Saturday, 6 July 2019

Cartoondom's Most Famous Bathtub

“If you think Mickey Mouse, Aesop’s Fables or Krazy Kat funny wait until you've seen Bosco and His Sweetie in their first of ‘Looney Tunes.’” cried an ad in one newspaper.

Sinkin’ in the Bathtub debuted, according to Michael Barrier’s Hollywood Cartoons, in April 1930; trade publication Harrison’s Reports of May 31 of that year gives the date as May 7 while the Motion Picture News editions for the first half of 1930 give no date, but reviewed the cartoon on May 10. Despite this, an ad for the cartoon appeared in the Los Angeles Times of April 24, 1930. The magazine Hollywood Filmography of the same day announced:
A series of twelve musical cartoons will be produced as Vitaphone Varieties, it is announced by George E. Quigley, vice-president and general manager of the Vitaphone Corporation. They will be called "Looney Tunes," and each is to be based upon a Warner Bros, musical hit.
The first of the "Looney Tunes" is "Sinkin' in the Bathtub," based upon Winnie Lightner's big hit in "Show of Shows." The principal characters are Bosco and his Sweetie Honey who will appear in all twelve of the musical cartoons. The second subject will be "Congo Daze," [sic] the theme song being one from a First National picture. It is a jungle reel filled with wild animals.
Leon Schlesinger is producing the series of "Looney Tunes." The cartoons are by Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising, with musical score by Frank Marsales and animation by Isadore Freleng.

We know when the cartoon opened in New York City. The Film Daily of May 9, 1930 ran an ad calling Sinkin’ in the Bathtub "a laughing Riot at premiere of the 'Song of the Flame' Warner Bros. Theatre, New York" which happened to be May 6th.

The reviews started coming in. The Motion Picture News of May 10, 1930 remarked:
Sinking in the Bathtub
(Vitaphone Variety — 1 Reel)
Hit Cartoon Comedy with Music
LAUNCHING a new series of Vitaphone Varieties which will be extremely popular if the pace is maintained, "Sinking In The Bathtub" is decidedly clever and original; resulting in plenty of laughs.
Idea incorporates cartoon action in rhythm to musical accompaniment of popular tunes in Warner and First National features. In this case, "Singing In the Bathtub" and "Tip Toe Through The Tulips" were used.
Action opens with lady love in bathtub when boy friend calls, to the strains of the first-named number. It's a laugh riot. Then they swing into the second melody with the orchestra, and comedy action is built around the tune for more laughs. Finale brings the characters into the open for a fast-tempo chase. For laughs and originality, this one ranks with the best of cartoon comedies.
Good subject for any bill anywhere, especially where positive laughs in large numbers are required.
And what of that “finale”? Well, the chase involving Honey in a runaway car and Bosko running after it is reminiscent of the Oswald cartoon Trolley Troubles made by several years earlier (Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising worked on both shorts). This one ends with the two principles falling off a cliff (along with a bathtub). Bosko is caught by a tree branch, Honey and the bathtub end up in the water. Fortunately, the splash creates a hand which unites them all. Bosko plays lily pads like they are xylophone keys, while three ducks briefly quack to the music to bring things to a finish.

Someone at Warners must have had Variety’s ear. It wasted no time in publishing a How-Looney-Tunes-Are-Made story. It appeared in the May 14, 1930 edition and we’ve reprinted it in this post.

Sime Silverman’s review in Variety concluded that the Looney Tunes “has made a flying comedy start” and “WB has something worth a lot here if the series can commence to hold up to its start.” Sime was dead-on. It’s impossible to calculate the huge sums of money that has poured into Warner Bros. over the last almost 90 years because of its cartoons.

Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny and other characters may have become the studio’s huge stars, but they wouldn’t have been around had there not been a Bosko.

1 comment:

  1. Any character that keeps an outhouse just for his flivver's use is okay by me.