Shrunken Cinema/Termite Terrace/Book Revue

From Eccentric Flower

Book Revue

1945

Summary: After hours in a bookstore, characters from various books interact, perform songs, make trouble, et cetera.

Director: Bob Clampett

Writer: Warren Foster

Featuring: Daffy Duck.

Onreel

0:17 For some years this cartoon appeared in rerelease with a title card (as part of the Blue Ribbon open) that incorrectly said "Book Review." The joke is meant to be that it is not just a book review but also a revue, e.g. a performance of various musical numbers and skits. The Golden Collection version has restored the correct title card. Sound cue: "She Broke My Heart In Three Places."

0:31 The facade of "Ye Booke Shoppe" is realistic enough that it was probably rotoscoped. Sound cue: "Moonlight Sonata."

0:43 The last book cover we pan past before cutting to the cuckoo clock is the "Life and Times" of one Bugs Bunny.

0:57 Shakespeare's "works" are literal. Sound cue: "My Grandfather's Clock."

1:03 Young Man With a Horn by Dorothy Baker, a fictionalized retelling of the life of Bix Beiderbecke. However this character is not Beiderbecke but Harry James, who performs a trumpet obbligato and then segues into "It Had To Be You."

1:14 The most likely real candidate for this book is The Cherokee Strip: A Tale of an Oklahoma Boyhood by Marquis James, which came out the same year as this cartoon. The author's name on the book spine doesn't match any authors of any books with that title, but who's looking at the book spine during this sequence anyway?

1:18 "The Whistler" was not a book, but a famous radio show and later a series of movies.

1:22 The Sea Wolf by Jack London. The sailor's howl turns almost unintelligibly into "How old is she?" at the end. See The Big Snooze.

1:27 Shakespeare is now awake and leering.

1:31 This Henry VIII, unlike the one in Have You Got Any Castles?, is based facially on Charles Laughton's film portrayal of him in 1933. Not that he holds still enough to tell.

1:39 Ma Aldrich from the radio show "The Aldrich Family" calls "Henry ... Henry the Eighth!" and he replies "Coming, Mother" in an echo of the opening to the radio program. See also the Henry Fonda gag in Hollywood Steps Out.

1:54 "Frankie!" Frank Sinatra appears. For comments on Sinatra's depiction here, see Offreel. The Voice in the Wilderness, which is a Biblical reference, gets so many divergent search results that I'm not going to attempt to figure out if it referred to a specific contemporaneous book. Notice the airbrush-stenciled actual book pages in the background, a unique visual feature of this cartoon.

2:04 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, here full of swooning bobbysoxers.

2:09 Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter, an old chestnut that is very seldom read today. (By the by, Gene was female, but Freckles was male.)

2:14 Girls' Dormitory is not a book but a reference to a 1936 film of that name.

2:23 The author of the "Famous Paintings" book where Whistler's Mother (Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother by James McNeill Whistler) sits is shown as "Clampett," the director.

2:27 Lady in the Dark refers to a 1944 film of a Kurt Weill musical of that name.

2:31 I can't find any contemporary book, movie, or anything called Brass. After our advisory panel consulted several pages of images, we have concluded that this trombonist is more likely to be Tommy Dorsey (who had more of a hooked nose) than Glenn Miller.

2:35 Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter Edmonds. The Indian turns into Gene Krupa (notice GK on drum kit).

2:41 "The Pie-Eyed Piper" is Benny Goodman. The mice yell "Yay, Benny!"

2:47 Dorsey slides his slide under W.C. Fields' nose.

2:49 The "Arkansas Traveler" is not a specific caricature but a generic hillbilly stereotype. "Arkansas Traveler" is not a film or book, but a song, one which turns up in a great number of these cartoons as a sound cue - but, ironically, not in this one. (See Hillbilly Hare.)

2:52 To the right of Daffy we see the spine of "Invisible Man: A Biography of Robert Clampett" by "Ann Anymous" (anonymous). This was Clampett's last cartoon for Warner, as noted Offreel, and it's possible he was a mite disgruntled with his job. See comments on Clampett on the Directors page.

2:59 Saratoga Trunk by Edna Ferber, or the 1945 film adaptation of it.

3:03 Hudson's Bay is here probably a reference to the 1941 film about the founding of the Hudson's Bay Company.

3:10 "Stop!" Daffy lands in front of "Danny Boy." You may take your pick whether the reference is to the 1934 film, the 1941 film, or just the song (the 1946 film hadn't come along quite yet). At any rate the actual cue here is that Daffy is about to do his Danny Kaye imitation. The fake-Russian schtick, full of malapropisms ("happy peoples sitting on their balalaikas, playing their samovars") was from one of Kaye's popular routines. Sound cue during the monologue: "Ochi Chyornye."

3:38 "So round, so firm, so fully-packed" is a reference to a famous Lucky Strike cigarette slogan.

3:53 People elsewhere have wondered if the plain red background as Daffy mangles "La Cucaracha" means this was an insert, but I think it's just Clampett using the background (or lack of it) as punctuation while Daffy hollers. Note that Daffy drops his Danny Kaye imitation briefly during this bit as well.

4:04 Despite his mangled pronunciation, Daffy is actually singing the correct lyrics to "Carolina in the Morning" - and he sings enough of it that one wonders if Warner held the rights at that time.

4:50 The scat apparently is also a reference to Danny Kaye material.

5:19 The "giant eyeball" take is possibly the most extreme of the many extreme takes Clampett ever did. This gag was referenced in a "Tiny Toon Adventures" cartoon years later, where Plucky Duck attempts the take and gets stuck in the pose.

5:23 Hopalong Cassidy, cowboy hero of fiction, film, and comic books.

5:25 Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Sound cue: overture from "Light Cavalry." A portion of this sequence was censored from some airings (notably, on Cartoon Network showings in the USA) due to Daffy emerging from the cabin dressed as a "mammy."

5:30 Forest sound cue: "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree."

5:40 Petrified Forest is a 1936 film of a 1935 Robert Sherwood play.

5:47 "Police Gazette" was a tabloid ostensibly of police interest but often an excuse for lurid material, sometimes verging on pornographic. The logo in the cartoon is a very close copy of the actual Police Gazette logotype.

5:53 There are far too many possibilities for the old cliché "The long arm of the law" to point to a specific one here.

5:58 Everyone knows "Life" was a magazine, but modern viewers may not be aware that "Judge" was as well - a satirical publication which ran from 1881 to 1947. The dialogue in this section, especially the wolf's protest ("You can't do this to me/I'm a citizen, see") is sung to the tune of the sextet from "Lucia di Lammermoor."

6:17 Escape likely refers to either a 1930 or a 1940 film of that title. The font suggests the 1940 film.

6:20 So Big by Edna Ferber is here used for a joke on the size of Jimmy Durante's nose. (In Have You Got Any Castles? it was Greta Garbo's feet.)

6:23 The wolf slides down Skid Row into Dante's Inferno. I can't find any blatant indications of a specific "Skid Row" book or film of the time, and the phrase was common slang (especially on the West Coast) for any run-down section of town.

6:47 "Stop That Dancing Up There!" was a popular song of 1944. The "ya sillies" is probably a joke on Joe Besser's "sissy" schtick. The "beyoop!" noise on the iris-out is a recurring Clampett hallmark.

Offreel

This cartoon was named one of the "fifty greatest cartoons" in a vote of 1000 animation professionals in 1994.

Comparing this cartoon to Have You Got Any Castles? is entertaining. This is Bob Clampett's attempt to totally take apart the "books come to life" genre of Warner cartoon (apparently there were several, although I personally haven't seen any other than these two). It seems clear that Clampett was using "Have You Got Any Castles?" as his jumping-off point. Correspondences:

  • Cuckoo clock (Clampett's is drunk)
  • Whistler's Mother (Clampett adds a reference to "The Whistler" as well)
  • Little Women
  • Henry VIII
  • Drums Along the Mohawk
  • So Big
  • "The Pied Piper"

It's unclear whether its wildness was just Clampett being Clampett, or whether it was because he knew he was leaving and had nothing to lose (this was his last credited cartoon; The Big Snooze was actually his last Warner cartoon, but his name was not in its credits).

Many years later, this cartoon was the direct inspiration for the Animaniacs "Video Review" short. Like this cartoon, it begins with random gags on various books (videotapes, in the latter case) and eventually coalesces into the heroes trying to defeat/escape an antagonist.

It's never been clear to me why Clampett made Sinatra sickly and in a wheelchair. He was certainly a skinny fellow back then, but I can't find any evidence that he was particularly infirm. It may just be an exaggeration of his physique, or it may be a comment on the fact that Sinatra did not fight in WWII due to being found 4F (which many who did go to war resented, and some even alleged that he had paid to obtain the exemption).

The sextet from "Lucia di Lammermoor" also makes an appearance in Back Alley Oproar and in Long-Haired Hare.

The only voice credits I can find say that Mel Blanc did all the male voices and Sara Berner all the female ones. As much as I admire Blanc's range, though, I find it difficult to believe he did the Sinatra imitation.

« Termite Terrace

Personal tools
eccentric flower
fiction