Thursday, 13 December 2012

224. Daffy Duck in Hollywood (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 223.
Release date: December 12, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Daffy Duck, I.M. Stupendous, Actor, Ass' Directors), Rolfe Sedan (Von Hamburger) and Sara Berner (Katherine Hepburn Chick / Fat Chick).
Story: Dave Monohan.
Animation: Virgil Ross.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Daffy Duck causes some mischievous and zany antics in a film set studio.

The last Daffy Duck cartoon that Tex Avery himself directed, even though he created him. You will also note that it's the first cartoon where Daffy's colours for the colour cartoon have been finalised. The background artwork for the titles of the cartoon were originally Art Loomer backgrounds from A Star is Hatched.

The cartoon starts off as we see the gates to the entrance of Wonder Pictures Studios with the motto "If It's a Good Picture - It's a WONDER!". I'm not sure but I believe that motto is a reference to the motto of the independent film studio: Miracle Pictures where the slogan was "if it's a good picture it's a miracle" although I may be wrong.

Outside we view the door of producer I.M. Stupendous as we listen to the music cue of 'You Oughta Be in Pictures'. Inside we find that I.M. Stupendous is reading some paperwork humming merrily - kind of the typical film executive you might say. I do wonder whether Avery got the idea of using Leon Schlesinger's office for this cartoon.

I.M. Stupendous hears a knock in the door and orders for whoever to enter. Daffy Duck enters the scene and shouts, "Say, do you need a good duck actor". I.M. Stupendous rejects and throws a bin towards him. I.M. Stupendous then states to the audience, "You know, that duck's screwy!" The phone rings and I.M. Stupendous answers - Daffy Duck's head then pops out of the line and shouts, "That's correct, absolutely correct!" he honks his nose and jumps out of the room whooping happily. Of course that loose and rubbery sequence goes to Irven Spence - and you can tell that Daffy finally has a permanent colour set.

Afterwards I.M. Stupendous then picks up the phone as asks for his secretary for director Von Hamburger - of course the name is a parody of film director Josef von Sternberg. The line is then passed on to Von Hamburger as Stupendous answers to him - when you hear von Hamburger respond - he replies 'Yes s-s-s-s-sir'.

Of course - Tex Avery is giving von Hamburger some real personality - and he has the personality of trilling is 'rs' or 's'. Of course - the Warner directors gave their own directors personalities and they're pretty famous for their own deliberate speech impediments: like Daffy lisps, Porky stutters, Elmer Fudd has rhotacism (and similar to Tweety with his 'ts'). The voice actor for von Hamburger is character actor Rolfe Sedan - and its definitely not Herman Bing as all those bad unreliable websites say. During the phone call - I.M. Stupendous orders von Hamburger to complete his film and the deadline is today. Gee, it appears Tex himself is exaggerating on deadlines there. von Hamburger's response is "I'll rrrrrrrush it through rrrrrrrright away". They both then say goodbye on the phone - and the way con Hamburger says 'goodbye' is amusing as he says that without trilling.

In the next sequence - we find that von Hamburger is sitting on his special director's chair and he then suggests to his assistant director: "This should be a close up - am I rrrrrrright boys?" The assistant directors all huddle towards him as they respond "Yessir, yessir, yessir, yes-SIR!" Rather amusing as it appears to be a dated gag where in film sets a director had so many assistant directors working under them.

Afterwards - von Hamburger then grabs out his own small box set where he keeps a cigarette inside - even though that cigarette looks very small from the size unless the gag is he's using a used cigarette. He places the cigarette in his mouth but the whole crowd enter at the scene as they light the cigarette (creating a huge flame that then lowers). That is a rather decent fire effect. Von Hamburger then attempts to light his own cigarette but he failed to inhale as the flame even failed itself which is amusing. So, instead he grabs out his own special lighter. His 'lighter' involves a matchstick popping out with a fingernail that scrapes the match and lights it and manages to smoke it with no trouble. That gag with the fingernail scratching the top of the matchstick is just a very cool and wacky idea for a lighter.

As von Hamburdger enjoys his own smoke - Daffy Duck then turns up on the set (and I wonder how he ended up on the set?) and he grabs his cigarette. Daffy then puffs out of the cigarette and he pinches von Hamburger's nose as he whoops out of the scene.

A rather little personal but amusing joke appears as Daffy flies around as the smoke from the cigarette forms the words: "Warner Bros." as he then stops and breaks the forth wall: "Just giving my bosses a plug. I've got an option coming up" which is very funny and continues to act rather zany. After that mistake - von Hamburger is about to begin filming and asks the sound department to see if the sound is working. The sound man then responds 'Okay-dokey chipee' wonder what dialect that comes from? Daffy then goes up to the microphone as he then whistles rather violently that it causes the sound man's microphones to squeal and the sound man gets a dodgy reaction but funny Spence animation. In the next scene where Daffy grabs out a hosepipe ready to cause mischief - you will notice that he sure is designed very weirdly and crudely in this cartoon - particularly when he has that bump on his head.

So - von Hamburger then orders for the lights to be turned on he is ready for filming. Due to Daffy's own menacing pranks - the he added a hosepipe to the lighting set where water ends up spraying all over the scenery as well as the actors on the set. von Hamburger (in the silhouette at the back) jerks as he sees and then shouts, "It's ruined. Cut!"

Daffy then jumps over to the camera as he adds some bullets over where he plans on causing more mischief on the set. von Hamburger then calls out for the camera to resume but as the cameraman rolls the film he ends up shooting out bullets and all this mischief and menacing caused von Hamburger to break down and cry. He wails "This isn't a gangster picturrrrrre!".

He then breaks down to the floor banging with his fists like a baby and sobs. Daffy Duck then walks over to the scene as he feels guilty of himself. "Take it easy, skipper. I'm sorry, I won't be screwy anymore. Cross my heart. Here's a present from me to you". He grabs out a present to von Hamburger. Delighted, von Hamburger unties the ribbon and opens up the package - but only to find that Daffy is acting of a bully as he bites von Hamburger in the nose shouting, "It's me again" and whoops with excitement. That scene I think is just pure comedy and it sure is a sick move that Daffy made by breaking his promise and just continuing to act screwy and Tex sure went beyond. That scene with the present gag was animated by Virgil Ross.

In the next sequence - von Hamburger finally believes that Daffy is out of the set; with no more delays and filming is to still begin. He shouts for quietness, and action! The sequence begins with rooster actor and actress; and the actress of course is voiced by Sara Berner who does an impression of Katherine Hepburn. Comparing Berner's and Elvia Allman's impressions of their Hepburn in cartoons - Berner's is more superior.

The scene begins as it is a parody of romance sequences in movies but here Dave Monahan parodies it by making the lines rather cheesy. The chick actress begins, "Oh my lover - my sweet one. I've waited long for such a mating. It makes me so, sadly happy. Rarely it does. You and I here alone."

Now Mel Blanc takes over as the actor with his response: "Oh my darling - my only one. I love you more than anything else in the whole wide world". Hepburn: "Oh kiss me my sweet. Kiss me". As they are about to kiss - and to avoid the censors - Daffy runs in and smooches the actress on the lips spoiling the moment and the production. He thens shouts out "What a kiss. Wow! I think I'll do it again!" He then jumps back to kiss her before acting crazy and jumping around. Looking at the scene - I suspect it was animated by Paul Smith since it looks rather similar to his Woody Woodpecker animation - but I'm not confirming that.

von Hamburger steps out of his seat and bellows, "It's ruined. Cut!" After a near-breakdown he then changes his temper and asks his assistants:

von Hamburger: What time is it boys?"
Assistant directors: 12 o'clock.
von Hamburger: I'll take turrrrkey with all the trrrrrrrrimmings.

A chef then walks in at the scene and he arrives with the turkey inside the tureen. von Hamburger then opens up the tureen to find that Daffy Duck (likely) ate all the turkey and disguises himself as a suckling pig with the apple in his mouth. He bites von Hamburger in the nose and acts rather wacky. He then jumps out of the scene with excitement and makes his own exit at the studio.

Daffy exits the film set and then he walks over to a different stage where the film prints are located. Daffy looks at all the cans in the storage room as he comments, "Wow! I'll give 'em a REAL feature!" In these scenes - Daffy looks very ugly in terms of size and look. I just find it very appealing to find his body the size of a turkey which looks awful - but hey, that's just the early appearances.

Daffy then plans on his biggest prank yet where he grabs out different film cans - cutting out several strips and he also pastes them through these pacing scenes of where he makes his own real feature.

I like how Avery has organised the angle shots for the scissor cuttings which feels like he's being inspired from live-action. After all the cutting, and even pasting the films with cement he finally has it all run on a projector. Mmm, just imagine if Daffy ever did that to the original titles of the Warner cartoons? All of the fans and historians would probably despise Daffy if that would've ever happened - whenever tracking down those materials.

von Hamburger walks into I.M. Stupendous' office as he presents the  completed film all in a film can. "Here it is chief - all finished and ready to rrrrrrun!" he trills. I.M. Stupendous then comments, "Well, it better be good". Mmm, he sounds like some MGM executive of the time who would only expect good stories and qualities of their films.

Meanwhile - Daffy is hiding inside Stupendous' table and he bring out the fake film out as a replacement to von Hamburger's original film and replaces the original copy to the fake one. A little colour error (which isn't so noticeable) as von Hamburger's original can was coloured with a green spool but when Daffy takes the original copy out it is already grey. I.M. Stupendous then walks out as he responds, "Okay, let's see what you got!"

As I.M. Stupendous and von Hamburger then walk over to the Projection Room as they are going to view the film at a private screening. von Hamburger hands over to the film towards the projection man, "Run this for us, will you Rudolph?" and Rudolph grabs the film and puts on the film for the private screening as I.M. Stupendous and von Hamburger walk to the projection film ready for the film to begin - and for von Hamburger's greatest humiliation.

The film begins as we see the title cards that read: "Gold is Where You Find It" - so, if this is the wrong footage then does von Hamburger already know THAT mistake from that point on?? Did he not seem to know its title? I believe the music cue used in the background is "It Looks Like a Big Night Tonight".

The reel begins as we find some firefighters at the scene - although it was revealed where the footage came from - but I suspect that it might have been from the actual film 'Gold is Where You Find It' - but it could be from another film - so I'm not so sure. von Hamburger (perhaps its the OTHER film he directed?) appears to be sitting down as he breathes his chest up rather proud of his 'masterpiece'. I like how the buttons of his shirt just pop out after he breathes out with a gleeful look on his face.

Afterwards - there appears to then be a splice with the footage and the random pasting of what Daffy has cut and pasted. We then find what appears to be a newsreel of a headline reading: New Arrival in Central Park Zoo and we cut to footage of a lion behind its bars roaring and it sounds like Mel Blanc having some fun acting as a newsreel: "Motion pictures are your best entertainment!"

All the footage this is coming are all used stock footage from Warner Bros. so Avery got some access to those stock footages to use for the cartoon. von Hamburger realises what he has seen in the screen and believing that there was an editing problem.

The next footage that is shown up randomly is another reel reading: American Legion Convention Parades in Sunny California. We view as we find a group of soldiers marching in the rain. In theory, I believe that Tex saw some footage which he managed to get hold of and then made up headlines to make gags out of the footage which is a very clever idea. Of course - it would be suitable to include the 'California, Here I Come' tune which is one of Stalling's famous musical cues of the 1930s.

Another reel that is then included - is a focus on an airplane flight with headline reading (New Type Aircraft in Test Flight). It sounds like the person who is the background voice reel man is someone else other than Blanc - it sounds like one of the voices he's used in Tex's spotgag cartoons - in fact some of the sequences feel like Tex's gag ideas for his spot-gag cartoons except it's a spot-gag sequence and done in live-action.

Anyway - we see the plane about to take off but crashes inside a building instead and there is some rewinding and fast-forwarding on the plane crashing into the building (all supported with Treg Brown's sound effects) as the commentator pokes fun: "He's off. He's off!".

The next reel features the headline: Jitterbug Jamboree where the footage reveals dancers at the scene in a ballroom (and I swear that was footage from a motion picture).

Meanwhile - von Hamburger is by the floor like a coward as he is rather afraid of I.M. Stupendous' opinion. We follow on as the next headline features a wrestling match that is going in Madison Garden - and the commentator is talking in fast-action and literally the gag is that there isn't ANY action going on in the arena which I find very amusing. The sequence with all the footage added together certainly is something special but it's even better when Tex uses gags for it as the finishing touch. In the following sequence where we reveal a beauty contest of girls lining up looking glamorous but the commentator announces the winner: and it turns out to be a rather large, obese woman who remarks: "I'll be happy to have you all over" that shot was just hilarious even in Berner's voice.

At that point - I.M. Stupendous has completely lost his mind and he ends up jumping out of his seat and actually praises the crap that he was watching in the projection room - which appears to be some stereotype as some suit, I guess. He jumps out of his seat and announces: "Amazing, marvellous, stupendous, colossal, tremendous, gigantic, outstanding, unbelievable, spectacular, phenomenal! - and it's good, too".

That is a very funny scene as he just lists out words for praise with a loud voice but breaks down with a sentence normally at the end. At that point - von Hamburger had just passed out as he has finally lost his senses.

Later on, we find that I.M. Stupendous appeared to have found out who was responsible for the fake film and then he offers the director's chair to Daffy Duck with von Hamburger fired. I love that little Vigil scene with Daffy Duck as a director and just impersonated von Hamburger by trilling, "I'll take turkey with all the trimmings" with all the assistant directors coming up "Yes sir, yes sir, yes sir, YES SIR!" The chef arrives with the dish and as Daffy opens the tureen we find that von Hamburger already made a gag out of Daffy and he bites him on the nose. von Hamburger has already got to the point of insanity over Daffy Duck that he ends up copying his actions afterwards whooping excitedly.

Overall comments: Being that this is Avery's final cartoon where he directed a Daffy Duck cartoon - I suppose because he felt he did all he could with ideas on making Daffy zany but I would love to see more of his take on the director - even though he only directed three very early Daffy cartoons. With the colours now finalised but nobody could agree on how Daffy Duck would look like (though model sheets). Here, Daffy looks very crude in this cartoon with his body shaped like a turkey and that bald head patch that we see on the top of  his head - which we have never seen before. With those Avery Daffy cartoons completed - I find that this cartoon was the best cartoon that he has made. Even though -  he basically has the same personality through those three but I feel that this cartoon we get to know Daffy a bit more other than being a screwball - and even some very funny gags that were included.

Tex Avery certainly has decided to take a different ambition with storytelling and gags in the cartoon. Tex was always very good when it came to cartoon stories as they were very imaginative. Here he even extends his own imagination in a different view - its also a different ambition as he is using stock footage for the cartoon to make the gags work. I feel that this does make a good cartoon where the theme is Hollywood. Daffy's tricks certainly are very clever as he pastes the footage together - although I'm still a little confused as to how von Hamburger did not realise the error the very second he saw the title (and from what we saw during the production it was a romance film he was making). Of course - Avery would still hang on to the romance gag in 'Hamateur Night' where the actor and actress were used again for the 'Romeo & Juliet' sequence. With character personalities - Avery sure knew how to develop great characters - and it feels like the von Hamburger character had something with common with the famous Looney Tunes - the speech impediments (stuttering, lisps, and trilling), etc.


  1. Dave Mackey's site screwed up on the release date of this short: it was actually released on December 3, 1938.

  2. I've found a theatre that was showing it on Nov. 24th.
    The blue jacket and carnation have to have been inspired by Leon.

  3. My site doesn't screw up - I do! I will be going over all these early release dates as there are inconsistencies.

  4. Where I can download or watch it?

  5. i have two cels from this cartoon. any value to them?

  6. For example, the December 3, 1938 date I found was in Steve Schneider's book "That's All, Folks! The Art of Warner Bros. Animation."

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Awesome work. Thanks for undertaking it being serious without taking yourself too seriously. I only saw this long ago and didn't know the Great Tex Avery had done it although one look should tell you. Like I said it was long ago and again thanks for the awesome knowledge. This fills in a missing piece that I didn't know was missing.