Friday, 25 March 2016

Smokers, Stooges and Crooners

Frank Tashlin directed with a string of Warner Bros. cartoons around 1937-38 with things on store shelves coming to life. It was books and magazines in Speaking of the Weather. It was books in Have You Got Any Castles? And it was pipe-cleaners and matches in Wholly Smoke.

There are parody products in the background, some of which you should still recognise today. Camels and Raleighs, to name two. Porky is accompanied in this scene by Nick O. Teen, an imaginatively designed character.

Wooden matches light themselves to blacken their heads and turn themselves into a quartet. Among their lyrics: “Light a fag and take a drag.”

Bull Durham tobacco. Is this Rod Scribner’s early work?

Fatima cigarettes. Basil Rathbone plugged them on radio for a while.

Night Owl cigars.

I love the “tongue sandwich” gag in some cartoons where a tongue in a sandwich flaps around singing. Here we get chewing tobacco that chews.

Stogies become stooges. Three of them. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!

Corona Corona cigars get parodied. The crooners in question are (if you don’t already know), Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee. Sinatra wasn’t around in 1938.

An inside gag. Henry Binder was Leon Schlesinger’s right-hand man. The pipe cleaner dips his head in a pipe to emerge as Cab Calloway.

George Manuell received the story credit on this cartoon, while it was Bob Bentley’s turn for the animation credit. Volney White, Joe D'Igalo and Bob McKimson were animating for Tashlin around this time, and I think Ken Harris was assisting.


  1. The themes here are similar to Disney's "Donald's Better Self", released only a few months earlier. But Tashlin's effort is more focused on the activity of smoking itself and not on the good/evil choices for the main character. It also has a surprisingly non-cynical ending compared to either the Disney short or even Frank's earlier "Now The Summer Is Gone", where the child-aged main character is put through the wringer on gambling, but learns nothing before getting the hand dropped on him at iris out.

    ("Wholly Smoke" might actually be the most all-time acceptable storyline for those types that decry Warners' shorts as 'mindless cartoon violence' and prefer stories that teach kids valuable moral lessons, except that the Cab Calloway and the lighted matchstick gags have been edited by various censors in some areas at least since the 1970s.)

  2. Some great camera angles and montages in WHOLLY SMOKE, but not a real laugh-getter compared to other films Tashlin was making at the time.

  3. Those Stooge caricatures look almost like Shankman's work three years later in "Hollywood Steps Out" (1941).

  4. And George Manuell's named was abbreivated to Geo.Manuell, Robert Bentley's likewise Robt.Bentley. If I'm right, Billy Bletcher's Nick O'Teen and I do know Tedd Pierce does the voice of "Porky's Mamma".

    Nice "serendipitous" stumbling of Porky through his blurred vision into the tobacco shop and use of the nightmare plot device that follows as shown in Yowp's screen caps.Steve.

  5. The retraced version of this cartoon is hilarious. All of the black characters are colored red!

    1. We still had a black and white set when the Koreans aired locally so it wouldn't have made a lot of difference, other than the cartoon would have been jerky.

  6. Harris was actually already an animator, but only for the Freleng unit.