Friday, April 07, 2006

HOLD ANYTHING (1930)

If real goats ate all the things that goats do in the cartoons, we would have no refuse problem in the world at all. We'd have one hell of a lot of goat crap, which would lead to unprecedented levels of methane in the atmosphere, and probably an uptick in disease and death, but at least we wouldn't have all that junk laying about the place anymore. We'd trade one form of pollution for another. Just tons of goat leavings... Oh, and tons of goats, too. Obviously, their numbers would probably increase as well, and with all of the junk gone, the goats would have to eat all of the working machinery on the planet. When that has disappeared, because the goats had naturally been already running rampant on the vegetation of the earth at the same time they were eating all of the cars, the goats would then evolve into pure meat eaters, take out all of the other life on earth, and would eventually make their way to man on their menu, who were already having enough problems with the predators, giant chupacabras (the alleged Mexican goat-suckers), perhaps, that went on the increase with the dramatic increase in the goat population. (Fact: giant chupacabras do not care who they suck. Which leads to an interesting tangential theory regarding Paris Hilton... but enough of this...) Then, when man is gone, and after they have overrun the chupacabras, the mutated goats have no choice but to turn on each other on their goat-forsaken barren planet...

Watching Hold Anything, the third Bosko film from Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising in their run at Warner Bros., I am struck by the notion that no matter how much you like a particular goat, the worst place to let him hang out with you is at a construction site. Since there is no more recognizable job from the 1930's (apart from the mobster or the suicidal stockbroker) than the riveter, Bosko is cast in exactly that noble profession, scraping the skies and operating unpredictable and dangerous machinery far above the city streets, all the while walking on thin metal beams without any support. In this effort, Bosko is not aided by a entire crew of musclebound, sweaty guys, but rather by a pack of mice. Tiny little mice. Tiny little mice who bear a remarkable resemblance to Mr. Mouse over at Disney. (Perhaps it is an intentional tribute/slap, or perhaps it was merely the way that mice were drawn in those days.) Oh, yeah... and a goat who likes to try and eat things he shouldn't.

Bosko is happily riveting the day away, all the while whistling while he works. He occasionally picks up a hammer, banging it on the rivets and beams or running it along a chain, to add some percussion to his merry little tune. Meanwhile, in another part of the structure, the little Mickey mice (at this point, wearing small caps) are busy constructing a wall out of bricks. They are smoothly efficient as a construction unit, and when Bosko begins to blurt out a military beat with his rivet-gun, six of the mice stop laying bricks and start marching in time with the song. They carry their hods over their shoulders as if they were standard issue military rifles, and when they dance over an up or down step in the bricks, their legs stretch out or shorten accordingly, but their bodies always stay at the same level.

At the close of the march, the mice depart except for one who lags behind. Unfortunately for him, he falls to a beam down below and lands flat on the surface of a handsaw. Bosko is there to pick up the saw, and he begins to warp the saw and bounce the mouse about on top of it, all the while playing some eerie but beautiful music on the saw. After a few bounces, Bosko cruelly turns the saw sideways -- and cuts the head off the little mouse! He continues to bounce the two halves of the mouse on the saw, and the mouse's body struggles to reach his head, but Bosko eventually bounces them back together. Down below, we are introduced to the goat who likes to eat everything, and here she is, hoof on hip, casually tossing metal nuts up in the air and swallowing them like they were popcorn or grapes. The mouse bounces off of Bosko's saw and falls straight down into the goat's open mouth. His landing causes the goat to fall down on her bottom, and she looks flabbergasted when the mouse opens up a door on her stomach, and walks out unharmed. The mouse tips his ears at the goat as if offing a cap, but then the two of them are interrupted by a bossy Bosko.

"Hey!", he yells, "Send up that beam!" The mouse points at the beam to make sure it is the correct one, but the goat wants nothing to do with actually working. She starts to walk off sheepishly. The mouse, however, has other ideas, and he goes after the goat and drags her back to the beam by the tail. Mr. Mouse ties a rope around the poor goat's torso and turns her tail. The goat cranks around like a winch, causing the beam to go easily sailing up to Bosko, who hops onto the metal elevator and begins to play the ropes attached to it like a harp. The song he plays is called Don't Hold Everything, from a show called Hold Everything, and the connection to the name of the cartoon is due to the second line of the song. The song goes:

"Don't hold everything
Don't hold anything
Just let everything go!
Don't be blue at all
That won't do at all
Just let everything go!

Troubles are thin
How can you win
Holding it in?
Let go!
That's the ticket!
Don't hold everything
Don't hold anything
Just let everything go!"

No wonder carefree Bosko loves the song... and as he flies through the air upon the beam playing it, he notices the beauteous Honey, who is apparently employed as some sort of typist, perhaps in a pool. Bosko calls to her and gets her attention, and then he does a sharp little tapdance to show off to her. She is delighted with his act and runs back to her typewriter. She careful taps out some words, then pulls the sheet and holds it out towards Bosko. It reads, "Gee, you're swell!" Bosko is overjoyed, dances a little bit more, and then tilts the beam over the window, but there is still a dangerous gap in the air to cross. But with Bosko, this problem is easily solved, for he simply plucks out a few more notes on his rope-harp, but physically tangible ones this time, which forms a stairway down to Honey. Bosko climbs into her office, and then sets her onto the windowsill, taking her seat at the typewriter. He pulls some sheet music from his pocket and slides it into the machine. He begins to type out letters over the musical notes on the sheet, reading Don't Hold Everything, and when he hits each key, the song progresses slowly on the soundtrack, note by note. Honey happily dances about on the ledge of the building to the music.

The goat, meanwhile, is not so happy with this development. She is still tied up to the airborne beam, with the rope wrapped about his body as the mouse left it. The goat blows a raspberry at the enraptured couple, and then walks straight out of the ropes (we never hear or see what happens to the beam that she was holding aloft.) Marching up to the steam whistle, she eats the lever and then bites off the whistle itself. However, as she does this, she fills up with hot air, puffs up like a balloon, and starts turning all about as she floats up into the air. (The balloon effect is enchanting to watch.) The goat drifts up past the window where Bosko is still typing out music, and Bosko latches onto the goat's tail at the last second. He lands on one of the building beams, and just as the goat is about to float away for good, Bosko begins to squeeze her, playing another chorus of Don't Hold Everything, though this time the music comes out of the goat like the noise from a fairground calliope. Honey continues her frenzied dance, now swinging her torso, which disconnects from her pelvis, up and around her head twice, melding back to her pelvis just before the next swing occurs.

Bosko and the goat continue the calliope solo, but then the whistle pops out of the goat's mouth, and the musical pair are shot up into the sky as the air is released from the goat's body. At one point, Bosko desperately clings to the goat's udder, and is shot in the face with a barrage of milk! Bosko slips and falls into the brick wall that the mice were building earlier. He breaks into six tiny little Boskos, who dance about as the song finishes, and with the climax of the song, Bosko pulls himself together, and tips his hat to Honey! Iris out!

It's easy enough to look at some of these Bosko films and tear them apart for their simplicity and spareness, not to mention that they rarely make advance technically during the series. There are truly no plots to most of them; merely excuses for the happy, happy Bosko and Honey to cavort about and la-la-la their way through songs, or get in fixes that are then solved with cavorting about and la-la-la-ing their way through songs. (Not a lot of actual lyrics are sung.) But, there is so much charm at work here, and any one of the films has enough truly weird moments in them to make their viewing a pleasure. It is also fun to watch Warner Bros. get up on their feet as a studio (not to mention the early work of then-animator and nascent director Friz Freleng) so historically there is much to muse on in each picture. And, of course, given the pre-Code period, a fun level of raunchiness, even if one has to absorb a certain amount of non-PC references from time to time.

As for the ravenous caprin problem, it seems to me very illogical to allow a cartoon goat on a construction site, even if the building is apparently being put up by a barnyard animal collective. At least keep the creature in the scrap metal bin, with the lock on the outside of the door. As a matter of fact, you really couldn't have any sort of door on a scrap metal bin with a cartoon goat in it, because she would just eat the hinges or the bolts and get out anyway. What you need to do is build four walls too high for the goat to leap over (put her in through use of an airlift, crane, trebuchet, or simpy build the walls around her) and then let her go at it.

Anything to keep the mutant goat problems of the future from even starting...

Hold Anything (Warner Bros. Looney Tunes, 1930) Dir: Hugh Harman & Rudolf Ising
Cel Bloc Rating: 7

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