Saturday 30 April 2022

McKimson Meets the Tazmanian Devil

“There was this Tasmanian Devil of mine,” director Bob McKimson once recalled. “The executive at the studio, Ed Selzer, said to stop making them, that this character was too obnoxious. So after two of them I stopped. Then one day, Jack Warner called him in and demanded, “What happened to the Tasmanian Devil?” Warner fumed that he’d better tell me to make more because there were boxes and boxes of letters coming in about the character. So, I made about three more after that.”

McKimson, it seems, liked trying out new characters, so he developed the Devil character some time before his unit was disbanded for a year starting in February 1953. But it’s not because he had been to a zoo and looked at one. In fact, he had never seen one. His son Bob Jr. has related how the animal’s name came up in a crossword puzzle, then asked the people in his unit to come up with a possible design for one. He melded them together and came up, thanks as well to a story written by Sid Marcus, with a character that caught the attention of movie-house cartoon lovers.

There’s no indication that Bob McKimson, who died in 1977, ever saw a Tasmanian Devil. But another McKimson did.

Chuck was one of the four animators in his brother’s unit who worked on the first Devil short, Devil May Hare (released in 1954). Jump ahead several decades, when historians started writing favourably about the Warners cartoons, fans enthusiastically devoured any information (and cartoons) they could find in that pre-internet era, and companies started selling re-creations of cels of the shorts. Some of the animation old-timers were around to go on publicity tours for them. Chuck McKimson was one (his older brother Tom went with him on occasion).

So it was that Chuck McKimson ended up in Australia and came face-to-face with you-know-what. And in Tasmania, too.

The Age newspaper in Melbourne witnessed the historic meeting and wrote a couple of stories. First up is one from April 28, 1998. The story is a little presumptuous claiming McKimson and Chuck Jones “are the last survivors of a golden age of animation.” For one, there was Bob Givens who was the layout artist on that first Tasmanian Devil cartoon.

Art for Fudd and profit; ANIMATION:
For the men of "Termite Palace", working for Warner Brothers wasn't work. It was art.
They called the place "Termite Terrace"; the run-down building on the edge of the Warner Brothers' film studio lot where, every day, a group of artists met to flay, stretch, clobber, slice, dice, perforate and blow up some of cinema's most endearingly durable characters.
"It was great fun, it wasn't like going to work at all," recalls animator Charles "Chuck" McKimson.
"And we certainly weren't thinking that what we were doing was art."
McKimson and his brothers Bob and Tom, were, with Chuck Jones, Fritz Freleng [sic] and Bob Clampett, part of the legendary Warners' animation team that turned out a string of classic cartoons in the 1930s, '40s and '50s that featured such timeless characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, Elmer Fudd, Speedy Gonzales and the Tasmanian Devil.
While the characters live on in re-run land, McKimson and Jones are the last survivors of a golden age of animation that, in its visual wit and subversive scenarios, still gives The Simpsons and Ren and Stimpy a Road Runner-paced run for their money. But it's a catch-up game for the merchandising money.
Buying and selling original animation art work - characters hand-painted on to clear plastic cells, storyboards and limited-edition prints - has become big business over the past 15 years.
For early collectors, it was simply a matter of exploring Warner Brothers' dumpsters. The studio burned most of its orginal artwork in the '60s to make way for more storage space.
Most of the available artwork comes from the links created for the re-release of the 'toons on TV.
"We threw out tons of the stuff," says McKimson.
"We never imagined anyone would ever want it.
"We never even thought the films and characters would have such a long life. We were just going from picture to picture and having a good time."
Luckily, the McKimsons were quite the hoarders and a lot of their personal art has been preserved, including the pen-and-ink originals of an unpublished children's book from 1931.
Robert McKimson junior now runs the family business, which has the exclusive licensing rights to the Warner Brothers' characters.
"I'm the 10-per-center, I'm not creative in the way Dad, Tom and Chuck were," he laughs. "They were natural-born artists who were drawn to animation, which was a new, exciting medium back in the '30s.
"The jam sessions, where they would sit around the office, throwing ideas at each other were the stuff of legend."
Out of such a session came the Tasmanian Devil. McKimson confirms that it was born of the need to introduce a new character, "but we'd just about drawn every other animal under the sun". Crossword puzzle fanatic Robert senior had recently come across a reference to the aggro marsupial.
"We did a lot of research on that one, we all went away and did some drawings and pretty much came up with a similar-looking thing," says McKimson. "The boss didn't like it much, said it was too mean - no charm - nothing for the kids. Well, we never made any of those pictures for kids, we made them for adults. Fact was, we made them for ourselves."
The Devil's manic personality attracted its own following, however, and another four classic films were created around it.
The work was labor-intensive, involving 14 months of writing, recording, drawing, inking, painting and photographing to produce one six-to-seven minute cartoon. McKimson says a room of about 50 women were kept busy with the paints, as the artists churned out up to 25 feet of animation a week.
"Today's animation is fine for what it is," says McKimson. "Labor costs being what they are, you'll never see that much work going into the art again. What the computer can achieve now is amazing, but still fairly limited.
"We'd really get involved with those characters while we were drawing them."
* A Celebration: the Magical Art of Warner Bros. is at Silver K Fine Art Gallery, 1092 High Street, Armadale, until 24 May. Charles McKimson will meet fans and sign work there on 9 May from 1-4pm.

Chuck McKimson stopped in several other Australian states (Melbourne is in Victoria), including Tasmania. His meeting with the Devil was published in The Age on April 30th and reprinted in other Australian papers.

Animator meets the devil he didn't know
Animator Charles McKimson was a little wary about getting close to a Tasmanian devil for the first time since he helped give it fame as an American cartoon character.
"So that's it?" he said at Hobart's Bonorong wildlife centre yesterday as a male devil snarled over a female that it then scruffed by the neck and dragged into a nuptial hollow log.
Mr McKimson stared, trying to reconcile the squat brown marsupial in the pit with the character he created with pen and ink for Warner Brothers cartoons.
"Ours is a nasty little character," he mused. Which seemed true of the real thing. The wildlife park's owner, Robert Douglas, said: "The jaw has 10 times the power of a pit bull terrier. It could snap a finger off. But it's very, very cowardly."
"Here," Mr Douglas said to Mr McKimson as he held up the female he had hand-reared. "You can pat it."
Mr McKimson, 83 and a Los Angeleno, understands the art of survival. It took a while for him to accept Mr Douglas's reassurance that the female was "a nice little girl". When they came close, she stared, Mr McKimson stared . . . and the devil turned away to snuggle into Mr Douglas's shirt.
In 1953 Warner Brothers was looking for a new character as a foil for that Oscar-winning rabbit, Bugs Bunny. Mr McKimson's brother Bob came up with the strangely named marsupial that had stuck in his mind as a crossword clue. Both Warners animators, they looked it up in a book, and with a combination of five drawings settled on the slavering monster that occasionally whirls through Bugs's life.
Mr McKimson agrees that Taz the Devil is a somewhat two-dimensional character, doing little more than snarling and spinning. Still, he says Taz is the second most popular cartoon character in the Warner Brothers stable.
That fame may spread further as the Tasmanian Government is negotiating with Warners to use the character in tourism promotions.
Mr Douglas and Mr McKimson agreed the cartoon character was just about correct. "All that noise is spot on," Mr Douglas said.
One other thing was absolutely right. The furry scraps of meat Mr McKimson watched them snarl and spit over were bits of rabbit.

To make a long story short, Chuck McKimson never returned to his brother’s unit when it was resurrected in early 1954. He found work as art director for Whitman Publishing, which had lines of books and comics, leaving in 1960 to become animation director for Creston Studio’s ill-fated Calvin and the Colonel prime-time cartoon series. The show was on the air, then off, then on again. McKimson stuck with it for all 26 episodes before being hired by Pacific Title. He died in 1999.

Friday 29 April 2022

Flip's Dancing Tat

What would a Flip the Frog cartoon be without some kind of suggestiveness?

In Stormy Seas (1932), Flip rolls down his sleeve (yes, a frog has a sleeve) to reveal a dancing girl tattoo. She starts dancing. Flip spanks her before pulling up his sleeve.

This is the kind of stuff that substituted for humour at the Ub Iwerks studio. Iwerks is the only person who gets credit on this short.

Thursday 28 April 2022

Elastic Duck Leg

Baby Bottleneck is a warped cartoon.

Here’s an insane sequence where Daffy Duck is trying to run away from Porky Pig. Porky has ahold of Daffy’s leg. The leg keeps stretching. Daffy tries to pull it back to him.

Matched shots? Eh, that's for Disney, not for Bob Clampett. The camera cuts from a Daffy holding his leg to Daffy not holding his leg.

Porky’s coming for him. No stretched leg is going stop him. The two chase after each other on a conveyer belt. The expressions of panic are nuts.

Daffy pulls up a hair (Ducks have hair?). The leg is back to normal.

All this comes after the scene where Porky uses his tongue to bridge his body to stop him from sitting on an egg.

This isn’t even the insane part. The machine turns the two of them into a diapered pig-duck delivered to mother ape (with a huge, Manny Gould floppy tongue), who ends the cartoon with a radio reference (John J. Anthony. There are Bing and Cantor references earlier).

Rod Scribner, Bill Melendez and Bob McKimson also animate on this short (is that Melendez on the conveyer belt scene?), with layouts by Tom McKimson and backgrounds by Dorcy Howard. Warren Foster put together the story.

Wednesday 27 April 2022

As Hope Goes, So Goes Comedy

Maybe a half-dozen radio comedians could be guaranteed to be found hovering in the top ten of the ratings during much of the Golden Age, especially in the ‘40s. Several of them became institutions as the decades churned on, including one man who never really had a regular show on television.

Despite that, Bob Hope was ubiquitous. He always seemed to be walking onto Johnny Carson’s set, his trips to entertain soldiers were slathered across the pages of the papers and his deal with NBC kept him on TV often enough to be kept in the public eye. Never mind the specials became increasingly forced and hokey, and eventually were embarrassing and sad.

It’s a shame he’s remembered today more for his obvious decline. His early TV specials are fast and funny, and his radio show was enjoyable, too. He had a good supporting cast led by the (as they said in the ‘40s) “zany” Jerry Colonna, and included Barbara Jo Allen, Elvia Allman and Blanche Stewart (later he made places for Irene Ryan and Jack Kirkwood). For a while, his singer was Doris Day!

Even in his laugh-track-filled later TV years, Hope’s monologues were topical. Radio critic John Crosby felt they were so topical, you could tell from Hope what comedians would be joking about. Here’s his column of September 30, 1946.

The Fall Fashions in Jokes
The first time I saw Bob Hope was in the 1936 Ziegfeld Follies—one of the post-Ziegfeld shows produced by the Shuberts—in which he and Eve Arden did a song number called "I Can't Get Started With You". Fannie Brice was the star of the Follies and Hope was just a featured player. One reviewer dismissed Hope with about one line: "He tries and tries to be funny."
Last Tuesday night, Hope was back on the air for his ninth season with the same sponsor, Pepsodent, and it's a pretty safe bet his Hooper rating will be either first or second all year long. Somewhere in the last 10 years. Hope stopped trying so hard and became a comedian. Somewhere during the war years, he developed from a comedian into one of the great entertainers of our day. There have not been many comedians who deserved that title. Will Rogers, Fred Stone, Al Jolson and Joe Cook are a few that come to mind and all are dead or retired. Each had his own versatility and each his own personality but all had one thing in common; they were so extraordinarily likable that you forgave them their occasional lapses.
This is particularly true in the case of Bob Hope. Many of his radio programs are a triumph of personality over material. Last Tuesday he bobbed up before the microphone and began a familiar patter that went something like this:
"Yes, sir, just think—nine years with the same sponsor. Two more years and I'll have enough tubes to finish my driveway. (Thunderous applause.) After nine years, we're a national institution. Yes, sir, they just made a movie about us it's called "The Big Sleep". (Hysterical laughter). Our sponsor is very subtle. He doesn't say we lay eggs he just refers to us as Operation Shad Roe." (Pandemonium.)
It takes a great personality to get that response from that material.
It's always a good idea to catch the first Hope program of the season because in it you get a sneak preview of the fall fashion in jokes. Mr. Hope or his gag writers operate under the same formula employed by Clare Boothe Luce in writing plays; if you throw enough gags around some of them are bound to hit the bell. Because there are so many jokes in a Hope program, the first broadcast offers a fair cross-section of all the jokes you will hear on the air this year.
Well, let's take a look at the fall fashions. Bing Crosby's horses are definitely out this year. The new mode is Bing's baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, of whom, I'm afraid, you'll hear a great deal. The staple Crosby jokes—his waistline, his income, his four boys—are still with us. Petrillo jokes are still haute monde. Jerry Colonna modeled the following for the radio audience Tuesday:
"I played "The Unfinished Symphony'."
"Why unfinished?”
It's still stylish for the featured comedian to insult himself. "You'll give me half of the Pepsodent Company? Why? Oh, I have to get off the air, huh? You figure that way you can save the other half."
Some jokes have gone the way of the bustle. There wasn't a single nylon joke on the program, not one. Also there wasn't a single mention of a two-way stretch, a joke Mr. Hope has worn with distinction for almost nine years. Jane Russell's body wasn't mentioned once and, believe it or not Frank Sinatra wasn't either.
There are a couple of new jokes in the fall line too. Henry Wallace was good for one. ("The more I listen to you, the more I think Truman muzzled the wrong man.") That's strictly a fall joke and won't last into the winter. However, the Peace Conference will probably, be around until spring.
"Professor, tell me what's going on at the peace conference?"
"You don't know either?"
But the real sensation of the fall line was "Doin' What Comes Naturally". Hope got three jokes out of. that Irving Berlin tune. It's the sort of title which could easily produce infinite variations of double entendre. It may well be to the '48-47 season what the nylon shortage was from 1943 to 1946.
Dear Miriam is back again with her gleaming smile. Come to think of it, Miriam has been around for quite awhile. She has a sponsor but when is she going to get a husband? I don't want to cause a panic in the Pepsodent office, but it seems to me Miriam's teeth are possibly a little too white. It's scaring the men away.

Crosby’s opinion of Hope wouldn’t be so favourable later, and Hope sued him over claims in a 1950 Life magazine article that he stole material from Fred Allen.

Let’s post the other Crosby columns for the rest of the week. He roasted the new Phil Harris/Alice Faye as being insipid and saccharine. Perhaps the writers read the review because they soon boosted the Harris-Remley comedy elements and the show took a leap upward. You can read that review from October 3, 1946 in this post.

Verily, positively artsy prose accompanies a look at an audience participation show on ABC in the October 1st column, while he turns to the scholarliness of conversation programmes in his October 2nd missive, and turns his attention on October 4th to the ridiculous situation of a 27-year-old playing a boy as well as yet another comedy about an innocent bumbler. You can click on them to see them in larger print.

Tuesday 26 April 2022

Cow Meets Prohibition Alcohol

What cartoon has the funniest cows? My vote goes to Farm Relief, a 1929 short by the Charles Mintz studio for Columbia.

There’s a great opening cycle where cows are squirting their milk into a metal jug while they become flat-headed and cross-eyed.

Later, a cow is weaving all over the place after drinking prohibition hooch from a blind pig (it’s an actual pig with dark glasses).

The cow staggers over to the other barnyard animals and demonstrates the alcohol content in what the pig’s selling by sticking out his tongue. There’s a fire on it. A mouse pulls out a cigar and lights it on the tongue.

The Krazy Kats were directed by Ben Harrison and Manny Gould. But who needs Krazy Kat (especially the non-Herriman version) when you have Bossy tripping around on bootleg booze.

I am not a fan of much of the Columbia studio’s work, but there always seems to be something pretty weird and funny in the early sound cartoons by Charlie Mintz’s crew.

Monday 25 April 2022

A Nose For Beauty

Some distraction gags are tried out in Uncle Tom's CabaƱa, as Simon Legree gets excited about Little Eva on stage.

In this one, he lights his nose instead of his cigar. When he notices, he naturally puts his nose out in an ashtray.

This is really a wolf-Red cartoon set in Southern states drag.

Ray Abrams, Walt Clinton, Bob Bentley and Preston Blair are the animators. Sara Berner plays a little boy and someone's doing a pretty good impression of Andrew H. Brown as the voice of Uncle Tom.

Sunday 24 April 2022

Benny vs Benny

Fans of old radio know all about the Benny-Allen feud. But what about the Benny-Benny feud?

There really wasn’t such a thing. A writer at a New York newspaper tried to concoct one out of nothing.

Jack Benny and Benny Rubin were friends for many years; there are stories that Rubin suggested Ben K. Benny change his name to “Jack” after orchestra leader Ben Bernie complained (“Jack” was military slang for a sailor, and Jack had been one in World War One).

Here’s a bit more about Rubin from Gene Handsaker’s column of October 14, 1946. I believe he was working for the Newspaper Enterprise Association at this point; he also worked for the Associated Press.

HOLLYWOOD — Benny Rubin has sad, baggy, brown eyes; a swarthy skin; handsome, graying hair; a big beak, and little chin. He is, in short, "a man who looks like a mouse."
"But let's say 'a nice mouse,' " Benny added; "not a rat."
Benny's been in show business 30 years. He has trouped on Mississippi and Ohio river show boats; told gags and hoofed in vaudeville; emceed nightclub and stage shows; had comedy roles in about 100 movies. Once he even directed the 100-piece Hollywood Bowl orchestra in Tschalkowsky's Fifth Symphony. That was a gag, however; Benny merely followed the semi-circle of sawing cellos. The applause was terrific.
• • •
Benjamin Rubin was born in Boston, 47 years ago, a door from the Old North Church "where Paul Revere did his stuff." In the neighborhood were Jewish, Italian, and Irish dialects; Benny picked 'em all up and, in time, many more.
Now, a fast talker, he switches easily from Negro to Scotch to Arabian to Hindu, if necessary, to tell his gags. Funny thing, though; he can't do any of the Scandinavian accents.
His many years at a dialectician have fitted him for his present job of movie dialogue director. He even coached Kenny Delmar's "Senator Claghorn" accent for "It's a Joke, Son!"
He has known all the greats and near-greats in the fabulous field called show business. Some years ago, down on his showman's luck, he was majordomo in Hollywood's Victor Hugo restaurant. A customer with a beard asked Benny if he wouldn't like to get back into showdom.
Benny said sure. The man was Orson Welles.
• • •
From then on Benny literally ran between radio studios, doing dialects for Welles' Mercury Theater, Fibber and Molly, Jack Benny, and many others. Once Benny played two characters at once, one of whom choked the other to death. Just before that scene, Welles handed him a glass of pineapple juice to ease his overworked throat. "That shows you the heart of the guy," Benny said.
Benny's had a hand in several "discoveries." The only time he ever paid his way into a nightclub, in San Francisco, he was impressed by a girl dancer's beauty and talent, and wired a Hollywood producer. Moviegoers know her now at Ann Miller.
Benny, a happy man, would live his life all over again—in show business.

Rubin appeared on Jack’s radio show off and on through most of its existence, and then on television, generally in small parts. Rubin once wrote about how upset and angry he was about the Benny TV show’s cancellation by NBC in 1965. Rubin had been a vaudeville headliner; he hosted an amateur hour radio show in the mid-‘30s and had two half-hour shows on TV (NBC/WPIX) in spring 1949 but never got close to Jack Benny’s fame (or money) in broadcasting.

With that, here’s the manufactured feud from the Brooklyn Standard-Union of October 11, 1929. I have no doubt the quotes are accurate but I suspect the two Bennys were laughing about it, not angry.

Jack Benny Gets Benny Rubin's Bills

Staff Correspondent.
Hollywood, Oct. 11
A feud as bitter and endless as that reported to be in existence between Alice White and Clara Bow, is impending between Jack Benny and Benny Rubin, both of whom are now making pictures for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
"I don't see how people could confuse us," Benny Rubin says. "We don't look alike and we don't act alike, but I get his mail; I get his telephone calls and I even get his laundry."
"That's nothing," complained Jack Benny, "I get his bills!"
Jack Benny, by the way, says that he has his first part in a picture. Instead of being a master of ceremonies, he has a real part, that of a stage manager, in “Road Show.”
Benny Rubin says that he never has a part either. The director always says, "Go on Benny and do something funny." And Benny does, and steals the scene, if not the picture.
"I'm never written in the script," he wails, "I just go on and do something." That is what he is doing now in "Take It Big" with Bessie Love and Van and Schenck.

Here’s an example of Rubin working with Jack, though not on the Lucky Strike Program. It’s from the Long Island Star-Journal of November 17, 1954.

Big Spender Benny Needs the Money

Jack Benny has been doing a great deal of television lately, either because he has been suddenly seized by an inordinate affection for the medium, or because he can use the money, even as you and I.
The latter is probably the case since the Waukeegan [sic] wit, contrary to the stingy character devised for him for public appearance purposes, is one of the most generous of men and, in addition, his wife. Mary Livingston, is well known to be America's No. 1 shopper.
Her charge accounts and assorted expenditures even throw those of Fulton Lewis Jr., ($1,600 a day for hotel accommodations! So says Boot Herndon in "Praised and Dawned," the latest Lewis story) into the shade.
• • •
WHATEVER the reason for Benny's increased activity in TV, it's his business and the public isn't suffering. Most of his extra shows have been good and last Sunday's. CBS-TV, 7:30 to 8 P.M., on which he did "The Giant Mutiny," a take-off on "The Caino Mutiny," might have been exceptional but for the ending which fritted away to nothingness when it should have contained a climactic yell or, at least, an unusual twist of some kind.
Leo Durocher, manager of the world champion New York Giants, was the special guest along with a half-dozen or so ether ball players, and the plot centered around Benny's decision—he portrayed Alvin Dark—to take over the Giant team during a crucial moment in the world series. Durocher charged this constituted mutiny.
Durocher's "acting" was both unusual and unusually good under the circumstances and the entire half-hour was loaded with clever lines and situations, until, that is, the end when Durocher, who was found guilty in a sudden reversal of favor, merely walked from the stage and through the audience.
THE SHOW on which "The Giant Mutiny" took place was which he has exactly doubled this season, going from one out of every four Sundays last year to two out of four this year, alternating with Ann Sothern's "Private Secretary."
He's planning quite a few guest appearances for himself, too, in addition to a "spectacular," on which he will star and be supported by nearly everyone in Hollywood and New York.
The master comic and wit will undertake one of his more elaborate guesting Sunday coming at 9 P.M. over CBS-TV when he stars in "The Face is Unfamiliar" on the General Electric Theatre.
This is a filmed program and it certainly looked like a smash to me, but one never knows in show business.
• • •
IN IT, Benny appears as one "Tom Jones," a very undistinguished waiter whose manner and appearance are so routine that he is seldom recognized by anyone, typical of millions who go through life cloaked in anonymity. But this pronounced talent is recognized by a gangster boss is planning.
Benny, as the nondescript waiter, is duped into robbing the bank—no point in revealing the details—and does, but not without first running into the normal hazards of millions who patronize banks daily: such as waiting in line behind a vending machine man (Benny Rubin, a life-time friend of Jack Benny) about to deposit a large sack of uncounted pennies!

And, finally, a little squib from Hank Grant’s syndicated column, December 2, 1961.

ON THE JACK BENNY show a couple of weeks ago, comedian Benny Rubin played a panhandler who asked Jack for a dime so's he could get a cup of tea. Jack gave him a tea bag, saying: "I don't think you'll have any trouble finding a cup of hot water." Well, to date, viewers have sent Rubin a total of 487 tea bags! "Next time," says Rubin, "I'm going to panhandle for champagne!"

When Rubin wasn’t acting, he was writing. He put together a memoire of his experiences in vaudeville; some say he stretched the truth a bit. He provided the voice of Joe Jitsu in the abysmal Dick Tracy TV cartoons of 1960. A heart attack claimed him in 1986, seven years after he retired.

Saturday 23 April 2022

Pizzicato Pussycat Backgrounds

Friz Freleng’s cartoons of the mid to late 1940s had lovely background work by Paul Julian, but as the ‘50s bumped along, Freleng evidently wanted more modern designs, with outlines and representational shapes.

He borrowed Dick Thomas from the McKimson unit for Pizzicato Pussycat, released in January 1955. Thomas gave Freleng stylised backgrounds. Here are some examples.

Here’s a nice representation of one of Hawley Pratt’s layouts.

Pratt’s main characters don’t have the same kind of appearance as Sylvester or, say, the mouse in Mouse Mazurka (1949), which have a fairly traditional Warner Bros. look.

Being the 1950s, it is necessary that a piano is decorated with a candelabra. Thanks, Lee. Thomas manages to get some colour variation in this panned background.

Yes, music is involved in this short. It’s a Freleng cartoon, after all. And being a Freleng cartoon, the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Liszt figures into the score. But the classics get tossed out the window. When the cat uses sticks to try to bash the highbrow piano-playing mouse running around a drum kit, the music suddenly switches to jazz. And that’s what we hear to end the cartoon.

Milt Franklyn is given the on-screen music credit and I suspect he arranged his own score. It seems a little odd a 1920s bandleader would come up with a ‘50s jazz arrangement. But the tune in question goes back to the ‘20s. It’s “Crazy Rhythm” by Irving Caesar and Roger Wolfe Kahn. (The pizzicato string/flute cue over the titles is a Franklyn original. He digs back to 1905 for the next piece of music, the well-used “Me-ow” by Mel Kaufman).

This short was made around the time of the six-month Warners cartoon studio shutdown (a year for the McKimson unit). Manny Perez and Virgil Ross are the only animators mentioned on screen; Gerry Chiniquy and Ken Champin are gone (Chiniquy returned when the studio re-opened). Warren Foster, one of a handful of people kept on during the shutdown, wrote the story.

Besides Mel Blanc, the wife is played by Marian Richman, who was also employed by UPA and various commercial studios. The narrator is Norman Nesbitt, who is heard in a number of Warners cartoons around this time. Nesbitt was a newscaster and actor whose cartoon career ended when he left Los Angeles for KOA-TV in Denver at the end of July 1954. Nesbitt retired in 1959 to look after the estate of his brother John, who was the narrator of The Passing Parade radio/MGM shorts series, then came out of retirement in 1964. He died in Los Angeles on January 26, 1975.

Listen to “Crazy Rhythm” below. This version is a little less crazy.