Thursday, February 18, 2010

Porky at the Crocadero (1938)

Porky at the Crocadero (1938, Warner Brothers; dir. Frank Tashlin) is a decent, if by-the-numbers effort that only takes off in the final two minutes, when Porky Pig gets his chance to be a bog-time bandleader at the swank Crocadero nightclub. When the band slated to play that night can't make it, just-fired dishwasher Porky is hastily tracked down to get his big shot at the big time.



Porky proceeds to do impressions of Paul Whiteman and Benny Goodman but the fireworks really fly when he goes into Cab Calloway mode (respectfully, considering when this was made) or rather "Cab Howlaway and his Absorbent Cotton Club Orchestra" and gets the joint jumpin' with a frenetic take of " Chinatown." I couldn't find any versions of Cab singing "Chinatown" but if any Calloway (or Howlaway!) scholars out there know of one and where it can be found, let us know.


Note the Deco styling. These nice touches can be found in many 1930s cartoons. It was an era of Moderne sophistication!



The sheet music has the song "Avalon" on it, with Porky-as-Paul Whiteman just having played it before jumping into swinging mode as "Cab Howlaway."


The following sequence of stills demonstrate just how expressive and, er...animated Warner Brothers cartoonists made their subjects. So expressive and entertaining whether they're in motion or not. Don't know who's singing for Porky (it's not Mel Blanc, who does warble "Summer Night.")







"My Chinatown..."




The Porky Pig of the 1930s has always interested me. I like how he was Warner Bros. first breakout star, years before The Rabbit burst onto the scene. Through these 1930s cartoons one can follow the pig's career as he emerges from a pack of uninteresting animal characters in 1935's I Haven't Got a Hat. I'd never seen Porky in black & white until recently and it's been a joyous discovery. Too bad these never ever aired when I was a kid, but being in black & white and not of the 1950s, Chuck Jones-dominated fare found on the Bugs Bunny and Road Runner Show of Saturday mornings of my late-'70s/early '80s youth, it wasn't likely that I would happen upon them. If I had seen these before now, I might've worn my first Zoot suit at age ten.

Porky at the Crocadero is available on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 5.

4 comments:

  1. This probably sounds quite silly but i never realised that Porky Pig was as old as that! It would be really interesting to see these films, i wonder if i could get them over here in the UK?

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  2. I love the black and white Porky Pig cartoons. It amazes me how many cartoons Warner Brothers made in Black and White with Porky Pig and others which you never saw in the compilations of Looney Tunes.

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  3. Stefanie: I read that vol. 6 is region free and should play on Region 2 DVD players. Check Amazon.com...

    Amanda: There was a Chuck Jones/Friz Freleng/Bob McKimson hegemony during the 1950s after Tex Avery and Bob Clampett left Warners. Jones' cartoons, great as many are, have been played to death whereas those other earlier (B&W) cartoons didn't, at least that's the way it was when I was a kid.

    Carrie: I'll bet you missed the Crocadero on your trip to Hollywood, didn't you? ;)

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