Edgar's Nasty Little Dummy
There’s an unwholesome quality about Charlie McCarthy that we at the Greenbriar have always admired. He was a frankly lecherous dummy who spoke for several generations of dissolute men and boys, sort of a Dean Martin in knotty pine. An ongoing affront to any and all polite exchange between the sexes, he burrowed into the hypocrisies of social intercourse in all its manifestations. Yes, we like Charlie a lot, ever since our first exposure to he and Edgar (and Mortimer) in the W.C. Fields classic, You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man. It’s great seeing their Vitaphone shorts featured as extras on Warner DVD's as well. The happiest surprise, however, came with Disney's recent release of Alice In Wonderland. Among the extras on Disc 2, there was a Christmas TV special from 1950, in which Bergen and the dummies are attending a party on the Disney lot, hosted by Walt himself, and featuring appearances by child star Bobby Driscoll and the English kid who served as a live-action model for Alice In Wonderland. In fact, the special itself (Walt’s first for television) was a promotion for the upcoming release of Alice In Wonderland, and twelve-year old Kathryn Beaumont is outfitted in full Alice regalia, even though the feature itself was animated, and she never appeared on screen. This is where Charlie swings into action, and I’m frankly amazed that ABC, let alone Disney, allowed their ribald exchange to get past the editor’s table. Walt makes the introduction, Kathryn is ultra-polite in that manner we expect from all British youth of the time, and then Charlie zeroes in, undeterred by the fact that he is dealing with a twelve-year old girl, as opposed to Mae West, Paulette Goddard, or some other saucy vixen on one of his radio programs. Charlie, this is the voice of Alice, says Walt, to which Charlie leeringly replies, Well… what goes with the voice isn’t so bad either! I’m ever so glad to meet you, Charlie, says Kathryn, at which point he leans in and delivers the proposition, Look sis, why don’t we slip away from this fish-fry and go somewhere. I happen to know of an intimate little soda fountain… She then interrupts with, I cahn’t, Charlie… and introduces the unenthusiastic dummy to Bobby Driscoll. Now, this sort of dialogue would no doubt wow ‘em at a camp show, or a guest spot with Hope, but how did Bergen end up with material like this for a comic exchange between his alter-ego and an underage girl? We figure it must have been some sort of snafu during the writing session, or maybe some gesture of insurrection on the part of a disaffected scribe. Anyway, it was as close as Charlie would get to the commission of a statutory offense, and it happened on Uncle Walt’s show!
Our love for Charlie is boundless, so we're providing several glimpses of our favorite little wooden man. That's Charlie and "Alice" Kathryn Beaumont on the left --- then he's intruding on Edgar's romantic moment in The Goldwyn Follies. That's the boys doing a swami act with a leggy chorine in Stage Door Canteen, and finally, a page from Warner's pressbook celebrating the return of their Vitaphone short subjects, and suggesting some of the tie-ins available.