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Director: Berthold Bartosch
Production Date:
 1930-1932
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

L'idée © Berthold BartoschWhile the cartoon industry flourished in the United States, animation film was developed as an art form in Europe.

In the 1920s Germany had lead the way, with films by Lotte Reiniger, Walter Ruttman and Oskar Fischinger, but by the early 1930’s France had taken over, albeit almost exclusively by foreigners, with great films like ‘Le roman de Renard’ (1929-1930) by Russian animator Władysław Starewicz, ‘Une nuit sur le mont chauve‘ (1933) by his compatriot Alexandre Alexeïeff, ‘La joie de vivre’ (1934) by British artist Anthony Gross and American artist Hector Hoppin, and ‘L’idée’ (1930-1932) by Austro-Hungarian animator Berthold Bartosch (1893-1968).

‘L’idée’ was based on a wordless novel of the same name by Belgian woodcut-artist Frank Masereel (1889-1972), who initially co-operated on the film, until he discovered how laborious animating really was. Masereel’s groundbreaking work has a strong expressionistic quality, which is also very present in Bartosch’s film.

Both the international character and the mood of the wordless film are greatly enhanced by the beautiful musical score by Swiss composer Arthur Honegger, who used the whooping sounds of the Ondes Martenot, an early electronic instrument invented in 1928, to great effects. According to Wikipedia, this makes Honegger’s score for ‘L’idée’ the first film music to employ and electronic instrument.

The film tells how an idea can originate and grow, despite dejection, oppression and censorship by the establishment. In practice, Bartosch’s idea has a strong communistic character, becoming an idea of the working class, and being oppressed by clear capitalistic forces. The idea itself is presented as a naked woman, symbol of innocence and purity, and she grows, accompanying the people who become victim of the oppression to the very end. The emotional highlight of the film is when she visits the very person who had invented her the night before his death sentence.

Bartosch had previously worked on Lotte Reiniger’s films, and used her cut-out technique on Frank Masereel’s stark cut-outs to a great effect. The imagery of Bartosch’s film is much more poetic, however, than Masereel’s own work, with a lot of soft-focus, and milky effects, especially on the idea itself, which Bartosch created with the help of soap. The film is also noteworthy for its great sense of depth in some scenes, which can reach a stunning level of complexity. There is for example a scene showing crowds and cars passing by a window, and another with numbers of soldiers marching. Bartosch achieved this sense of depth with a multi-plane camera of his own design, using several glass plates below each other. It’s interesting to note that his device predated Disney’s multiplane camera by five years. True, these soap- and multiplane techniques at times blur the images too much, rendering them too murky to understand what’s happening on the screen, but mostly the film is an excellent example of expressionistic storytelling, and what animation can do.

Unfortunately, the film itself suffered from censorship, delaying its release, which often only happened with an altered, less provocative intro text, and Bartosch never gained any money from it. Nevertheless, it was released in 1934, creating a sensation in Europe, with exception, of course, of Nazi Germany, where it was banned. Bartosch’s second film, ‘Saint Francis: Dreams and Nightmares’ (1933-1938), apparently an anti-war film, was destroyed by the Nazis in World War II. After that Bartosch tried to work on a third film about the Cosmos, but because of his deteriorating health work was abandoned. He devoted the rest of his life to painting. Thus ‘L’idée’ sadly remains his only surviving film, but it’s a great testimony of Bartosch’s art, and without doubt it single-handedly places him in the pantheon of great animation film makers.

Watch ‘L’idée’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘L’idée’ is available on the Re:Voir DVD ‘Berthold Bartosch – l’idée’

Directors: Harry Bailey & John Foster
Release Date:
 August 26, 1932
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Nursery Scandal © Van Beuren‘Nursery Scandal’ is Van Beuren’s direct answer to Walt Disney’s successful Silly Symphony ‘Mother Goose Melodies‘ (1931), if a rather dingy one.

It’s night and the moon personally awakes some gnomes, who in turn awake Mother Goose. Mother Goose courts a scarecrow, much to the chagrin of the goose and the other nursery rhyme characters. At one point four gnomes start to sing nursery rhymes in a swinging close harmony style, leading to a long song-and-dance sequence in which we watch several nursery rhyme characters dancing, much like ‘Mother Goose Melodies’, but way jazzier. Composer Gene Rodemich is in excellent form in this cartoon, providing a highly enjoyable score. Notice the seemingly naked and very human fairy on top of the nursery rhyme book somewhere in the middle of the cartoon.

Watch ‘Nursery Scandal’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Nursery Scandal’ is available on the DVD ‘Uncensored Animation from the Van Beuren Studio’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: November 25, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo, Koko the Clown, Louis Armstrong
Rating: ★★★
Review:

I'll Be Glad When You're Dead You Rascal You © Max FleischerThere are few classic cartoons that will give such a mixed feeling as ‘I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You’.

There’s much to say for it: the short is one of the wonderful pre-code swing cartoons, featuring no less than the great Louis Armstrong, who appears here in person, not only in the introduction, but also as a floating head, in a remarkable blending of animation and live action.

Unfortunately, ‘I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You’ is also one of those ignorant cartoons featuring severe caricatures of black people, in their most cliche form: cannibals. Even worse, in this cartoon a direct connection is made between the backward caricatures and the black performers, as one of the cannibals grows into Louis Armstrong’s singing head, and his drummer (probably Tubby Hall) is likened to another big-lipped cannibal. Thus this cartoon is as entertaining as it is offensive.

There’s not much of a story: Betty, Bimbo and Koko are on a safari in dark Africa. There they encounter a tribe of hungry cannibals, who kidnap Betty. Then we cut to Bimbo and Koko on their aimless search for Betty. Soon they’re followed by a cannibal who morphs into a giant floating native head, which turns into that of Louis Armstrong singing the title song. Bimbo and Koko manage to rescue Betty with help of a porcupine. The last shot is for Louis Armstrong and his band. The complete cartoon is rather nonsensical, but Armstrong’s hot jazz make it a great ride, if an uncomfortable one.

Watch ‘I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 7
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop for President
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop’s Museum

‘I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: November 4, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Betty Boop for President © Max Fleischer‘Betty Boop for President’ is one of those rare pre-war cartoons using current events as its subject.

The short was released just four days before the 1932 elections. In it Betty Boop runs for president, imitating the then current president and candidate Herbert Hoover and his Democratic challenger Al Smith. Unfortunately for the Fleischers, it was not Al Smith, but Franklin D. Roosevelt who was chosen as the candidate for the Democrats during the Democrat National Convention (June 27-July 2). Apparently, this scene already had been completed before this convention.

Betty’s opponent is one ‘Mr. Nobody’ (a stick wearing a bowler hat). His song demonstrates that nobody cares for the average man. Betty clearly has the upper hand, however, and the next scenes show some of her rather nonsensical suggestions to improve the country. These at least involve loads of knots of ribbons. The cartoon ends with a picture of a glass of beer, indicating that the 18th amendment was a major issue of the elections. Indeed, from March 22 1933 on, low alcohol beer and wine were legalized, and in December of that year, the 18th amendment was repealed by the 21st amendment. The prohibition years were over.

Watch ‘Betty Boop for President’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 6
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop’s Ups and Downs
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You

‘Betty Boop for President’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: September 23, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle © Max FleischerThis cartoon features a soundtrack by the Hawaii band ‘The Royal Samoans’, giving the cartoon a lively Hawaii score.

The short starts with Bimbo crashing on an island on a boat, into Betty Boop’s arms. A waterfall throws them into a spot full of singing trees, and later they’re confronted with a bunch of cannibals. Bimbo disguises himself as ‘black’ using mud, and starts singing the Hawaiian war chant. Thus he becomes the natives’ king. The cannibals perform for him, and Betty, too, who dances an extraordinarily sexy hula dance only dressed in a skirt and a flower garland. Unfortunately, the rain washes off Bimbo’s disguise and the two have to flee in a boat.

The movements of the dancing natives and Betty are rotoscoped from the Royal Samoans, rendering them very convincing and lifelike, indeed. Betty Boop’s hula dance is arguably her best scene ever. Apart from this, the cartoon is stuffed with throwaway gags showing the Fleischer’s typical brand of surrealism.

Watch ‘Betty Boop’s Bamboo Isle’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 4
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop , M.D.
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop’s Ups and Downs

‘Betty Boop’s Bamboo Isle’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: August 19, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo, Koko the Clown
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Betty Boop Bizzy Bee © Max FleischerIn ‘Betty Boop Bizzy Bee’ Betty works in a mobile canteen, where the complete menu consists of wheat cakes.

After some rather trite gags, a song starts with the recurring line ‘pass me the sugar’. When a fat customer appears with an enormous appetite, the cartoon goes haywire. In the end everything has a belly ache, even the stove, the lunch wagon and the moon.

‘Betty Boop Bizzy Bee’ is one of those Fleischer cartoons in which everything is alive. We watch wheat cakes flipping themselves over in a square dance and plates washing and drying themselves. The ‘story’ makes little sense, it’s just a string of gags in a rather stream-of-consciousness-like fashion. ‘Betty Boop Bizzy Bee’ is very similar to Van Beuren’s ‘Pots and Pans‘ from three months earlier, and may have been inspired by it.

Watch ‘Betty Boop Bizzy Bee’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 2
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Stopping the Show
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop, M.D.

‘Betty Boop Bizzy Bee’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Joe Grant?
Release Date:
 November 18, 1932
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Wallace Beery, Lynn Fontanne, Alfred Lunt, Helen Hayes, Fredric March, Marie Dressler
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Parade of the Award Nominees © Walt Disney‘Parade of the Award Nominees’ was especially made for the fifth Academy Awards gala night of November 18, 1932 to introduce the nominees for best actors and actresses.

The short is based on the opening parade of ‘Mother Goose Melodies‘ (1931), and reuses quite some animation from the original Silly Symphony, but this time it features Mickey, Minnie and Pluto, all in their color debut, predating their official color debuts in ‘The Band Concert‘, ‘On Ice‘ and ‘Mickey’s Garden‘ respectively by three years. Thus, their color designs are a bit different: Mickey wears green shorts instead of red ones, and Pluto is a sort of grey-ish, instead of orange-brown.

Following Mickey, Minnie and some characters from the original ‘Mother Goose Melodies’ we watch the following Hollywood stars parade: Wallace Beery as ‘The Champ’, Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt (both starring ‘The Guardsman’), Helen Hayes (‘The Sin of Madelon Claudet’), Fredric March (‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’), transforming while walking, and finally Marie Dressler (‘Emma’).

The caricatures were based on designs by Joe Grant, who, at that time, was still working as a newspaper caricutarist. Grant was only hired later, for ‘Mickey’s Gala Premier‘, which premiered eight months later, and which features many more caricatures of Hollywood stars. Incidentally, Fredric March, Wallace Beery and Helen Hayes won the Oscars.

Apart from this film, Disney was very present at this gala night: he was nominated for Best Sound Recording, he won the Oscar for the new category ‘Best Animated Short Film’ with his full-color debut ‘Flowers and Trees‘, and he got an honorary award for the creation of Mickey Mouse, with which Hollywood acknowledged the little mouse’s extraordinary fame. This was Disney’s first triumphant presence at the Academy Awards, but many successes would follow, as Walt Disney would receive no less than 26 Academy Awards during his career…

Watch ‘Parade of the Award Nominees’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Parade of the Award Nominees’ is available on the DVD ‘Mickey Mouse in Living Color’

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 December 24, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Funny Face © Ub IwerksBy the end of 1932 the Flip the Frog cartoons had turned in genuine gag cartoons, full of action.

‘Funny Face’ starts with a new title card, with an updated Flip the Frog design, showing his more boyish persona he had received the last cartoons, but retaining the bass voice of his earlier incarnation.

In ‘Funny Face’ Flip is typically boyish. He has a date with a girl, but she prefers someone else. So he visits Dr. Skinnum to get a new face. When Flip enters the place, ‘Funny Face’ follows Disney’s ‘King Neptune‘ in the new operetta format, with several masks hanging on a wall singing to him. While Flip gets a new face, his girl is kidnapped by a bully. With his new (human) face, Flip attracts seven girls, who start following him, so he hides in the very house the bully has captured his sweetheart. He rescues her, loses his new face, but gains her love, after all. What becomes of the other seven girls, we’ll never know.

‘Funny Face’ is a strange mix of a gag cartoon and pure melodrama. Its story is erratic, and Flip being a frog among humans becomes more and more problematical, and watching him with a human face is pretty weird to say the least. Notice the strange, rounded backgrounds, however, which are unique to the Iwerks cartoons.

Watch ‘Funny Face’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 31
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Nurse Maid
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Coo Coo the Magician

‘Funny Face’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 November 26, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Nurse Maid © Ub Iwerks‘Nurse Maid’ is a typical cartoon from the Great Depression era, depicting small jobs and poverty.

The short starts very well with Flip as a newspaper boy facing a lot of bad luck destroying his trade. Broke, he sits down on the street to worry. Luckily a woman offers him a dollar if he minds her big-nosed baby. The rest of the cartoon is devoted to Flip’s troubles with the baby, which start immediately when the baby swallows the coin. Thus Flip conjures an unhealthy plan to retrieve it from the baby’s mouth with a fishing rod (!). While Flip sets out to get one, the baby swallows a potion which makes the little fellow strong…

Like ‘The Goal Rush‘, ‘Nurse Maid’ is as gag rich as it is unfunny. Luckily, Carl Stalling’s music is very inspired, following the action so closely that most of the tunes are reduced to snippets (for example, when during a chase a Scotchman is encountered, Stalling inserts a few bars of a Scottish tune before resuming the chase music). In fact, the cartoon is recommended for Stalling’s music only, which is a marvel to listen to.

Watch ‘Nurse Maid’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 30
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: The Music Lesson
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Funny Face

‘Nurse Maid’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 October 3, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Goal Rush © Ub Iwerks.jpg‘The Goal Rush’ was released only twelve days before the Mickey Mouse cartoon ‘Touchdown Mickey‘ and covers the same ground.

It’s interesting to compare both cartoons, because they’re both lively gag cartoons full of action. Unfortunately, Mickey’s cartoon is better designed, better drawn, better animated, better timed, and better told than Flip’s. So where ‘Touchdown Mickey’ is one of Mickey’s greatest films, and one of the best cartoons of 1932, ‘The Goal Rush’ never really comes off. The gags are often trite, the timing is terribly sloppy and the story meandering.

We watch a football game between Burp University (a bunch of bullies) and Nertz University (Flip and some nerds). Flip’s frog design becomes more and more problematical among the human characters, especially as his love interest is a human girl. The human characters now all have their typical Iwerks designs, except for a very Betty Boop-like farmer girl Flip unveils under a haystack while riding a pig.

There’s a lot going on in this cartoon, but it’s difficult to indicate a good gag. There’s at least a surprising one in which a bandleader shoots a clarinet player who plays off key. The best gag may be the football (pigskin) joining a pig family.

Watch ‘The Goal Rush’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 27
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Circus
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Phoney Express

‘The Goal Rush’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’

Director: unknown
Release Date:
 October 29, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
Rating: ★★
Review:

The Music Lesson © Ub IwerksIn ‘The Music Lesson’ Flip returns to his schoolboy days from ‘School Days‘, and this short also stars the teacher and dog from the earlier cartoon.

‘The Music lesson’ starts with Flip having to stay inside for one hour to practice his piano lessons. But his human friends signal him from the outside to come outside and swim. Flip tries to sneak out three times, and he succeeds the third time, but at the pond he’s caught by both his piano teacher and a gamekeeper, and in the last scene he’s seen practicing his piano in jail, guarded by the two authority figures.

‘The Music Lesson’ is a genuine attempt at a continuity of gags, but the short is severely hampered by erratic animation and sloppy timing. None of the gags really comes off, and the finale is anything but that. It seems that by the end of 1932 Flip’s short-lived heydays were already over.

Watch ‘The Music Lesson’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flip the Frog cartoon No. 29
To the previous Flip the Frog cartoon: Phoney Express
To the next Flip the Frog cartoon: Nurse Maid

‘The Music Lesson’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1’

Directors: John Foster & George Stallings
Release Date:
 December 9, 1932
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating: ★★★★½
Review

Pencil Mania © Van Beuren‘Pencil Mania’ arguably is Tom and Jerry’s most inventive short of all.

In this short Jerry has a magic pencil with which he can draw things in mid-air, which immediately come to life. This leads to some surreal gags with a lot of metamorphosis being involved. It’s for example fascinating to watch a saxophone change into a duck.

Unfortunately, as soon as Jerry has drawn three melodrama figures, the short turns to their antics. Nevertheless, the finale is mesmerizing: a complete train disappears into nothing, and Jerry breaks through the paper to make the heroin return to his pencil before Tom can kiss her. Gags like these, breaking the 4th wall, were extremely rare in 1932, making ‘Pencil Mania’ pretty unique. At any rate it’s very enjoyable to watch, even though the train is the only well-drawn thing in the entire short. One can only guess what more able hands could have made out of a story idea like this.

Eight years later Terrytoons would use the same idea in the Gandy Goose cartoon ‘The Magic Pencil’ (1940). No doubt the Terry animators had seen ‘Pencil Mania’, because not only do the two cartoon share a melodrama sequence, the magic also starts with the same gag: that of the Jerry/Gandy Goose drawing an egg, which falls on Tom’s/Sourpuss’s head. Moreover, both Jerry and Gandy Goose turn a door into a car, and like Jerry, Gandy makes the heroin flow back into his pencil.

‘Pencil Mania’ features three songs: Rudy Wiedoeft’s Saxophobia (1919), the 1923 hit ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’, and ‘You’ve Got Me in the Palm of Your Hand’.

Watch ‘Pencil Mania’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Pencil Mania’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren Studio’s Tom and Jerry’

 

Directors: John Foster & George Rufle
Release Date:
 November 11, 1932
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating: ★★★½
Review

The Piano Tooners © Van Beuren‘Piano Tooners’ opens with Tom and Jerry performing the 1920 hit song ‘Margie’ in their piano shop, which is simply filled with mice. We also watch them tuning pianos, with the best gag being Jerry flushing a bad note through the toilet.

Suddenly we cut to a concert hall, where one Mlle. Pflop will perform. She appears to be a fat woman, and some of the lesser refined humor in this cartoon stems from watching her getting dressed, in rather risque scenes. At the concert Mll. Pflop sings and plays the piano at the same time, until she hits a flat note. Piano tuners Tom and Jerry come to the rescue, pulling the bad key from the piano as if it were a sore tooth. Tom immediately starts playing ‘Doin’ The New Low-Down’, a song Don Redman would turn into a hit (featuring  Cab Calloway  and the Mills Brothers) more than a month after the release of ‘Piano Tooners’. Also featured is a maid, who is most probably a caricature, but of whom? She joins in, singing along, but it’s Mlle. Pflop who has the last note.

Like the other Tom and Jerry cartoons, ‘Piano Tooners’ is hopelessly primitive, featuring erratic designs and bad animation. However, the piano tuning gags are entertaining, and it’s hard not to enjoy the short’s weird atmosphere.

Watch ‘Piano Tooners’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Piano Tooners’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren Studio’s Tom and Jerry’

Directors: John Foster & George Stallings
Release Date:
 October 7, 1932
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating: ★★
Review

A Spanish Twist © Van BeurenSomehow Tom and Jerry are shipwrecked and plagued by an evil octopus. Lucky for them they’re washed ashore in Spain, where they immediately go to a Spanish cafe.

At the cafe they encounter two female dancers, and an angry guy who orders them to take part in a bullfight. In the arena Tom and Jerry defeat a battalion of bulls with their bare hands. Then a telegraph arrives to tell them the 18th amendment has been lifted, and immediately Tom and Jerry head home again on their raft…

The 18th amendment, abolishing alcohol, was not lifted until December 5, 1933, more than one year after the release of ‘A Spanish Twist’ , making this cartoon strangely prophetic. Unfortunately, it’s hardly enjoyable otherwise. The Spanish dancers are extremely badly drawn, and the bullfight is anything from entertaining. In fact, ‘A Spanish Twist’ is arguably the worst bullfight cartoon before the equally dull Pink Panther cartoon ‘Toro Pink’ (1979).

Watch ‘A Spanish Twist’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘A Spanish Twist’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren Studio’s Tom and Jerry’

Directors: John Foster & George Rufle
Release Date:
 September 16, 1932
Stars: Tom and Jerry
Rating:
Review

Barnyard Bunk © Van BeurenBarnyard Bunk’ opens with a farmer at sleep at a farm, which falls apart. It’s soon clear the farm is destroyed by numerous cheeky mice.

Enter Tom and Jerry playing saxophones. Their music makes a hen laying eggs, a cow producing tons of milk, and two woodpeckers producing a pile of wood. At one point all the lifeless objects of the farm start dancing. In the end the farmer pays the duo for the saxophones, but the moneybag turns out to be filled with mice.

It’s quite shocking to see that in ‘Barnyard Bunk’, a film made well into 1932, still features animation language of the silent era. The short features no dialogue, and the gestures of Tom, Jerry and the farmer are still of the 1920s. The designs of the farmer and the mice do not fare better, and the whole cartoon exudes from archaism. Its only modern feature is the dressed cow, which shows that already by 1932 the Hays code was getting hold of the cartoon industry.

Watch ‘Barnyard Bunk’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Barnyard Bunk’ is available on the DVD ‘The Complete Animated Adventures of Van Beuren Studio’s Tom and Jerry’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: December 16, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo, Koko the Clown
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Betty Boop's Museum © Max FleischerKoko takes Betty on a sightseeing trip to a museum that displays both art and fossils, and where Bimbo is a guard.

Soon Betty is busy feeding a statue called Hunger, and she’s left behind after closing time. Suddenly the statues and fossils come alive, and a horned fossil demands her to sing for them. Betty Boop starts ‘Was That The Human Thing To Do’, a hit from that year, to which the fossils dance. Then the horned (or rather horny) fossil haunts Betty, until the museum suddenly collapses.

‘Betty Boop’s Museum’ is one of the more bizarre Betty Boop shorts of 1932/1933, even though it’s not as good as ‘Betty Boop’s Bamboo Isle‘ or ‘Snow-White‘. The short starts with a spectacular zoom out from Koko’s mouth. There’s also a very short, but nicely animated scene of Koko’s car on roller skates.

Watch ‘Betty Boop’s Museum’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 8
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop’s Ker-Choo

Betty Boop’s Museum’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: October 14, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Betty Boop's Ups and Downs © Max Fleischer‘Betty Boop’s Ups and Downs’ is one of the most stream-of-consciousness-like cartoons the Fleischer Brothers ever made.

The short starts with Betty Boop moving and putting her old house for sale. As soon as she leaves, the house falls apart, which drops the price immediately, even though the chimney desperately tries to keep the building together. This is a rather weird scene itself, but soon we zoom out to reveal the whole area being on sale, the whole of the United States, and even the complete earth. Suddenly we watch the moon auctioning the earth to the neighboring planets. The earth is sold to a Jewish looking Saturn, who draws gravity from the earth. Suddenly everything starts floating upwards. Imagine, this cartoon started with Betty moving to a new home!

Unfortunately, the studio has difficulties inventing good gags about the world without gravity, and the premise never gets proper treatment. For example, their best gag seems to be Betty Boop’s skirt flying upwards, revealing her panties, which is shown twice. It seems as when their imagination could roam completely freely, the studio got stuck, as the same happened in ‘Crazy Town‘ from earlier that year. When the earth pulls its own magnet back into place, everything falls down again to a jazzy score, and it’s Betty who has the last word in a reprise of her opening song.

Even though it’s not really successful, ‘Betty Boop’s Ups and Downs’ is one of the strangest cartoons ever made, and worth while watching.

Watch ‘Betty Boop’s Ups and Downs’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 5
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop’s Bamboo Isle
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop for President

‘Betty Boop’s Ups and Downs’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: September 9, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop, Irène Bordoni
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Just a Gigolo © Max FleischerIn the opening scenes of this Screen Song we watch Betty Boop working at a cabaret nightclub as a tobacco seller.

Betty introduces singer Irène Bordoni who sings the title song, first in French, then in English. At the second chorus the live action audience takes over, and during the third chorus we watch a very short animated sequence about a womanizing cat. The cabaret scene has a jazzy score based on Cab Calloway’s ‘The Scat Song’ from earlier that year, after which Bordoni’s sentimental 1928 song rather pales. Thus, after the opening scenes the cartoon unfortunately plunges into dullness.

Watch ‘Just a Gigolo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Just a Gigolo’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: September 2, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop, Bimbo, Koko the Clown
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Betty Boop, M.D. © Max Fleischer‘Betty Boop, M.D.’ opens with Betty driving a tilt car into a town to sell  a potion called Jippo, which is advertised as”flattens feet, makes young men old, removes teeth – grows tonsils, and stops breathing”.

Betty gets assistance from Koko and Bimbo to sell the product. First Koko performs some surreal acrobatic stunts, to no avail. Then Betty herself appears to sing a song, and the selling starts. The potion as some wondrous effects on the audience, e.g. a very thin man grows fat in an instant, and an old man turns into a large baby, while a baby turns into a tiny old man.

When Bimbo drinks Jippo himself, he starts the song ‘Nobody’s Sweetheart’, which contains a lot of scatting by members of the audience. To this jazzy sequence the imagery simply explodes with mind-blowing, surreal scenes. This fantastic string of events ends when a baby drinks Jippo, turning into a faithful caricature of Fredric March as Mr. Hyde from the 1931 horror film ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’.

As is often the case with the Fleischer films from the early 1930s, ‘Betty Boop, M.D.’ has a very weak and rather improvised story line, but this drawback is luckily compensated by original imagery, peppy music, and simply a lot of fun.

Watch ‘Betty Boop, M.D.’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Betty Boop cartoon No. 3
To the previous Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop Bizzy Bee
To the next Betty Boop cartoon: Betty Boop’s Bamboo Isle

‘Betty Boop, M.D.’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Sleepy Time Down South © Max FleischerDirector: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: November 11, 1932
Stars: The Boswell Sisters
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

‘Sleepy Time Down South’ is a Screen Song featuring the Boswell Sisters, the most famous close harmony trio of its time, but later eclipsed by the similar Andrews Sisters.

The animated part of the short tells about a cat, who’s in the fire brigade, and who with his fellow firemen rushes to a burning house. This part contains nice cartoon versions of the three sisters singing help. When they get rescued they throw down the piano first, which falls apart, but which the three sisters reassemble in an instant. Cut to the live action Boswell Sisters, with lead singer Connee Boswell starting the title song ‘When It’s Sleepy Time Down South’, which had been a hit for Louis Armstrong in 1931. In the end the animation returns, and the three sisters lend their voices to three flames following the cat.

Because of the sisters’ subtle harmonies the song is very hard to sing along, so one wonders whether the cartoon was a success in the theaters. Yet, the combination of the Fleischer’s imaginative images and the Boswell Sisters’ intoxicating performance makes ‘Sleepy Time South’ a joy to watch.

Watch ‘Sleepy Time Down South’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.criticalcommons.org/Members/sammondn/clips/when-its-sleepy-time-down-south-1932

‘Sleepy Time Down South’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

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