CASEY JonesIana 

 

With the runaway success of "Casey Jones" the name was now a recognizable brand with products continuing to come out capitalizing on the national familiarity with this tragic American hero. 

The September-December 1927 issue of Exhibitor's Herald features a publicity shot for Casey Jones a seven-reel melodrama by the low-rent Rayart studio (a forerunner of Monogram Pictures.) 

The film, considered lost, featured two Buster Keaton alums: Al St. John (L) who started out in comedy shorts with Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton and ended as the beloved/bewhiskered 1940s cowboy sidekick Al "Fuzzy" St. John, and Kate Price who co-starred as his wife in the short, "My Wife's Relations." (thanks to Keatonologist, Aurelia Perry for the latter.)

The record actor Ralph Lewis is holding touted as "new" in the blurb might be by Vernon Dalhart whose second version came out that year. 

EXHIBITOR'S HERALD  Sept-December 1927 .

In 1933, Monogram produced a low-rent drama only slightly less based on the real-life Casey Jones than the earlier Rayart offering. Film high note: a rare opportunity to see otherwise hirsute western sidekick George ("Gabby") Hayes with both his teeth and clean-shaven. 

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perhaps because it was the fiftieth anniversary of the disaster, a number of Casey Jones related products came out in the 1950s starting with a US Postal Service 3c Casey Jones memorial worth 99 cents today. 

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Around the same time, Philadelphia-based Quaker City Confectionery launched a TV campaign for their signature product, Good & Plenty candy.  New York ad agency Ogilvy and Mather branded the product with a railroad motif, penning its jingle to the Casey Jones melody but renaming the cartoon character  "Choo Choo Charlie" (itself, a Casey Jones-era football moniker.)  The simple limited animation ad — with its incessant candy box rattling in train rhythm —would air into the 1970s becoming permanently imprinted onto millions of TV watching Baby Boomers.  

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In 1957, Screen Gems launched  "Casey Jones," a syndicated children's TV series that ran for 32 half-hour episodes triggering a short-lived fad for railroader hats and a spin-off comic book. 

The show starred Alan Hale, Jr. best known as the "Skipper" in the 1960s TV comedy "Gilligan's Island." Again, the plots had nothing to do with the real-life Jones, but interestingly, the name of one character, "Wallie Simms" was a clever conflation of  "Wallace Saunders" (credited with the original song) and "Simm Webb", (Jones' fireman.) Though both men were black, the role was played by the white Dubb Taylor. 

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© 2020 by Henry Sapoznik

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