Friday, December 17, 2010

154 Mother Goose In Swingtime

Title: Mother Goose In Swingtime
Studio: Columbia
Date: 12/18/39
Credits: -
Series: Color Rhapsody
Running time (of viewed version): 6:06

Synopsis: A kid gets her dad to tell her a story, which ends up being a musical number full of celebrities.

Comments: An amazingly full cartoon, with lots of short shots, and each shot full of people I mostly can't identify but presumably a 1939 audience would have been able to. Baby Snooks style little girl, with her baby Edward G. Robinson voice. Her visual style is archaic compared to her dad, both are markedly different from the caricature style of most of the characters in the cartoon. Mother Goose has a very specific face, presumably a caricature, as the people in the land presumably also are. I think Martha Raye (as the main singer; thank you denture cream ads for helping me remember her and her big mouth) and Edward G Robinson, maybe James Cagney, but those are guesses amongst a sea of "who the hell is that supposed to be?". Cary Grant on trumpet? W.C. Fields maybe? Hugh Herbert (the woo hoo guy). Shirley Temple? Mickey Rooney (I only recognize him because the caricature is close to the one in Autograph Hound). Laurel and Hardy. Glasses with a clarinet; does that describe Woody Herman? Marx Brothers. There are obvious actors playing instruments, so this muddies ID. David Letterman and Bing Crosby and someone else (at least one of those IDs is wrong). Clark Gable. I think Jack Benny on violin, only guessing that because of the violin association. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing, I think. Red nose: "aw gee, tanks". Grumpy Bogart? I think Greta Garbo has closed eyes and an accent. Might be dancing with Leopold Stakowski? Katherine Hepburn singing Little Jack Horner. Horner himself is Fred Allen or that guy who is like Fred Allen maybe? Bunch of wall eyed female caricatures. Virtually nothing to do with Mother Goose in this cartoon, thus successfully ditching the title character in classic '39 style. Someone (not me) should do a blog identifying all celebrity caricatures from cartoons. I think this is the most interesting of the celebrity cartoons of the year.


  1. I don't know them all but I can fill in some gaps.
    Edward G Robinson & James Cagney in ring around the rosy (frame 4).
    Cary Grant as Little Boy Blue (frame 8).
    Martha Raye with Benny Goodman on clarinet (guy in glasses) (frame 9).
    Laurel & Hardy with above (frame 10).
    WC Fields as Old King Cole with Marx Brothers as his fiddlers three (frame 11).
    Joe E Brown on trombone with Martha Raye (frame 12)
    William Powell with Bing Crosby and clarinet player (not Artie Shaw. Possibly Rudy Vallee?) (frame 14).
    In the Band, besides those already identified, Clark Gable on clarinet and Jack Benny on the violin (frame 15).
    Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers (frame 16).
    Wallace Beery (?) (frame 17).
    Garbo (note the feet, always an indicator of Garbo) with Leopold Stokowski (the two were a Hollywood couple for a few years) (frame 19)
    Mickey Rooney, possibly with Judy Garland (but that's a guess) (21)
    Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy (24)

    Hope this helps.

  2. Brent covered all the ones I was going to mention, plus a whole lot more. Great work, Brent! I'll add a couple, though:
    That's Mischa Auer dancing with Kate Hepburn.
    The fellow in front of Edward G. Robinsion in the last frame is Tyrone Power.
    I'm going to go out on a limb on this one, but I think the girl trio in the second to last frame are the Gumm Sisters, with Frances Gumm (better known as Judy Garland) in the centre.

    One thing I have to say is that the caricatures are highly derivative of the ones from Disney's "Mother Goose Steps Out", which had an identical premise too. Any stars pictured here who were not in that cartoon aren't being caricatured particularly well and are really awkward in design. It proves that Disney had the time, money and talent to really design their celebrity caricatures in a far more visually appealing manner, completely conducive to full rotation animation.

  3. Oh yes, I nearly forgot: Mother Goose herself is Edna Mae Oliver.

  4. Actually I believe it is Ned Sparks dancing with Kathrine Hepburn (the likeness to Ned is more pronounced in other frames of the dance) Ned was always thin, sour faced and bags under the eyes. Frame 14, the clarinet player is probably Spencer Tracy. It's Baby Snooks, (Fannie Brice) dancing with Mickey Rooney.

  5. Jeff, you may be right on that being Ned Sparks. Now that I look at it again, it seems that what I took for being a mustache is actually a partially open mouth. Thinking it to be a mustache is what made him look like Mischa Auer to me, but Ned Sparks makes more sense, as he was also caricatured in Disney's "Mother Goose Goes Hollywood" and Warner's "Hollywood Steps Out". By the way, I realize I also made the mistake in my last post of combining those two titles erroneously into one! I should have checked my work....

  6. As I think about it, I wonder if the piano player in frame 15 might be Hoagy Carmichael.

  7. Frame 17 has Edward Everett Horton on the left, and we're not sure who else.

    Frame 23 is Jenette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.

    Frame 24 has Kay Francis on the left, possibly with Judy Garland in the center, and neither my wife nor I can make out who the third one is.

    Following that seems to be Tyrone Power, Edward G. Robinson, and Victor Mature.

    Interesting to see Kay Francis, a very big star of the 1930s, who I don't think I've ever seen in any of these types of cartoons (though I might not have recognized her if I had).

  8. My wife reminds me that she thinks it's Joan Crawford in e center of the three women, not Jusy Garland. Sorry!

  9. Thanks for the additional IDs, B.

  10. Playing the clarinet is Benny Goodman. In the girl trio, the rightmost one is supposed to be Claudette Colbert. To the right of Bing Crosby with the three guys is William Powell. In the six-man band, it's John Barrymore on bass (ever in profile, as typical in caricatures of the time) and the sax in the middle front is, I think, Guy Kibbee. In the final frame shown here, it's Robert Taylor to the right of Edward G. and, I think, Tyrone Power to the left.

  11. The girl trio is, in my opinion, Dorothy Lamour, Rita Hayworth, and Claudette Colbert. I don't think the girl on the left is Kay Francis. See the Dorothy Lamour caricature in Hollywood Steps Out (sitting with Jimmy Stewart) and compare to this one. The middle one COULD be Joan Crawford, but the red hair and the softer face points us to Rita.

    In the tisket-tasket circle it appears the guys are all gangster-type actors. Next to Martha Raye is definitely George Raft, then Edward G. Robinson, Claudette Colbert, James Cagney, and maybe Joan Crawford as she has that hard mouth.

    In the second circle it's Ned Sparks, Greta Garbo, Herman Bing, Shirley Temple, and Hugh Herbert.

    The guy on the left with Bing Crosby and William Powell? Wrong hair and face for Rudy Vallee, caricature looks a bit like Cagney from earlier, but how about Red Skelton??

    The band clockwise from left looks like George Raft, John Barrymore, Joe E. Brown, James Cagney, Hugh Herbert, Clark Gable, maybe Sidney Greenstreet, and Jack Benny.

    Who are those two in the "Why you no swing?" part? My mom thinks Fred Allen on the left.