Friday, 19 July 2013
287. You Ought to Be in Pictures (1940)
Release date: May 18, 1940.
Series: Looney Tunes.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, all actors dubbed except Schlesinger), Leon Schlesinger (Himself), Fred Jones (Artist), Michael Maltese (Studio Guard), Gerry Chiniquy (Live Action Director), Smokey Garner (Cameraman who shouts "Quiet!") and Henry Binder (Man Throwing Porky off stage).
Story: Jack Miller.
Animation: Herman Cohen.
Music: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Daffy, tired of being a second-rate character; attempts to overthrow Porky's leading position of the Schlesinger Studio into foiling Porky in becoming a leading actor in features. That is, the plan for Porky ends up going awry.
Considering this short is, without doubt, a comeback short for Friz Freleng...his comeback would be a different approach. Instead of a typical animated story in a animated world; he sets the story at the Leon Schlesinger Studio..where an extensive use of live-action would be used.
Live-action combined with animation was already a technique which was extremely common in the 1920s..particularly with Fleischer's Out of the Inkwell series and Disney's Alice Comedies..but it wasn't particularly used often thereafter; so this short is itself a very early example; where the animated characters actually live in the real world.
Friz Freleng remembers: "It was just a fun thing to do, and that was the reason for doing it". When he asked Schlesinger about the idea of making this cartoon, "I don't think he quite understood what I was going to do, but he trusted me quite a bit, and he let me do whatever I wanted to do, as long as it didn't cost him a lot of money. You couldn't do that today, because we didn't even use union people. Our cameraman at the time, John Burton, was the live-action cameraman. We just took a black and white camera, went out and shot whatever we wanted to, without asking".
Meanwhile inside the studio; an animation artist is seen drawing Porky Pig on his desk. The animation artist; of course as we all know; is animator Fred Jones whose had a small career for Warners working as a uncredited animator in the mid-40s as well as working for Disney briefly in the 40s.
According to Mark Kausler, he was known as the most handsome man of the studio. Anyway; the artist's hand then quickly sketches and inks a Porky Pig pose on his drawing. Once he's completely satisfied with the Porky drawing; he looks at the clock by the wall--Lunchtime.
He rushes out to put his coat and hat on shouting "LUNCH!" and all the other Schlesinger artists rush out excitedly for lunch. Of course; the crowd scene is stock footage from one of the Schlesinger gag reels; but its got such great execution and timing of the employees bursting out the doors, implying their human rights have been restored. Glitches of Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett can be spotted in the crowd scenes. Overall, a great little introduction of the employees the Schlesinger Studio, which is evenly paced; and brings the story into full gear. Also, a little historic for, perhaps, fans and historians who get to see a bit of what the interior of the studio looked like. A brilliant set up for the introduction of the short.
This goes into a dialogue sequence; where Daffy scoffs at his opinion; 'Aww you call this a job, working in cartoons? Pooh! I know where you could get a job in features. As Bette Davis' leading man. $3'000 a week!'.
Porky also rejects the offer, being too ambitious for Porky: 'Aww, I don't think I'm good enough for that, besides I've got a contract here'. Daffy, then manages to convince Porky out of it: 'Oh, you can get out of that. Just tell the boss that you want to quit'. Porky responds naively: 'You think I ought to?'. Daffy jumps out of the frame and climbs down the desk with Porky: 'Sure. C'mon, c'mon. You don't get an opportunity like this everyday. C'mon!'. The sequence; is a obvious contrast to display Porky's naiveness as he already quickly is manipulated through Daffy's crafty plan.
Porky is already encourage to prove he's not afraid, and then knocks on the door timidly; which is a little amusing in delivery, where its pretty evident he is afraid. Daffy responds: 'Go ahead and knock, louder!'.
Porky's knocking is then only a tad louder. Daffy objects to the knocking: 'No, no, no! Like this:' Daffy then demonstrates an example of a loud knock as he bangs his fist on Leon's door four times. Leon, taking little bother of the loud knocking responds unenthusiastically: 'Come in'...as he's reading a newsletter. Porky opens the door where he peeks his head through. Leon gives Porky his full attention: 'Hello, Porky. Come on in'. A classic stuttering gag; Porky attempts to pronounce 'Schlesinger' but ends up in stutters; before saying simply: 'Hello, Leon'. Of all the stuttering word gag; this one is executed a lot better, not because of it being set at the studio; but showing how his surname would indeed be difficult to stutter, whilst his first name is a lot easier.
'You see, I've been in cartoons a long time, and I was thinking that if I had a chance to act in features...(stutters)..What's Errol Flynn got that I haven't?' Leon, slightly understanding Porky's quest; and breaks it down simply:
'You mean to say you want to get out of your cartoon contract?'. Porky responds 'Yes'. Already knowing that his biggest star is wanting to quit his contract; which would be considered a huge loss for Leon; he takes his departure very lightly.
'Well, if that's the way you feel about it, that's alright with me'. He even goes as far as to even tear up his contract; which Porky allows. Leon then rips the contract on the floor. Leon and Porky then shake each other's hand; and Leon bids farewell: 'Okay, Porky. Don't forget me when you're a star'. Porky leaves the room, and Leon, taking the situation likely backs it up as he remarks: 'He'll be back'...where he gestures towards the audience; before he resumes reading the dailies. Of course: Leon is the only actor in this sequence whose voice isn't dubbed by Blanc; where it was Leon's own voice.
This sequence is a great example to exclude such falsities of Leon Schlesinger's voice being the inspiration of Daffy Duck or Sylvester the Cat. Thanks to Keith Scott, who even reassured such claims were false..Leon only as a slight sibilance problem; particularly on the letter 's'. If you listen very carefully in this sequence; it can be evident...but certainly no lisp. It also disputes a lot of Chuck Jones' inaccurate myths of how Leon would avoid contact at the studio (and also the lisp story); but here Leon Schlesinger is, without doubt, very active in the production on this short. He was perfectly willing to appear in this short; and was also a very good actor. Being shot in silent; Leon put on a great performance, knowing how to act and gesture; considering his experience in the silent era days.
Daffy, realising his dodge has worked; then beams: 'Boy, now's my chance!' as he runs into the studio. Some great personality setup of Daffy, and Porky. From before; the audience all knew Daffy Duck as just a mere screwball, whereas here he's given a greedy personality who can manipulate Porky out of his contract and wanting to become the next star of the Schlesinger Studio.
Porky returns as he meekly responds: 'Hello'. The studio guard then asks for identity: 'Who do you think you are, driving through here like that?'. Porky identifies him his name...and this follows through a classic bit of dialogue:
Guard: Oh, so you're Porky Pig.
Guard: And you want to go in there?
(Porky nods again)
Guard: So you want me to be a nice guy, and let you go in there?
(Porky nods again)
Guard: So I can lose my job?
(Porky nods, realises, and shakes his head 'No')
The studio guard then turns cold towards Porky; prohibiting him admittance to the Studio Entrance: 'Well, I'm not a nice guy. And I'm not gonna let you in. And I'm not going to lose my job, but I am gonna throw you out!'. The guard then picks up Porky's car and tosses it out of the Studio Entrance and into the road. He warns: 'Get out, and stay out!'. Watching the shot where the guard tosses Porky out; its evident that originally Maltese supposedly picked up a box, and the car was traced over when animated, as the illusion features matte work. Michael Maltese AND Mel Blanc, both put on a great performance as the studio guard. Maltese for his acting, and Blanc for the deliverance. This would've been filmed when Maltese was still an assistant animator, just prior his move to the Story Department.
A very funny caricature of Oliver Hardy; which is the perfect disguise for Porky in an attempt to enter the Warner Studio; and the gag was very cleverly constructed.
The guard then greets him, 'Mornin', Mr. Hardy'. Porky drives through, and the guard, perplexed, realises: 'Hardy...Hardy?? Hey you!!'. He realises he's been tricked by Porky, and so Porky jumps out of his car and runs through the studio lot. Being chased by the guard; Porky makes a run towards 'Stage 7' where he can hide from the guard inside. Porky skids through, trips and rushes inside Stage 7 where the guard continues his chase towards Porky, but rushes past Stage 7.
The crewmen (played by Henry Binder, Smokey Garner) also shout 'Quiet!' Filming then begins, and the music plays. The extras then waltz through the scenario as they waltz to the popular song Where Was I? The footage, however, was taken from a behind the scenes reel.
Porky, watching the filming take place; then struggles to control his sneeze which is building up on his nose. He manages to control it for a moment, but then the build up occurs and he sneezes loudly. Film cans then end up falling to the floor, due to Porky's intense sneezing; and filming has been interrupted. The director then turns around as he watches the film cans fall. He tosses his script to the floor with frustration and shouts: 'Cut! Cut! Throw that guy outta here!'. Henry Binder, playing one of the crewmen walks into the scene as he picks up Porky throws him off the stage.
He then ends up in a set for a Western film; and ends up driving away from the horses and carriages frantically. The sequence with the horse and carriages were stock footage taken from a western film called California Mail, and Western Scene is the music score.
Porky drives out of the set; and into a field which appears to be outside the Warners set. Porky parks his car, rather fatigued from his misadventures of wanting to become a movie star. He then sweats and comments, 'Boy that was a close one. I don't think I like this feature business. Gee, I wonder if I can get my job back again'. Porky the drives away and in hope to get his old job back. The short sequence itself reflects on Friz's emotions during his tenure at MGM. Of course, MGM was the most prestigious studio in Hollywood back in the 30s, this shows how Friz didn't like working in that environment, and wished for his job back at the Schlesinger studio.
Being a 'better actor than he ever was'; if you're going by this 1940 era..in some ways it is true considering how Porky's only personality was his stutter, and went through a bland faze in the late 30s..but certainly was newly improved in the early and mid-1940s.
Daffy then jumps off his desk where his moment to shine happens right now. Daffy's cockiness then kicks in as he begins his song sequence; where he sings Corner in the Park; but in the style of his own self-lyrics.
He gets in cue where he brags about how he'd be great on the screen, greatly admired, and goes as far as to suggest: "Fred Astaire could never top this one". He then performs a hilarious little scuffle dance around Leon's office which is timed very well by the master Friz. Ironically, Daffy's fame would definitely increase even further after this short was made. Daffy steps back into song; where this time he brags about his singing voice, suggesting what he'd sound like if he was singing opera. He then breaks into the finale of his sequence by singing the Largo al factotum section of the Barber of Seville. Whilst his performance may be entertaining; Leon Schlesinger clearly isn't interested; and rudely carries on reading his papers..whilst Daffy carries on his performance. Leon's rudeness is very funny at that point; where he just makes Daffy look like a hick. Daffy jumps back onto his desk and asks: 'And now you have seen my act how about a nice contract?'.
The live-action effect of the car from Porky's perspective driving down the streets is very fun and effective as well as the animation of Porky driving down; and even skidding to make a turning point before crashing at a car.
Porky then arrives at the Schlesinger lot in quick enough time and then makes a dash into Leon's office. Just before it is too late for Porky; Daffy then bothers Leon be repeatedly asking whether his performance was good and whether Leon is convinced enough to promote Daffy. Leon just rudely replies: 'Alright, alright, alright. I'll take it over, I'll take it over!' as he is already bothered by Daffy's mannerisms. Porky peeks through Leon's office; where he overhears Daffy's line: "Porky never did anything. I did all the work!"; knowing that he has been tricked; Daffy's plan then turns foiled.
Just in time; Porky then whispers towards Daffy's attention. Daffy then turns around, already sweating with panic, and knowing that he is in a perilous position. He remarks; 'Don't go away Leon, I'll be right back'. Porky then walks with Daffy through the corridor and Daffy asks nervously, and uselessly: 'Hey what's the matter? They tried to cut ya down to 9'000?'.
Afterwards; Daffy is then the result of thrashings which Porky gives him off-screen. To give this a very marvellous effect, a lot of papers then fly out of the door as well as a broken chair which is meant to be the damages from the beatings Porky has given to Daffy.
Very cleverly planned, and still can he effective; even if not animated. Porky then rushes into Leon Schlesinger's office; looks through his bin and picks up the contract which was torn.
He then asks for his job, and gives his excuse for his return: 'I didn't really want to get out of my contract Leon, I was only foolin'..Yeah, April Fool'.
Leon chuckles: 'Okay Porky, I knew you'd come back. Now that contract, I didn't tear it up. Now get back to the studio and go to work'. Porky, relieved to have his contract returned thanks Leon and zips out. Leon then chuckles himself, to what was seen as a prank. Porky then rushes back towards his drawing board where he was once originally placed.
Once again, Daffy Duck, covered with bandages from his injuries, then attempts to set up another useless plan in giving him the exact same excuse to leave his contract: 'Hey Porky, I hope you didn't sign up here again. Because I know where there is a pip of a job at $12,000 a week. Playing opposite Greta..." at this point Porky tosses a tomato at Daffy's face; not listening to him. Daffy wipes off the tomato off his face, and concludes uselessly "...Garbo".
The Warners crew had so much freedom with making this short, and the short itself is the main reason for why Leon Schlesinger was a great boss. Not only did Leon let them go out and do what they pleased; he even agreed to play himself and did a great performance. He really knew how to capture the audience's attention; as well as perform very well silently. Mel Blanc, of course, does an excellent job where not only is he voicing Porky and Daffy, but also the rest of the other staff members, minus Leon. Carl Stalling also must be given credit for creating a very good adaptation of the popular song; and keeping the music score for the short very active. In my opinion, one of Stalling's best musical scores. What makes the cartoon rather enjoyable and marvellous; is possibly the backstage concept which adds appeal and weight to the cartoon. Porky and Daffy are merely not playing their own personalities audiences would recognise from earlier cartoons. Daffy is really just a mere crook; whereas Porky is just a contract employee at the studio. Daffy's personality really does go through a new change; where we see more human in Daffy, more personality other than the 100% looney-tooney character he was interpreted to be. It's a very productive and enjoyable cartoon from the very first scene to the very last. It is full of suspense, comedy, and despite its huge length for a animated cartoon: almost clocking in at 10 minutes; it's very well paced, full of adventure and not a moment of the short is dull. It may be far from being Freleng's best cartoons; but I must say, personally, it's one of his finest shorts he has turned out at Warners; especially in the early 40s; and without doubt..the best WB short of 1940.