Sunday, 23 September 2012
206. Have You Got Any Castles? (1938)
Release date: June 25, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Frank Tashlin.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Town Crier / Praying Baby / Rip Wan Winkle / Alladin), Delos Jewkes (Old King Cole), Ted Pierce (W.C. Fields), Georgia Stark (Heidi), and the Four Blackbirds (Vocalists). (Keith Scott - please confirm if the casting is accurate).
Story: Jack Miller.
Animation: Ken Harris.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Books of literature come to life singing contemporary popular songs.
When the cartoon was released restored for the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 2 - the Alexander Woolcott Town Crier scenes were restored for the set as it was deleted during its reissue Blue Ribbon print. It was lost for years but is now available on the DVD set. My question is, however, if they managed to save the footage of the Town Crier - then wouldn't that come from the original print with original titles? It kind of confuses me because of that it is still shown as a 'Blue Ribbon'.
"Hear ye, Hear ye, hear ye" begins the Town Crier in this cartoon. He is standing behind a book that is called The Town Crier which is actually his own radio show that he had on CBS and that's why its parodied here in this opening. Today - an audience would believe that joke would be completely forgotten but back then -- it wasn't. The Town Crier continues, 'Tonight the muses sing, we harken to pan as with sweetly piping lute. He wends us through a delightful phantasmagoria with the deathless heroes of legend and history and the entrancing figures of fiction and fantasy. And, first among our illustrious hosts we want you to meet...'. The Town Crier monologue shot is in fact just just a reused opening from the Tashlin cartoon he made earlier - The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos. The voice, and practically the whole synopsis of the monologue is the same. I guess it was cut from the short for that reason though I don't really know why. I have to say that the animation of the Town Crier there is very beautifully animated with such subtle hand movements and the delicate use of drawings.
The thick books that are revealed there are 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde', 'Fu Man Chu', 'Phantom of the Opera' and 'Frankenstein'. Gee, is the book 'Frankenstein' really THAT thick when its really only roughly 300 pages? and 'Phantom of the Opera' was only about 200 pages. The first villain to step out of the book cover is Mr. Hyde from the first book. The second villain to step out of the case is Fu Manchu, then followed by the Phantom and then Frankenstein. They then look at the audience as they roar at them trying to frighten the audience. After their loud lion roars - they then pause and start to then change the mood and atmosphere by dancing to the tune of 'Gavotte' and they then dance like softies. Dr. Fumanchu and the Opera then start to hold each others dance performing a type of circular dance. It then follows up where the villains pair up with one another and they clap each others hands. Their own finale then finishes their dance. I imagine that this sequence was really aimed to amuse the audience to make the villains feel silly when they are really supposed to be frightening.
He then prays in a very quiet oriental voice: 'Now I may lay down to sleep...(the rest is just some mumbling)...bless Papa Leon and Uncle Ray'. That would've got a laugh at the studio watching the cartoon since its referring the executives Leon Schlesinger and Ray Katz. Of course - nobody in the theatres would've thought it was a joke since not many people really may attention to the credits. Then we find more dancing from other books but this is a short tap dancing sequence. The book called 'The Invisible Man' by H.G. Wells (features an invisible person (only shoes, hat and gloves are seen) then tap dances. A book then features another invisible character in a book called 'Topper' by Thorne Smith then tap dances. My guess is that the gag is supposed to mean that it is a pun on the book title and is supposed to top the Invisible Man with his dancing abilities. More tap dancing then features this Negro character who is dancing up and down the stairs inside the book called 'The 39 Steps' a book written by John Buchan. According to Phil Monroe in his interview, he recalls animating a scene of a 'character walking up and down the stairs' in this Tashlin cartoon and he must mean that particular scene. We PAN back down where we find a book called 'So Big' and it features Greta Garbo at the front cover with her giant feet as she sweeps her feet to the rhythm. It is rather amusing when its caricaturing her feet size. The music played in the background to the rhythm is called 'Vienni, vienni'.
The pages then continue to turn as we find these black lady dancers shake it. That reused animation of the dancers has been re-used quite a lot in the 1930s and its one of the more notorious ones. The singing continues, 'If you think the Waltz is horrid - and you like your rhythm torrid. 'Till it makes you mop your forehead, I've got Swing for Sale'. The page then turns over again as we find a black angel vocal group who then sing a blues voice. 'Rhythm's what this country needs - for years and years I've said it. If you buy from me, it's C.O.D. I sell swing but not credit'. The pages then start to close in which we feature the black small angel at the front cover of the book scatting the last part of the song. Well - I imagine that this sequence was added into there to add some more footage time - I suppose.
The next sequence is also some slightly reused animation - but only some of it was reused from Speaking of the Weather. He then find the William Powell caricature from the film 'The Thin Man' (also a book) as he steps out of his own book. As he turns around to walk along - he is indeed very thin. He then turns around as he is walking over to a cook book. The music that is played in the background is Boulevardier from the Bronx. He steps out of the book a moment later and as he steps out - he turns around from our view shot and he has certainly gained a few pounds as he was eating inside the cook book. Yeah it was slightly amusing although I must ask - why does William Powell there look like a bug afterwards - it really looks weird as his rear end is just so huge and horribly shaped and he even looks like a beetle.
After the PAN we then find the book 'Little Women' written by Louisa May Alcott. We see these three ladies (caricatured as little women - which is the gag of why they look childlike). They then go into song as they sing the 'Old King Cole' song. 'When I was a tot (tapping their feet) - I thought quite a lot. Of the famous people in the storybooks I got'. The other book (also written by May Alcott) is called 'Little Men' which is supposedly a sequel to 'Little Women'. The little men are also caricatured as being little. They sing; 'As I grew in size - so did I grow wise. And I've learnt some things that really opened up my eyes'. Then it is back to the girls who sing their line, 'But in spite of everything I learned - there's one old guy who's still aced high as far as I'm concerned'. I like how they move their bodies sideways as its pretty good timing. May I ask - why do the girl's shoes look like pig's trotters? (Funny story: one time my mum thought out-of-nowhere that the book 'Little Women' was written by Sidney Sheldon).
Then there is a book which is featured called The House of Seven Gables which is a Gothic book by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It features seven windows and each window then has Clark Gable coming out as each Gable head sings a word of the line, 'But the old boy loves to have his fling'. Of course the joke is very obvious since the book title mentions 'Gable' and a story guy who seemed to be an average gag man must've came up with that. Then we cut to the scene where the bulldog is drumming in the book title called Bulldog Drummin'. The book title is a clever parody of the character Bulldog Drummond a character created by Herman Cyril McNeille. That animation of the bulldog is somehow very appealing to me - I love how the drumsticks smear and that the dog just gets into the rhythm of it.
We then cut back to Old King Cole as he sings 'Old King Cole - I'm a merry old soul'. The off-screen chorus then sings 'and he waved his spectre with a swing' and Old King Cole then waves his spectre just as the chorus sings it. Then we cut back to the drumming bulldog. The next scene is a different verse as its a biographical book called The Life of Louis Pasteur and Louis Pasteur was a French scientist who was notable for his discovery of germs and developing a vaccine for rabies. We find that Louis Pasteur is in fact experimenting with potions in his laboratory. The off-screen chorus then sing 'Now here is a man who never fooled around - but daily he mixes TNT'. Pasteur then grabs out the potion in his hand that sizzles and the TNT inside explodes. The book title then changes to 'Seventh Heaven. There is a really high funny voice that is sung that sings 'but now he's in yonder with a ring around'. He is already in an angel outfit but still messing around with his potions.
Meanwhile - we find that Rip Van Winkle (a book character by Washington Irving) is a sleep. He is disturbed by the noise from the music as he then grabs out a pair of scissors complaining, 'Old King Cole is a noisy old soul'. That is a funny rhyming line there as he just moans. He grabs the scissors and then he reaches over to Uncle Tom's hair (in the book next to him 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'). He cuts a piece of his white hair in which he then places it inside his ears pretending that they are cotton and uses them to cover his ears. That even feels so wrong in today's standards but yet that little subtle gag is just really funny. The bulldog drums once more. Then we are back to the May Alcott characters who sing with some action in their arms, 'because we had his fling and because he liked to swing'. The Old King Cole character then stretches his head closer to the camera in perspective singing 'I went down in history'. Then the Clark Gable heads pop out of the 'Seven Houses of Gables' book as they sing 'So perhaps there's a chance for me' as they then step out together singing the last word. I admit that I really enjoyed this sequence to tell you the truth. I find the songs and music in this sequence to be very catchy and I like it. I didn't really think much of his carton at the beginning but watching the middle of it really got me going.
Then there is a little gag which is features a mannered woman (in the 'etiquette' book written by Emily Post but is called Emily Host for some reason). He find in the other book about Henry the 8th where he is chewing the foods without any manners. The woman is singing, 'Fudge it like a good man and you should shallow my book, Henry!' That is rather amusing as the book is trying to teach Henry VIII some manners. We then find another part where there is a snake charmer playing some snake charming music with these snakes charming inside the book Mother India which was a very controversial book written by Katherine Mayo. Rip Van Winkle is annoyed once more with the music as he grabs out his scissors, 'I'll get out my scissors that cut'. As he is about to cut off Uncle Tom's cotton hair again - Uncle Tom beats him up and then takes the scissors to cut Rip Van Winkle's beard. Then there is a book that called 'Diamond Jim' and Diamond Jim is at the front cover as he sings 'Have you got any mortgages you want to have paid, baby?' which would be a reference to his greediness for money.
Then we find a book called 'So Red the Nose' and it features a W.C. Fields caricature at the front with a red nose as he sings a verse, 'After all my adventures are true' which was impersonated by Ted Pierce. Then the Pied Piper goes into rhythm in his book as the mice then follow him. The 3 Musketeers then finish the last part of the song as they sing 'I love you'. The audience then applaud. The 3 Musketeers then step out of their own book cover as they then enter the book cover of the book called 'Three Men on a Horse' and they step out already riding a horse. That is a slightly amusing visual gags when comparing visual books. Frank Tashlin was already interested in making these type of cartoons with books-coming-to life - especially in this period. They ride past in which they take the keys off the book that was from the front cover of 'Seven Keys of Baldpate'. They then ride over to the book 'Prison of Zelda' as there is a slight story going between book covers after about 5 minutes of no plot but just musicals.
Then there are then a group of armies and the Calvery from all different type of books then start to fire at the Three Musketeers who are escaping but firing back with their pistols. Cannons are being fired towards them as there is a war going on with the books. Then some beaus of the legion start to step out hollering but it sounds like in the background I'm listening to the sounds of Daffy Duck's whooping sounds. The chase then continues on with the musketeers running away from the book characters. The only character who is bothered about it is Rip Van Winkle as he complains - Why don't they let me sleep? He then starts to open up a book called 'Hurricane' but as he opens it a hurricane is released which would blow away those fighting. Afterwards - they are then blown away but they are trapped inside the book - Gone with the Wind which was a funny way to present it since the book was a hit when it was released.
In the viewed version I am watching - there appears to be this strange cut where there are these white lines crossing together (probably because its lost footage added into the Blue Ribbon version). We then pan as the cartoon and the show is about to end as we return to the Alexander Woolcott Town Crier. He then announces the departing, 'This is your Town Crier again. The music fades and the departing celebrants - bid us adieu - (which is French for 'goodbye'), happy with the memories of the book land frolic. All is well. All is well'. There is a slow pan as the Town Crier is ringing his bell a goodbye to the audience. We see his silhouetted shadow again as we then PAN to the cuckoo clock. The cuckoo steps out with a cuckoo and it turns out that his beak is tied up but it still cuckoos. We truck back a bit to find that Rip Van Winkle is sleeping beside it as he has finally found some peace. That is a little amusing way to end the cartoon as it has finally reached its own conclusion.
The animation in this cartoon was particularly nice but it did show some reuse animation from older cartoons (but mostly in the Clean Pastures sequence) and there are even recycled ideas that are used like the opening and closing scenes with the Town Crier as it was a reused parody from 'The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos'. I admit I liked the middle section of the cartoon where we hear the popular songs and I find then catchy and even fun to watch. As much as these popular songs in cartoons bore me to death - the songs in the cartoon don't. Although I admit the ending sequences with the chase sequences were a bit rushed and was performed rather lame.