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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 THE HOWDY DOODY SHOW/NBC/1947-60.

Howdy Doody Marionette

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:

  • Clarabell the Clown
  • Resident Indians Chief Thunderthud (founder of Doodyville)
  • Featherman
  • Princess Summerfall Winterspring
  • Tim Tremble
  • Mr. Huff
  • Ugly Sam, a burly wrestler
  • John J. Fazdoozle, America's Number One "Boing" private eye
  • Flubadub, a strange creatures of many animal parts
  • Wendy Scuttlebutt, a ship captain
  • Phineas T. Bluster, an old man who hated seeing anyone having fun
  • Dilly Dally, Bluster's nervous youthful assistant.
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.

Opening Narration

Buffalo Bob: Say kids, what time is it?
Kids: It’s Howdy Doody Time!
Theme Song

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!

Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody - TV GUIDE cover

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 Smith and Howdy Doody
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 12/31/83 p.6)

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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