Bosko's Picture Show
|Bosko's Picture Show|
|Directed by||Hugh Harman|
|Produced by||Leon Schlesinger|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.|
|Running time||6 minutes|
Bosko's Picture Show was released on August 26, 1933, though at least one source claims the release date is September 18, 1933. It was the last Looney Tunes Bosko cartoon produced by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising for Leon Schlesinger and Warner Bros. The duo moved on to produce cartoons for MGM, the first of which were released in 1934. The music score was a work of Frank Marsales.
Director and production
The short recycles certain scenes from earlier shorts: Bosko at the Beach, Bosko's Dog Race, Bosko in Person, Bosko and Bruno, and Box Car Blues.
The film opens to an exterior shot of a movie theater. The camera moves to the interior, where curtains and barn doors open to reveal a movie screen. The screen introduces the host of the movie show, Bosko, who is playing a "Furtilizer" organ. The term itself is a play on the name Wurlitzer, as Wurlitzer pipe organs were regularly used in theaters of the time. Bosko leads the audience in the song "We're in the Money" (1933).
The film then proceeds to parody newsreels, in a format similar to The March of Time, created in 1935. The newsreel depicted is called Out-Of-Tone News and the accompanying tagline Sees All, Hears All, Smells All. This was a reference to Movietone News, which had the slogan Sees all, Hears All, Knows All. Various scenes of world news appear. The first of them takes place in Geneva, Switzerland, where a peace conference is supposedly taking place. Actually the attending world leaders are depicted engaging in hand-to-hand combat, while a ring announcer gives a blow-by-blow description of the action. The following scene takes place in Malibu, California. A title card reports that it is supposedly about the Sunkist Bathing Beauties enjoying the sunshine of California. The scene then contradicts the card by depicting a single, unattractive woman on a beach during a snowstorm. She is attempting to evade a tidal wave. The next scene takes place in Reno, Nevada, where boxer "Jack Dumpsey" (Jack Dempsey) is reported training for a comeback. He is depicted as a "withered old man with a cane". Followed by a scene taking place in "Epsom Salts, England", depicting a race among blue-blood dogs. The defending champion Bruno, Bosko's pet dog, is depicted sniffing around and trailing his competitors. Until he finds himself chased by the Marx Brothers, equipped as dog catchers.
The final scene of the newsreel takes place in "Pretzel, Germany", where Adolf Hitler is depicted pursuing Jimmy Durante with a meat cleaver or axe in hand. Hitler is depicted as a ruthless and violent buffoon, wearing lederhosen and an armband depicting a swastika. Durante shouts the phrase "Am I mortified!". Aside from newsreels, this is argued to be the first depiction of Hitler in an American film. However there is an earlier appearance in Cubby's World Flight (August, 1933) by the Van Beuren Studios. While flying over Germany, Cubby Bear receives smiles and waves from both Chancellor Hitler and President Paul von Hindenburg. The newsreel then ends with the tagline It Squeaks for Itself. This a reference to another slogan of Movietone News: It Speaks for Itself.
The newsreel is followed by a short subject parodying Laurel and Hardy, who are called here "Haurel and Lardy", starring in "Spite of Everything". The two comedians are depicted finding a cooling pie on a window sill and stealing it. Then they argue over ownership of the pie. The pie switches hands many times, until Haurel ends their rivalry by pieing Lardy. In retaliation, Lardy uses a discarded pot to hit Haurel. The subject ends with Haurel crying.
The last film of the show follows. It is a "TNT Pictures" production, its logo featuring a roaring (and burping) lion. This is a reference to Leo the Lion, the mascot of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film itself is a melodrama set in the 1890s, entitled "He Done Her Dirt (and How!)". Honey, Bosko's girlfriend, is depicted riding a bicycle. She is followed by the Marx Brothers, who sing Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two) (1892). Then a title card introduces the villain, "Dirty Dalton (The Cur!)". Dalton hides behind a tree and manages to ambush Honey, abducting her. He then "leaps off a cliff and onto a train passing underneath", ending with his victim on top of a runaway railroad car. Honey breaks the fourth wall by asking for assistance from the audience. Bosko volunteers to save her and leaps towards the screen. He fails to enter the world of the 1890s film and goes through the screen. But his efforts leave a hole where Dalton's head should be, disabling the villain and somehow rescuing Honey. Honey applauds, Bosko raises his hands in triumph, and the animated short ends.
Michael E. Birdwell argues that the context of Adolf Hitler's depiction in the film was the background of the Warner brothers, owners of Warner Bros.. Harry Warner was a Polish Jew who emigrated to the United States in the 1880s. His brother Jack L. Warner was born in Canada, but raised as an American Jew. Harry was a religious man with strong moral convictions. Harry believed that he could promote the causes of "racial and religious... tolerance and justice" through his films. Jack did not share his brother's religiousness, nor his convictions. He was attempting to distance himself from his family's background and integrate himself into the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant society of California. He also took advantage of the casting couch to seduce women.
During the Great Depression, Warner Bros. produced its fair share of escapist films, like most of its contemporaries in the film industry. But also produced films depicting the perceived social ills of the time: Depression-era conditions, "crime, racism, religious intolerance, prostitution, southern chain gangs, drug abuse, and the mistreatment of World War I veterans". The examples include films such as The Public Enemy (1931), I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), and Wild Boys of the Road (1933).
These films were not exclusively released in the United States. By the mid-1930s, an estimated 30-40% of the revenues of the American film industry actually came from foreign distribution of their films. Primarily in the European market. Warner Bros. had managed to secure a strong share of the German market through a distribution deal with the prestigious Universum Film AG. Harry Warner actually considered buying out the German company. In 1932, Harry visited Weimar Republic Germany in order to complete the deal, and took note of the rise of antisemitism in the country. While the Nazi Party had yet to climb to power, the Sturmabteilung (SA) were already a visible part of public life. Harry decided to cancel the deal and leave the country.
In June 1933, Nazi Germany issued its first decree placing "restrictions on the distribution of foreign films in German markets", censoring their subject matter. Restrictions which would become increasingly strict for American films in particular, until September 1940 when the distribution of their films was outright banned. Warner Bros. already suspended its operations in Germany by July, 1934. Harry hoped for a while to create a film to expose the evils of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. But Jack worried that such a film would alienate William Randolph Hearst, and the Production Code Administration would prevent the release of any overtly anti-Nazi film for most of the 1930s. Joseph Breen insisted on it. As a result, Bosko's Picture Show would become the first film to actually target Hitler. And for a while it would remain the only one. Poverty Row studios would soon complete the films Hitler's Reign of Terror (1934) and Are We Civilized? (1934), but both films were denied a wide release because of their content.
Pre-Hays Code Hollywood films (both animated and live-action) were notorious for pushing the boundaries of what was considered taboo at the time, particularly the use of curse words and profane terms. For example, the Flip the Frog series often features the term "damn". In The Milkman (1932), part of the series, a character uses the term "hell" in the context of the phrase "What the hell do we care". But this short is considered unusual for the supposed use of another term. When the villain first appears onscreen, Bosko shouts what sounds like "The dirty fuck." The word is not clearly heard, due to a muffled vowel and it has been argued that a flaw in the soundtrack rendered profane a more "polite" phrase, such as "dirty fox" or "dirty mug". Animator Mark Kausler has studied the lip movements of the character and insisted that "mug" was the intended word. He initially believed that the sound flaw only appeared on the 16 mm film version, and tried to record the sound off a 35 mm, nitrate film to correct this, leading to no better results, since listeners still heard the disputed word as "fuck". Animation historian Jerry Beck also had several people see the film, and they all concluded that Bosko did indeed call the movie villain a "dirty fuck."
According to the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 6 DVD set the subtitles for that scene read, "The dirty fox!", despite that "The dirty fuck!" can clearly be heard. Fans have theorized that the inclusion of a really nasty curse word was most likely a parting shot by Harman and Ising to Warner Bros. animation head Leon Schlesinger, with whom they disputed over various matters, though this seems unlikely as both Schlesinger and Warners would have reviewed the cartoon prior to release and edited out the offending line (unless both Schlesinger and Warners misheard the line as "The dirty fox!", which is most likely what happened in this case, after the recent revelation).
This cartoon is available as part of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 6 DVD set, uncut and digitally remastered.
- Birdwell, Michael E. (1999), "Warner Bros. and the Opening Salvos against Nazism, 1934-1939", Celluloid Soldiers: Warner Bros.'s Campaign Against Nazism, New York University Press, ISBN 978-0814798713
- Cohen, Karl F. (2004), "Censorship of Theatrical Animation", Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators in America, McFarland & Company, ISBN 978-0786420322
- Shull, Michael S.; Wilt, David E. (2004), "Animated Talkies During the 1930s: A Political Overview", Doing Their Bit: Wartime American Animated Short Films, 1939-1945, McFarland & Company, ISBN 978-0786481699
- Welky, David (2008), "Fires at Home, Fires Abroad", The Moguls and the Dictators: Hollywood and the Coming of World War II, Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 978-0801890444