Howdy Doody - A blue-eyed,
red-haired, freckle-faced marionette dressed in a western style
outfit of jeans, plaid shirt, cowboy boots and bandanna that
appeared on the classic children's program HOWDY DOODY/NBC/1947-60.
Howdy Doody lived in the town of Doodyville. With the assistance
of his human companion Buffalo Bob Smith, Howdy entertained a
studio audience of forty lucky youngsters (known as the Peanut
Gallery) with games, songs, lessons on social values and a host of
strange characters such as:
Other human characters on the show included Bill L'Cornick who
played Chief Thunderthud; Oilwell Willy and Dr. Singasong;
puppeteers Rhoda Mann who manipulated Howdy's strings; and
Rufus Rose who designed and operated other puppet characters.
Clarabell the Clown
- Resident Indians Chief Thunderthud (founder of Doodyville)
- Princess Summerfall Winterspring
- Tim Tremble
- Mr. Huff
- Ugly Sam, a burly wrestler
- John J. Fazdoozle, America's Number One "Boing" private
Flubadub, a strange creatures of many animal parts
- Wendy Scuttlebutt, a ship captain
- Phineas T. Bluster, an old man who hated seeing anyone
- Dilly Dally, Bluster's nervous youthful assistant.
Say kids, what time is
It’s Howdy Doody Time!
It’s Howdy Doody Time.
It’s Howdy Doody Time.
Bob Smith and Howdy Do say Howdy Do to you.
Let’s give a rousing cheer,
Cause Howdy Doody’s here,
It’s time to start the show,
so kids let’s go!
The concept for the Howdy Doody Show evolved from THE TRIPLE B
RANCH radio program that featured a nerdish character named Elmer
(a la Edgar Bergen's Mortimer Snerd) who hosted a game, quiz show
for children with Bob Smith who was the voice of Elmer. When Bob
Smith got the opportunity to do a similar program on television
called THE PUPPET PLAYHOUSE, he used the same scruffy-haired, a
nerdy-faced Elmer puppet dressed in a western costume.
At the beginning of each show, Elmer greeted the audience with a
boisterous but friendly "Well, uh, Howdy Doody!" Soon the kids
began referring to the puppet as "Howdy Doody." and the show's was
later entitled THE HOWDY DOODY SHOW. The show won the George F.
Peabody award in 1948 for best children's TV series.
In May of 1948, Frank Paris, (the puppet's creator) walked off
with the Elmer marionette in a dispute involving merchandising
rights. He unsuccessfully sued NBC for $200,000 in July of 1949.
While the controversy litigated in the courts, the show's
producers told the kids in the studio audience that Howdy Doody
was away campaigning in the 1948 presidential campaign and getting
his face improved via plastic surgery so that he could compete
against his handsome rival Mr. X.. For some nine months Howdy's
face was covered with bandages until the election.
Running for the prestigious position of "President of All the Boys
and Girls," Howdy's platform promised: "Cut rate banana splits,
two Christmas holidays, one school day each year, double sodas for
a dime, plenty of movies, more pictures in history books, plus
free circus and rodeo admissions." Howdy, the only candidate made
completely of wood, won the election based on the tally of "Wonder
Bread" labels sent into the show.
When Howdy's bandages were removed, the world got its first
glimpse of a new 27-inch, freckle-faced marionette (48 freckles
for each state of the union at the time). Constructed at a cost of
$2,000, the new Howdy figure was created by Walt Disney Studio
artist Thelma Thomas who did the face/head and Scott Brinker who
built the body.
During the life of the program there were actually three Howdy
Doody puppets; the one seen on the show in close-ups, a duplicate
used for long shots named Double Doody; and a stringless doll used
for still photography called Photo Doody. Howdy also had an
adopted sister called Heidi Doody.
With the show's growing popularity, tickets for HOWDY DOODY were
in such high demand that it was rumored that pregnant women in
hopes of getting their child onto the show sent for reservations
before their child was born.
The series ran for 2,343 programs until its final episode on
September 24, 1960. During the final moments of the show,
Clarabell the Clown (Lew Anderson) broke his silence and spoke for
the first time in thirteen years. He simply looked into the camera
and said "Good-Bye, Kids." This was followed by the cast singing
one last time "It's time to say goodbye, goodbye until some other
day when we may be with you again."
In 1976, a syndicated revival called THE NEW HOWDY DOODY SHOW
returned the familiar catchphrase "Say kids, what time is it?" to
the airwaves, but the special spark that made the original show
such a success was no longer there and the show was canceled. Paul
Ashley (of ROOTIE KAZOOTIE fame) created the new Howdy Doody
puppet used on the revival series.
Buffalo Bob & Howdy
TRIVIA NOTE: In 1983, the Howdy Doody marionette (Photo Doody)
once referred to as "the most expensive piece of lumber on earth"
was found brutally decapitated after some vandals broke into an
office display case of a former executive producer of the show. It
was as if Howdy was the "victim of an ax-murderer." (TV Guide
There is still a Howdy Doody marionette (Double
Doody) on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
Buffalo Bob housed his Howdy Doody marionette in a glass case in
his home in Flatrock, North Carolina. Buffalo Bob Smith died of
Cancer on July 30, 1998.
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