Saturday 26 February 2022

Those Offensive Cartoons

In a way, it’s amusing seeing old films and TV shows given anything but a “G” rating. That’s because all that ancient stuff was vetted by prudes at the time it was made.

Some examples can be found in this New York Sun story of September 30, 1939. Much like TV networks of later years, Columbia Pictures cow-towed to the wishes of people with sticks up their butts to ensure none of its cartoons were offensive. Someone objecting to a parody of Goldilocks because it was a parody? Yes, it really happened. Patriotism and religion, yes! Spanking children, yes! But a canary getting stuck in a bottle? Heavens, no.

We should point out these cartoons were never pulled from distribution. This only involves one theatre’s programme. Columbia was allowed to bore audiences elsewhere with its lacklustre cartoons.

Four Women Judge Films for Happy Hour.
But They Pass Group Singing the National Anthem.
The four men watched the pen-and-ink antics of Goldilocks in the animated cartoon with chuckles of approval, but the four women smiled seldom.
It was at a showing in the Columbia Pictures' executive screening room at 729 Seventh avenue of six short subjects for one of the "Happy Hour" units, the short subject programs designed especially for children. The men were connected with Columbia, and the women were club women who act as jurors to see that the "Happy Hour" units are happy in a nice way.
They were reviewing the fifty-third unit in the fourth year of this series of children's shows. Fifty-two units already have been indorsed by various civic and women's organizations throughout the nation.
The first short on the program was "Krazy's Bear Tale," a cartoon poking fun at the tale of Goldilocks end the three bears. This unorthodox Goldilocks didn't like the baby bear's porridge, and in the end instead of fleeing from the three bears, she was trucking while they played hot music.
Then to Bermuda.
Following was a travel short on Bermuda, in which the hottest thing was the weather.
Then a sports reel on skiing was shown, and one of the women laughed when a skier fell on his head.
A "Happy Tots" cartoon, showing a lot of happy tots frolicking among the stars brought smiles every face, including those of Columbia men.
Next was the "Book of Books,” picturing the many processes that go into the printing of the Bible, and the final short was a "Community Sing."
In this, men in uniform sang patriotic songs, beginning with "Hail, Columbia." One of Columbia men hummed a little on this one.
Next the men sang “Yankee Doodle," then "America” which two of the critics hummed. Then came "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean," "Dixie" and finally “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Everybody stood up for the last, and one woman stood in the light from the projection room, blotting out part of the picture on the screen. She moved out of the way.
“How was it ladies?” asked a Columbia man when the lights went on.
One Is Rejected.
“All but the first one were fine," said Mrs. Rega Van Nostrand, representing a club in New Jersey.
The other women agreed, and one said: "You should change part of that picture.”
"Madam," said one of the Columbia men, "we cannot change it. We can substitute another short."
"First, let's get a picture of the ladies,” said another Columbia man.
One of them, Mrs, J. W. Emrich of the Motion Picture producers and distributors of America, didn't want to pose.
“We know you're timid," said the Columbia man.
“No, I have a complex about pictures,” said Mrs. Emrich.
After every one had posed, another animated cartoon was screened, showing the tribulations an early bird that tried to catch a tough worm.
“How was that?” asked the Columbia man.
The critics didn’t like that either, much.
"Do you think the children will want their money back?" said the Columbia man rather testily.
"That isn't the point," said one of the ladies.
They agreed to come back and select another short to round out the program.
Their Reasons.
Mrs. Emrich explained that she opposed the two shorts because they didn't come up to the high standard of the rest of the program.
"The rest was fine" she said. "At first I thought it would be nice to end with the Bible picture, but the community sing brings it to a veritable crescendo with the national anthem."
Mrs. H. A. Meyer, another juror, didn't like the Goldilocks short because Goldilocks spat out some porridge.
"We spank our children for things like that," she said.
She also thought that the early-bird film was vulgar, because the bird got his tail caught in a nipple from a milk bottle.

Mrs. Van Nostrand called the tail-in-the nipple point silly, but said that she didn't like the picture either. She was vague about the early-bird short, but disliked the Goldilocks film because it debunked a fairy tale.
The other judge, Mrs. J. W. R. Cooper, hurried away before she could be interviewed.
"Five out of six good," said the Columbia man. "Phew!”

Of course, judgementalists are still among us. Just the judgements are different. Any bets that, today, someone would play find singing “Dixie” offensive??