Wednesday, 31 October 2012

213. A Lad-in-Bagdad (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 212.
Release date: August 27, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Cal Dalton & Cal Howard.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Danny Webb (Egghead), Mel Blanc (Sultan / Villain / Slap-Happy Boys / Beggar) and Berneice Hansell (Princess).
Story: Dave Monohan.
Animation: Volney White.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Egghead as 'Aladdin' is determined to marry the princess with help of the Genie.

The last cartoon where Cal Howard works with Cal Dalton aka 'The Two Cals'. Dalton would then work with Ben Hardaway and they were co-directors until 1940. Egghead, however, is displayed as he was in the original version unlike (the other version where he is referred as Egghead's brother). Sorry for the really poor quality of the copy that I own folks.

The cartoon begins in the town of Baghdad. We can hear the sounds of Arab music played in the background and we find our character, Egghead walking down the street who appears to be a rather homeless character that walks around carrying his belongings in a bindle stick. There also appears to be a homeless man sitting down at the street asking for any change from those with money.

Egghead continues to walk down the street until he then finds a local fully clothed in Arab uniform and it appears to be that he is struggling to catch a prize in a prize box. Of course; the Arabian stories of Aladdin were set thousands of years ago and yet they add a prize machine in the streets to show some modernised humour which was popular back in the 1930s. Egghead then looks over to see the prize he is aiming after. It turns out that he is after the prize of a Genie's lamp. Although, the big problem is...why would a Genie's lamp end up there? It seems as though any guy could be lucky enough to have the lamp and I thought the Genie's lamp was located in a very rare area? That little scene where the hand just snaps his fingers with a 'Darn it' expression which shows some character. Afterwards - we then discover that the hand then starts to grab some candy and he throws it out which turns out to be the man's prize. The man then cracks as he shouts, "Candy beans I get" he tosses it to the floor and ends up wailing to himself leaning to a wall. When you look at it - they definitely don't look like candy beans.

Egghead then arrives at the scene and he sees the man's misfortune of losing in the prize machine. Egghead quietly creeps over to the prize digger machine and he has a shot himself. Egghead then gives it a shot by using the machine. He places the join in first and the hand then picks up the magic lamp. Egghead is also signalling the hand to drop the lamp at the chute where Egghead wins his prize of receiving the magic lamp.

Egghead then claps to himself with glee, 'Oh boy, I'm lucky. What a pretty sugarbowl' - and of course - Danny Webb is still impersonating Egghead as Joe Penner. Egghead then looks at the lamp to try and find some directions. He looks at the bottom of the lamp that give him the directions. It reads "Rub lamp three times" and he also reads that out. That is pretty cool to have directions at the bottom so some unfortunate guy wouldn't have a clue and just ends up throwing it away missing his luck. Egghead then rubs the lamp three times with curiosity. After he rubs the lamp - there is a puff smoke effect that pops and there it is Egghead's first encounter of the Genie. Although the look of the Genie being shown here is unfortunately a Negro stereotype - but is rather huge and muscular with cuffs around his arms. Mmm, I wonder why they chose to stereotype the Genie - because I don't know how it is supposed to represent charm or humour.

Egghead then makes a scared take that his turban ends up untwisting itself into some type of funny hat take as it appears to be. Egghead then runs away mistaking the Genie to be a monster. The Genie then grabs Egghead's turban and brings him over to the spot at their first meeting. As he grabs him, (with Egghead still squirming) he remarks, "I ain't gonna hurt ya".

He then comments in a stereotype voice:

Genie: Youse is the master of the magic lamp.
Egghead: Who, me?
Genie: Yeah. Here take the lamp and if ya ever need anything. Just give us a rub.

The genie then flies back into the Genie transforming back into dust and flies back into the spout of the lamp. Hang on a minute, the Genie forgot about the conditions of being the master of the magic lamp. Isn't he supposed to only have up to three wishes so he can chooses his wishes wisely. Afterwards; Egghead then thinks of his first wish as he wishes to be wearing "nice, new clothes" - he rubs the lamp in order to have his own wish to be granted. His wish is granted and the Genie gives him new clothes to wear which amazes Egghead as he likes the new outfit on him.

After his wish is granted - he then thanks the Genie for granting his wish. The Genie then accepts his thanks and he replies back by pinching Egghead's nose which gives an amusing effect as the tassle on his few stretches upwards and there is a funny Treg Brown horn effect played. The tassle stretching was a rather funny bit of animation and it looks like to me that Howard and Dalton liked to use a little bit of exaggeration with hat takes (like the turban unwinding and the hassle stretching).

The man who we saw weeping earlier then sees that Egghead has received his luck. In this close up shot - he looks towards Egghead and breaks the forth wall, "That should be my lamp. And I shall get it!" and vows to steal it away from Egghead which we shall call him the villain of this picture. Instead of coming up with more wishes, Egghead just looks at the lamp just thinking about how wonderful the lamp and how he "can't get over it". He also hums to himself whilst looking at the lamp with admiration. Suddenly there is a crowd of folks dashing in the scene as there is some news going in this Arabian town. Egghead looks over around the crowd to see the commotion and he joins the crowd to hear the news.

There is a whole crowd at the scene as there is a bulletin displayed on a notice wall for the whole locals to take a look at. Egghead joins the crowd to see what's on display as it could be a chance for his wishes. Egghead, however struggles to look at the notice as the crowd are blocking his view. The villain then looks over towards where Egghead is as he still tries to plan to take the magic lamp off him.

The notice on the wall reads: I WANT YOU! TO THE CLEVEREST ENTERTAINER. I WILL GIVE MY DAUGHTER'S HAND IN MARRIAGE. The Sultan. ROYAL PALACE TODAY. There is a little Uncle Sam reference there as the Sultan is pouting towards the people in the poster who was famous for propaganda posters in the US during the First World War. Egghead realises the poster and the lamp is both an advantage. He states, "With my wonderful lamp, I will win the beautiful princess". Egghead, who has a love for the princess then decides to give it a shot and to marry the princess. He then rubs the lamp wishing for a magic carpet. His wish for the magic carpet then comes true and the magic carpet has an engine at the back to help modernise the carpet. The villain then looks behind the wall as he tries to find the plan to take his magic lamp away from Egghead - but Egghead ends up flying away in his magic carpet and it becomes too late for the villain.

Egghead then flies around the magic carpet and even though the palace (and ironically - that background is the background painting for the title card of this cartoon). Egghead is flying on his magic carpet but he then lands at around the entrance area of the palace (in this long shot scene) which is where the Sultan and the princess live and also where the contest is taking place as well.

It seems quite a long stop and even a clumsy stop for Egghead (mostly because the magic carpet requires to have an engine at the back) as well as he is rather weary from that trip. He then finds the entrance to the palace and he enters inside. Egghead enters the entrance of the royal palace and he finds that the contestants are queued up - and Egghead has to run towards the back of the queue along with the other contestants which would mean it would require a whole lot of rejects until Egghead could be able to get the part. There appears to be an interesting part of personality where Egghead looks at the size of the queue and is rather amazed of the length of it.

Inside the palace - the contest is taking place. The princess is seen sitting at the background as she is crying to herself. She would be crying because she is forced to being married to any of the locals and feels she has no freedom of living in the palace because of the Sultan's endorsement of opening up a contest for entertainers. There appears to be a slave that then holds up a sign that reads, "Ali-Baabe Breen - 'Boy Wonder'" who is the entertainer that is going to be presented. I don't know if the name is a reference or not.

We find that there are two guards grabbing the chains that are attached to a rather huge grizzly human that has chains around him and is redeemed as dangerous. It turns out that his grizzly and aggressive self was all a gag. On the other hand, he is just a retarded, silly giant who ends up giggling like a child and recites the poem to Mary Had a Little Lamb. The laugh isn't very infectious and that scene is just plain silly - although if Tex Avery provided his infectious laugh then this sequence would've probably been better. But anyway - for the greater good - the contestant then ends up falling down the trap door as he is did not entertain the Sultan. Well - that is the last we are seeing of this contestant.

Meanwhile - Egghead is standing in the queue as he will be appearing very soon to attempt to entertain the Sultan. Meanwhile - the villain is hiding behind a plant pot and it is his chance to finally steal the magic lamp away from Egghead. The villain then steals the magic lamp away from Egghead and he replaces it with a kettle and runs off with the magic lamp.

Meanwhile the next contestant to attempt to entertain the Sultan is the 'Slap-Happy Boys'. They are in fact references to the 'Happiness Boys' known as Bill Jones and Ernie Hare. They walk to the centre as they carry a piano with them to sing along to. They are going to be singing the song - On the Rule de la Paix but the substitute lyrics are How Do You Do and How Are You? That little sequence here was already used before in 'The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos'. Of course - they are a very annoying group as they sing out loud at the same time - and it angers the Sultan (as well as annoys him) he ends up pulling the trap door where the Slap-Happy Boys fall down the trap door.

After they fall down the trap door - it turns out that they are still singing that annoying song which annoys the Sultan even more. He then walks over to the trap door and he grabs out a pistol. He then shoots the Slap-Happy Boys, after shooting one - one of the two is still singing. The Sultan shoots the other member as they are both dead. Now that was just an incredibly dark gag - even for a cartoon where it may be funny elsewhere.

The next act to be performing is in fact 'Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp' as Egghead is the next contestant to entertain the Sultan. Egghead then talks over as he chuckles a little - but realises that he is standing next to the Sultan and even has to sing a little entertaining song to him. The good news is that as soon as Egghead and the princess gaze at each other - it is love at first sight for both of them. I like how that there are just a bunch of cartoony love hearts popping out from the princess to demonstrate the mood. Afterwards - Egghead then starts to go into song as he sings the song to 'Bei mir Bist du Schon' which is a German song. Of course - he could've just sung 'My Green Fedora' which was sung by Joe Penner but instead he is just copying Joe Penner's comedy walk and sings a different song. The singing from Egghead amuses and even entertains the princess so much that she expresses her love towards him. However - it is all down to the Sultan who judges whether or not his performance was entertaining or not as the princess appears to have no right to choose - that's....awful.

The Sultan continues to watch his act and he is however, not so amused of his performance of his song performance as well as the Joe Penner walk. This would be an immediate disadvantage of the princess as her love one is about to fall down the trap door. After his performance, Egghead notices that he is about to fall down the trap door - and he halts the Sultan, "Wait a minute, wait a minute; don't even do that. I got ma magic lamp".

He then grabs out his Magic Lamp and he is about to wish to the Genie but however, he forgets that he is carrying a kettle and his magic lamp was stolen without his knowledge. Egghead just demonstrates as he rubs the kettle mistaking it for a lamp. He then makes a take as he realises that he was been robbed and his magic lamp is gone. He rubs again the second time but he still has no luck. He then shouts out and quotes Joe Penner, "This thing's craaaaazy!" He still continues to keep on rubbing the lamp but his luck runs out and he falls down the trap door which ends the love of Egghead and the Princess - or is it? After falling down the trap door - Egghead's body then ends up being squashed and his fez is caught down to his legs as he just hops around which is a rather amusing little cartoony gag.

Egghead then walks over and starts to climb up these urns to try and look for his magic lamp as he finally realises that it has been stolen. Meanwhile inside the palace - the villain ends up with the magic lamp. He rubs the magic lamp and then gold is shown. The Sultan is amazed and ends up acting like Jerry Colonna, "Marvellous, stupendous, let the wedding begin!" Mmm, looks like the earliest Jerry Colonna impression I've found in a Warner Bros. cartoon so far - by memory.

Wait a minute; I thought that the Sultan was looking for the best entertainer but what did the villain contribute to - nothing! It was just a rushed way to get the Sultan entertained and it was nothing even representing entertainment and it makes absolutely no sense. The Sultan then points towards his squire as he declares, "Sound the trumpets!" The slave then sounds the trumpet announcing the wedding to take place - but Egghead arrives at the scene slamming the door open and halts the spontaneous ceremony. "Stop, I've been swindled (?)" - whatever he is trying to saying and it certainly isn't very clear at all.

Egghead immediately arrives at the scene and he halts the events happening. He arrives at the villain as he beats him up and he ends up wining the lamp back. He immediately runs off with the princess as they escape outside the palace with the magic carpet as the princess has already been given the sense of freedom.

The magic carpet then flies out of the scene as the Sultan and the guards arrive at the entrance trying to halt their actions. They then fly down towards the guards and the sultan but they manage to dodge the carpet. They then go on a long flight around Baghdad and I have to say the fast-pacing backgrounds are rather impressive here as it shows some good use of speed. They even end up flying above the clouds and away from Baghdad (probably to another palace). Mmm, I wonder if that 'Whole New World' sequence from the 'Aladdin' led to inspiration - probably not. Afterwards; we then discover that Egghead and the princess are already living a happy married life (probably in another palace since they managed to escape the Sultan). The princess then picks up the magic lamp as she then rubs it to try her wish. The Genie then pops up but then turns into a hunky figure as the princess would rather go for the Genie instead of the prince. Egghead is rather stunned as he opens up the lamp but gets pinched in the nose.

Overall comments: This is a cartoon that I am rather ambivalent about. I see that this cartoon involves Howard and Dalton are trying to probably use some influence of Avery's humour and I can see that they are close of using that style - and Cal Dalton would pair up with Bugs Hardaway making these versions where they try to copy Tex. However, I find that this cartoon at least had some clever parts like the magic carpet having an engine at the end which helps modernise the humour - but then again the story for this cartoon feels like a rough draft and most of the gags are rather weak in this cartoon - or even dark. Some reused ideas (to probably length the cartoon) like the Happiness Boys sing with that very, very dark gag where the Sultan shoots them. They even had to reuse the Joe Penner dance routine - even though there is a different song included there.

It still interests me about the whole Egghead debate. This design there has been identified as Egghead (even in Tex's cartoons like 'Egghead Rides Again' and 'Daffy Duck and Egghead'). The other design is known as Egghead's brother - but still I'd rather just use Egghead since Egghead's brother was just a merchandising name - and I don't know any document as to whether it really identifies him as his brother other than being an Elmer Fudd prototype. I noticed that there was some interesting timing used in a comic form which is rather unique but interesting (I don't know who provided the timing between Dalton and Howard). The hat takes in this cartoon was what I thought was interesting to look at with the tassle stretching as well as the turban gag. I noticed some good use of airbrush speed lines being used here (as it looks like) since the speed lines used in other cartoons (like in Clampett's or early Jones cartoons) look really underdeveloped. I also find that this was a rather dark cartoon since the princess suffers from misery (and I'm surprised about WB cartoons actually presenting drama rather than mocking it).


  1. Bobby Breen was a boy singer given a big career push on Eddie Cantor's radio show.

  2. Oh, and that's Robert Taylor in the closing.

  3. Anyone else notice the princess looks and sounds a lot like Buddy's girlfriend Cookie? "I've been swindled!"