Sunday, 22 April 2012

155. Porky's Road Race (1937)

Before the cartoon begins; perhaps you should read the notice - and it's definitely a Tashlin trait for his animated cartoons with these descriptions telling us that it is fictional.

Warner cartoon no. 154.
Release date: February 6, 1937.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Joe Dougherty (Porky Pig), Billy Bletcher (Borax Karoff) and Ted Pierce (W.C. Fields).
Animation: Robert Bentley and Joe D'Igalo.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky Pig takes part in a road race with other celebrities but are challenged by a Frankenstein who likes to cheat.

The title card that featured the title 'Porky's Road Race' then fades to the flag which is the name of the event as though Porky must be the organizer for that. The prices at the bottom read: First Prize..$2'000'000.00 - Less Tax..$1,999,998.37 - Net..$1.63, That shows a gag with the money that tells us their profit would only be $1.63.

We then start to pan down to the stables to find that Porky Pig is working hard on his engine for the road race event today, as he will also be competing. The gag is that we'd think he's be hammering on the radiator but as his radiator leaves; we find that he is hardly doing any work than just hammering on two buttons on his car and then squirting oil on it. That is a type of character personality that appears to describe Porky Pig as rather lazy and clumsy in this cartoon as he had different personalities in almost each cartoon from that era until Bob Clampett changed him to make him a smart character as everyone would follow on his Porky.

Laurel and Hardy are on a seesaw; but on Laurel's seat he is still playing see-saw but is also pumping up the wheel while Hardy is holding onto the car with a see-saw as it's touching a car holder. Charlie Chaplin is also joining the race as it appears to involve celebrities joining the race. He is using his spanner to sort out his engine but he moves very wobbly.

He even continues to move in a very wobbly way walking away from his car to another short "special" car. He then sees what appears to look like a screw to him as he uses his spanner but it turns out to be W.C. Field's nose as he complains to him whacking him on the head; "Hey What do you think you're doing there, my good man? Keep your wrenches off my probesers. Yes." Charlie Chaplin then starts to skid out of the way not trying to get involved in any arguing and clearly uninterested.

There is a car that is shaking continuously and the celebrity seated on that is Edna May Oliver. Edna May Oliver then asks W.C. Fields for help:

Edna May Oliver: My good man, I need your assistance.
W.C. Fields: Ahh, just a moment, my little demi-tasse. My little chickadee, my little bonny lassie. Yes, coming.

W.C. Fields then steps out of his car to help out Edna May Oliver for her car problem as he is getting ready putting on his top hat as well as his jacket. All of the quotes that he is saying to her, "chickadee", "demitasse", etc. would've been lines from what he would say in movies or even what he would usually say to greet people. We've heard him use the word "chickadee" in 'At Your Service Madame' and he would've used that in real life elsewhere.

 W.C. Fields then walks up to Edna May Oliver asking if she is struggling:, "My little wallflower, having trouble? Well, I've got just the thing to fix it up. Yes. It does wonders for me. Yes. Now let me see, where did I put it?" W.C. Fields then looks through his jacket to find what he can do to help his car not knowing that the car just shakes. The "Yes" fillers would've been common fillers for W.C. Fields in person as it's spoofed here.

W.C. Fields then manages to bring out a bottle of moonshine to place on Edna May Oliver's radiator. After the bottle of moonshine is poured into the radiator tank; the tank then starts to hiccup as it continuously hiccups with the speed pacing going faster and faster and it would be interesting to know what the exposure sheets for the scene would look like. After that bit of fun with the moonshine; we find that Greta Garbo's feet are under the car as she is relieved; "At last I am alone". An engine is sailing inside a bathtub as it turns out to be Charles Laughton as the captain tipping his hat to the audience which is a reference to the MGM film 'Mutiny on the Bounty' Laughton and Clark Gable and legend Irving Thalberg was the film's producer.

A top secret garage labels "Borax Karoff - Keep Out!" with a deadly skull carved on the garage. Inside the garage is Borax Karoff who is busy squirting oil in his racing car to try and get a lot of speed in there as he has the face of Frankenstein. The parody of "Borax Karoff" is evidently a parody of actor Boris Karloff who played Frankenstein in the 1931 film. Which became a hit in cinemas.

He continues to squirt more oil out of his oil can with his race car numbered as "13" which seems slightly odd to me as though Frankenstein is going to get bad luck during the race; but maybe that's a hidden climax to the story - let's find out. Borax Karof then starts to turn on the engine of the car as it shakes slightly and the skull on the front of the car which is an ornament. It looks like to me that the Borax Karoff is having his secret way of winning and cheating.

Meanwhile a loudspeaker pole then shouts out "Calling All Stars! Calling All Stars, etc." which is a direct spoof of "calling all stars" since this is basically a celebrity road race. Porky is still cleaning up his racing car and as he hears the call he sprints about excitedly about the race shouting "Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!" Porky jumps onto his car but it then starts to shake with tools, screws, nuts, etc. flying out of the car rattling before Porky starts to drive.

All of the other cars are at the start line and Porky Pig then enters the line as the crowd cheers on him, "Yeah, Porky". Well; Porky Pig would've already been a cartoon celebrity around that time so it can make sense why he is in that race - but what about Mickey Mouse or Popeye - just kidding. The announcer then holds up the flag starting the race, "On your marks, set set...SCRAM!" All of the other cars then start to race out of the line with other cars racing out with speed as they go into that rhytmic tune "Shave and a Haircut" which is very funny comic timing. A black stereotypical scene of a black man in his car Stepin Fechit then talks in a stereotypical fashion, "I don't know why everybody's in such a big rush, I'm in no rush".

The perspective shot of the cars zooming into the tracks is just an incredible use of animation and it appears to be another challenge for the animators since they not only have to draw Hollywood caricatures for the most part oft he film but to also draw inanimate objects like real cars racing.

Even in some shots the cars don't identify the celebrities and only include these weird looking creatures that look like Jawa people from 'Star Wars' (screen grabbed on left). Pretty interesting when you freeze frame then you see what you'd not expect.

The speed of the cars racing however is a good use of speed as Tashlin was experimenting with what type of animation to use to make speed suitable such as the dust coming from the wheels as well as the use of speedlines.

A British racing car has British actors racing it in their car called the 'Cheerio special'. Of course; 'cheerio' is an English word we use in Britain which is a form of parting. The British celebrities in the racing car are George Arliss (who's been recently caricatured in Warner cartoons -mostly as a turtle), Leslie Howard as it exaggerates on his hair (Howard would play Ashley Wilkes in 'Gone with the Wind' and sadly died from an aircraft accident in WW2 in 1943), and the other at the back is Freddie Bartholomew who was a child actor of his time.

Howard, Arliss and Bartholomew are driving their car and they notice W.C. Fields driving past them, Bartholomew then speaks to Howard:

Freddie Bartholomew: I beg your pardon, sir, could you tell me the time?"
Leslie Howard: (checks the time) It's four o'clock, chappie.
George Arliss: Four o'clock. Time for tea.

They then take a sip of their small cups of free and turn to the audience "Pip Pip! Cheerio!'. I'm not sure if that's meant to be a dated gag or just a take aping British stereotypes with the words they use and portraying them for drinking tea in posh accents.

The "Caliban" car is being ridden by John Barrymore and "Caliban" was a character from Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' and John Barrymore directed a film of the same name - and is THAT meant to be the reference? Elaine Barrie then joins in the race as she shouts "Caliban, I want to see you, etc.". As far as I know; Barrymore and Barrie were married around the time this cartoon is made the gag is pretty much dated

Meanwhile the Borax Karoff character is in his car and is in the lead while he looks behind to check and the other racers are catching up. He then comes up with his crackpot ideas to cheat by throwing a box of tacks to the ground. The arcs animation of the tacks falling to the ground is pretty good as it's the same technique as to what Tashlin used in 'Porky's Poultry Plant'. Charles Laughton is still a sailor in his bathrub race car but has a cunning plan as he grabs out a fishing stick with a magnet attached to it with all the tacks attached to the magnet.

The Borax Karoff character then starts to come up with another idea as he grabs out a small torpedo and aims it at the bathtub but as it flies past the turbine in the bathtub explodes as the Laughton character shouts after the turbine sinks, "It's mutiny, what's what it is! It's mutiny!" which is a direct reference to the film he was the star of; 'Mutiny on the Bounty'.

Edna May Oliver racing's car is still shaking pretty badly and is not going to get anywher far. As the speeding cars zoom past; parts of the racing car is removed; and after the other car - Edna May Oliver now looks like as though she's sitting on a small wagon. The next gag pops up which would be worth a laugh is Clark Gable portrayed as a hitchiker but the racing cars dash too fast that where Clark Gable is spinning around in tornado speedlines and after the other cars dash he is standing in a hole and we can only see Gable's hands making the hitch hiking movement.

The Borax Karoff character then grabs out a glue gun as he squirts it off to his competitors in which they are still dashing at speed but stretch from landing at glue and remained stuck. Very, very good timing on the cars clashing together. Very good.

Porky then starts to land on the glue but he manages to get past that with the glue stuck on the wheels. He crashes onto a pile of bricks and the gag is that his wheels form into the wheels of an army tank. Frankenstein then starts to grab out a grease gun from the competitors that they slip but not Porky as he can still handle with those bricks on his wheels that definietly come in handy.

The race is now at the nearing point of finishing as Porky is just behind the Borax Karoff character and Porky tries to surpass him but struggles since Borax Karoff knows his manuevers. Porky then grabs out an extender as he honks it leaving the car to go on the other side as Porky zips past.

Porky and the Frankenstein character then cross a bridge but the Frankenstein car then crashes while travelling through the bridge which is a good Tashlin technique for off-screen occurances. There is a draw-bridge that Borax Karoff missed whilst travelling as he takes that route so that he can think of a way to trap Porky from crossing it by pulling the switch in the control room for the bridge to draw upwards but Porky dashes into the scene and only finally makes it...

Porky jumps from the uprising draw-bridge and then lands on the finishing line as Porky's racing car bumps Borax Karoff out of the way and in the middle of the tracks. An ambulance arrive at the scene and the gag is that we'd think they'd send him to hospital but instead they take the car to hospital. Edna May Oliver then starts to catch up in the finishing line as we can see her in her blouse; with her dress as a flag and is using a type of gas to blow on her dress to make the speed faster. Porky is now crowned as "speed king". But just as the judges are crowning Porky Pig as speed king; Edna May Oliver arrives at the scene quickly and she is wearing the crown on her backside.

Overall comments: This cartoon features dated references but you'd need to know who the actors are and their references to watch the cartoon. Frank Tashlin has made this ambitious cartoon and I'd say it's ambitious because the animation would feature a lot of vehicle movement but I have a slight feeling that the vehicle shots are not by Tash's animators - it's effects animator Ace Gamer. It's interesting to show a whole bunch of celebrities in this cartoon as back then cartoons would add celebrities or make jokes to make it appealing for an audience who were familiar with those famous people of the time. It feels to me though this cartoon could be called 'Porky's Celebrity Road Race' or something since it's really only famous people of the time this cartoon was released that are racing. It confuses me that the banner of the event is called 'Porky's Road Race' since Porky Pig was racing in it and not the organizer - although it's the name of the cartoon but I didn't see why it should be in the bitter. The lobby "foreword" card at the very beginning was a good to use since Tashlin loved to use those telling the characters were fictional as though they were born yesterday.


  1. Proboscis = nose.

    Stalling has "In My Merry Oldsmobile" for a good chunk at the outset.

  2. The Clark Gable bit is a reference to his Academy Award winning role in "It Happened One Night" (the only Oscar he would win in his career). In the movie he is demonstrating to Claudette Colbert various ways to thumb a ride. Unfortunately none of the cars stop. The Colbert then stopped a car without using her thumb...she hiked her skirt up to about mid thigh and "adjusted" her stocking.

    Interesting that they used a reference to a film that was then two or three years old particularly when they were using Laughton's role as Captain Bligh in a major way. Gable played Mr. Christian to Laughton's Bligh.

    "Pip, pip. Cheerio" was definitely an attempt at aping an English stereottype - specifically what would later be called an "upper class twit" type Englishman which abounded in American (and British for that matter) films of the period.

  3. On IMDB T.Hee is credited for character's designs.

  4. The 1968 Korean-redrawn "color" version substituted the then current Bill Lava version of the Looney Tunes theme in addition to those "W7" logos also used then, on almost 80 former black and white entries, and on the newer cartoons [like the abysmal Daffy and Speedies] of that period.

    "Pip, pip, CHeerio"Steve J.Carras

  5. Thanks for that! I've always wondered who some of those caricatures were. You've cleared up several childhood mysteries.

  6. Excellent analysis! Good work!

  7. You are only 17? I am very impressed by your attention to detail and thorough writing. You will go far! Keep up the good work!

    1. I'm 18 now. I really need to update my 'About Me' section, since its been a while.