Tuesday, February 14, 2006

THE LOST DREAM (1949)

Little Audrey finds herself in yet another dream-wrought pickle, and this time it's all because of that nasty ol' moonlight! At least, that is what Petunia, as Audrey's always watchful housekeeper is called in The Lost Dream, the fourth film of Audrey's then burgeoning theatrical career, thinks is the problem. Released as a Noveltoon in 1949, the series still displayed the stereotypical black maid in much the manner of a Hattie McDaniel, all kerchief, heft and sass. Unfortunately, it also means a rendering of unnaturally large lips for the woman, and there is a minor effort to portray the character as not being learned in any respect. (I have yet to determine the point in time where such portrayals disappeared from the cartoon world, and I suspect it was a little while later than they did from film in general.) Petunia catches Audrey reading by the light of the moon, when she should already be asleep, and Petunia asks the stubborn girl, "Is you readin' by dat moonlight ag'in?"

Audrey relents and settles down to sleep, and immediately falls into dreams of a magical Candyland, where she chops down candy canes in a forest, drinks from a pool of soda with a giant straw as she sits in a rowboat, and dimes and nickels rain from the skies so she can buy more candy. However, as she sleeps, a magical being climbs out of her dreams and floats sadly by the window, watching as a flying masted ship sails off into the skies. Audrey is shown climbing ghostly out of her own sleeping body, and then she floats over to the dream boy. He explains that because she took so long to go to sleep, he was late, and now he has missed the last boat to Dreamland. Audrey says she will help him, and together they walk to the clouds on a shaft of midnight moonlight.

The Lost Dream explains to Audrey that he has to report in to the Sandman, who rules all of Dreamland. On the way to his castle, they watch workers scrape the stardust off of tarnished stars, and tailors sewing silver linings into dark little clouds. Meeting the avuncular Sandman (who speaks with a voice, purposefully or not, eerily reminiscent of Frank Morgan, the man who played "The Wizard of Oz"), they are told that it is OK if the Lost Dream shows his dreamgirl about the kingdom, but is severely warned to stay away from "The Black Door". You can bet every dime that you have that any time there is something that shouldn't be touched or opened in a movie, it's going to get touched or opened. You can double that money in an Audrey film; she's practically opened it before the movie has begun.

The next section of the film is basically built like this: a couple of dream gags are shown, then the Lost Dream discovers Little Audrey trying to wrest open "The Black Door". This happens three times in succession before the obvious result of the door opening occurs. But some of the gags on the way are fun; apart from some obvious bits on pipe dreams, catnaps, and faded dreams, there are a couple of doozies. The first happens when they visit the Broken Dreams Department: a cloud poofs out and shows the image of a college lad getting his diploma, walking into a job interview proudly with the paper in hand, and then walking out the other side of the building clad in a janitorial uniform and pushing a streetsweeper. Sort of sums up our crappy society, doesn't it, folks? And an unexpectedly dark turn for a Famous Studios cartoon (apart from that fox-killing Casper cartoon). There is a combination gag when the Lost Dream and Audrey visit the dual Departments of Little Girls' Dreams and Little Boys' Dreams: the Girl Dream consists of a young girl emerging from a backstage door all-dolled up like a movie starlet (the little girl in the dream looks like she could actually be a slightly more glamorous Audrey), and making all of the waiting boys outside of the door faint from her presence; the Boy Dream is, shockingly but not surprisingly, that of a little red schoolhouse burning to the ground! Boy... won't see that in a modern cartoon...

Of course, eventually that ol' Black Door has got to be opened, and when Audrey finally gets it there, the Lost Dream tries to push it closed, but a giant hoofed foot blocks its closure. Then a devilish head pops out, followed by two others of slightly less traditionally demonic appearance, and the three heads begin to sing to Audrey this song:

Oooohhh, what you did when you did what you did!
You were bad and you'll get what's yours!
You're gonna be the most sorriest kid!
After this, you'll do the things that you should!

You can only blame yourself
when everything goes wrong!
Now, you know you shouldn't go
where little girls don't belong!
You shouldn't have opened that door
though temptation was so strong!
Ooooooh, what you did when you did what you did!

As they sing this to her (in what are probably the same voices that sang the song in the previous candy addiction episode, Butterscotch and Soda), they breathe fire at Audrey's little pantied bottom; she jumps from black cloud to black cloud until they turn into giant black demons that try to snatch her out of the air; she lands on what must be a quarter-mile long tongue attached to a gargantuan green dragon; and finally runs through a ceaseless series of red swinging doors until she ends up being trapped in a black cloud by the three demons. They wrap her in their hands... and she wakes up kicking and screaming in her own bed. She doesn't hesitate to board up every inch of her window to keep out the moonlight, swearing the celestial stuff off for good, and then when a ray of it sneaks through a crack in the boards, she uses a slingshot to pop it closed, and closes the cartoon giggling.

Like the previous Audrey cartoon, this is fun, but without the psychological terrain-scraping addiction terror through which Audrey had to fight. The backgrounds are always strong in this series, and the individual characters are finely etched; however, there is already a desire to remake completely what went so right that first time. Even the fun swing tune seems too much of a repeat. But some of the imagery, and the overall quality of the effort make it worthwhile for viewing. Just don't show it to any pyromaniacal boys or college lads on the lookout for gainful employment...

Or, maybe we should...

The Lost Dream (Famous Studios/Paramount, 1949) Dir: Bill Tytla
Cel Bloc Rating: 6

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