Thursday, 16 August 2012

191. Porky at the Crocadero (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 190.
Release date: February 5, 1938.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Frank Tashlin.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig).
Story: Lew Landsman.
Animation: Volney White.
Musical Score: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky aspires to be a conductor at the Crocadero and eventually gets that chance.

The nightclub called the 'Crocadero' is a referece to the Los Angeles ballroom called 'Trocadero' which was a very popular ballroom and nightclub back in the 1930s.


The cartoon begins as we find the outside building where it is called the 'Crocadero' which is the nightclub in this cartoon. We then find a notice sign that reads: TO NITE GUEST NITE FAMOUS ORCHESTRA LEADERS IN PERSON DIRECTING THE CROCADERO BAND HEAR THEM PLAY. LITTLE MAN YOU'VE HAD A BUSY DAY, IN THE SHADE OF THE OLD APPLE TREE, WITH THE LADY WHO COULDN'T BE KISSED.

Of course, the last part of the notice board are songs that are listed on what will be played but the last one listed is actually called The Lady in Red. We then PAN towards Porky Pig is is standing by the notice sign in which he is excited and wants to perform at the Crocadero. Porky is excited as he shouts, 'Hot dignity-dog! All the big shots in person. Some day I'm gonna lead a band too'. Porky then starts to unroll his diploma in which it shows what he is carrying. It is a diploma from a school called Sucker Correspondence School of Music which shows that he probably hasn't been trained very well if it's a 'sucker' but it makes it more funnier on Porky. The diploma then lists on what Porky Pig has completed in conducting. It reads that Porky has completed our course in Hi, De, Hi *** Do, Do, De, O, Do *** Poo, Poo, Pa, Doop *** and can he swing it? YEA MAN! By reading his diploma it doesn't sound very useful that he would be very good at conducting the music with the songs that are listed since in the course he's managed to complete simple tunes.

Porky Pig then starts to unroll his diploma as he placed it back into his jacket. Porky then starts to show some hopes about his fame. 'Maybe I'll be famous like Leopold Stokowski'. That hat-take he makes where he says that bit of dialogue is timed quite weirdly, but that's my opinion.

Porky then starts to do an impression of Leopold Stokowski's conducting a piece of the Poet and Pleasant Overture that was composed by Franz von Suppe. Stokowski was notorious for conducting heavy music and giving his actions some real heavy weight. After Porky stops conducting he then starts to do an impression of Rudy Vallee where he is moving and doing an impression of Rudy Vallee with the face he's pulling on as well as the movement the way that Vallee conducts. The face is a pretty good caricature as the way that he grins and also the eye posture as well. The piece that Porky is conducting if a piece of Vienni, vienni. Porky then finished conducting like Vallee in which he starts to try and impersonate Benny Goodman who was another very popular jazz musician of the time, widely known as 'The King of Swing'. Porky starts to conduct more cheerfully and the music that he is pretending to conduct to is very cheerful music. The scenes where Porky then tries to compare his conducting skills to one of the greater conductors in Hollywood of the time is a pretty fun scene considering that he had a diploma from a school where it didn't have good training and might not meet at the Crocadero's needs.

As Porky is still conducting to the music and impersonating Benny Goodman. Porky then goes back to his usual personality as he watched another notice-sign by the Crocadero where he then starts to turned shock as he reads the sign that is opposite him. CROCADERO - DE LUXE DINNER $25.00 PER PLATE (with food on plate $25.50). It turns out that Porky in fact would have to pay at least up to $50.50 if he was going to have dinner at the Crocadero and knows it's a very expensive nightclub. He wouldn't probably afford to go into that type of ballroom.

Porky Pig then grabs out a coin in which he finds that all he has is "one scent" (One cent). The funny gag is that it turns out that the "scent" coin he has features a picture of a skunk inside it which makes Porky pretty much a sucker but it's amusing too. Porky then realises that he has no chance of working in a place like the Crocadero conducting music in front of an audience with the stars so he walks back dejected. Porky Pig continues to walk away rather sad about the fact until he walks past a sign at the nightclub that reads, 'Boy Wanted'. Porky then starts to make a take at that sign in which he runs into the nightclub so that he could apply for a job there. A really good use of Tashlin's speed is evident in this small scene where we notice that Porky just dashes off into the screen and zips straight through the door and could only be seen in a matter of a few frames which shows that Tashlin was still using that effect which he used in earlier cartoons like Porky in the North Woods or Porky's Romance. After Porky zips through the door the screen then starts to fade out.

In the next shot we find that Porky Pig is inside as he already has a job inside the Crocadero. Just because of the 'Boy Wanted' sign won't mean he will be conducting but he in fact has to work in the kitchens cleaning up dishes what the wealthy people ate.

There is a voice that comes from off-screen where the boss tells Porky, 'You do a really good job on the dishes...' then starts to make a pan towards the boss of the Crocadero who is a Walrus. He continues on, '...in and out.. and I let you watch the orchestra maybe. Hmm?' He appears to have a strong dialect that I'm not too sure but I know that he appears to like to trill with his 'Rs' at least to give the character a distinctive personality. The walrus then starts to walk outside the doors as there is a penguin waiter. The funny part then shows that there is a penguin waiter trying to enter the kitchen room but the walrus is too huge that he is blocking his way which is rather humorous. The penguin finds a way by climbing on top of the walrus and then walks inside. I like the idea of how that in this cartoon they got the idea for a penguin to be a waiter since if you think about it; they do look quite like waiters but even that idea would be used again in 'Mary Poppins'. A rather cool layout scene then features the penguin waiter starting to waddle through the entire dining room full of seats and just waddles in and out as it was a pretty cool layout effect. He then hands the bowl of soup to a giraffe in uniform but then the table starts to extend so that the giraffe will have an easier time licking the soup.

Porky is inside the kitchen room as he is still cleaning inside there stacking up the dishes. Porky is standing carrying a huge pile of dishes but wouldn't be able to manage with that amount. A fly then flies into the scene in which Porky is facing trouble with a fly. It's one of them typical 1930s sequence where a character would have to face trouble like this - you would see something similar to that in many 1930s cartoons.

The fly then lands on Porky in which he lets go of the dishes and starts to try and scat the fly away. Porky realises that he could've just crashed those dishes in which he starts to run to the other side to stack them up neatly. The fly then starts to land on Porky's nose again. Porky doesn't realise what he is about to do when still holding the stacks of dishes, but he grabs a spoon that is near him. As he has got the kitchen spoon, he starts to let go of the dishes and starts to try and attack a fly in the kitchen. The manager is about to enter the kitchen and comments on Porky combating the fly with the spoon, 'The loafer. Instead of dish-washing, he is a music leader he thinks'. The walrus manager thinks that Porky is inside conducting music (as it looks like it in silhouette) but doesn't realise that Porky is fighting a fly. The walrus then listens to the sounds of plates crashing in which he covers his ears of the crash. Poor Porky as he was only in there for a short while and already is sacked on the first day. Porky is therefore tossed out of the Crocadero by the walrus manager as he is sacked. The manager here in this cartoon of course has a German accent, and speaks to Porky back in German, and he comments towards Porky, 'Today you are a ham' which is of course a reference to the line 'Today I am a man' but being called 'ham' makes him a sucker.

The walrus then starts to walk back into the kitchen as he pats his own hands as though the job is done. He then comments, 'Phew! The loafer'. Suddenly then the walrus manager starts to listen to the crowd in the dining area chanting all at the same time and repeatedly, 'We want music!'

We then view to the crowd who are in fact chanting, 'We want music' but it looks like the work of some "B" animator for him since the lip-sync isn't good at all. We then start to view more obscure angle shots where we find that the hands are in fact clapping in rhythm to the chant, 'We want music'. But what is really annoying is that why are they human hands? There aren't any humans seated in the audience as there are only animals, and that is just weird, and also a goof. It's an even bigger goof when we find that that there are also human legs stamping on their feet to the rhythm as well. While I like the idea that Tashlin was being more unique with his angle shots, but the error by adding human hands and feet is just painful for me to see - even though it was such a obvious mistake. I mean what happened, did all the animals suddenly have human hands and legs? As the chanting continues, the walrus is inside his music as he starts to scurry around worrying about no orchestra leader that hasn't arrived yet for the encore. He scurries in panic, 'The business is broken kaput. Where, oh, where is that music maker?' as he is just worrying since the audience still keep demanding.

Suddenly there is a knock on the door in which the walrus answers the knocking on the door.

Walrus Manager: Who's there?
Telegram dog Telegram, Betsy.

The telegram dog then starts to ride inside with his bicycle as he has a message for the walrus manager. The telegram dog then starts to take the envelope out of his own beard (like as though there's a box in there which is very amusing). He then replies, 'You owe me 60 cents, Betsy'. The walrus then hands him over 60 cents as the telegram dog responds to that, 'Goodbye, betsy'. The telegram dog then leaves the scene. The telegram then reads: To MANAGER CROCADERO. PLANE DELAYED FORCED LANDING WE FAW DOWN AND GO BOOM - THE BANDLEADERS. This is terrible news for the walrus manager as he finds that the bandleaders can't even make it over to the nightclub to perform some music for the audience. The funny part is that the telegram dog then pops his head out the window knowing what the message is about, 'Yeah they won't come at all, Betsy' and then slams the door. Rather amusing that the telegram boy calls him 'Betsy'. The chanting 'We want music' then returns to the music as we watch the animation cycles of then chanting as well as the other montage shots of them clapping their hands and stomping their feet. The walrus then starts to think again about how to get some music until he thinks very carefully, and then thinks of Porky. 'That swing dishwasher. I must get him back schnell. 'Schnell' is German for 'fast' or 'quick'. Of course, after I had to explain that; there is a man that interrupts the action by pausing the film shouting; 'Ladies and gentlemen. 'Schnell' means quick'. Personally I didn't see a big point in that since it doesn't make the scene particularly witty and it just gives it away for those who don't get it.

The walrus manager then starts to dash outside the Crocadero nightclub in which he starts to go searching for Porky. There are these quick shots of the walrus running out where he searches for Porky and of course; Tashlin is using these quick shots again in this cartoon like he did notably in Porky's Romance. The walrus then shouts out, 'Oh Porky. Porky! Come back and I give you a bandleader's job!'

The walrus then starts to grab Porky as he was walking down the street; but then more film editing focuses on the walrus zipping backwards which is a pretty cool effect; even adding to the Porky. My theory is that the scene was animated once, but done again with the same animation but just had to add Porky into it being done separately. The walrus manager then doesn't bother with the fact for Porky to be washing dishes as he finally gives Porky the opportunity to conduct and give music to an audience. He then shouts, 'This is your big chance, Porky. Pull the wool over their eyes'. He starts to throw on some clothes that Porky would have to wear since he's conducting for a nightclub. Although the clothes that Porky is wearing is too big to fit Porky. The animals continue to chant patiently to 'We want music' as it still continues. Suddenly; the show then finally starts to begin as there is a spotlight that then reads for the first act, 'The Jazz King'. The audience seated in the dining area then applause at the idea that music is going to be played.

The music then starts to get played as the giraffe starts off by playing the clarinet. The song which the giraffe plays on the clarinet is 'Rhapsody in Blue' (which is what the giraffe starts off by playing it). We then pan down to Porky who is seen conducting music but is dressed up as a caricature of Paul Whiteman. While he is conducting, the shirt that he is wearing is too big and of course his belly is sticking out and thuds to the ground in which Porky has to try and pick it up but it also goes into the rhythm of the music which is called 'Avalon' (and noted in the book Porky's conducting).

All of the other audience members are dancing to the music together as there are dancing couples dancing to it. The entertaining part then features these two kangaroos dancing together with the music but there are two joeys inside each of the kangaroo's pouch as they also dance holding each other to the music as well. There is this gag that pops back all through the cartoon where it involves the penguin waiter who runs out of the kitchen holding a glass with water in it. The trumpet that is playing sucks up the water inside it in which this infuriates the penguin water. Rather entertaining when the penguin just skids back inside the kitchen backwards. A funny part then features where we find of course Porky is conducting in that Paul Whiteman moustache of his but there is carjack where it is supporting his belly so that it doesn't thud to the ground again. Afterwards the curtains then close in which the audience applaud to the music and Porky is being a success after all.

After the audience then applaud to the music, we then hear the next act introduced and the title card reads of the act singing music: Guy Lumbago and His Boiled Kanadians. That is just a reference to a guy named Guy Lombardo, which refers to 'Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians'. We find that Porky is in fact in Canadian mountie uniform as he conducts smoothly to the music.

The vocal chords are sung by an old man (in the title card) is called 'Cryman Lumbago and he's singing the song Summer Night. In real life that is a reference to Victor Lumago; and his band actually consisted of four brothers in reality and others. The old man that is singing the song is in fact very crooked and I like the way that he just trolls with his 'Ys' or 'I's' whilst singing and shakes. The time where he sings the verse, '...in a thousand e-y-y-y-es' is very funny at least the comic timing of it and the exaggeration of it. The audience aren't even particularly bothered by his crooked singing. Whilst he sings, the penguin waiter then returns to the spot again in which he carries the tray with a glass. The trumpet then sucks up the wine again in which the penguin doesn't have much else to do except just slide back into the kitchen room. The song then concludes in which the action then follows a man who appears to work in a medical centre walks to the stage and wheels the old man away. The audience then applaud at the singing which they somehow liked but also Porky's fine conducting.

The next title card then reads: Cab Howlaway and his 'ABSORBENT COTTON CLUB ORCHESTRA'. Of course this is referencing Cab Calloway who was a superb and striking conductor of the 1930s and 1940s best known for his track 'Minnie the Moocher'.

Porky is now dressed up caricatures as Cab Calloway (and not a stereotype). He then starts to perform one of Calloway's notorious scatting sounds in which the orchestra members also contribute to. The other orchestra members keep on scatting to the music that Porky disguised as Calloway performs which makes it a real good bit of entertainment. The animation here of Porky disguised as Cab Calloway is just very good and solid animation here; and the caricature is great (and we certainly can tell it's still Porky - hence the snout). This is probably the only-time this cartoon has probably ever features Porky in blackface dressed as Cab Calloway as well as the other orchestra members that respond to his scatting sounds. I do like that little bit of animation where the orchestra member's heads then reach over to Porky rather close in which they scat all at the same time back to him.

After some scenes where we hear the scatting sounds; Porky as Cab then starts to spin around (a trademark of Calloway) and starts to play some wild jazz music that Calloway is very well-known for and I love his wild conducting which is just exciting. Porky is conducting the song to 'Chinatown, My Chinatown'. The penguin waiter appears once more but again with the same incident as the brass instrument sucks up the wine which is entertaining, still - until we find a conclusion.

The turtle then starts to go into rhythm in which he has guitar strings at the front part of his shell and goes into a song and Porky then starts to go into the song that he was playing wildly with the orchestra. This is one of them rare occasions where we know that Porky in his singing role as Calloway wouldn't have been done by Mel Blanc, but I'm not sure who the singer of Porky as Calloway would be. The animation there of Porky as Calloway is just pretty wacky animation but it's really great. Porky as Calloway then steps off the screen but returns as he's performing the entertaining act where he dresses himself in a Chinese stereotype. Porky then returns to the screen again where he continues to perform some impersonations of Cab Calloway and singing the popular song.

After some several moments with footage of Porky as Calloway; we then get to see the other orchestra members tuning into the song particularly where we see a rabbit playing two pianos (one behind him by  using his ears and the other in front of him with his fingers). There is a goat who is now playing the violin but then breaks one of the violin strings by accident. The goat then throws away the violin as it is useless and comes up with a clever idea by using his own beard to play music which is just rather humorous. An elephant then starts to play some music by holding onto a music sheet but also playing a brass instrument. The octopus then concedes the whole song playing sequence as he crashes the drums and plays it like mad until they all fall on top of him.

Porky then bows to the audience (still in blackface) as the audience applaud to the great performance and finale. The penguin appears again as he is stepping out but finally outwits the trumpet player by grabbing the jug on the spot and drinks it. After taking a swig from that, the penguin throws it away and blows a raspberry effect on the trumpet as he has outwitted it and finally gets it back which makes it a rather funny conclusion to the cartoon.

Overall comments: What I feel about this cartoon is that I feel that Tashlin was again focusing on more of a musical atmosphere on how it would look like inside a Hollywood nightclub. The chanting sequences where they shouted 'We want music' was in fact pretty convincing to me and gave it the right atmosphere. There were some good experimentation with film angles again particularly the idea with the audiences clapping their hands (but the awful error by adding human hands and how could he miss that?) Tashlin also appears to be experimenting more on speed in this cartoon where he focuses on the zipping scenes again of the walrus chasing Porky back into the Crocadero which was a neat technique he did back when he made earlier cartoons.

This is a very good cartoon of the 1930s; and probably one of Tashlin's better cartoons of this period. Altohugh the problem I have with it is that the first half of the cartoon really did have a plot, but already halfway through the cartoon we find that Porky is now chosen to conduct the music and goes clean through to the end which in my opinion just makes it feel a bit rushed; there is no great conclusion; the climax was already featuring the animals wanting more music but the problem is solved just midway through the cartoon and we see about two minutes of Porky and his orchestra jamming. The Cab Calloway scene I thought was just superb, and the animation of that was just superb work with the comic timing and use of exaggeration was done well. Tashlin's cinematography is good as usual I think and I find that the walrus was a pretty fun idea for the character even though Tex Avery would reuse the idea of that character again in Daffy Duck in Hollywood which was released later this year; unless he was influenced by the walrus in this cartoon and used it later? Story issues aside, this cartoon is a very good one for Porky as it shows some very funny and exciting moments and one of Tashlin's great cartoons and with great music, too.

8 comments:

  1. Carman Lombago..Carmen Lombardo..he, Guy, Victor and Lebert were the fourt brothers. The band was knoiwn as a sweetest music this side of heaven n understatement to both fans and detractors who called them dsimply old folks music..{compare Walt Lantz's 1954 "Real Gone Woody") which has the samer name spoof.). I actually enjoy their music but it's been derirded since that time as being the most syrpy and talent-less msuc...

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  2. There are some select popular song puns in this one, not only the obvious “Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day” and “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree” puns, but in the telegram, the popular 1921 song, “We Faw Down and Go Boom” is mentioned.

    To further Steve’s comment, the Cryman Lumbago musical bit is actually making fun of Guy Lombardo’s brother, Carmen, one of his key vocalists. He had such a wide vibrato in his voice, where some thought he sounded like an old man on his last legs.

    There’s a goof during the Calloway bit where they forgot to put the right sheet music on (it’s still ‘Avalon’). After the penguin waiter makes his appearance, the right sheet music is in place (‘Chinatown, My Chinatown’).

    Lastly, you didn’t like that ‘schnell gag’? It’s hilarious!

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  3. It's also worth noting this was the cartoon where Tashlin finally gave in and redesigned Porky to somewhat resemble the thinner design introduced by Avery and improved by Clampett, and that part of the final plot wouldn't have worked without it. Porky's stuffing the pillow under his shirt to imitate Paul Whiteman really just gets him back to about the size Frank was drawing the pig in his previous cartoons, and the 'old' look never would have worked with Porky manically running around the stage imitating Cab Calloway.

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  4. I forgot to add, does anyone have information on Lew Landsman? This seems to be his only credit.

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  5. Yes, "The Lady Who Couldn't Be Kissed" is a real song-recorded by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, among others.

    Telegraph delivery goat is saying, "Betcha", not "Betsy".

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  6. Devon, he was a gag artist. There's a photo on line of Garry Moore standing next to a painting of his (a question mark next to a radio mike). I've found two stories from 1948 about an exhibit of his work at the Beverly Hills Hall of Arts. He died in 1997.

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  7. Paul Whiteman worked with Gershwin on a regular basis. He also commissioned "Rhapsody in Blue", which he and his orchestra premiered with Gershwin on the piano, hence the brief solo clarinet reference.

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