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.
Some samples of early Al Kilgore work:
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)
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:
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:
Wallace Beery cover by AK for Film Fan Monthly's 6th Anniversary Issue.
|one of the printed strips with color added.|
All of AK's SCREEN FACTS covers:
|Dick Powell & Ruby Keeler|
|A more realistic AK Deborah Kerr|
some AK interior images for Screen Facts
|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|
|the three stars of Gunga Din|
|the original art|
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
some samples of AK's recasting Screen Classics series
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|
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
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|
title lettering by AK
Some of the drawings from the book:
|A detail for the promotion art AK drew for "The Projectionist" in 1971|
|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.
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 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
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.
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
|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.
Didn't Will Elder also illustrate some kind of President paper doll book?ReplyDelete
Not sure. Maybe jimmy Carter?ReplyDelete
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!ReplyDelete
This salute is long overdue. Well done!ReplyDelete
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."ReplyDelete
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."ReplyDelete
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.ReplyDelete
Thanks Mike. Leonard Maltin asked me where that Panoramic comic strip assemblage originally appeared?ReplyDelete
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.ReplyDelete
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 GREENBERGReplyDelete
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!
Thanks Bob, well said and all true.ReplyDelete
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.
Great work throughout -- but that Shirley Temple portrait freaks me out!ReplyDelete
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 somewhereReplyDelete
There WAS a Jimmy Carter coloring book but that was illustrated by Neal Adams.ReplyDelete
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!ReplyDelete
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.'ReplyDelete
Also a big fan of AK. Became aware of his work with that Golden Age Of Comedy album cover.ReplyDelete
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. :-)ReplyDelete
Al was great, Drew. Excellent tribute.ReplyDelete
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.ReplyDelete
Thank you for this. I have the Tex Avery book, and used to have the magic book at one time.ReplyDelete
Holy smokes! so many different styles; all of them beautifully realized. What an incredible legacy! Drew, thank you so much for sharing.ReplyDelete
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? firstname.lastname@example.orgReplyDelete
Sorry Nat, the image I posted came from Ebay, I don't have a hi res of it.ReplyDelete
So much enjoyed this Al Kilgore tribute. What an artist, and so prolific. Your own work continues in his great tradition.ReplyDelete
John McElwee at Greenbriar Picture Shows