I hope you’re all still in one piece after Friday the 13th. But it’s not over yet. We’ve still got one article worth of fallout from the realm of superstition to wade through, so fasten your seat belts for another bumpy ride.
The Crystal Gazer (Columbia/Screen Gems, Phantasy, 10/10/41 – Sid Marcus, dir.) – This was sometimes a fallow period for Columbia output, with several projects that are essentially flops. This is one of them. Marcus appeared to be trying to make a star out of a recurrent nameless moron character (who I suspect was modeled in an attempt to be similar to Dopey from the Seven Dwarfs), who repeatedly appears in such episodes as “The Cuckoo I.Q.”. “The Cute Recruit”, and “There’s Music In Your Hair”. In this one, he plays a stage mystic as if performing on the theater stage. An onstage announcer fields questions from the audience for the mystic to solve – getting only one response – a lady who asks if she should put whipped cream into her potato salad. (This is a plot?) The dumdum mystic spends about half the cartoon straining his brain (if any) to come up with an answer – and getting nothing. He finally resorts to gazing into a crystal ball, which takes us on a completely extraneous view of his past expedition to Egypt (providing some of the only action of the picture). A sign on the desert reads, “Murphy’s Split Pea Soup, 2 miles”. A sphinx whistles as traffic cop, to let cross-traffic through in front of the mystic’s camel in the form of a gray-hound bus. A sign on a temple, seeming to be written in hieroglyphics, is turned upside down by the mystic, revealing in simple English that “The key is under the mat, Toots”, signed “Cleo”. Inside the temple, mummies abound, reaching through panels to pull in the milkman’s milk bottles and leave out the empties, and to play checkers with each other. One even ventures from one mummy case to another that serves as a phone booth, and phones in a bet for “Two bucks on Sea Biscuit in the thoid race.” All of this, however, becomes pointless, as the mystic breaks out of his trance and returns to the present, with nothing seemingly accomplished – yet announces he has the answer to the lady’s question. “Duh, no”, he replies. After all this, even the announcer is sick of him – he picks up the crystal ball, and drops it soundly on the mystic’s head for the closing.
Professor Small and Mr. Tall (Columbia/Screen Gems, Color Rhapsody, 3/26/43, John Hubley, Paul Sommer, dir.), mentioned in my previous article “Toons Abhor a Vacuum (part 2)” for its brief use of a vacuum cleaner, now takes center stage for its true focus – an attempt to debunk superstition. In the opening sequence, Small (the tall one), and Tall (the small one), work aboard a train, selling, “Peanuts, popcorn, vitamin pills”. As Tall vacuums up peanut shells, he somehow comes across a horseshoe, and tells Small it means good luck. “Nonsense”, replies Small, and tosses the shoe over his shoulder – straight into a mirror, which breaks into shards. “Now ya done it”, states Tall – “Seven years bad luck.” “Why, good gracious, man, this is the twentieth century, not the middle ages. Nonsense. You and your superstition….” His speech is abruptly interrupted, as the entire train falls off a trestle into a river. The next scene finds Small and Tall at the bottom of the river, seemingly the only survivors, and miraculously engaging in conversation despite being underwater. Small can’t for the life of him figure out why what just happened happened, nor why Tall is busily engaged with a pot of glue (non-water soluble, no doubt) assembling shards of the mirror like a jigsaw puzzle. Small insists they should get going, and we next find our duo aboard a railroad hand-car, attempting to cross the desert. They reach an end to the track, with a sign reading “Dead End”. Going back the other way, they find the track behind them has disappeared, blocked by a second “Dead End” sign. The ghost town of “Spook, Nevada” fades into existence before them (with additional notation on the station signboard reading, “Elevation: You’re right next to heaven, brother.”) A wacky ghost hails them from the radiator of a Model T: “Taxi, boys? Taxi?” He takes them to the Creeps Hotel – which is the only other building, right across the street. The ghost also runs the hotel, and engages in a sequence of Abbott and Costello-like wordplay trying to figure our which one of the two is Small and which is Tall – driving the ghost to near insanity – to the point where he even pops up dressed as Adolf Hitler and blows his own brains out with a revolver! The ghost then escorts them to an invisible room, accessed from a back doorway of the hotel appearing to drop off to a sheer cliff. The ghost simply walks “in”, defying gravity, touting the room for its “magnificent view”, “Southern exposure”, and for having “double spring mattresses – like sleeping on air”, which he demonstrates by lying down on nothing. Small and Tall are sold by his salesmanship, and attempt to enter – of course plummeting into the canyon below. “Are you all right?”, calls out the ghost? Small and Tall answer in unison “We hate you!!”
A slide announces “More years of unfortunate misfortune”. Tall and Small trek the desert aimlessly, with no water in sight. A well turns out to be empty, except for a reappearance of the ghost, who greets Small, “Hiya, needle nose”, then disappears along with the well itself. Meanwhile Tall continues assembling pieces of the mirror with the glue pot. A small possible rain cloud drifts overhead, but doesn’t rain. Small, resigned to hopelesness, attempts to dismiss it as some sort of Indian smoke signal. Tall insists it’s a cloud. “Why must you torment me so,” says Small pathetically. “Can’t you see I need water! Water!” As Small breaks into tears and insists he’s dying, Tall glues in the last piece of the mirror. “Lookee, I got the mirror together”, shouts Tall. “So what”, replies Small. Instantly, the cloud above them rips apart, dousing them in a waist-deep flood of water. Then, set to the tune of a heavenly angel chorus, the cloud starts raining dollar bills upon them. “Heavens! Greenbacks!”, shouts Small. As they wade in a pile of the bills, a limousine drives up from nowhere. Four turbaned black palace guards out of an Arabian Nights picture emerge, bearing items of fine clothing. They surround our heroes and quick-change them into tuxedos and top hats. And inside the car are two gorgeous babes! Tall and Small enter the car, which drives off with them lounging in the laps of the two beauties. “Why? Why should all this happen to us?” inquires Small. “The mirror”, replies Tall, holding it up to Small. ‘Nonsense!”, retorts Small, and tosses the mirror out the window. It shatters again. Suddenly, everything – car, tuxedos, girls, and even the backgrounds – fade away and disappear, returning Tall and Small to their railroad outfits and the burning desert. Our final shot shows Small frantically joining Tall at the glue pot, again trying to reassemble the mirror, while Small unconvincingly attempts to verbally save face: “There is absolutely no scientific basis for this silly superstition. None, do you hear me? None! – – – none.”
For lack of another plot to fit them, the whole thing was virtually rehashed over again a few years later, in River Ribber (Columbia, Color Rhapsodies (though only exists currently in black and white), 10/4/45 – Paul Sommer, dir.), with the following changes. First, Professor Small is considerably redesigned. The train is exchanged for a Mississippi paddlewheel steamboat. The good luck/bad luck charm is a rabbit’s foot instead of a mirror. The ghost appears as “Captain Nobody”, at the helm of a rival “ghost” ship, the S.S. Spook, challenging our heroes to a race for a stake of $13.00. The race of course goes afoul for our heroes when Small tosses the rabbit’s foot overboard as “nonsense” – but their sunken ship rights itself when Tall finds the foot again, and makes short work of the ghost ship. Hailed as speed kings of the Mississippi, the duo are given a parade, and again wind up in the laps of two beautiful women. The exact same ending is reprised, with Small tossing away Tall’s rabbit’s foot into the river, and everything disappearing – this time transforming the duo’s parade wagon into a trash wagon, whose contents are dumped into the river – Tall, Small, and all.
Lucky Lulu (Paramount/Famous, Little Lulu, 6/30/44 – Seymour Kneitel, dir.), has been thoroughly reviewed in my previous article “Magnetic Personalities”, this website. Again, this tale centers around the superstition of obtaining a good luck charm, in the form of a lucky horseshoe – which unfortunately becomes magnetized in the process, giving Lulu all the bad luck she can handle.
The Beach Nut (Lantz/Universal, Woody Woodpecker, 10/16/44 – James Culhane, dir.) – Woody’s done a great job of messing up Wally Walrus’s perfect day at the beach, and the chase is on. Wally pursues Woody into a carnival midway, but loses him. However, he spots a carnival booth with signs reading, “Yogi Yoyo. Sees All, Knows All. Palms Read and Greased. Missing Woodpeckers Located.” Entering the booth, Wally walks into a giant gong marked, “Ring for Service.” He rings it again, and Woody enters, dressed in a swami’s turban, and riding a flying carpet. In the manner of a WWII bombing crew, he shouts out flight instructions to himself. “Pilot to Bombardier. Bombardier to Navigator. Navigator to Crew. Prepare for crash landing. That is all. Roger!” He power dives at Wally, stopping just short of his nose, as a mechanical hand pulls the carpet out from under Woody and he steps neatly onto a table top. He addresses Wally : “Fat boy wish to ask Yogi question?” Wally answers, “Yah! Yah! Vere is dat little redhead? Vere did he go?” Woody ponders: “Ummm….That’s a toughie. Yogi must consult stars.” In a borrow from Felix’s “Futuritzy”, Woody pulls out a mallet and bops Wally on the head, so that he sees lots of stars – but in an original twist, the stars reposition themselves into the shape of a neon arrow pointing offscreen, with the letters, “He’s in there”. The arrow points to a curtain. Wally tells the “Yogi”, “You open the curtain, and I’ll grab him.” Woody obliges, and Wally only succeeds in jumping through a concealed plate glass window, back out into the street.
The Stupidstitious Cat (Paramount/Famous, Noveltoon (Buzzy), 4/25/47, Seymour Kneitel, dir,) – A pre-Katnip Buzzy cartoon, but already beginning to develop the standard formula. A superstitious cat sleeps with all its fingers crossed, and signs on either side of his cat-bed to indicate which is the “right side” and which is the “wrong side” to get up on. He breaks out a box of wish bones, takes one, and wishes he had a bird for breakfast (of course, he himself pulls on both ends, so he is guaranteed to get his wish). Hearing tweeting outside (tweeting from a crow?), the cat tells the audience, “If you whistle before breakfast, you’ll fry before dinner.” From a bird house, Buzzy does a swan dive from a diving board into a bird bath. While he lathers up and brushes his teeth (including a gold one, which was not retained as part of his subsequent model sheet), the cat picks up and transplants the birdbath into his living room. Suddenly realizing the new locale, Buzzy remarks, “How did I get in here?” He flies for the window, but has it shut in his face by the cat, who throws a net over him, then starts ringing a triangle dinner bell. “Uh Uh, looks like I has been invited to dinner”, states Buzzy. While the cat toasts bread for his sandwich, he spies a pin on the floor. “See a pin, pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck”, says the cat. From “under glass”, Buzzy tells the audience, Ain’t he superstitious. Dat’s all I want to know!” (This by-line of Buzzy later changed to “Dat’s all I has to know.”) The cat takes Buzzy out and places him in the sandwich, sprinkling on it some salt. But Buzzy overturns the shaker, distracting the cat by telling him he spilled salt. While the cat throws some over his shoulder, Buzzy escapes, replacing the contents of the sandwich with a sign reading, “Out to lunch”. Buzzy hides in pain sight – under a ladder.
The cat tries to get him to shake hands as no hard feelings, hoping to pull him out of there. But instead of his hand, Buzzy hands the cat an umbrella, which pops open, floating the cat under the ladder. Below, Buzzy places a mousetrap, and recites to the cat, “In the house with an open umbrella, will make you a most unfortunate fella. The mousetrap snaps, launching the cat into the ladder rungs, and the ladder snaps closed and topples, folding the cat into the proverbial “crooked man”. The cat straightens up and chases Buzzy – but Buzzy pauses the chase when the cat rounds an object on a different side than Buzzy passed it. “Hey boss….Bread and butter!”. The cat, grumbling, reverses his path to go around Buzzy’s side. Buzzy ducks under a piece of furniture, and the cat tries to look underneath with a match. Buzzy waits with three cigars in his mouth, each of which he lights when the match comes in range. The cat reacts: “Yipe! Three on a match!” Stuffing the cigars in the cat’s mouth, Buzzy completes the rhyme: “And you’ll wind up in the booby hatch!” The cigars are exploding variety, and launch the cat backwards like skyrockets. The cat recovers, picks up a chair, and raises it to throw at Buzzy. On the other side of the room, Buzzy waits, holding a rope. “You’ll be sorry!”, he shouts. The chair is thrown – and Buzzy hauls in a tall rotating mirror. The cat leaps to grab the flying chair, and manages to stop it just short of breaking the glass. But Buzzy stands behind the cat with a pin, and jabs him in the tail end. The cat flies into the air, and Buzzy positions the mirror just so, letting the cat fall into it with a crash. Realizing he now has seven years bad luck, the cat lunges at Buzzy, who is standing on the end of a pen in an inkwell bottle. The cat misses, and the ink spills all over him. Buzzy flips the mirror frame so the cat can see his reflection in what’s left of the glass. Covered in ink, the cat panics in fright: “Yipe! A Black cat!”, races for the wall, and tears a hole in it to make a hasty exit down the road. Buzzy laughs triumphantly at his victory – but notices a calendar page reading “Friday the 13th.” Buzzy is as bad as the cat, immediately performing a ritual three times over in faster and faster succession, of knocking wood, throwing salt over his shoulder, rubbing a rabbit’s foot against him, and kissing a horseshoe.
Bad Luck Blackie (MGM, 1/22/49 – Tex Avery, dir.), marks another veritable milestone in Avery’s illustrious career. A helpless kitten who is being tormented by the pranks of an evil bulldog is recognized as a likely prospect for the services of our title hero – a derby-hatted black cat, who presents “my card” – reading “Black Cat Bad Luck Company. Paths crossed. Guaranteed bad luck.” Though details of his fee are never discussed, Blackie is hired. He demonstrates by simply prancing across the oncoming bulldog’s path (accompanied throughout the film by the tune, “Comin’ Thru the Rye”) – causing a flower pot to drop from nowhere to crash on the dog’s brow. As a signaling method, Blackie provides his client with a whistle for whenever he is in need. The dog awakes and pursues again. The kitten blows the whistle, and Blackie magically appears out from under a building crawl-space. Another flower pot crashes on the dog – this time sprouting four blooms from a lump on the dog’s head.
At the head of a descending staircase, the kitten sees trouble coming again, and whistles. Blackie appears from behind a barrel. A steamer trunk falls from the heavens and flattens the dog against the staircase, bending him to match the angles of the steps. The kitten is cornered in a blind alley. He whistles, and Blackie appears out of a tin can on the street and disappears into another. An upright piano crashes down onto the dog, and the dog’s teeth convert into a set of 88 ivories for the kitten to play a few off-key bars of “Yankee Doodle” upon. The kitten climbs a telephone pole. The dog crawls across the wires to get to him. A whistle, and Blackie floats across the dog’s path supported by a small balloon. A cartoon bomb drops into the dog’s paws and explodes, reducing the dog’s head to a charred black outline. More such mishaps ensue, with never-ending twists. As Blackie emerges from under a picket fence, doing a Russian dance as he crosses the dog’s path, . . . . nothing happens. The dog reveals he’s catching on, and is now carrying a good luck horseshoe. He tosses it over his shoulder for luck, but it returns to bonk him on the head, followed by a second, third, and fourth horseshoe…..and finally the whole horse!
The dog finally gets a clever plan. He leaves a box on the street, marked, “Curiosity killed a cat”. The kitten can’t resist opening it. Out pops the bulldog like a jack in the box, causing the kitten to drop the whistle and flee. Realizing he now has possession of the “secret weapon, he runs to a building where he sees Blackie entering another crawl space. Conveniently, a large safe on a rope pulley is nearby. The dog hoists the safe by rope several stories into the air, and draws an “X” outside the crawl space opening, then whistles for Blackie. Blackie appears, looking everywhere for his client, and the dog lets go of the rope. Rather than get squished, Blackie simply pushes the “X” on the pavement and slides it under the bulldog. The safe of course follows the “X”, and the dog gets it again. Blackie disappears into a construction yard. The dog lays in wait with a large stick to bash him, and blows the whistle. Blackie obligingly appears – but not where the dog expected. He crosses the dog’s path suspended from a beam upside down, wearing suction cups on his feet. A large load of bricks falls upon the dog, rendering him a temporary part of a solid brick wall. Despite all the bashing, the dog’s brain is not out of ideas yet. As Blackie slips through a hole in a wall, the dog grabs a paintbrush in a can of white paint, and positions it over the entrance to the hole. Another whistle, and Blackie emerges, not realizing he’s just been covered with the brush’s white paint.
Crossing the dog’s path, Blackie waits for the usual inevitable – but his bad luck power is broken!. Still unaware of his color change, he crosses the dog’s path again and again, faster and faster, until his musical cues are being played at double and triple their normal speed and pitch. Blackie is exhausted, and finally notices the paint. The dog grabs Blackie in his clutches, repeatedly blows the whistle in his face, and shakes Blackie senseless. The kitten watches desperately nearby – then spots the solution – another paint can, of black paint! He douses himself in the black stuff, then copies Blackie’s signature prance across the dog’s path. An anvil falls on the dog’s head. The dog, stunned, slowly put Blackie down, then faints. As he collapses, the whistle falls into his mouth – and he swallows it. He develops an unstoppable case of hiccups. Somehow, without further need for path-crossing, the whistle’s tweets alone on his every hiccup prompt something new to fall from the heavens – each item bigger than the last. A kitchen sink, a bathtub, another upright piano, a steamroller, an airplane, a school bus, and finally, a battleship. The dog races helplessly off for parts unknown. Blackie, saved, congratulates the kitten with hearty handshakes – and passes on to the kitten his signature derby, as the new successor to the “bad luck” trade.
Bowery Bugs (Warner, Bugs Bunny, 6/4/49 – Arthur Davis, dir.)- Bugs begins this tale, appearing to be a tour guide at New York’s Brooklyn Bridge. He points to a plaque commemorating Steve Brody jumping off the bridge in the gay 90’s. “What in tarnation did he do that fer?”, asks an old-timer. Bugs relates the story of a down on his luck Brody seeking a good luck charm – namely, a rabbit’s foot, from you know who. However, Bugs convinces Brody that “Look at the life rabbits lead. Dogs, hunters, hasenpfeffer – These rabbit feet never brought me any luck” – but admits that Brody needs help. He gives Brody the business card of “Swami Rabbitima – Knows all, Tells all”. Arriving at the Swami’s abode – a curtained meditation palace – a voice beckons Brody: “Enter, oh seeker of knowledge.” A sandbag on a rope bops him on the noggin. “That’s you, fathead!”, the voice concludes. Of course, Bugs appears in a turban as the Swami. He asks Brody if he wants his palm read – then splatters it with red paint. Offering to read the bumps on his head, he receives Brody’s reply that he has no bumps – so Bugs makes some with a mallet (a repeat of a similar gag used briefly by Daffy Duck in “The Wise Quacking Duck” (5/1/43)). Bugs finally deals out some cards, and foretells that Brody will meet as a mascot “a handsome gent wearing a carnation”, “Mr. Good Luck himself.” Sending Brody on his way, Bugs of course intercepts him – as the handsome gent with the carnation, and a fake handlebar moustache. Brody takes him to a gambling house. Bugs throws dice at a crowded crap table – and tosses what appears to be a seven. But the dice are somehow reverse=loaded, and flip to snake eyes. “Hey, I lost!”, complains Brody. Bugs replies, “Well, even we mascots have to warm up a little.” He grabs a coin off Brody, and inserts it in a slot machine, claiming that on these he is “un-fallable”. We do not see the wheels, but as Brody watches in anticipation, the machine “pays off” – with three real lemons. Brody tries to murder Bugs, but misses, and is tossed out in the gutter by the club’s “bouncer” – a real gorilla.
Brody retutns to the Swami. Bugs foretells (with a spin of an astrological “Wheel of Fortune”, landing on Lobo, the sign of the Wolf) that if Brody is unlucky in cards, he must be lucky in love. He sends him out to try his hand with the ladies. Of course, outside, Bugs poses in his traditional drag, accuses Brody of being a a masher, and has him accosted by a local cop’s billy-club. Brody again returns to the Swami, and Bugs asks him why he wants his luck changed. “So I can get me hands on some dough!” replies Brody. Bugs says the crystal ball will make Brody “a genuine sure-shot offer”. A ticker-tape emerges from the ball like a stock-market machine. Brody is told to go to 29 River Street. Brody arrives there with a pistol. “I know ya got a mess o’ dough here. Let me have it.” Of course, Bugs is the proprietor, posing as a baker. “If you insist”, he says, as he pulls a lever. Pastry dough falls in a lump upon Brody from a chute, and a conveyor belt takes him into an oven, and back out again, as a pie. Bugs removes his disguise, doubled up in laughter. “What a Ta-Ra-Ra Goon De Ay!” Brody escapes from the pie as dawn finally breaks in his mind. “I know you. You’re that rabbit that sent me….that sent me……Oh, no, it couldn’t be!” He races out, and returns to every location in town he was sent. There is Bugs under each disguise, greeting him with “What’s up, doc?” Back at the Swami’s palace, Bugs is about to say it again, but Brody interrupts him. “Don’t tell me. I know. What’s up, doc? Rabbits! Everybody’s a rabbit! Aw c’mon now, Brody. Get a hold of yourself. You ain’t a rabbit.” Bugs of course has removed the glass from a real mirror, so that Brody sees him instead of a reflection. Brody cracks, and hops down the street, endlessly repeating “What’s up, doc?” He hops onto the Brooklyn Bridge, finding what appears to be a policeman with his back turned, looking over the railing. “Please, officer”, Brody begs. “I’m flippin’ my lid. Everybody’s turning into rabbits!” The officer turns – it’s Bugs again, who responds in an Irish brogue, “What’s all this about rabbits, doc?” Brody leaps over the railing, and the flashback pauses before he hits the water, to match the illustration of the plaque we began the cartoon with. Bugs’ story concludes, and he asks the old-timer if there’s anything else he wants to know. “Nope. That’s enough , son. I’ll buy it!” And he counts out a down-payment on the bridge into Bugs’s palm, while Bugs gives a sly wink to the audience for the iris out.
The Chump Champ (MGM, Droopy, 11/4/50 – Tex Avery, dir.), presents a brief and unexpected visit to the occult. In the midst of an athletic tournament between Droopy and Spike to decide the “King of Sports”, Spike erects a carnival tent in the path of the lane line for a foot race, with a sign reading, “Madame Zaza – Handwriting Analyzed”. Observing racing rules to follow the line, Droopy enters the tent. Spike, dressed as a gypsy medium, claims he will read Droopy’s fortune. Handing him a pad of paper, Spike says “Write your name here and I will tell you whether you win or lose.” The pad, however, conceals a portion of the page Droopy is signing, on which Spike has written, “To the Judge. I cheated in every event.” Droopy signs. Spike turns the pad toward himself, inspects the signed page, and quickly tells Droopy, “You lose!”, then zips away. Droopy is disqualified. But prize for the King of Sports is a kiss from the Queen of Sports – who turns out to be a real “dog”, in every sense of the word. Spike runs away screaming, with the Queen in hot pursuit, and Droopy dons the forgotten crown – which is ten sizes too large for him and merely falls to his feet.
Frightday the 13th (Paramount/Famous, Casper, 2/13/53, I. Sparber, dir.) – A Casper cartoon finally makes it into one of these trails. This one begins with the routine formula. A houseful of spooky ghosts, awakened by a paper delivery of the “Daily Boos”, announcing today is Frightday the 13th. The ghosts all mass to go out on a scare raid, but Casper won’t join them, wanting to be friendly. Ho hum, where have we seen this before? But things turn slightly different, after one typical “A ghost!” scare. A human admires kittens in a pet store window, but won’t have anything to do with an equally-cute stray kitten just because he’s black. Casper overhears him call the cat bad luck, and disagrees, befriending the orphan kitten and naming him “Lucky”. He then sets on a quest to find Lucky a good luck charm. A four leaf clover results in a fight with a mole upset at the cat dislodging the dirt above his home – until he walks right into Casper’s ectoplasm. He puts on a pair of oversized spectacles, sees Casper clearly, shrieks, and tunnels for the hills, uprooting any tree in his path. A horseshoe is sighted over a bulldog’s doghouse.
Casper goes underground, and flips the dog’s dish to spring his bone out of the yard, while retrieving the horseshoe for Lucky. Lucky throws it over his shoulder – where it of course bonks the bulldog, raising a lump on his head and resting as a “ringer” on it. The bulldog pursues Lucky through a pipe, but Casper twirls the pipe around before the bulldog can exit, sending him and the horseshoe running in the opposite direction. Casper next spies rabbit tracks, and suggests getting him to rub Lucky with his rabbit’s foot. Casper tracks the real rabbit (with the usual “A ghost!” reaction and the rabbit exiting underground, dragging his rabbit hole through the ground along with him). But Lucky follows the wrong tracks, coming upon a bear’s cave. Mistaking the bear’s extended paw for the rabbit’s, Lucky rubs himself with it – arousing the bear from sleep. The bear corners Lucky at a pile of old junk and clothing. He paws away at the pile, until the only thing left is Lucky, wearing an old woman’s hat. Casper flies to the rescue. But for the first, and possibly only time in the series history, Casper is not the saving hero. The cat saves himself by wearing the hat, as the bear slams his paw into it – and is pricked by an old hatpin! The bear, in pain, scampers for parts unknown. Casper finally arrives, and realizes Lucky has found his good luck charm. “See a pin and pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck.” Another Casper happy ending.
Friday the 13th (Terrytoons/Fox, Little Roquefort, 5/8/53 – Mannie Davis, dir.) – Percy’s writing in his diary – using Roquefort’s tail as a pen to dip in the inkwell. Roquefort asks “What’s the idea? What’s cookin in that furry fat head of yours this time?” Percy lets him read the diary entry – “Today is Friday the 13th and what an unlucky day for that mouse!” Percy then takes Roquefort and Scotch-tapes him to the center of a dartboard. “Hey! You’re not really gonna….You wouldn’t!”, squeaks Roquefort. He is answered by a dart landing between his legs. (This bit is a steal from Tom and Jerry’s “The Million Dollar Cat” (1944), but while Tom and Jerry could pull it off with lively music and make it look not quite so menacing, the Terry animators make Percy appear absolutely sadistic and the scene direly serious – enough to scare the little tykes, and even make the adults uneasy.) Like Tom, Percy tries trick shots, backhanded and using a mirror. The board is littered with darts all around a trembling Roquefort, who pleads for Percy to take it easy. Finally, Roquefort manages to leap out from the tape just as Percy scores a bull’s eye. More thrown darts provide a ladder for Roquefort to climb up and into a bureau. Percy climbs up on it and tries to reach in the top drawer to find Roquefort – but Roquefort opens the middle drawer into his belly, sending him sliding across the room. He slides under a ladder, then into a plate glass mirror. While he is dazed, Roquefort approaches him. “So Friday the 13th is unlucky for me, is it? Well, you just went under a ladder. And broke a mirror. And besides, you’re a black cat.” Percy gets the message, runs to his pet bed in the corner, and surrounds the corner with an arc of standing lucky horseshoes. “And furthermore, you’d better stay there”, says Roquefort. Percy nods in agreement, and waits tremulously to see if evil will befall him.
It doesn’t take long. Roquefort invites the whole neighborhood of mice in to throw a party. While they taunt Percy with a song, “Oh we’re not afraid of the old cat anymore”, Percy sits helpless and utterly frustrated in his corner. The mice play the piano, and clean out the refrigerator. Four mice converge on a sandwich from opposite corners – and meet in the middle stuffed as roly-polys. Roquefort adds further insult to injury, by taking a milk bath in Percy’s bowl. Percy finally reaches his boiling point, and scoops aside the horseshoes. The neighbor mice beat a hasty exit. “Go back. Go back”, implores Roquefort, “This is your unlucky day!” He holds up the calendar page with the date. Percy tears up the page and sprinkles it as confetti on Roquefort’s head. The chase is on. Roquefort runs under the power cord of a standing lamp, and Percy trips over it. His feet land in a pair of roller skates. Roquefort sets up a ramp on a stack of books, and Percy is launched out a doorway, down a stairway bannister, and through the front door, also crashing outside through a greenhouse, and landing upside down in a trash can. The scene dissolves to Percy in traction in his cat bed, with two busted arms and a broken leg. Below him is Roquefort, now using Percy’s tail as a pen, and correcting the diary entry to cross out the word “mouse”, and replace it with the word “cat!” As a final touch, he uses Percy’s tail to draw a moustache above Percy’s lips, and the poor cat, with no arms free, is left twitching his face in a futile attempt to remove it, for the fade out.
I Don’t Scare (Paramount/Famous, Popeye, 11/16/56 – I, Sparber, dir.). Popeye wins a short battle of wits against Bluto in a phone booth, and is first to ask Olive out for a date. He arrives at her home with Bluto following closely behind. Olive pauses when she spots a pin on the floor: “See a pin, pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck.” Bluto overhears at the window – let’s just say we could recast him as Buzzy in this one, as he realizes Olive is superstitious – he might just as well have said “Dat’s all I has t’know!” Spotting a wall calendar reading “Thursday 12″, he reaches in the window and tears off a page, revealing “Friday 13″. On her way out with Popeye, Olive spots the doctored calendar. She abruptly changes her mind about the date with Popeye, insisting she won’t set foot out of the house today. Popeye tries to convince her that “There’s nothin’ to them silly old stupidstitions”, and demonstrates by opening an umbrella in the house. He hands it to Olive, insisting she hold it to prove that nothing will happen. From another window, Bluto removes a light bulb from a lighting fixture above Olive, and repositions the open socket to intersect the point of Olive’s umbrella. Olive turns an electrical neon orange, and is blasted across the room into a grand piano, from which she emerges wrapped up entirely in piano wire. Bluto now lets in the front door a black cat. Olive, attempting to keep it from crossing her path, runs literally up the wall and upside down on the ceiling, finally clinging to a ceiling light fixture. Popeye insists it’s a harmless kitty who just wants to make friends.
But the cat spots a goldfish bowl, and takes off after it. Popeye intercepts the cat, and flings the goldfish bowl out of its reach. The bowl sails across the room – landing on Olive’s head. Popeye meanwhile ushers the cat out: “The fish market is two blocks down, and turn to the right.” Inside the inverted bowl on Olive’s neck, the goldfish swims in one of Olive’s ears and out the other. Popeye thinks its funny, and brings Olive a mirror to see how funny she looks. But Bluto pulls the rug out from under Popeye, and the mirror crashes upon Olive, breaking for 7 years bad luck. Olive throws him out, stating she never wants to see him again. As Popeye lays on the front walkway, Bluto reveals himself. “Tough luck, pal”, and sticks a piece of paper onto Popeye’s pipe. It is the torn calendar page, and Popeye realizes they’ve both been duped. Bluto convinces Olive that it’s really Thursday the 12th, and safe to go out on a date – with him. Popeye plots revenge. He manages to get ahead of the couple, and plants a horseshoe in their path. Bluto picks it up for good luck, but is drawn around the corner by a magnet held by Popeye. Popeye flings Bluto under a ladder, catching him in its rungs for a first dose of bad luck. He lifts and flips the ladder, landing Bluto atop a crate of dynamite. Popeye dashes over to him, places three sticks of dynamite in Bluto’s mouth, and lights the fuses, stating “Three on a match is very bad luck.” He darts away, and the dynamite blasts Bluto skyward, leaving only his dentures still gripping the stubs of the dynamite sticks. Without even resorting to spinach, Popeye’s biceps morph into the number “13″, and he socks the falling Bluto into a coin-operated weight scale. Bluto lies unconscious upon the scale, his tongue hanging out, while a fortune card ejects from the scale and lands in Bluto’s open mouth, reading “Today is your lucky day.” Popeye exits with Olive, still insisting that “Stupidstitions are the bunk” – but they pass on each side of a telephone pole in their path. Popeye goes back around the pole to rejoin Olive on her side, stating “Bread and butter”. Olive laughs heartily, and Popeye blushes, revealed as being a little superstitious after all.
The Crystal Brawl (Paramount/Famous, Popeye, 4/5/57 – Seymour Kneitel, dir.), barely deserves mention. A pure cheater, with about 80% old footage passed off as foretelling of Olive’s “future” in a crystal ball, by a disguised Popeye posing as the mystic, to get Bluto in bad by showing him in lecherous pursuit of Olive. In probably the only original gag of note, Popeye’s muscle, after he eats his spinach, transforms into a mini-crystal ball to show Popeye where Bluto is pursuing Olive.
An Ounce of Pink (Depatie-Freleng, UA, Pink Panther, 10/20/65 – Hawley Pratt, dir.), returns to the concept of the fortune-telling weight machine. A talking model of same (voiced by Larry Storch) convinces Pink to buy him as a boon companion, so he’ll always know what lies ahead. But the machine’s fortunes always seem a little indirect in the telling. As Pink labors along a city street with the machine in tow, its foretelling, “There’s a lot of money coming your way – soon” results in a large safe falling on Pink. “You soon will receive back payment in arrears” results in a passing auto almost clipping off Pink’s rear-end. The machine foretells, “Your future is in the bag” just as a sack is discovered on the sidewalk at the panther’s feet. Pink is about to pick it up, but remembers the last two fortunes, and declines. The machine comments, “I have a feeling you don’t trust me”, just as another passer-by opens the bag, finds it chock full of money, and runs celebrating up the street. Pink proceeds ahead, but his progress is stopped by a middle-aged lady standing on the scale to get weighed. The machine gives her weight, but also says she dyes her hair and has a bad temper. She sics a little dog on Pink as the owner, and leaves him in a heap on the ground. Finally, as Pink ascends an uphill slope of sidewalk, his tow rope breaks, and the machine starts rolling backwards, calling for help. Pink jumps on and rides him in a frantic downhill run, which eventually leads to the docks. Pink is thrown off, while the machine reaches the pier’s end and splashes into the bay. Calling for help, the machine yells for Pink to throw him a line – “If my batteries get soaked I won’t be able to talk!” Pink thinks about it, then responds – by tossing the scale an anvil instead! “You’ll be sorry, 140 pounds! You’ll need me sometime!”, yells the sinking machine. Pink walks back to the shore, waving off the machine’s prattle as nonsense – and is promptly run over buy a crosstown bus. He gives the audience a disgusted take, for the fade out.
Sacre Bleu Cross (Depatie-Freleng/USA, The Inspector , 2/1/67 – Gerry Chiniquy, dir.) Set on Friday the 13th, the Inspector and Deux-Deux set out to capture Hassan the Assasin, who is holed-up in a condemned building. Knowing the date, Deux-Deux offers the Inspector a lucky rabbit’s foot. “How did a superstitious wretch like you ever get onto a modern streamlined police force?”, asks the Inspector – but he is quick to take the rabbit’s foot when he nearly gets blasted by Hassan. The Inspector’s first attempt to flush Hassan out of a rooftop window by throwing a hand grenade only results in the grenade falling into the rain gutter, down a pipe, and into a knothole in the door to the cellar where the Inspector is hiding, ending with the expected ka-boom. In a reworking of Freleng’s “cannon-hatch” gags from Yosemite Sam pirate cartoons, the Inspector tries to fast-draw Hassan at various windows – only to be blasted in the face every time he raises a windowshade. Reaching an upper story window by ladder, the Inspector finally gets a round of shots off unchallenged – only to find that Hassan isn’t there. Suddenly, the ladder falls out from under him. The Inspector holds onto the windowshade as it unrolls, bringing him down to a window from the basement – where Hassan blasts him again, leaving the charred Inspector to spring back upwards, rolled up in the windowshade.
An attempt to send Deux-Deux over a wall for a charge only draws machine-gun fire, which misses Deux Deux entirely, but flies over the wall to chop down a telephone pole – which falls promptly on the Inspector. The Inspector and Deux-Deux pair up for a charge on a rear entrance – but find nothing inside but a time bomb. They retreat outside, to a distance that the Inspector believes is “safe enough” – but the blast topples as if on a pivot the entire side of the building. In homage to Buster Keaton’s famous gag from “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” (1928), the wall has one window – and lands with the window frame squarely around Deux-Deux, leaving him untouched – but crushing the Inspector standing next to him. Finally, with both of them outside the walls again, the Inspector shouts one more ultimatum for Hassan to come out. “I am already out”, Hassan’s voice replies. He is behind them, and has the drop on them. He demands they hand over all of their belongings – which includes the rabbit’s foot. Then, having them face the wall, Hassan states “They do not call me the Assassin for nothing”, and prepares to shoot. But his gun somehow backfires, knocking him into the street. A passing van runs him down. The sky grows dark, and Hassan is lit like a neon sign by a lightning bolt strike. Then he is flattened by a steamroller, rolling around and around on its front cylinder. Deux Deux addresses the Inspector: “Now do you believe me when I told you the rabbit’s foot brings lots of luck?” The inspector nods: “And all of it bad!”
Lucky Pink (Depatie-Freleng, UA, Pink Panther, 5/7/68 – Hawley Pratt, dir.) – Another odd little cartoon, about a horseshoe that seems to be anything but lucky – for no apparent reason. Our usual opaque white “big nose” man is in the guise of a masked bank robber today. Before entering a bank for his latest heist, he finds a horseshoe, and assumes it will give him good luck, so puts it in his pocket. Moments after entering the bank with a pistol, he flees – pursued by a half-dozen Keystone Kops. Deciding the horseshoe wasn’t such a great idea after all, he throws it away – right into a basement window, where it hits the panther on the head. Assuming it was accidentally lost, Pink pursues the bandit in attempt to give the horseshoe back to him. Every time he returns it, another misfortune happens to the bandit. Every time the bandit finds the horseshoe again, he tries to throw it away – only to have Pink return it like a retriever. A stickup of a lady in an alley backfires as soon as the horseshoe is placed in the bandit’s pocket, by the lady beating the robber over the head with her handbag. A potential getaway car with the keys left in the ignition becomes another stroke of bad luck, as closer inspection (once the horseshoe is placed inside) reveals it’s a police car.
While attempting to get away, a return of the horseshoe by Pink through the side window results in a head-on collision between the robber’s car and the Kops’ car. An attempt to hide out in a Turkish bath only finds the Kops’ already there in the sauna. The bandit finally starts to catch on when a placement of the horseshoe into a satchel in which the bandit has already placed money from a safecracking results in an upright piano falling from the skies – but the piano stops in midair every time the burglar avoids picking up the satchel. After a couple of false attempts to get the money, with the piano falling and stopping ever closer, the robber makes a quick dash and runs with the satchel into a narrow alley too small for the piano to fit. Opening the satchel, he finds the horseshoe, and Pink passes, thinking he’s done his good deed for the day. The robber points his pistol into Pink’s back, and insists he take the horseshoe. Pink pantomimes, “For me?” and happily accepts. Walking only a few steps, Pink encounters a lost wallet loaded with cash. The bandit’s eyes pop, as he believes the jinx is over. Returning to Pink, he makes Pink “stick ‘em up” again, taking both the wallet and the horseshoe. He runs away in seeming victory – only to have the piano from the previous sequence catch up with him and flatten him. A panel in the piano opes, revealing it’s a player piano. The roll revolves inside, revealing the bandit, flat as a pancake on its surface, as the scene fades out.
Not too many memorable cartoons on the subject topic come to mind from television. One of the nameless chapter-pairs from the television Felix the Cat cartoons from 1959-60 (on which the Paramount cartoon staff labored on shoestring budgets endlessly, anonymously – and thanklessly) focused on Rock Bottom’s activities on Friday the 13th, coming up with one original sight gag. Rock crashes into a mirror. The broken shards leave a hole in its panel in the shape of the number “7″, signifying the years of bad luck Rock will have. Later, he crashes into another mirror – and the broken areas now read “14″!
Of course, there’s always that memorable bumper of Bullwinkle as a fortune teller from “Rocky and His Friends”, leading to the commercial break: Bullwinkle: “Eeny Meeny, chili beany, the spirits are about to speak!” Rocky: “Are they friendly spirits?” Bullwinkle: “Friendly? Just listen!” For that matter, there was a whole story arc of the series entitled “The Weather Lady”, which had to do with the disappearance of a mechanical gypsy fortune-telling machine, that somehow managed to be Frostbite Falls’ most accurate source of weather prediction.
So, that’s that. Maybe a good time to sit down to a hearty breakfast of Lucky Charms. See you next time.