Charlie McCarthy and the Smithsonian Museum

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Charlie McCarthy

Mike Dupree a ventriloquist and a figure collector ( he has the best selection of Nelson / Jackson figures as well as others) graciously wrote this story about his trip to Washington DC to the Smithsonian Museum. He also gave the pictures you are seeing as well.

Searching for Charlie, McCarthy that is!

After reading several postings about the where about of Charlie McCarthy, I was amused to read that Charlie had disappeared from the hallowed halls of the Smithsonian, knowing full well that he was there the last time I was there, In fact he was there every time I went there, year after year. He was donated by the Bergen Family, He was to be on permanent display. To find out for sure I ran down to D.C. To find out for myself. After the 4 hour trip down from Atlantic City, I was dropped off at the Museum of American History and ran right up to the 3rd floor where he was the last time I saw him, Sure enough he wasn’t there!

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I was disappointed he was not on display, instead in his place was a whole different display with other television memorabilia. I saw Jay Johnson’s Bob figure from the show Soap, I also saw Jim Henson’s Oscar the grouch (the original orange one). Darth Vader was next to both as to keep watch over them. I asked where was Charlie McCarthy and was told by an employee, that times change and so does our displays, we just went through a major renovation and moved new items in.

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Fast forward to March of 2011, I was invited to spend the day at the Smithsonian, so I had only one museum in mind and wanted to see if Charlie had returned, As I climbed the stair case I remembered when I was very small and saw Charlie in the glass case for the first time, All dapper in his tuxedo with tails and monocle and his trade mark top hat, I was in the presence of a true celebrity, I had seen him on TV and and movies and My first figure was the Mini Charlie and that’s where I learned to be a ventriloquist from, was that little booklet included in the box.

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I reached the top of 3rd floor and Right in front of me staring at me as if to say, I am back! Charlie had returned, but to add a bit of insult he was in his display without the trade Mark Top Hat! He looked a little sad to me, but at least he was on display! I could hear the older people, try and explain who he was to the young adults. The Children were drawn to him like a magnate, even though they had never seen him on TV. My Children knew exactly who he was and they were as excited as I was to see him.

I spoke with a museum worker and asked about him and why he was there without his top hat, and also why he isn’t always on display all the time, I was told the same story, they like to rotate all their items so they can share all their collection without taking up too much room. And about Charlie missing his hat, The worker laughed as said most likely whomever placed him in the display overlooked that detail and didn’t realize the importance of the hat!

In ending, If You get a chance stop down and say hello to Charlie, I know Edgar is smiling down at all of us who come to show our respect for his creation. After all we are keeping his memory alive every time we share our talents. I am going to send a few letters to the Administrator of the museum to see if they could put all the Ventriloquist figures on display at the same time, And I invite you to do the same. They have Jay Johnson’s Bob, Paul Winchell’s Jerry Mahoney and knuckle head Smiff, And most of Jim Henson’s muppets, and I’m not sure What other figures are there on loan, But it would be nice to see the entire collection.

Mike Dupree

 

Thanks Mike!!

Dan
www.ventriloquistcentral.com

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Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com

Copyright 2011 by Dan Willinger

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13 Responses to Charlie McCarthy and the Smithsonian Museum

  1. Bob Conrad says:

    Poor Charlie, not only did they forget his top hat, they forgot to comb his hair. And the microphone next to him, if I am not mistaken Charlie was on CBS.

  2. Gary Willner says:

    I know this is sacrilegious to most vents but look at Charlie McCarthy’s face. Absolutely a dead expression, nothing, dead eyes. Beautifully crafted figure, but where’s the expression? Bergen was a great vent to be able to make this figure live. Winchell’s Mahoney had a very expressive face. Just my opinion folks.
    Best,
    GW

  3. Conrad Hartz says:

    I agree with Gary. When I saw Charlie in 1983, I was stunned at his expression paint job and detail finish. He did not have that wonderful finish that the fiberglass figure had. This goes to prove how great an actor and ventriloquist Edgar Bergen was with Charlie. It was his wonderful voice, scripts and manipulation……..he was the greatest hands down.

  4. art pemberton says:

    I had heard a rumor that the Charlie McCarthy dummy had been purchased by illusionist David Copperfield and was in his private collection. Is the figure still at the Smithsonian? How would one know when to go there to actually seem Charlie?

  5. david morris says:

    I love seeing eager began puppets again is his other puppets is their as well ?I think his name is mort smith what happen to him and that old lady with the horn rim glass that look like a school marm Charlie never look so good in his life he was on nbc radio well mo me down !!!!

  6. Jerry Robbins says:

    I think Bergen had more than one “Charlie” figure. In 1954 he was on WHAT’S MY LINE with Charlie, and they have a pretty good close up of Charlie in one shot (it’s on youtube). The Charlie on the show, and the Charlie on display in this article, are definitely not the same. The eyes are slightly different in size; on the TV his monocle does not reach his eyebrow, and side burns are cut differently. It would make sense Bergen would have another; perhaps the comment about David Copperfield owning one is correct.

  7. Rachel says:

    Hello,
    Where is the real Charlie McCARTHY, at Smithsonian or not ??
    Thank a lot
    i’m french, sorry for my bad english :)
    I love Charlie and my children is a boy name Charlie :) seven years !
    i like to see Charlie a day …..
    Bye bye

    • Elizabeth says:

      He is not currently on display. I would contact the museum before planning a trip that would include Charlie. They are in the midst of renovations and I was disappointed at how few items were on display. Was wanting to show my 14 y.o. and my friends the Charlie McCarthy display but to no avail. ) ;

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I was just at the Smithsonian 6/17/14 and Charlie, much to my dismay, was NOT there. Very few items were on display due to renovations going on for the next two years (though I’d add a couple to that…this is the government we’re talking about). The only puppet on display was Miss Piggy. Love her, but she’s not Charlie.

  9. robert says:

    I visited the museum last year i either looked or didnt see charlie mccarthy why wasnt he on display?

  10. Jim Bruce says:

    A few clarifications. Edgar owned around 4 0r 5 different Charlie’s. The original Charlie made by Charles Mack in Chicago is the one in the Smithonian. Bergen used that one in vaudeville and the early radio years. The one at the Museum of Broadcast history was the one Bergen donated to Northwestern University where he went to school. That was the one he used mostly in the movies. Mortimer and Effie are also on display at the Museum of Broadcast History. David Copperfield bought a genuine Charlie made years later that was used late in his career, perhaps the last Charlie. There was another Charlie head that he kept in a safe that no one ever saw. Supposedly it had an angry face. Don’t know what happened to Poodine Puffington or Lars the sailor but I would love to find out if anyone knows.

    • Jeff Howell says:

      Jim

      You are correct that there were several different Charlie heads made over the years. My wife’s grandfather made the molds for the ones used in the latter years. He also made several of the other characters, like Mortimer and Effie. My wife’s dad remembers playing with Candice when they were kids, while Edgar and his dad worked on Charlie and the other characters. He carved all of the heads out of wood to make the molds for the figures. My wife was on antique roadshow with several of the wood heads about 10 years ago. The wood heads were all carved by Robert Wallace to make the molds. The wood heads used to make the molds are still in the family.

  11. Darrin Wells says:

    If the Smithsonian can’t keep their word, it’s time for the Bergan family to make a change

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