In the boisterous second feature from the Muppets, The Great Muppet Caper, Kermit and Fozzie play crack investigative reporters working for The Daily Chronicle, ably assisted by their easily-distracted (by chickens) photographer, Gonzo. After missing a major news story, all three are fired by their loud-mouthed editor, Mike Tarkanian (played by Jack Warden). In an effort to win back their jobs, they head to London to get the scoop on a big jewel heist story, launching the action of the film.
Jack Warden was Jim’s first choice for the editor’s role and his believable performance helped draw audiences into the fantasy of Muppet journalists right from the opening scenes. Warden was known for playing powerful characters like his angry juror in 12 Angry Men or football coaches in a couple of other films. Perhaps Jim’s choice was inspired by Warden’s masterful performance as Washington Post editor Harry M. Rosenfeld in the 1976 film All the President’s Men.
Warden’s scene was the last straightforward one shot before the complications of the pool fantasy sequence and the final parachute scenes were tackled the following month. By February 1981, the shoot was finished and editing had begun to ready the film for its June 26th premiere.
For more information about The Great Muppet Caper production see:
Jim’s list of possible actors to cast in the Editor role.
Fozzie, Gonzo and Kermit on the hunt for a newsworthy story.
Prop newspaper from The Great Muppet Caper, 1981.
Jack Warden in a Great Muppet Caper scene still.
Jim Henson came from a musical family that enjoyed sharing harmonies around his mother’s organ and piano. Jane Henson’s parents’ home also featured a piano and it was used for dance music during Jim and Jane’s wedding in 1959. When the Hensons bought their home in Greenwich, CT in 1964, getting a nice piano would have been a priority and an event worth noting.
Jim was not classically trained, but he could play serviceably. He wrote music for some of his projects, including his 1962 pilot The Tales of The Tinkerdee, and collaborated with musicians and composers, often sitting alongside them on the piano bench while they created a music track. Jim enjoyed sharing the songs by Walt Kelly (with Norman Monath) from The Songs of Pogo book with his family, and together they sang from A.A. Milne’s Pooh Songbook. Some of these favorites made their way onto The Muppet Show – Kermit’s nephew Robin memorably sang Milne’s “Halfway Down the Stairs” in the first season. Jim’s musical alter-ego Rowlf tickled the ivories as he sang Milne’s “Cottleston Pie” and Kelly’s “Old Dog Trey”. The Kelly humor seemed to lend itself well to the extra two minute comic spots needed for UK broadcasts, and to fill that time for episode 22, Miss Mousie sang Kelly’s “Don’t Sugar Me” to the cantankerous Statler and Waldorf. There seemed to be little risk that they would be too sweet to her!
Jim at his mother’s organ, c. 1950.
Jim’s mother Betty playing the piano, 1956.
Jim’s handwritten composition for Tales of The Tinkerdee, 1962.
Rowlf at the piano on The Muppet Show.