Release date: February 25, 1939.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Ben Hardaway & Cal Dalton.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Cop / Seabiscuit) and Joe Twerp (Old Timer/Driver/Scandanavian).
Story: Melvin Millar.
Animation: Gil Turner.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Traveller is out at the West Coast in the search for cold - whilst he stops at the gas station. An old timer advises him its pointless of collecting old and recollects his time of catching gold.
The driver (who appears to be an impersonation of Roy Atwell or Joe Twerp who use spoonerism for their comedy sketches). The driver asks to put gas inside as he has problems with his speech. The old timer then places the fuel in his car and asks, 'What's the hurry, son?' The driver responds, 'I'm going out to gig for dold, sold for gig, uh...gil for der..Oh fiddle dee-dee - I'm going out to dig for gold".
The old timer finishes using up the fuel as he chuckles, 'Don't make me laugh. There ain't no more gold in them hills than there is in a hound dog's tooth. Listen, son. I've dug for gold in every corner of the world. Why, I remember back in 1849...' So, hang on a minute - if this cartoon is set in the modern day (with modern cars of the 1930s and local gas station - then THAT old timer must be over a 100 years old or something?? What the f--- he must be the oldest living person by that point! Wait, you can hear him humble slightly, 'course I was just a little kid' and I guess that would help make him a bit younger than we thought?
He walks up to the white horse and asks who he is. Then the horse replies, 'Seabiscuit. What's yours' and neighs. For those that don't know - that is a reference of a famous racehorse who was named, 'Seabiscuit'. Meanwhile we then notice the bar as we find the young version of the old timer who had lived in that era.
However, one thing that concerns me is he doesn't even LOOK like a young boy - as instead he just looks like a a guy who is a young adult - and yet he must be well over 100 in the modern day; and yet even not looking 100. -sigh- when could the directors get it right? Meanwhile, as he is looking around trying to find somewhere to stay as he is a new arrival at San Francisco - he is spotted by a local inside a bar. The bar spots him as a victim (aka)' sucker' into gambling inside the bar.
He is thrown inside the bar as he spins around to a table where there is local who already has a pack of cards out with him. There is some really neat animation in this sequence that is solid where the man is shuffling up the cards. The hand movements of the card shuffling is indeed, very solid. There is a part afterwards where the shuffler just stops shuffling and he lights his cigar while the cards continue to shuffle.
Afterwards he then shows off his cards - but at that moment there is a local that enters the bar and shouts out, 'They found gold in the hills!' which is going back to the California Gold Rush of 1849 - as it is referenced in the cartoon.
But the timing is really slow when the young fellow dashes out of the bar. Afterwards - there are folks on the mountains digging for areas where they could find gold. The digger then runs over to find his spot to dig for gold as he holds out a 'claim' sign.
He goes through different areas of the mountain to put his claim sign to the ground but other folks already beat him before he could claim it which is an experiment of timing and it's not too bad. Afterwards, he goes to a different area but another digger claims it first with the sign reading 'Finders Keepers'. This goes on as he then finds a quiet area where nobody is around. The gag where the sign just shoots straight over reading "Keep Off" is very amusing as he has that much bad luck for getting gold. He then gets frustrated and gives up. He tosses the sign away but the 'Claim' sign lands at a spot he has found.
The next scene we find that he is still alive - though he is injured from that 'near-fatal fall' as he is hospitalised. The doctor arrives at the scene with a stethoscope where it appears to have a detector on there. As he is detecting his heart and the detecting sound for a stethoscope is rather cool.
Mmm, what does get me to curiosity is did hospitals REALLY look that clean around 1849. Before the period of Crimea War and when Florence Nightengale stepped in to improve conditions - its best to call this a continuity goof.
The doctor then announces that gold has been discovered at Virginia City - and the fellow then shouts out, 'Gold! Whooopie!' and dashes out of the hospital - and he's not going to travel all the way to East Coast as there is a Virginia City in Nevada. He dashes back in to collect his hat before leaving out to travel thousands of miles just to collect gold. Meanwhile - over at the East Coast (I imagine) he is out at the river as he is looking for gold as he uses a can to search for it but he still doesn't find any luck. There is a corny gag that follows afterwards as we spot what looks like some guy looking for gold shaking how bootie - okay, that was just random. He then pulls out a goldfish form his dish and places it in the fishbowl - now that is just clever.
As we pan horizontally - he then come across an underground mine where there are a couple of miners down there as they are playing some music. They sing the song My Sweetheart Needs Gold For Her Teeth but in the theme of the old song The Old Apple Tree.
The bears guy playing the guitar looks rather cool, and there are guys that rush inside sitting in a cart as they sing along to the song. The sequence follows on as we see some miners underground digging for gold.
There is a guy who is opening up nutshells to search for golden nuggets. Each time he finds one it is placed inside a barrel full of nuggets. After cracking one nutshell; he finds no nugget so he tosses it away. I don't see how it is meant to be a gag (if that is the purpose). I'm sure everyone would find something not there as it should. There is a chef underground who is already cooking some gold bouillon in the pot and as he slurps it to try the flavour - his teeth then turn gold which is rather cool. There appears to be a reference or a quote I can't make out as the guitarist unfolds his beard for a line. The song then concludes and the miners in the cart then go back.
The digger is still in search for gold at the stream but as he finds no luck of even finding any worthy gold - he gives up and walks out of the woods. He then enters a saloon where he orders a nugget nectar. After the barman pours a shot - he then drinks it. After drinking it - the volume of the drink was so strong that it causes him to feel weird and pass out on the floor.
After he passes out - voices break out about gold in a different location. There are a few good pacing shots of the close-ups of the locals they and the digger ends up waking up to go on the search for MORE GOLD.
We follow on with a sequence of some montage scenes where the digger is on his horse out to look out for gold in the gulch. He even travels through every part of the world, through canels, and even sledging to a different country just to find gold! I sure like how these sequences lead to exaggeration as though he heard cold over at a different region and even travelling further away. The letters 'GOLD' just popping up are certainly rather effective.
We then head back to the present day as the old timer explains his story about why is it pointless to go out searching for gold. "You're just wasting your time, son. Why I wouldn't go on one of them wild goose chasers for all the gold in the world. No sure bob!'. As he is pointing out some helpful advice to him from one of his experiences - a messenger arrives at the spot.
He announces of gold in such location. The whole gist of the entire cartoon is the old timer tosses the driver out of the car and shouts, 'Whoopie!' and drives off. He drives back to give the driver a message, 'You can have the station' and he drives off with excitement leaving the driver sitting in the middle of the world as he now has been forcefully been given no choice but to take over the gas station.
Overall comments: I find that this cartoon at least has an energetic plot that is going on - whilst the Hardaway-Dalton cartoons really have thin narratives that are usually very weak but here I find it flows rather smoothly. The pacing for the cartoon is rather fine, and it appears to flow by rather smoothly. But overall, my impressions of the cartoon is I find it to be rather average at best. The gags are very plain, and there are a lack of - if any - funny gags, but as I had mentioned there were certainly some very amusing moments. The scenes where there a group of guys that claim a position before each other is certainly a very amusing gag - but I would wonder where Hardaway had contributed to the writing gags on the signs since he loved using that in his cartoons - particularly at Lantz. I have to say that the ending was certainly worth a pass - as the old timer is a big hypocrite and he just leaves his gas station for more gold, and forgetting all of the advice he said, and even going through the whole trouble of searching for gold again. That is certainly something.
There are certainly some nits in there which I would just classify as goofs. I find that the time gap between the present day and the Gold Rush of 1849 to be a way too long gap as the old timer certainly doesn't look very old at all (unless the story could be get to some 50 years earlier; it would make sense). The hospital scene rather confused me as I would never imagine hospitals need spaced and clean at ALL in 1849. Overall, I find that it was a rather good attempt of bringing a cartoon story that was set during the California Gold Rush. It sort of feels like the skeleton of Tex's Gold Diggers of '49 was used in this cartoon - but mainly for searching gold but much of it is pretty much all original. But comparing both, I like Gold Diggers a lot better. With that aside, I have to say that the quality of this cartoon certainly needs some freshening up as its lived in public domain condition for years.