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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Talky Tina and Baby Jane

Today I'm going to go off the beaten path a little and introduce you to two cinema dolls that I have a fondness for.  One of them, Talky Tina, is fairly well-known among doll circles.  The other, Baby Jane, plays only a small role in the movie she appears in, and I only know a little about her.

Talky Tina
Talky Tina played a role in a Twilight Zone episode from 1961 entitled "Living Doll."  In the episode Tina stars opposite from Telly Savalas.  Savalas plays the part of Erich Streator, an angry, verbally-abusive stepfather, and Tina "plays" herself, a doll that walks, talks, and "does everything."  Erich is bitter over his inability to have children and is annoyed by Tina's presence in the household.  Tina reciprocates Erich's negative feelings by behaving like a normal doll when his wife and stepdaughter are around, and then heckling him with sinister threats and remarks.  
"My name is Erich Streator, and I'm gonna get rid of you."

The battle between man and doll becomes increasingly heated as the episode progresses, culminating with...wait a minute, I'm not going to tell you how it ends!  If you have never seen "Living Doll" and your interest has been piqued, look it up online or wait until New Years' Eve; Sci Fi Channel has a Twilight Zone marathon every July Fourth and New Years' Eve, and "Living Doll" is always in the lineup.  But enough of that.  Let's discuss the doll.
It's difficult to give specifics from a black and white television program, but it IS possible to get basics.  In the episode Tina wears a plaid dress and black mary-janes.  Her hair is dark and is styled in two pigtails.  She appears to be anywhere from seventeen to twenty inches tall, and if you pay very close attention to the program you can see that she has painted fingernails and peaked eyebrows.  When wound up her head turns and her arms and legs move.  She can also wink, though she only does this to torment Erich.

I'm fond of vintage dolls, as an earlier post will attest.  I also like creepy dolls, and after seeing "Living Doll" I embarked on a search to find out who this little devil doll is.  The search proved brief and relatively simple.
This is Brikette, by the Vogue doll company, the same company that makes Ginny.  Brikette was introduced in 1959 and was discontinued around the time that "Living Doll" aired.  She came in two sizes, sixteen inches and twenty-one inches.  Both sizes had painted nails, and the twenty-one-inch version had eyes that moved from side to side (called "flirty eyes").  Talky Tina's eyes do not "flirt" so I assume that she is the smaller version.  In addition to the size variation there were three different hair colors.  Most of the Brikette dolls I've seen are redheads or blondes, but there was also a brunette version produced.  According to both DollInfo.com and DollReference.com this brunette is rare.  It was one of these rare brunettes that achieved notoriety as Talky Tina.

But wait, there's more!  Remember when I said that Talky Tina's arms and legs moved?  Brikette's do not...not on their own, at least.  In order to achieve this, the original Brikette had to be modified.  She received a walking mechanism from another doll that was available at the time, seen below.
This is Saucy Walker from the Ideal toy company (this particular example is mine; I couldn't resist showing her off, LOL).  Saucy was manufactured between 1951 and 1957 and was apparently hugely successful, because there were a LOT of knockoffs.  Like Brikette, she was manufactured in two sizes:  sixteen inches and twenty-two inches.  My 22-inch Saucy's dress is fragile, so I haven't checked her thoroughly to see how she works, or even IF she works!  But apparently the smaller doll had to be wound up in order to work; in one scene, Erich is seen winding Talky Tina up, and since Brikette had no such feature the wind-up knob had to have come from Saucy Walker.  Either that, or the studio found a way to jerry-rig the mechanism.  Go figure.

And Tina's voice?  Oh yes, that.  Neither Brikette nor Saucy Walker talked (though some Saucy Walkers did cry).  The voice was that of June Foray, the lady who was also the voice...of none other than Chatty Cathy.

The "Living Doll" episode proved to be popular and remains so to this day.  I considered embarking on a potentially frustrating search for a brunette Brikette doll to call my own, until I saw these.
These replicas were made by Entertainment Earth, a website that sells toys, action figures, and assorted other items that pertain to sci-fi buffs, comic book fans, and folks that proudly call themselves "nerds."  They are eighteen inches tall and speak five phrases from the show.  The one on the left has been rendered in color, while the one on the right appears as she did in Twilight Zone.  Having never seen a color photograph of a brunette Brikette, I am unable to tell whether the color replica is accurate.  But that doesn't really matter, because she's supposed to be Talky Tina, not Brikette.  The dolls were released in 2011 and will be reissued this month, but unfortunately they cost a pretty penny:  $169.99, to be exact.  I probably won't be bringing one of these home any time soon, unless my very kind sister decides to indulge me (which she has done on several occasions).  But I can still ogle them from afar, right?  Oh, how I wish I'd had these during my last year of college...I could've scared the living daylights out of my fat slob of a neighbor!!!

Baby Jane
"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane" was released in 1962.  The film starred Joan Crawford and Bette Davis as feuding sisters Blanche and Jane Hudson.  Blanche grows up in the shadow of "Baby" Jane, who is a successful but spoiled vaudeville star.
Blanche Hudson

"Baby" Jane Hudson

When the two sisters reach adulthood the tables turn.  Jane's movies flop, while Blanche becomes a famous actress.  All that comes to an end one night, when a mysterious car wreck renders Blanche a paraplegic.  After the accident, Blanche is confined to her upstairs bedroom and finds an escape in her old movies.  Meanwhile, Jane becomes mentally unstable, an alcoholic, and bitter over Blanche's success and her inability to rekindle her own career.  She takes her frustrations out on Blanche by isolating her, abusing her physically and verbally, and tampering with her food.  The abuse escalates until Jane finally snaps...and Blanche reveals a secret that could have prevented all the animosity.

Unlike Talky Tina, the Baby Jane doll only plays a small role in her flick.  She makes an appearance at the beginning of the movie, in which several are available for sale outside of Baby Jane's vaudeville act.  The doll also has a few brief shot later on, most notably when Bette Davis's character (old, dried-up, moldy Jane Hudson) places one on her talent agent's lap.
She also features in the title card of the movie...shattered.
As you can see in the shot with Bette Davis, Baby Jane was a very large doll.  She was created in the likeness of the little girl who played Baby Jane Hudson, a child named Julie Allred.  The doll was a spitting image of the child.
Julie made a superb performance as Baby Jane, turning cartwheels and dancing her fanny off one minute, then pitching a screaming spoiled-brat fit the next.  And she managed to cram all that into the first five minutes of the movie!  In spite of such prowess, "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane" was Julie's only movie appearance due to religious convictions of her family.  But she did have one memento:  the Baby Jane doll.  Upon the completion of the movie she was given one of the dolls, which she kept until her death in 2011.

Who WAS that doll, though???  The title card showed her head smashed in several pieces, but later on during a tussle between the adult Jane and her talent agent the doll is knocked over and survives the fall.  This leads me to think that either
A:  someone took a real doll and heavily modified her, similar to the manner in which Talky Tina was created, or
B:  the Baby Jane doll was simply a prop made solely for the movie.  Maybe the prop crew made several for the Vaudeville scene, and a special one with a smashed head for the title card.

I was inclined to think the first option for a number of reasons.  One, that's easier.  It's just easier to modify existing dolls than to create one from scratch.  Plus, in 1962 there were plenty of big dolls that didn't break, but could easily be made to look super-nice.  This is one candidate, and also the reason why there were so many big dolls:
Her name is Patti Playpal, and she was fairly popular during the early part of the 1960's, popular enough that there were several knock-offs.  She's not exactly like the Baby Jane doll, but she is the right size and with modifications, she could be MADE to look like Baby Jane.  Plus, Patti was advertised as being lightweight in spite of her large size.  This meant that a little girl could carry her around...and Julie Allred did carry Baby Jane in one scene.

Unfortunately, I could find nothing to confirm this!  I couldn't find any sources confirming or denying whether Patti Playpal was the Baby Jane doll.  In fact, I couldn't find ANY information on the doll!  None at all!!!  I assumed that the popularity of the movie and the presence of two well-known actresses in said movie would make for some info on the movie's nitty gritties.  Oh sure, there are nitty gritties, but they mostly concern the on-set rivalry between Crawford and Davis (the two women reportedly hated each other).  But there was no information on the doll at all.  Julie Allred kept one doll all her life, and Bette Davis gave the rest away during promos for the movie.  To my knowledge, neither of them said a word about how the doll came to be, or what kind of doll she was.

The Baby Jane doll has also not been immortalized as a real, tangible, purchasable doll.  There HAVE been Baby Jane dolls, but they depict the older Jane Hudson.
Okay I take that back.  There is ONE doll who is based on Baby Jane's child self...
...and she happens to be a Living Dead Doll.  This is Wrath, from Series 7, which had a Seven Deadly Sins theme.  Each doll was named after a sin, and then had a nickname.  This doll's name is Bad Bette Jane.  Not Baby Jane, mind you, but Bette Jane...a mosh-up of the actress's name and the character's name.  I love it!  Looks like I have a couple of names to add to my nightly eBay searches.  Oh, my poor wallet!!!!  LOL

Happy first day of November!
RagingMoon1987

9 comments:

  1. Hello from Spain: I like vintage dolls. I read the history of these dolls. Very interesting. Keep in touch

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  2. Baby Jane was probably an Ideal Daddy's girl with a custom head.

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    1. Interesting information! I've never even heard of Daddy's Girl so this is a scoop for me. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. I had thought that Baby Jane was a Patti Playpal, too. But now that I see Parent77's comment, I am not so sure.
    Looking at Baby Jane's hand in the photo with Bette Davis, the doll she is holding seems to have fairly straight fingers. Patti Playpal has bent fingers.
    Daddy's Girl came in two sizes, 38 or 42" tall. Bette Davis was 5'3" tall. I don't know if that would help in figuring out the size of the doll, but I'm throwing it out there in case it does.
    Fascinating article. Thank you.

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    1. You're welcome! Thank you for the information on sizing, too; that may come in handy for someone who is good at math. I'm not, but I may have some readers who are. LOL

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    2. Hi! I'm right there with 'parent' 77. There is a reference book out there ( I have one), which shows a "Daddys-Girl" doll in it.The book os called "Collectors guide to Ideal dolls" 2nd edition by judeth izen.The daddys girl doll pictured has movable hands and ANKLES! Just like the doll in the movie!There is also the Lori Martin doll (also by Ideal), also exactly the same body. Of course the dolls head, for several reasons was changed;1st it had to look like the little girl in the movie 2nd the head had to be made of something breakable for shock value as well as the movie tpok place, in the beginning, in the 20's...no vinyl doll heads back then (compo or bisque) the two dolls i've mentioned are on pages 216 & 217.And YES ABSOLUTELY that IS a Brikkette doll.thanks and God bless you

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  4. In the Baby Jane Movie there are at least 5 of them when they show them for sale. I always wondered who wound up with those props. I always presumed they were custom made so no doubt Parent 77's theory is probably correct.

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    1. Yes, that theory seems like the most plausible one.

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