Monday, May 16, 2011

Al KILGORE: KING OF CARTOONS



AL KILGORE (1927-1983) was a cartoonist, comic book & comic strip writer,  sometimes actor, sometimes screenwriter, but mostly remembered as a renowned caricaturist.


 Growing up in the sixties and a rabid old film comedy buff, I constantly sought out and coveted seeing AK's always delightful, effortless, lighthearted artwork, mainly on the covers of film magazines, books and record albums. I thought it obvious that here was an artist who clearly loved what he was drawing, an early inspiration for me. AK sadly died fairly young, and aside from fellow traveler-old movie buffs, his work has become either under appreciated or largely forgotten. I hope this helps to rectify that situation and restore the name Al Kilgore to it's rightful place among great caricaturists and cartoonists of the late 20th century.

A two record comedy compilation set from "Evolution records", 1972. Cover art by Al Kilgore.
The art was used on the front and back covers.

Some samples of early Kilgore work:

From 1954, cover and illustrations by AK

also from 1954, cover and art by AK

and an alternate cover by AK

and another book cover by AK from 1954

a 1958 Children's book written and drawn by AK



Some examples of AK's Bullwinkle syndicated newspaper comic strip from the early sixties (1962-65), the first featuring Bullwinkle flirting with current cinema queen Cleopatra (Liz Taylor) click to enlarge:

one of the printed strips with color added.

Christmas Card by AK

cover art by AK

Some more early sixties AK comic book covers:










AK was also the art director of SCREEN FACTS, a sporadically published, digest sized film magazine edited by Alan G. Barbour in the sixties. This is Al's cover illustration of Shirley Temple riding the stars from 1965.

All of AK's SCREEN FACTS  covers:

Bette Davis
Dick Powell & Ruby Keeler

Ann Sheridan

Rudolph Valentino

Raymond Walburn
Donald O'Connor
A more realistic AK Deborah Kerr

a later logo designed by AK
Great AK crosshatching cover art for "The Serials of Republic" by Alan G. Barbour, 1965.

AK logo for Entertainment Films, Inc.

in 1965, AK created the art for these Quisp & Quake Cereal adventure mini premium comics 


click to enlarge
This incredible, panoramic, Hirschfeld-like illustration drawn for the National Cartoonist Society depicts an assemblage of famous comic strip & pulp magazine characters that wound up in the movies. Here's the key to who's who:
ious serial fans, this 4-chapter silent mini-serial is an amazinglywell done b/w tribute to the mvie serials of the '30s and '
1966: CAPTAIN CELLULOID VS. THE FILM PIRATES was a short made by a group of film historians as an homage to 1940's movie serials and featured Al Kilgore as "Vance". Poster by artist Gray Morrowup




"Liddle Wolfgang" a 4 page comic by AK from 1966, possibly channeling Eddie Munster (Eddie Wolfgang Munster)?:
m for himself using his "Instant Transmission
LLimi
44










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A more provocative cover drawn by AK from 1968, for Leonard Maltin's essential film magazine "Film Fan Monthly", depicting a crucified Mickey Mouse on the occasion of the release of Richard Schickel's controversial Disney biography "The Disney Version".

       Wallace Beery cover by AK for Film Fan Monthly's 6th Anniversary Issue.

Another cover for Film Fan Monthly from 1971, AK's drawing of Beloved film comedienne Patsy Kelly, still performing.
AK enjoyed nothing more than drawing Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy. These caricatures of Stan & Ollie appeared on the set of Chuck McCann's early 1960's weekend TV show "Laurel & Hardy and Chuck", where AK was a sometimes guest, along with fellow Sons of the Desert founder, John McCabe.

Chuck McCann by AK

a TV Guide ad for the show

AK was a founding member of the Laurel & Hardy international appreciation society "The Son's of the Desert", creating their crest, drawn to the specifications suggested by Stan Laurel.


"Mr. Laurel & Mr. Hardy" by John McCabe, cover art and design by AK


AK created the covers and artwork for several hardcover Pink Panther books in the late sixties.


Underdog sketch 
AK drew this campaign cartoon mocking Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace for the National Cartoonist Society in 1968

a Boris Karloff tribute magazine from 1969, cover art by AK

A fun image by AK for Film Facts, what if Warner brothers had made "Frankenstein"?:  James Cagney as the monster, Humphrey Bogart as Dr. Frankenstein, Edward G. Robinson as Fritz

also from Film Facts, reprinted in Castle of Frankenstein magazine

in 1969, AK drew the cover art and interior caricatures for this book edited by Bill Adler

Some of the drawings from the book:

Eddie Cantor

Will Rogers

Robert Benchley

Fred Allen

Groucho Marx

Teddy Roosevelt

Harry Truman


A detail for the promotion art AK drew for "The Projectionist" in 1971
The full image...AK created this fun promotional handout art or "slick" for the 1971 Chuck McCann cult classic "The Projectionist", directed by Harry Hurwitz. For some reason, a different photographic image was used for the actual poster and film advertisement, although...

The British poster for the film DID use the AK art
AK lettered & drew the diagram illustrations for this 1973 magic handbook

AK's delightful Laurel & Hardy illustration and lettering adorned the cover for this paperback book from 1973, collecting articles from Film Fan Monthly, the "Official book of the Sons of the Desert", edited by Leonard Maltin.


AK compiled this comprehensive book on Laurel & Hardy in 1975
Beautiful, Hirschfeld inspired line work. Marlene Dietrich from The Blue Angel, seductively perched atop film cans.

Mario Lanza
AK's cover art for Joe Adamson's excellent biography of the legendary Warner Bros & MGM cartoon director Tex Avery,  published by Popular Library in 1975.

AK cover for this 1977 mystery novel about a murder at the "Son's of the Desert" convention published by Dutton

AK's handwritten bio and a Chaplin image that ran as the cover of "Applause" magazine
in 1971, from the 1980 National Cartoonist Society Album
AK created the flyer lettering & art for this NY film retrospective at the school of visual arts in 1980. I was a student at SVA at the time where Al was then playing sometime host to the "Son's of the Desert" meetings in the SVA film department. My unruly fellow student friends and I (We were dubbed "The Kotter Kids", although Al was amused by our "antics") would frequently sit in and enjoy the L&H screenings, as well as Al's always witty, clever and sarcastic banter.

AK poster art for this 1981 documentary:

 BURT'S BIKERS. Roy Frumkes-Director. (54 min.) Original music by Frederick Hand. Glenda Jackson-Narrator. Uplifting docudrama about children with Down Syndrome preparing for a bike race. CINE Golden Eagle. Best Documentary, Houston Film Festival. Broadcast on NBC 5/84. 
In the early eighties, AK created the art for this popular "Paper Doll & Cut-Out book", mainly illustrations of Ronald & Nancy Reagan and their 2 "children" (Patty &... (gulp) Ron Jr.) in their patriotic underwears. Actually, Nancy never looked sexier. 
back cover
AK also created the cover and art for "The Elvis Paperdoll Book" in 1983, which won him an award from the National Cartoonist Society, but was sadly one of his final projects.


When AK was honored by the National Cartoonist Society, he created this mini-bio that ran in the NCS program.
photo by Allen Hefner

Al Kilore tragically died from an Embolism in 1983, but his charming, wonderful artwork will hopefully live on to delight future classic film, cartoon, & caricature fans.

 Special thanks to Mike Lynch, Richard Sala, Jerry Beck, Ben Fentington, Allen Hefner, Jim Engel, Craig Marin, Zach Trenholm, Mark Newgarden, Bobby London & Leonard Maltin. 

16 comments:

  1. Didn't Will Elder also illustrate some kind of President paper doll book?

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  2. GREAT tribute to the great Al. I knew about him from the Laurel & Hardy & Chuck logo. But one day looong ago I was looking at a mag (Leonard Maltin?) and inside was a caricature of Leo Gorcey. It was so totally spot-on, I had to find out more about who this AK was. Chuck (McCann) finally introduced me to him at a Lambs Club SONS OF THE DESERT MEETING, and he was terrific to a little kid. Thanks again for this Drew!

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  3. This salute is long overdue. Well done!

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  4. I had the "Golen Age of Comedy" LP and The Laurel & Hardy Book... I would often use Kilgore's L&H as a guide to drawing them myself. I've earned ectra money as a caricaturist, and AK was a major long-distance "mentor."

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  5. I had the "Golden Age of Comedy" LP and The Laurel & Hardy Book, and always used Kilgore's L&H as a guide to drawing them myself. I earned extra money as a caricaturist, and AK was a major long-distance "mentor."

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  6. Aw, gee whiz, Drew. Thanks for profiling Al Kilgore. I wish I had met Al. He was before my time. My friend NY Daily News cartoonist Bill Kresse is the one who told me about Al. They were both in the Sons of the Desert. I'm envious of your "Kotter Kid" experience.

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  7. Thanks Mike. Leonard Maltin asked me where that Panoramic comic strip assemblage originally appeared?

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  8. If I remember, the Al Kilgore drawing of all the Hollywood stars who portrayed comic strip icons is from a National Cartoonists Society Reuben Awards album that maybe only the 500-600 members would have seen. I'll leave a note here if I can find it in my mess of a studio.

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  9. Drew: If the SONS was the first time that you ever met him then I was responsible for that. Remember I was the only SON in our group and would bring you fellas to SOTD meetings at SVA, to the backs of Irish Pubs and even the McBurney YMCA! I think it was actually Alan G. Barbour who dubbed us, "The Kotter Kids." Dwayne Smith complained to me about my "friends" but I don't think Al minded us at all. He would just pop his eyes, raise his eyebrows and laugh. He'd substitute teach at SVA and I recall him showing his Chuck McCann dubbed DOUBLE WHOOPEE and the "Be My Valentine" episode of UNDERDOG. I think you captured his character well here. At the SONS banquets he was a wonderful Emcee and Impressionist. I recall his uncanny Eddie Cantor & Groucho Marx. Both he performed in full costume and make-up. A great talent & a great guy! Nice memories. Best, BOB GREENBERG
    P.S. I also recall him telling us that UNDERDOG, etc., were "Wetbacks" since they were really animated in Mexico! P.P.S. And that Wally Cox would be "crocked" when he voiced his Underdog!

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  10. Thanks Bob, well said and all true.

    FYI, for anyone taking notes, the so called "Kotter Kids" consisted of me, Mark Newgarden, Bob Greenberg, John Mariano, Robert Costello, and the late Russ Riley.

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  11. Great work throughout -- but that Shirley Temple portrait freaks me out!

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  12. Greenberg is right; we crashed those SONS meetings which didn't have anything to do with SVA... I think they were held on the upper East side somewhere

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  13. There WAS a Jimmy Carter coloring book but that was illustrated by Neal Adams.

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  14. I met wonderful Al Kilgore at the three first Sons of the Desert Conventions and he was absolutely fantastic. A very warm, funny and talented human being, to say the least! I will never forget him. His work has led the path for countless cartoonists, me included. Long Live Al!

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  15. I remember seeing some work of his in a book sometime ago in the 80's and thinking, "Holy Carp! This guy's amazing..." I'm not surprised I'm not alone. He had 'the touch.'

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