Monday, November 1, 2010
Title: Mountain Ears
Series: Color Rhapsody
Running time (of viewed version): 7:12
Synopsis: A radio voiced man narrates scenes from hillbilly life.
Comments: The narrator sounds like a mix between Fred Allen's voice and Jack Benny's delivery. Maybe more Allen than Benny. Very "King of the Hill" lineup in one shot. A guy gets shot in the face in this one. Maybe it is more Benny than Allen; the "oh yeah" when Kate Smith is mentioned that irritates the narrator sounds like Benny, as does the final "goodnight, folks". The narrative form in this works pretty well; the Pete Smith-style heavy narration works with radio style jokes commenting on the minimally funny visual humor. Tex Avery's travelogue style narrated cartoons are remembered in this style, as are a few other blackout gag cartoons I can think of, but this seems like a wholly different sub category. It works well; I'm a bit sad it didn't develop into a lasting style (or maybe it did in Columbia cartoons; they are the studio from '39 I had the least exposure to as a kid, so there could be an entire narration genre I just haven't seen). There are so many tepid cartoons that could use some punching up by a guy commenting on the action... The cartoon is self referential; a human arm appears (it looks like the You Can't Do That o Television opening people with its wan coloring and less than smooth inbetweening...), the kid flirts with a girl in the audience. The arm sticks around for longer than you'd think. I wonder if Manny Gould, who apparently directed this, pulled out some old Koko prints. This isn't even the first human arm in a Columbia film this year, tho it's far more extensive than the earlier appearance. Apparently "mountaineer" was the term in use for hillbillies at the time, as it's the second cartoon of the year (after Musical Mountaineers) to use the term in a title, albeit punning on it in this one. The cartoon opens on a drinking joke, mentioning moonshine, and how the sun "staggers into view, all lit up". The sons of the soil seem to be characterized as card playing, frayed, dirty, sleepy layabouts with bad teeth and big lips and ears. Most incongrous line: "Do you want to grow up to be a schlemiel, you dope?". Maybe it's just my love of Jack Benny, but this cartoon surprised me into liking it a lot.