Release date: September 14, 1940.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Friz Freleng.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Danny Webb (Mostly male actors), Jack Lescoulie (Jack Bunny/Phil Harris), Sara Berner (Actresses), Marie Greene (Darbis singing) and Mel Blanc (Rochester).
Story: Jack Miller.
Animation: Gil Turner.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Jack Benny and his wife host a beach party in his Malibu home with various celebrities invited as they enjoy the lifestyle and fun.
|Ben Shenkman at his office at|
Hanna-Barbera. c. mid-1960s.
Friz Freleng had evidently been impressed with Shenkman's caricatures that he borrowed him over to the Schlesinger Studio where he would design the caricatures for this cartoon, and also for Tex in Hollywood Steps Out which was already in production around the time Malibu Beach Party was.
Thanks to Keith Scott whose incredibly research reveals the voice actors for the cartoon; as well as the story of Shenkman's brief stint at Schlesinger; before he moved over to MGM after his stint for Warners. His designs had a particularly very exaggerated but realistic appeal which is particularly challenging and delicate to animate, due to the richness of his drawings.
Jack Lescoulie, however, performs a rather fun impression of Benny; whose voice impersonation has quite a similar tone..who used the same Jack Benny voice for the Caveman in Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur and also Slap Happy Pappy.
A lot of Benny's cast crew from The Jack Benny Show also appear in this cartoon; not to mention Rochester, but parodied as "Winchester"; and Mel Blanc of course pulls off the voice with such great execution and delivery. Let's not forget, Phil Harris who also appears briefly with his band, but his band are given the pun: Phil Harris and his Corn-fed Band.
He responds to Benny's request for music; 'Okay Jackson, I'm right on the beam'. 'Jackson', however was a line what Harris would regularly call Benny during radio shows with a cheerful expression. Of course; not to forget: Mary Livingstone who was Benny's wife and longtime partner for his show appears towards the beginning; waiting for the guests to arrive at their beach party. I believe she is on character which references her radio performances; though not too sure.
The gag appears to have been a particular mock towards Benny's talent in playing the violin, who was a gifted violinist in reality. This causes a particular stir amongst his guests who then turn to leave the party.
He even forces Rochester to stay on with the show, when Benny catches him attempting to sneak out the back door. Friz's timing as well as the ending shot wouldn't have been presented funnier; where he sits on poor Rochester. He asks him when he expects an agreement, 'Isn't this beautiful, Winchester' as he responds: 'Under the circumstances..yes!'. Benny concludes; quoting himself: 'Goodnight, folks' during the iris out. Note the music cue is also heard in one of the Schlesinger gag reels.
In other aspects, even so towards the end, Jack Benny himself is really the main butt of the satirical humour and gags in this whole cartoon; much more than the other celebrities. There is without doubt he was very popular in radio, and would still remain so...though here he is presented as particularly unpopular with his guests. It mainly happens when he holds out the 'applaud' card when no-one applauds, and Winchester ends up having to grab out a pair of hand-clappers to clap for them. Any Benny experts, see the real gag behind this?
John Barrymore approaches towards Caesar Romero; where John Barrymore performs a Julius Caesar act; where instead of stabbing him in the back; he buries him in sand which makes the punchline just appear wackier.
The gag to feature Ned Sparks; who exclaims with his grumpy tone: 'I never go anywhere, I never do anything..I never have any fun' in a funny performance also by Danny Webb. The crab who responds, 'Aww shaddap ya old crab!' is a particularly corny pun but Mel Blanc's delivery once again makes it funnier.
Friz Freleng's timing is particularly ingenious in this sequence; where Fanny Brice as Baby Snooks wants to bury Ned in the sand. Friz's comic timing as well as the punchline should be appreciated as Brice just returns with a truckload full of sand and dumps it on top of cantankerous Ned...all rather quickly timed, and it all particularly works in a comic, funny way.
Of course, up next you would not expect to see a Clark Gable gag without mocking his ears. He swims in the sea, though his ears do the strokes whilst he rests. Particularly hard to time comically, though it shows great satire. Friz's comic timing and delivery would be perfected and hilariously timed later on when Deanna Durbin sings; as Ned Sparks, can't help but slowly smile with difficulty and Treg Brown's sound effects are put to such good use.
For a particular Warner enthusiast or historian, you'd definitely recognise the staging of the sequence, as well as the song from an even more infamous, and better Freleng cartoon: Back Alley Oproar.
Though the concept, the timing as well as the whole underplay of its satire of the singing cat was much more funnier as well as unrealistically well-done. Here, it isn't particularly too much of a gag, other than the reactions of particular audience members watching her sing. Though the sequence was reworked into the latter short, it is much more charming and funny due to being completely looney and off the wall. Thanks to Keith Scott for letting me know, and to warn everyone else: though this is Maria Greene singing as Deanna Durbin, bare in mind it's NOT the same voice or audio used in Back Alley Oproar; it is sung by a different performer.
Spencer Tracy walks over towards Mary Livingstone to greet get, asking "Miss Livingstone, I presume?", which is a take of Stanley Henry from the 1939 film: Stanley and Livingstone. Kay Kyser quickly zips in in his uniform responding (as well as one of his traits); 'That's it, that's it! Yeah, yeah, yeah, etc.!'.
A part of it feels particularly influenced from the short; but at least it was subtle. The dance action of notorious dance partners Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as they dance around the room; whilst the song Where Was I? played by Phil Harris' band, it was particularly reused though unnoticeable animation from a previous short: September in the Rain; another Freleng entry from three years earlier.
Other puns which is already seen is the 'old crab' rearm at the beach. As for the rest, however, they are particularly very same: like 'Jack Bunny' and 'Winchester' which are just particularly unrelated names which feel particularly forced and appear to lack much purpose.
The George Raft gag, though with the caricatured celebrity flipping a coin, and standing next to a raft has more purpose than 'Jack Bunny' type puns, though it is still particularly very weak.
In conclusion, Malibu Beach Party is a particularly daring concept towards Friz Freleng in terms of animation wise. His unit would've had to particularly follow Ben Shenkman's wonderful caricatures in a methodical manner and keep them on-model in order for the characters to have a particularly common appeal animatedly. Overall, it is a good combination between particularly amusing celebrity references and it is pretty well animated. Tex would borrow Shenkman for the designs used in Hollywood Steps Out; which was reportedly in production for 18 months; and it was seen as a more ambitious short. It's a particularly typical celebrity satire where you see particular traits and quirks all poked fun, though animating in a realistic form would've been a pleasing effect for a 1940 audience, as well as showing how Warners was already improving so much in quality.