Yellow Kid Cameo

By | Wednesday, April 20, 2022 Leave a Comment
I'm still working on my Twitter thread on actors who portrayed a comic book/strip hero followed by a comic book/strip villain. I stopped counting at around 50 entries; I'm probably up over 200 at this point. I figure I'll just keep adding around 8-10 per day until it starts getting hard to do so. (Considering I've barely scratched the surface when it comes to stories based on manga, I expect that will be a while!)

But in going through old movies and TV shows, I wound up watching a few episodes of the Dick Tracy show from 1950. (One of the actresses there had previously played Joe Palooka's wife in one of that character's films!) The plot was pretty contrived right from jump and the sets were very cheaply put together, so it was hard to watch but one of the characters went into a joke shop that sold whoopie cushions, hand buzzers, over-sized playing cards, and that kind of thing. But on the store counter, as the camera panned across in an establishing shot, there was not one but two giant Yellow Kid masks!

(The "crown" this Yellow Kid figure has on is actually the second mask sitting on top of the first; it was just cropped out of the frame.)

I'm assuming they were made out of papier-mâché, and they looked absurdly difficult to wear and cumbersome. The overall width with the ears was easily wider than your shoulders. I assumed they were a couple spare props lying around from some other production and they threw them on the set here because there was almost nothing else about it that was decorated to look like a shop. But, as it turns out, the masks were actually a plot point!

In trying to sell one of the masks, the shop keeper -- after putting on one of the masks himself to show how "fun" it is -- has the customer try one on too. The shop keeper then heads into the back, and the villain of the episode comes in. Seeing this man behind the counter in a Yellow Kid mask, he assumes that's the shop keeper and shoots him before scurrying out. Only after the villain has left does the shop keeper come out to discover the still-masked, but now dead, customer on his floor.

For whatever reason, no one in the episode actually mentiones the Yellow Kid by name. Or Hogan's Alley or anything else associated with the strip or its characters, but it's abundantly clear who the mask is meant to represent. Why they chose the Yellow Kid specifically instead, say, a gorilla or something else, I don't know. Perhaps it was an intentional allusion to Dick Tracy's newspaper strip origins? Or perhaps the masks were indeed from another production and that just happened to be the only pair of identical prop masks they had on hand.

In any event, I thought it was still kind of a cool cameo to stumble across, even if the episode itself wasn't very good.
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