Sunday, 26 February 2012

119. Flowers for Madame (1935)

Warner cartoon no. 118.
Release date: November 30, 1935.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Elmer Vincent (Megaphone director).
Musical Score: Norman Spencer.
Animation: Paul Smith and Don Williams.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).

Well, you'd probably have expected for The Fire Alarm to have been the next cartoon if you were following Dave Mackey's site - but this cartoon has an EARLIER release date than 'The Fire Alarm' so - I'm reviewing them via release date order. It's also believed to be the first cartoon to go into 3-strip Technicolor.

 We fade in to see a beautiful background of lily pads and a pond with a bridge to go across. Beautiful background painting. We can hear an off-screen chorus that are singing the title song for us - Flowers for Madame presumably. Watching this cartoon for the first time isn't the type of cartoon that will appeal to a Warner fan - but a Silly Symphony fan? Maybe. This appears to be rather "wimpy" in the views as I'm watching them so far. Just my view; it might even improve - hopefully.

We see these bluebells that then start to use their bells to go into chorus rhythm to the title song. The next sequence then shows these group of flowers who are placing some petal over their stem bodies.
 The sequence of the flowers then begin as they're performing a type of ballerina dance. The whole concept of this introduction looks like the start of spring with all of the flowers coming to life - considering when red roses grow rapidly with two bumble bees snogging each other.

The bumble bee couple look at the audience as they are being watched and rush out of the scene. The ballerina dance by the petal flowers isn't very special animation in my opinion but I imagine that all the animators probably studied this by live-action; maybe but it's highly improbable that Schlesinger would EVEN hire actors to perform live-action footage; so they probably used some old film of dancing in the Warner Bros. library - perhaps.

The next part then focuses on a dandy lion that wipes it's petals backwards and turns into a caricature of Harpo Marx as it appears. The Harpo Marx flower is playing on a spider-web pretending it's a harp.

 The Harpo Marx flower (who is playing the harp) is doing the music for the group of lady flowers that are doing a walk-pose by holding plants as though it's their umbrellas. They walk in a sophisticated attitude which is pretty neat animation although it's really simplistic. It's not the most interesting piece of animation to look at but at least it's sophisticated movement - I have to say.

 With all of these dance sequences out of the way; these two slugs with shells then play them like trumpets to represent public display. The poster reads Announcing! Flower Pageant - Open to All Contestants. Prizes Will be Given Away. All of the flowers then crowd to peek at the poster.

All of the contestants are eager to take place in the competition. Microphones (flower type of course) then announced about the pageant about to begin and this is Elmore Vincent's voice in this cartoon. The voice speaks very quickly and I can't quite understand the exact words coming up but all I can assume is that it's just announcing the competition; what else could it be about - the announcer talking about what he had for breakfast? Nah-ah.

 The pageant competition begins with a parade with band leaders of flowers leading the parade that show two bumble bees that are sitting on the shells of turtles. The parade then continues with these carts of other plants, stages, etc. The crowd scenes of when they cheer are the exact same animation but hey you simply can't criticise that as it's a good method of keeping costs down.

There is also traffic in the parade that is controlled by the firefly that uses their behind to "STOP". The next part of the parade are these Scottish thistles that are doing the Highland fling.  Well, I can tell you that I am in fact half-Scottish but as for Scottish dancing. I've seen better!

Meanwhile there is a small cactus plant that is also clapping at the pageant going on. The cactus decides to join in the parade as he finds a toy locomotive on the ground.

The cactus decides to make it look fancy by adding some flower seeds to the ground; then covers the hole in the ground where the seeds are. The cactus sprays it with a water can in which there are roots that grow all over the train with lovely timing of flowers plopping up one at a time. The cactus then starts to unwind the train in which he jumps onto the train to join in the parade. The crowd all seem to appreciate him in the crowd but the judges however aren't impressed and disapprove of the cactus. The cactus' toy train then explodes into pieces leaving him falling flat. Due to his humiliation all of the flowers laugh at the poor cactus.

The next scene comes out of nowhere where it just gets involved into the story. There is a match stick lying outside a matchbox where there is a magnifying glass that flames the matchstick but then causes the whole grassy fields to go on fire.

The plants are still laughing at the cactus' humiliation until they notice the fire (so what was the point of the fade out sequence)? The fire is continuously spreading as all the flowers and plants start to run for their lives. The flowers keeps on being flamed numerous times.

Another flower then start to help by dumping its head inside a waterfall loading it with water. The flower then extinguishes the flame of the small baby fire but that's only a tiny part of the fire out. As the flames continue to spread it means that the snail is in peril.

The snail is trying to pace up away from the fire but also suffers a slight turn at it's end which causes the snail to speed up. The snail speeds up in a fast pace (although the animation doesn't seem to move for a while; only backgrounds are). The snail then ends up sitting on a lily pad where it will be safe since he's surrounded by water. See, I told you that the speed in Gold Diggers of '49 was impressive at Warners compared to what you're seeing - now that's definitely nothing special. Although it is fluid animation.

The cactus then notices that the crowd of flowers are struggling so the cactus then decides to help you and extinguish the fire so he can be "the hero of this picture". The cactus turns on the hose waiting for the fire to extinguish and he can pull faces.

The fire doesn't seem to be going out anytime soon in which there is a tiny flame that runs out of the scene and runs behind the cactus. The baby flame then starts to run through the cactus' legs causing him to scream in pain. The baby flame then turns off the hose in which he leads the other fires to come and chase after the cactus. The entire group of flowers are still leaving as the cactus hasn't shown any improvement in stopping the fire.

The cactus then arrives at a group of watermelons in which he grabs out a small spear to burst the water out to stop the flames. Another trick up his sleeve. As a matter of luck; the trick actually appears to work and the flames are extinguishing.

The flowers all cheer in which the cactus blushes since he is considered a hero for stopping the fire -  most of the fire. Except that the baby flame is the only one left and is hiding behind a soap box. Note that the box reads Pierce's Pine and Tar Soap and of course the background artist used Ted Pierce who would've mean a story writer back then for those cartoons.

Meanwhile there is a grasshopper who was standing behind the soap box and is chewing tobacco. The grasshopper spits out tobacco with a fine twist and extinguishes the very last flame - ahh; the grasshopper does the finishing touch. The grasshopper then winks at the audience for what he did and it looks like he is waving his hand or something.
and that's all folks.

Overall comments: This cartoon was better than the previous Warner cartoon that was most recently came out although the beginning of the cartoon was pretty soppy stuff to look at. The rest of the cartoon was just pretty bland. I couldn't criticize most of it. It was just a repeated formula (except; no villain chasing girlfriend rubbish). It wasn't a really great cartoon at all; and nothing surprised me about it. I personally didn't see a highlight in the cartoon at all - nothing special to see; it was just really boring. Watching flowers are boring to me. Well, that's the 1935 Merrie Melodies now polished and out of the way and the 1936 Merrie Melodies can hopefully be an improvement since Friz Freleng was still at a low position of the Merrie Melodies but we did get a chance to see him improve on his cartoons in terms of gags which mostly occurred in mid-1935.


  1. And that's a wrong ending title card. This one almost certainly had the concentric rings titles. You could notice that the ending music is cut.

    Also, when you're already posting pictures from YouTube videos, try to correct the resoulution.

    1. Most likely a version of the Jester's Sign-Off with the Concentric Rings as the background.

  2. Surprisingly little amount of blue in this cartoon for one being the first three-strip Technicolor release (compare it to the Fleischer's first three-strip Tech effort, "Somewhere in Dreamland", which makes sure you know Paramount now has full access to the color spectrum). It probably did have the blue rings to make up for that, though not the zooming WB shield, which already had debuted on the features, but wouldn't zoom over to the cartoon studio until early in 1936.

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  4. I don't think that Freleng all-that bad director. He do what the main WB studio wanted to see - cartoon that promoting songs from their features. And he can't do that by another way that usually see in his cartoons.

    I suggest that gags improved later because of the new writer, Ted Pierce, who wrote some scripts for Freleng.

    By another words, Freleng depends on his writers and basic plots(that studio wanted). I don't think that you can explain how different styles of Disney directors like Sharpsteen or Luske, Roberts or Algar, for example.

  5. There is a 35mm print on eBay. It is a mystery if the original credit titles had the concentric rings.

  6. When it aired on Cartoon Network, the final scene where the grasshopper spits tobacco is cut.

  7. This cartoon is among my favorites of so many 1930's titles from the LOONEY TUNES or MERRIE MELODIES series and, someday, I hope a fully restored version comes to the surface so that we might someday see it complete with proper opening and closing music and credits. I liked the rather scary idea of the sun's reflecting off a magnifying glass starting this dreadful fire. I have to admit, that sequence of the cactus suddenly sprouting human legs and being chased by a line of flames was really scary, especially the scene where the cactus turns around to stick its tongue at the flames, only to be "bitten" in his prickly rear by a flame, causing him to leap up and yelp in pain. That was something that I didn't expect.

  8. The last times I watched this cartoon there actually was end title music on the Blue Ribbon print (the 1941-55 theme) so this may have been the only 1935 cartoon to be released in full-blown Technicolor and end with the jester title.

    The same argument applies to 1936's The Cat Came Back, which some people say was the last cartoon to be processed in the old-style bi-strip Technicolor. Again, what I know is that on the 1954 print that remains current to this day, the end title has stock music finishing out over that. Additionally, that 1954 end title was static. European (PAL) "Dubbed Version" prints of this cartoon actually retain that static end title, with the DV copyright notice below. Because of the fact the end title has stock music concluding under it, that would likely have had the blue rings end title, which was also retained on the first Blue Ribbon issue from 1944.