Friday, 25 November 2011

61. Shuffle Off to Buffalo (1933)

Warner cartoon no. 60.
Release date: July 8, 1933.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Directed by: Rudolf Ising, Friz Freleng.
Producers: Hugh Harman, Rudolf Ising and Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Johnny Murray (Old Man, Little Boy) and The Rhymettes (Singing Babies).
Animation: Isadore "Friz" Freleng and Paul Smith.
Musical Score: Frank Marsales.

"Shuffle Off to Buffalo" was a famous song in the film 42nd Street and another song featured in there was Young and Healthy which was released earlier. Some shots of this cartoon remind me of what was reused later - in Baby Bottleneck.

 The short starts off with a group of storks that are carrying a bundle of babies with them. They are also squawking, (stop squawking or otherwise the bundles will fall off). We then see a factory where there are storks flying out of windows to deliver babies (screenshot above - any Baby Bottleneck inspiration?). There is then a shot of a stork carrying a baby, and the baby cries directly at the screen.

The next shot we see is an old timer (manager), who is sitting on his desk writing in some accounts, and we has a very busy hotline of telephones on his desk that bring very constantly. Often, he brings "Hello", and we hear a gibberish voice going on that leaves the manager's reply "Okay". The next reply show the manager taking the next call and he says "Yeah", (gibberish voice), then "Yes sir" with his reply "What a man!". This is already similar to the Baby Bottleneck scene of Daffy Duck on the telephone who is very busy - but it is much more loose, wild and also better.

The manager then reads a letter which is next on his "to-do" list (in his mind). There is a letter from Mr. and Mrs. Nanook of the North from the North Pole (obviously a reference to the 1922 documentary film Nanook of the North). So, the manager then walks to the refrigerator where he finds two twins in there (Hah, they're being sent to the North Pole - cold blooded). The stork then enters to deliver the twins with one of the babies being placed on the "upper left", and the other baby on the "lower left".

The manager then goes to his next writing and he sees a piece of paper that appears to be written in some Hebrew writing. The manager then places the letter on the basket that sends him on a wire to the "Stock Room", and then the basket returns with a Hebrew baby in the basket. They seem to both speak Yiddish, and the manager stamps the baby's bottom that has Hebrew writing on it.

 The old man places the child on the table and both of them sing the title song Shuffle Off to Buffalo and the Hebrew boy suddenly speaks English, and he sings the title song as well. All the other babies that are in the cribs sing the main chorus to the song, "Off he's going to shuffle - Shuffle of to Buffalo." We then even see a baby who does an impression of Maurice Chevalier (you can tell with the lower lip that sticks out), the Maurice baby then sings "Although you're just a cute what-is-it - you're sure to fill their house with joy!" After the song is finished, then all the babies cheer with excitement.

The song itself, is a very good song, but yet again - much of the songs written in 42nd Street is very good, too. Devon Baxter has told me that the song that the Jewish boy and  Father Time speaking Yiddish and other, and the underscore for that sequence is called, Koshn Kale Mazel Tov. English = Congratulations Bride and Groom.

We then see a shot that is full of elves and there is a room with an assembly line to wash up babies and get them prepared for delivery. We see a baby who is inside a "rolling towel" in which an elf rolls the tower by using the machine to turn the baby around which makes it dry, and rinses the baby. Another elf seems to powder the baby that causes it to cry. Then an elf puts some paper towel over the baby and is used as diapers. One of the other elves who staples the baby's diapers taogether - then hears a baby cry. He grabs the crying baby and places it on a mechanical tub where the baby is washed. Okay, that is rather wrong just to place a baby in water where it can't be supervised or can't even breathe. Also, the baby had hair from the shot before, but in this shot the baby is bald (as Jerry did point out).

Then another assembly line shows a baby being fed milk in which it is being fed from a long tube where the baby sucks milk. After that the baby is then placed on the crib where there is another elf with a board and writes down results of the baby in a pad, and does that to every other baby. The assembly line sequence is indeed similar to Baby Bottleneck but again - not as exciting, funny, or wild as the version Clampett did thirteen years later, but also - no POWERHOUSE!

According to Jerry Beck, Friz Freleng animated that scene of the baby being sprayed by talcum powder, and Tom McKimson did the elf that staples the baby's diaper, and that cries. The milk feeding shot is by Norm Blackburn.

The cribs are being left into a room where all the other babies are being kept. Suddenly all of the babies in their cribs start crying out loud that annoys one of the elves. The elf then tries to calm down the baby by shouting "Pipe down, pipe down!" and then all of the babies stop crying. Then the elf says "Well, what do you want? What do you want?" The babies then chant, "We want Cantor, we want Cantor!" and it's referring to Eddie Cantor, who was a very popular entertainer and singer back in the 1920's and up to the 1940's - also wrote the famous Merrily We Roll Along which later became the theme to Merrie Melodies. Also, Friz Freleng animates that shot of the babies chanting for "We want Cantor".

 An elf comes out of a curtain, and is revealed as Eddie Cantor and he is singing the title tune (Shuffle Off to Buffalo). I really like this reprise version which is sung by babies and Eddie Cantor - himself, even though it doesn't sound much like Cantor. The Rhymettes do a great job with the singing, but I don't know much about them at all - and of course, I couldn't forget Eddie, who has a good voice. Eddie sings, "Now if you don't like my singing, I can impersonate Ed Wynn", and Ed Wynn does so by doing a great impression of Ed Wynn and even sounds like him voicing the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. One of the Chinese babies, sings that it is a good impersonation, and sings to him to watch the Gold Dust Twins. He then see a couple of black-stereotyped twins that are black and they so a dance. The Eddie Cantor shot and the reprise scene is Tom McKimson, the timing of the animation is very good.

The elf then pulls the curtain open and we see Eddie Cantor a group of elves playing music and Cantor is playing the piano to Shuffle Off to Buffalo. A group of babies are even dancing to the music, and messing around in the room. Larry Martin did the scene of Cantor playing with his band, and Freleng animated the baby playing with the bed slats, and the kid banging on the bed pan. All of the babies then crowd onto Eddie Cantor who is seated, and smiles in which the curtains close- and that's all folks.

I'd say that this cartoon was very fun to watch - there was great music, and it was just great entertainment. It looks great to watch when it was released on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 6 DVD set. The musical score by Frank Marsales was great, but the song from 42nd Street was even better. It's also great that Jerry Beck provided some great commentary in the short, and identifying some of the animator's scenes there. Overall, a great cartoon - one of the best early Merrie Melodies cartoons.

1 comment:

  1. This cartoon is also fatured in the film "The factory" with John Cusack
    It is projected on the wall as the evil psycho killer violates a woman. Also, a sample from the original song is featured in the soundtrack of the movie, where "Shuffle off to Buffalo" is covered by Damian De Boos-Smith.

    Whoda thunkit?