Emmy and Peabody winner Paul Tripp, pioneering TV children’s show host-creator of “Mr. I. Magination” and the orchestral/story favorite “Tubby the Tuba,” died Thursday in Manhattan of causes associated with aging. He was 91.
Native New Yorker, whose father was a singer and actor, made his Broadway debut in “Cyrano de Bergerac” in 1936. Four years later, he was performing in George Kleinsinger’s opera “Victory Against Heaven,” when he asked the composer to collaborate on his concept of “Tubby.”
The work was in its final stages when Tripp was drafted in 1942, serving in the Army Signal Corps during WWII. He directed an Army production, “The Army, Play by Play,” then went off to serve in China, Burma and India. “Tubby” was performed after he returned from war and became a hit. Storyteller with the unique, restful voice first recorded “Tubby” in 1945; a later recording was nominated for a Grammy in 1966, and a 1983 animated short was nominated for an Oscar. It’s become an orchestra favorite around the world.
He incorporated his interests in history and literature to create his first children’s show, “Mr. I. Magination,” in 1949 for CBS. It ran three years and earned him a Peabody. Joining him in various roles for each half-hour show were wife Ruth Enders and then-beginning actors such as Walter Matthau and Richard Boone. Yul Brynner directed some episodes.
Additionally, Tripp acted on several of the early live-television drama anthologies, including “Studio One,” “Kraft Television Theater” and “Philco Playhouse.”
Tripp went on to produce and star in children’s show “On the Carousel,” also for CBS 1954-59, earning an Emmy, and later starred in the birthday-themed “Birthday House” for NBC 1963-67.
He wrote and published about 600 songs and wrote more than 30 albums for children, including “Story of Celeste,” “Pee Wee the Piccolo” and “Good Night, Dear Lord,” recorded by Johnny Mathis. He also wrote four children’s books, including “The Strawman Who Smiled by Mistake” in 1967 and “The Little Red Flower” in 1968. He wrote the script and lyrics for 1966 feature film “The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t,” which he starred in with Rossano Brazzi.
He also played Ben Franklin in a touring company of “1776,” toured in a one-man production of “Will Rogers, U.S.A.” in 1974 and appeared in 1980on PBS in a one-man show about Thomas Edison.
At age 14, he attended what is now City College of the City University of New York but later dropped out; he also studied at Brooklyn Law School, again dropping out.
His wife died 1999; he is survived by a daughter, a son, and two grandchildren.