Friday, 4 November 2011
51. One Step Ahead of My Shadow (1933)
Release date: February 4, 1933.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Directed by: Rudolf Ising.
Producers: Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising and Leon Schlesinger.
Animation: Isadore "Friz" Freleng and Carmen "Max" Maxwell.
Musical Score: Frank Marsales.
We then see a lady carrying a pot by balancing it on her head, and there are a whole series of pots inside as each Chinese person pops up doing Jimmy Durante's "Ha-cha-cha-cha" impressions. Even a pair of Chinese locals are going Amos n' Andy impressions. The Chinese music in this cartoon so far is very beautiful and a real Chinese feeling to it.
An Idiot Abroad. There is a gag that involves a swan that keeps on ducking under the water swallowing fish and quacking, and as the swan keeps on diving, a fish pops up with a quacking sound being heard from the fish's stomach - which shows that the swan has been eaten (that's ... dramatic).
The Chinese boy starts to jump onto a bridge, as it's rather low so his canal can go through. He jumps back onto the canal, and then he starts to play with his banjo, and sings the title song, One Step Ahead of My Shadow. His Chinese girlfriend can hear him play music. The canal arrives at his girlfriend's balcony in which they continue to play (and the birds join in the chorus). I have to say, those Chinese accents are atrocious here - did Harman-Ising hire a bad impressionist?
The aristocrat then pulls the Chinese man's ponytail (riding the cart), and makes a sound of a car horn. As the riding continues, the cart bumps onto another rock in which the rich Chinese man falls off, and drags onto the top that turns into a stairway, and walks his way to the cart. The cart then travels through a bridge in which the cart goes up high in the rails, and then back onto the ground. The rider then brakes at the aristocrat's home and the rider goes out of breath, and the aristocrat puts a bucket strapped to his neck and enters his house.
The Chinese children can hear the music outside, and they enter the aristocrat's home (they both bang on the percussion that blocks the way through). There are more gags being shown with how the instruments are being played, and even a painting/mosaic of a dragon gets animated making sounds. The aristocrat then starts to sing his verse of One Step Ahead of My Shadow. But those Chinese impressions are really bad, unentertaining and pathetic.
This cartoon did in fact stereotype Chinese people, a little bit - but I don't think that Harman-Ising had anything against then and were just trying to make an entertaining short. The music by Frank Marsales was very wonderful to listen, particularly the very beginning. The voices however, were really badly voiced and it sounds like the worst Chinese impressionists voiced the characters.Of course, this is just a cartoon made 80 years ago, and we should know that stereotypes were weren't considered harmless back then.