Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Brass tacks, people. Let's get down to 'em...

Pinto Pink sucks. And the brass tacks need to be sharply nailed into the hooves of the horrid horse that inhabits the barely-conceived center of this decrepit nag of a cartoon. Somewhere along the way, after Friz Freleng handed over the directing reins to Hawley Pratt, a key factor was forgotten about The Pink Panther. This would be the fact that the Panther works best as a character when he is subtly, and mostly unknowingly, antagonizing some cad or simpleton going about their day to day routine, which just happens to coincide with their being in the vicinity of the big pink cat. Because the Panther lacks little personality outside of his calm and cool manner, he has to be used just right to elicit any recognizable identification with the audience. And while the crude antics of the horse in Pinto Pink might make you want to kick or pull a gun on the creep just like the Panther eventually does, such cranky behavior is really not what the Panther started out displaying, and certainly not the way he behaved in his best (i.e. early) films.

The Panther shorts often used the contrasting character to not only be that in personality, but also in look, with the human characters often appearing to be completely white, even in clothing, and this film is no exception. The horse is an entirely white creature (it is hard not to, and entirely pleasing to, imagine him as a future bag of glue), and he reminds me somewhat of a negative version of one of the chalk drawing creatures that Simon drew on Capt. Kangaroo, only this what a horse would look like if Simon were three, drunken, mentally weak and possessed of both tremors and broken fingers. In both hands. (I don't want the possibility of an out for the creator of this pile of its own dung.) To top off the horror, the horse is laden with a spine-splintering death chortle of a laugh, that the fiend unleashes with unwarranted regularity throughout the course of the film. This amazes me mainly because I'm still trying to figure out at what the hell the horse was laughing, because I certainly didn't see anything funny. Perhaps he is laughing at the audience for attending this tripe.

The Pink Panther is in the desert, hot and tired from hitchhiking to Anaheim (
I like to imagine that the Panther is planning to jump ship to Disney) with little luck except for the bad variety. He pulls a Claudette Colbert leg routine on a passing motorist (he apparently has red and white stockings beneath his pink skin) and ends up with his foot getting a tire tread across it. He runs across the described demonic horse on a ranch, decides that riding the "steed" to Anaheim would be luxury indeed, and the remainder of the film is a series of short blackout gags involving Pink's frustrations with trying to saddle and/or ride the monster. I would also like to point out that the Panther is actually trying to steal the horse, and as he reveals at a late point that he is in possession of a pistol, it is armed robbery that he is committing.

The problem is not just that there are hardly any funny gags in the cartoon, which is a shame because the plot is not a bad one to start; but some of the setups start a mile before any potential punchline is in sight, and SURPRISE! They only take about three steps towards that mile distant target, instead just ending the setup without a punchline, or at least with what they think is a punchline. Oh, there are some attempts at gags used previously throughout the history of cartoons, but since they were done previously and better elsewhere, there is little point to include them in this film except for... hmmm... oh, yeah!... unless of course you have a complete defecit of original ideas. That would be Pinto Pink in a nutshell. (It might even point to a broad definition of the cartoon industry by the end of the 60's.) Add to that the fact that there is no one to root for in the picture: the horse's laughter is never stopped with any sort of comeuppance, and the Panther is thoroughly a cad throughout the story. I guess by that point, Pratt just figured that the audience would automatically side with the once lovable feline (John Dunn, the story man, gets a bit of blame on this, too), and that affection would carry them through the picture regardless of story, design or gaggery. Well, if the latter days of the Warners line are any indication, with the countless underwhelming and largely unfunny variations on the Speedy-Daffy dynamic, this is not true. A bad cartoon is a bad cartoon, no matter what well-developed characters might be cast in it. Or especially if a badly-designed poorly-struck horse is at the heart of the matter.

As I headed toward Anaheim for the first time, if I had run across this same shite horse in this same situation, and I were supplied with the same weaponry that the Panther has in this film, there would have been a different ending. In fact, the cartoon would have ended two minutes into its run. One chalkboard-scratching laugh from that nag's hellish mouth, and there would have been another fast-food enterprise established in Anaheim. It would have been called Chortley's, but don't get me wrong if you are reading, PETA. We wouldn't serve horse. Even that bag of crap is far too palatable to be served here. No, we would feed bad cartoons back into the mouths of the people who created them. Hanna-Barbera would be in all the time feasting on most of their 70's TV output. A special side menu would be set up for Paramount for destroying Popeye in the late 40's onward. And...

DING! Hawley Pratt, your order of Pinto Pink is up! Thank you for dining at Chortley's!

Pinto Pink (Depatie-Freleng, 1967) Dir: Hawley Pratt
Cel Bloc Rating: 4

Monday, January 30, 2006

DIAL "P" FOR PINK (1965)

Dial "P" For Pink (DePatie-Freleng, 1965)
Dir: Hawley Pratt
Cel Bloc Rating: 6/9

I used to have a lot more love in my heart for the ol' Pink Panther than I do now. Growing up, I saw his cartoons nearly as much as I watched Bugs Bunny or Jonny Quest, and there always seemed to be some sort of Pink Panther Variety Hour or similar construct on NBC or whatever network all through my childhood. (I was especially fascinated by the version that had the puppet Abominable Snowman and the weird hands in gloves that moved like puppets, though they were only hands.) The Panther cartoons were always enjoyable to me, though I preferred the Inspector shorts (and still do). The difference between the Panther and, say, the Warner Bros. shorts, was that I have always had access to a multitude of the Warner's series, but the Panther went missing for a number of years. Except for one hour-long collection of Pink Panther cartoons that I purchased on VHS in the '80s, I have had to rely mainly on my golden memories of my youth misspent following the adventures of the generally silent, tall drink of pink.

The problem is that the Panther hasn't aged all that well in my eyes, and it is one of those cases where my memory is doing me a disservice by overwhelming the poor cat with my fond memories, and not quite matching up with what I now see on the screen. It is also perhaps that as a youth, I had little experience with the vast majority of theatrical cartoons and screen comedy in general, and thus I saw the bits in many of the Panther shorts as incredibly fresh, when in fact they were mostly rehashed gags. The Panther cartoons are not ornate by any means, nor were they meant to be, and that never played a factor in diminishing my memories as I now see the spare backgrounds and somewhat limited animation; I have always remembered that this was the case. They were lower budgeted cartoons for an industry in the 60's and 70's that had turned in that direction, and I understood that even as a child of twelve. (Another example of this is my fond memories of watching Yogi's Ark Lark as a child, and being fascinated with the plethora of Hanna-Barbera characters unleashed within the confines of one cartoon show. The show is well nigh unwatchable nowadays, but even back then I knew that it was a piece of crap. But where were you going to get Yogi, Huckleberry, Augie Doggie, Yakky Doodle and, especially, Snagglepuss in the same show? Well, not until the Laff-A-Lympics, at least... (Plus, they were fighting polluters and evildoers in a flying ark! I couldn't resist as a boy, because just how sound is that concept to an eight-year-old obsessed with Ranger Rick, Smokey the Bear, and Woodsy Owl in 1972? Deeply so...)

Dial "P" for Pink is the Panther still near the outset of his career, when Friz Freleng had not long before turned the reins over to Hawley Pratt, and there was still a small amount of sophistication and cool to the cat. The best Panther cartoons are where the cat is clearly in control of the situation; where his silence and smoothness cause his (usually) human foil to become profoundly exasperated as that character's idyllic pursuit crashes to the ground about him due to the silent and generally unseen interference from the Panther. Because it is one of the earlier films, it has a markedly higher degree of quality of most of the later films; and while a good many gags have been seen before in countless other films, the energy and the strict adherence to gags being logically silly, not stupid or incomplete (as in later entries), earns this short an ort of respect from my critical table.

The setup is as simple as can be: a burglar wants to break into a small safe in the middle of the night. This would all work out just fine if he hadn't picked the safe where the Pink Panther happens to be residing. Why the Panther is living in the safe is unknown, but it is interesting to note that the name of the jewel in the first Sellers Panther film is The Pink Panther. Perhaps the cartoon Panther that we see is a spirit that resides within the jewel and causes comical misfortune to befall those who attempt to steal it? This would explain many of the actions within the feature film, and the events in this cartoon. Except the burglar sees and interacts with the Panther quite tangibly by the end of this piece, and the Panther spirit does not explain the actions in the remainder of the Panther feature films (the only explanation you ever need for any of those films is: Inspector Clouseau), and it certainly doesn't hold for the other Panther cartoons which have nothing to do with safecracking. But it sure would explain why he is living, Oscar-the-Grouch trashcan-style, inside of a safe. The film itself consists of a variety of well-played and casually escalating gags involving attempts to either break open the safe or, later, steal it entirely, with the burglar constantly getting snookered by the calm countermoves of the Panther.

Three things of note in this film: 1) When the burglar first tries to unlock the safe, a loud burst of music assails his ears, and then a second time. When I was a child, this was extremely funny to me, but then a few years later I saw this same gag pulled on Harpo in Duck Soup. Now the gag is still funny to me, but in an entirely different way; 2) I like the way the cat will pop in and out of the top of the safe while the burglar is working on it from another angle. Even after the burglar sees the cat briefly pop up the top, he never actually tries to get into from there; and 3) there is no way this film would get made today, not with the Panther (as he does in many of the early films) smoking a cigarette on a long holder (a symbol of his classiness in those days), and even opening the top to discard a bowl of ashes at one point. I also wonder how it would go with parent's groups and the government if the cartoon characters of today, in our nation's current supposed "Age of Terror" attitude, wielded sticks of TNT and lighted bombs as much as the cartoon loonies of years past? I know the Looney Tunes crew still did this to a certain degree in Back in Action, but that was a nod to the more violent past, and I think that if a new Bugs cartoon were made today, it would definitely not come up at all.

As for the Panther and his cigarette smoking, it's a good thing that they dropped that characteristic early on, or he would have eventually gone the way of Joe the Camel. I do, however, find it hard to imagine that the Panther would have gone smoking through all of those Corning Insulation commercials if he had retained the sorry habit. One misplaced flick of ash and... POOF! He could have beaten Michael Jackson to the advertising punch...

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Having been born, raised and railroaded in Alaska for most of my life, I have seen more than my share of melodramas. Sometimes, Alaska seems to be the place where the form has gone to die. Don't get me wrong: this is not a bad thing. Alaska is a very unique place with a very unique past, and the melodramatic form is very well suited to both the history and the mythological past of Alaska, and sometimes it seems as if half the tourist traps in the state have picked up on this fact, offering up scant but sometimes enjoyable theatrical dinner thrills with villains being hissed heartily by the patrons as whatever salmon-bedecked monstrosity the establishment specializes in is served to them atop a State of Alaska placemat. While I have never myself performed in one of these shows (outside of a sixth grade production where I played one of a number of rescuing-at-the-last-minute mounties), a great many of my very close friends and even my brother have had the opportunity to tread the boards in one of these dated revues, and I have borne witness to a great many of the shows in turn. This includes viewing many of the annual melodramas put on for Anchorage's enormously, uh, ever-present Fur Rendezvous (the best endorsement that I can ever give the event is, "Well... it's there."), seemingly the only state-sponsored month-long party devoted to propping up an outmoded and idiotic industry. (Unless, of course, somewhere there exists in Texas the "Oil's Well Annual Exposition of Gas-Guzzling Morons Sponsored by Hummer".)

Even though much of Hollywood's early product and scripted cliches were derived almost directly from melodramas, anything from Mary Pickford silents to B-westerns, the form was simultaneously made fun of constantly by screen comedians and, in the case of the Betty Boop vehicle She Wronged Him Right, the producers of cartoon shorts. There is a different tack taken in this film, however, and it's a brilliant idea, if not carried off exactly in brilliant fashion.

After the strains of "Frankie and Johnny" are heard over the opening credits, a title card appears on the screen, cajoling the audience to boo and hiss the villain in the appropriate moments. We then see the street outside the Tanktown Theatre (presumably in Tanktown) where Miss Betty Boop is appearing in a production of She Wronged Him Right, which just from the title alone sounds as if it were a melodrama. The mostly mammalian and nonhuman crowd awaits the curtain to open, and while they do, a sign appears asking them to please refrain from sticking their chewing gum beneath the seats. The curtain then raises to reveal Betty Boop pacing and fretting about her inability to pay the rent, and while she continues this worrying, her pacing is matched by both a cat and a mouse. She reads aloud a note from the villain of the show, Heeza Ratt, demanding the amount owed --- OR ELSE!

This is all seen from the point of view of the theatrical audience, with the action framed by the stage and the front row of seats. The film, except for instances where closeups are used (such as showing the villain's note), is seen mostly from this perspective, and any time the scene changes, a hook will appear and move the scrolling set, or else a set of gears will crank, and the same thing will occur. Thus, as the action pans left, the set scrolls accordingly, and Betty's farm appears, with a horse, cow, goat and pig all pacing in the same fashion as the occupants of the house. The set continues scrolling and Heeza Ratt appears with a villainy "Nwar-har-har!" snarl, the audiences hisses loudly, and he briefly turns into a giant rat before the audience's eyes. He bursts into Betty's farmhouse depending his due, and the poor put-upon girl searches first her garter, and then, turning her back to the audience, checks her bosom for hidden reserves of cash, but there is nothing. She breaks into "No More Money in My Purse", and the line in the first chorus, "Let's put out the light, and go to sleep!" is changed to "Let's put out the rat, and go to sleep!" in the second. Heeza makes his intentions on Betty very clear, but she spurns him and wishes for the intervention of someone named "Fearless Fred".

The scene switches to where a heroic lumberjack, Fearless Fred of the Fearless Fred Lumber Co. (who resembles a puffed-chested version of Tony Curtis), is chopping down a large tree on stage. A bear attacks him, and he wrestles the bear behind the tree and emerges wearing its skin. At the sound of Betty's desperate cries for help, Fred rushes to her rescue, and when the mouse says "Not THE Fearless Fred!", Fred counters, along with Betty and Heeza, "Yes! THE Fearless Fred!" The villain is hit in the face with a tomato for overacting, and yells, "Curses!" No matter Fred's heroic prowess, however, the villainous Ratt subdues and ties up Fred, and then has him dragged off by a mule. Fearless Fred manages to free himself by finding a knife, pulling a hand out of his bonds, placing the knife in his teeth, putting his hand back within the knotted ropes, and then cutting those ropes with the teeth-held knife. Fred then makes off after the villain.

In the closing act of the show, a gigantic Houdini-worthy tank has been placed on the stage, and water begins filling the thing rapidly as Heeza ties Betty up to be drowned by the rushing torrent, though she seems more concerned with ruining her outfit as she frantically tries to wring the water from her hemline. Heeza delightedly watches her plight from a rowboat that rises as the tank fills. Fearless Fred arrives just in the nick of time and does battle with Ratt. The battle is furious, with Heeza briefly turning into an octopus as they struggle beneath the water, but Fred is helped out when a deus ex machina-style lightning bolt held by a hand is cranked in from offstage and jabs the villain from behind. This shatters the tank's front glass and the water blasts out towards the audience. The villain is brought to justice, Betty's life and virtue are saved, and all's well that ends well, even as the water continues to be piped at the crowd. The actor playing the villain is hit with more tomatoes and a chorus of boos, and then Betty and Fred take the spotlight. The audience applauds wildly, but they are shown to be nothing but pairs of hands raised up and clapping above the water that has completely engulfed the theatre. End of picture.

The irony of all this is that many of the elements of the melodramatic form parodies in this film were also used, in different fashion but used nonetheless, in some of Betty's early pictures. A great variety of crude, vile creatures lusted after and attacked the girl from film to film, and there was usually some heroic circumstance that saved her from degradation and/or outright rape in these stories. But here, the tone is that the producers are well aware that the stage story could easily be a plot for a normal Betty Boop cartoon, but they have combined this story with a love letter to the theatre as well. All told, it is a fun, light entertainment, though a little flatter than usual; not one of Betty's best, but also not a later Pudgy cartoon, either.

And I'm not sure, but that might have been one of my friends in the bear costume...

She Wronged Him Right (Max Fleischer, 1934) Dir: Dave Fleischer
Cel Bloc Rating: 6

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Betty Boop's skirt reaches to just about an inch above her knees, and that's not the only thing wrong with Betty Boop and Grampy, a post-Code-cleansing cartoon from the Fleischer Studios in 1935. Ol' Will Hays and his henchmen took scissors to the girl's supposedly too short skirt and somehow managed to add fabric to her clothing. Also missing in action are her ubiquitous garter (it is still there, just not the focal point of many innuendo-laden gags), her double entendre-charged songs, and the occasional near-flash of Betty's... er... boops. The cleavage got covered up, and with it, the nearly endless parade of slavering, slobbering men and beasts that seemed to literally jump out of the woodwork in nearly every scene through which she strutted seemed to slither off to the cinematic past. The Hays Code took away the dangerous, wicked party girl Betty and replaced her with a Stepford Betty. A Betty that was servile; a Betty who was broken and saddled with domesticity who washes dishes squeaky clean while squeaking shrill odes to manners; a Betty who sings not to drunks, lechers and her dog boyfriend Bimbo, but a Betty who sings instead to infants and a fat little pet puppy and friendly neighbors who would never think of looking at the sweet girl in that manner. Will Hays, Bishop Breen and their preposterous ilk put the whip of subtlety down on the studio, taming bad girl Betty and making her bland and "safe" for the masses: the idealized and morally unthreatening mid-1930's girl in every possible aspect.

Or did they? How tamed was Betty in actuality? It seems to me that there is something of a MILF factor at play with the redrawn Betty Boop: once more gets covered up; once she becomes a suburbanite; once she becomes a mother figure (except for actually being a mother), does she get sexier? The earlier Betty was sexy but obtainable (I'm not saying she was a ho'; just that the right combination of diamonds and furs seemed to get her Boop going the hottest); this totally hands-off Betty still seemed to pull in the ardent admirers, just without their tongues hanging down to their knees as in cartoons past.

Case in point: In this cartoon, the "plot", such as it is, revolves around a party "at Grampy's place," which Betty sings about in a simplistic tune as she struts, classily, through the streets of her town. Of course, anyone hearing of the swell party is going to drop whatever they are doing immediately and join the parade to the old coot's abode. And drop whatever they do: two piano movers, with the weighty, dangerous instrument hanging above their heads with block and tackle, hear the Boop sing, "Always something on the ice," and they ask, "Where?", to which she responds with the refrain, "Over at Grampy's house!" They let go of the rope, joining Betty's wake as the piano smashes into splinters on the sidewalk. Betty and gang walk past an apartment building on fire, where a firefighter on a ladder is pulling a frantically screaming woman out of a second story window. Upon hearing of the party, he stuffs the woman between the rungs of the ladder, about two feet from the licking flames of the burning building, climbs down the ladder and joins the parade, with the woman left screaming as frantically as before. A traffic cop sees the line of revelers and leaves his post, causing several cars to smash into one another once he is off the screen. Are all of these people, all men, causing this destruction and possible manslaughter just to go to a party at some old guy's home, or is it actually the appeal of being in the company of the beauteous Boop, however tamed? And just how subversive is this attitude to society, a society supposedly being kept safe by a Movie Production Code, when the party that is the cause of this mayhem goes off without a hitch, and is actually celebrated within the film?

Grampy himself is an inventor of not so much the Gyro Gearloose variety, supplied with modern technology and a limitless budget, but more of an organic genius who can take parts of just about any household object and make something wonderful and practical out of it. When the gang arrives at his door, the house is unattached to its frame, resting a hundred feet off in the distance. When Betty pushes the doorbell, the house runs along a pulley system until it meets with the door, the guests enter and close the door, and the house runs back along the pulley to its former position. Grampy shakes the hand of each guest, but it is actually a fake hand coming out of the wall gripping each hand. The guests are served punch when Grampy lets the chandelier down from the ceiling as a punch bowl. (Though the gang treats the punch as if it were a precious commodity, I sincerely doubt there is any alcohol in it.) Grampy cuts the cake with the skeleton frame of an umbrella, and then Betty asks, "Say, Grampy! How about some music?"

This is where Grampy kicks it into gear. Briefly putting on a thinking cap (complete with light bulb), he builds a working, jazz-playing, improvising flute player from stove parts, a kettle, a fan and gloves, and also builds a percussion system in much the same way. The "band" kicks in with "Hold That Tiger!" and an extended dance sequence takes over the remainder of the picture. If there was alcohol in the punch, then they are all lightweight drinkers, because one song is all that it takes to knock the wind out of these supposedly earnest partygoers. Boop and her followers all collapse sleepily into chairs, with Grampy taking the picture out with a furious tapdance, kicking a handle on a clock at the last second to reveal a hand holding a fan, which proceeds to cool him down.

It seems to me that a five-minute party is no excuse for the series of crimes perpetrated by her "gang" on the way to the soiree; indeed, two of the incidents are committed, however unthinkingly, by supposedly upstanding employees of the city government itself. (I am slightly reminded of Blue Velvet in this sequence, possibly because of Lynch's waving fireman shot, and, of course, because of the suburban hell link). So, was it the party that actually caused all of this? Is so, they need more to do in that town, because the party is as short as it is swell. It hardly seems worth such a possibility of death.

Or is it just Betty? However cleaned up, however covered over, Betty is still a firecracker. It is no longer Bimbo and Koko and the anthropomorphized animal citizenry that follow Betty's every shimmy, but instead her own kind and race that follow her cultishly about the town. And while the reason within the film to follow the girl is cloaked in ambiguity and outside reasoning, the cause of their devotion to her is very clear indeed. Brand new clothes... same old girl.

Betty Boop and Grampy (Max Fleischer, 1935) Dir: Dave Fleischer
Cel Bloc Rating: 6

Friday, January 27, 2006

High-Diving Hare (1949)

High-Diving Hare (Warner Bros., 1949) 
Dir: Isadore "Friz" Freleng
Cel Bloc Rating: 9/9

[Editor's note 1/16/2016: The opening premise of this article was based around a website that is no longer in existence online. The website contained stats about how many jugglers the average American knew personally, and other such ephemera based around the world of juggling. I am sure such stats exist elsewhere on any number of current juggling websites, but I don't care to look for one. But in the interest of preserving this piece as close to how it was written originally as possible, I will not take out the reference or the link. Since the cartoon in discussion is not about juggling anyway (just a reference on a poster), it doesn't matter. But you can see where my state of mind was in January of 2006 having just left all of my theatrical friends, most of whom juggled to some degree, in Alaska behind. - RTJ]

Butterfingers and Clumsy? The juggling act? I must be one of those guys. Funny thing is, I don't remember performing on a vaudeville stage with Fearless Freep, the high-diving platform specialist. But surely, if there is a juggling act named Butterfingers and Clumsy, then one of them must certainly be yours truly, for I am a bad juggler. I suppose, if I actually practiced a little bit, I might approach "staggeringly mediocre" at the very peak of my abilities, but it's pretty much "three and out" for me. Vex me with a fourth object and I am done for within .6 seconds, and that's pushing it.

Strangely, ".6" is the exact statistical answer to "How many jugglers does the average American know personally?" Well, since I know about 87 people who can juggle to some degree, I dispute the findings of the Average American Juggler-Knowing People Institute! (Or the AAJKPI. For further muddled information and inane results, you can't check out their website here. Why are you clicking on it? I said you can't...) So, perhaps one of those 87 people is the partner of either Butterfingers or Clumsy, whichever one I'm not. Thusly, there is also the likelihood that either Butterfingers or Clumsy (whichever one I’m not) also doesn't remembering starring on the vaudeville stage with the amazing, the colossal, the defy-defying... Fearless Freep!

Yosemite Sam certainly remembers Freep. In Friz Freleng’s classic Warner Bros. short from 1949, High-Diving Hare, Sam claims of Fearless Freep, "That's m'boy!", and does so clamorously. Sam is so positively enamored of this wholly unseen daredevil that he buys a passel of tickets for Bugs Bunny's theatrical revue at the Opry House. After Bugs does a traditional barker's sales pitch about the variety of his acts -- including the aforementioned Butterfingers and Clumsy, the jugglers -- Sam stops up to throw a vast amount of money about the boardwalk, yelling, "I'm a-splurgin'!" He is so wound up for Freep's stunts that he threatens Bugs with violence unless the rabbit skips the show past the opening act.

There is one little problem, though: Freep is not going to make it to the show. Bugs receives a telegram from Freep at the last second, who is stuck in his current location due to a storm. Bugs informs the crowd that the show won't go on, but Yosemite's six-shooters soon convince Bugs that it will. Bugs protests that heights give him "goosebumps on his goosebumps", but Sam is having none of it, and up the ladder both Bugs and Sam, brandishing his shootin' irons in a threatening way, go.

Bugs bides his time by acting nervous and frightened, and then shyly asks Sam to close his eyes so that Bugs can put on his "bathin' suit." Slowly and methodically putting it and his cap on, once he is dressed, Bugs somehow makes the board spin about so that Sam is now standing 500 feet above the target washtub full of water, and Bugs is standing on the end above the safety of the platform. Sam opens his eyes, totally unaware of the change in his position and forces Bugs to jump. The rabbit fakes his dive into the distant tub, landing a couple feet down on the platform, throwing a glass of water in the air while yelling out "Spa-Lash!" and then gargling the water to simulate a drowning effect. Sam is stunned. "By gar, the critter went and done it," he mutters in respectful astonishment, and turns around to go down the ladder. But his feet only find open air, and the pint-sized cowboy plummets 500 feet down into the tub, which falls apart as he spins about fish-like in the remaining plug of water.

High-Diving Hare is built on the simplest of gags, but a solid one: Yosemite Sam falls 500 feet off of a platform into a tub of water, or not even into a tub of water, but rather into the stage, and he does this over and over again (by my count, he falls off the platform nine times in the film). Sam runs up the ladder the second time and when Bugs tricks him into falling, Bugs suddenly remembers that he forget to refill the water tub. He throws a bucket of water down after Sam, and the fireplug cowboy allows the water to pass him, all the while praying and, at one point, climbing on top of the column of water to try to stomp it downward faster. The water does end up falling into the tub in time, but poor Sam misses the tub entirely and crashes through the floorboards of the stage!

The next time Sam can't find Bugs on the platform, but then discovers that Bugs is standing upside-down under the board. Or so he (and we) are made to believe at first). As it turns out, Sam is actually the one that is upside-down (though he appears right-side up to us), and sure enough, when he looks up, he is actually looking down at the water tub far below on the stage. Sam falls yet again. It is interesting to note that after the first couple of crashes, his landings are not even referred to again, with merely the gag of him falling repeatedly fulfilling the joke's promise. It also helps make the film build ever faster to its conclusion. 

Bugs tricks Sam again and again. The rabbit challenges the cowboy to "cross this line" and Sam is bold enough to take Bugs up on it. Only the line is a couple of inches from the end of the board, and Sam falls off again. However, he has enough fire in his belly to fly back upwards just enough to pause and pronounce splenetically, "I...hate...you..." before he falls yet again. Another time, Sam gets to the top and finds Bugs wearing Indian headgear. He tells Sam that the rabbit he is looking for took a short cut, and when the camera cuts to the ned of the diving board, there is a very staged looking western setup with prop cacti, rocks and a cattle skull, along with a sign pointing to the "Short Cut". Sam falls again. 

Another time there is a door set up on the diving board, with Bugs on the opposite side. When Sam commands Bugs to "OPEN THE DOOR!" he turns to the camera and says, "You notice that I didn't say 'Richard'?" (This is a reference to a popular novelty song of the day.) Of course, Sam will run through the door as Bugs opens it and start to fall, only this time, Bugs hands Sam an anvil so that he will fall even faster to the stage below.

Twice we don't even know how he gets tricked; we merely see Sam fall past the camera in those instances, without the slightest clue of what the rabbit did to him. After Sam's ninth climb up the ladder, we are expecting another fall with unseen purpose, but instead hear the sounds of wood being sawed. The camera cuts to Bugs tied up on the end of the diving board that Sam is furiously cutting away with his saw. When it finally goes through, however, Bugs remains high and dry in the air, as Sam falls to the ground below with the platform and ladder. Bugs points out that this act defies the laws of gravity, but adds "...then again, I never studied law!" Iris out.

Though a simple repeated act of slapstick violence is the sole cause of the laughs in this picture, the laughs are honest, with Bugs throwing some of his “A” material at the villain and the audience. It is amazing the number of times that gravity is flouted throughout its 7-1/2 minutes. One thing that truly defies gravity is my opinion of High-Diving Hare. Not my favorite graphically, if is nonetheless one of the outright funniest of the Bugs-Sam ventures, and remains my personal favorite of their series (just slightly ahead of Bunker Hill Bunny; others might pick the later "Whoa, dragon!" or "Whoa, camel!" pictures (and I love those, too); but these two get to me more).

Now, where gravity does get to me is in juggling. But I've really got to practice if I going to get back on that vaudeville circuit with the incredible Fearless Freep. If you see me perform, just make sure to tell the AAJKPI... their statistics are damn faulty.



And in case you haven’t seen it…

[This article was revised and updated, including the addition of an editorial note, on 1/12/2016.]

Thursday, January 26, 2006


"The Gas House Gorillas are a bunch of doity players!"

Bugs Bunny is right... the Gas House Gorillas are doity... er, dirty, and not only that, they are the dirtiest team in baseball. They are also the meanest. Not just content to be bigger and tougher than every other player on the field, they also have to bully and cajole their opponents throughout the course of each game. This nets them huge batches of runs, hits and homers every inning; just about everything good in baseball comes easily their way in bulk form. Because of this, they seem to be unstoppable and unbeatable; muscle-bound juggernauts in baseball flannel. Oh, yeah. I almost forgot: they also cheat big...

Friz Freleng's answer to Tex Avery's (and MGM's) Batty Baseball (1944), Baseball Bugs, like its predecessor, is top-loaded with terrific baseball gags; somehow, they have managed the feat of not repeating any of the same ones, despite, literally, playing on the same field. Marvelously detailed in its uniforms, ballpark atmosphere, and even in the radio announcing, this film is a wonderful treat for any baseball fan. You really do feel as if you are attending this game, almost as if you had first-base seats, and it really does capture the mood that any great ballgame has in spades: both the joyous bursts of energy and the almost unearthly stillness that are the seeming yin and yang of baseball action.
Early on in the film, there is a memorable shot (actually my favorite bit in the film) of a baseball with a human face releasing a banshee's call as the announcing declares that someone has hit "a screaming liner!" It is certain that this film is imbued with what Kinsella referred to as "The Thrill of the Grass".

At the start of the game, the only ones not feeling that thrill are the Tee-Totallers, an old-timers squadron somehow duped into playing the mountainous cigar-chomping fiends that are piled onto the bench of the Gas House Gorillas. "I'm only 93 and a half years old," declares the wizened batsman shakingly facing about nine feet of monstrous pitcher. He has no chance against this Hydean construct, and neither does the rest of his aged team, with the Gorillas racking up runs like so much cordwood (the score after only four innings is a close 96-0). When the umpire calls a Gorilla pitch a "ball," the ump is pounded into the ground by the catcher, and the umpire realizes his mistake and changes the call. The weakened arm of the Tee-Totallers' pitcher results in a conga line of Gorillas players, and the score flips on the scoreboard as if they were playing pinball.

In the midst of the carnage, sitting in left field in a rabbit hole, replete with straw hat, soda bottle, bag of peanuts, and munching on a hot carrot dog, is our hero Bugs Bunny, who shouts out insults at the Gorillas, and tells them that he can "Beat'cha with one hand tied behind my back!" The Gorillas surround him, and after confirming his intentions, pile equipment into his open arms, slap a cap roughly over his head, and accept his challenge. The announcer tells the crowd of the change in the lineup, saying the name of each position in conjunction with Bugs' name 9 times over.

Bugs takes the mound first, and he is truly a sight to behold, with perhaps the most awkwardly effective windup in the history of baseball. He generates Bob Feller-plus velocity, though, because he is Bugs, he is fleet enough of foot to beat his pitch easily to the plate, run past the batter, turn his cap around, put on a catcher's mitt, and still have plenty of time to await the pitch, which upon his catching it sends him careening ass over tit into the stands. "That's the ol' pepper, boy! That's the pitchin'!," he roots himself on, and throws the ball back to himself on the mound. After repeating this success, he then decides to perplex the Gorillas with his slowball, which is so tantalyzingly easy-seeming that two other Gorillas line up behind the batter to take their swings at it. Of course, all three whiff in quick (or rather, slow) succession: 9 strikes and yer out!

Finally, Bugs takes to the plate after calling for the batboy, which is actually a boy bearing both bats and batwings, and knocks a drive into the outfield. After rounding the bases, Bugs finds home plate entirely blocked by a far too smug Gorilla, whom Bugs easily evades by producing a Vargas-type centerfold, sending the big mug into fits of whistling and lustful bouncing. There is fanfare on the soundtrack, and the scoreboard notches up Bugs' first run. The next time around, Bugs is clearly safe, but the umpire has been beaten up and replaced by a Gorilla, who calls the rabbit "Out!" Bugs climbs up into his clothes and inside the mask and argues the lug into responding, in the classic way that Bugs often verbally twists his opponent's words, into declaring him "Safe!", and the scoreboard rings up another run. Another long drive from Bugs causes the outfielder to declare "I Got It! I Got It!", but it is a far sharper hit than he believed, and it leaves him under the dirt with a tombstone reading "He Got It!" Bugs' success at the plate has balls bouncing off of players like unto a pinball machine, and the scoreboard responds accordingly.

Bugs takes the lead, 96-95. The Gorillas are at the plate in the bottom of the ninth with one man on and two outs, a classic scenario for heroics (or anti-heroics, on the part of the Gorillas). Pre-pitch, the Gorilla batter runs off the field, cuts down a tree, carves a bat handle into the end, and runs back to the plate with the gigantic bat in hand. Bugs says to us, with alliterative ease, "Watch me paralyze this pathetic palooka with a powerful, paralyzing, perfect pachydermous percussion pitch!", and he puts every bit of mustand and relish in his repetoire into the thing, but the Gorilla has other plans. He easily knocks the ball out of the ballpark and into the city. Bugs catches a Mellow Cab to chase the ball, but the cab goes the other direction, and Bugs discovers that one of the Gorillas is at the wheel. He catches a far more trustworthy bus and gets out at the Umpire State Building, charging to the top floor and runs himself up the flagpole. He throws his mitt into the air, catches the ball and then the glove, and the umpire, who has apparently climbed the outside of the building, pronounces the Gorilla "Out!" The Gorillas dispute the call, but the Statue of Liberty comes to life and reprimands them. Bugs backs her up, and the picture ends in an argument.

Despite how much I enjoy this cartoon, there have always been three things that bother me about it. The more minor of the three is that the Gorillas bat in the fourth inning on two separate occasions, with a Tee-Totaller at-bat sandwiched in between. Also, the Tee-totallers are the home team at the beginning of the film, very clearly, but once Bugs enters the picture, the Gorillas have become the home team. Perhaps a gentlemanly side-rule since Bugs is the, however accidental, challenger? The third nitpick is that the Gorillas already had 96 runs after four innings, which they show on a couple occasions after Bugs start showing (there is no total shown, but if you can add four numbers together, 10-28-16-42, you get 96. The Gorillas start the cartoon with 94 runs and add two before Bugs starts playing), but once the game's end is reached, the score is shown and announced as being 96-95 Bugs Bunny. So, this game should actually go into extra innings, but perhaps Leon Schlesinger didn't want to spend any extra money on a longer cartoon?

Holy cow! I am such a geek...

Baseball Bugs (Warner Bros., 1946) Dir: Isadore "Friz" Freleng
Cel Bloc Rating: 8

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bunker Hill Bunny (1950)

Bunker Hill Bunny (Warner Bros., 1950) 
Dir: Isadore "Friz" Freleng
Cel Bloc Rating: 8/9

My dad loves Yosemite Sam. Outside of probably Foghorn Leghorn, and beyond simply having Sam's "Back Off" mud flaps hanging from his pickup for a couple of decades, my dad always seems to get the biggest kick out of seeing this fireplug-sized powder keg of ham-handed orneriness stomp about all-fired determined to have his way. No matter what the stunted villain calls himself: Riff Raff Sam, Pirate Sam, Sam Schultz, Shanghai Sam, Sam the Duke of Yosemite; these were only names that he appropriated to fit whatever setting he was placed in to do battle with his arch-enemy, Bugs Bunny. Besides, this wide array of aliases had little bearing on what Sam was with a high level of consistency: drop-dead funny, especially to my Dad, who even now, all these years later, still mentions to me how hilarious he finds Yosemite Sam.

In Bunker Hill Bunny, the year is 1776, and Sam calls himself Sam Von Schmamm the Hessian. He is fighting the Battle of Bagle Heights, an obviously little known battle of the Revolutionary War, against an unseen foe. Two forts sit, depending on the scene, anywhere from 30 to 100 feet apart on a mostly barren field, raining cannon fire upon each other at an insanely rapid clip (but causing no damage to either fort whatsoever). Sam's fort flies a flag reading "They" and is heavily stone-fortified; the other fort is much smaller, bears a flag reading "We" and is made up entirely of logs (explaining the occasional stump seen in the background).

Sam yells, "Enemy ahoy!" after which Bugs pops up and replies in his usual calm manner, "What's up, doc?" An amused Sam von Schmamm calls for the rabbit's surrender, declaring that he has Bugs "outnumbered one-to-one!" Bugs refuses, and Sam makes to charge the "We" fort, marching on the barricade with drum in hand. He strikes the drum with each step as he doggedly makes his advance on Bugs' fort. When he arrives at the door, he is shot in the face with a cannon, and returns charred and sheepish to his own door, but now rat-a-tat-tatting his broken drum to little effect. 

Sam and Bugs both charge simultaneously, taking over each other's forts and declaring it so by each raising their own flag in the enemy's camp. Bugs adds insult to injury by adding a picture of a carrot to the "We" flag. They exchange charges again, and this time raise their flags back in their own forts. Sam is enraged further, and charges a third time, but Bugs leans against his own front wall and casually opens the main gate, revealing a tremendous cannon that Sam runs into full bore. There is the memorable image of Sam standing in the darkness of the huge cannon barrel, realizing his mistake, his echo of "Retreat" following him frantically out of the cannon. He is blasted clear over his own walls.

Sam yells out, "Ya ornery, fur-bearing rebel!" and lights a huge bomb, fast-balling it in the rabbit's direction. Bugs disappears momentarily and reappears in a baseball uniform, smacking the bomb with a baseball bat high over Sam's head. Sam pulls out a baseball glove, yelling "I got it! I got it!" He sadly gets it alright, and a flag raises inside his fort telling the audience of that fact. Sam begins firing on Bugs again, but Bugs catches each shot with his own cannon, affecting the tone of a baseball catcher rooting on his star pitcher ("That's the ol' pepper, boy!" is practically straight from Baseball Bugs), and sends it reeling back at Sam. Finally, Bugs follows a return shot into Sam's cannon by also shooting out a large plug, which Sam tugs on to no avail but his own explosion.

The determined Sam not only doesn't learn any lessons from his varmint nemesis, he can't learn. He soldiers on, attempting to dig a tunnel into Bugs' fort, and popping up triumphantly in the darkness, he lights a match. Unfortunately for Sam, he is completely surrounded by stacks of TNT and gunpowder inside a shack marked "Explosives". Clearly, this is not Sam's day. But the smoking and discombobulated Hessian is not licked yet.

In the brilliant closing of the picture, Sam shoulder-carries a powder-keg with an amazingly long fuse over to Bugs' door, only he doesn't realize that there is an open hole on the other side of the keg. The gunpowder pours into the seat of Sam's trousers, and also pours out behind him, leaving a gunpowder trail as he sneaks back to his own fort. He lights the fuse, but when it finally reaches Bugs, who is sitting pleasantly on top of the powder-keg whilst munching a carrot, the rabbit gingerly snuffs the fuse at the last second. He then lights the line of gunpowder that leads back to Sam, who watches its return but doesn't realize it is leading to him until it is almost too late.

Sam runs about desperately trying to escape the blast that is sure to come (thanks to the rule of Cartoon Explosive Inevitability), charging off over the hill and into the top of an apple tree. A leafless tree with the odd apple core and a disconsolate Sam are all that remains. Sam surrenders by declaring, "I'm a Hessian wit'out noooooo aggression. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Sam and Bugs then come over the hill towards the camera, drum-and-fifing their way to the film's conclusion.

Friz Freleng's sure-handed ease with Sam is not surprising; he created the character, and directed him in all but the fireplug pirate's final picture, Dumb Patrol. Likewise, Bugs starred with the villain in all but three of Sam's pictures. The rivalry between the two nearly approaches epic proportions, much more so than with any of Bugs' other foils, such as Elmer Fudd or Daffy (not counting the "Duck! Rabbit! Duck!" trilogy). This is because Sam is an outright villain, not so much concerned with feeding himself (like Taz), or food and trophy gains (like Elmer), or sheer force of jealousy (like Daffy). Sam is just plain bad to the bone, and the give and take between the two is on the level of pure good vs. evil. (Only Marvin Martian is on a similar level of "bad," but he had only a handful of films comparatively.)

The battles between the pirate and the rabbit are bigger, often in scenarios with historical backdrops, because the stakes are larger than simply "hunting wabbits". Because Bugs is the clear good guy in most of these pictures and not simply a troublemaker, and because Sam's intentions are clearly always to the detriment of either Bugs or all of humankind, it is easy to root for the rabbit and laugh uproariously at whatever befalls the unflappable Sam.

Of course, like most movie bad guys, there is a certain part of Sam that you can't help but be intrigued by, admire, and even outright love. I think the stereotypical bad boy persona is a crock of dung, but even I love Sam. My dad is as pleasant, polite, and as good a guy as there could possibly be, and he loves Sam. 

Just not quite as much as he does that giant loudmouthed schnook of a rooster...

[Two final, trivial notes: I have always heard Sam's surname as "von Schmamm", not "Schamm" or "Schpamm", as others seem to hear it. Sam says it not quite so clearly in the film, so I understand the multiple interpretations, and Bugs says "von Schmamm", but he might be mocking "von Schamm". (The subtitles on the DVD have "von Schmamm" on both lines.) Also, the battle in the film is spelled "Bagle", not "Bagel". Whether is was misspelled this way on purpose by Freleng and gang, or whether there exists another spelling of the word outside of "Beigel" or "Beygl" (the Yiddish word from which we derive "Bagel"), I am unaware. But it is the way it is used in the film.]



And in case you haven't seen it...

[This article was revised and updated on 1/12/2016.]

Monday, January 23, 2006

I Haven't Got A Hat (1935)

I Haven't Got A Hat (Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies, 1935) 
Dir: Isadore "Friz" Freleng
Cel Bloc Rating: 7/9

"I'd tip my hat to you,
I'd do just that!
I'd tip my hat to you,
but I haven't got a hat!
(Bo bo-bo bo-bo bo-bo boom!)

I'm just a college boy.

Even at that,
I'd tip my hat to you,
but I haven't got a hat!
(Bo bo-bo bo-bo bo-bo boom!)

I'm really not a sap,

it's plain to see.
But if I wore a cap,
they'd never let me back
in the university!

I think you're swell, I do,

I'm standing pat!
I'd tip my hat to you,
but I haven't got a hat!

It's all about Ham and Ex.

Beans the Cat? Oliver Owl? Miss Cud and Little Kitty? They all deserved their one-way trip into The Hell of Poorly Conceived Cartoon Characters. And Porky Pig? Well, the Porky in I Haven't Got a Hat -- kind of an all-star character jam from Warner Bros. in 1935 where none of the characters were actually stars yet -- while he does stutter to marvelous effect, is a long way (physically and vocally) off from the beloved pig that was to slim down and spring into eventual stardom, catching his tongue on every other syllable.

You can say that Porky was the one who came out of this character traffic jam unscathed, because he did become a star after all, partially due to this film's success serving as a springboard to his continued development. But after a single watching of I Haven’t Got a Hat, you would realize that you were dead wrong. For no matter how history wants to paint things, Porky Pig is not the true star of this picture.

Since the time I first saw this light and fun cartoon, there was one scene, and one scene only, that truly stood out for me: two tan and white pups, punningly named Ham and Ex, singing the title song, I Haven't Got A Hat. Not even in the film for forty seconds (counting their introductory appearance), the two dogs nail the center of the picture down with their show-stopping number, with Ex (I guess he's Ex; he is the one on our right) punctuating the oddball lyrics with bursts of a doo wop-style basso.

The song stuck in my head for the next twenty-plus years, and Ham and Ex were stars, if only inside this same head that sucked up that unshakable ditty. In the real world, the pair only made three more films, all directed by Jack King, the eventual longtime Donald Duck director for Disney, who was one of the animators for this film: The Fire Alarm (1935), The Phantom Ship and Westward, Whoa! (both 1936). This gave them one more film than Jones' later Two Curious Puppies characters. Shuffled off to an undeserved obscurity, Ham and Ex had as much of a comeback as they are likely to make with a cameo appearance in the casino scene in Looney Tunes: Back In Action in 2003.

Ham and Ex and the rest of the cast (save for Little Kitty, who was probably in the sandbox at the time) are introduced at the start of the film with individual spotlights, before the film opens up to the story at hand. There is a "Musical and Recital" talent show at the schoolhouse overseen by the bovine schoolmarm, Miss Cud. She introduces each act to the assembled students and mothers, beginning the show with Porky Pig. The tremendously fat swine busts into a spirited but stuttered rendition of Longfellow's The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, slapping his bare bottom to simulate the gallop of the horse. The cannons to the left of him are provided by a cute turtle pounding on his shell with drumsticks, and the cannons to the right are provided by a fellow dog student dropping a box of light bulbs from atop an offstage ladder. The class whistle outrageously, and Porky is herded off the stage by some very responsive and frisky dogs (who are acting like regular dogs, unlike Ham and Ex).

Little Kitty takes the stage to recite Mary Had A Little Lamb. She is forgetful at the beginning (aided twice by Miss Cud), but once her need to urinate (!) arises, while she does better at remembering the verse, her impatience swells along with her bladder, and she runs off the stage to attend to more personal affairs in a distant outhouse (or rather, the aforementioned sandbox).

Ham and Ex perform their number and thereby make it impossible for anyone following them to steal the show. They come in like professional troupers, ready to knock out their scene in the time allotted and leave the stage on cue. Ham and Ex are never seen in any of the classroom shots, and the lack of familiarity with them probably helps make them far more memorable than they probably deserve to be. They perform like they have been to the manner born, or at least have an incredible stage mother who has coached them endlessly.

Midway through the song, after mostly standing still since their entrance, Ham and Ex hit us with some fancy dance steps. Then, as swiftly and smoothly as they took the stage, they exit it, but not before Ex pops his head around the side of the frame for that final "Bo-bo-bo-bo-bo-bo-boom!" It is a marvelous performance, and pretty much overrides anything else before in the picture or that occurs next. 

Master Oliver Owl, all turned-up beak and snooty attitude, takes the stage for a piano recital. A troublemaker, Beans the Cat (the supposed "star" of this picture), tries to steal Oliver's bag from his desk, but the owl snatches it at the last second before taking the stage. As Oliver pounds out a perfunctory tune, Beans, who I have mentioned is a cat that goes to the school, finds a "normal" cat and normal dog and puts them under the piano lid. The piano starts jumping, and accidentally plays von Suppé's Poet and Peasant Overture on its own due to the frenetic cat-and-dog chase going on inside the workings of the piano. The class only sees a piano that they believe is being played by the awesome manipulations of Master Oliver; once the dog and cat climb out and the tune stops, the class boos Oliver profusely.

An upset Oliver realizes that Beans, outside the window atop a ladder, is the culprit, and squirts the green ink from his pen at the cat. The cat falls off the ladder onto a board opposite a conveniently placed can of red paint. The paint falls onto the owl's head, and the pair of enemies laugh at the outcome and shake hands to conclude the picture, covered in the two colors representing the limited rainbow of the Technicolor two-strip spectrum.

I Haven't Got a Hat is buoyant and silly fun, and is helped immeasurably by its score, which continues playing the catchy title song underneath through many moments in the picture. It is just another factor that allows Ham and Ex to dominate this picture for me, even with Porky giving his all in his very first scene, and even with the tiny amount of time the dogs are allowed to take part onscreen. 

What seems so odd to me is one of those cartoon contradictions, much in the same vein as Donald Duck's seemingly ravenous appetite for other birds (and not in a sexual manner), or Mickey Mouse being a rodent much larger than his pet dog Pluto, even though one of his best friends, Goofy, is a dog that is gainfully employed, drives a car, owns a house, and talks (also pointed out in Stand By Me). In I Haven't Got A Hat, there seems to be some sort of caste system where there are cats and dogs that wear clothes, go to school, sing, talk, and dance, and then there are cats and dogs that act like, well, actual cats and dogs. I can't figure out these contradictions, and there really isn't that much to figure out, because the creators of this cartoon probably didn't have the time to think these things through either. Nor would they have cared to do so. If it helped tell the story that they were animating, it seems that the prevailing rule was "Anything goes."

Of all the proposed new "stars" for Warner Bros. set loose in this cartoon, it was the fat, stuttering pig that burst out as the major cinematic star. Myself, I would have put my money on the twin singing puppies. Boy, would I be broke now, even more so than if I were around then during the Great Depression.

But, boy, do I love me some Ham and Ex...

Bo bo-bo bo-bo bo-bo boom!



And in case you haven't seen it:

[This article was revised and updated with new photos on 1/4/2016. And I still think Ham and Ex are the bee's knees.]