite good, from an aesthetic standpoint.

But through all my years, I have not seen one that equaled the "magic" of those two faces. Something about them, (is it the eyes?) just delights my sense of sight. The character is so perfectly captured in the face. And of course, with Paul's voice, the magic is complete. The voice fits the characters like a proverbial glove, and the faces tell the whole story.

Is it just me?? Am I biassed because somewhere inside me still lives that little boy, who, absolutely enchanted, inextricably riveted to the black and white TV set, sat and drank in every line, every quip, every antic, every laugh of the "Winchell Mahoney Show."?

My very first figure was a Juro Novelty $5.00 (a lot of money for a kid back then!) Jerry Mahoney doll with a single pull string to work the mouth, eyes set permanantly looking left, hard plastic moulded hair...well, you know the rest. That figure (doll actually)  was pure magic for me. I carried it around everywhere.

Now I have a photo of Paul, Jerry and Knuck on my I-Phone as wall paper, and I smile inside every time I see those mischievous faces. Something that I can't put my finger on just tickles me and cheers me when I am down. I know they are not real, of course, but they SEEM that way. I can't figure out if it's the eyes or the shape of the mouth, or just a combination of several elements. Paul was a genius. I'll say that much.

So is it just me, or does Paul have a secret to creatung figures that create such magic in our eyes, mind and heart and that have such charm and universal appeal? Has ANYBODY ever stopped and tried to analyze it before??

Have no doubt about it. Paul was magic. And with Knuck and Jerry, well, the world became  his oyster. Everybody loved Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff!!

We will never see the likes of Paul  again. 

What do YOU think? What is the secret of Paul's magic and the enduring appeal of his figures?
The difficult must become easy, the easy beautiful and the beautiful magical.
TheDummyDoctor
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Like Bergen, the real key to Winchell's success was in the characterizations rather than the actual physical puppets. He would have become just as successful with a sock puppet. It's true that Winchell was without a doubt a very troubled soul (as anyone else who knew him will attest), but underneath all of the angst was an incredibly dynamic performer with a very keen sense of humor. The puppets were certainly appealing but I think secondary to Paul's energetic delivery and personality. Like Bergen, Paul took a very character driven approach to his act but at the same time offered a much more "in your face" style of presentation than Bergen...and the more aggressive style proved to be right for the time and for the new medium of television. It can be argued that in some ways Jerry was rather Bart Simpson-like (though perhaps less controversial).

As to the puppets themselves, (other than the first puppet he created in high school) Jerry Mahoney was an off the shelf, duplicarved stock figure ("Nosey") by Frank Marshall. After a few years on TV, Winch made a few modifications and eventually had a furniture shop in NY make a copy of Jerry (they made several shells for him, actually), and Winch made a few more modifications and added closing eyelids. In some early kinescope recordings you can see the original Marshall Jerry, but the Jerry most us us came to know was the copy that Winch worked on.

Winch told me that the first Knucklehead was rather hurriedly made (by him) from one of the copies of Jerry (although at various times, he gave different accounts of how Knuck was created) . He subsequently had the same shop make a few duplicarved heads of Knucklehead.
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daffydoug
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Absolutly absorbing information! It's almost magic, as I read your post, to travel back through time in the theatre of the mind and imagine you are there as history is being made. I think I have an idea of what duplicarve is, but I'm still a little nebulous on that.
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manal
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Winchell was fantastic.
I just watched the old " Dick Van Dyke Show" episode "Talk to the Snail"
He made a very simple hand puppet come alive!
Life is too important to take seriously.

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Dickens & Dave
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Quote:
On 2013-02-11 16:56, daffydoug wrote:
I think I have an idea of what duplicarve is, but I'm still a little nebulous on that.

It's pretty much what it sounds like - there is a machine called a duplicarver, on one side, you have something you want to carve a copy of and on the other side you have the wood "blank", and as you trace over the features of the original, the blank is being carved out by the machine (which is basically a router).
http://dickensndave.bravehost.com/index.html



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Steve at The Dummy Shoppe
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Something else that should absolutely not be forgotten about Paul. In 2007, Dr Henry J. Heimlech gave testimony to the entire Vent Haven ConVENTion of his personal friendship with Winch, and of the fact that he had been aware of all of Pauls efforts as the original inventor of the artificial heart for use in humans. Dr. Heimlech was of course the inventor of the Heimlech manuver.

Even though another Dr. was at the time claiming to be the inventor of the artificial heart, Dr. Heimlech gave testimony that the man had freely been given the artificial heart by Paul to use for the betterment of mankind.

Just a tid-bit about a great vent, but in reality this "small" invention of Paul Winchell's has had untold use and saved literally tens of thousands of lives.

I don't remember all those on here that were present for this testimonial, but a few that I do remember are, Donald Woodford, Dan Willinger, Mark Wade, Jeff Dunham, and many others so if anyone needs further proof of this story, there were plenty of witnesses to it.

As a side note that night, Dr. Heimlech's wife was also there. She was/is the daughter of Arthur Murray of Murray Dance Studios.

Steve

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daffydoug
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The artificial heart demonstrates so clearly how wide and deep this man's talents went. When you think of the vast difference between the medical field and the entertainment field, and you think of Paul's amazing contributions to both fields, it is astounding! It boggles the brain.

I honestly think that Winch somehow, someway found or stumbled upon that illusive magic key that unlocks the unlimited genius that resides in the human soul. It's amazing to be a genius one chosen field in life, but to be a genius in multiple fields can only demonstrate an I.Q. that hints at being much higher than the norm.

To think he started out as a young man with a debilitating stutter, and transformed himself into the great man that he was is an incredibly inspiring thought.

I have seen that Dick Van Dyke show with the snail, and like Shari Lewis, he had that GIFT of being able to animate and give life to the simplest of puppets.

You know, on second thought, I think Henson had the gift, too.

Anyway, I'll never forget the time many, many years ago when I saw Winch as a guest on a talk show. The skit he did on that show has never left my mind. He performed a skit where he turned his wristwatch into a miniature radio. He made it seem like he caught the baseball game on a station on that tiny radio. And incredibly, it was absolutely believable! He did the sound effects, (in miniature as you would expect from a tiny speaker. You could hear the anouncer, the crack of the bat as it connected with the ball, the roar of the crowd, and EVERYTHING. And it all sounded so lilliputiian tiny as if it was coming out of a miniscule speaker in his watch.

Most incredible thing I've ever seen any vent do.
The difficult must become easy, the easy beautiful and the beautiful magical.
MagicalArtist
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In his book on vent, Winchell said that Jerry Mahoney was two-faced! That is, he had carved Jerry's head so that it was smiling on one side and slightly frowning on the other. In this way, he could convey emotions depending on which way Jerry's head was turned.

And let's not forget that Winchell combined vent with puppetry in a way that had never been done before...or since.

But ultimately, it was the skill of the performer that made Jerry and Knuck what they were.
daffydoug
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A two faced Jerry?? Wow! I'm blown away! I wonder if that put a limit on how many facial features could be animated.
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Wanlu
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I think TV and radio has a lot to do with that secret... Smile
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daffydoug
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Very true. But ya' know, when I was a boy, there's just something about Jerry's face that "got me" Maybe it was the eyes. Maybe it was the way Winch just nailed the character. I don't know. I just can't put my finger on it.
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manal
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Winchell was a master of manipulation.
Oh yea, and timing ,lip control, acting, interacting with the figure etc...
I guess he was simply a master and when I watch him it is easy to belive Jerry and Knuck are alive.
Life is too important to take seriously.

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daffydoug
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Yes! That's it! It's easy to believe the fantasy even today. Just imagine through the eyes of a little boy. When I was a boy, it was extremely easy to believe in Superman, and Bugs Bunny, and Mighty Mouse, and yes, Jerry Mahoney.
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Although I am primarily a professional Magician, I do close my shows with vent work. I have been using a figure from Howie Olson now for about thirty years - Handsome Harry.

Anyway, Paul Winchell was the reason I ever got into ventriloquism. Yes I have seen him on the D. Van Dyke show, watched the reruns, etc. Nothing seemed to have the appeal to me as when he appeared on the Lucy Show. Man, he brought those figures to life, when Jerry and Knuck were sitting there fighting and arguing was too cool to a young kid as myself, I was hooked. Winchell was THE BEST, I have never seen another vent like him and doubt I ever will, his animations and nuances were what really brought these characters alive. His VHS tape put out a few years back was very cool, the guy was in a class all by himself. I also viewed his original artwork, it was also astounding of course, the man was without a doubt a genius and would have been exceptional in anything he did, the field he chose entertained us all.

Chuck Caputo


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daffydoug
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Very well put! As you said, Paul was in a class by himself. The scope of his talent was astounding!
The difficult must become easy, the easy beautiful and the beautiful magical.
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My first figure was a Jerry Mahoney, that I borrowed for over 20 years.

His use of other props, story lines and interactions priceless.

Winchell also voiced Tiger in Winnie the Pooh. (at least that's up in a small memory box in my brain)

Watching the oldies, shows they still hold up...and have inspired others besides this nearly normal vent.

Harris
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daffydoug
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He voiced Tigger, as you said, and many more.

Just a few: The very old scrubbing bubbles commercial with the goofy sounding bubbles, ..that was Paul.

The very old commercial with the owl who asks " How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? " Yup, ...Paul.

The old Gummy Bears cartoon: One of the characters was Paul. ( Zummi Gummie) Then there was Dick Dastardly, Marmaduke, Gargamel. Speed Buggy, Boomer, and on and on the list goes. Let's put it this way: Paul's vocal cords made him a very wealthy man!
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Mr. Pitts
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Chuck, I feel the same way about the Lucy Show segment. The original airing of that marks the EXACT moment I became fascinated with ventriloquism. I have never fully recovered.
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daffydoug
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Do you recall the year that you first saw that?
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Mr. Pitts
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1968. I was 7 years old. I don't think it was a re-run. I was a die-hard Lucy fan even then.
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