Come to Think Of It…

American International Pictures? The name makes no sense. WHICH IS IT??? American or international?

Studio names have always been a bit baffling. As a very small child I had no idea that the “Bros” in “Warner Bros” meant “brothers”. And certainly I’d never encountered a human being called Walt, let alone Walt Disney (although the soundalike word “disnae” is Scots vernacular for “don’t”).

But the greatest mystery was always Twentieth Century Fox. What kind of fox is that? While I figured out Disney and Warner early on, it probably took me twenty years to learn how the Fox Film Corporation joined forces with Twentieth Century Pictures. A similar merger accounts for one of the comics I read as a kid being called Whizzer & Chips — an unlikely pairing! Although having that answer really just trades one question for two: why Whizzer?  Wherefore Chips?

Who whizzed on my chips?

I don’t think I’d ever wondered what R.K.O. stood for (although I certainly scratched my head over “An R.K.O. Radio Picture” — “radio picture”…???). Now that I know the answer — Radio Keith Orpheum — I’m none the wiser. But it sounds like an instruction, doesn’t it? If anybody knows what frequency Keith is on, please radio him.

On a marginally more modern note, Miramax, which sounds like a luxury hotel somewhere in the Arab Emirates, is actually a combination of the names of the parents (Mira, Max) of founding brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein. If only Weinstein mere et pere had been called Fuchsia and Hedley, what a different and, on the whole, more enchanting world this might be.

(If somebody wants to photoshop the resulting logo, I’ll gladly run it!)

10 Responses to “Come to Think Of It…”

  1. Keith doesn’t know what the frequency is, but if you ask Michael Stipe. Kenneth might have a reasonably good idea…



  2. Well it makes more sense thant “Universal International.” Talk about oxymoron!

  3. Whizzer and Chips were two comics combined into one…

  4. “Universal International” strikes me as more redundant than oxymoronic– if something is universal, isn’t it automatically international? Maybe just plain moronic.

    I understand about Whizzer & Chips, that’s why I said it was the result of a merger. But I’m not sure I understand why the original two comics bore those names — especially “Whizzer”!

  5. Thanks djp, I’ve been meaning to look up the lyrics to What’s The Frequency Kenneth and this is a good reminder. The title comes from Dan “Ghost World” Clowes’ comic strip Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron and apparently a lot of the other lyrics reference the strip too — but I’ve never been able to decypher them.

    “The world is a cesspit filled with swine and sheep. Also, you can’t trust the news media.”

  6. gralefrit Says:

    Whizzer and Chips wasn’t a merger but was designed as a two-in-one. According to Paul Gravett’s book on British Comcs, a comic called ‘Chips’ existed up until 1953, but W&C was a fresh launch of a new dual-cover comic in 1969.

    One explanation I’ve heard for the two comics-in-one idea was that Whizzer and Chips was designed as the first comic to sell equally to both working class and middle class kids. The red section (Whizzer) featured mainly well-behaved middle class characters who owned something (a snake, a magical whatnot) that did stuff. The blue section (Chips) was full of rougher D.C. Thompson-ish working class characters who scrapped and got into scrapes off their own bat. Now I can’t find where I read that…

  7. That’s fascinating. And it makes sense that I was reading it, since my folks were kind of upwardly mobile or aspirant. Both sections would work!

    I do remember it having two front covers now, and having to turn it upside down when you got to the middle. It had the psychological effect of making a kid think he was getting MORE.

    I always preferred the IPC and Fleetway comics to DC Thompson, which is ironic since I ended up working for DCT briefly. It wasn’t that much fun.

  8. I’m not so sure that Bob and Harvey would be successful running a studio called Fuchley.
    You missed out Rank and the gong. Why a gong? Was there something deliberately homoerotic about the muscleman swinging his huge gong-hitty-thing?

    I don’t like change with these visual logos. I got quite indignant when Columbia became a Sony Pictures company after being a Gulf + Western company for so long. I do,however, like the way I can tell the decade by the Universal logo. It’s the one exception to the rule.

    I read Whizzer and Chips. And the Topper, the Beano, the Dandy (rarely), Victor (weekly), Warlord….

  9. No, Fuchley wouldn’t be a flier, but what about Fuch-Hed Inc?

    The man with the gong deserves a whole entry to himself, maybe referencing the various gag versions in British movies through the decades. “Rank stupidity!” as Kenneth Williams protested.

    Engulf & Devour, the evil corporation in Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie, was based on Gulf and Western, “who ate Columbia Pictures.”

    I don’t know why these super-corporations, who are supposed to understand business, buy well-loved companies and then screw around with their corporate identities, as with “Warner-Seven Arts” — we don’t CARE if the company’s got a new owner, but we do like seeing the familiar logo.

  10. Comrade K tells me: “what’s the frequency kenneth” originates not in clowes but in a briefly-famous incident where someone assaulted tv anchorman dan rather on the street, beating him w/…a shoe, maybe? while repeatedly asking the question

    DR took the song in good stride, saying REM stood for Rather’s Electric Minstrels.

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