At the 1949 American Toy Fair, at the Hotel McAlpin, in New York, a twentysomething Navy vet from Chicago named Adolph (Eddy) Goldfarb débuted three of his plastic inventions. One was a drinking-cup-and-straw combo with three animals on its top that would spin as a child sipped—the Merry-Go-Sip. Another was Busy Biddy, an egg-laying chicken that was described, in a subsequent patent filing, as a “toy which is actuated to simulate the actions of a fowl.” (The marketing copy was flashier: “She’s cute. She’s adorable. She’s a winner!”) Both turned into hits for Goldfarb and Marvin Glass, the toy entrepreneur he had partnered with on the products, but it was their third item on display that year which would achieve immortality: a set of chattering plastic teeth, powered by a windup metal motor, sold under the brand name Yakity-Yak.

In time, the patent expired and the original name fell away, but the gag teeth remained, showing up on late-night talk shows, in movies, at dentists’ offices. They are one of the little plastic wonders of capitalism that forever seem to find their way into kids’ hands, no matter the decade, delivering their minor thrill: in this case, the anticipatory clicking of the windup mechanism, and the giddy jolt as you quickly try to get the snapping things out of your hands, like a hot potato.

In the short documentary “Eddy’s World”—directed by Lyn Goldfarb, Eddy’s daughter—we meet the toy inventor more than seventy years later, at the age of ninety-eight, still tinkering with machines and materials, inventing new gags at his home in a retirement community Thousand Oaks in California. A child of immigrants from Poland and Romania, Goldfarb served as a radar technician on the U.S.S. Batfish submarine in the Second World War, where he began sketching ideas for toys. He began inventing shortly after the war, amid the plastic boom, with financial support from his wife, Anita. The idea for the chattering teeth, Eddy explains, came from another bit of whimsy, a printed advertisement for a nightstand false-teeth container that was described as a “tooth garage,” conjuring a whole imagined existence for a set of dentures. The original box proclaimed, “They walk! They talk! They’re alive!”

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