21 August 2010

Rare Fleischer Talkartoon Found (A Shameless Plug)

Every major cartoon studio has rare and lost films to its name. Nitrate deteriorates; 16mm gets vinegar syndrome. "Duplicate" prints are cast away without careful inspection of the "master" element. Often the only source researchers know for a given title is an element that's inaccessible or unscreenable. Several Max Fleischer shorts fall into this category, preserved only in noncirculating master copies at various archives. Occasionally new prints are made from these masters. But not all the time.

Luckily, new sources for rare films occasionally turn up—and with help from a few friends, I've presented several here in their entirety. Today, though, we've got a Ramapith first—a surviving rare cartoon that I'm not going to show you all of! (Hey, hold off on the rocks and socks a minute...)

Ace of Spades (1931) is a Talkartoon with a difference. Other Fleischer shorts included some soundtrack elements derived from pre-existing recordings, but this one invokes Southern and African-American vaudeville discs almost all the way from start to finish. Earlier text sources claim we're hearing the actual records on the soundtrack; as I perceive it, it's more likely that the Fleischer studio carefully re-recorded the songs and lyrics, as each has been reworded slightly to match the cartoon's poker-playing theme. "Push Them Cards Away," for example, was originally the minstrel tune "Push Dem Clouds Away" (cover by Harry C. Browne, 1917):

So why can't I show you all of Ace today?

Ace was recently acquired, in the print excerpted below, by my longtime colleague Tom Stathes—and he'll be "re-premiering" it this Friday, August 27, at "Travelaffs," the latest installment of his Cartoon Carnival screening series. If I gave the whole cartoon away, I'd be scooping him. I can, on the other hand, help plug him!

"Travelaffs" will reveal the four corners of the world as they never were: with Looney Tunes, Van Beuren, Ub Iwerks, Dick Huemer and others taking you to Italy, China, bull-infested Spain, and the politically incorrect Congo. Ace of Spades, with card sharp Bimbo out to win a poker tournament and "buy [him]self a ticket to the sunny South," fits right in with the program.

Near New York? You can fit in, too. Check out "Travelaffs," Tom Stathes Cartoon Carnival #6—where the lost will be found.

Update, August 30: We got a nice, fat turnout. Thanks a lot, friends.

09 August 2010

On With the Show (Thanks, Toby)

With the dog days of summer having passed Chihuahua and moved on to Rottweiler, my work schedule is getting a little less hectic—and some comics projects due out in the winter are finally being put to bed. So who knew? I'm back to my blog after a little too long.

This wouldn't be Ramapith, of course, if I didn't get things moving with a rarity—and here's one so rare that it's only partly survived over the years. Carrying on the dog theme, it's Dick Huemer's Toby the Pup at his silliest. The Showman (1930) was originally a sound cartoon, but seems only to exist today as a silent print; quite a pity, as it's obviously a high-energy musical short about singing and dancing on stage. I've created the most appropriate replacement score possible by chaining together bits of other Joe De Nat Mintz scores—and a music hall tune, and one snippet from a non-Mintz score. Can you identify them?

(We're also missing some opening scenes of audiences arriving at the theatre, but I didn't have time to sit down at a light table and redraw those. Mea culpa.)

I may not be able to blog as often as I did last fall, but I'm hoping to be back before long with some more cool discoveries. Keep your fingers crossed for me... all four of them. Even if you're wearing thick white gloves.