THE MAN WHO LIVED FOR TOYS
By Rusty Kern
X. Rice, the Chief Designer of Marx playsets, passed away at 7 A.M. EST
December 30th, 2006, at the age of 86 of natural causes. A World War Two veteran
and former Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus, he was the architect of many
of the Marx playsets we honor here on these pages. His fans came to know and love
him through his humor and insight into the creation of the line we cherish as children and
adults. He fell ill at the beginning of December, and while we all thought he would
recover; only his beloved wife Rusty and Frank himself knew the end was coming.
"He was a man who lived for toys and for Christmas, and he has passed," she said.
would never have allowed a tribute to him, not while he lived. He always
said the Marx playset was a team effort, the result of a collaboration of
talent that started with Louis Marx' love of figures, and Ed "Click"
Hjelte, the merchandiser whose success in marketing toys brought him to
Marx. It was Ed who hired Frank into the research and development room at
Marx headquarters, 200 Fifth Avenue in New York City. But it was Frank who
maintained and fully developed the playset line, and we are publishing some
of his story in the next issue.
Frank elevated the playset line from ranch houses and rodeo sets to Fort Apache and D-Day with a honed and clear-cut philosophy that rings true even today.
Frank is shown here in a detail of a pre-1962 photo of Louis Marx and others at a victory celebration following Toy Fair
God speed Frank.