Saturday, 22 October 2016

Snagglepuss – Remember Your Lions

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Gil Turner, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Manager – Daws Butler; Major Minor, Mr Leonard, Farnsworth Paradiddle – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Snagglepuss performs on stage while trying to avoid being shot by the Major.

Here’s another great showcase for Snagglepuss’ theatricality, as Mike Maltese’s story takes him from the legitimate stage to small-time vaudeville, along with that fine foil, Major Minor. At one point, Snagglepuss leaves the Major baffled by turning into a late 19th century melodrama villain (complete with cape and top hat) and the cartoon ends with Snagglepuss and the Major arguing over who gets top billing (“That’s show business,” the theatre manager philosophically says to us viewers).

Daws Butler adds to the fun by giving the manager an Ed Sullivan-style voice, while the actor whose feelings are hurt has a design based on the hawk nose of the stage great John Barrymore (designed by Tony Rivera).

Dialogue? Where should we start? Snagglepuss opens the cartoon with a lament (“O, the stings and arrows of sharp fate!”) that he’s been reduced to the part of a trained lion whose owner sticks his head in his mouth. He’s interrupted by actor Farnsworth Paradiddle, who is no longer in the mood to thesp because his dressing room has not been sprayed with eau de cologne.


Paradiddle: I can not go on.
Manager: But the show must go on.
Paradiddle: Oh? Why?
Manager: Because I don’t want to give the audience their money back, what else?

Snagglepuss throws us a switch on a hoary old joke:

Snagglepuss: I, sir, shall replace Farnsworth Paradiddle.
Manager: You? Read Shakespeare?
Snag: Read Shakespeare?! I know Shakespeare backwards. Lis-ten. Eraepsekahs. Eraaaaepsekahs!
Manager (to viewers): Say! That is Shakespeare backwards.

Cut to Major Minor reading the Snagglepuss poster outside the theatre. He zips off scene and immediately returns in his hunting garb. Cut to the next scene with Snagglepuss on stage:

Snagglepuss: A hamlet by any other name is still a ham. He who steals my purse steals cash. About a buck and a half.
Major (raises rifle): By Gadfrey, Shakespeare would thank me for this.
(fires shots)
Manager: Pardon me, sir, but do you have a silencer for that gun?
Major: No, by thunder.
Manager: Then I’m afraid you’ll have to leave, sir.



We’ve had a Hamlet reference. Snagglepuss and the major now turn their attention to a Shakespeare balcony scene. Guess who is Juliette?

Snagglepuss: Major! It’s you!
Major: Yes. Didn’t I shoot you in the Veldt?
Snag: I beg to differentiate. It was below the veldt. I couldn’t sit down for a week.

The sequence ends oddly with the Major shooting and the cartoon fading out. There’s no real punch-line.

Next, a fade-in to the Major and Snagglepuss doing an old double, vaudeville style.


Snagglepuss: A funny thing happened to me on the way to the theatre.
Major: You don’t say. What happened to you on the way to the theatre?
Snag: A panhandler asked me for $10 for a cup of coffee.
Major: $10? Isn’t that a lot of money for a cup of coffee?
Snag: Well, he said he was a heavy tipper. Heh heh heh hehh. Get it?
Major: By Gadfrey, I get it. And now, by Joe Miller, you’re going to get it.

Snagglepuss tells the audience not to be worried explaining, much in the manner of Daffy Duck in a Chuck Jones cartoon of the later ‘50s, by the time the Major is set to fire his gun again, he’ll be miles away. The spiel takes so long the Major has time to blast Snagglepuss in the head.



In the next sequence, Snagglepuss delves into the old Warner Bros. bag of tricks by pretending to be an old melodrama villain, demanding a mortgage payment from a “poor but honest farmer” (the Major). Unlike the pre-1950 Daffy Duck in a similar disguise, Snagglepuss still gets shot.

Maltese doesn’t need to think of any more chasing gags. The manager stops the action on stage and decides to sign the two for his show. Snagglepuss and the Major argue over the billing until a rifle in the pink cat’s face ends the discussion.

“Shakespeare would have wanted it that way,” he reluctantly says to us, and the cartoon ends.

Gil Turner was the animator of this cartoon. We talked about him, and his work on this cartoon, in this post from 2013. Turner bounced from studio to studio, working at Warner Bros. (Freleng unit), UPA and Walter Lantz among a number of stops. He also drew comic books. Turner retired to Arizona in 1963 and died in 1967.

Monte was the background artist. Here are the first two establishing shots.



I like Monte’s background below. It shows what a run-down theatre Snagglepuss is appearing in, complete with an old brick building up against the window.



Greg Watson or Joe Ruby or whoever the sound cutter was on this cartoon took advantage of Hoyt Curtin’s tracking library. The cartoon opens with his horns and light piano show-biz intro music, followed by the woodblock soft-shoe theme when Snagglepuss bemoans his fate in the entertainment world and Paradiddle quits. When the Major changes into his hunting outfit, we hear Curtin’s “A Hunting We Will Go”-inspired cue. The cartoon ends with Curtin’s ‘20s Charleston music.

5 comments:

  1. Speaking of Daffy, Maltese also got a Joe Miller dig in at the start of 'Daffy Dilly' when the duck is trying and failing to sell novelty items.

    While Shakespearean dialogue was always part of Snagglepuss' persona going back to his Quick Draw McGraw roots, the idea of putting him into a situation that requires Shakespearean dialogue and a low-rent theatrical setting allows Mike to go all-out with some great dialogue in a series of on-stage bits (in that way, the various stage gags are closer to what Maltese was doing not with Jones at Warners, but with Freleng in the mid-40s, with Bugs and Elmer in 'Stage Door Cartoon')

    ReplyDelete
  2. The ending where Snagglepuss and The Major are arguing about who gets top billing was also used in a Breezly and Sneezly cartoon where Brezly and Colonel Fuzzby continue to argue on a bus and in a Squiddly Diddly cartoon where Squiddly and Chief Winchly argue and a annoyed shark comes up to tell them to keep it down and Winchely whispers "Winchely and Squiddly" and Squiddly whispers "Squiddly and Winchely" and Squiddly goes down in his tank. Funny way to end that cartoon.

    ReplyDelete
  3. John Barrymore, of course, was influence right down to voice and accent to BOTH Hans Conreid AND John Carradine, among others..

    ReplyDelete
  4. There's a balcony scene in Hamlet?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Romeo and Juliet was the obvious intended reference.

      Delete