Friday, June 16, 2006

IN MY MERRY OLDSMOBILE (1930)

In my post yesterday about A Ride For Cinderella, the car-ad-toon pushing Chevy coaches on an unsuspecting public (but only if they don't watch the opening credits), I mentioned how the Chief Gnome must be some sort of licensed peeping tom, judging from all of the spying that he does throughout both that film and its predecessor, A Coach For... hmm, I forget who it was for... So, what is it with cartoons built around automobiles and the need to peep in on people? At least the Chief Gnome was spying out of concern for that chick who had to get home by midnight -- the peeping tom in the Fleischer Sing-A-Long short from 1931, In My Merry Oldsmobile, is a Grade-A, down-the-line pervo who is desperate to get a look at a less-than-average lady named Lucille.

Supposedly locked in the safety of her home, Lucille only wants to undress so she may ready herself to go out, but the aforementioned cad, dressed in the classic finery of a melodrama villain, does a Mysterious Mose-crawl up to her window and peers just over the sill. She slams the blind down, but the cuckoo in her clock has an eye for the ladies, as well. After he wolfwhistles her, she slaps the little lecher's door shut and puts a lock on the clock. "Shame on you!", she barks at the little bird, and then returns to her changing. The villain, voiced by resident Fleischer antagonist Gus Wickie (he of Bluto fame), gets an eyeful as Lucille starts to pull a series of dresses over her head. As he enters the hallway to the house to arrive at her door, she reaches the final dress, while stating, "Yes, we girls have our troubles!" Where once she was seemingly overweight, after the removal of a couple dozen layers of clothes, she stands revealed in her undergarments as a rather busty though shapely woman. Removing a cage from a trap laid with cheese for a mouse, she slaps it on her rear for use as a bustle. (The mouse immediately takes the cheese, of course.) While she finishes dressing, outside her door, the villain tries to get a good look through her keyhole. A man in a painting next to him stretches over from his frame and asks, "What are you lookin' at?" The villain turns the painting around, and the man's back now faces out.

The villain starts to pound on the door, yelling "Open up!" When she asks who it is, he smashes through the middle of the door, leaving the frame intact, and says "It is I!" "Oh, it's you," she shudders, though somewhat nonchalantly. The creep removes a skeleton key from his pocket and turns to lock the door (even though there is a huge hole through the center of it); he then swallows the key to keep her (supposedly) from leaving. Just when you think that he will grab her for a good villainous kidnapping (which, in the villain's lexicon, constitutes "romance"), he adds a new twist to the process by singing the title song to the cartoon:

"Come away with me, Lucille,
In my great big Oldsmobile!
Down the road of life we'll fly,
Auto-mo-bubbling, you and I!
To the church we'll swiftly steal,
Then our wedding bells will peal.
You can go as far as you like with me
In my great big Oldsmobile!"

While he sings, he tries to go as far as he can with her before even getting to the Oldsmobile. He paws her, pulls her chin, kisses her arm (an act which pulls his teeth out as he sings the punnish "auto-mo-bubbling" line), and rests his elbow on her bustle. She struggles against his advances all the way, though with one very noticeable exception: he offers her a large peppermint stick, and when she tries to lick it, the stripes move away teasingly before her tongue can reach them. She tries it again and fails the second time. Finally, she takes a huge bite out of the stick, then a second, and then the third bite she manages to nip his hand. His response is just to give her a huge bear-hug, and she punches him to the floor, screaming "Oh, my operation!" Lucille responds to him with her own version of the song:

"Go away, you big baboon,
Or I'll knock for you for a roll and you can make it soon!
You're the type that should be taken out and drowned!
You give me an awful pain when you're around!
When I wanna take a little auto ride around the town,
I'll take out the kind of guy that doesn't always try to clown!
You can pack your little trunk
And get in that rusty pile of junk
That you try to pass off as an automobile!"

While she replies, she throws anything she can at the villain's head: dishes, plates, jars, vases, bottles of ink and perfume -- anything. At one point, the villain adusts his hat with his curly mustache before getting up to defend himself. There is also a classical statue of a shotputter in her abode that comes to life and ducks a couple of her thrown objects, ending up in a slightly adjusted position than it was before. When she sings about the better "kind of guy" she desires, a pint-sized romeo shows up at her door and sees what is going on. Instead of walking through the opening, he he continues the gag by wrestling with the door knob. When it doesn't give way, he runs and smashes in the door frame. He tries to take a swing at the three-times-his-size villain, but the cad holds him at bay by blowing him away. The runt responds by walking up the villain's back, and as he punches his way up, the villain turns into a black set of stairs. Lucille's hero grabs her and jumps out the window with her, depositing her in the front seat of his own Oldsmobile, though he ends up hanging from a tree branch.

The film then moves to the bouncing ball section, wherein the lyrics are displayed for the whole audience to sing along. Instead of a black screen behind them, though, this time we are graced with old film footage of a young couple taking a ride in the country in an old auto. When they reach the end of the chorus, the young man plants a kiss on the girl, and her swift response is to slap him across the face. Then the verse and chorus are recounted again, but this time with the animated return of Lucille's day out with her new swain. He pushes on her bustle to get her in the car, and he has to spit on his hands to finish the job. They run over a chicken in the road, and the bird hobbles off on a crutch. A sleeping pig is woken up by the auto's horn, but when she runs off, she leaves a quartet of hungry piglets behind. They wake up, realize that their food source has disappeared, and march off in formation.

When the words to the chorus arrive, the hero bounces and flips over them in place of the little white ball. Eventually, Lucille returns and crashes into him with the car. The next line about flying down the road of life shows the hero in the form of an angel, and he plucks at each paragraph in the line as if playing a harp. The "auto-mo-bubbling" line, which floats to the top of the screen in bubbles (naturally), gets obliterated one syllable at a time with the poke of a pin. The last bubble turns out to be Lucille's bottom, and she gets poked, much to her surprise. (It would probably happen in the car eventually anyway...) The hero returns in the guise of a robber for the "stealing to the church" line; he picks up a church and there is a policeman lying in wait for him. He bangs across some pots and pans during the "wedding bells" line, and then he tries to "go as far" as he likes with Lucille, though discreetly, behind a beach umbrella, but he gets slapped out of the line.

The song ends, and Lucille and the hero head to the church. After some swift "O.K.'s" are passed around between the trio of participants, the minister pronounces them man and wife, and rings a bell behind him on the wall. As it is a boxing bell, and as this is a Fleischer cartoon, where surrealism is the order of the day, it should come as no surprise that the newlyweds are suddenly wearing boxing gloves and are surrounded by an entire boxing ring, complete with ropes. They start throwing punches at each other, and the minister mumbles something about "No fighting in the clinches there." Iris out.

So, what does it take to sell cars in the 1930's to movie patrons? Apparently, kinky sex. The Cinderella films had that weird gnome-horsehopper relationship going on and that odd scene where the Chief Gnome measures in great detail the various body parts of the heroine. But this film goes overboard: here we've got voyeurism, stripping, kidnapping, nibbling, cleavage shots, simulated fellatio (and the peppermint bit also smacks of little-girl role-playing), nearly nude statuary (thus, porn), and with the boxing scene and teasing faceslaps, sado-masochism. What's not to love? The only drawback is that the voluptuous Betty Boop is not in the lead role. She was born the same year, and it's a shame that they didn't try her out in this, though the point of this film was to sell cars. Judging from the multitude of flesh on display in auto magazines and films these days, it certainly wasn't the last time that sex would be used to move cars off the lot. Call it "auto"-eroticism in its infancy. No, not that sort of auto-eroticism.

Speaking of which, Jen had better get home awfully soon. Perhaps I should stick to more innocent cartoons from here on out. What's this in the pile here? Red Hot Riding Hood?

Oops...

In My Merry Oldsmobile (Max Fleischer Studios in conjuntion with Olds Motor Works, 1930)
Director: Dave Fleischer
Cel Bloc Rating: 6

No comments: