Friday, March 10, 2017

Wake Up the Gypsy in Me

A bomber makes his way past a security guard in Wake Up the Gypsy in Me (1933)

I couldn't think of anything to blog about today, so I pulled out my box set of the Warner Bros. Gangster Collection, Vol. 3 (the set with Picture Snatcher). I wasn't certain if the DVDs had any extras on them, but it turns out that the DVD of Picture Snatcher has a bunch of extras: trailers, a musical short, and the animated short Wake Up the Gypsy in Me.

The first thing I noticed is that it's a Merrie Melodies cartoon, which means Warner Bros., and that it was directed by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising, and animated by Isidore "Friz" Freleng. I thought Harman and Ising were associated with MGM, but it turns out this cartoon is from 1933, at a time just before Harman and Ising left Warner Bros. for MGM.

There's not all that much in the cartoon in terms of plot. The first half is Cossacks in a village, after which we're introduced to Rice-Puddin', the Mad Monk. The monk tries to molest a little Gypsy girl. Meanwhile, outside, there's a revolution a-brewin'. Rice-Puddin' tries to get away, but as with his real-life namesake, he fails.

This short visually looks a lot like those early 1930s cartoons, from before Looney Tunes and others came along to make things more manic, something I mentioned a few weeks back with the late 1930s cartoon Dangerous Dan McFoo. And with Freleng doing the drawing, there's some very nice visual humor. The Cossacks' fur hats reminded me of a sight gag that was used 70 years later in a beer commercial with a black man's afro. And then there's the one pictured above, in which a (male) bomber is trying to get in Rasputin's palace, and has to get past the guards.

If you're interested in learning more about 1930s animation, Wake Up the Gypsy in Me isn't a bad place to start. The only bad news is that it looks as though Picture Snatcher and the whole Warner Bros. Gangster Collection may have fallen out of print on DVD. I couldn't find it at the TCM Shop, although it is available at Amazon. It really deserves a reissue.

1 comment:

PapayaSF said...

Picture Snatcher is an entertaining oddity. I just read a biography of Ben Hecht, and that was one of his first jobs, in pre-WWI Chicago. Once, not finding anything better, he stole a four-foot by four-foot oil painting. Another time, the woman would not let him in or leave the house, so he climbed on her roof and blocked the chimney with boards, filling the house with smoke. She ran out and he ran in, stealing a picture or two.

Interestingly, Hecht seems to have not had anything to do with that screenplay.