Seein' Stars, by Feg Murray
Episode of 'Seein' Stars' featuring Jeanine Crain, Helen Walker, Laurel & Hardy and a spot about the Walt Disney film 'The Three Caballeros', published on 22 October 1944.

Frederic "Feg" Murray was an American athlete, radio host and Olympic medallist who was also active as a sports cartoonist. His best known feature was the 'Seein' Stars' column (1933-1951), which featured trivia and news about Hollywood stars and their latest pictures.

Early life and sports career
Frederic Seymour Murray was born in 1894 in San Francisco. He signed many of his early drawings with "Feggo", which inspired his nickname "Feg". Murray trained as an athlete during his youth and became the U.S. National Champion in the 120 yard high hurdles and the 1915 and 1916 U.S. National Champion in the 220 yard low hurdles. He studied graphic arts at Stanford University, where he graduated in 1916. The same year he also became captain of the track team of his university. In 1917 the United States got involved in the First World War and Murray served his country. He did the same thing in peace time when he was selected for the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium. There he won an Olympic bronze medal in the discipline 110 metre hurdles.

Introduction episode of Layon McDuffer (The Buffalo Commercial, 7 May 1924).

Cartooning career
After his sports career Murray became a sports cartoonist and columnist for The Los Angeles Times. He later relocated to New York City where his work appeared in the New York Sun for seven years. From June through August 1924 Murray was the original artist of the comic strip 'Layon McDuffer' (1924-1930) for Associated Editors, which was subsequently drawn by Fred Neher (1924-1927), Frank Hopkins (1927-1930), and written by Barrie Payne.

In the early 1930s he contributed to Street & Smith's Sport Story Magazine. On 30 October 1933 Murray's signature series 'Seein' Stars' (1933-1951) made its debut. It was basically the equivalent of an illustrated news column with radio, movies and sports as the main focus. The cartoonist told the latest facts about certain celebrities of the day and illustrated this with realistically drawn portraits of these people. In style and execution it was very reminscent of Robert L. Ripley's similar "illustrated trivia" column 'Ripley's Believe It Or Not' (1918-...). Another comparable predecessor was 'Star Dust' (1929-1931?), drawn by cartoonist Westphal and distributed by Midwest Feature Service. This comic strip presented biographical trivia about Hollywood stars. In the same vein there was Captain Roscoe Fawcett and Bud Thompson's 'Screen Oddities' (1931-1943), Wiley Padan's 'It's True' (1933-1947) and George Scarbo's 'Closeup and Comedy' (1934-1939). Writer Dan Thomas and artist Don Wootton made an equally similar feature under the same name, 'Seeing Stars' (1929-1930), for the NEA Syndicate.

'Seein' Stars' episode of 7 May 1939?

Seein' Stars
Murray's 'Seein' Stars' consisted of one large illustration where various unrelated illustrated trivia about celebrities appeared alongside one another without the use of panels. In that regard it was more of a one-panel cartoon. Although all kinds of celebrity news was covered movie stars were naturally the biggest focus. It offered not just biographical information, but also news about their latest movies. Some of this "news" was borderline trivial, not to say banal. And like most gossip columns it wasn't always based on verifiable facts. But in a time when people knew very little about the personal lives about glamorous stars each novelty was still newsworthy. The illustrations were drawn realistically, obviously based on publicity photographs. As a running gag Murray often drew a tiny cartoon bear in each drawing, who commented on the information with use of a speech balloon. He also had a fondness for creating stamps about celebrities, which he often snuck in his drawings. As suggested on the King Features blog The Comics Kingdom, episode 22 of May 2014, Murray was probably a philatelist in his spare time.

During the week the episodes were published in black-and-white. In September 1934 'Seein' Stars' received a Sunday page as well. From 11 September 1938 on this Sunday feature appeared exclusively in colour. Arthur Beeman at one point assisted on the art. 'Seein' Stars' was distributed by King Features Syndicate and ran for nearly two decades. The black-and-white version already ended in 1941, but the Sunday pages lasted another decade until 1951. Hollywood child star Shirley Temple owned a personal copy of a 1935 'Seein' Stars' episode featuring her, Otto Kruger and Maureen O'Sullivan.

'Seein' Stars' of 13 August 1937, featuring animator Tex Avery, who was then still relatively unknown. Also note that the info is incorrect, since Porky Pig was actually created by Friz Freleng, though Avery did popularize the character. 

Murray the celebrity
By 1938 Murray became a star himself. For one season he was the host of the popular radio variety show 'The Baker's Broadcast' (1933-1938) on NBC Radio, which starred comedians Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Hilliard, better known as 'Ozzie & Harriet'. Up until Murray's arrival the radio show had been broadcast in New York City, but now it relocated to Hollywood. As a tribute the show was sometimes referred to as 'Seein' Stars in Hollywood', to tie in with his eponymous cartoon feature. On 13 March 1938 his guests were Boris Karloff (famous for playing Frankenstein's Monster in the 1931 classic film) and Béla Lugosi (famous for playing Count Dracula in 'Dracula', 1931). Karloff read a short story by Rudyard Kipling: 'The Supplication of the Black Aberdeen' and afterwards both him and Lugosi sang a duet named 'We're Horrible, Horrible Men'. As a huge horror fan this was a highlight in Murray's life. Unfortunately ratings were low and the entire show was cancelled within the same year.

In 1939 Murray appeared in a Hollywood movie too: the musical comedy 'That's Right, You're Wrong' (1939), built around the popularity of the big band leader Kay Kyser. The picture also stars Adolphe Menjou, columnist Hedda Hopper and a still unknown Lucille Ball. Though Murray's role is nothing more than a small cameo.

Death and legacy
Feg Murray passed away in 1973 at the age of 79. A posthumous book, 'Holly-Would' (1974) by John Milton Hagen with illustrations by Murray was published by Arlington House a year later.

Seein' Stars cartoons on Ger Apeldoorn's blog

Series and books by Feg Murray in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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