Friday 16 December 2022

Now, Our Tea Time Movie

Love spot gag cartoons? Love stereotypes? Love bad puns?

You’ll get your fill of all that in the Columbia/Screen Gems short Wacky Wigwams (1942). “Look! It’s a scalper!” shouts the narrator (Frank Graham must have been off that week) as a typical Indian brave performs a typical dance, then jumps to the camera. “Say, doc,” he asks the theatre audience, “wanna buy a couple of seats on the 50-yard line?”

Some of the other gags are even more obvious.

There’s a bit of animation I quite like. It’s on twos and a little hard to see in this fuzzy dub. “I wonder what concoction this old witch doctor is brewing,” says the narrator, as a native raises, lowers and twists his gnarled fingers. The fingers are even in perspective, though you can’t tell here, as they come closer to the camera. Excellent work.

“Ugh, ugh. What-um you cook-um, chief?” asks the narrator (speaking the language of the Hollywood tribe). After a pause, the medicine man lifts his head, and responds “Spot of tea, old thing?” The head remind me of something you might have found in a ‘40s Disney cartoon, not surprising since many of the Columbia artists in 1942 had left Uncle Walt after the strike. I particularly like the half-closed eye.

Yes, the “Cherokee strip” gag you see on the poster to the right appears (rotoscoped maiden), there’s the old reference to Mischa Auer’s “confidentially, it stinks” line in the Frank Capra feature You Can’t Take It with You, with Dave Barry providing the voice, and an alligator that sounds like Rochester (I guess that’s Barry, too).

The original credits listed Alec Geiss as the director and Volus Jones as the animator, with music by Paul Worth. Showman’s Trade Review of Dec. 6, 1941 reports the short was written by Frank Tashlin. This got re-released several times as a Columbia Favorite, including as late as September 1963, according to a print ad for the Chilliwack Drive-In (the feature was The Kettles on Old MacDonald’s Farm). I used to go there as a boy but, somehow, I don’t recall Wacky Wigwams.


  1. The "spot of tea" animation is by Emery Hawkins, Yowp. He also did the car polish gag at the close of the picture.

    1. Thanks, Mark. Hawkins did good work wherever he went.