Sunday, 15 April 2012

152. He Was Her Man (1937)

Warner cartoon no. 151.
Release date: January 2, 1937.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Cast unknown.
Animation: Paul Smith and Cal Dalton.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: A poor mouse girl lives a difficult life during the Depression but it becomes even more hard for her as her husband leaves her.

The first cartoon of 1937; as this year it's about 36 cartoons that were released; and after that from 1938-1941 there are 40 cartoons or more. At least this year (1937) we get to hear Mel Blanc the first time, watch Bob Clampett direct the first time, and see Daffy Duck the first time.

Our cartoon begins out in the streets as there is a blizzard. A poor girl mouse who isn't dressed very warm at all and rather broke is out on the streets selling apples for sale. She's trying to encourage people walking down the street to buy some apples but no-one is interested or wants to eat one. She asks one of the locals; "Apples, would you like some apples?"

A blizzard then blows as she feels the strong breeze as she looks terrible in her conditions. The next scene we see a thermometer and it just doesn't make sense to me since it shows it was at 50 degrees (probably Fahrenheit) and yet it just drops to zero. My, if it was 0 degrees then there wouldn't be a blizzard; and even AT 50 degrees where would be NO snow. Show some realism here. The thermometer then drops completely down as it shows it's so freezing that it can't be recorded. I'd imagine that Ace Gamer did the effects of the blizzard and the thermometer, too. This short was made in the Great Depression as it probably shows dark times for some people.

The poor mouse then starts to hand out apples in the streets asking for a local; "Apple mister; nice shiny red apple; mister". The guy walking past the street just takes a bite into the apple which is rather unpolite since he's not being thoughtful on the poor soul.

After the rascal leaves; the next man to pop up is such a gentleman as he asks; "I'll have one, girly" and gives her 5 cents which is the price of an apple. The girl mouse replies; "Thank you". She places the coin through her shirt as it lands all the way down to her shoe. Her job shift is complete as she starts to pick up the basket still loaded with apples and then she walks home.

While she is still walking home a thought bubble then pops up near her of what appears to be her husband who looks rather nasty and hard looking with the bowler hat on and puffing furiously with a cigar. She then thinks of him with the head of what looks like Clark Gable to me, but I'm not sure. The "head" then goes back to the regular nasty-looking mouse's head.

She continues to sprint down merrily as she walks back home to her apartment as she can't wait to see her husband again who is also facing some dark times, too.

While the poor girl mouse is walking up the stairs of her apartment there is a pig walking out of the bathroom door (it looks like they have to share bathrooms) after what looks like he's been taking a shower. He is about to walk to walk to his own room but runs in giggling in an embarrassed way as the poor girl mouse is walking up the stairs. Now that is rather humorous in it's ways.

The girl mouse has so many stairs to climb up to as though she lives on the top floor or something. More humor is poured in here with a pig also stepping out of the bathroom but runs in giggling in the presence of ladies. It feels that though Freleng here was inspired by Tex Avery with the giggles used here and the fact that you didn't expect to see that happen and we would've just thought she'd be walking up the stairs the entire time which would just be b-o-r-i-n-g. As she is still walking up the stairs to the fifth floor; another pig is just repeating what happened in the lower floors; and it gets to the point of me thinking; 'Why are they all coming out of the shower at similar times' and at the exact same time when she is walking up the stairs. It was funny the first time watching the first pig step out but not 3 times! I do like the camera angles shown here of her walking up as the camera zooms in to which floor; and it feels like a really long background of her walking up.

Meanwhile inside the house of where the poor girl mouse lives; there is a bowler hat lying down on a chair as cards are being tossed into it. The "mouse" doing that is the husband of the poor girl mouse who appears to be bored by tossing cards into the bowler hat while sitting down on his chair.

The poor girl mouse enters the door as she greets; "Yoo hoo. Hello, Johnny". Well; now THAT's been mentioned; the husband is called Johnny. She also walks up to Johnny still busy tossing cards as she remarks about what she's done at work, "Good evening, Johnny." Johnny is clearly uninterested in the conversation as he just brings his hand out shouting, "Well hand in the dough". The girl mouse then presses a button on her shoe as the gag is that the sole of her shoe is like a cash register. She grabs out four coins (5 cents each) as she replies "I did pretty good today" as it suggests that she often fails. Johnny then counts up the money as he knows she's hiding up something and raises his hand saying; "Come on, come on; hand in the dough!" She shakes her head claiming to not know where it is but Johnny then opens her mouth which is a golden coin (probably worth a dollar). She is rather afraid of him as he asks; 'H'about some dinner?"

While the poor girl mouse is walking to her kitchen to cook some dinner; Johnny is looking out of the window where he sees a beautiful woman dressed in red entering a saloon. Johnny then double glimpses at the woman with a matter of interest.

The poor girl mouse is seen in the kitchen as she is cooking dinner and appears to be singing gayly to 'I'd Love to Take Orders from You'. I like that brief gag of an egg yolk that is sizzling but also the bubbles are burping out of the yolk. She then makes a scream as to see something is wrong with the yolk but then calls for Johnny, "Oh Johnny; you're dinner's ready". She goes around looking for Johnny but doesn't find him in his chair but instead she finds a note that is pinned on the chair. The note reads: I'm thru [through] with you. So long! Johnny. This is certainly bad news for the poor girl mouse as her husband has left him just to go for the woman outside who is beautiful and would have a lot of money; while the poor girl mouse is rather plain with looks/personality and very poor in terms of wealth.

She then starts to go around the apartment shouting for Johnny! She first looks inside a chest to see if Johnny is hiding inside there but she finds no luck. Interesting that he's leaving her but hasn't packed away, too. She then checks the closet to see if he's in there - but no. The last place she checks is under the bed but is not under there until she shouts around the whole apartment but it is too useless.

She then starts to get to the point of fainting as he has left her. But first he wants to find a comfortable place to faint. She walks backwards as she faints but her head lands on a pillow lying on the floor as she is showing nothing but despair as she has nobody to be with her. Poor little soul. I imagine that Tex Avery would use the gag of the poor girl mouse lying on the pillow finding a place to get cozy would be used later in his MGM cartoon; Who Killed Who?

In the next title card the words read; Time Staggers On as an alarm clock walks into the middle of the black screen drunk and staggering. Now that is a pretty funny gag as that is definitely a surprise but definitely influenced from Avery.

Inside the saloon there is an off-screen singer that is singing a sad torch song. There are a group of people inside the saloon as they crowd around the table with a sign that reads; "Free Lunch" and gobbling on the food. During that PAN across the saloon we turn to the stage as the torch song singer is the poor girl mouse who we saw since the beginning of the short. Is it me or is the singing meant to be based off Helen Morgan? She is singing the title song on stage; He Was Her Man. Out of nowhere; Johnny walks through the saloon doors as he greets everyone inside the bar as he's already lined himself up with a good-looking mouse lady in a red dress. The girl mouse then finishes the rest of the sad song she was singing until...

...she makes a glimpse of the audience and is amazed to see that she has found Johnny and of course what happens? We'd hear her shout out "JOHNNY!". She shouts out his name over again to try and grab his attention as she runs up to him with hope that she will win back his heart. But most of that is clearly unlikely to happen since she is so plain that it would never happen.

Johnny then turns around to find that the poor girl mouse is already trying to embrace him but it fails on her. Johnny then tries to get her to scram, "Beat it! I'm through with you" he comments disgustedly. She still won't give up as she is attached to his jacket begging for him to return, "Johnny, Johnny. Come home with me! Please, Johnny!" Johnny, clearly uninterested in her anymore then slaps her hands off him as he shouts "Scram!"

They then starts to hold onto each other as they are walking down the saloon and you'd never expect Johnny to hit the girl mouse in the chin. Wow! You're not supposed to hit females at all!! There is a good use of comic timing and music cliches used by Freleng and Carl Stalling. So this sequence is pretty good following those terms.

 I like how the poor girl mouse whacks him on the bowler hat and it sinks so down to his body that only his shoes are sticking.out. Now that is a very original gag that Freleng showed here that even Avery hasn't used before - and I believe that would inspire him later to use it in his cartoon 'Little Red Walking Hood'. Johnny then picks himself up as he continues to whack the poor lady as she seems to tilt sideways. Carl Stalling has used great ideas for the fighting sequence here as it's definitely his music played here. While Johnny is still beating her; the poor mouse then starts to walk away with Johnny following; I'm surprised that he'd take her seriously. I wonder if that was Ted Pierce ideas added in since he tend to like to use violence for the sake of it.

While still being brutally beaten; the poor girl mouse then faces the wall as she is thrown on it with a spittoon landing on her head. Johnny rubs his hands as though the job is done. The poor girl mouse has given up her passion for him and she grabs out a shotgun and blasts as he jerks back from the gunshot reaction.

Johnny misses the gunshots and shouts "Hey, be careful. You'll hurt someone". A gunshot then fires at his bowler hat and then gets shot in the stomach. He grabs at his chest trying to clench it as he is weakening; "Ah; you got me! You got me!" until he continues to wander around until collapsing to the ground. The poor girl mouse realizes what she has done as  she runs up to Johnny shouting; "Oh Johnny, Johnny! Speak to me! Say something. Say something!" He wakes up with his heart back to her as he shouts; 'Aw you just grazed me'. The poor girl mouse then whacks him on the head with a bottle as it's funny since she's not 'over' with his actions.

In the next sequence it turns out that Johnny and the poor girl mouse are back together again in the small apartment they live in. The poor girl mouse is put in charge of the couple as Johnny is left in the streets doing her job trying to sell apples in such a snowy day. The poor girl mouse is upstairs throwing cards into bowler hats as they've basically swapped positions.

He goes around shouting and asking for apples; "Apples, mister? Nice red apples!" Johnny then notices the lady he once had walking down the street in a lovely red dress."Hiya babe, nice apple today?" The girl mouse then starts to whack him on the head with a bottle for him to back with his duties and also to lower his standards with the other ladies; which I think was a funny act for the poor girl mouse to have done.
Overall comments: Friz Freleng has definitely shown some improvement already in the first cartoon of 1937 (but this would definitely have been made in 1936) as he shows some influence from Tex Avery's humor such as the "Time Staggers On" although I think there are some originality in this cartoon such as the fighting sequence where it shows Freleng's timing as well as to music - even Stalling showed some improvement with his music cliches but probably the first time he's used it fully. It's a shame we don't know who the voices were as I'd expect the poor girl mouse to be Berneice Hansell or something but at least it's a different actress; maybe it was either Martha Wentworth or Elvia Allman - who knows? The character design on the poor mouse girl to be is extremely bland and unappealing but I guess that was what Freleng wanted for that character since that was what she was supposed to me; but they could've made the design a little more interesting. The voice of Johnny (in my opinion) sounds only a little like what Mel Blanc would use but this cartoon is too early for him to turn up so it's someone else - although he did make his first voice appearance on 'Porky the Wrestler' but only "woo-woo" sounds. I think this is the same voice as the bird gangster in 'I'm a Big Shot Now'.


  1. It's sure not Elvia Allman in this one.

    The pillow gag is the closest to an Avery gag besides the staggering. The thermometer gag takes forever; '30s timing at work.

    Friz seems to be experimenting with the staircase background and camera work. I don't know who besides Art Loomer was doing backgrounds but there had to be someone.

    Interesting to see they're inevitably using Mae West as the model for the other woman in Friz's bird version of Frankie and Johnny. And he's thrown in a parody of an apache dance as well.

  2. It's not "dole". It's "dough."

  3. We're still at the point in Freleng's Merrie Melodies that, thanks to the Disney influence, we're asked to at least take some of the dramatic aspects of this story seriously (Friz would get a lot lighter by the time he left for MGM after "A Star Is Hatched", and of course by the time Avery made "Dangerous Dan McFoo" in 1939, there was nothing left in the basic melodramatic-style story that audiences were being asked to take seriously).

    1. Unfortunately, the visuals don't set up melodrama very well. Tashlin would have been able to do it.

  4. Yowp: Of course you meant Friz's"Mouse version", not Bird version.. Yes the Mae West chaarcter was indeed one of the most inevitable..DIsney's Who Killed Cock Robin used that pretty well..and West was starting to get portrayed as the other woman a lot by the end of the thirties.cartoon.. This is one of the more adult carttoons since hte Harman-Ising days..S.H.,Nice Technicolor frame grabs of the art, esp.the closing, on all of yours clips here..I've never seen those so colorfully restored on TV in my life, or on my cassettes..Steve C.

    1. They're only computer screen grabs that I found online.

  5. I think it's one of best cartoons Friz directed before MGM(WITH "The Coo-Coo Nut Grove"). In terms of story...

  6. I can't believe the lack of depth in these comments and I think many of you have missed the point entirely. I thought this was a touching and funny cartoon - one of the best Merrie Melodies from the 30's for sure. In between the funny bits there is a lot of humanity. For one thing it shows how brutal life was during the depression. People had to sell apples on the street just to get by. The only oasis being the local saloon, hardly an ideal place for anyone. Despite the brutal violence the couple reconciles in the end - he is her man damn it and no one is taking him away from her! Powerful stuff if you're willing to open your eyes.

  7. merrie melodies subliminal ? In the six pic there is a pic ,in up head girl mouse , a topless woman do you see ?