Friday, 24 February 2012

117. Gold Diggers of '49 (1935)

Well folks, it's the review you've ALL been waiting for. This time it's not the usual directors of this era: Friz Freleng, Jack King or even Bugs Hardaway. This is the first short to be directed by a man whose humour changed the Looney Tunes forever and appealed to millions (or even billions) of people around the globe. This is the review that was directed by....(drumroll)...TEX AVERY! (Yay!)

Yep, everyone's been waiting and here he is; Fred "Tex" Avery. The man whose humour, timing and animation inspired the other directors that would change the Looney Tunes from the blandess of Buddy or Bosko and created hilarious and charming characters such as Porky, Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck; and the concepts of Elmer Fudd. Well, from the start of when Tom Palmer was in charge of production; you'd probably thought "what's TAKING him so long??"; or thought he would never arrive. Well, unfortunately - Tex heard the bad cartoons and left Oregon immediately to go to Schlesinger; but his route spanned months as he was in fact a bad navigator when it comes to driving. Here is his route to Sunst Boulevard, Hollywood where the Schlesinger Studios is located:

and yes, you could say he should've taken that left turn at Albuquerque. ;-). Okay, no-one get smart on me saying he was already at Lantz in 1933; or got married in Oregon in 1935 but I thought this was close-enoguh to make the joke (route) work.

So, here is the review:

featuring 'Beans' (and Porky).

Warner cartoon no. 117.
Release date: November 2, 1935.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Bernice Hansen (Little Kitty), Joe Dougherty (Porky Pig). Beans voice unknown.
Musical Score: Bernard Brown.
Animation: Bob Clampett and Charles "Chuck" Jones.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).

Our story begins in the West Coast in California as we see some great layout settings and camera closeups to the screen. Captions pop up in the screen that tells us where, when the story happened and who was in it. We see the captions The Time where we pan to a windwagon of a calendar that reads "July 1849" where the short takes place. We pan forwards with another caption The Place where it shows signs of the town reading "Goldsville" but there are cross marks on the word "Gold" probably because of a lack of gold in the town. It is a pretty quiet, shallow town where no-one does anything. The next caption reads The Girl where Little Kitty is dressed as a 19th century American lady of the time as she is walking out of the house to a "city bulge" where a crowd of people are reading a notice.

The whole captions sequence was a parody of what was used in Western films back then and was often shown with a small text but here it's only very few words that is shown very simplisticly - which is something what Avery would definitely do. Notice how that one continuous shot and it was one very long background and it would've been an achievement back then. I wonder if Avery used different backgrounds to make it look like one long background setting.

Little Kitty reads a sign on the newspaper headline YOUNG PROSPECTOR TO HUNT GOLD IN RED GULCH that shows a picture of Beans with a ground shovel. The bottom caption reads "Beans: Local boy to brave hazards for Red Gulch for Gold. Mmm, notice that there are newspaper clippings in the newspaper and what confuses me is that; the newspaper clippings would've been from the 1930's and yet it's already published in 1849? Is that meant to be a hidden-gag?

Little Kitty grabs the newspaper article and runs out excitedly bursting "Oh, that's my sweetie and I'll bet he'll find the gold. And he loves me and everything!" Bernice Hansen voices Little Kitty really quickly here but it works since she gave a speed of someone really excited.

Meanwhile we see Porky who looks much larger and older. He is eating a huge sandwich that includes chicken, sausages, cheese and fish. He eats it all up and shouts "Whoopee". Of course this isn't a great catchphrase for Porky but this was Avery's first picture and not everything can go perfect in the first time (as well as character appearances) but Avery's doing well in this short at the moment. Little Kitty runs into the scene showing the newspaper to Porky who is his father. She shouts that Beans is going to find the gold and will make the town happy, and also goes on about the romance side which she shouts she's going to marry him and all that. One problem I have in this part is that Porky's daughter is a CAT?! What the hell had happened - my guess is he PORKED a cat. ;-)

We view to the next part where Beans has already chopped off MUCH of the middle of the mountain (a background Avery gag that shows Beans was digging for ages). Beans is already digging up some soil and he seems to form a type of fruity machine slot. Beans then takes a button off his shirt and places it into the slot so he uses a branch for the fruity-machine.

All three pictures in the slots have the same picture and Beans wins "Gold! Gold!". Yep, but in the excitement of Yosemite Sam in 14 Carrot Rabbit  - but it's still fine. Beans then rides on his horse as he returns some gold and as he is riding giant words hog the screen screaming the word Gold! It's a really good way that makes the cartoon exciting and we're all glad to see Tex's presence. Beans rides back to the quiet town and enters saloons shouting "I've found gold in the gulch!". Everyone in the room all shouts with intrigued, "Gold?!", they rush out the saloon with the bartender shocked with his customers leaving.

All of the customers leave the saloon then jump into their horses that arrive one at a time - like an assembly line. A fat customer is about to land on his horse but the horse rides on the customer instead which is a funny gag.

What is also funny is that there are gags showing up every time Beans shouts "Gold". He disturbs a dog in the bathtub telling him about "gold in the gulch" with him running and holding onto the tub. Beans continues to shout out "gold" with some Chinese fellows running out excited. The next gag which is very funny (but also a pun) are these group of barbershop quartet singers standing outside a "barber shop" (that's the joke). Whilst they are singing Sweet Adeline Beans tells them about "gold" in which the barbershop singers start to dash off with Beans but return to the spot singing the rest of the song they were performing. That must've been fun for probably Clampett or Jones to animate considering they "didn't get along with the other directors".

Beans rushes into Little Kitty's house announcing "I've got gold". Porky Pig (from the kitchen ) hears the news and brings out a shovel and is off. Beans rushes out of the door trying not to let go of Little Kitty's hands. About a second later; Beans rushes into the scene to give Little Kitty a passionate snog. A nice sentiment gag that adds the right touch.

Porky and Beans jump into Porky's automobile and Porky excitedly shouts "Whoopee" which was meant to be his catchphrase evidently. The automobile then overtakes these two mad Chinese dogs but then the exhaust pipe explodes smoke onto them as they are seem with black faces which is another example of racist stereotyping. There appears to be a reference going on that is dated but I can't understand what it could be. Could anyone help? I know one of them is saying "Now brother, as I was saying about this year; who's the proposition?" with a rather groaning stereotypical sound heard in the background. I did a Google engine search on that but couldn't find the answer.

Porky and Beans have arrived at the gulch where Beans has found the gold. Porky (again) shouts his annoying "Whoopee!" sound in which is the only carton we'll hear it (as far as I know). Well, don't worry the characters all had to start off somewhere. Porky then starts to dig the ground with his shovel. Chinese dogs are then digging the ground. Beans is also digging the ground in a quick speed as desperation to find MORE GOLD.

Porky is still digging the ground until he finds a piece of gold on the ground and shouts "Gold!" Okay, the voice when he shouts "Gold!" is definitely makes me cringe and as bad as Dougherty's imitation on Porky Pig's stutter but of course this is Dougherty using his normal voice in this cartoon for Porky. This is the only time where Dougherty would use his only voice for Porky (and for Porky to sound completely different) but Dougherty used that same voice for Porky's father in the 1936 Avery Porky cartoons.

The gag that turns up with Porky collecting for gold is one of Avery's treasure gags that the other directors from that time at Warner's probably couldn't come up as clever - at the time; I mean.

Porky has already placed the piece of gold in his back pocket but since there are two holes dug; he reaches his hand for more gold but that gag is his arm comes out of the other hole and takes the coin out and places it back into the pocket a couple of times. At least it's one of the "impossible things" gag that works. Porky hears the screams of Beans as he shouts "Quick! I've found something, etc". Porky rushes into the scene to help out Beans the cat from underground to pull out a treasure chest that Beans has found.

Porky and Beans then open up the treasure chest in hope for more gold but all they find is a rusty old book. But, at least it's hope since the book is titled How to Find Gold. They open up the book for more information but the gag is the only information they found were three words: DIG FOR IT! 

Meanwhile higher up by the edge of the cliff there is a bandit bulldog who is the villain of this cartoon of course. The bandit grabs out a pair of binoculars that belong to him and he is looking for some gold; he skips past a confused Porky and Beans reading the book. The villain skips past the bag of gold but doesn't realize until he finds it properly with his binoculars as he plans to steal it - the thief.

The bandit grabs out his shotgun which he uses as a fishing rod and he blasts it for the rod to go down lower. It's a weird gag but it's fun too. The rope is then grabbed onto the sack of gold and places it onto a fishing net. Porky and Beans notice the bandit has stolen the bag of gold.

Porky then immediately makes a deal with Beans; "if you grab that bag for me then you can have my daughter". Which means Beans can get married to Little Kitty, presumably. Goodness the stutter sure is annoying but Dougherty can't help it. The bulldog bandit then starts to ride on his horse as he is taking off with his horse. Beans starts to ride inside the car that Porky was riding earlier when he was off to search for gold.

As the bulldog bandit is riding away through the mountain paths he thinks inside a bubble of what to do with all that bag of gold that he believes to have in his hand. He would consider on buying a big, red car and would be smoking cigars all day which I imagine was a dream for a poor person back then.

Beans has already caught up in the car as he is already firing guns at the bandit's hat that causes to spin. Avery is not only bringing in great gags; but at least a great use of speed - even though Frank Tashlin was more notable for using it in his cartoons. I like that spinning hat gag in which the bullets shoot the hat into tiny pieces until it is finally no longer useful. The bandit isn't doing anything about it but Beans is still shooting as much as he could which forms a type of patch onto the sheriff's behind but the patch is loose in which the sheriff has a pot to protect himself. Funny gags that shows Beans is almost doomed.

The sheriff then starts to fire back at Beans but in a much quicker speed. The sheriff starts to fire quicker and quicker until he is completely blocked with those swish lines. Beans dodges the row of bullets being fired with excellent timing but Beans fires his gun but his car takes him further backwards. However; every time he fires he always goes back further until he is finally out of gas.

This creates a problem for Beans but he immediately finds a replacement. Beans grabs out a bottle of moonshine to place onto the car's engine as part of petrol in which we hear the funny guzzling sounds that Treg Brown probably created. This ride sequence is in fact really fun to watch and the animation & speed is such a vast improvement than the earlier shorts.

Beans' car then starts to reload until it starts to ride at an incredible speed until we can only see the speed-lines of the car. The speed-lines and the movement of the car is just incredible animation. The car knocks the bulldog bandit out of his car; and the car then starts to turn back where Beans grabs the bulldog into the car.

I imagine that the animation of the car sequence with all those speed-lines would've been very difficult to animate because of all of those swoosh lines and I wish to know who that animator was; but I won't guess since animator IDs are frowned upon - often. I noticed how that at times the animation of the car's wheels seem to be up and down most of the time that doesn't look like it's touching the ground. It might have been an error in layout but I think it works really well since when we see a car going in that speed it really looks like it's flying on air.

Porky is running up and down in the middle of desert worrying about "the bag" that he wanted but as soon as the zooming car enters the scene Porky is dragged along into the scene with that great use of speed by Avery's timing and the animator's work themselves.

The car then starts to zoom into town and Beans even drives past Little Kitty who is sweeping her porch but spins around due the speedy car driving right past her. She spins and flies which is quite amusing to watch.
Little Kitty watches Beans and Porky in the car as the chase is over. She runs over to Porky and shouts "Oh hello, daddy". Porky tells Beans that he's all hers; "Well, here's my daughter". Notice in the background that the bandit bulldog is flat on the front part of the car. I can't tell if he's dead or unconscious. Dark.

Beans and Little Kitty embrace each other. Beans gives Porky the bag and shouts "and here's your gold!". Porky denies that it's gold; and shouts "That's my lunch". The gag ALL along in this cartoon was that Porky's lunch was stolen and it was thought to be gold in there. Heh-heh. See this is why this was an overall funny story that was not a bad start for Avery. Porky takes the sandwich out of his bag that had fish, sausages, cheese, chicken and he scoffs it all up rather peckish...

and that's all folks!

Overall comments: This was indeed Avery's first cartoon that he worked on and I have to say that this was actually a good start to Tex entering the studio. No, I'm not just liking this cartoon JUST because Avery arrived at the studio. I like this cartoon a lot due to the improvement and comparison of gags, animation and speed. The chase sequence was probably the highlight of this cartoon in my opinion; and also the use of captions at the beginning; with that long background shot. Avery really showed great techniques already in his first picture. The story was all set up pretty well with "the bag" turning out to be Porky's lunch the whole time which would definitely have made the audience laugh back then. 

Despite the great parts of this cartoons; I have some downers in this cartoon. I didn't like Avery's voice of how Porky should sound like (although I guess he was trying a different way). The "Whoopie!" sounds weren't very memorable or even charming so at least Avery stopped using it after this cartoon. Some incoherence in this cartoon such as Porky's daughter is a cat but this was overall a great cartoon to look at; and really fun to review. The best cartoon probably made at the studio so far (or compared to A Cartoonist's Nightmare - maybe better). Well; I'm sure you are all glad to see that Tex Avery has finally arrived at the studio and we'll expect many delights from him in the many shorts to come.


  1. what adifference Tex made...Whoopee!!!

    He really hit the road running..

    he sure did wake them up..
    love the speeding car..
    I remember the gun fishing rod gag used by Tex in a another cartoon he did.

    Glad you have got to this magic moment..

  2. I think that this is very overrated cartoon. Gags wasn't all-that inventive, but at least, they show some quality of Avery's work.
    Animation quality wasn't improved at all - it looks like Jack King's latest Beans cartoons.

    The first cartoon with real exaggerated speed was Disney's "Tortoise and the hare", released before that cartoon. The speed in that cartoon don't mean anything.

    But at least, when you watch "Gold Diggers of '49", you have a feeling that something is changed at the studio.

  3. Okay, I agree with you that the animation may not have improved much, but you've got to give Avery credit for the gags he's used - and also LOOK at the speed in the car; I have to disagree that it "don't mean anything". Disney's "Tortoise and the Hare" exaggerated speed may have been more polished or better but their budgets were bigger than Schlesinger's budgets and you've got to give Avery's credit for trying speed in the car movement; which I think was really good speed. Besides, it's better than the bland cartoons that hardly had any speed by Freleng, King or Hardaway.

  4. Steven's perspective on the cartoon is an interesting one; it's from the standpoint of a viewer in 1935 who has only seen the previous Warner product. We can sit here and say this isn't a great cartoon compared to what Avery (and others) did later, but that's not the perspective taken in this blog. For 1935, and for Warners, this was pretty inventive. For Avery fans, you can see the germ of some of his favourite gags he used later. And, best of all, someone looked at the "Let's Be Like Disney" attitude that enveloped the animation industry like a bad smell and said "No. Let's not." Hurray for Tex.
    Obviously, an animator's work isn't suddenly going to get hugely better from one cartoon to the next. Expecting a giant leap of improvement isn't realistic, any more than it is for the rest of us at our jobs when a new manager comes in.
    I wonder how many times the one-armed bandit gag was used before this.
    As for Little Kitty, she's not Porky's daughter. She's an actress playing Porky's daughter; this isn't some kind of documentary on the life of Porky Pig. So I can't get too disconcerted about it.
    Isn't Tommy Bond voicing Beans?
    I wonder how easy it is to pick out Clampett's animation. Of the four, Clampett had the shortest career as an animator while Virgil carried on for years.

  5. Thanks Yowp. As for Tommy Bond voicing Beans - I really don't know; Keith Scott only told me that Bond only voiced Beans in about two cartoons but I don't know if THIS was the cartoon he did the voice. As for Clampett's animation - I heard his trademark was bald-headed characters; but the characters are all bald so it's hard to say. I wondered if Virgil Ross worked on that car sequence since the twisted speed-lines are a trait of his - but who knows??

  6. The begaining of a director's path.

  7. The Blackface Chinese dogs were doing an "Amos 'n' Andy" impersonation, the dog seated in the rickshaw doing a pastice of Andy and the Kingfish, and the dog pulling the rickshaw impersonating Amos ad/or Lightnin'. At the time this cartoon was made, "Amos 'n' Andy" was one of the most popular programs on radio, running in one form or another from March 1928 to November 1960.