Friday, 12 October 2012

207. Love and Curses (1938)

Title card courtesy of Dave Mackey.
Warner cartoon no. 206.
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.

The cartoon begins with a 'Foreword' which would've been common back in the old motion picture days before a film began. The Foreword reads: TO THOSE UNSWUNG VILLAINS WHO WERE TOO GAY IN THE GAY '90s, THIS PICTURE OF DASTARDLY DOINGS AND DARING DEEDS IS DEDICATED.

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.

Looking through the photo albums - he then comments on one of the hats in the pictures. 'Just look at those hats'. One of the hats is a fruit hat as he points at it with his finger. 'This one looks like a vegetable stand'. The black and white photograph of the woman wearing the fruit hat then dissolves into the past and the colours dissolve to Technicolor of a woman with a huge bum walking down the street.

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 old man then comments: 'Say, that was considered very entertainment in those days'. We then fade inside the arcade as we find there is a man using one of the earliest arcade machines. I imagine that arcades were pretty new back in the 1890s. He is using a machine where he looks inside and there is a selection of photographs which are flipped to form movement. It then features a lady who is seen pulling up her skirt and showing a bit of her calf. The name of the machine is called 'Naughty Nanette'. The photograph scene must've been an interesting assignment for the animator.

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'.

We then find the couple back in the olden days on the swing together as they are deeply in love. Oh, and I forgot to mention (even though we haven't found out their names yet) the man is named Harold and his then girlfriend is named Emily. She is on the swing and Harold is pushing her. Roger St. Clair is hiding by a rock as he watches Harold push Emily on the swing. Roger St. Clair is fiddling and twisting his beard as he he watches Emily: 'Ahh, what a dainty (?). Indeed'. After fiddling he then starts to slither around the work like a snake (even with snake movement).

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.

Roger St. Clair then jumps upwards on the top branch of the tree waiting to catch Emily who is swinging high on top of the tree. As she swings up near him the first time, Roger tries to entice her "Come with me, pretty girl. Fly with me to the city" he says but Emily rejects him immediately. After the reject - Roger St. Clair then mutters to himself, "Curses!". He then comes up with another plan.

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.

The facial features of the human animation (I find) is rather unappealing and I can see the animator's struggle to animate realistic humans. Emily shouts, "Unhand me, you beast!" she still struggles to free herself - she then calls for help and then Harold is on the rescue as he jumps so high up to the tree. I guess combining realistic humans to cartoony animation shows it didn't work here since he managed to jump that high up a tree. As soon as Harold then climbs up the tree - he told onto the branch but Harold then stamps on his feet which force Harold to let go off his lands as he hits the ground ending up becoming rather weary

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.

After the fade-out we then view a background shot of a street of a city and the description then reads:

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.

We then view inside where we find that Emily is in fact still alive but is forced to become a torch singer in front of the stage singing dramatically. She sings the song All That Glitters is Not God. The man behind Emily's depressing career is none other than St Louis Clair who is standing behind the set watching Emily seen with his smug face. We can also spot a pianist playing the piano, too.

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.

The camera then pans along to Emily as she is singing (as well as crying) on stage with that sloppy looking human animation of her. Then we find two bar guys looking at each other as they cry on each other's shoulders. The animation there is pretty much reused animation from The CooCoo Nut Grove if you see it that way like I do. Mmm, is it me or is the scenes of her sining in closeup with the ribbon behind her head look like large ears to me?

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).

Harold then has his moment on stage (once again) shouting out quotes: "But the heart that owes and had, should never lose". At that point the scenery then drops and lands on top of Harold in which Roger St. Clair has arrived at the scene once again being evil and ruining the couple's moment (once again). Roger St Clair then arrives at the scene in which he captures Emily and runs off with her. He peeps through the window of the scenery laughing Harold trapped.

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'.

Then the sounds of the train tracks is heard and it could only get even worse. As soon as the sounds of the train is heard coming steam ahead; the evil Roger St. Clair then comments; 'Then in just a moment, that pretty little head of yours will be bouncing along the rails' and he even laughs about it. Man, even a Whiplash stereotyped villain like him enjoys murder?? Wow.

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.

As soon as Roger St. Clair pulls the switch - the conveyor belt then starts moving as Harold is about to be sawed in half. Apparently, (yes, apparently) his head is so tough that the saw that circulates just breaks as it touches his own head. Okay, okay -- but since when did he end up becoming Hercules or something? The part where Roger St. Clair just starts firing his pistol then proves to be too tough for Harold to get shot by them and he walks through them and - its...just...impossible!! I mean - its never explained as to how he's too tough - it just appears naturally. There is no explanation!!

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.

Back into the present day, we then find forty years later after the event - that Harold and Emily are still together, married, and have had no troubles since then. The old Harold then closes the book as he remarks, "Yep, Emily, 40 years now since we got rid of that unscrupulous cur. I wonder what ever became of this scoundrel?"

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.

Overall comments: A lot of people often consider Hardaway/Dalton to be very weak directors and truth to be told - I wouldn't blame them. I find this cartoon to be really weak for a numerous reasons. I find that much of the Hardaway/Dalton cartoons are just ripoffs of the early Avery cartoons and its pretty evidence if you watch Sioux Me (= 'Porky the Rainmaker') and 'Hare-Um Scare-Um' (= 'Daffy Duck and Egghead') - even making a few Egghead cartoons of the old Egghead model used by Tex before. Of course - I'd say its light years ahead of its remake of Those Were Wonderful Days but there are still some weak elements to this cartoon. The character development is painfully weak on the character Harold and I see that they are trying to find him an amusing character by quoting famous phrases or lines but I just find that annoying in this sequence; and his mighty-strength just came out of nowhere for me and it clearly made no sense.

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.

10 comments:

  1. The parody here of the 1980s melodramas -- admittedly not very well done -- is that Harold's 'recollections' get more and more fanciful as the story goes on, until the end where he's basically Superman a year before Superman debuted (did Siegel and Shuster see this cartoon at a Warner Brothers show before they thought up the character?).

    The end twist is probably the best part of the short, while the designs on the main and secondary characters are basically all lifted from "Those Were Wonderful Days" (they did improve on Emily's facial features a bit, since she was going to have to have close-ups while singing that would look awful using the original 1934 layouts, and they also reduced her décolletage down 4-5 cup sizes, probably to keep Will Hays happy).

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    1. 1980s? I knew the 1980s were great, but c'mon they just weren't as good as the 1890s!

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    2. Hey, it's easy to confuse -- they had Nickelodeons in the 1890s and they created Nickelodeon in the 1980s.... ;)

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    3. They created Nickelodeon in 1979, if you want to get technical.

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  2. Bugs Hardaway, with his flat, mid-western voice, doing the declamatory Harold? That's funnier than any jokes in the cartoon itself.

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    1. Any source on what his voice sounds like? Thanks for pointing that up. Yeah, this cartoon was a bit of a mess; as well as the casting credits.

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  3. The "That's all folks"(intended small F), after some cartooons with the high case Folks as becvame normal, in the Merrie Melodies, incidcates if this is acurate, that "Love & Curses" (rather messed up in my opinion,too, like a slow Mighty and Oil Can harry cartoon) was finsihed before the last several-:"The Penguin Parqae" was the last MM with a scene-grabbed "folks" sign off, and these two at either end of that chonorlogy have their original titles form the startand have been on TV with that closing. (opposite, the ealriest with the theme score arrangement, 1937's "I Wanna Be a Sailor", which is still shown as a Blue Ribbon.:))Steve Carras

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  4. "Hiss The Villain" = good band name

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  5. Love and curses has the wrong ending card because pingo pongo was the last to have lowercase f and the ugly MERRIE MELODIES at the top.

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    1. Which would mean Katnip Kollege would have been the first title to bear the TAF title with the high-case "F" and the bottom legend "RELEASED BY WARNER BROS. PICTURES, INCORPORATED" (instead of "... WARNER BROS. PRODUCTIONS CORP.")

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