Wednesday, June 08, 2022

From Mashed Peas to Mysteries

What do baby food and crime fiction have in common? They were both influenced by Anne Turner Cook, who passed away on June 3.

Born Ann Leslie Turner on November 20, 1926, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, she was the daughter of Leslie Turner, a cartoonist who became famous for his long-running, syndicated action-adventure comic strip Captain Easy. Ann had her own early claim to fame, as Wikipedia recalls: “The [Turner] family’s neighbor was the artist Dorothy Hope Smith, who did a charcoal drawing of Ann when she was a [5-month-old] baby. In 1928, when [the U.S. baby food company] Gerber announced it was looking for baby images for its upcoming line of baby food, Smith’s drawing was submitted and subsequently chosen. It was trademarked in 1931. The drawing of Ann Turner Cook has since been used on virtually all Gerber baby food packaging. Cook’s identity was a secret until 1978. In 1990, Cook appeared as a guest on To Tell the Truth in a one-on-one segment.”

The Turner family moved to Florida at some point later in Ann’s childhood. She went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in English from Texas’ Southern Methodist University, and later earn a master’s degree in English education from the University of South Florida. She taught school for many years in Tampa, Florida, at both the elementary and high school levels, before retiring to write fiction.

With assistance from her husband, James Cook, a one-time criminologist with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in west central Florida, Ann Cook adopted the crime and mystery genre as her own. The Gumshoe Site explains that “Trace Their Shadows (iUniverse, 2001) was her first published novel set on Florida’s Gulf Coast, featuring news reporter Brandy O’Bannon.” She went on to pen three more O’Bannon yarns: Shadow Over Cedar Key (2003), Homosassa Shadows (2005), and Micanopy in Shadow (2008).

The author was 95 years old at the time of her demise.

In its obituary of Cook, The New York Times elaborated on the fact that “for decades, Gerber chose not to identify its flagship baby, or even to disclose its sex: The very universality of the sketch—in it, any mother could glimpse her own child—was a marketing boon,” wrote the Times’ Margalit Fox. “As a result, rumors flew.” Child stars Shirley Temple and Elizabeth Taylor were both said to have provided inspiration for the Gerber corporate logo. But Fox says that actor Humphrey Bogart, “who was in his late 20s when Ms. Smith made her drawing,” was most often alleged to have been the model. That claim “was so persistent that for years Gerber kept a Bogart-denying form letter on hand to send to inquisitors.”

1 comment:

HonoluLou said...

This was really interesting. I must say though I can't see Humphrey Bogart in that adorable face!