We’ve been partying continuously for four weeks – so it’s time for a little cleanup, as we start picking up the stray pieces. We’ll return to chronological format, and attempt to scour the plates for those choice random morsels we left behind, which defy placement into specific subcategories.
Porky’s Party (Warner, Looney Tunes (Porky Pig), 1/25/38, Robert Clampett, dir.) is one of the most chaotic birthday celebrations ever. For this event, Porky acquires an entirely new circle of friends, each of whom appear in this one episode, then are never seen again. The day begins with Porky and his new dog, Black Fury, around the dinner table, as Porky lights the candles on his own birthday cake, singing “Happy Birthdaty To Me” set to the melody of current hit, “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon”. A knock on the door brings Porky’s first present of the day – a package all the way from Hong Kong, sent by Uncle Pincus Pig. (Was he at the reading of the will of Solomon Swine, in the previous Case of the Stuttering Pig?) The present – a genuine Oriental silkworm, who will “do his stuff” on the command of the word “Sew”. The little guy looks harmless enough, but when told to “Sew”, pulls out a pair of knitting needles, and starts sewing anything and everything made of silk – mostly (to Porky’s utter embarassment) lacy women’s undergarments! After the worm produces a brassiere, Porky stashes the troublesome critter into his pocket. The guests will be arriving soon, so Porky spruces up before the medicine cabinet (applying hair tonic to his absolutely bald forehead). Black Fury’s sensitive nose is attracted to the hair tonic bottle – a solution marked “99% alcohol”. Fury first applies some tonic to his fur, then gets a taste of the drippings – and soon is gulping down the bottle’s contents, unttering (in Mel’s famous “drunk” voice) a pixilated “Hap – – py birthday!” Back at the front door, Porky greets the guests, the first being a penguin, whose purpose in attending appears to be for one reason – food. The bird takes glittony far beyond the level of his portly host, slurping down ice cream from the split second he is seated, and carving out a slice from the cake – then leaving the slice as the only remains of the pastry on the tray, while he devours the rest on his own plate.
The second guest arrives – Goosie, a dim-witted, mute bird, who appears to shake Porky’s hand at the front door, only for Porky to find he’s been haded a fake arm, on the other end of which is attached a message reading, “Happy birthday, fat boy!” “He’s so – so – so s-s-silly” says Porky to the camera, forgetting the presence of the silkworm in his pocket. Misinterpreting the dialogue as his starting command, the panties, long stockings, and bras start appearing in multiples, wuth Porky in a race with the worm to hide the embarassing underthings. With no other ideas as to how ro solve the problem, Porky tosses the worm over his shoulder. It lands directly in the latest dish of ice cream being devoured by the penguin. As the bird inserts his spoon for his next mouthful, he encounters inside the ice cream a woman’s stocking. The bird is temporarily disgusted at the unsanitary nature of this, sticking his tongue out in dismay, but after disposing of the sock dives right in for more of the tasty treat. Before he can swallow his next spoonful, he finds a collapsible silk hat in his mouth. Removing one hat, his next mouthful inserts another, which gets stuck inside his head, making his cheeks and temples assume the shape of the hat. “Why don’t somebody do something?” he yells. Goosie has a dim-bulb idea, and, picking up the penguin bodily, runs with him under his arm as if carrying a battering ram, straight into the wall. The blow collapses the hat, restoring the bird’s head to its original size. Until the hat pops open again, propelling both the penguin and the goose away from the wall. The hat begins to open and close randomly while the penguin protests. Goosie tries more drastic action, producing a mallet to clobber the penguin flat in whatever part of his body the hat appears. After the penguin has been smashed repeatedly into a putty, while the hat continues to reappear, Goosie tries to contain the expansion by throwing a metal water pail over the penguin. A pop is heard inside, and Goosie believes the problem has been effectively contained. That is, until he lifts the pail to look underneath, and finds only a hole in the floor, the penguin having popped right through the floorboards into the basement.
Back at the medicine cabinet, Black Fury, with his fur entirely frazzled, howls a chorus of “How Dry I Am”. He gets a look at imself in the mirror, and rears back in fright at the sight. Figuring he can use a shave, Fury makes his first try at using an electric razor. He spreads shaving lather around his jaws, then activates the device. The shaver buzzes and takes on a life of its own, seeming to attack the dog, and sending him running into the living room, his face still covered in shaving soap. Everyone jumps to the expected conclusion – mad dog! Porky grabs Goosie and runs. The penguin retreats too, but only after coming back to the table for one more slice of cake. Mayhem ensues in a four-way chase through the house, finally placing the dog and the penguin in the same folding Murphy bed, fighting it out inside the wall. When the dust settles and the bed comes down, the lather has been knocked off Black Fury, and he is recognized as normal. The penguin still wants to get even, rolling up his “sleeve” to engage in more fisticuffs, shouting, “So!” His head begins to bulge into a hat shape again, as he has apparently swallowed the silkworm. Within a few seconds, he is garmented in panties and bra, then entirely wrapped up like a mummy in a cocoon. From inside the wrappings, the penguin’s head again assumes hat shape, and the film closes with Goosie giving penguin another clobbering mallet whack.
Mr. Duck Steps Out (Disney/RKO, Donald Duck, 8/7/40, Jack King, dir., Carl Barks, story) is one of my personal favorites, classically presenting an escalating situation where a quiet date becomes an all-out party with the addition of Donald’s three uninvited nephews. Donald begins the film by dressing himself to the nines, in straw hat, cane, spats on his webbed feet (predicting Carl Barks’ later use of these accouterments for Uncle Scrooge), and checkered vest in place of his usual sailor suit. With heart-shaped box of chocolates under his arm, Donald prepares to leave for Daisy’s place (historical note: this is the first time Daisy appears in the animated series under her own name and in her traditional ribbon and blouse), and utters the then-hip dancing phrase, “Truck on down!” As he sashays his way to the door in rhythm, he picks up three hitch-hikers of sorts – Huey, Louie, and Dewey, also dressed in their finest, following Donald and matching his rhythmic moves step for step. When Donald discovers the “follow the leader” game going on, and that the kids want to join him on his date, Donald pulls a fast one, taking full advantage of the kids’ ability to copycat him. “Company, backwards, march”, he commands. Reversing his steps, the nephews now find themselves leading the line, and not able to look where they’re going. Donald quickly marches them into the open door of a closet, then shuts the door in their face, locking them in. Of course, the nephews are too resourceful to let a little obstacle like a locked door interfere with their plans – and find somewhere in the closet a large saw, with which they cut a large square of the outer wall away to provide themselves with an exit. While Donald continues to move to his own rhythms, the kids beat their uncle to the destination, and when Donald rings the bell, the nephews are already inside, one of them grabbing the candy box from Donald at the doorway. A furious Donald pursues them inside, but is forced to bottle his rage, as Daisy makes a grand entrance from behind a curtain. Donald forces himself to act like a gentleman, informing her that he “brought” his nephews along. “How considerate of you”, reacts Daisy. (It should also be noted that this would be the second – and last – time in which Clarence Nash would provide a voice for Daisy as well as Donald and the nephews – but it was getting confusing this way to tell who was who, leading to the substitution of Gloria Blondell by her next appearance. A broadcast version on a “Wonderful World of Color” hour even went so far as to remove Nash’s Daisy tracks entirely, replacing them with new reads in the traditional female voice). Donald, caught in an unwanted predicament, continues to play “nice guy”, but connives a scheme to get the kids out of the way – giving them a coin to go buy some ice cream. While they are away, Donald attempts to get cozy with Daisy, who is coy but ultimately encouraging, with a “come hither” wiggle of her tail feathers. But just as Donald is about to get passionate, the kids return, popping up on the couch right between the romantic couple, lnocking Donald off the seart while they slurping their ice cream cones. Battle plan one having not worked, Donald attempts to get some attention from Daisy, as he overhears a hot number playing on her radio. He gestures to her to join him in some fancy stepping on the rug. For a few moments, he starts to enjoy his date, exchanging some rhythmic dance moves with Daisy. But before he knows it, the kids want in on the action, too, and cut in on him, leaving Donald holding an ice-cream cone instead of Daisy’s hand.
The kids line up in football fashion to all become Daisy’s simultaneous dancing partners, knocking Donald under a tiger-skin rug. Donald’s head emerges from the tiger’s moth, with his own teeth and roar looking fiercer than the tiger’s own. Donald places the rug behind the kids as they again shift into backwards steps as a part of the dance – then he pulls the rug out from under them, toppling them into the kitchen, while Donald resumes his place with Daisy. The kids won’t let this setback bother them long, and spot their next piece of ammunition among the mess in the kitchen – an entire ear of unpopped popcorn. Proceeding to the stove, they heat the corn to just on the verge of popping – then hit it with a golf shot that sends the ear flying across the kitchen, into the living room, and straight down Donald’s throat, all unseen by Daisy. Before Donald can make sense of what is going on, the corn inside him begins popping up a storm, twitching and manipulating his limbs and torso every which way, to provide him with dance moves he never dreamed of. The nephews raid the rooms of Daisy’s home for every utensil, tool, and other bric-a-brac they can transform into makeshift musical instruments, while one nephew applies his musical knowledge at Daisy’s piano, and the party is really on. (The use of makeshift instruments presents an obvious resemblance to, and no doubt was the inspiration for, the similar orchestration by Popeye’s nephews a few years later in Paramount’s Me Musical Nephews.) Donald’s new energy impresses Daisy no end. The two defy gravity dancing ip opposite walls of an archway, then switching places and dancing back down the opposite arch wall. Donald topples a bouquet of flowers, and Daisy starts tossing them around in gay abandon like a queen of the May. Finally, it seems that the corn is losing some of its steam, and an exhausted Donald comes to rest on the floor – with his backside facing the flames of an open fireplace. The new-found source of additional heat puts a second wave of pep into the seemingly inexhaustible supply of kernels inside Donald’s tummy, and the tempo of Donald’s action grows ever quicker. Daisy is caught up in Donald’s spiraling whirls as if in the center of a tornado, and they both crash through the panes of a dressing screen, leaving alternating holes in the shape of their respective silhouettes, each cutout holding up a raised finger in the classic “trucking” position, which seem to wave back and forth as the screen continues to vibrate from the impact. Donald and Daisy’s dance is finally brought to a halt when they crash into Daisy’s china cupboard. But Daisy is entirely oblivious to the damage, as she’s just enjoyed the time of her life. “Oh, boy! What a jutterbug!”, she proclaims, smothering Donald with affectionate kisses for the iris out. A masterful short full of fluid and peppy animation, and one of the liveliest and amazingly high-fidelity musical scores to grace the short subjects of the studio for the early 40’s.
Swing Your Partner (Lantz/Universal, Swing Symphony (Homer Pidgeon), 4/26/43, Alex Lovy, dir.), returns to the classic setting of the barn dance, not too distant from the memories of Mickey Mouse’s similar outings such as The Shindig previously discussed. Homer was a relatively new character, who would have only three theatrical appearances, all under the same director (each of the others being service comedies (“Pidgeon Patrol” and “Pidgeon Holed”), but did a reasonable amount of yeoman service in the pages of Dell Comics’ Walter Lantz New Funnies. He is your basic cartoon tribute to Red Skelton’s classic Clem Kadiddlehopper radio persona (though later efforts from other studios, such as Tex Avery’s The Hick Chick, would nail the character traits more closely). Homer is your standard bumpkin, good natured but slow-witted, determined in this episode to impress by escorting his date to the big dance. For this purpose, he needs transportation. No, a country-type like him isn’t into them new-fangled conveyances such as the tin lizzie – it’s the old-time horse and buggy for him. Homer’s horse, however, isn’t exactly of the carriage trade – more of the plow variety. And after a hard working day, he’s in no mood to do extra duty as a four-footed taxi. He’d rather rest in his stall, and dream of licking a large pile of sugar cubes (a rationed item during the war). When Homer calls for his services, he reacts with under his breath mumbling in the tough-guy voice of James Cagney. As the ride commences with Homer’s girl, Homer shows off by cracking the whip repeatedly on the horse, in tempo to a vocal rendition of “The Old Gray Mare”. One chorus is enough to cause the horse to stop in his tracks, turn around, and confront his owner face to face. “Now listen, birdlegs, you snap me with that whip once more – I”LL KICK YOUR TEETH OUT – and I’m just the guy that can do it.” Homer backs down quickly. But upon arriving at the dance, and helping his date out of the wagon (by bending over to provide her with a place to “Step on it”), Homer throws out a weight to anchor the wagon in place – which falls straight into a mud hole, dragging the horse in after it. The frustrated horse rests in the mud plotting revenge, while the two birds enter the hall.
Inside, an old hound dog in overalls announces a good old square dance. A billy goat begins a fiddle solo, but the music comes out a squeaky scratchy mess – because his whiskers are in the way of the violin. A pair of pigs partner up for the dance, the male with a pot belly, and the female with an overly endowed bosom – so the two fit together dancing like a jigsaw puzzle. The drummer is shown, beating time between efforts to milk a cow – and we discover from lettering on the drum that the band’s name may be stepping on a Terrytoon copyright – Al Falfa and his Wild Oats (though Farmer Al had just gone out of active production at Terry for a short hiatus a few years before this film was made). A cat tries to give the square dance caller a hotfoot, but the caller comes prepared, with a miniature seltzer bottle to extinguish the match hidden between his toes inside his shoe. Another band member beats time with his peg leg – which happens to be inserted into a butter churn to perform another farm chore during performance. Another fiddler fixes a snack for himself, by tying a popcorn popper onto the end of his violin bow, which extends back and forth over the flame of a kerosene lamp. Homer and the others in attendance dance the night away, while outside, the horse has visions of stomping upon the hapless hick, and tying him to a lit keg of TNT. As his dream cloud explodes, the horse silently mouths to the audience the words, “I’ll do it”, then crashes the gate of the party with the force of a whirlwind. He bodily ejects by force all attendees of the gala except Homer and his date – then gets even by harnessing Homer to the wagon and assuming the driver’s seat for the ride home (watch for an animation error in the last scene, where the reins supposedly attached to Homer are absent until the camera pulls backward from a close up to reveal the horse. All along the return ride, the horse cracks the whip repeatedly, singing “The old gray mare is smarter than she used to be, many long years ago.” (Original titles note: Although the film probably never saw a theatrical re-release, and still bears its original opening, its end card has been replaced with a design definitely not of the period, matching releases from the mid-1950’s, The explanation becomes evident from examining other surviving releases from the wartime period, such as Woody Woodpecker’s “Ration Bored”, depicting end cards including the additional message “Buy more war bonds for victory”. Someone should splice one of these back on the film if it ever receives a proper DVD restoration.
Saturday Evening Puss (MGM, Tom and Jerry, 1/14/50 – William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, dir.). Even Ms. Dinah Two-Shoes deserves a night off every now and then. At her dressing table, she accessorizes with what today might be called “bling”, dipping her arm up to the elbow into a jewelry box, and emerging with an endless row of gaudy bracelets on her arm – then adding a humongous pendant around her neck, with flashing lights that read “Stop” and “Go’ like a traffic signal. She struts her way rhythmically to the door, exiting and pulling the door closed behid her with a final twitch of one foot. Within the house, Tom has observed all, and comically mimics her strut, with a gesture to the audience as if to say, “Get her.” With the coast now clear, Tom races to a window, holding up a large sign reading “O.K for the Party.” Outside in te alley, Butch, an orange tabby, and a kitten, cheer with glee, and race in the open window. The tabby puts on a chef’s hat and grabs a spatula – which he uses to serve up a stack of records onto the hi-fi. Butch pounds away at a grand piano, the music stand clicking back and forth across the top of the piano as if Butch were operating a giant typewriter. The kitten plays a row of water-filled crystal goblets like the bars of a xylophone. Tom emerges from the kitchen laden with sandwiches, stuffing them down the faces of his guests to keep them fueled for the music ahead. The only one who’s not having a good time is Jerry, who can’t sleep a wink in his mousehole. Parts of Jerry’s body visually transform into the shape of the musical instruments he is hearing played, including his tail appearing to be plucked like the string of a bass fiddle. At last he’s had enough, and marches outside to confront the musical mayhem. He climbs up to Tom’s level, pantomiming an angry protest, making especially comic faces as he imitates the performers banging away on their instruments. For all that, he receives the bum’s rush, being swept away over the instruments, and picked up on the spatula by the cat at the record player, who drops him into a hole built to house old-fashioned record player steel needles, which poke Jerry in the posterior. Jerry begins to take revenge, pulling out the tone arm from the record player, smashing the key cover of the piano onto Butch’s hands, and the like.
The kitten tries to flatten Jerry with several blows from a trash can lid. Though the blows must sting, an imprint of Jerry is left in the can lid on each swat, each of his silhouette images in a pose sticking their tongue out at the kitten. The usual chasing goes on, until Jerry gets snagged in the Venetian blinds at the window. Tom pulls the cord of the blinds in a sudden slam, folding Jerry between the slats. Tom then ties Jerry up to leave him dangling from the same cord. The music resumes again from the quartet of cats, with as much vigor as ever. Jerry swings his body weight, and manages to land on a table top where a telephone rests. With his arms still tied, Jerry hops into one of the holes of the old rotary phone, and walks the rotary dial to the correct positions to dial a number. At her destination (a Saturday night bridge club), the phone rings for the lady of the house. Although we’ve hardly ever heard him, Jerry this time is able to communicate with Dinah directly, and we hear Ms. Two-Shoes’s side of the conversation. “A party? At my house? Ex-CUSE ME!” She topples the card table and chair, strewing cards everywhere, charging down the street like an express train. Arriving at her home, she doesn’t even take time to slow down, crashing through the wall, carrying the front door ahead of her. Tom and the cats find the door now planted in the middle of the living room, and open it. “THOMAS!” shouts Dinah, pointing an incriminating finger at him. Tom slams the door, but she’s so tough, her pointing hand crashes right through the wood, continuing to point at Tom, and grabs him by the tail. As the force of the action inside the home literally raises the roof, the four cats are bodily ejected, sailing across the street into a building wall, where each of them assumes the flattened pose of heads on a totem pole. Inside, a dejected Dinah complains of the cats ruining her whole evening, then resigns herself to settle down and relax. Jerry, who has somehow escaped his bonds, takes this as his cue to settle down in bed and get some sleep. But our lady’s idea of relaxing is not what Jerry expected, as Dinah puts on the record player some “soft, soothing, HOT music!” The same song as heard before begins again, with Jerry again going through all the transformations into the shape of musical instruments, for the iris out.
A point of curiosity regarding this film. When the package went to CBS for Saturday morning runs, several of the politically incorrect “Mammy Two Shoes” (aka “Dinah”) episodes were altered to make them more presentable under more racially-sensitive network standards. In most instances, a June Foray “white” rereading of Mammy’s lines without dialect or grammar deficiencies was substituted in place of original vocal track. In others, her scenes were re-animated by Chuck Jones’ production staff, to recolor Ms. Two-Shoes white. Few of these seem to survive intact today. June Foray track for Ol’ Rockin Chair Tom appeared on at least one broadcast well over a decade ago, with no alteration of visual. Foray track also appeared on some syndicated 16mm prints of “Sleepy Time Tom”.when the cartoons first went to local stations. But “Saturday Evening Puss” represents one of the most unusual of the redos, as, instead of merely reanimating Dinah in white, they removed her from the visual entirely, replacing her with, of all things, a teenage bobby soxer on her way to a dance hop. This version appeared on the first VHS releases of MGM cartoons But what made the VHS version doubly odd was that no alteration was made to the soundtrack. So we have a teenager talking in the voice of Mammy, and referring to a bridge club when she is actually doing the latest dance in front of a juke box. Even more telling that something is amiss is that the visuals and dialogue tracks do not properly match up for synchronization in the final shots of the redrawn version My suspicion is that the new animation was designed to be matched up with a new “teenage” vocal track for Foray, but that, somewhere along the line, the Foray soundtrack was lost. This would explain why Mammy’s voice improperly remains on the redrawn version. Anyone with further information to resolve this mystery, or with further sightings of redrawn or re-recorded versions of other Tom and Jerry episodes made back in the Chuck Jones days, is welcomed to post his or her observations below.
Boos in the Nite (Paramount/Famous, Screen Song, 9/22/50 – I. Sparber, dir.), provides one of the livelier Halloween shindigs from animation’s golden era, and for once some visual inventiveness from Famous Studios. The scene opens upon a ghost town, whose municipal welcone sign boasts of availability of “Day and night haunting”. This is, however, no antiquated town of the past, but is up to date on all the latest technology – particularly with the presence of the local broadcast center, television station B-O-O, on a ghost-to-ghost hookup. A commentator spook telecasts to the “living” rooms of the town’s deceased population, and to the tavern at the local “spookeasy”, the announcement of a big Halloween party at the old mansion house. “There’s good boos tonight”, he states, parodying the catch phrase of radio newscaster Gabriel Heatter. Things are so up to date, that one ghost views the broadcast on a Dick Tracy – style wristwatch receiver (long before Apple). He rises from a hammock, and heads off for the event. The hammock, however, is another ghost covered in soot, who dives into a washtub, then through a wringer, to make himself squeaky clean and presentable for the affair. Ghosts of all kinds travel to the event on various haunted conveyances, such as invisible tandem bikes and invisible trolleys. Speaking of invisible, a provocative scene features a shapely female ghost bathing in preparation for the big night – of course, we never see much but props moving, as she removes her sheet during the bath. One ghost who can afford a higher-priced commute hails a taxi – a witch, with a taxi meter attached to her broomstick. As they all converge on the mansion, anyone who’s ever been to a Disney theme park may get a case of deja vu – the main ballroom looks so much like the inspiration for the grand ballroom of Disney’s Haunted Mansion, with ghostly dancers encircling the room, and several rotating and swinging from the chandelier. Others add their own style, swimming across the room’s airspace as if it were an invisible pool.
Off to one side, a ghost attempts to bob for apples – but his ectoplasmic jaws make no dent whatsoever in the apples’ skins. So he tries a different method – diving in the water bucket, opening his mouth, and letting all the contents, including the apples, flow neatly inside him. In another corner before the fireplace, an “Adult” game of spin the bottle is being engaged in by another shapely female ghost and several males, including an old-time “grandpaw” type. The bottle points at him, and with the trademark laugh and voice of Jack Mercer as Poopdeck Pappy, Gramps says “Come to Papa” to the girl. He receives an affectionate kiss, then turns a fiery red, yelling “Whoopee” as he ignites in flaes, and his sheet vaporizes into cinders. A hot band number begins, played by Spook Jones and his 7 Creeps – all of whom are entirely invisible, so that the orchestra instruments seem to be playing themselves. Three red nosed and somewhat inebriated ghosts appear out of the tap nozzle of a barrel marked “spirits” (an oft-repeated gag, with prior variations including Harman and Ising’s Bottles at MGM, and Juke Box Jamboree at Walter Lantz). But the next sequence is visually original and quite engaging, as the trio gets totally swept away by the rhythm of the music, and go into a wild and energetic transformation dance, filling the screen in various shapes, sizes, and configurtions, including transformations into pyramids, sweeping brooms, and windowshades. (I’ve been fortunate enough to view this cartoon from an uncut 35mm print at UCLA, the clarity and colors of which heighten the dance to even greater levels, and put all circulating prints to shame,) But now, it’s time for the obligatory bouncing ball, and, since the studio can’t lay hands on an available known Halloween song (were there any, short of Crosby’s A Ghost of a Chance? Even the studio’s Holiday Inn seems to have skipped a Halloween song), the ghosts random;y revive the old WWI number, “Pack Up Your Troubles”. As the song ends, there is a knock at the front door. Upon opening it, all the ghost react in terror, and fly through the walls for the farthest reaches of the netherworld. What scared them? A friendly visit from rhe Frankenstein monster, and Peter Lorre.
Mother Goose’s Birthday Party (Terrytoons/Fox, Mighty Mouse, 10/13/50 – Connie Rasinski, dir.) provides an adventure of Mighty Mouse in fairy tale land. It begins in very routine and juvenile fashion, with a pig version of Old King Cole calling for his fiddlers three (who appear from inside the bass fiddle and viola of each other like a set of nested dolls), decreeing that a party shall be held for Mother Goose’s birthday. (Strangely, Mother Goose herself does not appear in the cartoon until the very last shot). Jazzy singing narration is provides for most of the first half of the cartoon by The Satisfiers, as a parade of the usuals from nursery rhymes turns out in attendance, including a few that bear strangely familiar resemblance to Terrytoons regulars, such a Simple Simon (who looks like a taller version of Dingbat) and the Three Blind Mice (who, together with a later appearance in the film by the mouse from Hickory Dickory Dock, all are identical to Little Roquefort). Much of these introductory sequences is currently cut for time on most TV prints, but has been recovered on the internet and is viewable here, including some baking in which one of the three blind mice gets rolled into the dough. All of the principal action, however, comences with the Big Bad Wolf, who is the only member of fairy tale land not receiving an invite. “I’ll invite meself”, he vows.
At the palace, the party kicks into full swing. The usual-style gags include a wide Jack Sprat dancing with all of the three little kittens at the same time. (A late Jolson gag generally slips past the censors, as the kittens are black, and show off their white mittens to the camera by assuming a pose on one knee and shouting out, “Mammy”.) Jack and Jill perform a jitterbug, until Jack gets his head stuck in his own pail. Georgie Porgie chases girls, leaving his lip marks as an imprint on the wall when he misses obtaining a smooch from what appears to be Pearl Pureheart (the lip gag being swiped from Tex Avery’s “Red Hot Riding Hood”). The wolf shows up at the palace door, dressed in his favorite zoot suit (a leftover wardrobe from several previous Mighty Mouse episodes), pressing a button on the front door marked “wolf buzzer”. Out of a hatchway, a mechanical clamp emerges, fastening like a collar in a stranglehold around the wolf’s neck and spinning him around. From a second hatch, a mechanical hand appears with a whisk broom, to dust off the wolf’s rear end, followed by a mechanical foot to boot the wolf off the premises. Abandoning the zoot suit, the wolf tries the back door, with the old “huff and puff” routine. (At this point, many scenes begin to be contributed by Jim Tyer, with the usual bizarre and uniquely off-model action results.) Before the wolf can exhale, someone’s hand emerges from another door hatchway with a seltzer bottle, squirting soda water into the wolf’s mouth to prevent his huffing. Through a side window to the royal kitchen, the wolf observes a pig chef preparing a mammoth birthday cake, and hatches an idea. Following the dance, the guests settle down at a long table, as the chef brings in the cake. From inside it, out pops the wold. “I’ll fix you all for not inviting me.” At this threat, the dish runs away with the spoon, the mouse up the clock (getting kicked out at the top by the cuckoo), and the cow jumps over the moon (getting hung up by her panties on the tip of the moon’s crescent). At the top of the crescent, a window opens, and a yawning mouse in a nightcap and nightshirt takes in the sight of the cow, and realizes something is wrong. Referred to by the singers as “the man in the moon”, he darts back inside the moon’s hollow center, changes wardrobe, and emerges as Mighty Mouse.
Flying into the palace, and observing the wolf chasing the guests, Mighty makes a grab for the wolf’s tail. He winds up with just the wolf’s fur in his hand, as if an old suit that ripped off. We see the wolf, now running in red flannel underwear, who pauses to look at himself in shock, as the drop seat of his underwear almost flaps open for a revealing view, until the wolf turns abruptly and covers himself in modesty. Retrieving his fur from Mighty, the chase resumes. The wolf dives into a suit of armor, and attacks Mighty with a spear. With one touch. Mighty folds the shaft of the spear in several places as if it were a flimsy matchstick, then socks the wolf’s armor, reducing it to tin cans. An unusual Jim Tyer camera angle has the wolf proceed straight at the camera, pausing briefly with his face pressed close as if almost touching the lens, trying to break through to our dimension as if to say “Let me out of here”. The wolf leaps back inside the cake for a hiding place, but Mighty flies in after him, and a battle erupts between the layers. The wolf steals a gag from Tom and Jerry’s “Solid Serenade”, pausing amidst the action to write his last will and testament. Mighty rolls the cake out the palace door, smashing the cake and ejecting the wolf. The wolf takes refuge in a house, slamming the door behind him – not realizing it’s a two-part Dutch door. Mighty quietly opens the top door-half, then belts the wolf again. He knocks stones of a wall out from under the wolf as fast as the wolf can scale them. Finally, an age-old Terrytoons gag, dating back to the very first color cartoon, “Strinh Bean Jack”, receives a reprise, with Mighty stretching and shooting the wolf like a rolled-up ball up an incline leading to the roof of the palace. The towers of the palace roof are arranged like a pinball machine, and light up as the wolf bounces off them – then, the wolf falls into a large hole, which opens the palace drawbridge below, our of which the wolf rolls. In the only update of the gag, the wolf’s eyes now blink off and on electrically, intermittently reading “Tilt”. His foe vanquished, Mighty joins the parade of fairy tale folk happily heading home from the ball, for the fade out.
Party Smarty (Paramount/Famous, Noveltoon (Baby Huey). 8/3/51 – Seymour Kneitel, dir,), adapts the standard format of the series to the venue of a birthday party for a neighboring duckling Oscar. Huey is sent by Momma to attend, bearing a present – a motorized toy airplane. When the giant bumbling duckling arrives at the party, the other kids just know trouble will follow. It quickly does, as the toy plane flies straight through a closed window and out of sight. Huey zeroes in on the cake, but is halted to let Oscar wish his birthday wish. Oscar envisions sending Huey off on the voyage of a slow boat to China (reference to a Kay Kyser musical hit of the day). Huey decides to “help” Oscar blow out the candles, and instead strews cake all over Oscar and the other guests. They resolve to get rid of this pest, and place Huey into the pin the tail on the donkey game, placing the donkey picture on the inside of the font door. As blindfolded Huey approaches, they merely open the door, leaving Hury to keep on walking – and walking – and walking. While this is going on, resident villain Fox eyes the ducklings through a rear window, encvsioning them as roasted and on a platter. He dresses as another kid, attempting to crash the party as a guest. The kids, however, hearing a knock at the door, think Huey’s back, and launch a barrage of food as the fox enters the front door. The mixup saves the kids’ skins, and they beat it quickly while the Fox pursues – until they pass a weeping Huey, who’s finally gotten wise that the kids tricked him. Fox as usual sees Huey as the ultimate feast, but also as usual, an axe blow on Huey’s head does no damage whatsoever – except to the axe. Huey wails that no one wants him at the birtday party – so Fox entices him with the line “How would you like to have your own birthday party?”
Fox plans destructive pastimes. First, baking a cake. Presenting Hury with a pot full of dough, the fox instructs Huey to place it in the oven – then pushes Huey in behind the cake. Fox sets the table, watching his cooking time. To his shock, Huey emerges from the stove unharmed, holding the pot, the contents of which have solidified into a cake. Huey thrusts the red hot pot into the fox’s hands, asking him, “See if it’s done yet.” The fox’s hands are set ablaze with fire, and he is forced to leap into a tub of water to extinguish them. For the next game. London Bridge, the stove is precariously balanced atop an unhinged door and some poles, as the bridge archway, with Huey and the Fox dancing in passes under it. On each pass, the fox knocks out another pole to render the stove unstable. But Huey gets inspired by the verse “Take the key and lock her up”, yanking at the key in the old door, and knocking out support from the opposite side. The stove falls on fox instead of the duck. A game of follow the leader into the woods allows the fox to rush ahead, jump off a diving board into the lake, swim to the opposite shore, and return with a rowboat loaded with a steaming cauldron of boiling water for Huey to land in upon his dive. Huey dives, but his weight is too much for the rowboat, submerging the pot and catapulting Fox into the trees, where he winds up with a mouth full of wood, spit out into a neat pile of logs. Finally, Fox paints a TNT stick to look like a piece of peppermint, the hides the lit dynamite within a box of real peppermint sticks as Huey’s birthday present. The kids watch from a safe distance as gluttonous Huey eats stick after stick, while the Fox waits in the bushes for the explosion. Huey searches our the Fox’s location, generously presenting him with something unexpected. “I saved a piece for you”, he says, presenting Dox with the one remaining “piece”, fuse still burning. An explosion, and then we see the aftermath. The party has resumed, with heroic Huey now the guest of honor. Huey again gets to play pin the tail on the donkey – except the donkey picture has now been replaced with the flattened, tattered and weatherbeaten form of the Fox, who “gets it in the end” as the story ends.
Pluto’s Party (Disney/RKO, Pluto, 9/19/52 – Milt Schaeffer, dir.) presents a classic idea for anyone who’s ever owned and loved a dog, showcasing a constant frustration of the domestic canine – trying to understand the follies and foibles of the traditions of a typical human (or in his case mouse) celebration. As a child, I often felt a note of sympathy for the household pooch (though I simultaneously nearly died laughing) when someone would dress her up as Santa Claus on Christmas, or drive her to distraction chasing balloons at a birthday. Pluto gets a dose of this same medicine, when well-meaning Mickey decides to throw a gala affair in the back yard for Pluto’s birthday party – with all the human-style trimmings that a dog would never understand. Pluto has attention and eyes for one thing only at the scene – a delicious-looking birthday cake. He’d just as soon set aside all the formalities of the day, and simply chow down on the frosted treat. But Mickey insists that he will have to wait until his guests arrive – and even worse, that he tidy up for them to make himself presentable. This means the fate worse than death – the washtub for a bath. Pluto races from the scene when Mickey produces a scrub brush, taking refuge inside his doghouse. However, Mickey has outfoxed him, placing the washtub just inside Pluto’s doorway, so that he is drenched the moment he leaps inside. Ultimately, Pluto is clean as a whistle, with a large red bow tied where his collar should be. A knock at the gate signals the guests’ arrival. Who has Mickey invited? All the little mice who had previously appeared as the orphans in multiple cartoon appearances of the 30’s. They hit the gate with such force that they flatten Pluto with it, then trample all over him as they enter. They present Pluto with a large wrapped present – which seems to take the shape of a giant bone. But when Pluto removes the wrapping, he sinks his teeth into the side of a metal red wagon, into which all the kids pile in, harnessing Pluto to it and insisting he take them for a ride. As Pluto strains to pull the heavy load, one of the kids notices a backyard slide, and hails the other kids over to it, leaving the wagon empty. Pluto’s tugs put the wagon our of control, and Pluto is knocked into a slide across the party table, heading straight for the cake. This might be the biggest break Pluto could hope for, and he sets himself to get a mouthful of that sweet stuff. Mickey, however, isn’t going to let the party get ruined so easily, and pulls the cake out of Pluto’s way at the last possible second. Pluto thus continues to slide, off the table, and into a tree. Now the kids catch up with him, prying him loose from the tree trunk, and hoisting him up upon the backyard slide. They let him loose for a downhill descent, followed by a ski-jump into the air, where Pluto is flung along by another group of the kids hanging from a tree swing like a trapeze. Pluto lands on the end of a see-saw, but ever so close to that birthday cake. He tries for a bite again, until the kids land on the other end of the see saw, flipping Pluto high into the air. A surprised Mickey orders Pluto to “Come down here!” For once, Pluto follows commands (as if gravity gave him any choice), and falls hard upon the lawn, leaving a hole in his shape in the grassy dirt, from which he slowly crawls out, while Mickey sternly warns him, ‘You’re playing too rough.”
Mickey takes charge of the activities, calling for a game of “Pin the tail on Pluto”. No, to the dog’s relief, he doesn’t mean upon the real Pluto – only upon a paper picture of him on the fence boards. Pluto has no idea what the game is about, until he watches one blindfolded contestant pin a tail where his ear should be, and can’t help but break out in laughter watching it. But we’ll see who has the last laugh, as the blindfold is placed over Pluto’s eyes. A little mouse winds Plito’s tail around his legs, then pulls it to spin Pluto like a top, leaving him wobbly, disoriented, and partially would around the trunk of a tree. Pluto decides to cheat, shifting the blindfold so that one eye can peep out to get his bearings. Dead ahead, he sees the desired doggie rear end, lined up as if the picture on the fence. In fact, it’s his own tail as seen from around the tree trunk, and he pokes the nail of his “tail” piece straight into the place it hurts the most. Pluto flies into the air from the shock, twirls around several times, and somehow smacks into the target picture, placing the tail precisely where it belongs and winning the game. The kids celebrate by grabbing a blanket, and tossing Pluto into the air atop it (similar to the ride Mickey would get a few years later on the opening credits of the Mickey Mouse Club). Amidst this activity, Mickey chooses this inopportune time to call “Come and get it” for the refreshments. The kids drop what they’re doing and report to the party table – leaving Pluto in the midst of a flip, with nobody holding the blanket. Fortunately, Pluto gets caught between the forking branches of a tree limb, and comes down through the awning over the party table for a reasonably gentle landing. Pluto is asked to blow out the candles – but before he can exhale, has to let the air out of his lungs, as he is reminded to first make a wish. In his mind’s eye, Pluto envisions as his wish having the power to make all the kids disappear with just a snort from his nose. He seems to blow the candles out successfully – but as soon as the flames disappear, they are replaced by the grabby hands of the kids, who systematically empty the cake platter of every slice in the twinkling of an eye. Pluto reaches his paws into the center of the action to salvage something for himself – but only finds in his paws one lit candle his breath failed to extinguish. With a slurp down of their cups of soda pop, the table is bare, and the kids yell “Party’s over”, exiting the gate as quickly as they came. An exhausted and frustrated Pluto loses it, madly swatting his paws at every stray plate, cup, and candle left on the table to vent his anger. He is about to swat at something new – when he realizes just in time that Mickey is holding out to him a large piece of birthday cake he managed to save from the ravenous kids. One candle remains atop it which Pluro blows out. Mickey insists on one more formality – placing a party hat upon Pluto’s head – then finally gives him the all-clear to dig in. In what either was an animation error or a deliberate gag to show just how hungry Pluto is, Pluto happily chomps away at the cake, devouring candle and all, for a festive iris out.
Popeye’s Mirthday (Paramount/Famous, Popeye, 5/22/53 – Seymour Kneitel, dir.), could almost have been presented as a part of the “Party Protocol” article last week – the lesson to be learned from the film being, if you’re throwing a party for someone, don’t spend the day clobbering him just to keep him from walking into the surprise. This is precisely the dilemma Popeye’s nephews face, as they and Olive prepare a gala event for Popeye. First come the cooking chores. Olive fils a frosting bag half with vanilla frosting, half with chocolate, then with one spurt coats the cake as a checkerboard. With the use of a popgun and a spatula for a launcher, two of the nephews turn making donuts into a game of skeet shooting, each round of dough launched into the air on the call “Pull”, then it’s center shot out before falling into a vat of cooking oil. Another nephew shoves an uncut loaf of bread and a baloney stick into the back of a fan, producing a flow of instant sandwiches onto a tray before it. Everything’s going smoothly, until Popeye arrives early. Olive instruct the nephews not to let him in until she calls ready. The boys lock the front door, but sneak outside by way of a pet door. They inform Popeye that the door’s locked – but Popeye advises that’s no problem, as Olive keeps a spare key in the mailbox. The kids know more drastic plans are in order, and run around to an open window, reaching the door from the inside before Popeye can insert the key, and wiring an electric current to the doorknob. Popeye’s inserting the key charges him with some high voltage action, and knocks him backwards through a tree trunk. “That’s a key with a kick”, he says. Undaunted, he tries entry through a set of French double doors. But the boys have tied an inner tube between the door handles, and inserted into the loop of rubber an upright piano. When the sailor man opens the door, he pylls the piano straight into him, and is flattened against the yard fence behind him, emerging from the piano’s rear panel with piano keys in his mouth and plenty of folds in his torso, wheezing accordion music. Next Popeye tries to pry a corner window open.
The boys open a window to the same room on the next side of the house and insert a hose, flooding the room, Popeye is washed out as his window opens, landing in a chest of drawers, in one of Olive’s nightgowns. “This is embarasskin’”, he mumbles. He uses a backyard swing to swing into an open second story window. To ensure he sees nothing of what is going on, the nephews place a large pitcher in position so that Popeye lands in it headfirst upon entry, then a cushioned seat in the center of the room to act as a trampoline, and another open window on the opposite side of the house to bounce him out again. On the ground below, Popeye pries off the pitcher, his head assuming its shape. Realizing the house is running out of alternative entrances, the kids set up another booby trap – a fake door fasted to an exterior wall, with a welcome mat placed atop a small wagon. ‘Here’s a door I hasn’t tried yet’, says Popeye, opening it. He is socked in the face with a spring-loaded boxing glove, and tumbles backward on the wagon. “I’m gettin’ inter that house, or else”, Popeye vows, producing a ladder to the roof. A nephew ties a powerful magnet to Popeye’s shirttail as he climbs. The magnet pulls out all the nails from the rungs below, so that when Popeye reaches the top step, the ladder falls apart. Popeye nearly falls, but, to the nephews’ surprise, manages to hold on to edge of the roof shingles, climbing onto the roof. “If Santy Claus can go down a chiminey, so can I.” Not with the nephews on the job, who dart back in the pet door, and light a skyrocket in the fireplace. The rocket catches into Popeye’s shirt, launching him into the heavens, then explodes. Popeye lands in a backyard washtub, bouncing through a wringer, and comes to land on the clothesline, flattened like a sheet, with his flattened spinach can hung out to dry beside him. :”That’s all I can stand, I can’t stands no more!” Popeye reaches for the flattened can, and wrings the spinach out of it into his mouth. Restored to vitality, Popeye resorts to one of his old standby feats of strength – lifting the entire house off its foundation. Fortunately, Olive is now ready, and she and the kids pop out from behind a table loaded with cake and presents to yell “Surprise!”, leaving Popeye to just chuckle shyly for the iris out.
We began this article with a party for a pig – and that’s where we’ll end it, too. Pig in a Pickle (Lantz/Universal, 8/30/54 – Paul J. Smith, dir.) is one of four cartoons produced at Lantz in the “Maw and Paw” series – an animated spinoff of Universal’s popular feature series, Ma and Pa Kettle with Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride, about a rural family overrun with kids. All episodes were directed by Paul J. Smith, who, while certainly not one of the most innovative directors in Hollywood (particularly as the general low quality of his product would tell in the late 60’s as budgets consistently shrunk), could in his early years at Lantz turn out a serviceable and humorous product when presented with the right script and enough funds to cover it. The Maw and Paws are among his best work, and consistently raise a smile. It’s uncertain why the series was halted after only four episodes, which seemed to be increasing progressively in humor. Perhaps studio executives felt the counterpart live action series was losing steam (though features would be released into 1957 – even after the loss of Kilbride from the cast). It could also have been a budgetary move, as the large casts in the first three episodes may have required more expenditure than Lantz preferred (the final episode, Paw’s Night Out, writes the kids out of the script entirely).
Central to the animated adaptation was the introductio of a new character – Milford the Pig (billed in the series premiere as “the smart one”). Though his communication is all by way of oinks, the family appear to understand him perfectly, and in other episodes, he is often the idea man behind the title characters’ plans. In this installment, a celebration is underway in the old family farmhouse, in honor of Milford’s birthday. Milford demonstrates his oration skills, telling a story to the family in meaningless oinks and grunts, that leaes the family laughing in stitches, and which Paw calls “a pip”. Milford blows out the cake candles, and the room goes dark. “Go raise the windowshade, Paw”, says Maw. But when Paw does, Milford has disappeared, and on his chair, a note. “We have tooken Milford for a pig roast. Yours Trooly, the 39 Boomer Brothers. P.S. Ha Ha.” Maw feels it’s just unsuitable for Milford to be roasted on his birthday, and sends Paw to fetch him. Outside, a burly, red-whiskered hick in overalls carries Milgord in a roasting pan to a three story multi-windowed farmhouse, an identical twin to the brute peering out of each window. Paw approaches the house and knocks on the door. Without a word of welcome or warning, the door opens to reveal a rifle barrel aimed straight into Paw’s face, and a shot is fired, severing the brim off Paw’s derby, and leaving his face peppered with buckshot. Slow-witted Paw knocks once more on the door. As it opens, he inquires, “How’s that again?” and receives another round of buckshot. At least intentions of the Boomers are now clear to Paw.
Milford races for his life from the Boomers inside the house, oinking for help at the window. Maw and Paw team up to respond, racing toward the front door with a battering ram. In a well-worn bit time tested gag, one of the Boomers opens the door before their impact, alloing the camera to follow the sound of their progress through the house, up the stairs, and crashing through the rear wall on the top floor, to plummet to the ground below. The two try a ruse, concealing Maw in a package as a sort of Trojan horse, with Maw uttering soft “Tick tick tick” sounds to fool the Boomers into thinking the package is a bomb. “That’s mighty fine tickin’ Maw”, says Paw. Leaving the package on the Boomers’ doorstep as “parcel post”, Maw and the package are taken inside by one of the Boomers. As the group of them inspect the package, they hear the ticking and go running. But Milford also hears the ticking, and, having no idea it’s Maw, plays the hero, racing outside with the package and dumping it into the well. Milford is dragged back inside by a Boomer, as Paw returns and cranks up the bucket from the well, carrying a drenched Maw who still weakly utters quiet ticks, until Paw tells her, “Stop tickin’, Maw, it didn’t work.”
Costumes are next in order. Paw acquires a Super-Guy outfit, and tries to swoop down on the Boomers, but only falls straight down off a cliff. Next, Maw and Paw both hatch their own independent ideas. Maw dresses in a costume as Milford. Paw, unaware of Maw’s move, is masquerading as a Boomer. Paw infiltrates the house, slipping out with the pig – or so he thinks, as he’s grabbed the disguised Maw instead, who gives him sock in his face for his troubles. Paw next tries a pole vault to the upper story window, until a Boomer chops away his pole with an axe, causing Paw to concede and merely wave a bye-bye to Milford.
Inside the Boomer kitchen, a Boomer wearing a chef hat serenades with his own rendition of “Largo al Factotum”, as he prepares Milford for the roast – “Parsley here. Parsley there. A few decoration on parts that are bare. Pigaro! Pigaro!” The chef places the lid on the roasting pan, and turns to open the oven door. Paw takes this opportunity to reach into the window, grabbing Milford, and substituting in Milford’s place under the pan lid several sticks of TNT. The unsuspecting chef places the pan in the oven, and waits for the roasting to take place. In his usual low-key fashion, Paw carries Milford toward home, receiving a kiss from the pig to which he replies, “You’re welcome.” He passes another Boomer, sitting on a log and carrying a club, who stops Paw with a strange verbal request. “How do I know you wear a 6 7/8 hat?” he asks. Gullible Paw removes his derby, stating, “Well, I’ll show you…” As Paw’s hat is removed, the Boomer bashes Paw with the club, grabbing up Milford. Things begin moving quickly, as the Boomer is quickly downed by a trip wire held by Maw. Maw grabs the pig and runs the other way, but is met by a solid row of Boomers blocking her path, then by another row of them coming up from the rear. The two Boomer squads converge on Maw in a fight cloud, and from outside the perimeter, Paw calls for a pass: “Throw Milford to me, Maw.” From amidst the brawling fists and swinging clubs, an object is thrown. Unfortunately, it turns out to be Maw again instead of Milford. The Boomers return the real Milford to the chef. “Here’s your roasting pig”, they state. The chef is totally puzzled, and opens the oven door to check on what exactly he has steaming on the fire. BOOM!! As the smoke clears, the house is destroyed, and unconscious Boomers lie everywhere. A sad Maw and Paw weep from a distance at the presumed fate of Milford, Paw consoling with the words, “We done all we could, Maw.” One of the only objects left standing in the rubble of the Boomer farmhouse is a chest of drawers – and who should pop out from the lower drawer, safe and sound, but Milford, for a happy reuniting with his owners. The family resumes the birthday party, but to their surprise, in the chair of the guest of honor rises the figure of a Boomer. All is well, however, as it turns out to be Milford, playing a practical joke in Paw’s previous Boomer costume. The family laughs heartily at the joke, as Milford smiles a shy smile to the camera for the iris out.
Now that you read the entire plot, click on the embed below to see the actual cartoon:
One more chance for jubilation next week.