Today’s short, from 1960, is one of the rare Gerald Ray-produced Popeye shorts. The direction is credited to Tom McDonald. There’s no story credit given. I can offer a small content warning: at two points in the story Poopdeck Pappy tells a tall tale about fighting “Injuns”. If this seems slight enough not to bother you let us proceed with Jeopardy Sheriff.
I mentioned the other day the curse of competence to tend to be boring. It doesn’t have to be, though. Nothing has to be boring. Here, Gerald Ray studios puts together another variation on the Poopdeck-Pappy-gets-in-a-fix plot. It’s got a nice energy to it, and enough action. Someone experienced with stories might not be surprised by the plot developments. But surprise isn’t necessary to stories.
We start with Poopdeck Pappy telling an enthraleld Swee’pea a tall tale about being a sheriff. He backs into Popeye, who “if I told you twice I told you once” doesn’t want Swee’Pea raised that way. Pappy goes off to sulk while Popeye tells a “nice, true fairy tale” to Swee’Pea. On the TV, there’s a report of a bank robbery and of a weird old sailor claiming to be Sheriff Poopdeck Pappy interfering. Popeye knows what happens any time Pappy gets out of eyesight.
The bank robbers — none of them Brutus, this time — have Pappy captured. In the chaos, Popeye’s able to free Pappy, who rides on the back of the getaway car to the gangster’s hideout. Pappy’s captured again, as is the pursuing Popeye. And worse, the gang has a pickpocket who snatches Popeye’s spinach! Pappy’s able to snatch a gun, shoot open Popeye’s spinach, eat it, and punch the whole gang into jail. With his skill proven Popeye is happy to listen to Pappy’s tall tales again.
You can tell how Popeye’s not the protagonist here by how he doesn’t bust up, or want to bust up, the bank robbery. He’s totally able to eat his spinach and punch the robbers from the Left Bank all the way to City Jail if he had the power to drive the narrative. But Pappy’s got it, even if Popeye might have more screen time.
No complains here about story structure. Or pacing. If you’re tired of the American Cornball comedy style you might not like the opening scene where Pappy slowly backs up into Popeye while warning about not letting ’em get behind you. But if you like that style, or if you don’t know how that setup must pay off, then it’s a well-constructed joke that only gets better the longer it builds. And there are a lot of nice bits of small silliness, things that the cartoon doesn’t need but is better for. Popeye opening the story of Goldilocks by talking about the three bears, “Moe, Sam, Lefty, and George”, and while you might count four, “those are the bear facts”. Popeye bursting in to the bank robbers crying out “Don’t touch a hair on that old grey head” — I trust it’s a Barbara Fritchie reference — mirrored by his bursting into the gang’s hideout with “don’t touch a head of that old grey hair”. The TV news reporter also drinking a cup of coffee, which I assume refers to something someone in 1960 would recognize. Even good little word manglings, like crying out “are ya comin’ peaceably or do I have to use forceps?”
All told, yes, a competent cartoon, done with enough flair to be pleasant.