It’s been more than a busy week here and continues to be, but a cartoon showing is still in order!
When I was first collecting cartoons, I found this film in a giant stack of odd reels being sold by a guy named Jerry Nelson. Jerry was a well known dealer who would also go to the film collector shows, usually with a batch of unmarked or poorly marked reels of every kind of film imaginable. Some collectors and dealers would make sure things
were labeled before selling them, but not Jerry- he’d haul those milk crates full of films right into the show, the trail of disintegrating film smell trailing strongly behind him as he carried them (a side note: acetate film prints start to emit a foul smell as they return to the earth, sort of like old plastic purses smell and get sticky. This has been termed ‘Vinegar Syndrome’ because of the smell, but it’s really just the organic materials in the acetate breaking down).
Jerry must have been in his late 70’s when I first met him at a show, and that was after buying quite a few things from him over the years. He was always very kind. I would usually look for his ad first when the film collector magazine came. It was called ‘The Big Reel’ and big it was- it was folded in half on newsprint and sent with a white newsprint cover surrounding it. At one point he had a whole bunch of Scrappys on his list… and I remember making a deal with him (and
giving him whole paychecks from my high school job) to buy a handful each week. He also had a whole slew of Columbia Rhapsodies (most in original IB technicolor) that were more beat up than almost any film I’ve ever owned. I remember calling him many times right when I got the paper, trying to buy whatever treasure he had for $10 or something, usually being beat to the punch by likely some of the cartoon collectors that are reading this now. Jerry would pause, looking at his list and say, “No, no Steve.. I’m sorry, it’s sold”.
At the film show it was another story- his boxes were usually full of stuff that he hadn’t looked at yet. He handed me a roll of masking tape once and asked me to label as I went along!
In one of those boxes in 1984 or so was this cartoon, The Black Duck, released by Film Highlights. It’s clearly a silent Aesop’s Fable from the late 20’s, but what is really great about it is an amazingly bizarre soundtrack that appears to be half ad-libbed if not almost entirely, with a nice musical score by Winston Sharples.
I especially like “Hiya Kid…. meet me. I’m Butch the Cat from over the hill. I bet you get tired of lookin’ at dem dare ducks!”.
A few years later I found another, A Lad and His Lamp, also with the ‘Fabletoon’ titles. My guess is that these tracks were done in the late 30s or early 40s (from the sound of the Sharples scores), composed for these particular films rather than stock music. Paul Terry gets complete credit for the animation here, with Sharples getting the sole other credit. Maybe one of our other cartoon-ologists will know more about these two releases than I do, or if there are others in this series. For now, here’s A Lad and His Lamp too: