The late Irving W. Phillips created the widely syndicated cartoon, “The Strange World of Mr. Mum,” half a century ago — but his ironic, whimsical humor remains just as relevant in today’s world.
William S. Thomas, Phillips’ nephew and a long-time resident of Santa Barbara, will present an exhibition of original Mr. Mum cartoon panels, a PowerPoint presentation of 194 Mr. Mum cartoons and an exhibition of paintings by Phillips, from 11 a.m. to noon on Thursday, March 20, 831 State St., Suite 288 Santa Barbara. The public is invited.
“The Strange World of Mr. Mum” ran from 1958 to 1970 in 180 newspapers in 22 countries. The title character is a good-humored, urbane, perennially befuddled gentleman who walked through the world’s chaos with a deadpan expression. Mr. Mum’s core was always shaken by what he observed but somehow remained stable.
Mr. Mum was based on the lead character in a Broadway play written by Phillips. “Rumple” was the story of a cartoonist whose character materializes and starts to dominate his environment.
In addition to the international Publishers-Hall newspaper syndication, Phillips expanded on the long-running Mr. Mum character in two books. “The Strange World of Mr. Mum,” with a forward by Herblock (1965), and “No Comment by Mr. Mum,” with a postscript by Victor Borge (1975). His nephew later published a collection of Phillips’ favorite cartoons, “Classic Mr. Mum” (2010).
Earlier, as a scriptwriter, Phillips wrote three movies and 14 plays. “Song of the Open Road,” (1944) introduced a young Jane Powell and featured appearances by W.C. Fields and Edgar Bergen with his wooden sidekick, Charlie McCarthy. Phillips also wrote another Powell movie, “Delightfully Dangerous” (1945).
In addition, Phillips wrote or co-wrote more than 250 scripts for television shows, including “The Ray Milland Show,” “Four Star Playhouse” and “The Ruggles Family.” He also contributed scripts to the ABC children’s program “Curiosity Shop.”
Phillips’ cartoons were exhibited at the New York World’s Fair in 1964-65. Among his awards for “The Strange World of Mr. Mum” was the International First Prize and Cup of the Salone dell’Umorismo of Bordighera, Italy, in 1969.
Phillips began his cartooning career as humor editor for Esquire magazine in the late 1930s. This led to a job writing gags for the comedy team of George Burns and Gracie Allen, and assignments with RKO Studios and Warner Brothers. He died in 2000.