William "Buck" Watts Biggers, the co-creator of the cartoon "Underdog," the mild-mannered canine shoeshine boy who turned into a caped superhero to rescue his girlfriend, Sweet Polly Purebred, has died. He was 85.
Family friend Derek Tague says Biggers died unexpectedly Sunday at his Plymouth, Mass., home.
The native of Avondale Estates, Ga., worked for the New York City advertising firm DFS when he accepted an assignment from the agency's largest client, General Mills, to create television cartoons to promote its breakfast cereals. The most famous was "Underdog," which debuted on NBC in 1964.
The canine superhero, voiced by comic actor Wally Cox, also battled villains including mad scientist Simon Bar Sinister, and a gangster wolf Riff Raff.
Upon hearing the cries of Sweet Polly Purebred, Underdog would rush into a telephone booth and transform into the hero.
He spoke in simple rhymes, his most famous probably "There's no need to fear, Underdog is here."
Biggers also helped create "King Leonardo and His Short Subjects" and "Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales."
After General Mills pulled out of the animation business, Biggers became vice president of promotion and creative services at NBC.
The family said Biggers "delighted in the enduring appeal of his 'Underdog' franchise," including the balloon that appeared in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the 2007 live-action film.
Biggers also wrote for publications including TV Guide, Family Circle and Reader's Digest and wrote several novels, including "The Man Inside" and "Hold Back the Tide."
Blacklisted screenwriter Richard Collins dies at 98
Richard Collins, a screenwriter during the McCarthy era who was blacklisted for several years before he cooperated with the Communist-hunting House Un-American Activities Committee, died Thursday in Ventura, Calif. He was 98.
The onetime Communist Party member was the last of the group of left-leaning writers and directors known as the Hollywood 19, 10 of whom went to prison for refusing to name names before the committee. Collins went on to a three-decade career in television as a writer and producer of shows such as "Bonanza" and "Matlock."
Called before the House committee twice, Collins was one of 19 unfriendly witnesses in 1947, when the congressional panel opened its investigation into subversive activity in Hollywood. He was not asked to testify, but 10 who were called were cited for contempt after refusing to answer questions about their political beliefs. By 1950, all 10 - including Ring Lardner Jr., Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Alvah Bessie and Albert Maltz - were in prison.
Anti-communist hysteria spread throughout the movie industry, causing a witch hunt that ruined lives and careers. When Collins was subpoenaed again in 1951, he identified more than 20 colleagues - including his friend and collaborator Paul Jarrico and novelist-screenwriter Budd Schulberg - as belonging to or sympathizing with the Communist Party. Many, including Jarrico, never spoke to him again.
"Richard was unapologetic about what he did. He felt people were betraying their country," said "Matlock" executive producer Dean Hargrove, who knew Collins for 30 years.
Collins might not have been apologetic, but he expressed regret over turning in friends. In an interview for Victor Navasky's 1980 book on the blacklist, "Naming Names," he called himself "a son of a bitch, a miserable little bastard. It was unfortunate but true. I was a good boy, doing what you're supposed to do."
Collins drew the interest of the House committee in part because of a screenplay he co-wrote with Jarrico for "Song of Russia," a 1944 musical drama about an American conductor who falls in love with a Russian pianist while touring her country.
When he was subpoenaed in 1947, he told Navasky, he still felt "a great deal of respect and some affection" for his Hollywood friends who were party members. He sided with the other 18 unfriendly witnesses, even though he was already disillusioned with the party and its doctrinaire approach to literature. He said he quit the party that year.
"At that time," he said, "it seemed to me that purely on American democratic constitutional grounds, there was a question of the propriety of asking a man his political beliefs."
Four years later, however, he changed his mind. His work had dried up even before he had been summoned in 1947. He borrowed money to open a dress-cutting business but couldn't make a go of it.
Among the two dozen individuals he identified as Communists or sympathizers was screenwriter Martin Berkeley, who became the committee's most prolific witness, naming more than 100 people.
With his testimony behind him, Collins went back to work, writing "Riot in Cell Block 11" (1954) for producer Walter Wanger. He also wrote the treatment for "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," the 1956 science-fiction movie about a town whose residents are replaced by emotionless alien clones. It was widely interpreted as a parable about the McCarthy era.
In the 1960s Collins found steady work in television, producing dramatic series such as "Breaking Point" and "Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre." He later produced 127 episodes of "Bonanza" and 108 episodes of "Matlock" before retiring in 1992 at age 78.
Creator of Dallas Cowboys blue star logo dies at 89
The man credited with designing the famed blue star logo of the Dallas Cowboys has died.
The Cowboys announced that Jack Eskridge died Monday at a Valley Falls, Kan., hospital. He was 89.
According to the team website, Eskridge was one of coach Tom Landry's first hires in 1959, the year before the Cowboys' debut season. It was he who designed the white-bordered blue star used after the Cowboys began with a white star.
Eskridge remained with the Cowboys until 1973.