Monday, 8 February 2016

Van Beuren Lays an Egg

What’s endearing about the Van Beuren cartoons? For some, it’s the occasionally amateur-looking drawing. For others, it’s the bizarre gags that come out of nowhere.

I can’t comment about the former, but there’s at least one of the latter in Old Hokum Bucket (1931).

A travelling salesman demonstrates the wonder of Peppo to an old farmer whose entire livestock spends the day sleeping. The farmer tries a Peppo pill on one of his hens. The upper works. The hen twirls into a mess of lines, does a little dance, flies to its nest and starts to lay eggs that shoot down a trough, then into an incubation box. Chicks emerge from the other side.

But then things really get weird. One egg won’t hatch. It rolls off the trough, sprouts a face, does a dance, then cracks open. A coiling snakish thing emerges which morphs into the salesman, waving an American flag. Someone at Van Beuren must have been on Peppo when he thought up this routine.

The guy with the quiet, raspy voice heard in a bunch of Van Beuren shorts is the salesman. You can barely understand what he’s saying in this one at times, including when the salesman re-forms from the egg-snake. The barbershop quartet that Van Beuren hired for a bunch of its Aesop Fables in the early ‘30s makes an appearance, too (as frogs, among other creatures).

John Foster and Mannie Davis get screen credits along with Gene Rodemich, who scores “Reuben, Reuben” over the opening title cards.

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