Screenland (Nov 1939–Apr 1940)

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McCarthy? Snerd vs. McCarthy, with Bergen in the middle! It's the battle of the century, folks, and you'll see the finish in the unholy three's newest picture By Nerd Riley With a good deal of confusion we got around to Mortimer's birth, which turned out to be a little irregular. He started as a noise in Bergen's larynx, whence Charlie McCarthy had already been mowing 'em down for fourteen years. "I had the voice and I knew I wanted a rural character," says Bergen. That was three and a half years ago back in a Chicago night-club. With nothing but a voice to work from Bergen set out to design his new stooge. For six months he littered tablecloths with his sketches before he got what he wanted. Snerd is it. Bergen took his design to Virginia Austen in Los Angeles and together they molded Snerd. Molded, not whittled, because unlike that termite flophouse, McCarthy, Snerd is papier-mache. All that is stupid and all that is weak have gone into Mortimer's map. His forehead retreats idiotically; his chin would disgrace a rabbit ; his eyes are blue, round, and crossed ; his blond hair looks like an unmade bed and seems to have hay in it ; worst of all are Mortimer's teeth, two bare bones — a "gopher puss," says McCarthy. Snerd was christened Elmer Mortimer Snerd, but the Elmer was dropped because of the strain on Snerd's intellect and now the bucolic gentlemen is plain Mortimer Snerd, but Snerd is still bewildered. "Tell this gentleman your name, Bergen told him. "Name?" "Yes, what is it?" "Name?" Mortimer thought hard. "Huh. Funny, had it right on the tip of my tongue. Know it as well as my own name, too." "You'll have to make allowances for Mortimer," Bergen explained. "He hasn't been around much. He is just a simple farm boy." "Iowa," said Snerd in his gloopy voice. "Yes, Mortimer comes from a dairy farm five miles north of Keokuk." "That's in Iowa too," Snerd added. All reports to the contrary, Snerd was not conceived to take Charlie McCarthy's place should that mighty fourflusher hit the skids. McCarthy, according to Bergen, is not something the public took up at a whimsical moment. McCarthy will last as long as he is fed sprightly material. Wit is always palatable. But Snerd is not witty, he's just ungodly dumb; he gets laughs because his brain works in slow motion when it works at all. His vocabulary, too, is small. Thus, his comedy is limited. No, Btrgen didn't have big plans for Snerd. "I merely wanted an encore number for the supper clubs I was playing at the time. I needed a variation," Bergen explains, "you know, as an antidote to an evening of Charlie's wise-cracking." {Please turn to page 95) 33