Back in 1938 a magazine was on the news stands called Focus. This was a pictorial magazine much like the magazine Life. It brought pictures of stories and gave some information but left it up to the readers to for their own conclusions.
The April 1938 edition carried on the cover the story title “Birth of a Dummy” and the story inside is a showing of pictures of a builder of both marionettes and ventriloquist figures by the name of Remo Bufano who was from New York in Greenwich Village to be exact.
I myself have never found one of his figures but according to the article he produced figures from $100.00 to $400.00 and the more expensive figures had clockwork mechanics in both the head and body.
Just think about this, the price Mr. Bufano was asking for his basic figure, was almost double what the McElroy brothers were getting at the same time and his most expensive figure was four times the price of a McElroy deluxe. So why have we not heard of this maker Mr. Bufano?
I was rather surprised that Mr Bufano was producing figures which he actually called Charlie McCarthy and as you can see in the pictures they did in fact have a very similar look. Mr Bufano sculpted in clay, cast the figures in his own mix of a wood dough and mechanized them.
He had a female artist the paint them. The figures were clothed and the clothing permanently attached to the figures. I guess Mr. Bergen either gave him permission or didn’t know about him even though this article was published for all to read.
I wish I could have provided the entire magazine for you to read but I think you get the idea from my description and the pictures.
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Ventriloquist Central is the brainchild of Dan Willinger and Steve Hurst. Dan 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. Steve is a ventriloquist as well as builder of ventriloquist figures. He also has a background in sales, marketing, building websites and computers. Because they both love the art of ventriloquism, the website Ventriloquist Central was born. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
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Famous in puppets and plays http://www.prweb.com/releases/2007/08/prweb549378.htm
Mr Dean that is a nice link about the history of puppets but doesn’t say anything about ventriloquist figures produced by this guy. Just that he had large maruionetts in this theatre. This article Dan posted is all about ventriloquist figures. Just saying…
Remo Bufano comes up as a puppeteer during the 30s-40s. You could check with Ballard THE BALLARD INSTITUTE AND MUSEUM OF PUPPETRY
School of Fine Arts, Depot Campus
6 Bourn Place, U-212 Storrs, CT 06269-5212
for more information on Remo. I couldn’t find anything of his Vent Figures.
Here’s a link with some excellent information about Remo Bufano. http://www.sp.uconn.edu/~wwwsfa/library_publications_student_remobufano.htm
I was actually reading my copy last week and the photos are very large and showed many Charlie’s being made. I wondered about how he got away with it or had a license to make them. It’s a great read