My Janos Prohaska film festival
You know how you’ll turn on some “respectable” movie channel and they’ll be doing a tribute to Humphrey Bogart or Marlon Brando or Bette Davis or somebody else, you know, famous?
I’ve always liked the idea of doing a film festival built around somebody less well-known…somebody unique.
Somebody like Janos Prohaska.
He’s an unsung hero. Unsung Hero. Let’s call him an UH. As in, “UH…Janos Prohaska?” 😉
Prohaska was born in Budapest, but came to America where he became a giant in his specialty. Characters in novels have been named after him.
You’ve almost definitely seen his work.
What did he do?
He made a monkey of himself…and a gorilla…and do-do bird…and a Mugato.
For a little over a decade, Janos Prohaska was the go-to gorilla guy. When you wanted a goofy gorilla (or bear or whatever) for a TV show, you tried to get Prohaska.
He first appeared as “Darwin” in an episode of Bourbon Street Beat. I know the episode had a chimpanzee in it, but I don’t know for sure if that’s what he played.
However, by 1964, he was in his full element, playing Clyde, a surfing, dancing, driving chimp in the third Frankie and Annette beach movie, Bikini Beach.
The next decade would find him mostly on TV, in many classic geek shows…and as several species:
He appeared on the Outer Limits (twice), The Munsters, Lost in Space, It’s About Time, The Lucy Show, Gilligan’s Island (three times), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and Star Trek (as the spine-backed anthropoid the Mugatu, the vaguely humanoid rock-creature Yarnek, and the not at all human-shaped Horta).
Among his other performances is as a Macedonian dodo bird in two episodes of Bewitched.
He had a recurring gig as a bear on Dusty’s Trail, a Bob Denver follow-up to Gilligan’s Island.
Prohaska died tragically in a plane crash in 1974.
This site has a nice series of stills of Prohaska:
The internet lets us do a mini “film festival”, so here are some links to classic Prohaska performances:
Quite a long bit as Bobby, the Macedonian dodo bird…the clip also features Bernard Fox as the inimitable Dr. Bombay.
See him toss the landing party around!
SPOILER ALERT (if you haven’t see The Devil in the Dark, you may want to skip this video): see him back away! Feel the drama!
At about a minute into the trailer, you’ll see him surf for a second as Clyde (unless he ironically had a stunt double). But, you do get to see “Little Stevie Wonder” in this video.
This was a running gag, a little bit like the Trix Rabbit. That’s not his voice, though.
Finally, here’s a rare film with Janos Prohaska as himself…well, at least with the head off his apesuit:
So, there you have it…the first in our UH series. :) If you have any nominees for a pop culture UH, feel free to let me know.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.