Sunday, 11 March 2012

127. Page Miss Glory (1936)


Warner cartoon no. 126.
Release date: March 7, 1936.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery (uncredited).
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Tommy Bond (Abner), Bernice Hansen (Miss Glory), The Varsity Three (Singers).
Art Direction: Leodora Congdon.
Words and Music: Harry Warren and Al Dubin.
Animators: No animator credit. Avery's team (Clampett, Jones, Sutherland, Ross) would've done animation.
Musical Score: No musical score credit. Probably Norman Spencer
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).

This is a pretty important 1936 cartoon in Warner Bros. as it's broken into new techniques. For example; this is probably the first WB cartoon to even use stylized art direction for the dream sequence which was sort of groundbreaking. The first WB cartoon to approach a different style. Those Were Wonderful Days was an attempt to stylized black and white animation but that was a BIG fail.

Leodora Congdon is the only credited member of the "crew" even though she was invited by Leon Schlesinger. Leon used her for this cartoon and gave her credit to help boost her career but unfortunately it failed. According to Tex Avery; Leon Schlesinger apparently dated Leodora Congdon - maybe that's why she got the credit.

This is also the first Merrie Melodies cartoon to be directed by Tex Avery; and the first Merrie Melody to be directed by someone else other than Freleng since 1934.

 Our cartoon begins with a group of volunteers in the town of Hicksville. Everyone is setting up display for the arrival of "Miss Glory" who we don't know yet in this cartoon. As you can see the cartoon starts off like a regular Tex Avery 1936 cartoon with the simplistic character designs, animation and backgrounds. Nothing really special as you can see. The settings appear to be set in mid-19th century America style.

A local hotel manager is standing outside of his hotel as he is holding out some flowers for Miss Glory. We walks inside the hotel in which he places the flowers on his desk. He has a flag by his desk that reads "Welcome Miss Glory". He starts to call for one of his bellboys who works at the hotel, who is an anxious teenage boy named Abner.

 Hotel manager: Hey Abner, get a wiggle on. That Miss Glory girl will be here any minute now. You better get to your practicing.

Mmm; I've never heard of the word "practicing" pronounced that way before. Was that what they used to say back in those days? Abner is freshening up a little to get ready. He is a bellboy as he's trying to use the pose of the bellboy in the poster that reads "Smoke Cigarettes". Of course; cigarettes was a popular use of advertisement back then where EVEN kids were encouraged - it was like as though there was no age limit. Abner; who is a rather unappealing teenager starts to practice by shouting "Call for Miss Glory" as he walks in a pose to show dignity for Miss Glory. I quite like that funny looking walk cycle he does; even though the suit he's wearing makes him look like in terrible shape as he's possible scrawny on the inside. The "Call for Miss Glory" is similar to the advertisement campaign "Call for Philip Morris".

 Abner sits down on a bench waiting patiently for Miss Glory. He runs quickly to the chair he was freshening up and adds some more perfume in order to smell nice. Abner sits down patiently until he thinks that he's hearing the sounds of Miss Glory's car horn arriving but it turns out to be two geese running down the street quacking.

Abner continues to wait patiently until he believes he hears the sounds of engines but instead it's the mooing of cows. Okay; but I do wonder why there are farm animals walking down the street; did the farmer set them free? But this is one of the clever Tex Avery gags that probably has to be animated quite well to make the gags fine; although the animation may not be very realistic. Abner continues to wait until he gets bored of waiting.

Above him is a cuckoo clock in which the cuckoo pops out shouting "Time marches on". One of Avery's use of dialogue in cartoons to tell the story - and I wonder if he used this as though we expected to hear a cuckoo make sounds but then tells us the next part.

Abner is seen sleeping and Miss Glory hasn't even arrived yet. as Abner is sleeping on the bench; The dream sequence fades away from a typical looking Merrie Melody of the 1930s into a very futuristic design by Leadora Congdon where the designs are a huge improvement. It all looks beautiful. There is a great scene that shows the normal hotel the hotel feels slightly different to what we saw earlier; the colours are different). The hotel building gets taller and taller until it is all modernized; with its bright lights and colorful site.

 The hotel has been given a name as it's called Cosmopolitan Hotel as you enter through a revolving door. A long car then parks in which a woman in a red dress steps out to enter the hotel. The long car pulling in would later be used in one of Avery's best efforts for MGM Red Hot Riding Hood.

The hotel manager from the past appears to be a much older hotel manager who is much thinner. Abner is seen in the future still sleeping on the setee (no longer a bench). He certainly looks older. The manager taps the bell and says; "I say, boy. Page Miss Glory" as he gives him the card. A whole crowd of people all crowd towards Abner shouting "Page Miss Glory", "Get her for me", etc.

Abner is walking around carrying the circular box of cigarettes inside shouting "Call for Miss Glory". There is a waiter walking around holding a tray of beer and a glass in which Abner and the waiter walk pass which now shows Abner carrying the bottle and glass. Anoter waiter then repeats the same gag. The small, fat waiter walks past a column with a red nose; but a slow walk - the walk cycle is great. I don't understand the gag that well but the animation surely is beautiful.

 A man with a molecule on his eye then starts to go into songs as more men pop up wearing suits going into song singing the title song Page Miss Glory. As they are still in song; Abner goes into song singing in a very annoying voice "I page Miss Glory".

There is a beautiful layout scene that shows a bartender dropping ice cubes into the drink shots with pretty chime sounds as they drop. Brilliant staging ther and the timing. I really love the backgrounds in there of the green-lined images of drinks. It's a perfect layout scene - in my opinion. Very creative. There are these hands that are shaking with a drink shaker while there in an iris shot of what the people in the cartoon are probably looking at. The person pouring the drink with the shaker then turns into a point of view shot of the human's mouth as he guzzles it down. Wow! That must've been very difficult to animate and I'm not sure where it has been attempted before but I really am impressed with the looks of it. The hiccup gag even adds the finishing touch. Hands are pulling the corks out of the champagne bottles but the last man struggles to open  up the bottle but does so.

 As the men keep on singing; the gag shows that they've had a lot of drinks to continue the song that they already appear to be drunk. The next sequence shows a woman who is in a yellow dress in a sophisticated walk. I can't tell if this is meant to be a man dressed as a drag queen or even an old lady who happens to look like a man.

Abner then starts to walk up to the "lady" and mistakens her/him (?) for Miss Glory. The "lady" then rejects in an attitude as though that's not the person that Abner is looking for. The "lady" in the dress continues to walk but Abner is standing on the dress in which it causes to rip. She gasps; yep - the gasp explains it. I'm going to conclude this to being a woman.

 The woman in the yellow dress then hides behind a plant in which to avoid censorship and public humilation. The next sequence focuses on the old woman again but again she grabs off the giant leafs of the plant to disgusie as a fan dance she's performing.

She spins around as she is doing the dance. As the dance continues; she pops her head from the leaf and laughs like a witch. The fan dance then continues until it's finished. I know that animator ID's are frowned upon but this is sort of guesswork. I do wonder if the fan dance sequence was animated by Virgil Ross. Virgil was the master for dancing scenes in which he was often assigned to; but the timing appears to be slow and delicate like Ross' animation. This is just an estimated guess but I may be wrong.

 Abner applaudes at the fan dance sequence in which there is a rather noisy, fat, rude guest sitting down demanding, "I want service! Service!". Abner asks the waiters for "service" by just saying that one word. The waiters then nod their head for duty. Seconds later a whole group of waiters bring out chunks of food for the guest to have on his table. It sure looks like a real feast. The waiter places a cherry on top of the cake for the final touch until they all rush out of the way.

The fat man then starts to find what he wants to eat until he finds a small olive in which he only chews half of it before leaving the table. I guess the gag was that we expected him to eat so much on that plate but barely even eats an olive. Maybe on a diet or something. The close up of the fat man eating the olive is pretty neat animation.

Abner is walking around in his pose until he hears the announcer from the microphone annoucning; "Attention, everyone. Our celebrated guest, Miss Glory, will appear on the roof garden immediately. Take the elevators to see America's sweetheart Miss Glory". Abner then starts to make a run for the elevator off-screen.

As the announcer mentions the name "Miss Glory" again. A man reading a newspaper sticks his head through it gasping "Miss Glory?!" in excitement. As "Miss Glory" is still announced by the hotel an old crippled man shouts "Miss Glory? Hot diggety dog!". The same reactions come from a couple more people such as a man in a sauna machine, a waiter, and a chef that drops a plate of cake which leaves a hole on the ground but falling down the hole and landing onto the cake. Now that is a funny Avery gag.

The name "Miss Glory" keeps on being used over and over in which a group of men then start to position themselves as though they're in a race line and to run to the elevator. Abner presses a button on the elevator as he tries to step inside but all these group of men block his way as they crowd in. Abner tries to run into the elevator door but crashes as it closes.

Abner tries this in all other different elevators but they all close before he gets there which causes him to be smacked. Every elevator that is shown appears to have a bellboy standing there. Abner then starts to unwind the clock of the elevator until he arrives on the lift in time. The bellboy pulls out a sign reading "Out to Lunch" which is another problem for Abner.

A whole group of men then rush out of the elevator in which they view Miss Glory. They are going into song again as we see a shot of Miss Glory who is very tall, thin and pretty. It is another reprise of the title song.

Meanwhile Abner is still in the lift pressing the buttons to try and get down (although the chime sounds of the buttons go into rhythm). We get a nice shot of the elevator lift going upwards and downwards of a building shot - good timing. The dance scenes of the male singers and Miss Glory is just stunning animation to look at - Leadaro Congdon is a very underrated artist that very few of us have even heard of and it's a real shame her work hasn't been recognized very much; even for her effort in this cartoon.

Abner then makes a stop at a floor on the elevator in which he tries to step out but the doors close too quickly for him to escape. We see more of this appealing animation of the elevator (seen from the building shot as just light on the windows) then shoots out from the sky in which he falls down the very tall building.

It's a very long fall indeed; but somehow he has managed to survive. There is a trolley outside in which there is a trolley driver who is continuously banging the bell for Abner to get out of the way...
...the banging bell sounds turns back into reality of the local hotel manager trying to WAKE up the REAL Abner up. Well; that's the end of the beautiful, inspiring dream sequence. The hotel manager shouts "Wake up Abner, Miss Glory just arrived".

Abner then looks outside in which we see a group of people waiting for Miss Glory that are actually caricatures of Avery's staff. From the left to right it is Virgil Ross, Tex Avery, Bobe Cannon, Bob Clampett, Tubby Millar, Sid Sutherland and Chuck Jones. I wonder why Bob Clampett here is annoyed of Bobe Cannon? Cannon was just an assistant animator back then before getting any animator credit in 1937. Miss Glory's actual car then finally arrives in which Abner makes the scene as he runs for it.

Abner then runs on the spot in which he opens the door to greet Miss Glory. He looks inside to find her but turns around as it turns out that Miss Glory is just a child who hasn't even gone through puberty that licks a lollipop. Hah, that's all the excitement then - she must he the beauty queen of Hicksville then.

Abner: Miss Glory?!?
Miss Glory: That's me big boy (laughs).
(Abner then faints of her looks; which is some funny adult humor in there. Some type of innuendo).
Miss Glory cont'd: Boy do I slay them. Play Don.

I'm not too sure what the "play, Don" part is meant to mean. (Thanks Devon and Steve C. for pointing out it was a Jack Benny reference).
Overall comments: The first cartoon in which it *wasn't* directed by Friz Freleng since 1934; as he mostly turned out very tedious and bad cartoons - before he would improve. Watching Avery's take on this Merry Melody cartoon is SO much better than any of the Freleng cartoons. In fact; so far I'd consider this to be Avery's best entry he's made so far. The art direction is the main highlight of this cartoon; it's really beautiful, so unique, and really forgotten - which it shouldn't be. Leadora Congdon deserves that screen credit for that beautiful display here which was very rare for Schlesinger to give credit to an art director before the credits changed again in 1945. I love the stylized animation that appears in this cartoon. The cartoons before that at WB were so terribly bland with character designs and animation that what was special about it.

This cartoon was something special; the animation looked appealing for the dream sequence (although not so much on the Hicksville scenes). The characters are probably unappealing; but the art direction help sums it up into a great cartoon it turned out to be. There weren't too many gags that Avery has thrown into this cartoon but the gags he's included worked; but the beauty of it is what I think Avery was aiming at - with a really unique design. I like that adult-humor gag at the end where Abner faints at Miss Glory since she's a child and that we all thought she was a grown woman all along. This cartoon deserves to be a triumphant and probably the greatest WB cartoon by that point? The cartoons are just getting better; and this short has already topped it. I hoped you enjoy the review; and I hope you also liked Page Miss Glory. The cartoon is sort of a similar take to a Busby Berkeley sequence.

9 comments:

  1. "Play, Don" was a Jack Benny catch-phrase. It refers to Don Bester, who led the orchestra for Benny's show in 1934-35.

    Also, I've been trying to figure out the animation style for the fan dancing gag for quite some time. If it is Ross after all, I'd have gotten the answer right then and now.

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  2. And this was the first TECHNICOLOR WARNER cartoon NOT by Freleng since 1934 [ but your Merrie Melodies comment along the line was already saying the same thing.} ANd Devon is right about Play Don, before Jack Benny discovered Phil Harris for hisshow, as musical director, he had Don Bestor. Of course Don wasn't as Phun as Phil Harris.After he left Don Wilson was THE Don tyhat Jack had.

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  3. This is really good cartoon for WB. I like a lot of things in it, but my favorite part with dancers around Miss Glory. Keep in mind that main WB studio was one of the leading studios in musicals(thanks to amazing musical director Busby Berkley), along with MGM and RKO, so, Avery already have a good influence.

    But it's something strange that Avery was chosen to direct TECHNICOLOR cartoon after only two cartoons. I guess that Avery, because of his first cartoons was popular at the studio, and chones by Leon to direct that glorious Merrie Melody.

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  4. Have you studied Art Deco before you start writing about this cartoon?

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  5. The Cosmopolitan Hotel was a reference to William Randolph Hurst's Cosmopolitan Pictures, which had moved from MGM to Warners and was basically a vehicle for WRH to promote his mistress/wife Marie Davies' film career. "Page Miss Glory" came from the title of the 1935 live-action movie starring Davies and the Cosmopolitan name lives on in the Hearst Corp.'s Cosmopolitan magazine.

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  6. I mentioned this cartoon to Tex Avery when I met him in 1975. He didn't have too many nice things to say about the cartoon, so much so that I regretted mentioning it and saying I liked it. I seem to remember he didn't appreciate having the woman (credited as the designer) directing the visuals.

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  7. I'm sure Tex didn't like the art deco-ness getting in the way of, or overpowering, his gags, much like he didn't like the mandatory Warners music doing the same thing.
    I agree with Sanek and I, too, find it odd that Freleng wasn't handed this one. Mind you, he'd have been liable to tell Leon where to stick Leodora Congden.
    I like the dream sequence designs and some of the layouts. The tuxedoed gents running at the camera turning the scene to black, then the camera pulling back to reveal them surrounding Glory is great. And the semi-circular designs are reminiscent of the opening rings.

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  8. I imagine that Tex made this cartoon because that Leon gave them the rights to create what they wished; and I imagine that someone like Friz needed help as he was directing all the "Merrie Melodies" and think about how much he had to handle; so Tex got his share.

    Thanks for the Jack Benny reference, guys.

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