Saturday 29 February 2020

Metro Myths

It’s time on the Tralfaz blog for “MGM: True or False?”

1. Daws Butler voiced characters in Tex Avery’s 1945 cartoon Jerky Turkey.
Answer – False. Butler was still on military duty and had never stepped foot in Hollywood. His first MGM cartoon was Out-Foxed (1949) where he plays the Ronald Colman-esque fox. And Bill Thompson was on service in Chicago so he’s not in it, either.

2. Tom and Jerry cartoons occasionally included a character named “Mammy Two-Shoes.”
Answer – Likely False. There’s no evidence that I’ve seen from MGM model sheets or contemporary trade publications that the character had a name at all. If someone has definitive evidence, and I don’t mean “the name’s in a bunch of books” or “Wikipedia says...” please post it.

3. Tom and Jerry were originally named Jasper and Jinx.
Answer – Maybe. Certainly the cat was named Jasper; the housekeeper/maid refers to him by that name in the first Tom and Jerry cartoon, Puss Gets the Boot. The mouse’s name is never mentioned in the cartoon. Joe Barbera’s autobiography My Life in ‘toons (published in 1994) says “Jerry didn’t even have a name yet.” (pg. 74). Bill Hanna referred to him as “Jinx” in his autobiography, A Cast of Friends (published in 2000). But MGM had a name for the mouse in 1940, and it was neither Jerry nor Jinx.

The studio had a publication called “Short Story” which, basically, promoted its short subjects to exhibitors and included plot summaries from its various one and two-reelers, including the Pete Smith Specialites, John Nesbitt’s Passing Parade, the Our Gang films—and cartoons.

In the January-February issue, it featured two cartoons—The Fishing Bear and Puss Gets the Boot. The summaries would have been written in late 1939, before Puss ever reached screens. Here’s the item on that cartoon; the storyline will be familiar if you know the cartoon.

You’ll notice the absence of any mention of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who we know today as being responsible for Puss, with credit given to Rudy Ising, whose name appeared on screen. An Associated Press story later in 1940 revealed Hanna and Barbera were behind the short; how that news got to the public press is, I suspect, a fascinating bit of studio politics yet to be uncovered.
SINCE Eve evolved from Adam's rib, cats have waged constant war against mice. Now comes a one-mouse revolution brought on by a cat, that ends in victory for the mouse.
This story, as told in Rudolf Ising's latest M-G-M Cartoon, "Puss Gets the Boot," relates how this one small mouse, taking advantage of one large cat's shortcoming, subdues the larger warrior in a battle of wits and with the aid, of course, of circumstances.
Ising's cat feels particularly wicked, this day. Before putting an end to the mouse of his choice, he decides to toy with it. As the mouse pokes his head out of his hole, friend cat grabs him with his tail, flips him in the air, and lets him fall to the floor senseless. The cat then dips his paw into some ink and draws a false hole in the wall for the mouse. As soon as he awakens, the mouse makes a dash for his hole, runs into the solid wall and is knocked unconscious again. This time, when he awakens, he is angry. With great courage he strolls up to the cat and punches him right in the eye.
Furious, the cat runs after the mouse, and dashes right into a pillar that supports a beautiful vase. The vase falls to the floor, crashes into a thousand pieces, and the cat, Jasper, by name, is in for it. Immediately, the housekeeper chases after Jasper with a broom, beats him, and warns him that if anything else is broken in the house, he will be thrown into the street forever.
Now, the mouse, named Pee-Wee, knows how to handle Jasper. If Jasper tries to hurt him again, he'll break something and blame it on the cat. The next time Jasper chases Pee-Wee, the mouse runs to the edge of a table, grabs one of a set of cocktail glasses, and defiantly shouts that he will drop the glass if the cat comes any closer. With each of Jasper's lunges, Pee-Wee threatens to drop the glass. Finally, just to be ornery, Pee-Wee does drop the glass which Jasper catches, before it breaks, by the skin of his teeth. Another glass and still another come hurtling down with Jasper catching each one before it hits the floor. Now Jasper gets wise and places soft cushions all over so that even if Pee-Wee does drop the glasses, they won't break.
Jasper moves toward Pee-Wee, who threatens to drop another glass. Jasper laughs, the mouse drops the glass and it falls on the pillows and doesn't break. Immediately, Pee-Wee is in Jasper's tail, being tossed up and down like a ball of wool. But Jasper flips Pee-Wee a bit too high. The mouse catches on the ledge of a mantel on which there are many valuable plates. Immediately he starts throwing them to the floor. The cat dashes around madly, catching each dish until his arms are full.
Calmly, Pee-Wee comes down from the mantel, and kicks Jasper right into next week. Up in the air goes every dish, and down they come. The housekeeper catches the cat and banishes him from the house forever.
Calmly, and with great confidence, Pee-Wee strolls back to his hole, sighing, "Home, Sweet Home."
Whether “Pee-Wee” was a temporary name (like “The Flagstones” for a certain Hanna-Barbera prime-time cartoon), appeared on model sheets or was something merely used in-house, I can’t tell you. But it was the mouse’s name. The only references I’ve discovered stating “Jinx” was Jerry’s name are from decades after Puss Gets the Boot was made.

By the way, the artwork which accompanied the story must be a cel set-up. It doesn’t occur in the actual cartoon. But the background is in it, and so is Jerry being held in Tom’s tail. They’re in two different scenes.

Oh, one more MGM true or false:

4. Fred Quimby is a red-faced jerk.
Answer – Cal Howard thought so (according to interviewer Charles Solomon). Howard’s role at Metro, devoid of screen credits, is a story for another time.

Friday 28 February 2020

Willie or Won't He Have a Fish Gag?

Grim Natwick and a few others brought a bit of a Fleischer sensibility to the Ub Iwerks studio—unfortunately not enough of it to make its cartoons truly funny.

Dave Fleischer liked little unexpected throw-away gags with little characters. There are a couple of these in Robin Hood, Jr., a 1934 Willie Whopper cartoon.

Willie, as the title character, throws a mop in Prince John’s face. The prince spits out the water that in the mop. There’s something else—a fish that winks at him.

The prince calls for his guards. One moves to reveal a pair of mice kissing. They are shocked to be discovered.

Natwick gets an animation credit, with the original score by Carl Stalling.

Thursday 27 February 2020

The Booze Goes South

“Deeper in the mountains,” intones narrator Frank Bingman, “we come upon a revenue agent closing in on a notorious moonshiner...”

“...who soon learns he cannot escape the long arm of the law.”

At this point, the revenooer’s arm stretches in a visual pun, smashes the booze and the still, plunks a hat back onto the hillbilly’s head and wags his finger in criticism.

This may be the closest you get to a Tex Avery style scene in a Hanna-Barbera unit cartoon at MGM. In fact, one theatre manager wrote the Motion Picture Herald and remarked how MGM cartoons had “gone wacky” like the Schlesinger cartoons. Who wrote the cartoon is open to conjecture. Joe Barbera always left the impression he was responsible for stories and gags in his unit, but there were uncredited gagmen, too, including Pinto Colvig and Cal Howard.

The Goose Goes South was released April 26, 1941. Hanna and Barbera would soon exclusively toil on Tom and Jerry, despite good reviews for this short.

Wednesday 26 February 2020

Man of Letters

Egghead is Captain Johnny Smith in Johnny Smith and Poker-Huntas, as identified by the title on screen.

The title becomes part of the action when Egghead knocks over the letters.

Tex Avery and Rich Hogan have several other gags where characters interact with things that aren’t generally interacted with (title cards, a radio). The pace of this cartoon is quicker than Avery’s fake travelogues at Warners, where a narrator needs to set up each gag. A few of the gags are reminiscent of things he would try out at MGM after left Warners in 1941.

Mel Blanc provides a silly laugh for Egghead while Berneice Hansell is Poker-Huntas.

Tuesday 25 February 2020

Two Husbands, Two Wives, One Refrigerator

Fred Allen disliked giveaway shows even before one of them knocked him off the air in 1949. He made fun of just about every kind of radio programme over the years, and the inanity of giving things to people who, in some cases, weren’t altogether bright, was a perfect target.

John Crosby quotes dialogue from one of them in his column of July 5, 1946. For those of you who don’t know, the Alsops were columnists Joseph and Stewart Alsop, brothers who wrote with Crosby on the New York Herald Tribune. I.J. Fox was a famous furrier. Mr. Anthony was a counsellor with a radio programme parodied by Allen and others. Maybe Allen thought “refrigerator” was a funny word, as he used it in other giveaway spoofs.

Minerva Pious and Charlie Cantor are the bride and groom. Cantor had been a regular stock player on Allen’s show going back to the mid-‘30s, and his Clifton Finnegan was one of the characters in the early Allen’s Alley sketches before Cantor moved to Duffy’s Tavern. Sid Raymond does an impersonation of Finnegan as Baby Huey.

Love, Honor and Obey
Now and then I get a streak of laziness and let Fred Allen write this column for me. It’s a practice which entrances the Allen fans and violently irritates the non-Allen people. Those in the latter category had best turn to the Alsops this morning, because I feel another streak of laziness coming on.
Last Sunday, on his last broadcast of the season, Mr. Allen, one of the few comedians in radio who writes his own scripts, presented a parody of the “Bride-and-Groom” program. “Bride and Groom” is a daytime program on which a couple is married every day from coast to coast and then laden with gifts from department stores which get a lot of free advertising on the air simply by donating a wrinkle-resistant raincoat. The program represents possibly the nadir in taste on the air, and that alone is sufficient excuse to offer a slightly condensed version of Mr. Allen’s parody, entitled “Love, Honour and Obey.”
ALLEN: Our lovely bride is regal in a flouncing double-breasted Mother Hubbard of stained cheesecloth with an organdy belt drooping in the back. Peeking through the cheesecloth we see m’lady is wearing lavender herringbone puttees. Carelessly over her left shoulder, she is wearing a bear claw—courtesy of I.J. Fox. Before we present our jumbo gift—the Igloo electric refrigerator, I would like to . . .
BRIDE: Where’s the refrigerator?
ALLEN: In a moment, Miss Slinger. And now for the love story that brought this happy couple together . . .
BRIDE: I don’t see no refrigerator.
ALLEN: Later, Miss Slinger. Now, Clifton, tell us about your courtship.
GROOM: (Played by Clifton Finnegan of “Duffy’s Tavern”) I foist seen Beulah about ten years ago—in Gimble’s basement.
ALLEN: Cupid was lurking in Gimble’s basement?
GROOM: I was the store detective. I was just prowlin’ around one mornin’—and there she was.
ALLEN: Beulah?
GROOM: Yeah, she was shopliftin’.
BRIDE: He cased me. Didn’t yer, Clifton?
GROOM: Yeah. She was jammin’ moichandise inter here umbrella. Our eyes met over the garter belt counter.
ALLEN: It was love at first sight?
GROOM: She sees me badge and starts runnin’—being coy.
BRIDE: He cornered me in men’s underwear.
ALLEN: What was your next move, Mr. Finnegan?
GROOM: I pinched her. She became docile.
ALLEN: And that’s how love blossomed?
GROOM: Yeah. In the patrol wagon, through the handcuffs, we was holdin’ hands.
ALLEN: That was ten years ago. And it took you ten years to ask her to marry you?
GROOM: Yeah, she just got out this week.
● ● ●
Here the bride and groom were married by Fenton Boswick, Justice of the Peace, “available at reasonable rates for weddings, births, burials—also oil burners repaired.” The bride brushed aside the ring and inquired anxiously: “Where is the refrigerator?”
ALLEN: And now, Mr. and Mrs. Finnegan, “Love Honor and Obey” has planned your honeymoon. Waiting for you outside is a truck furnished by the Sanitation Department that will whisk you to the city limits. There two men will be waiting to walk you to Niagara Falls. When you return, you will appear as King and Queen of the Fulton Fish Market Flounder Festival. That night you will sleep in the honeymoon window at Macy’s. Breakfast at the Mills Hotel . . .
BRIDE: When do we get the refrigerator?
ALLEN: Right now! There you are—a genuine white casual porcelain Igloo electric refrigerator—and it’s all yours!
BRIDE: Boy, what a beaut!
GROOM: Yeah, I gotta tell Lulu about this. Where’s the phone?
ALLEN: Wait a minute. Who’s Lulu?
GROOM: My wife.
ALLEN: Your wife! Miss Slinger, this is bigamy. We’ve married you to a married man.
BRIDE: So what? Charlie told me it’s okay.
ALLEN: Who’s Charlie?
BRIDE: He’s me husband.
ALLEN: You mean your husband told you to come on this program and marry another man?
BRIDE: How else could we get a refrigerator today?
GROOM: Mr. Allen.
ALLEN: Yes, Clifton.
GROOM: Which way is Mr. Anthony?
● ● ●
This will be the last Fred Allen script to appear here until October, when the Allen show returns to the air. Tommy Dorsey and his band will fill the Allen spot until then, but he isn’t Fred Allen, kiddies.

Here are the rest of Crosby’s columns for the week. On July 1st, Crosby is again harping about quiz shows and creates his own. The next two days are taken up with broadcasts about nuclear tests. On the 4th of July, Crosby is horrified by a local broadcast where real politicians have a bit of innocuous fun with a fake politician, Senator Claghorn of the Fred Allen show. He seems to feel comedy is beneath the dignity of political figures. It’s fortunate he’s not alive today. Click on any of them to enlarge.

Monday 24 February 2020

Great Big Bunch of Used

There’s no gang rescuing the girl for the hero in A Great Big Bunch of You but just about all the Harman-Ising clich├ęs of 1932 show up in this cartoon. It’s your basic “everything comes to life and sings and dances” short.

Celebrity Takeoffs
The discarded department store mannequin portrays Maurice Chevalier, Ted “Is Everybody Happy” Lewis, borrows Walter Winchell’s “magic carpet” and “Okay, America!” from the Lucky Strike radio show of that period, and then sprouts curly red hair and plays the harp like a certain Marx brother.

Slide Step
I’ve lost track of how many cartoons had characters do that little stomp/slide step dance. Hugh and Rudy even had Cubby Bear do it in the cartoon they made for Van Beuren. The dummy does it in this one three times.

Chirping Female Chorus
The Rhythmettes (as identified by Keith Scott) showed up throughout the 1930s at a number of cartoon studios. Here they are mannequins.

Whoops My Dears!
This time the gay character is a cuckoo clock bird.

So Long, Folks!
Tom McKimson and Ham Hamilton are the credited animators.

Sunday 23 February 2020

Rochester in Vancouver

Eddie Anderson was greeted thunderously wherever he went, whether on-tour with Jack Benny and other members of the radio cast or on his own.

In 1948 Anderson stopped in Vancouver for several weeks of appearances at the city’s number-one supper club, The Cave. All the papers covered his arrival and a few side-events as well. He made a public appearance at a kids swimming club, dropped by a local speedway and planned to do some fishing as well.

We’ll pass along some stories from the largest daily of the time, the Province (the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver News-Herald sent reporters out on the Rochester beat as well). The first is from July 5th, the second from July 9th and the third from July 17th. The second one may be the best. It’s funny enough some chap near Nanaimo and Dundas (a working-class section of the city in those days) owned a Maxwell but it’s more amusing the car wouldn’t work. Unfortunately there was no photo. The radio station referred to in the story was not the one that broadcast the Benny show, by the way.

The first story reveals Anderson and his wife (and the entourage, I would imagine) stayed at the city’s top hotel.

‘Rochester’ Won't Tell on Benny’

Eddie Anderson, the "Rochester" of the Jack Benny radio show, grinningly held three Vancouver reporters at bay today and refused to disclose how much Benny pays him.
"It wouldn't be ethical, it would spoil the gag," the croak-voiced Negro comedian told a press conference in Hotel Vancouver, where he and his wife are staying. Mr. Anderson is here to play a singing-dancing-clowning engagement opening tonight in the Cave Supper Club. He's on tour with an all-Negro revue during the summer radio layoff.
One newsman told Rochester he had read somewhere that Benny's radio valet-chauffeur gets $1000 a week for his contributions to the popular NBC program. Rochester shook his head and chuckled hoarsely.
"Uh-uh," he said, sounding exactly like Rochester on the radio. "That wouldn't be right. I'm not sayin', either. In the show Mr. Benny, is supposed, to be stingy with his employees, and I'm not gonna louse that up talking big money."
However, the natty 42-year-old entertainer mentioned casually that he owns five racehorses and a Lincoln car, and it takes no special intuition to figure out that he's doing all right.
Eddie Anderson has been Benny's imaginary right-hand-man for 11 years.
"Funny, it only seems like 11 years," he cracked, following the remark with another . raspy chuckle; How long has he been married? "Well, we got a boy 19 years old, and he wasn't at the wedding." Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle.
Rochester reported that it's quite fantastic the way many people believe everything they hear on a radio comedy show. For instance, thousands really think Jack Benny keeps a tame polar bear named Carmichael.
Incidentally, Carmichael's heart-stopping growls are produced, according to Rochester, by Mel Blanc, the hundred-voiced fellow who also does Bugs Bunny.
"Next thing for me, I'm a motion picture director," Rochester confined. "Got me an outfit called Rochester Productions, and I'll direct a film called 'A Studio Murder.' It will have a mixed cast, too—not all-Negro."
He said Benny is "a nice guy to work for." But he's not Benny's valet. Not really. Heck, Rochester has a valet of his own. And very good, too.

Gag Backfires, But Maxwell Won't

They dug up an honest-to-gosh Maxwell for "Rochester" today in Vancouver—but the engine wouldn't start when he tried to drive it.
At the city motor vehicle inspection station at Bidwell and Georgia, the good-natured Negro comedian did his stuff amid a blaze of camera flashguns to mark the official opening of a drive-safely campaign held by the Vancouver Traffic and Safety Council.
For the occasion, officials borrowed a real, made-in-1924 Maxwell car owned by Vincent Leo, 2508 Dundas. Mr. Leo, a carpenter, has had it for several years and uses it every day, even though it closely resembles the mythical, broken-down Maxwell driven by Rochester in the Jack Benny radio show.
Rochester, performing nightly at the Cave Supper Club, hadn't got to bed until 5 a.m. As a result he was 38 minutes late arriving for the "ceremony," set for 11.
Someone shut off the sweetly purring Maxwell engine a few minutes before the frog-voiced comic arrived. That did it. They couldn't start it again; and had to substitute manpower for four cylinders when the gag got under way.
Rochester, resplendent in a natty grey suit with dark sun-goggles, white straw hat and brilliant hand-painted tie, munched a big cigar and said traffic safety is a good idea, he's all for it.
He chatted amiably with four young admirers, honor guests at the campaign opening. They were members of Vancouver's diligent Schoolboy Safety Patrol, which has 1200 members in 41 schools under supervision of Constables Jack McKinnon and Alf Simons of the city police force.
Chosen for the ceremony were Ronnie and Donnie Johnson, 11-year-old Negro twins; Eddie Smith, 11, and Peter Dolman 12, all of Seymour school, which has had an outstanding record for successful patrol work.
Tall, jolly Inspector Harry S. Gray, in charge of the inspection station, pretended to rebuke Rochester for reckless driving, but burst out laughing before he could finish.
A recorded broadcast of today's campaign opening, including remarks by Rochester, will be given over CKMO at 6:45 p.m. Saturday.

Radio Stars Stud Bill At Minority Group Meet
Jack Benny's stooge "Rochester" who rose to fame on a two-minute Sunday night telephone conversation didn't run overtime Friday as guest speaker.
The gravel-voiced comedian told members of the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Colored People that a Hollywood group was being formed to present more pictures starring minority groups in the near future.
He then rasped out a swift "thanks for the free lunch" and sat down.
Singer Ivy Anderson, former soloist with Duke Ellington's orchestra, said racial groups in the U.S. need individual convincing that they are entitled to live, work and enjoy their native land.
"We've got to keep fighting," chimed in Lilian Randolph, better known as "Birdie" on the Gildersleeve radio program and "Madam Queen" on the Amos and Andy show.

Saturday 22 February 2020

More and Better Cartoons!

Who made the best cartoons in 1952?

The correct answer is—Tex Avery. At least according to a survey by Boxoffice magazine in its edition of January 31, 1953.

The trade publication conducted an annual poll about short subjects, and while some live-action series made the list, cartoons were at the top.

The magazine put “Tom and Jerry” as the number-one series, though it used that as an umbrella name for all MGM cartoons. On the list of individual shorts, the Tom and Jerry cartoon The Two Mouseketeers was fourth. Number one and two were Car of Tomorrow and One Cab’s Family. Compare that with the nominees for the Academy Award. The Avery cartoons weren’t on the list. Mouseketeers won.

We’ll reprint the article below. You may find the reference to “Bugs Bunny Specials” puzzling, because Warners released Bugs as part of the Merrie Melodies series (though he did get special opening title animation). But the trades always referred to both Bugs and the Blue Ribbon releases as separate series.

Evidently exhibitors weren’t all that enamoured with the one-shot UPA cartoons, though the Motion Picture Academy doted on them.Yet a Terry Bears cartoon made the list. Take that, pretentious studio!

And while various watchdog groups simply hated the Three Stooges being shown on television later in the decade, theatre owners thought they were great for business.

Sadly, less than six weeks after two of Tex’s cartoons were lauded by Boxoffice, his unit was disbanded at MGM.

Cartoons Lead Short Subject Parade

SEE-SAWING back and forth between MGM Cartoons and Warner’s “Bugs Bunny” Specials, for first place in the series popularity of our annual shorts poll, still goes on. In this season’s poll of exhibitors to determine the relative popularity of short subjects, both as to series and singles, MGM Cartoons (which include Tom & Jerry) came in ahead. “Bugs Bunny” ran a close second and this is a reversal of last year’s results but parallels those of the year before. So far there has been no other serious contender for these two top positions.
However, the Woody Woodpecker Cartunes squawked up to third place this year, one notch higher than on any previous poll. This series drew several comments on ballots, such as this one from an Illinois exhibitor: “Patrons seem to enjoy the Woody Woodpecker comedies best of all.” And an Arkansas exhibitor singled out one of its late last year’s subjects for this remark: “ ‘Sling Shot 6 7/8’ had more laughs than I can remember.”
A little back-checking shows that Tom & Jerry started in 1940, and that “Bugs Bunny” as a character began cavorting in cartoons about the same time. By the 1943-44 season, he had also become the titular head of a series.
It is significant that the three top winners on the series list are “animal” cartoons, also that the top five on the same list are cartoons—in case you want to take it from there. Checking this scoreboard further, we find Warner Bros. is ahead numerically among series winners, having produced three of the top ten. MGM, Columbia and RKO have two each, U-I and Paramount one each.
Popeye Cartoons (Para), which came up to fourth position last year from sixth the year before, maintained that place in this year’s poll, but Disney Cartoons (RKO), which had been in third place for two years in the balloting, dropped back to the number-five position. Yet a Montana exhibitor wrote: “The name, Disney, and the True Life Adventures are better drawing cards than the features.”
The Pete Smith Specialities (MGM) lead in the live action field, taking sixth place in the series vote. The Stooge Comedies (Col) follow in seventh position. Merrie Melodies-Looney Tunes (WB) moved up one and tied for eighth place with Mr. Magoo (Col). Mr. Magoo, in case you haven’t noticed, placed on the poll for the first time—probably in his familiar, near-sighted fashion, just learning that a poll is carried on.
The Joe McDoakes Comedies (WB) moved up from tying for tenth position last year to ninth place in this year’s poll. Disney’s True Life Adventure (RKO) took tenth place on the best-ten list, but this series is only about three years old and had never placed before, so it seems to be growing in program importance.
The picture changes somewhat when we come to the study of the ten best single shorts, as indicated by the poll. Here MGM product wins first, second and fourth place. Disney’s True Life Adventure, “The Olympic Elk” (RKO), took third place on the singles.
RKO’s Special called “Here Comes the band” took fifth place. Sixth place for single shorts went to “Deep Boo Sea,” a Paramount Casper Cartoon, and this company also had a Grantland Rice Sportlight tied for tenth place, “Riding’ the Rails.”
The 20th Century-Fox Terrytoon, “Papa’s Little Helpers,” tied for seventh among the singles with Universal’s two-reeler, “Knights of the Highway,” tied for tenth place in the single-shorts poll. “Land of the Trembling Earth,” a Technicolor Special, a Warner Bros. product, was given eighth place and Columbia received ninth place for “Pest Man Wins,” a Stooge Comedy.
Comments were varied, and for the most part, brief. However, one South Carolina exhibitor evidently wanted to get this off his chest:
“One look at your list of product on the ballot will show what’s wrong with ‘program fillers.’ There is too much junk (I mean just that!) pushed onto the exhibitor, and there are far too few cartoons.
“We play, on the average, four changes per week and I find it impossible to play a new cartoon each change. I have to go back and pick up second run (not reissues), and so far as I know, there’s only one series I’m not playing.
“If Hollywood producers would concentrate on more and better cartoons and use their facilities in the production of these, they would be doing themselves and the exhibitor quite a favor. I do not mean there should be no other shorts. A few good ones are a help, to wit, Disney’s True Life Adventures.”
Other comments of a critical nature include these: “No originality in the production of shorts year after year.” (Va.) ... “We need more two-reel live action comedies.” (N.D.) ... “The biggest fault in the cartoon business is the reissue product.” (Calif.) ... “I really get some patched up cartoons.” (La.) Further selected comments were in praise of certain types of single shorts played recently, which pleased extra well:
“ ‘The Guest’ (20th-Fox featurette) pleased the adult trade more than any ever run in this theatre.” (Mont.) ... This appreciation of a serious short was followed by “Cartoons and comedies are favorites of all patrons.” (Minn.) ... “Tom & Jerry are the best we can put on our screen.” (Iowa) ... “The Tom & Jerry and ‘Bugs Bunny’ are the best-liked cartoons. Gil Lamb, I believe, had the best-liked two-reelers. (Iowa.)
“Color cartoons are probably the most successful for all kids from six to 50 years old.” (Wyo.) ... “The little skunk in ‘Little Beau Pepe’ has a French accent and is a riot. This character is becoming very popular.” (Ill.)
The Stooge Comedies were all good, clean pictures liked by both adults and children.” (Okla.) ... “Tweety Pie, Tom & Jerry, ‘Bugs Bunny’ and Stooges Comedies are the biggest favorites here and most requested.” (Tex.) ... “Tom & Jerry Cartoons are tops in this theatre.” (Ill.) ... “We get good comment on ‘Little Rascals.’” (Kas.) ... “Any Tom & Jerry would qualify as best.” (Mo.) ... “Cartoons hold our top place for consistency.” (Ark.)
And then there’s this comment from a Texas exhibitor, as expansive as the bigness of his state seems to call for: “All product this year was good.”

The Ten Best Short Series
1—Tom & Jerry (MGM) [including Tex Avery cartoons]
2—“Bugs Bunny” Specials (WB)
3—Woody Woodpecker Cartunes (U-I)
4—Popeye Cartoons (Para)
5—Disney Cartoons (RKO)
6—Pete Smith Specialties (MGM)
7—Stooges Comedies (Col)
8—Merrie Melodies – Looney Tunes (WB)
Mr. Magoo (Col)
9—Joe McDoakes Comedies (WB)
10—True Life Adventures (RKO)

The Ten Best Shorts
1—Car of Tomorrow (Cartoon) MGM
2—One Cab’s Family (Cartoon) MGM
3—The Olympic Elk (True Life Adventure) RKO
4—The Two Mouseketeers (Tom & Jerry) MGM
5—Here Comes the Band (Special) RKO
6—Deep Boo Sea (Casper Cartoon) Para
7—Papa’s Little Helpers (Terrytoon) 20th-Fox
Danger Under the Sea (Two-reel Special) U-I
8—Land of the Trembling Earth (Technicolor Special) WB
9—Pest Man Wins (Stooge Comedy) Col
10—Ridin’ the Rails (Grantland Rice Sportlight) Para
Knights of the Highway (Two-reel Special) U-I

Friday 21 February 2020

Waking a Bear

Anticipation drawing and extreme from The Unbearable Salesman, a 1957 Woody Woodpecker cartoon. Woody pounds on the door while the bear tries to sleep.

Bob Bentley and Les Kline are the only credited animators.

Thursday 20 February 2020

Pineapple is the Bomb

In How’s Crops? (1934), Cubby Bear and Cuddles take harvested produce like corn and turn it into fake unharvested produce (corn is glued onto a wiener or something and wrapped in brown paper). Naturally, they do it from some underground chamber accessed through a hollow tree stump.

I have a fondness for letter and punctuation formation gags. In this one, Cuddles paints TNT on a wall, Cubby rips the letters off and fashions them into sticks of dynamite, which he conceals in a fake pineapple that he uses as a hand grenade.

The grenade is lobbed toward the possum villain and his pick-up truck (which develops a face and starts sweating). Kaboom! Stolen vegetables go flying toward the camera. Two of them. This isn’t Disney, you know.

There’s some solid animation in this cartoon, directed by George Stallings. Steve Muffati gets the animation credit and since Gene Rodemich has been fired, Winston Sharples wrote the score (bereft of popular songs like Rodemich used). The raspy-voiced guy from the Tom and Jerry cartoons provides a few voices.