Saturday, 10 September 2011

29. Crosby, Columbo and Vallee (1932)

Warner cartoon no. 28.
Release date: March 19, 1932.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Directed by: Rudolf Ising.
Producers: Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising and Leon Schlesinger.
Animation: Rollin Hamilton and Carmen "Max" Maxwell.
Musical Score by: Frank Marsales.

The cartoon starts off which appears to be set in the Native American era, with an Indian tribe doing a war dance around the Chief, worshiping their chief and also singing the title song, Crosby, Columbo and Vallee  - in which is about "paleface enemies whose crooning have stolen their hearts (from Toonzone)", and they are Bing Crosby, Russ Columbo and Rudy Vallee, which were popular entertainers at the time. The title is pretty much a spoof of the short. I must say that I really like Frank Marsales score here, even though I don't often care about his music scores, but his adaptation here is very good, which really sounds Native American to me. Even the totem poles sing the title song, too.

 After a fade out of the singing totem poles, we see an Indian boy (probably Hiawatha) in his canoe paddling in a lake. As the canoe goes through a small log (that goes underwater), the Indian boy jumps on top of the log and bounces from tulip to tulip, then he jumps onto another log in which the canoe returns, and the boy continues to paddle. The Indian boy slides down the river, which shows rocks sticking out and choppy water.

The Indian boy was paddling to a tepee in which appears to be that it's the boy's girlfriend's residence, Minniehaha (it was mentioned in an 1855 poem by Longfellow). The Indian boy brings out a radio set, for his girlfriend and himself to dance along to the music. 

 They go beside a waterfall, with rocks to sit on, but there appears to be water squirting at the boy and the girl, so the boy pulls out a tree and uses it as an umbrella. Huh, now that his girlfriend has arrives, through design I'm having a real hard time at identifying who's male or female - they LOOK exactly the same, except the only difference is the falsetto voices!

The Indian boy asks for a spider to operate the radio to play the music and it works. So the singing and dancing start, with the Indian boy starting off the introduction with dancing, then the Indian girl takes over with the singing. I really dislike the falsetto voice for the Indian girl there, it just doesn't suit my needs, but I can tell that it's the same voice actress who voices Roxy in the Foxy cartoons, but is unknown. We also appear to hear Bing Crosby's voice off-screen and from nowhere singing "Many Happy Returns of the Day", as the Indian girl places her hand by her ear. Oh my, NOW I can tell the styles of them - the Indian girl has a skirt on, while the boy wears shorts - DUH! We also have animals that dance to the music, which sort of remind me of the Disney cartoons.

The fans of the two Indians is much appreciated by the animals, and there is also a dog standing on a log that enjoys the music, and he starts his singing, by putting on an impression of Rudy Vallee, and singing the song "This Is My Love Song". I don't even know who Rudy Vallee is until upon research, and was his catchphrase usually "Heigh ho, everybody"?

I have to say that I find this short VERY confusing because it somehow has songs being sung by Crosby and Vallee, but I don't really get the whole idea of this story.

 Meanwhile, as the singing and dancing for the Indian couple continue; there is a campfire that seems to be dancing to the music as well, as the music appears to be "infectious". Little flames are multiplied and they do a war dance around a huge flame. The flames are now spreading, as they are walking and they burn a tree with all the leaves gone - which causes an embarrassed face of the tree, that runs off to hide in a pond.

So, let me try and explain this, the music is very infectious that the flames start dancing, and yet it starts a whole idea. That doesn't even make sense, you can't get a fire going from infectious music (well, none that's even possible to happen). Yes, yes - I know that this is a 1932 cartoon, but the short is so far very confusing and I can't understand it, except that there is a plot going on with the flames spreading.

The flames now start to spread up a tall tree that has a bird's nest, in which there are three helpless birds stuck up there. One bird at a time, the birds shout, "Help", "fire", and "save me". The whole tribe of Indians and animals hear the birds crying for help, and now the Indian boy is trying to save the three birds up in the burning tree.

So, the boy starts to call for help, by ringing a tulip like a bell. There are a couple of bees that come out to help the boy to rescue the three birds, by taking out a spider web to rescue the birds, with the web that they will jump on. While the boy and the spider web run along, the flames catch them up and one of them burn the boy's rear end, and then another flames burns him again trying to avoid him from rescuing the birds.

The birds have found themselves luck when the bees holding a spider web arrive for the birds to have a happy landing. The birds finally leap out of their nests to land on the spider web. But the flames follow on, and burns the birds and they look roasted, since all their feathers are out. Oh man, that's a good way for a story, the birds are rescued and yet they get burnt. The Indian boy extinguished the last bit of flame on the ground, by spitting it out - and that's all folks.

One word that I have to describe about this cartoon is in fact "confusing". Yes, seriously - I couldn't really understand the whole cartoon (before the flames start to spread), and the title for the short vaguely reminds me of a spoof for Bing Crosby, Russ Columbo and Rudy Vallee. I just couldn't understand it very well, because of the fact that the short couldn't be about the celebrities, and yet set in Native America. So, I found this one quite difficult to review it through. I just can't understand about the flames spreading because the music was "infectious".


  1. In this cartoon, a stereotypical Native American tribe is dancing as the men grumble to the tune of the title song about "these singing troubadores" who are "stealing all our squaws", and this is illustrated as one of the ladies does join in the song, bopping around to the music she hears on the radio. And, in perfect 1930's cartoon fashion, even the flames of the campfire begin dancing around and clumsily, a fire is started. My, the folks at Termite Terrace did come up with some scary scenarios in which biting flames run amuck, with one character merely spitting the flame out at the end. This would, sort of, be repeated in "FLOWERS FOR MADAM" a few years later. The cartoon is merely celebrating the obsession with the three popular radio crooners and, as one might recall, this is not the only time that Bing Crosby would be caricatured in an animated cartoon from this studio. Great stuff!

  2. Of course Crosby has made it to being an icon, as 1942 would show with White Christmas...Rudy Vallee almost as much. The only reason Russ Columbo (who was famously known at the time for sounding like Der Bingle) didn't make it any past was (like other celebs caricatured in those early cartoons, such as Ben Bernie for instance), Columbo died while still popular (1934).:( Great guy..did excellent rendition of his tune frm the original Moulin Rouge movie, "Coffie in the Morning" with the Boswell Sisters and Constance bennett,m later of Topper,m ..:)SC