Book Revue

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Book Revue
Looney Tunes (Daffy Duck) series
Bookrevue.jpg
Title card of the original print
Directed by Robert Clampett
Produced by Eddie Selzer (uncredited)
Story by Warren Foster
Voices by Mel Blanc (uncredited)
Sara Berner (uncredited)
Music by Carl Stalling
Animation by Robert McKimson
Rod Scribner
Manny Gould
Bill Melendez
Layouts by Cornett Wood
Backgrounds by Philip DeGuard
Studio Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc.
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date(s) January 5, 1946 (USA)
Color process Technicolor
Running time 7 minutes
Language English

Book Revue (later re-issued on May 19, 1951, as Book Review[1]) is a 1945 Looney Tunes cartoon short featuring Daffy Duck, released in 1946, with a plotline essentially being a mixture of the plots of 1937's Speaking of the Weather, 1938's Have You Got Any Castles? and 1941's A Coy Decoy. It is directed by Bob Clampett, written by Warren Foster and scored by Carl Stalling. An uncredited Mel Blanc and Sara Berner provided the voices. As originally released, the title is a pun, as a Revue is a variety show, while a Review is an evaluation of a work (this pun is not retained in the reissue).

Plot[edit]

Daffy Duck and Little Red Riding Hood during the scat singing scene in front of Gran'Ma's House

The plot is a send-up of Frank Tashlin's own "books come to life" cartoons of the type that frequently appeared under the Merrie Melodies banner (such as 1938's Have You Got Any Castles?). The cartoon is loaded with puns and pop culture references, even by Warner standards. After this lampoon, Warner never issued another of that genre.

The cartoon starts out in the same, pastoral "after midnight at a closed bookstore" fashion of previous versions, to the strains of Moonlight Sonata. A colorized version of the storefront from A Coy Decoy can be seen. Inside, an inebriated "cuckoo bird" pops out of a cuckoo clock to announce the arrival of midnight (and signaling the "cuckoo" activities to follow) and the books come alive. The cartoon's first lampoon and pun appears, a book collection called "COMPLETE WORKS of Shakespeare". Shakespeare is shown in silhouette while his literally-rendered "works" are clockwork mechanisms, along with old-fashioned "stop" and "go" traffic signals, set to the "ninety years without slumbering, tick-tock, tick-tock" portion of "My Grandfather's Clock".

Cut to a book titled Young Man with a Horn; a caricature of Harry James breaks loose with a jazz trumpet obbligato similar to James' "You Made Me Love You", in which he segues into the standard, "It Had to Be You", as a striptease is about to begin on the cover of Cherokee Strip. Book covers for The Whistler and The Sea Wolf show their characters shouting and whistling at the off-screen action. (The Sea Wolf's howl segués into a sentence, sometimes rendered as "Howwwww old is she?" but that phrasing is unclear, perhaps purposely.) The now-panting Shakespeare silhouette's inner workings explode in a shower of gears and clocksprings.

The catcalls continue with Henry VIII (depicted as played by Charles Laughton in The Private Life of Henry VIII) also howling like a wolf and then barking like a seal. Referencing a catchphrase of the popular radio program The Aldrich Family, the king's "mother" calls out, "Hen-REEEE! Henry the Eighth!", "Coming, Mother!" is the king's cracking-voice reply and he runs to the book cover where Mother waits. As she begins to spank her "naughty boy", a new singing voice and caricature appears, namely that of Frank Sinatra. The gray, blanketed, emaciated character, over-emphasizing Sinatra's real-life physique, enters the cartoon on the cover of The Voice in the Wilderness. A large, male orderly pushes the Sinatra character across the screen in a wheelchair. Sinatra begins to croon the lyrics of "It Had to be You" into a ribbon microphone.

Now the women take their turn at hysteria. Henry's mother, bobby-soxed versions of Little Women, Whistler's Mother (Famous Paintings) and Mother Goose (and her hatchling) begin to whistle and catcall (just as the men did for Cherokee Strip), and swoon and faint at the sound of Sinatra's voice, each of them uttering the catchphrase "Fraaankie!" before passing out.

A full-blown jam session begins, with a lively swing version of "It Had To Be You". Joining Harry James are Glenn Miller (on the cover of "BRASS"); the Indian on the cover of Drums Along the Mohawk, who morphs into a realistic-looking Gene Krupa (his drumset is labeled "GK"); Benny Goodman (as The Pie-Eyed Piper; some mice cheer, "Yeah, Benny!"); and a green Bob Burns playing a 'bazooka' on the cover of Arkansas Traveler. Glenn Miller on the cover of the book BRASS rubs his trombone under the besotted nose of W.C. Fields.[2]

Annoyed by the revelry, Daffy Duck steps out of the cover of a Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies comic book (in the background is a book by "Ann Anonymous" titled The Invisible Man: A Biography of Robert Clampett) and starts rifiling through a trunk (Saratoga Trunk) for clothes, with the classic Ukrainian tune Ochi chyornye as background music . He dons a zoot suit and a curly, blonde wig, as well as what appears to be a set of fake teeth (which explains why his trademark lisp is nowhere to be heard in this film). Just as Gene Krupa plays some notes on the buttons lining the corpulent stomach of Hudson's Bay, Daffy shouts for the celebration to "STOP!" and the jam session screeches to a halt. Daffy stands in front of the cover of Danny Boy, and effects Danny Kaye's Russian-accented characterization heard in Kaye's debut 78 album. Daffy says "POOEY!" to swing music and jazz, and reminisces about his "native willage", "why-o-leens", and "the happy peoples sitting on their balalaikas, playing their samovars" (misusing both Russian terms).

Daffy starts talking about a girl named "Cucaracha", parodying Lucky Strike cigarette ads: "so round, so firm, so fully packed, so easy on the draw..." Saying that they would sing to him a gypsy love song about this girl, Daffy does a wild, short version of "La Cucaracha" in his normal character mode, including his "hoo-hoo" bit. This short segment has a plain background, suggesting it was cartooned separately and inserted tentatively, to be dropped seamlessly in case the censors objected to the somewhat suggestive comments about "Cucaracha".

The background changes to a strange one with legible newsprint superimposed on silhouettes of urban buildings; Daffy continues in his fake Russian accent as he sings, Carolina In The Morning ("nothing could be feener than to be in Caroleena in the mornink...") inadvertently teasing the Big Bad Wolf, who at this point is still in the window of "Gran'Ma's House"; Daffy beats a hasty retreat to stage left. Meanwhile, Little Red Riding Hood, based on Margaret O'Brien, skips past Daffy and toward Gran'Ma's House.

Noticing Red, Daffy zooms back and stations himself between her and the house, launching into a wild scat - a reference to Danny Kaye's song "Melody in 4F" in his 1944 film debut Up in Arms - to warn her of the wolf, complete with mock chewing on her leg for emphasis. The wolf appears behind him, about to do the same thing to Daffy's leg, and Red screams and runs away. Daffy halfway notices, turns back to "bite" the now-gone Red, then turns toward the wolf with a startled and outrageous double-take, turning into a giant eyeball (complete with lashes and blood vessels) for a couple of seconds.

The wolf chases Daffy through Hopalong Cassidy, Uncle Tom's Cabin (to the tune of Von Suppe's Light Calvary), and is stymied trying to cut down Daffy who is hiding in the Petrified Forest (to the tune of The Old Apple Tree). Meanwhile, the sergeant of the Police Gazette notices what is going on and alerts the other officers in the field ("Calling all cars!") and the wolf is apprehended by The Long Arm of the Law. The Judge declares the wolf as guilty and sentences him to Life, as the wolf sings part of the sextette from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor - "You can't do dis to me! / I'm a citizen, see?!" The wolf is suddenly hit over the head with a nightstick, and then makes his Escape and runs through the volumes.

Jimmy Durante, incongruously illustrating the cover of So Big, turns toward the wolf, and his huge nose trips the wolf, who goes sliding down Skid Row, nearly falling into Dante's Inferno. The wolf scrambles to the top, but the Sinatra caricature reappears, held in the orderly's hands as if he were a doll. The Wolf, being in the grandma archetype, swoons at the sound of "Frankie!", just as the female characters did and skids head first into the inferno.

The other book cover characters loudly cheer and dance to a jazz/swing version of "Carolina In The Morning", the Wolf makes one final appearance to shout, "Stop that dancing up there! ... ya sillies!" This last bit is the actual title of a 1944 song by Harry "The Hipster" Gibson, along with a lisping delivery of "sillies" caricaturing Joe Besser. Clampett's famous "bee-woop!" vocalization ends the cartoon on a sort of "shaggy dog" note.

Influence[edit]

  • Later releases of the short had the title card replaced with Warner Brothers' "Blue Ribbon" title card on which the title was misspelled (see above). The original title card has since been located and the fully restored short can be seen on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Vol. 2 four-DVD box set and the Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection: Vol 2 two-DVD set.[1]
  • In 1994 it was voted #45 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field.[3]
  • In one episode of Animaniacs, Yakko Wakko and Dot held a Video Review after being released in a videostore. Just like the books, they run in and out of films and mingle with movie characters. Daffy Duck made a cameo in the episode.
  • In one segment of the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Inside Plucky Duck", Plucky performs Daffy's giant eye double-take (dubbed "a Clampett Corneal Catastrophe"), only to be stuck in eye form, unable to "de-take" until the segment's end.
  • Most of the ostensible "book" titles in this cartoon are actually the titles of contemporary magazines or movies while some of the more surreal backgrounds, particularly those in the scat-singing scene, apparently used actual newsprint. Even Dante's Inferno was the title of a film released a few years earlier by 20th Century-Fox.
  • One of the magazines featured, Life, would eventually be co-owned with Warner Bros. under the Time Warner umbrella until spun off in June 9, 2014.

Censorship[edit]

  • On Cartoon Network, the part where Daffy is being chased by the Wolf through "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is cut (except for "The Bob Clampett Show" which aired cartoons uncut) due to Daffy leaving the cabin dressed as a black "mammy archetype" holding her "pickaninny" infant. [1] Like in other such cases, it is aired uncut on Cartoon Network outside the United States.
  • When aired on The WB, Daffy's line about La Cucharacha, "So round, so firm, so fully packed, so easy on the draw" was cut (both because of its sexual innuendo and its use of a tobacco advertising slogan; tobacco advertising on television is illegal in the United States). [2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Book Revue (1946) - Trivia
  2. ^ Michael Barrier (historian)"Book Revue commentary on the Golden Collection DVD set, disk 4"
  3. ^ Beck, Jerry (ed.) (1994). The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals. Atlanta: Turner Publishing.

External links[edit]