Harold Haxton: A Life In The Can
Early Years
Hollywood: 1947-1953
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Arlen Ford on Haxton's not-so-special effects work:

"...This was back when we were working on Mars Needs Chicken. We're shooting the scenes where the spaceship flies over the White House -- the last couple of takes we need to finish the film. We had only one day left on the equipment rental.

And of course, we still didn't have a spaceship.

Harold says it's no problem...the spaceship model isn't done yet, he'll get it later in the afternoon. Typical Hax. So he runs out to his car and comes back with a blue felt sombrero -- probably something he was wearing on the way back from a Tijuana drinking binge.

Anyway, time is money, so we get the hat on a piece of transparent line, we do the test shots and lighting with this sombrero as a stand-in. By now it's three o' clock in the afternoon and I've been there since 5 am -- so I tell Hax I'm going to lunch, and I walk out. Of course I'm pretty upset with him, so I have a few drinks and take my sweet old time. When I come back, he's already shot all the spaceship scenes.

With the sombrero.

The best part of the story...watching the dailies, we saw that he'd forgotten to cut off the little pom-poms all around the brim of the sombrero. We tried to blur them a little bit in post, but you can still see pom-poms in most of the scenes."


Haxton wearing the notorious sombrero, 1953


Haxton explains the story behind "Jax Caravan" character that made actor James Claypool famous:

"I was in the Legion with some very tough guys like Jax Caravan. Tough, charismatic guys. Guys who could field strip a gun, deal a hand of blackjack and light a cigar at the same time, all without falling off their camel. Guys with big mustaches. The kind of guys you're both intrigued by and yet scared silly about sharing a tent with. Well, Caravan is a composite of some of those guys, but without the mustache. I asked Jimmy to grow a mustache for the role, but he couldn't do it. He tried, mind you, but some guys just ain't got the follicles, you know?"


Maximilian Schmikler, producer and president of Schmikler Pictures, on the filming of Newtrino: The Atomic Newt:

"The Newtrino suit was rubber...painstakingly glued together from strips of old tractor tire inner tubes. We just didn't have the budget for a custom-molded suit. That suit smelled pretty bad. A coupla times, the guy in there was overcome by the fumes and passed out. Hax always took advantage of the "down time" to shoot the monster's death scenes.

I guess I could see how folks got the impression that Hax was insensitive...but he was the kind of guy who'd do anything for you. He was just, well, real focused.

Another time, the Newtrino suit caught on fire when the actor (Istvan MacGuffin) stood too close to some flashpots...we all ran around like chickens with our heads cut off. Arlen [Ford] grabbed a blanket and threw it over the smoldering actor...Hax dumped his cup of coffee over the guy. Turned out the actor was fine...but after that incident we all used to call the local coffee joint 'The Firehouse'."


Earl "Black Socks" Clydon, who worked with Harold in Warburton's Traveling Spectacular (a traveling circus):

"Harold Haxton was a pretty good elephant painter. We used a roller instead of a brush, mostly...the brush was for details. In 1945, our elephants were a very pale pink. But during the 1946 season they were more of a bright, whadyacallit, magenta, since we got more paint after the war rationing was over. Haxton always got along good with the elephants...I always used to joke that they both worked for peanuts. Well, nobody laughed much at that joke, really. But, hey, I wasn't no f*cking clown -- I was an elephant handler."

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