The past few months I’ve done a couple of blogs about ventriloquist figure headsticks, if you missed them, here they are:
Ventriloquist Figure Headsticks & Controls
Ventriloquist Figure Headsticks – What Is Your Choice?
Since doing the last blog about headsticks, I have been asked by quite a few people if I could go into a bit more depth with the description of the head stick especially the McElroy Cradle style. I have therefore taken the following pictures of the cradle for you to see and before you ask the answer is yes, this is an original cradle.
As you can see in the photo the bottom of the cradle has a long shaft that actually slides into the head stick and then there is a locking device on both the cradle and bottom of the head stick to hold the head stick on. The movement of the head stick inside the body now has a free moving system that allows side to side or back and forth movement and this also facilitates the movement of the weighted floating eyes inside the McElroy head. I do hope this answers all your questions on the McElroy cradle system. It was truly unique and wonderful.
The ball and socket style head stick setup is today the most used in the vent community. It too allows for the ease of movement in any direction but if you use a headlock it will impair some of the movement.
The Insull style floating head stick was very popular but as I said I can imagine that performing for any length of time, even though the heads were made of Paper Mache, would certainly take a toll on your arm. You have to support the head from inside the body holding the head in the correct position. Although it was done for decades I still think it had to be uncomfortable.
On another vent blog there was statements that Marshall used a very weak headstick and that with use they would break and fall apart. I think that it is true a few may have been abused and did fall apart but on the whole that was a misstatement. I have way too many Marshall figures with original headsticks with no problem so I think that to say they were all bad because of one or 2 is wrong.
I have Johnny Main’s figure Archie which was used every day for over 50 years buy a working pro and it is in fine condition. I think that on a few of Marshall’s head sticks the center bore which was done to accommodate the control strings to pass up into the head may have been bored off center to cause a weak side wall which then would give way but to say they were poor head sticks in a wrong statement. In fact most makers copied the style. I have pictured the Marshall head stick for you to see.
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 2009 by Dan Willinger
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Thank you again for the photos of that ship thing, never really understood, would have to see cradle in person either as used by mariners or dummy builders to fullly understand. I wonder if Marshall came up with the ball and socket neck. I would say his crosseyes effect using same eyes controller as well as eyebrows and way he pivoted them are his alone. I have never understood the puckering lips movement he adv advertised, if it really puckered or if just upper lip sneer.