Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Oh, no, Lumbago!

The words “favourite Paul J. Smith cartoon” usually don’t fit together in a sentence. Smith had the misfortune to become a director after theatrical cartoons peaked and his became more pale and pointless as the years wore on.

But picking a personal favourite out of his work is pretty easy. It’s “Real Gone Woody” (1954), and I prefer to give writer Mike Maltese more credit than Smith for its success. Maltese dumps Woody, Buzz Buzzard and a girl in a light satire of the world of ‘50s high school sock-hops. They all fit in very nicely.

The gag I like the most might get lost on kids today. Buzz puts money in a juke box and then stops and cringes when he hears a hokey version of ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ “Oh, no! Lumbago!” he cries. It’s a play on Guy Lombardo, whose saccharine saxes were considered old-fashioned well before 1950. Lombardo’s biggest claim to fame—and he was still doing it in the mid 1970s—was ringing in the new year from New York with his Royal Canadians groaning out ‘Auld Lang Syne.’

If anyone was considered square, it was Guy Lombardo. Cut to a shot of the record in the juke box. It’s square shaped.

Musical director Clarence Wheeler sets it up nicely by having the record wow, like the vinyl is warped.

And, to top the gag, Maltese has invented a little gadget that breaks the hokey record, sweeps away the remnants and then puts a new platter on the turntable.

The animation in the cartoon is credited to Gil Turner, La Verne Harding and Bob Bentley.


  1. I was surprised the first time I saw "Porky at the Crocadero" in the 1980s to find out that Tashlin was making Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians old-age jokes in 1938. Apparently, though, Guy was a favorite of New York City/State master planner Robert Moses, who aside from Guy's New Year's appearances made sure he was always the summer entertainment at the Jones Beach State Park concert venue, which was built in the 30s and still featured Lombardo when Moses was finally ousted in the late 1960s.

    (And as far as Paul J. Smith goes, my personal favorite is "Niagara Fools". Per Leonard Maltin's comment about Smith's work with Maltese, it's hard not to imagine someone like Tex Avery milking the repeated Ranger-over-the-falls gag better than Smith did, but at least Paul did wring some humor out of the variations on the same basic premise.)

  2. I'm a Lombardo fan [hell, I have square shaped records, and I ain 't talkin; 'bout no album/CD sleeves!] but even I thought the joke was funny...Many top-rated jaZZ singers loved him as hated him..

    Kinda like the hamburger chains White Castle and Wendy's....who actually CALLS their product "old fashioned Hamburgers"..and both chainss's arte square shaped.