Friday, October 14, 2011

Charlie McCarthy Meets Snow White, Whitman No. 986

Ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy Charlie McCarthy were no strangers to working with Walt Disney. Throughout the 1940s, Bergen starred in no less than four different live radio broadcasts of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (see earlier post). Of course, they also appeared in the very humorous Mickey and the Beanstalk segment of Fun and Fancy Free (1947) and on the television special One Hour in Wonderland (1950).

Yet before all this, we find that Edgar and Charlie were actually featured in the following 1938 book, Edgar Bergen's Charlie McCarthy Meets Walt Disney's Snow White (no. 986). Published by Whitman Publishing Company.

Front Cover

Title Page

We've seen before the madcap scenarios that can arise as personalities from different stories are thrown into the mix together, like in the 1947 comic Thumper Meets the Seven Dwarfs. Then there was the 1967, The Wizard Of Bahs, where the Dwarfs and Old Witch end up as characters in the land of Oz. But uniting Charlie McCarthy with the Snow White gang has to be one of the earliest--and strangest--mashups of all.

The book is written almost as if it was taken from a transcript of a live radio performance. In fact, it's quite possible that is exactly what it is. The Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show aired for nearly 20 years, getting its start in May of 1937. Episode #33 occurred on the evening of December 19, 1937, two days before the Carthay Circle premiere of the Disney film. According to old-time radio author Martin Grams, Jr., the cast of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs appeared on this episode and performed a recreation. Unfortunately, a recording hasn't been found of this program. Yet this book might very well represent what occurred during that performance.

Bergen begins the book by telling Charlie that he has a great treat in store for him. McCarthy is introduced to the Dwarfs and over the next ten pages, nearly meets his match in Grumpy.

Next Charlie meets the Queen and talks to the Magic Mirror.

Snow White enters and Charlie thinks she's "a knockout." It's funny how the illustrations sometime depict Charlie as being dummy-size and in others as tall as the princess.

Charlie saves the day by locking the Old Witch in a closet.

Edgar Bergen was an immensely popular performer. So it makes sense from a selling point that Walt would want to link the ventriloquist's most well-known persona with his own box office hit Snow White. However, when you think about it, it's just a little unusual that someone known for his exceptional ventriloquism is featured in a book with no means of showing off his talents. Just another reason why I think this may simply be a transcript-turned-book from a live radio performance.

What a terrific look back at a time when the personality of a dummy named Charlie could steal the show.

Text and illustrations copyright Whitman/Disney. Posted here for historical documentation purposes only.

Special thanks to Major Pepperidge of Gorillas Don't Blog for his insights on The Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show and especially for taking the time to photograph and share the pages of this book from his collection.


  1. Wow. That's a fascinating situation, a marketing combination that you wouldn't imagine nowadays. Very cool.

  2. Totally wacky, but I love it! What a treasure!

  3. I still think the transcript idea is very plausible. But it also seems like it was written under the assumption that the reader would already be very familiar with the characters. Who knows!

  4. You make a very good point Major. Maybe the book, being published after the fact in 1938, is a sort of adaptation of the radio show. Would be really interesting to hear that original radio program if a recording is found some day.

  5. Fascinating! Yes, what an unusual pairing! Edgar Bergen was very talented, but as far as ventriloquism goes, didn't his lips ALWAYS move?

  6. wow, this is surely a great "collectible".
    I remember this character from my childhood in a mix of fright and fascination especially from the "mickey and the beanstalk" intro~outtro.

  7. Tokyo-- You're right. But he got away with it 'cause he was so humorous and entertaining. :)

    h.Emiru-- I know what you mean. Ventriloquist dummies have always held a bit of both "fright and fascination" for me, even today. :)

  8. Wonderful ! :D
    It IS an unexpected combination, but it works :P