Thursday, 28 July 2011

5. The Booze Hangs High (1930)

Warner cartoon no. 4.
Release date: November 1930.
Directors: Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising.
Producers: Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising and Leon Schlesinger (associate).
Starring: Johnny Murray (Bosko).
Animation: Isadore "Friz" Freleng and Paul Smith.
Musical Score: Frank Marsales.

When I was looking through the credits at Internet Movie Database, I kept on seeing Johnny Murray's name often come up with "Bosko" as the voice actor. I clicked on his profile, and I never actually knew he did all the voices from Congo Jazz up to Bosko's Picture Show and I always thought that Carmen Maxwell was the main voice actor, but he only voiced Bosko in Sinkin' in the Bathtub and Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid. He didn't return again until Bosko appeared in the Happy Harmonies shorts. Now that I looked through it, I can see the differences in the voices.

The cartoon opens with a cow, who walks down (starts off very close to the camera, and then walks down the barn), and the opening shot of the cow in perspective is in the style to Disney's 1928 cartoon Plane Crazy. The scene opens with a cow and Bosko and they are dancing around and singing, and until...

When the cow's (trousers) fall down, and we see his boxers - Bosko points that his pants fell down, and the cow pulls his skin back up, and Bosko laughs at him - which leaves the cow angry and humiliated, and walks away. Bosko then walks a few feet to the left with a horse and they both laugh about it. To me, I think the character relationship was strange and heartless there - Bosko was friends with that cow, and then laughs at his pants falling down.

So, Bosko then becomes friends with a horse, and as they continue laughing about it - Bosko jumps on the horse, pulls his hairstring up and then lets go (another repeated Bosko gag), and then starts to try on the horse as a string instrument.

So, Bosko starts to play the horse's tail like a cello, and with a fiddle, too. As he starts to play the cello - the horse' left ear turns slightly, as if it was a cello tuner - and Bosko continues to play with the horse's tail, as the horse rides along. Also, Bosko picks up a rake whilst riding in a cart, and in one of those crazy 30's gags. Bosko plays the rake like a banjo, considering that the fork side is metal and can't move, and that there's no chords or strings on the rake. The entire animated scene of the cows and up to Bosko on the horse cart is more than a minute long; and it's about three weeks work - I wonder who did the first animated scene. The timing is really good.

During Bosko's performance on the horse cart - there is a group of ducks that are dancing around. There is a mother duck and her ducklings. While the ducks are dancing, the duck next to the mother interrupts the dance movement, and appears to be in dire need of going to the toilet, and runs out of the camera with his bottom showing, and then comes back ready to dance again. Was that a cartoon duck taking a dump? Gee, now I didn't realize cartoons had an extreme use of toilet humour. Boy, I'm missing out on early 1930's cartoons - they just get interesting.

Bosko continues to play the cello with horse hair, and as the horse trots with his feet one at a time, and the animation there does have some very neat timing. Bosko puts a halt on the horse, as he slides down his neck and finds a group of hungry pigs waiting for their food to be out, and Bosko places the food on the trough, and one of the piglets find a bottle of alcohol in the trough, and two of those piglets attempt to open it and drink it.

As the two piglets are trying to open up the booze bottle with the cork stuck inside, and as they struggle to get the cork out, so - one of the piglets uses their tails as a cork opener. Now, that is some clever gag there, and not too extreme that works fine. So, the piglets start to drink booze, and they end up drunk already, and start gigglnig at each other. The father pig turns up and look that them in state, and then he starts to drink the alcohol in the bottle, and starts singing atrociously.

As Bosko walks off from feeding the pigs, the bottle hits in the head, and he's now already "hitting the bottle". He starts joining in the pigs singing One Little Drunk, and the singing is just so annoying and irritating, that it's kind of embarrassing to watch. Of course, they are all drunk and start singing, but it's still disturbing to watch it. The funny part of this cartoon that I've seen is the piglet vomiting a corn out of the cob which is pretty funny animation but it was cut from Nickelodeon.

So, Bosko and the pigs for the remainder of this short are drunk and continue singing and dancing. There is even a solo where the fat pig sings in a very low voice, and even Bosko pulls his tail - where the fat pig is pushed down like gravity is pushing him down (which is not) and yet Bosko lets go of his tail and is back to normal size. So they dance and do a frame freeze, with Bosko's nose white - which is an ink and paint error. Then iris out - and that's all folks.

This cartoon is another singing and dancing type, except the location is at a farm, and very little story - which involves around alcohol in that context. Some of the earlier scenes with the horse's tail like a cello was pretty good - but the rest of the short was like plain horrible singing and ugly animation looking. The duck scene with the duckling waning to use the toilet was somehow disturbing in a way.

Next up: Box Car Blues.

[2014 update: Ignoring the idea that the short has "little story", because that's the whole point of these type of shorts. In fact all there is to the short is: Bosko on a farm, and has some frolicking fun with the animals, as well as a group of pigs getting drunk singing music. Add that together, and that's a Bosko cartoon for you. Much of the soundtrack in the short is all adapted from the Warners feature Song of the Flame. This is a short which shows how juvenile animated characters really behaved in the 1930s--the sequence with a family of ducklings, with a scene suggesting a duckling taking a dump is very bizarre from the cartoon's setting. Some of it is really charming stuff, like the pigs and piglets intoxicated with alcohol. For the time the sequence was made, it's somewhat ironic, or perhaps blasphemy to show the characters under the influence of alcohol, due to the Prohibition. A scene that sticks to a lot of people's mind when watching the short is the pig vomiting a piece of corn. A very juvenile, discomforting scene...but the fact the gag appeared out of the blue, makes it somewhat entertaining. The short is entertaining in its own merit, even though its pretty downright corny.]


  1. What did you think of the scene where the pig vomited up the cob of corn?

  2. Zartok, I haven't really got much time to go through this (as I will be leaving for holiday shortly) but the idea of a pig vomiting is always gross, and I assume it is gross. Before the Hays Office.

  3. Darn, I was hoping for a screen grab of that.

  4. It wasn't before the Hayes Office. Hayes came up with the Production Code of 1930 (he had been hired in 1922).
    You're thinking of the better-known Production Code of 1934. It's before that.

  5. Little correction, Steven. The song that Bosko and the pigs were singingt near the end was not "One Little Drunk." This is actually what they sang:

    "You're the flower of my heart, Sweet Adeline."