Monday, June 14, 2010

R.I.P. Allen Swift.

Way late on this one… Sorry!
Versatile voice actor Allen Swift passed away on April 18 at the age of 87.

Mr. Swift was the voice of such characters as Riff-Raff and Simon Bar-Sinister of UNDERDOG, and Odie Colognie, Itchy Brother, and Tooter the Turtle on KING LEONARDO AND HIS SHORT SUBJECTS.

For more on Allen Swift’s work with these characters, read Mark Arnold’s excellent book “
Created and Produced by Total Television Productions”. (Read the book for a lot of other great reasons too! It’s unprecedented in its coverage of this unjustly overlooked studio.)

Swift also, at some point in the series’ run, voiced HOWDY DOODY and other characters on that classic show. Alas, I hardly remember it, and so cannot comment… but I’m certain he excelled at it. He could do no less.

He was a frequent voice on radio commercials that played in New York, as the Vita Herring Maven, and the voice behind Gold’s Horseradish. Surely, so much more that I’m not recalling.

For me, Allen Swift holds two very special places.
He was the FIRST and ORIGINAL host of THE POPEYE SHOW on WPIX in New York. Before the popular “Captain Jack McCarthy”, there was “Captain Allen Swift” to frame the Popeye theatrical cartoons with a “human presence”. In that characterization, he seemed SO OLD, with his grizzled appearance and white beard, that I actually thought he DIED, and was replaced by “Captain Jack!”

The other was his hilarious voicing of Captain Ahab (What was it with Swift and sea captains!), who was in even greater need of serious anger management counseling than was Melville’s original, in the Gene Deitch produced TOM AND JERRY theatrical cartoon “Dicky Moe” (1962), a cartoon yet to be released to DVD.

In and around T&J’s expected shipboard shenanigans, Swift’s Ahab would angrily walk around the decks repeatedly uttering the words “Dicky Moe!”… over and over again, with the anger building to a point at which you thought he would burst into smithereens!

Trust me, it is much funnier than my description could ever convey. Consider that anyone who HAS seen it still remembers it. Especially since TOM AND JERRY, great as it is, was not a series that offered many memorable lines – beyond the occasional horrified gasp and Tom’s exclamations of pain!

But, that’s a testament to Swift’s talents… that he could wring so much out of the repetition of two words!

Dicky Moe… Dicky Moe… DICKY MOE!”

Why aren’t you on DVD, DICKY MOE!

Rest in Peace, Mr. Swift. Wherever you go, may there be plenty of herring and horseradish… and no sadistic cats, mice, and especially whales!


joecab said...

And he was the ONLY good thing about that cartoon! ;) (I never even knew those Deitch Tom and Jerrys existed until WPIX started showing them in the late 1970s.)

Joe Torcivia said...


I first saw the Gene Deitch Tom and Jerrys not long after you did, and it would be difficult to disagree with you. Still, to me, there was something I just found riotous about the Captain in “Dicky Moe”. It was my favorite among those of a decidedly lesser period.

Thanks to a thoughtful friend, I’ve received ALL of the Deitch Tom and Jerry’s during the past year – and have come to realize that, while they will never approach the level of the Hanna and Barbera version, as well as the later Chuck Jones version, they are wonderfully weird in their own right. Consider “The Tom and Jerry Cartoon Kit” for example. Not a masterpiece, by any stretch, but wonderfully weird.

My memories of them would agree with you, but my most recent viewings cast them in a slightly better light. This is why I had hoped for a “Tom and Jerry in the Sixties” DVD collection (that would have encompassed Deitch AND Jones), rather than the “Tom and Jerry the Chuck Jones Collection” – which, you may recall, I gave an excellent review to in this Blog.


joecab said...

Aha! I knew you were gonna mention “The Tom and Jerry Cartoon Kit”! That's about the only one I like. Plus various bits of other ones like the barbecuing one (HIgh Steaks), the one with that REALLY weird sounding bird (Landing Stripling) and "Calypso Cat" only for the strangeness of hearing a steel drum in a 1960's cartoon.

Joe Torcivia said...

“Landing Stripling” had an almost “otherworldly” quality to it… as in, “Did they actually make it on THIS PLANET?” Once started, you simply can’t take your eyes (and ears) off of it!

“Sorry Safari” had at least two great bits. First, it opens (as MGM productions do) with a roaring lion. Not the MGM lion, but the lion we later see in the cartoon that Tom’s master (also with anger management issues) is going to hunt! Chuck Jones would later play with this by using TOM to “Meow and FST!” in that spot.

Further into the cartoon, in a reprisal move, Tom’s master fires his rifle, which is WRAPPED TIGHTLY AROUND TOM’S HEAD, with a LOUD BANG! Abruptly, ALL SOUNDS (background jungle sounds which were very pronounced for effect, music score, etc.) go completely silent for 11-12 seconds (depending on how your DVD player counts – and that’s a LONG TIME within a seven-minute cartoon) until Tom can hear again!

And, back to the aforementioned “Dicky Moe”… the cartoon opens with Tom and Jerry in full figure – and the camera pulls back to reveal (in X-ray vision style) that they are IN THE WHALE’S STOMACH, before that image fades away in favor of the title card that I included in this post!

Great stuff, and much better than I remembered them from 2-3 decades ago! Probably because I have a greater appreciation for the bizarre and absurd now, than I did in 1980.

With all the releases, RE-releases, RE-packaging, and made for DVD Tom and Jerry material that Warner’s pumps out, you’d think they’d find some room for Gene Deitch’s handful of cartoons. Because they ain’t all that bad!

Chris Barat said...


Much of the "otherworldliness" of the Deitch cartoons -- the strange, stilted animation, the echoey sound effects -- may be a product of their being made in Czechoslovakia, where Deitch had his studio. The Eastern European nations had strong animation outfits at the time but most definitely went their own way. You can still see traces of the "strangeness" in more contemporary productions, e.g. the FELIX THE CAT feature film from the late 1980s that was made in Hungary.

Re Allen Swift, my understanding is that he assumed voicing duties on HOWDY DOODY after most of the original cast was dismissed in a contract dispute.


Joe Torcivia said...


Good perspective, Chris!

At the time Deitch was making those cartoons, Czechoslovakia WAS “another world”, wasn’t it? And caught in time between the matter in Hungary and that later one in Czechoslovakia itself, to boot. I often wondered WHY Deitch chose to make his studio there. California (or even New York) couldn’t have been THAT BAD!

“Landing Stripling”, though, was “otherworldly” even among Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry cartoons – many of which, while certainly odd, seemed more reflective of the “Pop Art” influence that infiltrated late fifties and sixties theatrical animation. I haven’t seen them in decades, but I don’t recall Deitch’s ‘early ‘60s Krazy Kat cartons looking and sounding like “Landing Stripling”! Neither did “Dicky Moe” and “Sorry Safari”, which were more typically “sixties-era Pop Art”.

Still, I wish these were on DVD. Considering WB just released a new “Tom & Jerry: Deluxe Anniversary Collection” with Hanna and Barbera, Chuck Jones, the ‘70s TV version… and even representation for “Tom and Jerry Kids” (!), how could they continue to ignore Gene Deitch!