It is astonishing to consider the number of people involved in the production of (not to mention the individuals who were party to its public reception) a nine-minute civil defense film, but then DUCK AND COVER wasn't just any civil defense film. Here then is the world of Bert the Turtle: A cavalcade of PR geniuses, jingle writers, ad execs, copywriters, artists, teachers, students, government officials and, sadly, even a few enemies of Bert!
BERT THE TURTLE [ Star ]
Animated spokes-character for a generation of Cold War kids; object of ridicule in a post-ironic age. Bert's proud lineage can be traced back to numerous Disney classics because the artist who brought him to life, Lars E. Calonius, worked at the studio during its glory years. And like his distant Disney relatives, Bert is now considered immortal.
MONKEY [ Co-Star ]
Bert's cinematic tormentor is quite possibly the oddest allegorical stand-in for the Soviet Union ever depicted in a work of art. This nameless firecracker-dangling simian was described as "capricious" in Archer promotional material and that about sums him up. Few realize that the monkey was the second choice to play Bert's enemy. The original choice, a skunk, was nixed for no clear reason, but we suspect politics. Presumed dead.
LEO M. LANGLOIS [ Executive Producer ]
Ad-man extraordinaire who set the stage for Bert's debut in American popular culture. Langlois was the David O. Selznick of DUCK AND COVER and made sure the stars were aligned for his civil defense masterpiece. Langlois provided the name for Archer Productions, Inc. and later became its president. His brother-in-law was Lars E. Calonous. After living several lifetimes worth of accomplishment (including his assistant director work on THE TWILIGHT ZONE and THE MONKEES and writing a campaign song for LBJ), Langlois passed away on April 17, 2003.
RAY J. MAUER [ Screenwriter ]
Sardonic advertising copywriter who put the words in Bert's mouth. It was Mauer who recognized that animation was the best way to fulfill the mandate given to Archer by the government to impart the lessons of civil defense to school children in a non-frightening manner. Mauer, who was working for another agency at the time of the government contract, had to ask his management for permission to write DUCK AND COVER. Mauer still periodically writes for pleasure.
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LARS E. CALONIUS [ Art Director ]
Bert's artistic "father" and Leo Langlois's brother-in-law. Calonius founded Archer Productions, Inc. after leaving Disney for New York City to get in on the ground floor of the television advertising boom. Archer was devised as a means for the young artist to market his work. Archer soon had more work than Calonius knew what to do with. According to Langlois, Calonius was initially "non-committal" about doing a civil defense film, but later "warmed up" to the idea. Calonius, an immigrant from Helsinki who arrived in San Francisco as a teenager, served in World War II with the Army Signal Corps where he worked as an animator for army training films. Calonius was also a member of MENSA, a factoid that may help explain why Bert was so clever. Calonius passed away on June 23, 1995.
ANTHONY RIZZO [ Director ]
The Orson Welles of civil defense motion pictures, Rizzo left a successful television career in Chicago to try his luck in the rough and tumble world of New York advertising. Little did he realize that a pith-helmeted, bow-tie-sporting turtle awaited him in the Big Apple. Rizzo had a rich career following his stint at Archer that included filming part of the 1964 World's Fair. Later Rizzo changed careers and got into the real estate business with his wife. Rizzo passed away on February 11, 2004.
DRUMMOND DRURY [ Cameraman ]
Drummond Drury provided an international component to the DUCK AND COVER production team. The Englishman was responsible for shooting the live action sequences of the film. Drury was born in 1912 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the son of an Anglican clergyman. His interest in photography started when he was in his teens according to his niece, Margaret Guyver, who was kind enough to provide CONELRAD with some additional details on his biography. During World War II Drury served in the Royal Navy and was wounded during the D-Day invasion. In 1945 he came to the United States where he lived and worked until his death in 1989. According the Internet Movie Database Drury was the cinematographer for COEUR DE MAMAN (1950); SERAPHIN (1950), A MAN AND HIS SIN (1949) and THE SHOP AT SLY CORNER (1947). Ironically, his name is not (yet) linked to his most famous credit (DUCK AND COVER) on IMDB.
THOMAS C. CRAVEN [ Director of Production ]
Recruited for Archer from Universal Pictures, Craven was a staff recommendation by Leo Langlois to Archer's fledgling founder and president, Lars Calonius. Craven was an astute businessman who helped increase Archer's profile. Craven also initiated contact with the government to try and secure training film work for the studio. Fate unknown.
JAY FARBER [ Director, Special Purpose Films ]
Assisted Thomas Craven in lobbying the Pentagon's Pictorial Branch for opportunities to produce government training and instructional films. Fate unknown.
MILTON MOHR [ Publicity ]
The unanimous sentiment regarding Milton Mohr by the surviving Archer staff was that the man was very good at his job. One look at the hundreds of newspaper clippings about Archer and Bert and DUCK AND COVER that the PR man managed to "place" and it is easy to see why Mohr's publicity skills are so fondly recalled a half century later. Mohr's commitment to the project is perhaps best represented by his term of endearment when promoting Archer's cartoon star: "Our baby Bert." Fate unknown.
JOHN PLOYARDT [ Animation Staff ]
Not much is known about Ployardt aside from the fact that he was an art director for Disney and RKO for 15 years before joining Archer circa 1950. Fate unknown.
EMERY HAWKINS [ Animation Staff ]
A former Warner Brothers animator who joined Archer circa 1950. One of Hawkins's WB credits includes an Oswald Rabbit cartoon entitled THE EGG CRACKER SUITE from 1943 that he co-directed with Ben Hardaway. Another credit from 1943 is a Universal Woody Woodpecker cartoon titled RATION BORED that Hawkins co-directed with Milt Schaffer. Fate unknown.
CARL FALLBERG [ Animation Staff ]
Fallberg was a "layout" person as well as a writer. He was with Disney for approximately 10 years before joining the Archer staff. Like his Archer boss Lars Calonius, Fallberg worked on animated army training films with the Army Signal Corps during World War II. Fate unknown.
ROBERT MIDDLETON (Born Samuel Messer) [ Narrator ]
Middleton, who provided narration to many Archer-produced films, was the perfect choice for DUCK AND COVER. His exquisitely modulated radio announcer voice makes the incredibly dated "facts" presented in the film that much more hilarious. And who can imagine another voice delivering the line "Atta Boy, Tony!" in the scene where the boy on the bicycle dives into a gutter following an atomic flash? In stark contrast to his elegant voice-over work for Archer, Middleton was also a character actor who played tough guys in such films as THE DESPERATE HOURS and THE BIG COMBO. He is also fondly remembered for his occasional appearances as Ralph Kramden's boss on THE HONEYMOONERS. Middleton studied music at the Carnegie Institute of Music. He died at age 66 in 1977.
CARL RITCHEY [ Voice of Bert ]
Few people recall Bert's country-ish, old-man twang dialog from DUCK AND COVER (The turtle speaks a single line at the end of the film), and fewer still probably know that the man who gave voice to Bert was the character actor and brother-in-law to jazz drummer Buddy Rich, Carl Ritchey. Ritchey was also a world class Charleston dancer who partnered with his wife Marge Rich as "Rich and Ritchie." Presumed deceased.
(Leon) CARR and (Leo) CORDAY [ Theme Song Team ]
Legendary commercial jingle writing team whose best known tune is probably "See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet." And while Carr and Corday are the registered authors of both "Chevrolet" and Bert the Turtle's theme song "Duck and Cover," Leo Langlois contributed to the writing of both songs. Bert's theme is often ridiculed, but there is no denying it is catchy and, more importantly, memorable, which was the goal at the time. The writers' biggest non-jingle success was "There's No Tomorrow," a 1952 parody of "O Solo Mio." Both are now deceased.
DAVE LAMBERT [ Music Arranger ]
Choral arranger; jazz singer; composer; member of the trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. Lambert arranged and recorded Carr & Corday's (and Langlois's) "Duck and Cover" for the soundtrack of the film. He may also be heard singing on the version used in the film, but no one interviewed for this feature could confirm this. Archer Productions employed Lambert on numerous occasions for choral arrangements for various radio and television commercial projects. Lambert was also considered one of the first singers to translate Bop jazz into a vocal form. "What's This," a vocal duet by Lambert and Buddy Stewart has been called the first Bop vocal record. Tragically, Lambert was hit by a truck and killed while changing a tire on the side of the Connecticut Turnpike in 1966.
UNITED WORLD FILMS, INC. [PARENT TO CASTLE FILMS, DISTRIBUTOR OF DUCK AND COVER]
JAMES M. FRANEY [ Motion Picture Executive ]
President of United World Films, Inc., the subsidiary of Universal Pictures, that owns Castle Films, the company that distributed DUCK AND COVER. Franey was a friend and professional contact of Leo Langlois and suggested Langlois's Archer Productions avail itself of the opportunity to produce civil defense films for the government. Later in his career, Franey headed Universal's Education and Visual Arts, a division of M.C.A., Inc. Franey was born in Philadelphia and was a colonel in World War II. Died in 1993.
NORMAN E. GLUCK [ Motion Picture Executive ]
Vice-President and Director of United World Films. From correspondence records of Archer Productions' publicity man Milt Mohr, it appears that Gluck was personally involved in making sure that DUCK AND COVER received all possible government cooperation in the marketing of the film. Fate unknown.
GOVERNMENT OFFICALS (FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL AND OTHERWISE)
DR. JOHN R. STEELMAN [ Assistant to the President of the United States ]
A native of Arkansas who was a professor of Sociology and Economics at Alabama College and a Department of Labor official before and during World War II. Following the war Steelman served as Assistant to President Truman from 1946 to 1953. Steelman worked with Dallas Halverstadt on civil defense media matters. Died 1999.
DALLAS HALVERSTADT [ Special Assistant to the Assistant to the President]
A former journalist from Seattle, Halverstadt became the Acting Chief of the Pictorial Branch for the War Department during World War II. He continued working in a similar position following the war as Chief of the Motion Picture Division, Office of Government Reports. From 1948 to 1953 Halverstadt became Special Assistant to Dr. John R. Steelman where his main duty was interfacing with the motion picture industry and the Advertising Council. It was in this capacity that Halverstadt worked with Howard R.H. Johnson in negotiating an "arrangement" with various private sector film companies to produce and distribute nine civil defense motion pictures including DUCK AND COVER and OUR CITIES MUST FIGHT. Died 1974.
HOWARD R.H. JOHNSON [ Chief of the Federal Civil Defense Administration Motion Picture Branch ]
Worked with the White House's Dallas Halverstadt to negotiate an "arrangement" with private sector film companies to produce and distribute nine civil defense motion pictures including DUCK AND COVER and OUR CITIES MUST FIGHT. Fate unknown.
THOMAS P. HEADEN [ Chief of Federal Civil Defense Administration Publications Branch ]
Headen was responsible for coordinating with the Government Printing Office to publish various civil defense materials including the "Bert the Turtle" 16-page booklet. Headen estimated in 1951 that the total cost to the tax payer for reproducing three million copies of the "Bert the Turtle" booklet was approximately $20,000. Fate unknown.
MILLARD CALDWELL [ Administrator, Federal Civil Defense Administration ]
Began his career as an attorney and later became a Congressman for the state of Florida (1933-1941) and was then the segregationist governor of Florida (1945-1949). Caldwell was chosen by President Truman to head the newly formed FCDA in January of 1951. Caldwell was the Tom Ridge of his day and to extend the analogy further, Bert the Turtle was Caldwell's color-coded terror alert chart. Died in 1984.
JAMES J. WADSWORTH [ Acting Administrator, Federal Civil Defense Administration ]
Wadsworth was the acting administrator of the FCDA during an absence by Gov. Caldwell and it was Wadsworth who was present at the official acceptance screening of DUCK AND COVER on December 18, 1951. He issued a letter to Leo M. Langlois on the same date praising the film. Wadsworth later served as a deputy and then a permanent U.S. representative to the United Nations (1953-1961). Died in 1984.
JESS BUCHER [ Government Motion Picture Official ]
Recipient of PR material for DUCK AND COVER from Archer's publicity man, Milt Mohr. Bucher interfaced with both Archer and Castle Films' Norman E. Gluck on the distribution and promotion of DUCK AND COVER. Fate unknown.
DON BARUCH [ Government Motion Picture Official ]
Baruch was an official with the Pentagon's Pictorial Branch of the Office of Public Information. Baruch was the recipient of at least one query letter (dated June 1, 1950) from Archer Productions, Inc. seeking to produce government films. In an internal follow-up memo regarding Archer, Baruch noted in his own handwriting "Good animation" and underlined the words twice for emphasis. Fate unknown.
FORREST E. CORSON [ Chief of Public Information for Civil Defense, Nassau, County, NY ]
Memorably defended Bert the Turtle/DUCK AND COVER from criticism from the Levittown (NY) Education Association (LEA) that charged that DUCK AND COVER presented "terrifying concepts" to school children. Corson accused LEA members of being Communist dupes. Fate unknown.
MARTIN CAIDEN [ Technical Specialist, New York State Civil Defense Commission ]
Author of a January 2, 1952 letter of thanks to Leo Langlois for rushing a print of DUCK AND COVER to the Commission for their review. Caiden later went on become a prolific author of books and articles dealing with aeronautics, history, and space travel. His first science fiction novel "The Long Night" (1956) was the story of an surprise atomic attack on an American city and the hard lessons learned by its Civil Defense cadres. Caiden's 1964 novel "Marooned" was made into the 1969 Oscar winning film MAROONED and his 1972 novel "Cyborg" was adapted into ABC's hit television series THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN. He died in 1997 (after rejecting his bionics?).
EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS
HELEN SETH-SMITH [ Assistant Headmistress, The Potomac School, McLean, VA ]
Without question, one of the single most important people in Bert the Turtle's orbit. Without Miss Seth-Smith, the phrase "Duck and Cover" may never have entered the national lexicon. For it was she who spoke up at the NEA conference in Washington in May of 1951 and uttered the words "We have 'duck and cover' drills at our school." This term that she used for her school's air raid drills struck a chord with the assembled civil defense staff and Archer Production's Ray Mauer who was taking notes for his script. Bert was born from this simple exchange. Ms. Seth-Smith, a transplant from the United Kingdom whose nickname was "Stalkie," taught at The Potomac School from 1938 to 1961. In addition to assisting in the immaculate conception of an animated turtle, she also introduced scouting to the then all girl private institution. Deceased.
VINCENT BOHAN [ Teacher, PS 152, Queens, NY ]
There are several teachers who appear as themselves in DUCK AND COVER. Mr. Bohan is the only one we know by name, though, thanks to newspaper clippings and one of his former students, McLaughlin Group panelist and Newsweek magazine writer, Eleanor Clift. Fate unknown.
EDWARD SCALEA [ Principal, PS 152, Queens, NY ]
Present at January 24, 1952 preview screening of DUCK AND COVER for educators. Following the film's showing he stated to the press that air raid drills shouldn't alarm children, it should give them a sense of security from knowing what to do in such an event. Fate unknown.
JOHN C. COCKS [ NYC Board of Education ]
Civil Defense board representative who was present at the January 24, 1952 preview screening of DUCK AND COVER for educators. Praised DUCK AND COVER for its "mental hygiene approach, its underlying qualities of cheerfulness and optimism." Fate unknown.
DR. MAX GEWIRTZ [ Assistant Superintendent, Districts 45 and 46, Queens, NY ]
Present at January 24, 1952 preview screening of DUCK AND COVER for educators. Following the screening he stated to the press: "I think seeing an excellent film like this would reassure parents who are still afraid that we are frightening their children." Fate unknown.
BETTY ANN STACKHOUSE [ Student, P.S. 33, NYC ]
Sixth grader who was present at the historic NYC classroom premiere of DUCK AND COVER on March 6, 1952. Fate unknown.
MARINE YULL [ Student, P.S. 33, NYC ]
Sixth grader who was present at the historic NYC classroom premiere of DUCK AND COVER on March 6, 1952. Fate unknown.
ENEMIES OF BERT
RAYMOND MASSEY [ Actor ]
The esteemed Canadian actor whose most famous role was that of Abraham Lincoln had made a firm verbal agreement to star in Archer's first foray into network series production for a program entitled AMERICAN ALMANAC. At the last minute, on the advice of his American wife Dorothy (who loathed television), the actor reneged on his agreement in favor of touring with his popular Broadway show JOHN BROWN'S BODY. Because Archer had invested a significant amount of money on expensive sets and secondary casting, Massey's departure spelled the end for the studio that had produced DUCK AND COVER. Massey later embraced television and co-starred on DR. KILDARE. Died in 1983.
WILLIAM L. BANKS [ Chairman of the Levittown Education Association/LEA, Possible Communist Dupe ]
Banks revealed that the LEA had been made aware of "definite fear reactions" to DUCK AND COVER (See also: Corson, Forrest E.). Fate unknown.
THE COMMITTEE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR TENSIONS IN CHILDREN
A New York based affiliation of psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers that branded DUCK AND COVER as an "inadvisable" film and one that was an "actual disservice to children." This organization appears to have long since disbanded.
DICK "TWO TON" BAKER [ Singer and Kiddie Show Host ]
Recorded the only commercial record release of "Bert the Turtle (The Duck and Cover Song)" (Coral 69025; 1953). It is interesting to note that on the label of this record Leo Langlois shares songwriting credit with Leon Carr and Leo Corday. Baker, who weighed more than 300 pounds, was a mainstay of Chicago television programming for kids. From 1952 to 1956 Baker starred with Art Hern on WBKB's (now WLS) lunchtime kiddie show THE HAPPY PIRATES. Dressed as a pirate on the set of his "ship" the Cyclops, Baker would sing novelty tunes and crack wise with Hern. Baker also starred on another kiddie show for WBKB called WONDER HOUSE. In addition to his television and novelty song career, Baker was a longtime spokesman for Chicago's Riverview Amusement Park ("Laugh Your Troubles Away!"). Presumed dead.
MARIA de LOURDES FARROW (aka MIA FARROW) [ Actress ]
The future star of the classic film ROSEMARY'S BABY once co-starred with a cardboard cut-out of Bert the Turtle during a publicity stunt for the film. In addition to her philanthropic activities, Ms. Farrow still acts occasionally.
[ See ]
JAYNE LOADER [ Filmmaker ]
If educator Helen Seth-Smith breathed life into Bert's shell back in 1951, Jayne Loader and her co-directors resurrected the reptile from certain obscurity in their landmark documentary THE ATOMIC CAFE in 1982. Ms. Loader's film marked Bert's entry into the post-ironic, modern era where he remains. Ms. Loader is now Co-Master of Quincy House at Harvard University. [ See the ]