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The Baird Puppets - Puppets & Marionettes created by Bil and Cora Baird, a talented husband/wife puppet team who made hundred's of puppet and marionette characters in the early days of television, including Groovy, a screwball disc jockey rabbit; Bubbles La Rue, a dancing puppet; Heathcliffe, the talking horse, Flannel the Mouse, Humphrey the Hound and Charlemane the Lion.

Bil and Cora Baird with Humphrey the Hound and Charlemane the Lion - 1959 March od Dimes Promotion
Humphrey the Hound, Cora & Bill Baird and Charlemane the Lion

The Baird's most popular and ambitious program was the Saturday morning children's adventure THE WHISTLING WIZARD/CBS/1951-52.

This Bil and Cora Baird marionette production followed the adventures of J. P., a cute, wide-eyed little boy who accidentally fell to the bottom of a well (much like Alice fell into Wonderland) only to find the entrance to an enchanted world of "The Land of Beyond" ruled by a  Leprechaun named Dooley, (aka the "Whistling Wizard").

Speaking with an Irish brogue and playing a magic flute, Dooley protected his kingdom against the evil Kohlrabi and Mistress Spider Lady who weaved her black magic spells by uttering the incantation "Elia Kazan!"

Other residents of this fantasy land were:

  • King Rutabega, the ruler of a neighboring kingdom of Nagard
  • Thimble, Dooley's assistance
  • Davey Jones, the guardian of treasure at the bottom of the sea
  • Heathcliffe, a talking horse.

Many of the puppets used on the series were recycled from the western puppet adventure LIFE WITH SNARKY PARKER/CBS/1950, an earlier puppet show created by the Bairds.

Snarky Parker was a deputy sheriff of a western town. With the aid of his talking horse Heathcliffe, he rid the town of Hot Rock of such dangerous critters as Ronald Rodent and Blackie McGoo.

Additional characters included:

  • Cuda Barra, a siren
  • Miss Butterball, the school marm
  • Slugger, the Hot Rock Cafe piano player
  • Noose Nolan, a reformed desperado
  • Fluff Webster, his partner

Bil and Cora Baird puppets were also featured on THE BIL BAIRD SHOW/CBS/1950; Ed Sullivan's THE TOAST OF THE TOWN/CBS/1948-49; Sid Caesar's YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS/NBC/1950-54; THE MORNING SHOW/CBS/1954-57 with host Walter Cronkite; Westinghouse's ADVENTURE'S IN NUMBER AND SPACE/SYN/1957; and on the ABC musical special ART CARNEY MEETS PETER AND THE WOLF that aired on 11/30/1958 (with music by Prokofiev, lyrics by Ogden Nash).

The Charles H. MacNider Museum at 303 2nd St. SE, Mason City, IA 50401 features a permanent collection of puppets created and collected by master puppeteer Bil Baird.


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