Tuesday, 3 April 2012
142. At Your Service Madame (1936)
Release date: August 29, 1936.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Ted Pierce (W.C. Squeals) and Martha Wentworth (Mrs. Hamhock).
Musical Score: Norman Spencer.
Animation: Don Williams and Cal Dalton.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
The last cartoon to be scored by Norman Spencer (who probably went into early retirement) and NO people - he didn't pass away in 1936 just as Blanc made it up in an interview. This is also believed to be the first cartoon for Warner Bros. ink & painter Martha Sigall to work on this cartoon as she said so in her book. Apparently this cartoon was an attempt for Friz Freleng to create recurring characters of the Hamhock family but it never went any further. This probably sounds like a very unreliable fact but does anyone have proof to support that?
Inside the house are a group of piglet children in there single beds snoozing as the sun reflections reach through the window. The piglets are snoring and snorting. The mother pig named Mrs. Hamhock is preparing porridge for her piglets to have for breakfast. Mrs. Hamhock walks up to the bottom of the stairs ringing the bell calling for the children that are sleeping upstairs, "Wake up children; breakfast's ready". She is a widow as she is of-course left with the children. The Mother Pig continues to ring the bell until the children are awakened.
Piggy dashes to the bathroom down the hallway to rinse his face; then back down but runs back to the bathroom he washes his toothbrush to pretend as though he's brushed his teeth before dashing downstairs to have breakfast. Piggy dashes downstairs quickly with his cutlery up with his hands ready for breakfast. If this was Avery or even Frank Tashlin working on this cartoon; they could take the timing of the dashing Piggy even faster. The mother is surprised to see Piggy made it at such speed. All of the other piglet children start to run through the hallway to go down the stairs; including a slow piglet jogging but gets stampeded by an incoming piglet with his pants flap down. Another piglet sibling who is considerate helps out the piglet and sorts the pants flap back up and even sorting out the pig tail. At least this shows the piglets having different personalities.
Mrs. Hamhock then begins her demonstrations on how to have good manners on the table while having porridge; by counting on "fours"; in which the first three numbers counted they angle themselves with positions of holding the spoon, dipping it, etc. and on the "four" count they slurp the porridge. The children are seen copying her actions as they seem to he not bad; but they hold their spoons tightly and not lightly with their pinkie sticking out like Mrs. Hamhock.
During the table pan scene - we pan to Piggy who is not on track and just slurping the soup and each slurp is each count from his mother. The mother grabs out a stick off-screen to whack Piggy on the head as Mrs. Hammock gives him a telling off; "Now how many times must I talk to you? Can't you ever try to behave like the others? My, my - I don't know what I'm gonna do with you" Some pretty solid character animation of Piggy drumming his fingers on the trough sulking while the mother is grilling his ass. Piggy shows the character personality of a "greedy piggy" since pigs are portrayed as greedy and used as examples for someone being greedy with food; and Piggy is the odd one out here since he can't behave and would rather eat.
W.C. Squeals then picks up the cigar as he walking around strolling in his characteristic walk with the cigar in his mouth. While walking past the Hamhock family - the name of the street is called 13 Pine Street. W.C. Squeals picks up the morning newspaper "Daily Bulge" as he reads what appears to be the front headlines: WIDOW INHERITS FORTUNE and W.C. Squeals is reading the paper murmuring the words in the paper.
W.C. Squeals then looks out of his window to see what is outside and finds the exact house he read on the newspaper article by coincidence. As W.C. Squeals steps on the porch and before ringing the doorbell; he peeps through the window to see.
W.C. Squeals has his snout caught on the window as he attempts to push himself away from the window but his snout is still glued to the window. The comic timing isn't very exaggerated at all and too slow or my taste but at least when the snout plops out of the window is good humour. W.C. Squeals then uses his cane to ring the doorbell like a snooker club. He picks up some posies that are on Mrs. Hamhock's front porch while he has prepared for her. Remember kiddies; he's only doing this for money.
W.C. then greets Mrs. Hamhock with some posies.
W.C. Squeals: Good mornin; my little chickadee. Pretty flowers for ma pretty lady.
I think W.C. Fields said the "my little chickadee" line somewhere in a film but I'm not too sure.
Mrs. Hamhock then smells the posies he was given as she giggles as she is flattered, "Oh thank you. Won't you sit down?" W.C. Squeals sits himself down on the chair with Mrs. Hamhock as he holds her hand faking compliments on her "What a beautiful hand you have!". He grabs out a microscope to take a closer look of the silver ring she is wearing but instead gets a squirt of her ring. Now that is a funny gag since he didn't see that comin', eh? I'm surprised that she's already being flattered by W.C. Squeals who is a stranger to her; and yet she seems unaware of strangers. Of course; you'll back this up saying "but she is inheriting fortune so she would've known" but she doesn't seem to know he's after money.
W.C. Squeals: You play piano, Miss Hammy - y'know I sing a little.
Mrs. Hamhock: Oooh (giggles) certainly.
Mrs. Hamhock stands up out of her sofa to go over to the piano to play some tunes for W.C. Squeals being totally conned by his nasty trick not doing about the money he's after. Mrs. Hamhock then starts to play the title song in the piano; In Your Service Madame with W.C. Squeals (Ted Pierce) doing the singing.
W.C. Squeals then tries to scoot little Piggy away; "roll away son; you're bothering me". He quickly unwinds the lock to get access to the safe (which Piggy saw with his eyes) as he attempts to scoot Piggy out of the way, "That's all son, that's all". He continues to try and scoot Piggy away while still singing At Your Service Madame shouting "Scram, lad, scram" and gets to the point of kicking Piggy out of the way. Piggy rolls away as he hits a table with a fishbowl falling on top of his head as a goldfish swims around his head. Piggy plops his head out of the fishbowl as he vows to get revenge on Squeals. Piggy finds that he has eaten the goldfish which gave me a shocked chuckle since I also didn't see that comin'.
Piggy has attracted a group of his sibling that are watching his shenanigans as Piggy whispers a plan to outsmart W.C. Squeals to get their mother's money back.W.C. continues to steal the money from the safe in which Piggy walks in as he's got an electric socket to place in his tail. Another piglet then turns on the lamp switch by the armchair which causes W.C. Squeals to be electrocuted as he turns to Piggy with a dirty look. Mrs. Hamhock gets the wrong idea as she tells off Piggy; "Piggy! Aren't you ashamed of yourself? You had better bringing up than that. Now you march right off to your bed! I haven't been so embarrassed in all my life!" Really, woman?
The hook is being lowered as it's caught W.C. Squeals as he is high in the air. There is a brief bit of action going on as W.C. Squeals is being scraped by the stairs which follows him down the stairs and under the carpet as he spins around hitting the poles, and hitting all kinds of crazy shit. W.C. Squeals is already found himself in a good position already since he is caught on a lamp attached to the ceiling. There are piglets sliding down the rails of the stairs with a moose's head as they jab the moose on W.C. Squeals as he's sent flying.
I noticed how there was a little bit of perspective animation of the pig zooming towards the camera but it reminds me of a 3/4 angle shot - but not quite. W.C. Squeals then reaches for the window with the rope but is almost suffocated as a piglet closes the window to trap his neck. Blimey; now this is turning into physical violence where he could be choking? Doesn't that seem to be too much of a stretch there?
The shaking still continues until Squeals falls out as the window crashes. Mrs. Hamhock looks out the window as she pecks her piglets for getting rid of the fraud. W.C. Squeals walks off very shaky as he farewells her (although I don't fully understand it since it sounds like he's shaking in his speech. He then starts to walk down the path away from them - and I'd imagine the joke at the end was that he still thinks he has the money in his pockets which was part of the plan but he doesn't know that. Some pretty good animation of the shaking W.C. Squeals here.
Overall comments: Friz Freleng has performed a good cartoon here with character personality. Even the W.C. Squeaks character was a good take of W.C. Fields who was voiced by story man womaniser Ted Pierce; who in my opinion is pretty underrated when it comes to voices. Piggy showed some good personality of a "greedy piggy" but is of course the hero of the cartoon at the end. The cartoon consisted of character animation (mostly on the W.C. Fields character) as this was a pretty good try there; and it did the job. It's interesting to hear that Martha Sigall; an admired ink-and-painter veteran worked on this short where she would work and ink on all the Schlesinger cartoons until his retirement (if I'm not mistaken). This short was later followed by the sequel Pigs is Pigs which is an improvement to the cartoon; although the Hamhock family probably wouldn't be a great idea for recurring characters of the Warner Bros.cartoon franchise - but at least they were in good cartoons in their brief time.