Monday, 4 January 2021

There's an Inside Gag Here

Backgrounds of Warner Bros. cartoons occasionally had inside gags in them. It looks like there’s one here in this painting from Saddle Silly, released in November 1941.

If you look closely, the number is He 2878 (Hempstead exchange). And a check of the Los Angeles phone directory around that time tells us who it belongs to. That was the phone number of Elmer Plummer.

Plummer’s watercolours had been exhibited through the 1930s but, more germane to our story, he had been in the background department at the Schlesinger studio. Off he toddled to Disney after, according to this internet post, he worked on Porky in Wackyland (and was replaced with Dick Thomas). And despite the acrimonious Disney strike, Plummer remained when it was all over, and was very active in the Screen Cartoonists Guild. You can see a union contribution to the war effort to the right.

Jones and his unit apparantly were staunch Guild supporters, so perhaps the reference to their former Schlesinger colleague was a little bit of solidarity.

Plummer died in 1987. There’s a short biographical piece in this post.

Paul Julian was painting Jones’ backgrounds until he left the studio in February 1942 and was replaced by Eugene Fleury. This frame is by one of them, depending on how long films were held up before release at that point during the war.

Note: a Yowp of thanks to Austin Kelly, who supplied a non-laser disc version of the frame that’s nice and clear.

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