“Page Miss Glory” is an unusual cartoon in so many ways. It starts off as the raison d’être of the Merrie Melodies series—to push Warner-owned songs, in this case Warren and Dubin’s “Page Miss Glory” from the 1935 feature film of the same name. How it was done is what’s unusual.
Leon Schlesinger’s cartoons were not noted for their art; some around that time are flat-out ugly with some dull stock character designs. But, for reasons we can only speculate, Schlesinger decided to make a cartoon with Art Moderne designs, brought in mystery woman Leadora Congdon to create it, then never tried anything like it again. Congdon only worked on this one cartoon. Who she was and where she came from is one of those great unanswered questions of animation; I’ve never found her name in a census report, a Los Angeles City Directory, nor a newspaper of the day.
Even more odd is the cartoon was assigned to director Tex Avery (“I think I was forced to make it,” he recalled to historian Joe Adamson). Avery was hardly the veteran on staff. Friz Freleng was the number one director at the time and Jack King had experience at animation’s Shangi-La, the Walt Disney studio. Avery had only made four cartoons before this one was released in 1936 and was noted for his gags, not his artistic temperament. But he geared up his crew of Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Sid Sutherland, Virgil Ross, Bobe Cannon and writer Tubby Millar and came up with an interesting cartoon at worst (none of them received credit but all appear in caricature near the end of the cartoon). Certainly the gags and the twist ending are what you’d expect out of Avery.
Avery isn’t known for his perspective animation, but there’s some of it in this cartoon. My favourite bit is a funnier variation on the old Harman-Ising camera-in-the-mouth routine. This one has the “camera” drink champagne.
Tuxedoed men run to and away the camera. In an enjoyable bit, an endless group of them run from elevators toward the camera, turning the picture black (I’ll bet this was a hit on a big screen in the theatre). A few seconds later, the men walk away and the picture reveals them surrounding the idealised Miss Glory.
More perspective animation as the men high-step in a ring around Miss Glory. It’s remarkable to think this same studio could only muster lame Buddy cartoons a year earlier.
Anyone familiar with Busby Berkeley’s choreography at Warners has seen his overhead shots during songs. Congdon (or Avery) imitates one in the cartoon, with the dancers going clockwise and the rings they’re on going counter-clockwise. Really a great effect.
And there are rounded or angular geometric shapes everywhere in this cartoon. Some have the camera looking up at them, and others down. Here are two examples.
These designs are in stark contrast to the standard-issue characters and Elmer Plummer’s backgrounds we see outside of the art deco dream sequence. A wandering cow is downright crude. It’s hard to believe the same animators were at work. Despite that, I still like this cartoon. And you can’t beat a surprise pop culture reference to Jack Benny’s orchestra leader at the very end.