Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat
|This article does not cite any references or sources. (January 2013)|
|Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat|
|Universal/Walter Lantz cartoon studio "Car-Tune" series|
Original title card
|Directed by||Walter Lantz|
|Produced by||Walter Lantz|
|Story by||Ben Hardaway|
|Voices by||Mel Blanc|
|Music by||Darrell Calker|
|Animation by||Alex Lovy
|Studio||Walter Lantz Productions|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date(s)||March 28, 1941 (USA)|
|Running time||7 min (one reel)|
"Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat" is a 1941 hit boogie-woogie song written by Don Raye. A bawdy, jazzy tune, the song describes a laundry woman from Harlem, New York whose technique is so unusual that people come from all around just to watch her scrub. The Andrews Sisters and Will Bradley & His Orchestra recorded the most successful pop versions of the song, but it is today best recognized as the centerpiece of an eponymous Walter Lantz Studio cartoon from 1941.
The short version, released on March 28, 1941 by Universal Pictures features no director credit (Woody Woodpecker creator Walter Lantz claims to have directed the cartoon himself), with a story by Ben Hardaway, animation by Alex Lovy and Frank Tipper, and voice work by Mel Blanc. The short is awash with what is now considered offensive blackface stereotypes of African-American people and culture, and of life in the rural Southern United States.
The "Scrub Me Mama" short is today in the public domain. Clips from it are featured in Spike Lee's 2000 satirical film about African-American stereotypes, Bamboozled. The film's setting, Lazy Town, is not to be confused with the children's television program of the same name.
The short opens to an orchestral rendition of Stephen Foster's "Old Folks at Home", immediately setting the scene in the rural South of blackface minstrelsy. The setting is Lazy Town, perhaps the laziest place on earth. Neither the town's residents (all stereotypes of African Americans) nor the animals can be bothered to leave their reclining positions to do anything at all. Their pastoral existence is interrupted by the arrival of a riverboat, carrying a svelte, sophisticated, light-skinned woman from Harlem (who bears a resemblance to Lena Horne), whose physical beauty inspires the entire populace of an all-African-American "Lazy Town" to spring into action.
The visiting urbanite admonishes one of the town's residents, "Look here, Mammy. That ain't no way to wash clothes! What you all need is rhythm!" She then proceeds to sing "Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat", which the townsfolk slowly join her in performing. Thus begins a montage which is the short's centerpiece. The townsfolk are infected by the song's rhythm and proceed to go about playing instruments, and dancing suggestively. By the time the young light-skinned lady from Harlem is due to re-board her riverboat and return home, she has succeeded in turning a dark-skinned Lazy Town into a lively community of swing musicians simply by singing. The cartoon concludes with the words The End displayed across a mammy's fanny.
This cartoon has been withheld from distribution by Universal since 1949 due to its portrayal of African-Americans. The decision was made after a strong objection was raised by the NAACP upon the short's reissue in 1948. The entire short was a shock to Lantz who prided himself on avoiding problems with the censors. He repeatedly stated that his cartoons were never meant to offend anyone. After the 1948 decision, Lantz made a major effort to make sure that offensive caricatures of any racial or ethnic group would never appear in his cartoons again. He also personally made sure that Scrub Me Mama would never be distributed on television.
- "The Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia: 1941". The Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2013-06-01.