Tuesday, 30 October 2012

212. Wholly Smoke (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 211.
Release date: August 27, 1938.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Frank Tashlin.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig / Bully) and Ted Pierce (Nick O'Teen / Porky's Mother).
Story: George Manuell.
Animation: Robert Bentley.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Porky encounters and ends up in a hallucinated dream about the dangers of smoking.

This is the last Porky cartoon that Tashlin directs in his second stint at Warners, and his remaining cartoons are coloured Merrie Melodies. I seem to notice in the 'B/W' Porkies he has separate teams of Joe D'Igalo, Robert Bentley or Volney White animating for them while Harris, McKimson and Monroe animate the colour cartoons (judging by the credits). I've also noticed in the credits that even White and D'Igalo have animated for Hardaway/Dalton - unless both directors were sharing these animators.

The cartoon begins as we hear the sounds of a church choir sing the church song: The Little Old Church in the Valley which would sound a little appropriate to use at the beginning. We then find that outside appears to be the priest as he steps out to make the sound of church bells meaning that it is time for church. However it is being presented as a gag where he appears to be hitting it like using a strength tester in a carnival style and its a pretty clever charming gag to show it.

There is a neat little filming technique by Tashlin where we see a long shot of the church tower as we notice the bells are still ringing. We then truck back as we find that Porky's mother is in fact calling for her son, Porky Pig. The filming technique even continues on where there is a slow pan representing the staircase - and overall it makes it a very neat background and filming effect which would've been difficult for animation. Porky's mother then continues calling for Porky and even hog-calls for him. She remarks, "Hurry it up, please, or for Sunday school you'll be late". Porky Pig then makes an appearance and we see him in this cartoon being presented as a young child. Mmm, this definitely shows that the character DEFINITELY hasn't been settled yet. We have seen him play a modern character and recognisable in cartoons like 'Porky's Party' or 'Porky at the Crocadero' where he appears to be a young adult but he keeps on varying and they could never finalise Porky in the 1930s. Porky's head pops out of the banister of the stairs as he slides down the rails of the stairs - a good use of timing there. Porky immediately halts sliding when he nearly hits himself on the model part of the staircase. Porky then climbs back down the railing of the stairs and listens to what his mother has to say next.

Porky's mother (appears to sound rather Irish there, but I'm not so sure) as she then hands a nickel to Porky which is donation money to the Church. "And the nickel what I give you is not for the candy. No, no. But in the plate goes it". She then hands the nickel over to Porky for him to put in the donation plate. Porky then agrees - and we find that so far he is seen as a good boy being raised by clean living.

Porky's mother then pecks him goodbye as he is on his way to church. She then remarks like a mother would always do: "Nix on talking to strange people and crossing the street without getting bumped or nix on the mud playing in". Porky is already walking out of the front porch on his way to church trying to remember all of what his mother had just said to him. Mmm, I wonder why his mother isn't attending church because I thought Christians would still turn up to Church even in their adulthood - oh well, shows how little I know of going to church. Porky Pig walks out remembering her orders, "Don't talk to strangers. Don't get your clothes dirty. Don't spend a nickel. Be careful crossing the street. It sure is a lot for a little old fellow like me to remember". Look at that very shot - where it begins with a long-shot distance of the church bell and Porky walking out of the house - that is some very incredible simulated camera movement and it was only one shot. It also must've been very difficult to film as well, considering they had to film inside the house as well as outside.

In the next sequence we then find a rather tough-looking dog creature who is loitering behind a fence puffing his cigar heavily. The tough little dog is in fact puffing out horseshoes and there is a little neat smoke gag where the smoke horseshoes land into a fire hydrant before the smoke clears away. Meanwhile Porky Pig walks into the scene and he notices the amount of smoke above him coming from behind the fence. Porky is afraid of encountering a stranger so he dashes back to check.

A little gag appears where the smoke then forms into fingers and they poke his two eyes to get Porky's attention. Porky then runs out of the way and he climbs up at the top of the fence and attempts to portray being the voice of reason - or in other words; being the punk's good conscience. "Don't you know what happens to little punks (stutters) boys who smoke?" The bully then looks at Porky sarcastically believing that Porky is a tough character. "Kinda tough ain't you? You wanna fight?" and I like how he immediately changed mood from calm to aggressiveness eager to pick a fight on Porky. Porky then stands up for himself in front of the bully - and there appears to be a rather interesting camera angle of where Porky looks huge as though its meant to represent Porky as the mighty one.

The bully then begins his little fight with Porky which doesn't involve any injuries other than potentially being diagnosed of cancer. It turns out that the bully is in fact puffing out smoke from the cigars and is creating from visualised decorum from smoke. He begins off where he puffs out a dartboard and an arrow hits the bullseye. He then begins the next part where he puffs smoke inside his bowler hat and he pulls out a smoke rabbit until it dissolves away.

The music for these puffing scenes are in fact cliched to the 'Merry-Go-Round Broke Down' theme which is of course the main theme to the 'Looney Tunes'. He continues his puffing where he then ends up puffing out a dove that even flies out of the scene. More music cliches from the music cue (chosen by Stalling) is all timed very well. The bully then finishes off by using some movement with his legs kicking the cigar which looks like a football manoeuvre. He then slides his bowler hat up ready to act tough again towards Porky. "How do you like that, puny puss?" Porky then goes into denial, "I ain't a puny puss". They then argue back with each other back and forth where Porky denies and the bully refuses to believe. There is some pretty cool timing where it is rather jerky as Porky just fights straight back towards the bully numerous times denying he is a 'puny puss' and even the bully fighting back quite a few times. I can see where Tashlin's timing is getting to as it makes the dialogue scenes more interesting there.

Porky then goes on as far as to say that he bets the bully a nickel the the could prove that he is not a wuss. He is completely forgetting about his mother's orders that it is not for candy, cigars, etc. and even forgetting about the idea of going to church.

Porky Pig: I bet ya a nickel.
Bully: A nickel? One twentieth of a dollar? Five cents? One half a dime? Did you say a nickel?

The bully then quickly impersonates Katherine Hepburn - even with Mel Blanc attempting to put on a falsetto voice shouting, "Really?" Porky is also regretting about what he said but the bully is already being very persuasive about receiving the nickel that it would be difficult for Porky Pig to back on his word. He then backs down, "Yeah, uh, a nickel". Porky then slowly hands out his nickel from his pocket nervously waiting for the bully to take it away from Porky. The bully ends up shaking Porky's hand rather violently that Porky shakes himself. The bully replies: "That's all I need to know. Okay, its a bet. Here's the cigar, I'll hold the nickel and you do the stuff". He just takes away the nickel because he assumes that he would beat Porky easily and Porky is acting too confident that he would have to find an excuse later to how he lost the nickel. The first couple of attempts - Porky actually tries to perform the same tricks the bully managed to do very well - but his attempts fail. At first he tries to puff out darts - but the arrow aims straight for his rear end. Then he tries to puff out the bird but the bird drops an egg on his face. These gags of Porky's attempts are very funny. Porky then finishes off as he attempts to kick the cigar and land it right back into his mouth. Instead, he ends up with the other side of the cigar in his mouth and he coughs out fire from that effect.

After numerous attempts and failures, we then fade out and dissolve much later on to the cause of Porky after smoking. Notice that the sign on the fence reads some information about a bowl game going on tonight. Porky then walks away from the fence and he ends up feeling rather dizzy and weary that the camera angles and effects are a point of view to him. The dissolving scene is rather great and effective for Tashlin to use (although any director could use it).

It turns out after the dissolve - Porky is then standing outside a smoke shop. Porky is still rather dizzy and he ends up collapsing inside the cigar shop. What Frank Tashlin then uses which I think is a really clever way of timing and its rather cool. We then appear to find this smoke looking creature who pops out form each floor of the stools where they keep cigars, cigarettes, etc. The smoke looking creature then looks down the table looking at an unconscious Porky Pig. It turns out that the smoke creature actually has powers and he ends up using his fingers to help shrink Porky and he gives him the powers. The smoke looking creature then walks over to a shrunk Porky who is roughly around his size but smaller in height. There is a pretty cool long-shot scene from a bird's eye view of Porky fully-awake and he discovers the smoke creature. He stutters frightened, "Who are you?" Then it switches to a point of view shot of Porky crouched to the ground looking up at the creature. "Who am I? Why, I thought all smokers knew me. Here's my card". Some good Tashlin shot pacing where it really feels like looking at a live-action film. The creature then gives Porky his card which identifies himself as 'Nick O'Teen' - a pun use for nicotine. The card also identifies his own address which is read at the bottom corner of the page: 1313 Tobacco Road.

In the next shot we see that Nick O'Teen is walking along with Porky on the stools where there are a lot of nicotine merchandises that gives Porky a glee-looking face. Nick O'Teen walks over with Porky chatting, "So you like to smoke, eh? Well, you came to the right place, sonny". Nick O'Teen then quickly grabs Porky and he is caught tied up, he shouts; "Then you can get all the smoking you can handle!" I just love how that flowed - it started off with Nick O'Teen starting off very calmly - and then the atmosphere immediately changes.

Nick O'Teen then jumps onto an organ playing of a cigarette packet and as he plays the organ - we find that there are smokes coming out of the pipes. We then discover that there are matches striking themselves (and notice how the end parts reveal blackfaces). They then start to go into rhythm as they then begin to sing a song about the dangers of smoking. They then begin as they go into rhythm as they sing 'You shouldn't smoke' and they chant it in whispers. It appears the lyrics of this song are substitute lyrics of 'Mysterious Mose'. We then discover a lighter is lighting some cigars while Nick O'Teen is playing the organ. We even discover a British pipe where there is a British stereotype who comments, "Children should not smoke, rather". Interesting how that this was before the days when it was told smoking was dangerous for all-ages. The matchstick chorus then continue to go into song about smoking.

There is then a couple of animals that then go into song about smoking; as there is a cow as part of a cigarette manufacturing company that sings, 'This is not a joke'. We even find a fat bell dancer (oddly enough) you sings about some of the conditions of smoking (for children) and we even find an owl in a cigar box that hoots.

There is even an old man that goes on and sings, "Little kids shouldn't smoke tobacco". The chorus sings: "You'll feel ill - and see spots. And get a tummy ache". Then we find the Three Stooges that pop up as they're faces are on cigars. They then give Porky a poke in the eye which is a little trademark of the 3 Stooges. A cigar box of crooners then appear at the top as there is a caricature of Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee who sing about the causes of smoking a lot and the causes could cause a stroke. A grandfather pipe appears to be speaking in some accent I can't identify, "Little boys should not be smoking cigarettes". Porky then finds that his punishment is to suffer by being stuck on some force-fed machine. Nick O'Teen then starts to feed him some tobacco by force feeding it into his mouth as he ends up chewing it.

Afterwards - we then discover that there appears to be a rather thin plastic man that is walking around the shop. He then spots a pipe and there is a little stereotype afterwards where his face forms into Cab Calloway and he sings, "Little boys should not smoke". Of course, they had to add celebrities into this sing-song sequence to at least show that even though this song is teaching you the message of the dangers of it - but they at least had to make it humorous for the dated times.

Nick O'Teen then begins to play some drums as we discover that there are cigars formed as Indians that have Porky tied up to a pole being burnt at stake and they perform an Indian tribal dance. Then we discover that there are these Mexican cigars that jump out of the box as they appear to be performing some type of Mexican dance to Porky - and this just reminds me of the mid-1930s cartoons where they had the inanimate creatures just dancing. Poor Porky ends up having to have smoke puffed all over his face as that is his sacrifice which is unnecessary for this sequence but it does teach him a lesson. A really good animated shot which must've been complicating to animate (probably done by Ace Gamer) where there are these cigarettes walking at the scene and they are marching like soldiers, they form the letter 'X' and then they form a sign that reads 'No Smoking'. Montage shots then follow on as we see the more sufferance Porky suffers in this acid trip sequence and its the same shots reused for this montage effect.

Afterwards; Porky then ends up with a fall to the ground after being chased by Nick O'Teen. Porky's small size then starts to shrink back up to his normal size and it turns out that the nightmare he had was obviously just a dream. Porky then wakes up from his nightmare - he hears out for the sounds of church bells. He has completely forgot about the state he has been in and realises he is late for church. He also realises about the coin that he has given to the bully from the bet he had.

He then starts to dash out of the scene as there is a speed effect timed by Tashlin where he dashes inside the church and he sits in one of the pews trying to sing hymns like everyone else attending Sunday church. Porky turns around as he notices the donation plate is being handed over and Porky realises about the nickel that he has given to the bully. This means he has to make a real quick dash to return the coin back to himself and beat up the bully. Porky opens up his pockets and realises that he hasn't got the nickel with him. This means he runs out of the church and find the punk who has it. It turns out the punk is in fact flipping the coin - and Porky dashes at the scene as he grabs the coin away without the bully noticing. The punk continues to flip but turns and finds that the coin has gone missing. Porky arrives at the scene giving the punk his revenge by stuffing a cigar right into his mouth. Porky returns back on time as he quickly places the coin into the donation plate as it is being handed straight back into him. Porky has decided to stay a good Christian as he sings his hymn and there is a halo on top of his head representing his goodness. Porky then sings the last verse to end the cartoon, "I will never smoke again".

Overall comments: The cartoon really interests me because of how I consider that is very dated when you compare it to today. Back around the days when this cartoon was made; smoking was very common among most adults and today there are less people smoking. Back in those days; many folks were unaware of the fact that smoking can cause health issues and likeliness of dying. Most people didn't know - and what interests me is so little was known back then as they would believe smoking is very bad for children when in reality it is bad for anyone - but it just wasn't really known back then. This cartoon must be one of the earliest known films that probably bring up the awareness of smoking. Of course it was regular for adults back then to smoke cigars and cigarettes and even allowed it in public places - and probably the favourite place was the cinema. I wonder how the audience were handled with cigarettes and cigars when they were watching this cartoon?

What I find look about this cartoon is this cartoon actually has some morals in there and it teaches anyone a good lesson of why they shouldn't smoke - even if they had to add pointless celebrity caricatures and a silly song to explain the reasons but I like how it shows Porky's punishment and also how unhealthy it is. It also appears to have a religious side as well in this cartoon since it appears to be teaching you to become a good Christian and to attend church every Sunday. With that asides, Tashlin even got to use some very good techniques with the camera. I love the opening scenes with Porky's mother and they are in the house where it was all filmed in one shot which is just incredible simulated camera movement - all without the infamous Disney multilane camera - shows how really talented the WB cameraman really were, as well as skilful. There weren't too many gags in this cartoon but I do find that the competition between the bully and Porky to features some funny visual gags - even when we find that it goes wrong for Porky.

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