Monday, March 30, 2009

african dodger?

Disney posts a reprint every day of three classic comic strips on their D23 site.

I particularly like the "Donald Duck" strip because it's usually a wordless sight-gag, unlike the accompanying "Mickey Mouse" and "Scamp" strips which are mostly talk.

I gotta wonder what the carnival game of "African Dodger" that Donald is about to play here in 1938 is all about:



Not wanting to be sued, I won't post the rest of the strip but it never shows who or what is in the cage. Donald throws that rock and then gets a hail of baseballs back at him.

Past strips aren't archived on that page, so you have to look today to see the rest of it. Or look tomorrow and see what new mayhem Donald has created.

Update: Commenter Stuart Rogers found a lead to what an "African Dodger" was in an old film of the same name. Here's the IMDB listing.

The two reviewers concur that the "African Dodger" was a pretty ghastly concept by modern standards.

That this strip was reprinted seems quite awkward (I mean, this is even worse that Donald being a Nazi in "Der Fuerher's Face") but I'll bet you a dollar that the 20-something Disney VP in charge of this website had no clue what an "African Dodger" was.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Falling Cats

I saw this cartoon, which delves into the topic of how cats survive falls from New York high-rises, about 10 years ago at the World Animation Celebration and have been searching for it ever since.

This is the only cartoon I'm aware of in which you will hear the phrase "plunging pussy".

Thursday, March 19, 2009

executive pay

Have you noticed that anytime someone suggests raising the minimum wage an endless parade of business types show up to say how this would actually hurt workers since companies couldn't afford to create as many jobs?

But when the topic turns to high executive pay this notion that higher pay equals fewer jobs seems to be forgotten. Somehow it goes into reverse.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

who's that girl?

You will never guess who this is. NO WAY will you guess who this is:



Yes, she is an actress. As big as they get. An A+ list actress whose career stretched all the way from Erich von Stroheim to Steve Speilberg. We see her here as the female lead in a Harry Langdon film.

But anyone, even the female lead, in a Harry Langdon film is pretty much there as a prop. She was probably cast because she was still unknown, for the most important person in any Harry Langdon film always was...



For about one year, near the end of the silent era, Harry Langdon was BIG. Big enough to be a before-the-Main-Title actor.




Harry Langdon played a "man-child".



An innocent, awkward, slightly self-unaware man who gets into extraordinary predicaments either by accident or by oversight and manages to stumble his way out of them the same way.



And in the end he gets the girl!



Langdon films were highly produced with many elaborate effects, perhaps influenced by Buster Keaton.






Here's a room that could only exist in the alternate universe of silent slapstick:





But the thing that struck me most when I first saw him was the he seemed to be imitating Stan Laurel. Same mannerisms, same facial expressions. But while Stan Laurel had been acting in movies thru the 1920's he hadn't developed "Stan Laurel" yet, so I have to presume that Laurel was actually borrowing from Langdon.

Langdon's career collapsed after 1927. Opinions vary as to why, but he kept working in film in minor roles up until his death in 1944 and even got teamed with Oliver Hardy for one feature when Laurel was in a contract dispute.

And the actress? She got bigger and bigger and became one of the icons of golden age Hollywood. See if you recognize her name in this cast list:




Here's Carol Burnett as Joan as Mildred:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

surprise theater, not surprise theater

If it weren't enough that The Music Man has been on the menu at every dinner theater in the country for fifty years, now you can't even take a bus ride without seeing it.



It's a warhorse, like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. I played in the pit orchestra for a production of Music Man once in a Fort Worth suburb. But since it was summer-theater-in-the-park it was more like a behind-the-bush orchestra. The conductor was a graduate of the Eastman School of Music. I remember thinking, during one of the many vamps, that this was probably not how he had expected his career to be playing out.

Me, I was only there filling in at the last minute for someone who couldn't make it. When you play a musical you get this thing about the size of a phone book on your stand and, by tradition, it's all written in an illegible music manuscript in obscure keys that are wonderful theories, but awkward in practice. It's covered with not-quite erased notes, changes, extra repeats, cues, cuts, transpositions and even grocery lists by the last thousand or so musicians that this rented set of parts has been in the hands of.

So that's what I was sight-reading. I'm sure I'll never play the trombone in that town again.

in your face

So I'm watching Friedrich (Nosferatu) Murnau's Tartuffe (1925) and this odd bit happens...

A young man has just been thrown out of his grandfather's home by a housekeeper who is trying to steal his inheritance.



He turns and runs across the street...





and comes right up to talk to the camera:



but it's a silent movie; he can't actually talk to the camera so you get an intertitle instead:



It's a bit like when Bugs Bunny says "of course, you know this means war..."



Talking to the audience wasn't unknown in live theater then, but this is the earliest film that I've seen where an actor playing a character addresses the camera.

Gertie the dinosaur interacting with onstage Winsor McKay doesn't count. Gertie was playing herself.