Monday 20 November 2023

Run, Clown, Run

There are some who say their first exposure to opera and classical music was from Warner Bros. cartoons. My father listened to classical music and opera, either on an F.M. station or from his own collection, so it was familiar around our house.

However, what I heard for the first time thanks to cartoons were songs from 1930s musicals and Broadway shows. “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” immediately comes to mind. Another was “I Love a Parade,” a 1931 composition by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler for the Cotton Club revue “Rhythmania” (for which they also composed “Kickin’ the Gong Around” and “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”).

The song became part of the “Let’s sell Warners’-owned sheet music” campaign via Harman-Ising’s Merrie Melodies cartoons. The song may be memorable, but the cartoon for which is it named isn’t. There’s no climax, let alone plot; the last gag is a lion getting rid of fleas, and then the cartoon just stops. There is the usual open-mouth-with-slit-tongue expression all H-I characters had, reversal gags (eg. a hippo rides a horse, the scene disappears and when it returns the horse is riding the hippo), a Ghandi caricature, plus the old run-toward-the-camera-with-mouth open routine, which went back to the silent days.

It follows cycle animation of a clown (who doesn’t appear outside the beginning of the cartoon) flipping over.

Tom McKimson and Ham Hamilton are the credited animators in the 1932 release.

The fast song over the opening titles is “Oh, You Circus Day!” a 1912 composition by James Monaco and Edith Lessing. You can hear it sung in the video below. Gee, that piano player seems familiar. I wonder if he has a connection with old cartoons.

1 comment:

  1. Looked up the piano player, and laughed. Well played.