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PLEASE DON'T SHOOT MY DOG!

Skippy movie posterWhile watching Billy Crystal’s Big Show a month or so ago, I was reading, during commercials, a vast tome entitled The Academy Awards: The Complete History of the Oscar by Gail Kinn and Jim Piazza (2002). In 1931, the Best Director statuette went to Norman Taurog for “Skippy.” The title role was played by Taurog’s nephew, Jackie Cooper, who was able famously to cry on cue because his uncle told him if he didn’t, he’d shoot the kid’s dog. The role made Cooper’s reputation as a child actor, and he went on to play hundreds of other parts in movies and tv productions. But he never forgot his uncle: when he wrote his autobiography, Cooper entitled it Please Don’t Shoot My Dog.

Skippy Peanut butterThe pages of this history devoted to each Oscar celebration offer numerous other tidbits under such headings as “Firsts” and “Unmentionables.” Taurog’s threat appears under the latter. Under the former, comes this: “Jackie Cooper’s vehicle, ‘Skippy,’ was unquestionably the first and only time a peanut butter was named after a movie.” Skippy color drawingThe two could have handily reversed categories. Nowhere do Kinn and Piazza mention that the movie gave celluloid life to Percy Crosby’s hugely popular comic strip, Skippy, from which the peanut butter criminals stole both the name and a familiar graphic (the fence with “Skippy” lettered on it).

And so we have an object lesson in why anyone’s “Complete History” of anything ought to be glimpsed askance: too much history gets rolled up, over and over again, until telling pieces of it are ground out of existence. For the complete story of the Great Skippy Robbery, visit Harv’s Hindsight for April 2004, which can be found in the Usual Place (RCHarvey.com).

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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