Saturday, 28 April 2012

157. I Only Have Eyes for You (1937)

Warner cartoon no. 156.
Release date: March 6, 1937.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Joe Twerp (Iceman), Elvia Allman (Old Maid, Katie Canary ?).
Animation: Bob Clampett and Virgil Ross.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Iceman tries to impress Katie Canary by crooning which all goes wrong at the end by bringing in imitator Professor Mockingbird.

This is another Tex Avery 'Merrie Melodies' short that he is making and by the end of the year; he'd make nothing but Merrie Melody cartoons for most of his career at Warner Bros. until directing a couple Looney Tunes in 1941.

The cartoon begins with a bird that is an iceman riding on his truck that was made from tins, iceboxes, etc. There is an off-screen chorus that then tips his hat to the audience as a greeting with the off-screen chorus describing as the "hero that is also meek". There is an old maid looking out the window to find the iceman bird riding past who tends to harass him often. She then grabs out a card that reads "Yoo Hoo" trying to get his attention which would be annoying for anyone with a mad old lady trying to get your attention. Inside the house the Old Maid is baking in the oven who "thinks about the iceman every-time she bakes". She grabs out a chocolate cake, doughnuts and also roast chicken and that explains how "the iceman hates delivering ice to her".

The song by the off-screen chorus is a little bit of fun and also the Old Maid harassing the iceman is at least a funny idea.

After a view of the Mad Old Lady; the next house is the residence of Katie Canary. Inside her house she is very interested in crooners of the time as she has pictures of Eddie Cantor, Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee, etc. on her wall. She is turning on the radio listening to a crooner on the radio as she is swooned.

The Iceman then stops by the Old Maid's house with the "Yoo-Hoo" card still placed on the window-sill. The Iceman opens the back part of the icebox van he owns with the snowstorm blowing straight at his face from the coldness and this would be Ace Gamer providing the snow effects animation here. The Iceman then talks to the audience about how annoying the Old Maid is; and the voice is based on comedian Roy Atwell who was well-known for his spoonerism in comedy. He walks in as he is holding onto an ice-cube but creeps in the house carefully trying to make sure that the old lady won't take any notice of him or even find him. The iceman then starts to drop the ice-cube in the icebox and then tries to exit the scene silently.

Whilst he is walking out of the door; the old lady was actually standing by the door and slams it in time so the Iceman wouldn't have to escape in time. She greets him:

Old Maid: Hello. Have a piece of cake.
Iceman: Er, no thanks. Not for me.
Old Maid: How about a pie; or a cup of coffe and a doughnut. Ham & eggs, pancakes, ice-cream soda, watermelon, biscuits, etc.

The old lady is chasing after the Iceman who has out loads of food she's made just for him as she has lost her mind with him. The iceman then tries to walk away from her to exit but the old lady just follows after him. The iceman then becomes cornered but then it turns out a fold-up bed from the door then drops on him. She peeps under the bed and remarks, "At last a man" - which is a little joke thinking he'd be playing with her under the bed. The iceman then starts to scram as he pushes the bed back to the wall and scrams. As he jumps in his track to leave; he returns sweating with a "That was close" attitude before leaving.

The iceman then parks outside the house of Katie Canary as he enters the house holding onto some flowers in his hands. He walks into the living room as he brings her a gift but she is too busy trying to sort out the radio to listen to a crooner. He struggles to pronounce "flowers" (like what Atwell would do) but Katie Canary shushes him as it appears that Bing Crosby is singing on the radio to 'Let It Be Me'.

A funny typical Avery gag pops up while the Iceman is leaning on the radio with the Bing Crosby crooner on the radio asking him, "Don't lean on the radio son, you're botherin' me!" Which Avery loved to use and it's even subtle here since you never expected that to happen. The Iceman is rather annoyed since he can't win his heart for Katie Canary as she is too interested into crooners and not icemen who have trouble with their spoonerism. The song then ends with "That's all for this programme, folks".

Katie Canary then stands up as she is rather flattered and displaying herself in a Katherine Hepburn voice and persona. She asks the Iceman to leave; "Please go away; can't you see I'm saving my heart and my love for a radio crooner. Ahh, someday, somewhere, sometime I shall marry one and we'll know we'll be so terribly happy. Rarely I do". She looks out the window in a rather touching sentiment which shows the Iceman has no chance for Katie Canary since he's a nobody. The Katharine Hepburn impression is pretty good and also a funny idea to use since she always played those type of roles and her catchphrase, "Rarely I do".

The Iceman is rather disappointed as he lowers his head shedding a tear; and the flowers also do the same as the flowers lower down with sadness. The Iceman then walks out of her house as he is disappointed and wanting a way to try and get her heart attracted to him.

The Iceman then starts to go into song singing the crooner song trying to practice his crooning on Let it Be Me but his his spoonerism problems and then ends it shouting, "Aw, let it go, let it go!" The iceman then stops as he notices a sign on the wall  which comes to him as an interest.

The sign by the branch reads; PROF. MOCKINGBIRD VENTRILOQUIST AND IMITATOR. This is good news if you were the Iceman since he needs a particular person to help him disguise himself as a real crooner singing. The Iceman then opens the private door of Professor Mockingbird as he is busy working but greets the Iceman with a impression of Jack Benny's character Schlepperman, "Hello, stranger" that shows how much of a professor of ventriloquist and imitations he is. The Iceman then walks into the office as he demands him to try out some imitations but still struggles with that word ending with, "Well - do something".

Professor Mockingbird then starts to begin his imitations of animals such as a duck quacking as well as a dog barking. He continues to make these silly animal imitations such as cockerel, as well as sounds of a car honking and a yodel. Professor Mockingbird then jumps back down as he's doing impressions of him playing the organ as though he's in church. Professor Mockingbird then starts to do an impression of an airplane with that airplane sound effects and some nice loose movement shown here. I'd think the animal impressions and sound would be enough.

The iceman then compliments Professor Mockingbird calling his impressions "swell" and asks if he can "croon" but gets his words mixed up again. Professor Mockingbird then starts to croon in a very tender voice. The iceman is impressed with his singing impressions as he comes up with a plan by dragging him out of his office.

The iceman then starts to take Professor Mockingbird to the icebox and he places him inside the icebox. The iceman's plan was that he would place the Professor in the back of the truck since he would be crooning inside and it would look like the iceman is a crooner (just miming it) in order to impress Katie Canary. Now that is a pretty neat idea for this story.

In the next scene, Katie Carroll is still swooned staring out the radio hoping for a next radio crooner to arrive at her doorstep and then hope for that does happen as she walks to her window. The animation of Katie Canary walking to the window isn't very good animation to me. The iceman is riding past her street as he parks outside her front lawn (miming) the title song I Only Have Eyes for You while we know that Professor Mockingbird is inside the back part of the ice truck singing it and I'd imagine it'll be freezing in there.
For a good clear thought of what is going on; you see Professor Mockingbird inside the truck as he's actually crooning and the iceman is just faking it trying to impress Katie Canary. What's happened to the doors of the freezer; it did fall apart during the journey? Katie Canary is all flattered as she believes that her heart with with the iceman. At least we know what's going wrong with this character is that he's somebody else when he doesn't need to be only to impress one of the many ladies that love crooners. She's still flattered as she speaks; "Ah, I knew he'd come my love and my sweet one". She then walks down the stairs still speaking; "Oh at last he'd held me arms of a crooner. It will make me sadly happy. Rarely it will".

Meanwhile inside the freezer at the back of the truck; Professor Mockingbird is still doing his duty of acting like a crooner but is shivering inside the freezer; and Katie Canary then rides on his truck but the iceman then starts to press the button for the Professor to begin his impressions while he is still freezing cold.

The climax part of the story then starts as Professor Mockingbird is freezing inside and can't keep up the crooning imitations in the cold in which as he starts to sing the title song; he'd not sing it in a clear voice which will make things rather suspicious for Katie Canary. The iceman is sitting on the icebox as he's miming the crooning impressions but manages to keep Katie Canary interested. Professor Mockingbird (inside the freezer) starts to turn blue commenting "Boy, it's bloomin' cold in here" which is rather funny suggesting that he's going to spoil the moments. I like these Avery ideas being brought up here since he's making it a struggle for the iceman to croon as Professor Mockingbird is struggling in the cold as it's done in a good comedy way.

Katie Canary then starts to inspect that something is wrong with the iceman's "singing" which doesn't even sound right at all as she hears sneezing sounds. Even the iceman is worried since that there is definitely something wrong but still tries to keep it up.

Professor Mockingbird (still singing inside) of course then starts to sneeze very violently sneezing the back part of the truck in which his identity is revealed. This is a huge 'double take' for the iceman as well as a 'double take' for Katie Canary. As she screams rather afraid but looks at the iceman rather astonished at him for keeping the poor professor inside the freezing ice-cube. The iceman is rather ashamed of his actions as we know that her heart is lost with his and would definitely go for Professor Mockingbird since he's a real crooner as well as being a master of ventriloquists and imitations.

In the next title card; we see "So" and it's even said in an Ed Wynn impression. Professor Mockingbird is seen inside Katie Canary's house as she is trying to warm him up with a boiling kettle placed by his feet. A group of guys then start to move an electric refrigerator to the house as Katie Canary then starts to hug the professor as they've already begun a relationship while the "hero of this picture" has lost. So in the next title card reads "And our hero" which tells us of his whereabouts. He is seen living with the mad old lady bird and she is bringing out pies for him to eat as well as other foods on the table. As she is about to kiss him; he screams but puts on "blind glasses" to disguise himself as blind which would be a little inappropriate but it's still funny. They then kiss each other and the iceman then comments that the bright side is that "she can cook". They then share their kisses again.

Overall comments: This is a pretty fun Tex Avery cartoon as he got some good ideas for this one-shot cartoon. I guess that maybe working on a bunch of Porky Pig cartoons would become a bit too much and I appear to notice he has fresh ideas when he's making one-shot cartoons. Internet Movie Database credits the Katie Canary to Sara Berner although it seems a little improbable to me since the voice is so similar to Allman's voice on Red Riding Hood in Little Red Walking Hood which would be released later on in 1937. The caricature spoofs at least are amusing as the iceman is a spoof to comedian Roy Atwell who even played Doc in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (also released later in 1937) as Doc is an example of spoonerism. The Katharine Hepburn persona on Katie Canary is at least worth the amusement. I like the character personalities shown here on the iceman as he's pretty much a nobody and his spoonerism is a problem and the use of crooning in this cartoon is well-used by Avery since it seemed to have already been such a craze in this period as it inspired guys like Freleng and even Tex to make these cartoons.


  1. Berner was still in Major Bowes' All-Girl Unit a couple of months before this came out so she wasn't even in Hollywood yet. It's Elvia Allman. Rally it is!

    Only Avery could have someone interrupt, turn to the camera and use their real voice to say "Boy, it's bloody cold in here," then resume the scene.

    1. I agree it was Elvia Allman... She was a great actress !!!

  2. Right on, Yowp, Rally you are.:) I wonder what the music used under the final sceen, before the "That's all folks" graphic was, a Carl Stalling origina.l or presixting one---if memory serves, wasn't that the verse to "Dem Golden Slippers"? The title of course, could have been "I only have Ice for you", which is what some call it due to the plot and wordplay..and it being Tood old Gex, I mean ood Told Tex, I mmean, Good old Tex [with Toe Jowerp I mean Joe Twerp.:)]. His 1941 entry "Crackpot QUail" likewise good have had an allieritative, more
    "wacky title", but that's still some years away.Steve

  3. WOW!!! Been looking for this cartoon for YEARS!!! Does anyone know where it can be purchased?

    1. It's on the Dames disc in the Busby Berkeley box set.