Monday, 15 April 2013

269. The Film Fan (1939)

starring PORKY
Warner cartoon no. 268.
Release date: December 16, 1939.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Bob Clampett.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig/Theatre Usher/Cold Promise/Professor Widebottom/Sterling/Dog), Billy Bletcher (Narrator of Masked Marvel), Robert C. Bruce (Coming Attractions Narrator) and The Rhythmettes (Chorus singers).
Animation: Norman McCabe and Vive Risto.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: The grand opening of a theatre opens where the audience becomes very popular with the 'free admissions' from kids, including Porky.

Porky's last cartoon of the 1930s cartoons, before we move to the 1940s where Porky's career in cartoons would increase, and of course, Porky gets funnier...and will turn to colour.

The cartoon begins; with a threatre that has a sign reading 'Grand Opening Today'. An off-screen chorus go into song singing There's A Brand New Show That's Opening Today. But, that song is only substitute lyrics to the original song: There's a Brand New Picture in My Picture Frame. Clampett is still in the hang of his popular song choruses and uses The Rhythmettes for the opening song.

The Grand Opening is now playing The Broken Leg as it is surrounded by 'a large cast'. The film is meant to be a parody of the 1939 film The Old Maid which starred Bette Davis. Can't say I know too much of what the parody is supposedly meant to be. One of the signs also reads: 'It's cool inside, 103 degrees'.

That's the gag; 103 degrees is absolutely not a cool temperature. A streetcar then arrives at the street where the theatre is located. The doors of the streetcar open up like a box of sardines and the crowd all rush to the grand opening of the theatre. The theatre also becomes sensational for the kids, as the grand opening is allowing free admission for the kids. A little mouse prances over, and joins in the queue. Notice very carefully a poster in the background of that shot reading: Oz of a Wizard; which is just an obvious parody to the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz...a film we've all encountered at childhood.

The music cue for the next sequence is Thru the Courtesy of Love, as we watch a snooty woman walk into the scene who is also carrying her dog with her to the cinema. She is seen stereotyped as upper-class as she is carrying a lorgnette with her. Notice the Looney Tunes advertisement in the background in the main hall of the cinema.

She then speaks to the audience, 'Movies? We never go to movies, do we, Cuddles?' Cuddles, her dog, shows a really snooty pose, and has so much devotion to the snooty woman. She asks for Cuddles to move away from the theatre with a snobby attitude.

The voice of the snooty woman is another mysterious voice, that no-one knows, so far. The dog then walks past a poster of what the cinema is now playing...The Valley of the Giants - a 1938 film distributed by Warner Bros. After the dog walks past the poster, he immediately bursts into excitement from watching the poster where it is completely filled with trees. Clampett is definitely influenced through Tex's immature and rustic subtle humour, but Clampett, just makes the gag look weird and off-putting, as the dog will evidently not pee on any tree. The dog then persuades the snooty owner to watch the film, but ends up pushing her inside the cinema. Then again, I like how Clampett provides a nice illusion of kids' excitement of a new feature film.

The next sequence: Porky is seen walking on the pavement, continuously tossing his coin, singing and stuttering to Sticks and Stones. From the impression, he's just every 1930s straightman that you would expect in a black-and-white animated cartoon. As Porky flips his coin and makes a turn around a building, he walks past the cinema.

Only hardly noticing the 'Free admission for kids' poster, he continues to walk away from the cinema. Just at that moment, he freezes and 'takes' 'Kids admitted free?!', he exclaims. Porky dashes to the notice, and shakes his eyelids believing he is dreaming.

A theatre usher watches Porky rush into the cinema, and he extends his legs taller so Porky can run back in, before he returns to his normal posture. Porky walks over to a row, but finds a audience member resting his feet on the back of a seat in front of him. Porky pushes his feet out of the way, like pushing a saloon door opens. The timing of the feet returning to its position is some funny timing.

The film reels all start, and the audience are settled in their seats. We see Clampett's unit reference themselves as the newsreels are called 'Looney-Tone News', which is hosted by Cold Promise. Now, Cold Promise is just a really bad joke referring to Lowell Thomas...who was a commentator on Fox Movietone News. Animation of Cold Promise was reused from She Was an Acrobat's Daughter, from 1937.

The title cards then reveal a headline with an unfunny one-liner reading: 'Scientist Discovers That Short Tempered Doctors Always Lose Their Patients'...which you can figure out yourself.

The commentator then comments about a scientist named Professor Widebottom has invented a super-prasmatic microscope which will observe and view germs living in the human blood stream.

Through a point of view show of the microscope, the germs are seen having hun at the blood-stream...sailing and diving into the blood as though its the seaside...which is a little corny and cutesy gag. There is a ship that sails past which is named S.S. Malaria; and Clampett also jokes about the ship named after a serious disease. The narrator comments and praises Widebottom's voice, but at that point, the professor breaks down in a cretinous voice: 'It tain't nuthin'.

Menwhile, Porky is struggling to watch the screen because he is watching the film reels too far away from where he is sitting now. He decides to walk a few more rows so he would watch the screen much better. However, it turns out he's in one of the front rows and watches a horse and his jock ride. The animation of the horse (as well as the gag itself was also reuse from Acrobat's Daughter).

Another newsreel then focuses on a retired banker named J. Pretzel Pumpernickel who walks over to a machine slot, as We're in the Money plays during the background cue. As he walks over to the machine slot; it turns out he is a complete cheat.

He slips in five cents inside the slot but he pulls it back with his string--the old money scheme in the book. It turns out that the jokes on him as the hand from the slot then magically comes to life; and grabs the retired banker by the legs. He holds onto him and shakes all of his money and savings from his pocket and into the slot machine. Now that is definitely pure Clampett, which is everything what I would describe as 'wacky'.

Robert C. Bruce takes over, briefly as the 'Coming Attractions' narrator. The narrator narrates the upcoming films for release with film titles such as Four Feathers (with the tagline 'it will tickle you'). The narrator also lists Honeymoon in Bali being one.

The narrator announces: 'Don't fail to miss it'--and Clampett pulls off an amusing pun of Gone with the Wind and here it is titled as Gone with the Breeze. Under the title is a caricature of Clark Gable featured.

I'd have to say it was perfect timing for the parody to be featured in the 'Coming Attractions'. The cartoon's release date is listed as Dec. 16, just a day after Gone with the Wind's movie premiere in Atlanta. Though, the film had a lot of media impact during the film's three year production.

The next title card to be featured is of the Masked Marvel--parodied as the Lone Ranger. Billy Bletcher then steps in and voices the 'Hi ho' part. Instead of the voice, 'Hi ho silver'. The Lone Ranger voices 'Hi ho--you know!'. Bletcher is also the narrator of the Lone Ranger trailer...some of his vocals are a subtle giveaway. Much of the trailer (including the hill gag) was reused from The Lone Stranger and Porky. In the trailer as they reach an end, the Masked Marvel asks his horse: 'You take the high road and you take the low road'. Then they break into song singing the lyrics to Loch Lomond.

As the Masked Marvel and his horse perform that dance and walking down the roads--a duck member in the audience decides to break the animation rules. He grabs out a slingshot and has a rock attached to it. What's weird is when he hits it straight towards the horse, the horse 'Hey, who's the wise guy?'. Weird thought and even idea for a gag.

Meanwhile, outside the cinema; a theatre usher answers the phone. It turns out to be screams and hollers coming from a petrified lady. The theatre usher makes a take and then responds 'Yes, yes--I'l take care of it right away' and so he hangs up the phone.

Meanwhile; during the show--the usher walks into the main hall and asks for quietness--when it was already quiet. He then asks: 'If there is a little boy in this theatre that was sent to the store by his mother, he better get home right away'. Porky realises it is him, and makes an exit to the theatre. Then all of the child animals rush out of the theatre; living it practically empty...which is the concluding gag: all the children found a way of 'escapism' to go to the pictures...very common in the 1930s.

Overall comments: In many ways, this cartoon feels more like a 'recycled cartoon'. I'm not meaning that only because the cartoon itself reuses some animation from She Was an Acrobat's Daughter or Lone Stranger and Porky, but it's pretty much a recycled concept of 'Acrobat'. This cartoon is also another example of how Clampett was getting frustrated of Porky Pig; and he manages to squeeze in an excuse of having Porky as an audience member--and a chance to come up with creative gags for newsreels. However, Clampett's take on the gags in this sequence aren't up to his standard; and neither was anything he did from that era. The gags in that particular were very weak, and it appears Clampett's approach to gags in this cartoon are just ridiculous puns as well as one-liners. The puns are seen all over for the parody film titles as well as the film reels itself. This was a very unfunny cartoon, and this cartoon really shows no charm...although I will give credit for the dog gag, even if it was a Avery-esque gag.

Being this is the last Porky cartoon of the 1930s; he has certainly peaked and troughed. He started off charming in his first ever appearance back in 1935...though his voice actor's speech impediment became degrading, but Mel Blanc's voice gave so many qualities to Porky. I'm not going to ramble too much here; but Porky was at his peak around 1937 and 1938 when Clampett directed the best Porky cartoons of the 1930s, and Frank Tashlin also directed decent outputs. Then again, by 1939, it all ran down too much that he probably was the star of the Looney Tunes long enough by 1938; but it won't be until around 1941 and 1942; when he would lose that title...and become a regular Looney Tunes star like every other character (Bugs, Elmer, Daffy, etc.)..and of course by 1942; Porky had completely established his charm and his personality was made much more broader and funnier.

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