Sunday, February 12, 2023

Happy (Early) Valentine's Day with George, Gracie - and Classic Cartoons

Today's early tribute to Valentine's Day, which this year falls on the same day as the Super Bowl, begins with the hilarious George Burns & Gracie Allen.

Always marvel at the exquisite comedy timing of Gracie and George's skill as the greatest straight man ever.

As far as Valentine's Day goes, the question remains what's the single most romantic thing I have ever heard? Unquestionably, the answer is a bit I saw on the Burns & Allen TV show.

As far as love and romance go, this song and dance says it all. And George & Gracie could dance!

Wonder if, as their pal Benny Kubelsky's birthday was February 14, Burns and/or Allen ever performed this terrific song on The Jack Benny Show.

Transitioning from live-action to animation, am now thinking of favorite cartoons with a Valentine's Day theme. Since this blogger has received good-natured ribbing over unapologetic enjoyment of the Columbia cartoons by the Charles Mintz and Screen Gems studios, especially those featuring Scrappy for eons, here's a 1936 Columbia Color Rhapsody.

In our humble B-studio lovin' opinion at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, IN MY GONDOLA, starring romance, Venice, canals, mischievous pups, insouciant lobsters, the underwater world . . . and (inevitably) Scrappy, with a rare supporting appearance by his girlfriend Margie, is genuinely charming and one of the best in the series.

This brings the Valentine's Day post to Rudy Ising, MGM and the 1941 cartoon, The Dance Of The Weed. Here, Mr. Ising's production crew created a very ambitious attempt to go toe-to-toe with Fantasia. It is beautifully animated and designed - and loses a great deal viewed on the small screen, as opposed to in 35mm, presented in big screen theatrical glory.

A LOT less elegant and romantic than the Rudy Ising crew's The Dance Of The Weed but equally entertaining is a classic cartoon starring the ultimate leading man. . . Popeye the Sailor.

Here's the Fleischer Studio's version of Popeye in FOR BETTER OR WORSER. By any definition, this cartoon is not just unromantic but downright anti-romantic! Popeye is "strong to the finich" but can't cook the simplest meal to save his life and, for that matter, do anything around the house successfully, so he consults a matrimonial agency to find a spouse. Unfortunately, so does Bluto, his perennial adversary - and also a hulking brute who can't cook, clean or do the most basic housekeeping functions to save his life.

In the following superbly animated Tom & Jerry cartoon from 1946, the tomcat's incessant and extremely unsuccessful wooing involves a rendition of Louis Jordan's hit "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby." Was it Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera or the crew's exceptional animators (Mike Lah, Irv Spence, Ed Barge, Ken Muse) who were big time fans of Louis and the Tympani 5?

While this blogger has posted a good number of Valentine's Day cartoons over the years, the best being Tex Avery's LIL' TINKER, somehow have neglected this 1942 classic directed by Bob Clampett, THE HEP CAT. The gag with the crazed girl-chasin' feline protagonist comparing himself quite literally to Victor Mature gets me ROFL every time.!

And speaking of creating a cartoon featuring a horny bastard as the star, here's the guy who Chuck Jones referred to as "the Charles Boyer skunk," Pepe Le Pew, as always utterly deluded, irritatingly romantic, alarmingly self-assured and less than picky about such matters as. . . species.

Continuing the Valentine's Day theme: the following Merrie Melodie directed by Friz Freleng. The star is a not-terribly-swift canine (voiced by either Pinto Colvig or Mel Blanc doing a dead-on impersonation of Pinto Colvig - must check Keith Scott's Cartoon Voices book to confirm) who falls madly in love with. . . a statue of a dog.

Bugs Bunny hits the dating scene with his usual aplomb and panache in Hare Splitter (1948), also directed by Friz Freleng. It helps that Bugs' rival is as dumb as a sack of rocks.

In THE STUPID CUPID, one of the funniest and wildest Daffy Duck cartoons, Frank Tashlin both got his two cents in on the topic of "dangerous wooing" and cast Elmer Fudd as Dan Cupid!

While DON'T LOOK NOW (1936) is definitely not among Tex Avery's top 100 cartoons but, as far as the often pedestrian mid-1930's Merrie Melodies go, remains quite entertaining - and has a very funny ending. Love the bit in which the main character, who has similarities with the star of 1950's Harvey Comics, Hot Stuff, has fire instead of water in his shower. Nothing will accelerate one's efforts to freshen up in the morning quite like a 97,000 degrees Celsius blast!

In closing and unrelated to the rest of today's post, we are saddened by the passing last week of the outstanding and prolific tunesmith Burt Bacharach. Been watching YouTube videos all weekend of Burt's numerous terrific songs, performed by everyone from Dionne Warwick to The Hollies to Dusty Springfield to Tom Jones, Ron Isley, Trintje Oosterhuis and (especially) key collaborator Elvis Costello.

Rest In Peace and THANK YOU to Burt Bacharach, one of the all-time greats.

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