Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, September 24, 2020


 Fee, Fei, Fo, Fum by John Aylesworth (1963)

John Aylesworth (1928-2010) was a Canadian-born actor, comedian, writer, and producer.  He left high school before graduating and joined an advertising agency as a writer, where he joined forces with another young writer, Frank Peppiatt.  Together, they became Canada's first television comedy team.  They went on to become one of television's most prolific variety show writing teams.  On his own, Aylesworth created Front Page Challenge, a current events quiz show that ran on CBC television from 1957 to 1995.  

Aylesworth and Peppiatt moved to America in 1958.  They are probably best known for creating the variety show Hee Haw and its spinoff Hee Haw Honeys.  Aylesworth (often with Peppiatt) wrote, co-wrote, or created such shows as The Gisele MacKenzie Show, Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall, The Jimmy Dean Show, The Judy Garland Show, Hullabaloo, The Kraft Music Hall, The ABC Comedy Hour, The Judy Garland Show, and The Sonny and Cher Show, as well as shows for Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Jonathan Winters, Jackie Gleason, The Harlem Globetrotters, Shields and Yarnell, and Dorothy Hamill.

As far as I can tell, Fee, Fei, Fo, Fum was Aylesworth's only novel, an Avon paperback that has only been reprinted once (by Rarebooksclub Com in 2012).  The opening paragraph succinctly tells you what you need to know:

"In the early light of an ordinary morning, a handful of early risers discovered a three-hundred-and-fifty-foot giant, lying stark naked on the pavement along Madison Avenue."

The year is 1970, just a hop, skip, and jump away from 1963.  The giant is Judd Morrow, a previously normal-sized advertising executive.  The problem of a giant stretched out upon one of the city's main thoroughfares falls into the lap of Mayor Arthur M. Groat, who fears the giant could destroy the city once he wakes up.  The Chief of Police is all for dropping a bomb on the giant -- just as a precautionary measure.  Then Morrow wakes up.

Judd Morrow is fairly agreeable and is not a deliberate threat to the city.  It's decided to transfer him out of the city to a more remote location, Flushing Meadows.  And for God's sake, get something to cover him up (although the television stations have pixilated certain parts of the naked giant.  Helicopters are brought in to airlift Morrow to his new location.

The entire country seems to be happy with the friendly giant and corporations are falling over themselves to manufacture items to meet his needs.  (Needless to say, there is a great public relations boon for the companies that provide these items, from a giant comb to a suit of clothes, and from a giant martini to a fourteen-foot cigarette.)  But how did Judd Morrow suddenly become a giant?

The answer lies with Dr. Leon Grist, a Park Avenue psychologist and mad scientist.  Under another name, he had been one of Adolph Hitler's favorite scientists, performing such experiments as successfully transferring the head of a canary onto the body of a mouse (the success of the experiment could well have gone beyond six days had it not been for that darned mousetrap in the kitchen).  Unknown to Hitler, the not-so-good doctor had been shifting a generous funds the Fuhrer has provided him to a secret Swiss account, so when Nazi Germany fell, the doctor (now personally well-funded) took off to America and assumed the name Grist.  Grist was a very short person who wanted to be taller, so he created a growth formula.  Unfortunately, one of his clients (Morrow) somehow ingested a large dose of the formula and...well, you know.  Also unfortunately, Grist never bothered to create an antidote, nor did he have any idea how to go about doing so.

Think of what an army of giants could do.  Grist certainly did.  He was more than happy to sell his formula to the government (any government, actually) for fifty billion dollars.  The President was not willing to go along with that.  Instead, he ordered Grist to come up with an antidote.  Using government funds, Grist assembled a research team of former Nazi scientists who were supposedly working on an antidote.  But to come up with an antidote, they first needed to know what the original formula was.  This was something Grist refused to reveal because he still hoped for a large cash payoff.  thus, the Nazis and their lab assistants spent their entire time brewing coffee in beakers.

Other nations were eager to get the secret of growth, so when Grist was kidnapped, blame fell on the Russians rather than on the two loutish young men who grabbed the mad scientist, hoping to ransom him.  Again seeing dollar signs, Grist manages to convince his kidnappers to go into partnership with him for a large ransom payoff.

In the meantime, poor Judd Morrow is beginning to realize that he may be spending the rest of his days as a giant.  He also realized that he was in love with Lottie Breen, the one that got away.   (Actually, she left because she could not put up with Judd's philandering.)  Lottie, seeing images of giant Judd on the television, realized that she still loved the big galoot, although things seemed hopeless now.  Judd manages to get Grist (who by then had escaped his kidnappers) to agree to make Lottie a giant so he could marry her.  Lottie agrees.  She grows.  They get married.  They retired to the one-room giant house that had been built in Flushing Meadows for Judd.  A moment later, Judd emerges, normal-sized, while Lottie remains at three-hundred-and-thirty-five-feet tall.  The way of true love is never easy, my friends.  What happened, and why?

Everything combines for a marvelous sendup of sex, advertising, politics, Nazis, and petty thuggery.  There is nothing world-shaking here, just a quick, humorous, good-time read.  In these pandemic days, can anyone ask for more?

1 comment:

  1. Kind of interesting how the Ace Book was packaged to look more like a Ballantine Book of the era...