15 September 2014

Another Childhood Illusion Shattered

Tonight I attended Leonard Marcus’s talk about Robert McCloskey on the centenary of the author-illustrator’s birth. (It turns out he was born in Hamilton, Ohio, now home of this sculpture. But I digress.)

Marcus showed a photo of the doughnut-making machine from Homer Price and remarked how there are only two places to see such a machine now.

“Well, it’s good that someone preserved that model of doughnut-maker,” I thought. “I’m surprised there are so few left—maybe it really didn’t work well, so most of the machines were pulled apart.”

But that wasn’t what Marcus was saying. If I understood him correctly, only two examples of that machine were ever made. One was for the Walden Wood film studio when it adapted Homer Price as a short film in 1963. McCloskey was a friend of the studio owner and spent a lot of time there in later life; as a lifelong tinkerer, he might well have helped to build that machine.

The other was a replica built and displayed in the Municipal Building back in Hamilton, amid McCloskey’s architectural decorations. It’s not clear whether that one was made to work or just to look like the picture in the book.

All along I’d thought that was a standard type of doughnut-maker from the 1940s. After all, I’d seen it in action in that movie, operated by a boy who looks just like Homer Price (and couldn’t act for beans).

But it sounds like McCloskey made it up, based on real, less compact doughnut-making machinery. I feel like Freddy and Louis discovering that the Super Duper can’t lift his car out of the ditch.

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