Saturday, 11 August 2012

187. September in the Rain (1937)

Title card courtesy of Jerry Beck's original titles page/Big Cartoon Database.
Warner cartoon no. 186.
Release date: December 18, 1937.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: James C. Morton (Voices), Wini Shaw (Blue Dye Bottle/Morton Salt Girl) and Danny Webb (Various).
Story: Ted Pierce.
Animation: Cal Dalton.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Product characters come to life as they sing and dance.

This is the final cartoon out of the 1937 output; and altogether this year has totalled 36 cartoons; but now in the next couple of cartoons; the staff would turn out 40 or more in a year. This is a very short cartoon (well in Blue Ribbon version) it's only less than 6 minutes long; but however it's EVEN shorter in the Nickelodeon/TV airings when all the scenes with Al Jolson or black stereotypes are wiped out which makes it a very short run - only 3 minutes; pretty weird, huh?

 The cartoon begins already at nighttime (and I imagine already in the month September) where it is raining outside as we can tell by the windows. There is then a pan through the closed market in which we find a blue dye bottle that is singing a torch song called Am I Blue? Of course; bluing is a fabric as it's shown in display and I do like that idea of gag for the fabric bluing bottle singing the torch song which was popular of its time.

After the torch song being sung; we then view a snake charmer inside a coffee tin as part of commercial art in which it performs a snake charming act. The snake charming music is catching the attention of a toothpaste (as it's displayed in a box called Tootsie Tooth Paste. The toothpaste tube then starts to squirt out some of the toothpaste in which it starts to move like a snake dancing to snake-charm music which is a pretty clever gag to come up when it's set in the supermarket - so I like that idea. There is another type of biscuit bin that is called 'Searchlight' in which the commercial art features a lighthouse in which we find that the searchlight is also a spotlight as it focuses on these Dutch maids in which they do a little Dutch shoe dance - although this is original animation but it feels like a similar concept from Little Dutch Plate which was released two years earlier.

More dancing then starts to continue as we find there is a rubber-glove that was sitting on a box then starts to come to life. The rubber glove comes to life as he starts to blow himself some helium in which he stands up and it looks like he's pretending as though he's supposed to be the bagpipes as he puts some helium on himself; pressing down on his feet to try and make bagpipe music for some Scottish dancing from the other commercial art characters or objects that live in the store.

The music then continues on as we view a film a box of a cigarette brand company called 'Carmel' (a reference to 'Camel') which was a well-known brand of its time; and of course they're changing the names because this is an animated cartoon and they could get sued. We find the camel in the artwork cover moving while in rhythm to the music. We then find these Scottish thistles inside a company called 'Brand Ol' Scotch' in which they step out of their own manufacturing tin as they perform the Highland fling. The animation of the Highland fling dancers was reused animation from Flowers for Madame. So the Scottish music that was played is enjoyed by everyone.

Meanwhile after the music has been heard we then start to see that there are some apples displayed in the market but it is already infested by a worm. The worm then starts to step out the apple and crawls around in search of interest. The sound effects of the worm crawling through I think has some pretty funny sound effects. The problem with the worm is that he's crawling past a  product company in which it's used for cleaning and polishing powder called 'My Ami?' (reference to Bon Ami) and the front cover features these chicks. I imagine the product is very dated but I'm not sure what it is.

The chicks then start to take an interest on the worm that went past them until they then have a plan to try and eat it. The chicks then start to step out of their own product illustrations to chase after the worm in which it turns out to be one worm against five other chicks. The chicks then start to crowd the worm as they battle to eat it but the worm manages to escape but is still being chased at. It then starts to dash off but the chicks then chase after the worm as they crowd to it again. After crowding to the worm; one of the chicks has then managed to get the worm into their bodies; but since they are so small - the worm is still alive and is jumping about inside the chick which makes the chick bounce about. That is a rather amusing gag to show that the chick has just got served by a worm and it was executed well. The chick even starts to slide like a worm as the worm can control tiny chick's body. The chick bounces again and this time the worm has now made an escape as he runs back into the apple where he was eating it - all safe. At least the worm has managed to beat the chicks when he was only on his own but realising it was very dangerous.

After we had a bit of fun with the worms; we then view to another brand product where it features a box and the brand is called Threaded Wheat which is an obvious reference to Shredded Wheat. The artwork at the front features a waterfall flowing down. There is some singing going on at the bottom; as we pan down to find a girl in a product tin holding an umbrella as the waterfall was falling on her umbrella. She is singing the song By the Waterfall which was another popular 1930s song.

The animation for that sequence was reused from Freleng's black-and-white Merrie Melody How Do I Know It's Sunday. Another boy that resides from another product is dressed in his raincoat as he steps off to join the girl holding the umbrella as he's also singing the song - and I believe that's also the same animation. After that sequence with some reused animation by Freleng; we then focus on the Al Jolson caricature who is a product of a cereal called Dream of Wheat. He then starts to show his stardom as he is singing his version of September in the Rain (the title song of this cartoon) and of course Jolson's version of the popular song is probably the most notorious. We then pan to a cereal box where it's called Aunt Emma's Pancake Flour in which she is grinning towards Al Jolson in the product. Aunt Emma - is a reference to the brand called Aunt Jemina which is a famous company that makes pancakes and the 'Dream of Wheat' is a reference to the popular brand Cream of Wheat which were popular breakfast products.

Al Jolson then steps out into reality out of the product box in which he performs one of his signature and famous performances where he brings out his hands asking for 'Mammy'. During that little sequence; 'Aunt Emma' then starts to raise her hands out of the box in which she replies 'Sonny boy' that they sing one of Jolson's most popular songs 'My Mammy'.

Al Jolson then starts to sing the rest of the title song which he was famous for singing. He then points to the audience his own 'Southern home' as it turns out to be a cabin where it is raining on top of the cabin but the windows feature car windscreens on them to wipe the windows which I think is a rather clever type gag but of course the cabin is another stereotype as to where blacks would live in back in the days when living in the Deep south and the name of his cabin is called 'Cabin Syrup' which appears to be another reference. Of course much of the Jolson scenes were cut from the actual cartoon - but so were the black characters in TV airings. There is another in-joke type reference where it focuses on the sun called, 'Brite Sun Cleanser' (and I think it's another dated product) and there is his own cabin standing over there as though it's a sunny day. I understand the gag but I just don't know how to explain what it means; just the fact it has a bright sun by it to demonstrate weather and that it is dry. Jolson then starts to continue his singing as he sings about 'Spring is here, etc.' Jolson then starts to give the song a conclusion as he finishes off the words to, 'September in the Rain'.

After the sequence with Al Jolson has finished we then focus on celebrities Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (both are seen in completely different products) and both Astaire and Rogers were famous dancing duets of the time. They then start to step out of their own products that they them go on a dance sequence. They step on top of matchboxes as to demonstrate the steps and then they step down continuing their dance. When I watch the dancing scenes; of course that is supposed to be Astaire and Rogers but since its rotoscoped animation - it doesn't look too much like a caricature was shown here.

The dancing movement was pretty nice animation in my opinion; but I imagine that it would've been too difficult to animate from scratch but it looks like as though the animation there is rotoscoped. The dancing then continues as they dance over near a cigarette company where it is called 'Lucky Blows' they then stop waltzing in which they then start to get hip with their dancing to lighten up the mood and atmosphere which I find is pretty cool music and animation. They then walk over to the other side in which their dance sequence has finished. I imagine that in a television broadcast of this version; that would've been the finale of the cartoon and it would finish afterwards since the rest of the cartoon features these black characters and caricatures finishing it off before the cartoon finishes with a background view of the market and the cut version would make it a pretty pointless cartoon itself.

The next sequence after the  Astaire and Rogers caricatures have finished dancing; we then go to another brand that is called Gold Rust Twins which is in fact a reference to another brand called
Gold Dust Twins which was a well known washing powder of its time. The artwork cover of course features two Negros in which they start to go into song. Meanwhile there is a biscuit baker commercial character that then shouts, 'Swing it, brother' in which he starts to swing to some music.

The drumming begins as we get to hear some cool drumming in this finale. One of the Negro characters that is in fact a caricature of Fats Waller then jumps over to a piano inside a product box called 'Piano Wax' in which he which he starts to jam to music; and yes - he's very well known for his piano skills. He then shouts to the audience, 'That's all, that's all'. Of course he's a natural pianist and the animators get to exaggerate here since he can just lean on the piano and let only his fingers do the playing and the finger movement is just solid animation. Solid. The other Negro character in the 'Gold Rush Twins' box is in fact a caricature of Louis Armstrong; and the caricature of it is pretty good - but whoever did the voice of him in this cartoon certainly did a bad impression of him. There are chickens in a sack then start to peck each other to go into rhythm. That animator there that smears is definitely a distinctive though unidentified animator for Freleng.

The Louis Armstrong caricature then continues his dancing and singing of the finale song, 'Nagasaki' in which Aunt Emma (Aunt Jemina) from the breakfast product box also shakes some of the boogie beat. Okay, but I will have to admit that but the Armstrong impression is just painful to listen to - I mean the impression that was done in Clean Pastures was a very good impression I thought and why couldn't Freleng use that impressionist again for this cartoon?

There are other group voices done by more black vocals in which they sing a part of a song and from a brand called 'Yea Man' in this cartoon but I don't know the reference though. The piano playing scenes here of Fats Waller I think was also reused from 'Clean Pastures' - I think the scene at least where he's playing the piano with his feet - but it is the exact same caricature that was used form the cartoon. The animation and music for this sequence I think is rather fun to look at and it is shown rather spiritual and a good way for the cartoon's finale even though being cut on TV.



 The sequence then continues to go on as we find that the Louis Armstrong caricature then starts to play the trumpet - also another instrument that Louis Armstrong was famous for playing. I like that shot of the close up of Armstrong's fingers pressing the trumpet buttons was a pretty neat animated scene. I like the animation even after the shot of Armstrong even starting to boogie afterwards with his trumpet playing skills as he gets the bang of it and even shows some good charisma. After the finale is over; with the black cast finishing off the cartoon; we then start to view the supermarket in which he find that it is all quiet now; but of course we find that it's still raining outside the window - which is why it would be a 'september in the rain'.

Overall comments: Well; considering that it is only a 5-minute produced cartoon (well, in Blue Ribbon version) but I think that it was another cheaply produced cartoon because maybe it was to fill in one of Schlesinger's release schedules so it would be released on time; since not only the cartoon runs in a short amount of time but it also has quite a bit of reused animation and I guess that it was cheaper since Friz didn't have to turn in much footage for the animators and that the cartoon would've been released quicker on time. Although personally I find that this cartoon was mostly a bore if I didn't sit through it in detail and just watching it as normal because frankly - it's just another singing and dancing cartoon. Even though the directors aren't making more of those cartoons but when are the directors finally going to grow out of the idea for singing a whole sequence with a popular song? Will probably take a while for them to get used to not making them. It's basically another one of them cartoons where characters come to life which is a very old cartoon formula that was used a lot in the 1930s. I find that this cartoon is sort of Freleng's sort-of updated version of How Do I Know It's Sunday considering it's the same plot but the gags are at least a little funnier and the music is more updated.

As for the overall year output; I think that personally Tex Avery has still topped the pole if he had a best Director of the year position. I think all the directors this year have done very well. Friz Freleng has shown a lot of improvement and has made even some very charming cartoons; Frank Tashlin has got better I think where he started to tone down Porky a bit and even made some classics. I'd say I'm very close to choosing Clampett being the best director considering I think all his cartoons this year have been great but since Avery made more greater cartoons; I'd say he goes up the top. What interests me is that the year starts off (like 1936) where Avery was still directing Porky; and he was still voiced by Dougherty; and by the end of this year - Avery has stopped making Porky cartoons. 1937 is also better than the last year considering that Daffy Duck and Mel Blanc have entered as they would also pioneer Looney Tunes; as well as Clampett's first directed cartoons. In the following years; the yearly outputs will be put out quite high as they turn out 40 a year.

3 comments:

  1. The 'Cabin Syrup' part is a reference to 'Ranch Cabin Syrup'.

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  2. Actually I think the reference for "Cabin Syrup" is to Log Cabin Syrup rather than to Ranch Cabin Syrup (which I've never heard of).

    The "My Ami?" cleanser box is indeed a reference to Bon Ami cleanser, which is a powdered cleanser that originally used feldspar. The slogan for the cleanser is "hasn't scratched yet", and the newly hatched chick is part of their logo because a newly hatched chick hasn't scratched (the ground for food) yet. I assume you also caught the pun in the name of the product: My Ami = Miami.

    The little girl with the umbrella refers to the logo of the Morton salt company, a little girl with an umbrella in the rain carrying a box of salt which is pour out onto the ground: their slogan "When it rains it pours," a reference to the fact that the process they use for the the salt meant that it didn't clump in wet weather. The waterfall on the "Thredded Wheat" box refers to the picture of Niagara Falls on the Shredded Wheat box, sinc Shredded Wheat was manufactured in Niagara Fall New York until the mid 1950s.

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  3. Re-released in the Blue Ribbon series on September 30, 1944.

    The "Dubbed Version" print used since 1996 eliminates all of the blackface caricatures, which makes this cartoon even shorter than it had been before 1996.

    ~Ben

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