Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Donald Duck in "The Autograph Hound" (1939)

Celebrity caricatures had become a staple of Hollywood cartoons in the 1930's. The Disney studio was no exception to this trend having made such films as Mickey's Gala Premiere, Mickey's Polo Team and Mother Goose Goes Hollywood. With this in mind a cartoon like The Autograph Hound should come as no surprise to fans of 1930's Disney animation.

The following is a review from a 1939 issue of Boxoffice.

"'Autograph Hound' RKO (Disney Cartoon) 8min.
Donald Duck goes Hollywood for a fine piece of entertainment which should more than satisfy the children and also give adults a good time. Hit with the autograph bug, Donald wangles his way into a couple studios for autographs of Mickey Rooney, Sonja Henie and a few of the others until the word gets around that he is the famous Disney duck. The stars drop everything and chase Donald for his autograph, even the lumpy gateman who has been chasing the duck off the lots. The color work is beautiful and on toto [I am guess that this is a misspelling but I don't know for what], it is a short which will garnish any program with just the right thing it needs."

The following is a review that a theater owner wrote for the Motion Picture Herald.

"Autograph Hound: Walt Disney Cartoons- The entire staff thought this was the best Donald and therefore the best short comedy we have ever played. Donald Duck ranks way on top. - Gordon P. Held. Strand Theatre, Griswold, Iowa. General patronage"

AnimationRay Patin (Cop's foot kicks duck out of scene. Cop says "Get Out and Stay Out"; Duck lands in gutter, bounces, book hit him on back of head; Don: "Aw phooey, you big flatfoot!" Car comes in and almost hits Don...Pan up to Garbo in car window; Cop goes into take; Don on desert carrying block of ice. Sun melts ice; Don looks up, hears music, says: "Oh Boy!"; Don, blushing ... starts to reach for autograph book; Shirley and Don sit into sitting pose, out of breath. Don says "w-why you're Shirley Temple" Shirley says "and, and you're Donald Duck"; both Shirley & Don speak at same time "May I have you autograph and Aye, Aye Sir!" They exchange books and start to write with fannies to aud. Don spells out "D.O.N.A.L.D. D.U.C.K." (with tail))
Claude Smith (Cop says: "You webfooted autograph hound!" as he slams the gate; Cop: "Good Morning Miss Garco" (split with Lee Morehouse); Don runs upstairs, collides with Shirley, rolls downstairs; Cop exclaims "Donald Duck" and drops Don... then cop says "Did you say..."; Three girls and Charley McCarthy... girls say "Donald Duck" and run out of scene. Charlie says "Ho-hum fickle women")
John Ellliotte (Garbo and Duck in car; Ritz Brothers, go into pose...Duck enters says "Let me have your autograph" (split with Ward Kimball); Duck goes backwards from camera. Ritz Brothers enter with backs to camera; Duck being backed up by Ritz Bros. dive, scramble, then exit. Ritz Brothers autograph on Don's fanny... Don in tantrum (spilt with Ward Kimball); Cop's legs running right to left)
Lee Morehouse (Cop: "Good Morning Miss Garco"  (split with Claude Smith); Truck driver raises mechanical arm. Don (laughing) enters scene on fender of passing car (is hooked on arm); Don laughing falls at feet of cop. Cop imitates laugh. Don shoots out of scene in blue streak; Mickey Rooney (laughing) ducks violin. Pan over to window; Cop. Violin hits cop in face. Cop burns; Don goes into take, legs spinning, runs out, pan through door; Cop stops Ritz Brothers says "Hey..." (split with Dun Roman and Johnny Cannon); (cops dialogue continued from previous scene ["Did you say... (animated by Claude Smith)] "Donald Duck" (split with Nick deTolly); Garbo and Gable... Garbo lets Gable drop out of scene. Garbo runs out. Gable sits up and says "Donald Duck"  (split with Nick deTolly); prop man running from f.g. into distance; two prop men running towards camera; Large feet running in b.g.)  
Larry Clemons (Car comes in, turns, Don waves to o.s. cop... Don says "Hi..."; Don covered by books (split with Andy Engman))
Ken Muse (Don shoots around corner in blue streak and out of scene. Cop comes around corner and runs out to right. Don shoots back in from left, stops in front of Mickey's door, says "Oh Boy Mickey Rooney"; Cop's face full of ink. Truck back to 6 field reveling Don's signature on Cop's shirt... (Iris Out))
Paul Allen (Mickey at mirror, adjusts hat. Don enters, taps Mickey on back. Don says "Why Er... Mr. Rooney"; Don says "May I have your autograph"; Mickey & Don. Mickey says ""Okay pal." Makes book disappear. "Now you see it now you don't." Don says "Where is it?" Mickey snaps Don's tie. Don says "So what!" Reaches in blouse pulls out egg, says "Now you see it... now you don't." Truck down to Don laughing; Mickey scrutinizes Don says "I wonder if it could be here..."; Don takes off hat- goes into burn- egg fries; Mickey hits Don under chin says "I'll take mine over easy.."; Don goes "B-r-r-r." Shakes egg off head. Goes into fighting (squawking) pose; Mickey puts violin into Don's hands during fighting pose. Mickey dances to Don's music; Don ends music goes into take; starts to throw violin)
Dunbar Roman (Don runs in revolving doors, Armetta comes out holding platter; Cop runs behind bldg, follow cop on pan. Cop says "Have you seen a Duck?"; Don under servidor says "No flatfoot." Withdraws head quickly under servidor; Cop shoots into scene says "Have ye got a duck in there?"; Armetta says "Whatsa mat... no ducka boss, rosta' beef?" (pan up to Don in servidor) says "yeah rosta' beef flatfoot." Don anticipates throwing roast beef; Don throws roast beef in platter. Armetta says "Hey take it easy... Looka'! Out'a! A look! Out'a!"... Don jumps into plate and leapfrogs over cop's head. Armetta and cop wipe gravy off their faces, etc.)
Ed Love (Don running on pan thru studio props. Runs on to ice, slips and falls; Don says "Ice... Well I'll be doggoned! What will they think of next!"; Don sitting on ice - looks off to right says "Sonja Henie!"... "Miss Sonja..." paddles off to the right; (Sign) (The road to Mandalay) Truck back, Don runs into backdrop; Do settles as head vibrates; Cop's legs running to right)
Bob Stokes (Sonja going into spin; Sonja looking o.s. to left. Don enters and says "May I have your autograph?"; Waist up of Sonja says "Okay!"; Sonja finishing autograph pauses, skates out to right. Don comes in and say "Oh boy!" Then to audience "That's colossal!"; Joe E. Brown says "Me-e-o-w"; Martha Ray says "oh boy Donald Duck!"; K. Hepburn says "Donald Duck"; Chas. Boyer)
Ken Peterson (Silhouettes dancing on side of tent; Sihouettes dancing, Don watching, pan with silhouettes of dancing girls. Shadows reveled to be three men in red flannel underwear. When they come out in the clear, we see the three Ritz Brothers; Don says "Well I'll be the Ritz Brothers... Hey!"; Directly at bow of boat. Cop pulls Don thru porthole, laughs. Anticipates hitting Don on head with club. Cop says "Now I got cha.")  
Ward Kimball (
Ritz Brothers, go into pose...Duck enters says "Let me have your autograph" (split with John Elliotte); Ritz Brothers say "Autograph?" Then look at each other; First Ritz Brother sings bass: "He wants h'our h'autograph"; Second Ritz Brother sings tenor "He wants our autograph"; Three Ritz Bros. "Hike." All get in huddle then sneak; Duck being backed up by Ritz Bros. dive, scramble, then exit. Ritz Brothers autograph on Don's fanny... Don in tantrum (spilt with John Elliotte))
Johnny Cannon (Cop stops Ritz Brothers says "Hey..." (split with Dun Roman and Lee Morehouse); Don anticipates throwing bucket... Cut as he draws back;
Cop says "Have you gentlemen seen a duck?" paint bucket enters hits cop on head on the word "Duck" (split with Dun Roman); Don goes into take speeds out of scene to left; Shirley says "Oh I forgot to dot the 'I'"... kisses it and hands it back to Don. Book with heart over "I" in Shirley. Don looks at book and says "Oh boy"; Don leaps in air, yells "Whoopee!" Cops hand comes out of porthole and grabs Don; Don says "Oh! Oh!")
Judge Whittaker (Shirley with head through porthole yells "You leave him alone... he's Donald Duck"; Two soldiers in bayonet fight, hear o.s. "Donald Duck!" Both soldiers stop fighting yell "Donald Duck." Dead soldiers sit up yell "Donald Duck." Other two soldiers run but... (pan) Lone Ranger gallops in. Horse says "Donald Duck.")
Nick deTolly (Garbo and Gable... Garbo lets Gable drop out of scene. Garbo runs out. Gable sits up and says "Donald Duck"  
(split with Lee Morehouse); Roland Young says "Oh my!"; Irving S. Cobb & Edward Arnold; Bette Davis says "Duck..."; Mischa Auer)
Ozzie Evans (Step'n Fetchet says "Donald Duck.")
Rex Cox (Hugh Herbert says "Woo Hoo"; Groucho Marx says "Donald Duck.")
John Dunn (Lionel Barrymore says "Donald..."; Harpo Marx says "Honk Honk"; Joan Crawford)
Andy Engman (Don covered by books (split with Larry Clemmons))
Emory Hawkins (Don & cop pop out of books. Cop starts to hit Don but says "Your autograph sir... let me have it"; Don says "Ok flatfoot." Shoots pen from ink in cop's face...)

Story: Donald is kicked out of a motion picture studio for sneaking in to get autographs. However Donald uses Greta Garbo's car to sneak back in. The studio guard sees him and quickly gives chase. While trying to avoid the guard Donald runs into various celebrities and tries to get their autographs with little luck. However he eventually runs into Shirley Temple, who Donald's autograph. After she lets everybody know Donald Duck is on set, all the celebrities want his autograph.



-Michael J. Ruhland

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Movie Review: Phantom Thread

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

Review: Fantastic thought provoking movie, which I feel like I may have to watch again to get fully everything out of.

While there are many movies with great and interesting characters, this movie does something truly special. What is fascinating in this film is the relationship between our two leads. This is far from a simple romance movie as there is much more depth than in your average romance film. There is an extreme intimacy created when Reynolds makes dresses for Alma. Though both strongly feel the presence of this intimacy very strongly, both understand what they feel very differently. We are left also not knowing exactly how to interpret this intimacy, and this creates a strong disturbing feeling that can not be fully explained. Should or can this intimacy fully exist outside of this act, or is this act the only place this pure passion should or can unfold? We are unsure about the answer to these questions and therefore we are uncomfortable about much of what we are watching. This feeling is fully expressed cinematically with long takes without any dialogue or action. We are made to reflect on these questions and the full emotional impact of what is happening in the character's minds. The results of the intimacy created between the characters during the act of dressmaking is just as thought provoking as it is disturbing and we never quite know what will happen next.

If I were to make any complaints about this movie, they would be that some of the side characters aren't fully developed, and there was one scene (about removing a dress) that I felt was unnecessary. However with how truly great this movie is these seem like nitpicks.

-Michael J. Ruhland



Thursday, January 25, 2018

Mickey Mouse in "The Picnic" (1930)

While Pluto had first appeared in The Chain Gang, it is very obvious that appearing in that film is a very different character from who the famous dog would become. In The Chain Gang Mickey is in prison and Pluto was a bloodhound chasing him as he tried to escape. With this considered The Picnic is a huge step forward in the development of this character. The dog is much more friendly here and displays a bit of the curiosity that would later help define him. Still this is not fully the Pluto we know. This is made obvious by the fact that he is called Rover, here and is Minnie's dog instead of Mickey's.

A review (dated August 29, 1930) in Motion Picture News says

                        "The Picnic                      
MICKEY MOUSE gets himself nicely messed up in a picnic. What the birds ants and whatnot do to the food is just too bad for Mickey, but perfectly swell insofar as the audience and its inclination to laugh is concerned. Produced in his usual inimitable style by Walt Disney. Running time 7 minutes."

Breakdown of the AnimationDave Hand (Mickey in car, stops at house- honks cuckoo, Picnic lunch- squirrels, birds, bees, flies, etc., Clouds- lighting- cork screw gag- rain, Picnic spread- Mickey grabs table cloth- birds, squirrels)
Jack King (Doorway of house. Minnie appears. "Yoo hoo to car on pan. "Hello", etc., Minnie whistles for dog. "Can I bring Rover," etc.)
Charlie Byrne (Dog house- Rover comes out- runs on pan, Hole in F.G. Rabbit goes in - dog follows - bump car.)
Norm Ferguson (Mickey, Minnie & car - dog comes in, barks, licks Mickey, etc., Dog bites flea, spits it out -flea runs off, Dog sniffs tree - sniffs auto - exhaust gag)
Dick Lundy (Mickey ties dog- hops in car -starts car- move on pan, Dog running- barks, Mickey & Minnie - whistle - Mickey punches Minnie's nose, etc., Minnie & dog in car - Mickey hops in)
Robert Cannon (Rabbits dancing - horn gags, etc., Dog running along behind car - sees rabbit, Rabbits give dog razz - run on pan to left, Ants steal olives, pickles, sugar, Rain falling - Minnie runs for car - Mickey runs off scene opposite)
Ben Sharpsteen (Picnic spread - babbling brook, birds, squirrels, Mickey starts phonograph, Mickey pulls Minnie up - she pulls skirt down - they waltz - gags)
Les Clark (Two holes - Rabbit and dog leap thru- pull in hole, etc., Squirrel hangs by tail on branch- steals food)
Tom Palmer (Tree- birds dance on limb- fly down and steal food, Bees in honey jar - swell up, etc., Mickey & Minnie in car - Windshield wiper gag - finish)
Wilfred Jackson (Mickey & Minnie clog dance on log, kiss, etc., Mickey & Minnie sing and dance - finish music)
Jack Cutting (Flies dance on cake - fly off with slice)
Frenchy de Tremaudan (Ants steal sandwich- stick fork in cheese)

Story: Mickey and Minnie go on a picnic. Minnie asks if she can bring her dog Rover along. Mickey agrees and they all head out. As Mickey and Minnie are singing and dancing in nature, Rover chases rabbits with little luck. While all this is happening the animals steal the food behind our friends' backs. The picnic is finished quickly when it starts to rain. Our heroes head home happily as Rover acts as Mickey's windshield wiper.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Movie Review: I, Tonya

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

Review: Extremely unique and exciting film that never lets go of its audience's attention.

This movie never lets you know exactly how you are supposed to feel about what you are watching. This movie could easily be described as a dark comedy or as a tragedy, and neither is exactly wrong. There are many times watching this movie when I was unsure whether I was supposed to laugh or feel disturbed by what I was watching. This is clearly intentional on the filmmaker's part, as this is exactly what pulled me further into this movie. I was fascinated by everything I saw and never looked away from the screen. Helping this fascination was how director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rodgers put this film together. There is a mixture of regular narrative storytelling and acted interview segments. This not only helps tell the story but gives the movie a completely unique feeling as well as making the film just more fun to watch. We are also allowed to see incidents from various people's points of view, making us never sure whether we are supposed to believe and what we shouldn't. Since we are deciding what we believe, we are therefore pulled further into what is on screen.

Margot Robbie's performance in this movie is incredible. She always feels completely real and honest. Still she never goes for out and out sympathy or unlikableness. We are instead made to decide how we are supposed to react to what we are seeing. Her performance reflects this perfectly because it is so complex.

This movie is very unique and thought provoking as well as being just fast paced fun entertainment.

-Michael J. Ruhland



Monday, January 22, 2018

Movie Review: Paddington 2

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

Review: A delightful, heartwarming movie that can sweep even a skeptic into it's charm.

While really makes this film work so well is that it is just so warm hearted and never compromises its good nature. While there are many family films that have lessons protonating to the importance of politeness, this movie stands due to the sheer genuine-ness the film brings to its kind hearted spirit. You believe whenever Paddington charms someone with his politeness and that the goodness he brings out of them was there all along. You leave the film truly believing there is goodness in all people and a little kindness is all it takes to bring it out. This is no easy feat, but this movie accomplishes it perfectly in a way rarely seen since Walt Disney passed away. Also helping this movie out is that it is not only sweet but funny. By funny I don't just mean it will make you slightly chuckle. This is often a laugh out loud movie. This movie has a great sense of slapstick humor that is perfectly executed.

One of the most delightful scenes in this film involves Paddington after seeing the pop-up book imagines himself taking his Aunt Lucy on a tour though London. Paddington and Aunt Lucy remain three dimensional while everything around them looks just like a pop-up book. This is extremely imaginative and perfectly executed. With a scene like this it is no wonder this movie has charmed so many already and now that includes me.

This movie does have a few faults, such as the Brown family feeling underdeveloped (with the exception of Paddington of course) and the climax going on too long. While these faults would really hurt a lesser movie this is not a lesser movie. The pure greatness of the rest of this film completely overpowers these faults and by the end you are completely won over by the movie's charms, that these faults can be easily glanced over.

-Michael J. Ruhland.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

French and British Films and the U.S. in 1938.

It is true that the U.S. as a rule has seemed to prefer Hollywood movies over anything made overseas. This makes an article in Variety from 1938 especially interesting as it is predicting great things from French and British films concerning their finical success in the United States.

Here is the article:

"Outlook for French and British pictures in the U.S. is good for the coming season, according to distributors and exhibitors. Operation of the British quota probably will result in more English-made features being shown in the U.S. than at anytime since the boom period of the 20's. Prospects for French productions, of course, are not stacking up to the optimism of some foreign-language distributors who were planning 50 to 60 features earlier this year.

"Gaumont-British figures to cash in on the improved product from Great Britain. Company already has 24 for the new season set from distribution. Figures to have 10 new features and two reissues available for the American market by Dec. 1st with delivery promised on the remaining 12.

"Popularity of foreign stars has grown in the last two years but better stories and better made pictures are held responsible by Gaumont-British for the upswing in British film popularity. Fact that many major American producers are making one or more big features in England, to fulfill quota requirements, of course, has contributed to the improved attitude towards British product.

"Gaumont-British operations may be further bettered in the U.S. by the proposed arrangement whereby actual bookings in this country would be handled by 20th-Fox. Latter already handles physical distribution although selling and booking has been done by G-B."

The optimism for French features may have had to do with the surprise success  of The Grand Illusion, released in the U.S. about a month earlier. 

 -Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Mickey Mouse Club in 1932

Many of you are probably very familiar with the classic 1950's TV show The Mickey Mouse Club. However the idea of there being a Mickey Mouse Club was nothing new when this show came out. Mickey Mouse clubs have been popping up across America for decades. An article from the Motion Picture Herald (dated February 13, 1932) speaks about one of these. 

Here is the article:

"Just to let you all know that J.R. Wheeler, city manager of the Palace Theater, Marion, Ohio, is still carrying on in show-business, we'll present a few facts in reference to a recently formed Mickey Mouse Club and the promotion of a full page co-op ad.

"With assistance from police, firemen and boy scouts, Wheeler opened his Mouse Club a few weeks ago to an assembly 2,200 'Mice' and there were mighty few folk around Marion who did not know what was going on. A local department sponsored the move and on opening day the kiddies paraded though the main streets carrying banners with copy stating that 'Kline's Mickey Mouse Club was on the way to the palace theater'

"The campaign was started with an advertisement on screen and in store three weeks before the first meeting. Children enrolled each day at the store and were given membership buttons. A contact made with the School Board brought permission to give passes to honor students and the local Parent-Teachers' Association issued public approval of the club.

"At the opening session the kids heard a speech by the department store manager; had their officers installed; pledged allegiance to the American flag; sang 'America'; were led through the Mickey Mouse 'Yell' by their cheer leader; heard a talk on 'Safety' by the local Chief of Police, and listened to an address made by the P.T.A. president. The balance of the program was made up of a band dance, dancing school revue, a Mickey Mouse cartoon, with theme song, and the feature picture. The whole stunt did not set the house back one cent. From week to week the store will continue to donate awards for kids."

As an extra bonus below is a Mickey Mouse cartoon from the year the previous article was written, Touchdown Mickey. Enjoy.


-Michael J. Ruhland



Thursday, January 18, 2018

Movie Review: Mary and the Witch's Flower

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A+

Review: Studio Ponoc's first feature film is an absolutely spellbinding movie that takes hold of its audience and never lets go.

One thing that makes this movie so incredible is the character of Mary. She is a very well thought out and somewhat complex character. She is also a character that I (and I am sure many others) find very easy to relate to. She is extremely caring and only wants to help everybody around her, but her clumsiness often times results in trouble. This right off the bat makes her far from faultless but always likable and well intentioned. Despite her often messing things up, it never stops or hurts her pure determination. She has a one track mind and nothing can stop her once she sets out to do something. She is simply incapable of looking back and must always look forward to what is a head of her. While this also gets her in plenty of trouble it makes us admire her and want to be more like her.

As well as a great lead character this movie has an incredibly effective sense of pure fantasy. This movie makes it truly feel like you are stepping out on an incredible adventure with Mary. This works especially well because we get to know and care for her before the true fantasy happens. This makes the fantasy much more magical because we are discovering it along with the main character. This fantasy is also enhanced by the incredible visuals. The design and animation are easily on par with the earlier Studio Ghibli work from many these filmmakers. This film is unbelievable visually stunning and easily the best looking movie currently in theaters.

This movie is a must watch and I am very excited to see what Studio Ponoc has in store for us.

-Michael J. Ruhland.



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Movie Review: Condorito: The Movie

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B-

Review: Turn your mind off, accept the silliness and just have fun. This movie does not have ambitions of being anything but a dumb comedy, however as a dumb comedy it is actually quite funny.

Two things really make this work that is the humor and the main character. The humor is off the wall and completely silly, but somehow works very well. As silly as this humor is it seems to fit so naturally into the world of the film. More than this though the jokes actually are quite funny. Watching the film I knew these jokes were really corny, but that didn't stop me from laughing at many of them. There is also something so enjoyable and irresistible about the fact that this movie never stops to take its self seriously and continually throws good humor at us. Adding to this is the fact that the title character is so likable. Sure he is a lazy goof off, but he is so well intentioned that we always like him and feel like we are on his side. They is never any malice in his action and there is something of ourselves we can always see in home.

This movie does still have a few problems. Condorito's love interest seems very undeveloped as does his rival for her. These characters seem exactly like ones we have seen quite a few times before in other movies. The alien space ship also seems rather blandly designed, and there are a few times when the lower budget of the animation really shows.

It is hard to explain why this movie is so enjoyable, but if you just turn your brain off and let yourself have fun, you might enjoy yourself like I did.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Dress like Cubby Bear and Watch a Cartoon as Well.

Have you ever dreamed of dressing like Cubby Bear? While it turns out you are not alone, or if this was 1934 and you were a little kid, you would not be alone. For those of you who are unaware, Cubby Bear was a cartoon character created by the Van Buren Studio for various animated short subjects. Cubby Bear was one of the many American cartoon characters of his era to essentially be a copy of Mickey Mouse. His design was extremely similar to Mickey and his personality is exactly the same. This was nothing new for the Van Buren studio, they had been taken to court by Walt Disney himself after using a boy and a girl mouse who looked exactly like Mickey and Minnie in the cartoons A Close Call and Western Whoppee. Cubby first appeared in the 1932 cartoon Opening Night. However while doing some research I found a rather interesting mention of Cubby Bear in a 1934 article in the Broadway and Hollywood Movies magazine. By 1934 RKO was interesting distributing both Van Buren cartoons and Disney cartoons, and so this is mentioned right after discussing the Disney classic The Three Little Pigs. The article states "RKO Radio Pictures also release the Cubby Bear, and his sweetheart, series of animated cartoons. So popular are they growing that one of the RKO officials has asked Claire Julianne, a well know New York stylist, to design children's clothes for manufacturing purposes; based on the Cubby Bear idea." The idea of Cubby Bear being this popular seems very strange today as the character is forgotten by almost everyone who is not an animation buff. As someone who enjoys the Cubby Bear cartoons, I would have personally liked to have seen these. Below is the article itself if you would like to see it.

Don't go away too soon though because we have a cartoon as well. Naturally this is a Cubby Bear cartoon, and one of the most interesting of the lot. Though most Cubby Bear cartoons were produced on the east coast at the Van Buren Studio, this was one of the two cartoons (the other being Cubby's World Flight) that were produced on the west coast by Hugh Harmon and Rudolph Ising. Van Buren loaned out these two shorts and it shows. Hugh Harmon and Rudolph Ising had produced and directed the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons from 1930 to 1933. As such this is a remake of the first Merrie Melody cartoon, Lady Play Your Mandolin. In fact the background characters are exactly the same and except for the two main character looking different many shots look exactly the same. You may note the title card for the following cartoon is titled a Brownie Bear cartoon. This is because the cartoons were rereleased under this name when Official Films sold the cartoons as home 16mm movie prints. So without further ado from 1933, here is The Gay Gaucho.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Movie Review: The Greatest Showman

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: C+

Review: An entertaining movie that is fun to watch, but still makes you feel it could have been better.

This movie does have quite a bit going for it. Our main character (yes I know P. T. Barnum is a real person but this is a fictionalized version of him) is highly enjoyable and likable. We understand his struggle and relate to him on that level very well. Throughout this whole film I always believed this character and felt emotionally involved in him. The main story while cliché is charming and enjoyable. It is a simple story and its charm is in this basic simplicity that we can all relate too. The musical numbers aren't as beautifully choreographed as can be seen in any number of films from Hollywood's golden age, but they are big and feel big. They make you understand why audiences would have easily been attracted to this type of entertainment and this is something that is essential to this movie working as it helps you accept what you see on screen. The songs themselves (while admittedly are not my type of music) are well written and always help to advance the story.

On the downside, while P.T. Barnum is very well developed, the other characters don't seem to be given this luxury. At the end of the movie, I did not feel like I knew any of them. On top of this the subplots with them feel very rushed, undeveloped and cliché. It is true that the main story also is cliché, but since it is more developed it doesn't feel as obvious as this problem is in the subplots. One romance especially seems to come out of nowhere and all of the sudden become a big part of the story. Those who have seen enough movies will also know everything that is going to happen in this romance. Another subplot about ballet seems horrible forced in and we are not allowed enough time personally with the character this subplot is about to become emotionally attached enough to this story point.

All and all this is a fun movie, but one that could have been quite a bit better.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Movie Review: Ferdinand

Movie Review Written by Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B

Review: I am sure there are quite a few animation buffs like me who when they first heard about this movie immediately thought of the 1938 short Disney cartoon called Ferdinand The Bull. However no fears as this movie is more than different enough to not be confused with the earlier short and it stands on its own as a very enjoyable movie.

This movie does quite a good job making a short children's book into an hour and 48 minute feature film. With the exception of one chase seeming a bit too long, the movie never seemed to drag and moved at a brisk fun pace. One way this movie expands on the book is to add more backstory for Ferdinand himself. What is surprising is that this back story is quite touching and may be the best part of this movie. This back story has its dark elements, and it never tries to sugarcoat them and have the movie talk down to its audience. This creates a very involving emotional connection to our title character that is strongly felt at many points in this movie. The animation is also quite top notch. I always feel Blue Sky never gets the credit they deserve for how well animated their films are, and this movie is very well animated. Every character moves with such energy and emotion that you believe in them. They can convey emotions so clearly that it pulls you much more into the movie.

The jokes are very hit and miss as some of them are good and some are bad. The good jokes are actually quite funny though and I found myself laughing at many of them in a way I didn't quite except. But still the bad jokes can make someone groan, but I sat through a preview of Sherlock Gnomes before the movie and that made them not seem so bad. The main fault in this movie is sometimes it does feel like you have seen it before, there is nothing new offered here and the movie doesn't take many risks that haven't been done successfully before. I would have also liked the quiet scenes to have lasted a little bit longer, so that we could have spent more time reflecting on the emotional parts before heading to the next scene.

Even admitting those faults though I had a lot of fun watching this movie and felt an emotional connection to the main character, so with that said this movie does what it sets out to do very well and I easily recommend it if you just want to have a good time at the movies.

-Michael J. Ruhland


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Movie Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Review Written by Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B

Review: Surprisingly very fun film.

This movie may not be extremely original, but it doesn't try to be. Instead it is happy just being a fun little action/comedy and it successeds very well at that. Probably the best thing about this movie is the humor. Much of the comedy is actually laugh out loud hilarious. This is because while this movie follows many movie conventions, it makes just as much fun of them. It is a movie that never takes itself to seriously and that is its charm. Helping make this humor even better is the performances from the actors. Jack Black turns in a fantastically funny performance here. The idea of a materialistic and obsessed with herself teenage girl in Jack Black's body may sound like a joke that would get old quick but it doesn't, because Jack Black plays the part so well. He is obviously having a lot of fun playing this role and so we have a lot of fun watching him play it. This character even manages to get one of the funniest pee jokes I have seen in recent movies. Dwayne Johnson is equally great playing a somewhat stereotypical nerd that is now all the sudden in The Rock's body. Kevin Hart is a comedian, I sometimes find funny and other times unbearably obnoxious. This is one of his better roles and he delivers some good laughs. Karen Gillan is given less to work with for most of this film as she mostly plays the straight role, but she does well with what she has and in the one scene where she is allowed to shine, she sure does. Even more than just the characters themselves though, this movie has great relationships between the characters. You simply enjoy watching them interact with one another and feel that they make each other stronger.

This isn't a perfect movie though and it has some problems. One of these is a weak villain. With the tongue in cheek humor through much of this film, it seems it could have had a much more enjoyable villain that is maybe a parody of movie or video game villains. However all he delivers is nothing but blandness and one disgusting image that this film would have been better without. The world the movie takes place in sadly also seems to be just a generic fantasy world with nothing new to offer. There could have definitely been more imagination that went into this aspect.  There is also that fact that before entering the game the movie doesn't seem that interesting. It is not bad per say but it almost feels like a weaker version of The Breakfast Club (still when they enter the game the movie finally gets going and this easily makes up for that fault).

From the previews this movie did not look good to me at all. So I was very pleasantly surprised by just how much fun I had watching it, and if you watch it I hope you have fun too.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, January 1, 2018

Silent Film of the Month: The First Auto (1927)

Run Time: 75 minutes. Studio: Warner Brothers. Director: Roy Del Ruth. Writers: Darryl F. Zanuck, Anthony Coldeway. Main Cast: Russell Simpson, Frank Campeau, Gibson Gowland, William Demarest. Producer: Darryl F. Zanuck. Cinematographer: David Abel.

Before we discuss this movie let me reminisce for a little bit. My grandpa was one of the closet friends a person could ever have and he meant more than the world to me. Being very close I heard some stories about his childhood various times. He often talked about how when he was growing up on a farm, his dad always insisted he use the horses for work. My grandpa was much more interested in cars. Anything with an engine in it fascinated him and he didn't understand why he had to use the horses when everybody else was using motorized tractors. Though this film's story is not the same as my grandpa's story, the conflict in this movie does remind me of my grandpa's story and because of this I would like to dedicate this post to the memory of him.
The film takes place in 1895. Bob (Played by Charles Emmet Mack) is the son of a champion horse racer named Hank Armstrong (played by Russell Simpson). Bob is obsessed with cars, despite the fact that his father hates them with a passion. This already causes a rift between father and son. When Bob gets a job in Detroit he sees famous race car driver Barney Oldfield (played by himself) breaking the all time speed record. This inspires Bob to compete in a car race around the country, which causes an even greater rift between him and his father.

Despite being only 27 when appearing in this film, The First Auto was one of Charles Emmett Mack's last movies. After this film he would only appear in one more movie (The Rough Riders (released the same year)). His career was just getting started around this time. It had officially begun in 1921 (With the movie Dream Street), however as it started he was playing mostly small roles. The First Auto was one of his first real staring roles. His career was unfortunately cut short because he would pass away in an auto accident. One wonders where his career would have gone if he did not pass away so young as his performance in The First Auto is very good.

Also in this movie's cast is William Demarest. This was Demarest's first year of screen acting and was well before he became a huge star. He would go on to appear in many of Preston Sturges' movies of the 1940's with such films as Sullivan's Travels, The Great McGinty, The Lady Eve, The Palm Beach Story, Hail The Conquering Hero, Christmas in July and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. He would also go on to play Uncle Charley in TV's My Three Sons.

Using Barney Oldfield in the film was a great way to get the movie some publicity. William A. Johnson wrote for an article (dated May 20th, 1927), "I saw on the Warner lot an odd assortment of automobiles, beginning with the first one that raced a horse and so on up to Barney Oldfield's famous racer '999'. These curiosities have been used in 'The First Auto'. Jack Warner is fascinated by this and also about 'Old San Francisco' with Dolores Costello. He promises a very human and novel picture in 'The First Auto'."

According to Fitzhugh Green's book The Film Finds It's Tongue, The Frist Auto was the first movie to be shot with incandescent lighting for its entirety. Also according to this book this process was not kept a secret and many studios were allowed to come and see how the lighting was done and that within six months all the major Hollywood studios used this kind of lighting. This is further confirmed by the William A. Johnson article quoted earlier as he went on to write about the movie "The latter picture by the way, has been made with Mazda lamps, the first to be turned out here with this new studio illumination"   

This movie was directed by Roy Del Ruth one of the most reliable studio directors of the 1920's, 30's and 40's. His work as a whole never had its own unique identity in the way that Alfred Hitchcock or other auteur directors had, but regardless of what he was directing the majority of his films were of high quality. This film is no exception. This movie is extremely charming. There is no doubt that this movie is extremely sentimental. However it is fully honest sentiment here that naturally flows out of the characters and story. While 1895 seems to us like an impossibly long time ago, it is important to remember that in 1927 many people who were alive then would be old enough to remember that year and have a certain nostalgic connection with it. This movie plays on that nostalgia and certainly that is where much of the sentiment comes from. Still with this movie's tight storytelling and great performances from the actors, it holds up quite well today, and may even make someone fell nostalgic for a time that was well before they were born. I will admit that I am a sucker for sentimental films (even when they are corny), when done well, and this one is certainly done well.

Below is an advertisement for the film from an issue of the magazine Exhibitors Herald.


-Michael J. Ruhland

Resources Used
The Film Find its Tongue by Fitzhugh Green