|Title card courtesy of Dave Mackey.|
Release date: July 9, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Roger St. Clair / Harold as Old Man / Sailor).
Story: Melvin Millar.
Animation: Herman Cohen.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Old couple recall an event and recall the gay 1890s.
The first cartoon to have Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton team up together as co-directors; as Hardaway directed 'Porky's Hare Hunt' solely and Dalton was paired up with Cal Howard before.
PLEASE DO NOT HISS THE VILLAIN.
I suppose the forward was used fort hose who had a nostalgia for the 1890s. I imagine the 'Please Don't Hiss the Villain' part was at least used for amusement in the audience since in pantomimes or shows the villains are often hissed. While about at least 15 seconds of that description of the screen; the line that reads 'please do not hiss the villain' then has another word added to the end of the sentence that how reads: 'please do not hiss the villain..much!' That would've been worth for some laughs since we are expected to hiss at the villain of this cartoon anyway. I see that it appears to be that Ben Hardaway (or Cal Dalton) has already shown some Avery influence with these title cards as they're poking fun towards it, too. So anyway -- the cartoon begins with an elderly couple sitting on a settee together as they are looking at a photo album together showing a nostalgia of the days when they were young. The old man chuckles; 'Yes sir, those were the good ol'days...the gay '90s (1890s)'. The old man is chuckling rather enjoyably with memories. Mel Blanc's voice of the old man is a rather appealing voice, I'd say.
Even a bird from up in a tree notices the woman behind with all that fruit on the tree and then a group of birds start to fly down. As they fly down on top of the hat - they then start to eat the fruit off the hat and after they have finished the hat looks ruined. Is it me or would the gag be much more funnier if it were a sexual innuendo gag featuring the birds actually wolf-whistling at her behind because I think her behind is largely more noticeable in drawing than the fruit hat. The gag of the birds eating the tree is a rather mild gag to me. After that sequence with the birds - the old man then chuckles at the supposed 'memories' of the old man chuckling as he moves on and then points his finer towards the 'Penny Arcade' which he happily remembers back in the 1890s. 'Here's the old Penny Arcade' - he comments. The photograph then fades into colour and animation of the folks standing outside the arcade are either walking down the street or entering the arcade.
The man from looking inside at the photographs then jumps out with excitement as he shouts 'WOW!' - okay, maybe that gag was a tad more edgier than that gentle bird gag scene. After that sequence with the machine; we are then taken back to the present day where the old man has a picture of his enemy named Roger St. Clair who is portrayed as a Snidley Whiplash stereotype. The old man recalls, 'Here is Roger St. Clair the snake'. The picture of Roger St. Clair then forms into a model of an illustrated snake which is represented as a visual gag. Well, you'd see that gag something when it happens. The old man also recalls, 'I'll never forget that afternoon 40 years ago'. So, this past story would've taken place in the year 1898 - if this is set in the year 1938. In a way it reminds me of the 1934 cartoon 'Those Were Wonderful Days' where it features the villain and a couple but here the villain is gonna be a huge part. Don't worry folks, remember how pissed off I was whenever there was a villain capturing a girlfriend in those cartoons? Well, it's gonna be in this whole cartoon and it's already pissin' annoying'. The old man also recalls on that day - that 'they were on a picnic'.
Huh, the snake movement has been used often in Avery's earlier cartoons where he has featured his villains and Bugs Hardaway has been inspired too much by Tex and uses it here. Although I personally find that Bugs Hardaway was quite a copycat towards Tex Avery since he usually pitched in gags for the cartoons and yet; they were mostly reused ones sometimes from Tex Avery or even reused story ideas. As he slithers through the rock - Harold and Emily are enjoying their romance together on the swing as Harold pushes her gently. Even though the villain stereotype is rather typical (and would often be given to villain voice actor Billy Bletcher) but I find Mel Blanc's performance of the villain here rather appealing although he knows how to produce an appealing voice.
He then starts to unveil his jacket which appears to reveal some blouses or dresses which he offers for Emily to wear as long as she accepts him. She still rejects the offer. He then starts to swing from the tree and then back up still muttering "curses!" He then brings out some more presents for Emily to accept such as a diamond ring and a necklace. An amusing part for me then features Emily swing up from the tree (but the swing just stays at the top) and she scorns at him, "How dare you, you cad! I only love Harold!" and it shows that gifts mean nothing to her as Harold means more to her. Roger St. Clair manages to take it rather fine but then comes up with an ambitious plan as he breaks the forth wall. 'I'll have to resort to more forceful methods'. His plan then begins as Emily swings up at the tree again. Roger St. Clair then grabs onto the rope of the swing (leaving Emily swinging up there) as he shouts 'Roger St. Clair wants? Roger St. Clair gets!" as he then grabs but Emily squirms to free herself.
Roger St. Clair then teases and makes silly mocking noises towards his failure as he swings down from the tree (with Emily) to his motorcar. The car then starts off with a rather dodgy start before driving off leaving Harold. Harold then stands back up in which he then declares by using the idiom to seek revenge on St. Roger to rescue Emily, "He that is down fears no fall". As he pushed the swing out of the way before; the swing then flies back and hits Harold in the head and he ends up knocked out again and then there is a fade-out.
SIX MONTHD LATER IN THE BIG CITY HAROLD SEARCHES VAINLY FOR EMILY.
Well, all I can say is, WHY start six months later?? Has he been unconscious for six months? Why couldn't he have started immediately afterwards?? Harold then walks into the scene as he is walking through building to building looking out for Emily in his search. He then meets and encounters a sailor standing by a traffic post.
He then shows out a picture of his girlfriend and asks the sailor, 'Have you seen my Emily?' The sailor then looks at the picture of the girl. 'Who that gal? Ahh go on I've pushed better dames that off the (?) book?" He then grabs out his own match and lights his cigar that is attached to his mouth. After he puffs his cigarette - the tattoo of his chest then features a ship with the funnel puffing out smoke which is a nice subtle visual gag. He then continues to quote some more quotes, 'The soul that suffers is stronger than the soul it rejoices'. It appears to be his characteristic personality where he likes to quote some familiar quotes as it already shows (and probably acting like being a dramatic actor). There is then a PAN where we start to view inside the saloon doors. I'm not too sure what the whole meaning of the sailor sequence gag is supposed to mean.
Then there is a little gag that features where it starts off with a bartender as they sing the song that Emily is singing and then a group of bartenders join in to form a barbershop quartet singing the same song as Emily. The singing causes some of the locals inside the bar to be depressed. One of the guys looks so glum in his face that he ends up breaking some alcohol in his bottle with some metal (like cracking an egg) in which he pours it in his shots as he drinks. The way that he cracks the bottle like cracking the egg is just a lack of imagination for a gag because it just doesn't mean anything. The bartenders singing the song continue to sing in a depressed way as there are tears running down their guys until they then crowd to each other sobbing as they cuddle one another because of the depressing song. Somehow this sequence reminds me of what Friz Freleng used to work on in his cartoons with torch singers like in 'The CooCoo Nut Grove' and 'He Was Her Man' but mostly the latter cartoon is a retake in this cartoon.
As she then continues her sad song - Harold is still wondering around looking looking for Emily. He then finally hears the voice of Emily's singing as he enters in there hoping to find her. He walks in as he finds that Emily is there on stage and he has the chance to reunite with her. he then spreads his arms out as he shouts out 'Emily!' - Emily turns around to look at Harold as she shouts 'Harold' as she spreads her arms. The couple then reunite as they embrace onto each other quickly with love hearts bubbling out. Roger St Clair then turns to look at the reuniting scene as he shouts out 'Curses' with annoyance that Harold has eventually found her (and if they lived in the city then it really took him six months to just find her which is really beyond me). The 'Curses' line doesn't sound very convincing to me as it doesn't sound one bit of annoyance to me. He then notices next to him the ropes to pull the curtain as he then has a plan (and unties it).
At that point later on; Harold then manages to untie Emily at the train tracks - and oh my goodness - how could the writing of this cartoon get any colder. I know that capturing the girl could be bad and yet forcing her to become a torch singer is bad enough but tying her to the train tracks and get run over by a steam train?? Geez, that's killing her and that's a pretty asshole thing to do. Hey, maybe that is meant to be a way to mock the pointless villains capturing the girlfriend sequence - but it doesn't appear to be presented that way. He then shouts out 'There might be more time' as the girl Emily then squirms (though tied up) as she shouts 'No, no'.
Harold then runs at the scene to the rescue to save Emily. Roger St. Clair is hiding behind a barrel in a hut as he shouts out towards Harold, 'Run, you big soft buster, run!' and laughs in a gruff and evil way. Harold then arrives at the scene as he then starts to bring up one of his ANOTHER pointless quotations: "He only is exempt from failures who makes no effort". He then arrives at the spot as he then picks up the ENTIRE railroads with his muscles to make the train tracks move. I really find that Harold character to be annoying himself as he has the knack for quoting quotes at pointless situations and yet - he has the ABILITY to just pick up that train? Were these humans drawn realistically or cartoony or what?? The train then moves past as he picks it up. While he is busy holding onto the train tracks - Roger St. Clair then arrives at the spot to sneakily capture Emily away while Harold is too busy sorting out the tracks. Roger St. Clair then runs to the saw mill as he plans to saw Emily in half with a sawing machine. Harold then runs over to stop Roger's plans. Harold then runs inside the mill as he calls for Emily; at that spot - Roger St. Clair is carrying onto a log where it is attached to a rope that hits Harold in the head and he ends up caught in a conveyor belt, unconscious.
Roger St. Clair then realises that he has run out of bullets from his pistols in which Harold then walks towards him face to face from planks. Roger St. Clair then bangs on a plank that causes to hit Harold on the chin. Gee, if that hurt his chin - then explain how the bullets and the sawing machine didn't even show any pain towards him. Afterwards; Harold then picks up the plank which leaves to Roger St. Clair hanging onto it and he is then tossed outside the window. Roger St. Clair then arrives back at the scene quickly after as he begins to fight with Harold - physically. Harold, once again, then begins quoting (and if only he were real I feel like shooting him) and quotes: "Keep cool and you command everything!" The last of the fighting then begins as then Harold socks him in the face so intense that he ends up flying out of the mill and along a river flow, and supposedly, its the end of the terror of Roger St. Clair and the love couple can continue their romantic relationship.
Just at that very same spot - we then find that a much elderly Roger St. Clair has arrives at the scene, still alive, and still willing to capture Emily - even despite being much older. He remarks at the corner of the living room; "Pardon to intrude - but a St. Clair never gives up" and he's even shown himself to be tenacious even after 40 years of nothing. He then captures Emily which would mean that Harold would have to start from the very beginning again (and could probably take him ANOTHER six months to finally find her -- or even longer, perhaps). Emily then shouts "Harold" calling for help. Her voice there still sounds like her voice when she was much younger and not even the sound of an elderly woman. She then calls Harold for help, in which Harold stands up to begin his rescue. He then shouts out "I'm coming" before immediately going into lyrics of the song "Old Black Joe" by singing, "I'm coming, I'm coming...though my head is running low" as he jitters his way out of the living room as the cartoon irises out.
Like some of the Hardaway/Dalton cartoons; this cartoon results in some pretty bad animation and I wish that they did have at least experiences animators with them as they appeared to be stuck with new recruits (and those new animators probably had bad assistants which probably resulted in the sloppy animation there). While I'm sure that Mel Blanc does the voice of the villain and the elderly Harold, for sure, I'm a little unsure about the voice of Emily and also Harold as a young man. One of the most unreliable sites, Internet Movie Database writes that Sara Berner did the voice of Emily. While it could be possible but was Berner already at Warners early on? I'm quite confused about that but it could be true. I was a little unsure about the reason why Ben Hardaway was credited for the voice of young Harold even though it might have been him but I'm sure historians will have more luck with that research than I will.