Saturday, 7 September 2013

Snooper and Blabber — Observant Servants

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Ed Love; Layout – Paul Sommer; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Light Fingers François, Butler, Irish Cop – Daws Butler; Hazel, Mrs. Lavishly – Jean Vander Pyl; J.P. Lavishly, Parakeet, Insurance Agent, Bakery Clerk – Don Messick.
Music: Phil Green, Jack Shaindlin, Harry Bluestone-Emil Cadkin.
First Aired: 1960-61 season.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-032, Production J-90.
Plot: Snooper and Blabber guard the Boon De Ay Tiara.

Yowp note: My thanks to Negrila Silvian who supplied some much better screen grabs for this cartoon 14 months after this was originally posted.

In his book “Chuck Amuck,” Chuck Jones relates a tale involving Mike Maltese as a boy in New York’s downtrodden Lower East Side dismissing the importance of wealth and station to some visiting society matrons from the Upper West Side. If it really happened, perhaps it prepared Maltese’s mind to write the lines in this cartoon spoken by Mrs. J.P. Lavishly after her birthday present was grabbed by a hand inside a cake.

Mrs J.P.:: Oh, my expensive gift. It’s gone. Get someone to scream for me.
J.P.: Don’t worry, my dear. It’s heavily insured.

All the while, they maintain their stiff, upper-crust reserve as if it’s beneath them to behave otherwise.

That little exchange may be the best one in the cartoon, but Maltese comes up with some other fun things in his story that make you overlook the dead spots. The idea of a guy disguised as a birthday cake for most of the cartoon is suitably off-centre and I still think it’s a stroke of punny genius to name the jewelled crown the Boon De Ay Tiara. There’s more silly dialogue in the scene with the predictably Irish cop (which ends in a predictable way) and Don Messick tosses in his voice inspired by Frank Nelson’s floorwalker on the Jack Benny radio show.

Light Fingers François is back as Snooper and Blabber’s adversary. Just like in “Desperate Diamond Dimwits,” he’s in disguise for much of the cartoon. He never appeared again after this cartoon.

The first scene is the weakest, though I like Prowl Cycle that Paul Sommer designed. It’s a bicycle built for two, except Blab can’t reach down to the pedals. It’s a not-great dialogue with Snoop’s secretary Hazel via a radio-telephone and the most amusing part may be when Hazel’s parakeet sneezes then thanks Snooper for saying “Gesundheit.” Snooper and Blabber ride past the same pair of brown buildings with lamp standards on either side 15 times before Sommer cuts to a close-up shot of Snoop.

The second scene is in the office of the All Out Insurance Company (a shame Maltese didn’t try some kind of pun on All State’s “good hands” motto) where Snoop agrees to go undercover with Blab as butler and maid to guard the tiara from Light Fingers François. No real gags; it just sets up the opening shot of the third scene where Blab is dressed as a maid and the houseman lets the two of them into the Lavishly mansion. Blab remains in drag for the rest of the cartoon.

The next scene opens with a long shot of J.P. Lavishly and his wife at the dinner table. It’s a long table and both are seated far apart from each other at either end. Lavishly rings for Snooper and asks him to take a birthday package to his wife. “Oh, J.P., you remembered!” gushes the wife. “I hope it’s expensive.” That’s when Blab brings in the cake and sings an off-key birthday song. It’s amazing how strong Blab is. He can lift the cake over his head with one hand even though François is inside. Of course, we don’t know that until François’ hand comes out of the cake and grabs the boxed gift and runs off. Snoop’s catchphrase this time: “Stop, thief, in the name of the Private Eye Group Insurance Plan!” Blab agrees because the high heels are killing him.

Now we get the Sceptical Hanna-Barbera Irish Cop scene. You know how this plays out. Snooper gives explanation. Cop makes fun of him. Cop suddenly discovers it’s true. Cop is shaken and mutters something to himself. Fade out. This time the cop facetiously says: “Say, how would you like to come along with me and see an apple strudel that speaks Portuguese?” “Gee, that sounds like fun,” says the clueless Blab. Suddenly, the cop is lifted into the air by François; he’s standing on a manhole cover under which the crook has been hiding. The cop lands with a thud and the birthday cake runs away. “Sure it’s meself who’ll be talkin’ Portuguese to that apple strudel,” the cop says to himself and skips away, having been turned into a mental case.

Cut to a drawing of a bakery shop, then back to the running Snooper and Blabber. “We’ve got him colder than a frozen custard pie, Blab,” says Snoop. By the way, the music playing underneath is Phil Green’s “Custard Pie Capers.”

“Take your pick,” says the bakery clerk, enthusiastic about the store’s selection of birthday cakes. Snooper’s actually pretty clever. “I’ll take me pick with this pick,” he says, and jabs each cake until he shoves the pointy blade into the cake where François is hiding. Snoop has him “dead to lefts and rights.” Well, not really. François tosses a blueberry pie at Snooper (“it goes good with your complexion”) and dashes off. The clerk is ecstatic. “Did we bake that cake? Ooooo! Aren’t we clever?”

Bill Hanna was no doubt delighted with the “folly that birthday cake” scene. Blabber tells us the cake jumped in a barrel to hide. We never actually see the jumping. The camera cuts to a background drawing of the barrel. But it closes in on the barrel (as indicated on Sommer’s layout perhaps) so there’s some kind of movement. Snooper has been running around all this time with bound sticks of dynamite which he “enlightens.” Kaboom. “[V]iola! No more barrel.” “My dear old mother always said I was a lot of noise,” Pierre tells us. “And she was right.” One wonders if Maltese’s mother told him the same thing once.

Now Snooper’s not so clever. The cartoon winds up with reused animation of Blab carrying the cake (which, somehow wasn’t destroyed in the explosion), reprising his song, but changing the last line.

Blab: Happy birthday, Mrs. J.P! Happy birthday, Mrs. J.P! Although you look like a million, you’re only 56.
Mrs. J.P.: Uh, 55.
Snoop: Leave us face it, Mrs. J.P., you’ll never see 60 again.

Snooper gets the cake tossed in his face by Mrs. Lavishly. It would have been funnier if she commanded her husband to ring for someone to do it, but there wasn’t time left in the story and that would have been more expensive to animate. Blab’s tag line to end the cartoon isn’t even a pun: “Snoop always was a stickler for figures.”

Snooper gets all his catchphrases in. As he doesn’t have a car or go to an office in this one, we don’t see the private eyeball on a door or window or so on.

The sound cutter times the music cues to end when a scene does whether they’re ready or not. You can hear the edit in “Streets of the City” at the end of the first scene. That little solo flute cue appears again; I checked my Q-2 EMI Photoplay discs but can’t find it. Wisely, no music is playing when Blab is singing his birthday song.

0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Curtin, Hanna, Barbera).
0:25 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – Prowl cycle scene.
1:17 - GR-456 DR QUACK (Green) – Insurance office scene.
2:16 - GR-453 THE ARTFUL DODGER (Green) – Blab in heels, scene at door.
2:54 - GR-98 BY JIMINY! IT’S JUMBO BRIDGE No. 2 (Green) – Lavishly and wife in dining room ring.
3:05 - GR-74 POPCORN (Green) – Snoop at door, Blab with cake.
3:25 - No music – Blab sings, puts down cake.
3:36 - CAPERS (Shaindlin) – Hand in cake grabs present, cake runs.
4:11 - CB-85A STEALTHY MOUSE (Cadkin-Bluestone) – Irish cop, lifted up by Francois, crash.
4:55 - GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – “What in the world…” cop goes crazy, Snoop and Blab run.
5:22 - GR-93 DRESSED TO KILL (Green) – Bakery scene, pie in Snoop’s face.
5:53 - “FIREMAN” (Shaindlin) – Pie dripping, Snooper and Blabber run, dynamite explodes, Francois amongst barrel staves.
6:43 - solo flute cue (Green) – Blab walks with cake.
6:47 - No music – Blab sings, puts down cake.
6:54 - GR-76 POPCORN SHORT BRIDGE No. 2 (Green) – Mrs. Lavishly says she’s 55, Snoop insults her, cake tossed in his face.
7:00 - Snooper and Blabber End Title theme (Curtin).


  1. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    Sure I remember of the dialogue involving Snooper (disguised of butler), Blabber (disguised of maid) and the Irish cop (typically New Yorker)!
    At the moment in which the Irish cop said to the twosome who he'd take them to know an apfelstrudel which spoke in Portuguese, I thought that this Irish cop's speech was only quoted in the classical Brazilian Portuguese dubbbing. But, at reading your topic, I could notice that this Irish cop's speech was employed in English.
    Probably, Michael Maltese (who scripted this episode) had an enormous fascination for the Latin stuff.
    It would be cool if you included as reference, at scene in which appears the Irish cop, the scene of the dialogue involving Snooper, Blabber and the cop, more exaclty as you did in the topic of the episode Big Cat Caper, where you included a reference of the scene showing the dialogue among Snooper, the Major and the cop.

  2. Ed Love, who animated this Snooper & Blabber episode, would be involved, at this same season (1960-61), in The Flintstones.

  3. Jean Vander Pyl, Daws Butler and Don Messick were an amazing trio.