Monday, May 16, 2011


AL KILGORE, (1927-1983), was a cartoonist, comic book & comic strip writer,  sometimes actor, sometimes screenwriter, but mostly remembered as a renowned caricaturist. In the early sixties he wrote and drew the syndicated Bullwinkle newspaper comic strip before focusing on what he loved the most, illustrating his favorite old time movie stars, especially Laurel and Hardy.

 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.

Al Kilgore at work

 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.

preliminary sketch

The AK art used for this 1973 NCS announcement

Some samples of early Al Kilgore work:

drawn in 1950 when AK was still attending art college

from 1952

original art

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

preliminary sketch for a 1954 book cover...

a 1958 Children's book written and drawn by AK

in the fifties, AK drew a regular cartoon for Floor Covering Monthly magazine.
Here are some samples:

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

one of the printed strips with color added.

Uncle Creepy from Creepy magazine makes an appearance

Bullwinkle Christmas Cards by AK...

book cover sketch

AK also drew the Pink Panther comic

unfinished Ken Murray

Jackie Gleason sketch

Jack Carter sketch

the cast of a production of "Death of a Salesman"

Jerry Lewis by AK

original art

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

original art

Ann Sheridan

Rudolph Valentino

Raymond Walburn

original art
Donald O'Connor
A more realistic AK Deborah Kerr

a later logo designed by AK

some AK interior images for Screen Facts

art and lettering by AK
Great AK crosshatching cover art for "The Serials of Republic" by Alan G. Barbour, 1965.

AK logo for Entertainment Films, Inc.
click to enlarge

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

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:

the three stars of Gunga Din

Jack Benny, Danny Kaye

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".

the original art

       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.

Sydney Greenstreet sketch

Spanky McFarland sketches

The Informer

some samples of AK's recasting Screen Classics series 

James Cagney

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.

The founding members and guests at the 1966 Sons of the Desert banquet, including Alan G. Barbour, John Municino, Frank Nastasi, Al Kilgore, John McCabe, Chuck McCann, Orson Bean, Ida Laurel, Soupy Sales and Ben Shipman. Photo by Leonard Maltin

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

Same art, different cover design

W.C. Fields images by AK

Walter Cronkite by AK

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

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

The Guns of Will Sonnett

1969, Boris Karloff portrait, original art...

 Boris Karloff tribute magazine from 1969, cover art and
title lettering by AK

title lettering by AK

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

Initial cover sketch

Some of the drawings from the book:

Eddie Cantor

Will Rogers

Robert Benchley

Fred Allen

Groucho Marx

Teddy Roosevelt

Harry Truman

from 1970, cover art by AK

Bob Hope

Harpo and Groucho, ad art

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

Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush, original art

cover of Applause magazine

more Chaplins by AK

AK drew a weekly TV celebrity caricature for this newspaper
feature in the 70's

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

Charlie Chaplin original art


Book Cover

AK's art used within this 1973 NCS flyer

album cover art 
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's award from the National Cartoonist's

AK art for this 1976 show

a Bob & Ray tribute from 1976

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

AK's initial sketch

  Miles Kreuger produced the BING CROSBY IN HOLLYWOOD album for Columbia   Records in the late 70s and had them hire Al Kilgore to draw the cover. 

AK cover art for the 1979 Cinecon

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

A gift for Leonard Maltin's 30th birthday (1979)
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 totally 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.

Tom Dillon, member of the Lambs club and president
of the actors fund

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

Items found in Reagan's oval office
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.

initial painted cover rough

final cover
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 and 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, John Wendler, Bob Greenberg, Glenn Bray, Stephen Kroninger  & Leonard Maltin. 


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

  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!

  3. This salute is long overdue. Well done!

  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."

  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."

  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.

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

  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.

  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!

  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.

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

  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

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

  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!

  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.'

  16. Also a big fan of AK. Became aware of his work with that Golden Age Of Comedy album cover.

  17. Drew--- I have that Comedy album that Al illustrated, and always thought that whoever did it was fantastic! You are right, Al Kilgore was great, and a a true original. Drew-- I am a drummer and singer, and I actually played with a small group at one of the Sons of The Desert outings in the early 70's. I remember that Will Jordan performed that night and we had to back him up on some of his bits. Anyway, Drew--- you did a superb tribute here. Bravo to you. :-)

  18. Al was great, Drew. Excellent tribute.

  19. Hi Drew, I too had that Golden Age of Comedy album, and thought that whoever illustrated it was fantastic. Even though his signature was right on the album, I did not know who he was (my ignorance at the time). That is how I learned of him-- from that album. Then later, I saw his L & H caricatures on the McCabe and Maltin books. I am a drummer and singer and actually played with a small band at one of the Sons of the Desert outings in NYC in the early 70's. I remember that Will Jordan performed that night and we had to play for him on a few of his bits. Anyway, Drew-- you did a superb job with this salute to Al Kilgore. Your layout and just overall approach here is done with such heart... excellent! Bravo, Drew.

  20. Thank you for this. I have the Tex Avery book, and used to have the magic book at one time.

  21. Holy smokes! so many different styles; all of them beautifully realized. What an incredible legacy! Drew, thank you so much for sharing.

  22. Drew: I'm the guy who published the Kilgore's Catholics collection you picture (which collects Convent Belles, Saints Alive!, and Monsignor into a single book)... but I've never seen the full-cartoon Monsignor cover you picture, and would love to include that in future editions. Any chance I could get a high-resolution scan?

  23. Sorry Nat, the image I posted came from Ebay, I don't have a hi res of it.

  24. So much enjoyed this Al Kilgore tribute. What an artist, and so prolific. Your own work continues in his great tradition.

    John McElwee at Greenbriar Picture Shows