Betty Boop: Hollywood On Parade

Previously entered as the first Betty Boop cartoons:

Last week I showed off Betty Boop’s first live-action appearance. She had a second, with a new actor. This second person to play Betty Boop in person was Bonnie Poe, who would also voice the character in animation from 1933 through 1938. If I am reading the release dates correctly, this live-action short is the first time her version of Betty Boop was heard. So I cover two Betty Boop firsts at once.

This is an installment of the Hollywood On Parade series, in which Paramount pointed the camera at its stars puttering around. They might be doing it in character, they might be doing a sketch, they might just be trying to further the illusion that every celebrity is pals with every other celebrity. This one is more of a sketch.

Last week’s Musical Justice short was one that could easily have been a cartoon. This week is even more so. Indeed, it’s been cartoons by all the major studios. The scene opens on a Hall Of Fame, and the wax museum figures come to life in that identity-challenging way that wax museum figures do. In a stunning plot twist replicated only in every Betty Boop cartoon ever, a menacing figure kidnaps Betty and it’s the responsibility of the bland pleasant male lead to rescue her.

Before watching, I must warn: there’s some ethnic humor in the middle, about 5:20 in. I love this era of filmmaking but I don’t see why they found that kind of humor irresistible.

The bland pleasant male figure made the protagonist is Eddie Borden, a celebrity I don’t feel bad about calling obscure. He was in the Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business, the Internet Movie Database tells me. I don’t remember what part he played in it, but I’m sure he was funny, because for crying out loud even Zeppo was funny in Monkey Business. He also appeared in several Laurel and Hardy movies, though again, I don’t recognize the parts.

The short looks ready to follow a straightforward plot as Bela Lugosi’s Dracula wakes, abducts Betty, and then vanishes, and Borden pursues her. It’s easy to imagine the six-minute cartoon that would be made of this plot. They’d surely have wandered through sets and tried to pick up more characters, as done here. I’m willing to suppose audiences at the original release (the 10th of March, 1933) had a better chance than I have of recognizing stars like Charles Murray and George Sidney. They’re the Safari-I-Guess guys who do a vaguely-Abbot-and-Costello bit and join Eddie Borden. (Murray you might, possibly, know as the Wizard in the unfortunate Larry Semon-produced 1925 Wizard of Oz movie.) But would the animated version of this end with Gayne Whitman as Chandu the Magician?

Possibly. Nonsensical endings were not unknown at the Fleischer Studios. But I admit I don’t get this conclusion. From the way it reads Chandu seems to be the villain of the piece, which seems out of character, but then what is the ending supposed to be?

It’s a curious short. Bela Lugosi and Clara Bow are celebrities famous enough they’re still recognizable. Don’t tell me if I’m wrong. Bonnie Poe is at least recognizable to vintage animation fans. The other celebrities are at least well-connected. It takes longer to get through its points than the animated version would, possibly just because they had ten minutes to fill instead of six. And it shows how easily one could do a Betty Boop cartoon in live action, leaving only the question of why they didn’t do it more?

Poising For Success

I don’t want to sound like one of those people who’s averse to making money by blogging. Actually, I think the idea is a pretty good one and if I can’t make money myself by blogging then I’d like to see it done by someone like me, keeping in mind as ever that there are few people who are more like me than I am myself. I know two of them.

Also I have to admit that I don’t know who these people are who are averse to making money by blogging, but apparently there’s a lot of them, since pretty much everybody who starts following my blog turns out to be writing about how other people can make money while blogging. I suppose everybody in the world has to know something that I don’t, even if it isn’t just what the back of my neck looks like, so what the heck. Maybe I need to figure out what’s needed to make money while blogging.

If I understand what I see properly, the most important thing is search engines. I had always thought search engines were these shadowy corporations in thrall to the surveillance state and working hard to divert queries like “who invented photocopiers” into investigations of “are sloths ticklish?” and DeviantArt pictures showing what the Signing of the Declaration of Independence would look like if everybody in it were Care Bears and “if sloths are ticklish how long does it take them to laugh?”. Maybe I’m not using it right, but the point is, I figured that if you were around, sooner or later a search engine would find you, and the search engine would get some money for it, and you would not.

But apparently that isn’t enough, and you have to get yourself optimized, so that a search engine has a chance of finding you. I think a search engine that can’t find me isn’t trying very hard. I stick around the house most of the time and don’t do a lot of travelling, and even if I’m somewhere unexpected I can be picked out as the person who clearly picked his own clothes without thinking about the fact that other people were going to have to see me dressed like that. If you can’t find me, surrounded by people who are wincing and not looking too directly at my shirt, then nothing I do to optimize is going to help. Of course, I’m not the one making money at this, so maybe Google is earning its vast profits by helping people to pretend they haven’t noticed me. I guess we all feel like that some days.

Another piece is that I have to give some way of classifying everybody into one of the major characters from The Wizard of Oz. I don’t doubt the benefits of classifying everybody, since I’ve been on the Internet long enough to know one of the most popular activities on it is protesting that you were put into the wrong group by some web site’s classification scheme and making sure all your friends know about it so they can be classified wrongly too. About the only thing people like better is taking dialect quizzes, because people love to think about how they’re the only ones who deploy the English language sensibly and everybody else is crazy, but classification pages give you more repeat readers because people have already heard about the soda/pop division and they’re getting kind of tired of “in line” versus “on line”.

What I don’t know is why it has to be The Wizard of Oz. I mean, I know the obvious, that we all think what it would be like to be the Tin Man visiting the Emerald City and have a huge circular feather duster rubbing the backs of our knees to a rich shine, but can that really be enough for everyone? I mean except for the people who’re looking to be grabbed by enraged apple trees. Maybe that’s the categorization I can use for my fortune: which Wizard of Oz characters figure everyone can be sorted into groups of Wizard of Oz characters based on what scenes and which ones don’t. Yes, I suppose that will do it.

After that I guess I have to make a whole bunch of tweets in which I say I wrote this thing, and if you don’t go looking at it enough to make me rich then I have to tweet it again. That’s going to be really hard. I hate making a spectacle like that.

The Mysteries of Modern Recording

So I’m trying to quite rationalize the existence of this Hanna-Barbera record that I picked up at the record show the other day. Did someone at Hanna-Barbera Master Command suddenly sit, bolt-upright, in bed one day and say, “Good heavens, it’s 1977! We have got to have Snagglepuss retell the story of The Wizard Of Oz!” And then someone sits bolt-upright next to him and says, “You’re right! And we better have Wilma Flintstone tell the story of Bambi!” And then someone else — this is getting to be a pretty wide bed, perhaps used for conference retreats — says, “This project is doomed to failure unless Augie Doggie and Doggy Daddy recount Pinocchio!” And then another person says, “What about Magilla Gorilla recounting Alice in Wonderland?” and gets shouted down because that last is just a ridiculous idea?

Improbable? Sure. But what’s the alternative? Someone racing down the hallway and bursting into the dark conference table where William Hanna and Joe Barbera sit around, fretting about how they could recapture the magic of The Banana Splits (“What if they’re roller-skating birds?”) and working out just how to make a movie about Kiss (“What if they have superpowers and are fighting evil robot Kiss duplicates created by a mad scientist trying to take over the world from the comfort of his amusement park?”), and crying out, “Do you know what Daws Butler and Jean Vander Pyl just did?” And they listen, horrified, and say, “Well, slap some Jonny Quest music under the Bambi and Pinocchio tracks and ship it as a record!” and hope that this will turn out well? Is that really more plausible?

These are all questions I feel I cannot answer.

Comics and, well, more comics

Over on my mathematics blog is another review of comic strips that touch mathematics themes, including one joke that I didn’t get at the time and a commenter had to explain to me. If you’re not so interested in that, then, Working Daze has over the past couple weeks continued with its mock history, bringing the strip closer to the present and to comics that people who aren’t steeped in the field’s lore are more likely to recognize.

Finally, Peter Maresca’s Origins of the Sunday Comics last week had a bit of a novelty, a bit of W W Denslow-illustrated, L Frank Baum-written adventure of Dorothy in Oz. It’s hard to explain quite how big Oz was, when it originally came out; I’ve heard it argued that the worldwide fame of Harry Potter is the only thing that comes close, and that seems plausible enough. This is a bit of that enormous early influence. I’m sorry the text is hard to read, but I haven’t any control over that. If you hold the cursor over the middle of the comic, once it’s loaded, you should get an icon of a magnifying glass that lets you zoom in so it’s at least a little less awfully compressed, but it could still be better.