Random semiconscious musings

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Showboating with my Buddy

With the recent release of the most magnificent Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 5, we've been treated to some wonderful Black & White goodies from the Warner's vault.

Many people seem to dislike those oddball cartoons from the 30s with no starring character- "I've Got To Sing A Torch Song" from Vol. 5 for one.... probably because there's no familiar character to relate entertainment with like Bosko or Bugs or Daffy, and the humour and/or references don't make sense due to being out of context because of their age.

I, for one, heavily enjoy these obscure things. I think it's because without a familiar starring character, what's left for the rest of the cartoon has to be entertaining enough to sustain the seven minutes in one way or another. This often inferred intertwining mishmash gags with a song or some kind attempt at amusing audiences of the 30s. That's what I find entertaining- watching what's thrown onscreen and, with my knowledge of the mindset of those who premiered the film, laughing at how simplistic or even low-functioning those with money to go watch these things must have been, and how those who wrote the gags were not far from that mentality themselves.

What's even more entertaining is seeing a flopping fish of a film taking stabs in the dark at humour and failing... embarrassingly.

Which brings me to this blog's cartoon: Buddy's Show Boat.

Now Buddy himself is forever under scrutiny. He's not funny, he's bland, he's as congenial as vanilla ice cream. But think of the mentality behind him- audiences were in the midst of a depression... things were gloomy all over and hardship was staring everyone in the face. His job was to give these poor sods a few minutes of escapism with whatever vehicle he had. Keeping this in mind, it's actually possible to enjoy his feeble efforts to lift the spirits of the audience.

I chose this selection because it's a weird mishmash of ideas as mentioned above. I suppose looking at it loosely, it's about Buddy's traveling showboat and how he lands in town-to-town entertaining anyone that may be interested in attending. But there's so much added to this cartoon that it literally shouts out "straight-ahead" scriptwriting, meaning the writers started somewhere and made themselves to the end of the seven minutes by adding interjections, "Now let's make him do this....", "now let's make Betty Boo-- I mean, Cookie do that", "OK now we need a conflict or plotline of some sort...." and finally winds up with the bad guy getting what he justly deserves... a spanking.

Also, this version is the uncut one, and there's some pretty off-colour / rather tasteless jokes in it. Oh, I don't mean the throwaway racist characterizations of the coal boys or the Maurice-Chevalier-ish Aborigine.... some even more risque: like the telephone ringing its bells which by no accident, have a direct resemblance to a cabaret dancer's breasts (don't believe me? just watch them); or the 'ferry' boat gaily making a pass as he prances past the barge; or the dung birds that walk in the parade then rip into formation as the horse in front of them lifts its tail readying to take a dump on the street.... Unrefined farm humour at its best....!!

There's a nice scene here where Buddy is ringing the steamboat whistle- the animation is so rubbery and fluid. It's probably Jack King- since he'd have been recently acquired from Disney prior to doing this- but really, that's just a guess. This, and the scene where Buddy telephones Betty Boo- er, I mean Cookie, are the only scenes where Buddy has these pointed, pinned-back ears, so whomever contributed this scene was probably new or on loan from another department. Maybe Irv Spence?

This version of the Looney Tunes theme used for the opening titles is my favourite one- it's a little slower and smoother than the ones used later. Anyone know the name of this song?

Here's a challenge... try to find at least something enjoyable about Buddy's character... he's such a perky little smiley-faced guy....!