Tuesday, 21 August 2012

196. A Star is Hatched (1938)

Title card courtesy of Dave Mackey.
Warner cartoon no. 195.
Release date: April 2, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Director Yelling 'Cut'), Ted Pierce (W.C. Fields/J. Megga Phone/Movie Guide\Hick) and Berneice Hansell (Baby Chick).
Story: Ted Pierce.
Animation: Bob McKimson.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Emily the rooster aspires to be a Hollywood as she travels all the way to do so.

The last cartoon that Friz Freleng is credited under the name 'Supervision' until he then leaves the Schlesinger studio to go over to MGM for about a year and a half working on mostly Captain and the Kids shorts before he returned to Schlesinger in 1940 and continued his famous career at Warner Bros. there from them on and became the better director he was.

The cartoon begins as we view a sign where the location of the place is called Hickville. Yes, we've seen that town before in some 1936 Friz Freleng cartoons but it's really a parody of the town 'Hicksville' which is in New York. The sign reads: 2000 Miles to HOLLYWOOD - 200Y TO HICKVILLE GAS STATION. After we view the sign we then pan towards a the Hickville Gas Station where it is seen about 200 yards away from the sign as shown.

There is then a sign that is read at the Gas Station which reads the following: Hicksville Gas Station - Police Station - Fire Station - Justice of the Peace - Plumbing Supplies and it lists that there are several parts of what the station provides - I guess. The music here you can hear in the backgrounds is a recognisable tune and also a Stalling cue which is the theme to Arkansas Traveler. We then start to view inside the gas station as we are to discover that somebody also lives in that gas station as well. Why? I guess that somebody who owns the gas station lives upstairs in it. Upstairs in the gas station we find that there is a bedroom which is full of celebrities pictures and posters. A lot of the pictures that is displayed up there are actual photographs of some celebrities here which I believe was shortened to be placed into the backgrounds. Anybody recognise any of the stars in the posters displayed in the bedroom?

After a look through the bedroom where the pictures are covered with celebrities -- it turns out that there is a rooster girl who wears a bluebonnet sitting on her stomach reading a magazine called 'Movie Stars' as she is obsessed with film stars and desires to become one. She then steps out of the bed as she then starts to become an impersonation of Katherine Hepburn, "Rarely I know someday, somehow, I too, shall be a great actress. Oh, I don't know I will. Rarely I do'.

She walks over to the window of her bedroom as she continues, '...And great men will be at my feet  and kiss my hand'. She then starts to perform an impersonation of Juliet from the Shakespeare play Romeo & Juliet (and I play that everyone loves but I hate). She starts to quote a line from the balcony scene, 'Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art thou Romeo?' As she is still acting pretending to be Juliet; her acting and passion for being a film star is interrupted when she hears the sound of knocking coming from her door. The knocking is then played in rhythm to Shave and a Haircut which is probably the most over-used 7-beat rhythm ever used. The rooster girl then walks over to the door to open it in which she then finds that it is a hick who has brought her some flowers. 'Hello Emily, I brought you some posies' he then starts to laugh like Elmer Blurt from the Al Pearce Show. The hick in this cartoon would also be voiced by Ted Pierce. And we also know that the rooster girl is called Emily and that was her name also recycled (as well as design) from the 1936 Friz cartoon Let It Be Me - in fact this whole cartoon is a remake of that short.

After the Hick then starts to laugh like Elmer Burt from the radio show - Emily then starts to impersonate Greta Garbo by rejecting him (which shows she has a real love for movie stars that she pretends to be one). She impersonates him as she puts on the deep Garbo voice and moody look on the face as she replies, 'Please go away - I want to be alone'. The voice actress for that part sounds like some middle-aged woman trying her real best to put on a Garbo voice.

She then starts to hear the sound of a car honking that is parked for more gas at the gas station. It turns out that as she looks out the window - the template reads that it appears to be from Hollywood, California. I don't think the numbers on the template is referencing anything. She then dashes out of the house to meet with the guy who has a car from Hollywood and leaving the hick standing outside her bedroom. She then steps outside the gas station as she meets with what looks like a Hollywood mogul. He then greets her as she steps outside the station, "Good morning, gorgeous" in which she is flattered by his comments. There is a sign that this read in his own car that identifies himself - he's even got money and fame to have his own identity card where his information is revealed: J. Megga Phone - Director - Super Super Colossal Pictures Corp. - Hollywood, Calif. She then reads the information that is seen in the car in which she then looks at him with admiration and recognition. That is Ted Pierce doing this voice as he's impersonating Cary Grant as it appears.

Emily: Are you the great director, Meggaphone?
Meggaphone: Sssh. I'm travelling incognito.
Emily: Oooh, isn't it wonderful? I always wanted to go to Hollywood.

As she has questioned him about him being the great director; basically what he is saying is he's trying to keep himself a low profile so he won't be too recognised - Hence the three different striped glasses he's wearing. She then speaks about the talent that she long desires of being in Hollywood rather living in Hickville. He then starts to take a look at her physique in which he views (in a point of view shot) from the shoes to the top of the head as he really likes the figure he is seeing. That type of shot is of course the same layout and even idea from 'Let it Be Me'. Meggaphone then starts to hand over her a card where it has flashing lights over his name, 'If you ever want to get in pictures. Hook me up'. It's even written down at the back of the card in which he directly quotes what's written (unless that is exactly what he would say to any chick that he fancies). After she then receives the card to go to Hollywood and get his address -- she then rushes back into the station to collect all of her belongings in which the hick is also there still standing carrying the posies still in his hand. She then rushes in as she grabs out two suitcases of her clothes (already placed in a chest of draws) which is a fun idea for a gag to store your suitcases. After the dashing scenes she then exits the house and the poor Hick then finds that his posies die out as he's heartbroken. It feels like as though those quick dash scenes were an influence from Frank Tashlin's timing, but not quite.

In the next sequence we find that there is a lot of montage shots that are being shown here particularly of Emily's legs only seen as she is carrying her suitcase (didn't she not have two?) and she walks along with the theme in the background California, Here I Come.

In these montage shots we find her walking with her suitcase time-to-time but also hitchhiking. The more she then keeps on travelling, and in the next montage shot it turns out she has travelled 400 miles and has 2000 miles left. The montage shots are almost over as she walks and it turns out that she is walking much more slower - and even when the sign reads that she is 800 miles away from being at Hollywood which is more than half way but still a long way to travel. After travelling an awful long way from Hickville; Emily has finally made it over. The words 'Hollywood' come screaming out to the screen and we see a nice view of Hollywood in the distance with beam lights shooting out. Hey, notice that the background shot of the look of Hollywood was used later on as the title card for Tex Avery's cartoon Daffy Duck in Hollywood which was released later on in the year. Then there is a street sign that is being shown in which there is an off-screen band that appears to be singing Hooray for Hollywood. The street sign then points to different directions of the streets as one of them reads Vine Street facing the over way and the other facing to Hollywood Boulevard.

During the Hollywood sequence and the song we find several celebrities walking past that have been caricatured. That includes Edward G. Robinson, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell and Greta Garbo walking past the streets although they don't interact with one another.

We then find Johnny Barrymore who is walking down the street in which he is known as the 'Great Profile' at the time and that is what it is referenced here. The animation for that is reused animation from The CooCoo Nut Grove. We then find another celebrity that is featured as a paperboy and its none other than British child actor Freddie Bartholomew in which he is trying to get a crowd to read his newspapers in a British accent. Then there is a trolley being ridden in Hollywood and the conductor of it is Clark Gable as he rings the bell. W.C. Fields is standing as a police officer in which we think that we see his usual trademark red nose but it then turns green as he wiggles his finger towards the people crossing the road. That is a very funny as it's referencing the red colour of his nose and it turns green like a traffic light). Of course that is also Ted Pierce who knows how to put on a WC Fields voice quite well.

After we get a view of the celebrities we then start to view the Chinese Theatre which is a very famous theatre in Hollywood. We see that the front part features the main movie that is being shown in the theatres is Prince and His Papa which is a reference to the story The Prince and the Pauper and also it was a film of the same name that came out in 1937 and stared Errol Flynn. Also featured in the cinema is: 15 Features - 15 Shorts - News - ETC. 

At the bottom of the Chinese Theatre features the names of celebrities handprints and their writing but it mostly just features pointless pun names for them like: Errol Glynn being 'Errol Flynn' and Bette Savis being 'Bette Davis', etc. but once to get to Greta Garbo's own cement she has her foot printed, and she has been caricatured for having enormous feet that it's even bigger than the cement block which would've appealed to an audience back then who would've known about that. After we view the Chinese theatre we then view to a tour guide that is going around the celebrities as there are some tourists who keep on turning around and there are a view of the houses. I like the timing of how they turn their heads around looking at the houses as though awed when seeing celebrity houses. The first house is labelled Home of the Thin Man which is referencing Dick Powell. The Semoan house is referencing to actress Simone Simon who is famous for being an actress and also for having both (forename and surname) that sound and are spelt similar.

We then start to view to a home in which it reads, 'Home of Tarzan' as we pan up to the sky to find that Tarzan and Olympic fame Johnny Weissmuller is sitting on top of a branch on his easy chair reading a newspaper. As we start to view more of the houses; we discover that the houses that they are looking at are made from cardboard as though they're from studio settings which makes it funny since the tour guide would be a crooked scheme to scam people's money. I'm starting to find that the whole point of this sequence to be rather pointless for this cartoon because we have completely gone off the plot in this cartoon. I mean where's Emily? and why aren't we focusing on her in this story as instead we're just looking at the gag side of Hollywood. It might as well be a different production like a travelogue parody on Hollywood (looks like we need Tex to do that) but instead it is crammed into here which is probably why the cartoon lasts 8 minutes and I feel that is slowing the cartoon down.

After the sequence with the random sequences of Hollywood - we finally then focus back onto the plot with Emily as she has arrived at the Colossal studio where she is to meet her new agent to help make her become an actress. As she steps into the studio; there are feathers flying out of the scene in which she is booted outside the studio entrance with no access or admission.

Emily then walks over to the Studio stage in which she finds that there is a door to enter the Studio. There is a door in which it reads; "Do Not Enter when Red Light is on". There is a red light seen but it turns out that "red light" is in fact the nose of W.C. Fields who turns up again (and he appears to be at different settings at different times - at first he was a traffic police). He then opens the door and says a farewell to Charlie Chaplin walking out in his characteristic character walk. He remarks to him, 'Don't let the termites get you'. She realises that she is at the wrong location in which she then finds another building at the studio where she could meet her agent. It turns out that inside the casting office are a group of people in there that are fishing inside which explains the pun in the door that reads "casting office".

After the iris out, we start to pan through a sound stage but then there is a dressing room with a funny shaped door but it turns out that Mae West is in there. She steps out of the dressing room (and is able to fit through that door) in which she steps out. The next individual dressing room that appears is for Charlie Chaplin as he also steps out at the oddly-shaped door so that his clown feet can waddle out.

We then start to notice that inside one of the studio sets is Megga Phone as he is on the set and walks down. There appears to be a type of duck servant that then turns up in which the duck then places the director's chair for him to sit down on. There is then a PAN through the chairs in which we view the 1st assistant director, followed by a 2nd, 3rd....and then up to a 6th assistant director. I guess that this is a joke concerning that some films have too many assistant directors.

He is sitting down watching the film as he is starting to make some changes with how the camera will be shot, "I think I better make this a close-up. Don't you think so, boys?" All of the other assistant directors that are sitting down then nod with agreement to Megga Phone as they respond to that, "Oh yeeeeaah!" There must've been a craze at the studio over the Ken Murray Show which is why it's shown here. The 15th assistant director then starts to hiss disagreeing in which the director then starts to whack him with a mallet. The fact that they have a 15th assistant director is particularly funny. The director then starts to give a shout out for the whole set to be quiet as they are going to recording some footage for their scene. Each assistant director then start to PAN down as one-by-one they start to shout, 'QUIET!' As soon as they keep on shouting quiet, the traffic lights from the traffic then change to 'Quiet' in which the entire traffic then start to become quiet. The director then continues the orders as he responses, 'Turn them over'. The production is called 'Broadway Broadcast' as it stars Dick Fowl as it shows on the film board.

The film then starts rolling as it turns out that Dick Fowl (Dick Powell here) as he is wearing an army's suit in which he is singing the song: All's Fair in Love and War but the director sitting down watching the scene isn't entirely convinced as to what is happening. As he marches like a soldier; he then zips out of the scene as he swaps into sailor uniform as he sings the song Don't Give Up the Ship. After singing his part as a sailor, he's now in navy uniform singing Anchors Aweigh.

There then appears to be these soldiers as ladies as they have formed into a very neat shape where they marching to the song. Afterwards he then starts to stretch his entire mouth to the entire audience in which that appears in close-up (the close up of that isn't very appealing I have to say). The director then decides to cut the film as he shouts out that word. I wonder who the singer of Dick Fowl would be but I guess it could be Cliff Narazzo again as it sounds like the singing voice that he has done when impersonating Eddie Cantor before.

After another sequence that was also completely off the story; we then start to discover that Emily has entered the plot again - as I assumed that she gets lost from it quite often. She then opens the door as she has entered the right office for where to find him. She turns around to look but she turns in a shock as we then find out that there are other chicks that he's also hooked up for.

She then looks over to see what they have also got in which it turns out the other chicks have had the exact same card from him as it turns out that she is not the only one that has been asked or seem with that has talent. He then starts to enter the room as he is holding onto a cigar in which all of the other ladies/chicks then start to walk over to him as they are carrying the same letter and he's just walking through them playing it cool. Emily then tries to walk over to the director Megga Phone but he is just ignoring the other chicks that he's been trying to get into which is pictures but in reality doesn't particularly care for their passion or interest. After slamming the door towards Emily she then starts to break down, "Oh dear. This is so embarrassing!" in which she then starts to cover her face sobbing to herself.

After the whole situation and the Hollywood trip is over for Emily she then returns 2000 miles all the way back to Hickville in which she is now through with being a Hollywood actress and fame. She then starts to prefer to live a life with the hick who was there earlier on in the cartoon trying to win her love to him. It turns out that he has managed so in the end as they are now a couple already with baby chicks.

As they already have quite a lot of chicks at home, it turns out that one of their own daughters already aspires of becoming a film access. Emily the mother hears of her dreams and doesn't want her to end up like she did; she then slaps the chick across the face so she learns not to do that. Of course that whole ending is also a rip-off of Let It Be Me.

Overall comments: I find that this cartoon (and even being Friz's last cartoon for WB before going off to MGM) is that this cartoon was basically a rip-off of his own production he made two years earlier - Let It Be Me. It's hard for me to say which cartoon I find better but if I think very deeply I'd have to say I much prefer Let It Be Me. The problem I have with this cartoon is that the story there - even though it's the exact same concept and storyline but so much of it really slows the cartoon down or not even relevant that it doesn't feel as though it belongs in this cartoon - no wonder why the cartoon clocks in at 8 minutes. I guess maybe those sequences were already added in to add more time to the cartoons. Emily is the exact same character from 2 years earlier with the boyfriend as well; so this cartoon is basically a remake. It feels to me that in Friz's last cartoons he made around this time he ended up reusing plot ideas from his older cartoons and remade them as well as gags, too.

Although this may not be a good conclusion, in my opinion, to Friz's brief departure but when you think about it. Friz was a much better cartoon director than he was four years ago when he first started. He started off very poorly much like anyone else and I don't think that Friz started to show a better quality in the cartoons or even make good cartoons until around 1936 when he started to get rid of the idea for these simplistic looking character designs and musical cartoons as he finally started to get more into story. My favourite cartoons that I think he made in this era so far was The CooCoo Nut Grove and Pigs Is Pigs. I feel his strongest year was 1937 where I enjoyed much of his cartoons from that era. His last three or four cartoons deteoriated a bit but I think because maybe they were finished off by someone else when he left for MGM, but when he returns again in 1940 - he is a much better director than he was. Funny how that after Freleng left for MGM and whilst he was gone - the studio appeared to be doing fine without him but by 1939 the outputs for those cartoons were just weak! Frank Tashlin left and Chuck Jones joined the crew (making slow-paced cartoons) and the rest were just making average cartoons and they needed Freleng to return but I think when Friz returned - it made a much better difference.


  1. I think Ted Pierce is doing his natural speaking voice and not an impression of anyone.

  2. Great Site. Good reviews, just a few corrections...
    The Thin Man movies starred William Powell not Dick Powell.
    Walking out of the sound stage with WC Fields is Charlie McCarthy not Charlie Chaplin. Charlie McCarthy was the dummy for Edger Bergan and they both had a succesful radio series at this time. Fields was a frequent guest and their running gag "feud" was so succesful, they partnered in films (Never Give a Sucker a Even Break/Song of the Open Road). Being a venquilitrist dummy, Fields often made insults about Charlie made of wood, hence the termite gag.