Hollywood Steps Out

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Hollywood Steps Out
HollywoodStepsOut TC.png
Directed byFred Avery
Produced byLeon Schlesinger
Story byMelvin Millar
StarringKent Rogers
Mel Blanc
Sara Berner
Music byCarl W. Stalling
Edited byTreg Brown
Animation byRod Scribner
Robert McKimson
Virgil Ross
Charles McKimson[1]
Sid Sutherland[2]
Ben Shenkman
Backgrounds byJohn Didrik Johnsen[3]
Color processTechnicolor
Production
company
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • May 24, 1941 (1941-05-24) (original)
  • October 2, 1948 (1948-10-02) (Blue Ribbon reissue)
Running time
7:45
LanguageEnglish

Hollywood Steps Out is a 1941 short Merrie Melodies cartoon by Warner Bros., directed by Tex Avery.[4] The short was released on May 24, 1941.[5]

The cartoon features caricatures of over 40 Hollywood celebrities.

Plot[edit]

A bird's-eye view of Los Angeles is shown with searchlights moving to a conga beat. The action takes place in the famed Ciro's nightclub, where the Hollywood stars are having dinner at $50 ($869.12 today) a plate and "easy terms". The first stars seen are Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche, and, at a table behind them, Adolphe Menjou and Norma Shearer, followed by Cary Grant, seated alone. Grant's first lines reference his films My Favorite Wife, The Awful Truth, and His Girl Friday (originally titled The Front Page). Greta Garbo comes along as a cigarette girl, and lights a match for Grant on her notoriously large feet. In the next scene, Edward G. Robinson asks Ann Sheridan, "How's the Oomph girl tonight?" Sheridan, then known as the "Oomph Girl", responds by uttering the word "Oomph" several times.

The camera then tracks past several other tables: Warner Bros. staffers Henry Binder and Leon Schlesinger appear as an in-joke, while the soundtrack quotes "Merrily We Roll Along" – the theme to the Merrie Melodies series. A seat is reserved for Bette Davis, as is a large sofa for the rotund Kate Smith; finally the cast of Blondie has been invited, including a fire hydrant for Daisy the dog. Meanwhile, in the cloakroom, Johnny Weissmuller checks a coat with Paulette Goddard that reveals his Tarzan outfit, with the single addition of a tuxedo collar and black bow tie. Sally Rand (famous for her striptease acts and fan dance), leaves her trademark feather "fans" behind and is presumably naked.

In the next scene, James Cagney prepares Humphrey Bogart and George Raft – all known for their "tough guy" roles – for a risky task. They get ready, turn, and start childishly pitching pennies. Harpo Marx lights matches under Garbo's foot, but in keeping with her subdued acting style, she responds with only a casual "Ouch." Then Clark Gable (known for chasing women) turns his head around 180 degrees to observe a pretty girl whom he follows offscreen.

Emcee Bing Crosby introduces the evening's entertainment, interrupted frequently by an over-affectionate race horse with an apparently unconscious jockey (a reference to Crosby's fondness for horse racing). Crosby presents Leopold Stokowski, who wears a snood as he prepares for what promises to be a serious orchestral performance— however, the song is "Ahí, viene la conga" and he dances to the beat.

The conga inspires Dorothy Lamour to invite James Stewart to dance with her. Stewart, known for playing "shy guy" roles, stutters, stammers, and finally runs away scared, leaving behind a sign reading "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Gable dances by, following the girl he saw earlier. Tyrone Power dances with noted ice skater Sonja Henie.[6] Frankenstein's monster dances stiffly and woodenly. The Three Stooges poke and smash each other in rhythm to the beat. Oliver Hardy's dance partner is revealed to be two women, initially hidden by his obese frame. Cesar Romero dances with Rita Hayworth; considered to be two of the era's best big-screen dancers, they dance clumsily and spastically.

Mickey Rooney, sitting with Judy Garland, is presented with an expensive bill. An episode of the Andy Hardy film series breaks out as Rooney asks his "father", Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone), for a favor. In the next scene they are seen washing the dishes to the conga beat.

Gable, still following the girl, gives an aside to the audience: "Don't go away folks, this oughta be good!" Crosby then introduces the "feature attraction of the evening:" Sally Rand (identified as "Sally Strand") performing the bubble dance to "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles". Crosby points to a stage area off screen, where the camera shifts to an unlit area and Rand standing still and holding a large white bubble in front of her presumably nude body from a longshot. A light comes on and shines on her and the camera zooms in on her, where we see Rand blink twice before motioning herself to dance. During the dance sequence, the camera shifts back and forth between the men's reactions and Strand dancing. All shots on Rand show her pacing back and forth on the stage carrying and dancing with her bubble. Kay Kyser, in his "Ol' Perfessor" character, shouts out, "Students!" to which a group of men wolf-whistle in unison and exclaim "Baby!": They are William Powell, Spencer Tracy, Ronald Colman, Errol Flynn, Wallace Beery and C. Aubrey Smith. Peter Lorre cryptically states, "I haven't seen such a beautiful bubble since I was a child," possibly in reference to his breakthrough film role as a child murderer in M. Henry Fonda is enjoying the act until he is pulled away by Alice Aldrich of The Aldrich Family saying "Hen-reeeeee!" J. Edgar Hoover then says "Gee!" several times as a pun on his position as a G-man. Boris Karloff, Arthur Treacher, Buster Keaton, and Mischa Auer watch the action in their typical deadpan manner until Ned Sparks, another famous movie "grouch," asks them if they are having a good time; they respond in unison with a terse "Yes." Jerry Colonna is very excited, and utters his catchphrases "Guess who?", to which the camera reveals an invisible character next to him: "Yehudi!" ("Who's Yehudi?" was Colonna's famous catchphrase, referring to violinist Yehudi Menuhin).

"Strand" tosses her bubble up in the air and catches it on the way back down, titillating the audience. Now that Strand is standing still on the stage, this allows Harpo Marx, who was hiding underneath a table, the perfect opportunity and an easier time to shoot her bubble with his slingshot. The bubble explodes when the missile hits it, and Sally reacts with shock as it reveals a barrel underneath. Gable, meanwhile, has finally caught the girl he was chasing, insisting she kiss him. "She" turns out to be Groucho Marx in drag, and says, "Well, fancy meeting you here!" The cartoon ends with a long-lost clip which has cut in reissue prints, with a view of Gable saying (apparently to Groucho) "I'm a bad boy" in front of the camera with the background of the night sky.

Cast[edit]

  • Kent Rogers as Mickey Rooney, James Cagney, James Stewart, Kay Kyser, J. Edgar Hoover, Henry Fonda, Cary Grant, Edward G. Robinson, Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, Lewis Stone, Ned Sparks, Peter Lorre, and Groucho Marx[7][8]
  • Mel Blanc as Jerry Colonna
  • Sara Berner as Greta Garbo, Ann Sheridan, Paulette Goddard, Dorothy Lamour, and Henry Fonda's Mother

Production notes[edit]

  • When announced for the bubble dance Rand is called "Strand" by Crosby, presumably to avoid infringement. Rand refused permission to copy her dance act.
  • In one showing of the short, there are actually variants as to how the cartoon runs. One version shows a more revealing, erotic bubble dance by Sally Strand. If one slows the part where she lifts her bubble up, one can see much more of her nudity than is shown in the former case. The bubble also immediately comes down after going up a certain distance rather than to the left first before coming down. In addition, her nudity is never completely shown, but rather is heavily implied. Throughout the entire dance, Rand dances behind her bubble hiding her nudity. In addition, the viewer can only see her dance from the front side due to the camera view. Her sides and back side are never shown.
  • Strand's bubble and Marx's slingshot are makeshift objects. The former's an object shaped like a ball and is smaller than one Rand used in the actual dance, while the latter uses a rubber band to aim a ball missile, but the missile is not shown.
  • Out of the 46 stars caricatured, Mickey Rooney was the last survivor until his death on April 6, 2014. C. Aubrey Smith died earliest in the cast on December 24, 1948, and was the oldest personality featured in the cartoon upon its release, at age 77.
  • Kent Rogers voiced all of the male celebrities except for Jerry Colonna, who was voiced by Mel Blanc. Rogers was a gifted impressionist, and only 17 years old when the cartoon was made. In July 1944, he was killed in Pensacola, Florida, during a U.S. Navy training flight.
  • The original release had an extended ending where Clark Gable kisses Groucho Marx anyway (adding, "I'm a BAD boy!"); this was cut out of the reissue print, because Clark was worried it would hurt his career. The result of cutting the ending was an abrupt black-out fade.[9]
  • Caricatures of Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis were made, but ultimately not used in the film. Had they made the cut, Hepburn would've been the longest-lived of all the stars, being 96 at the time of her death in 2003. Of the personalities features in the completed version, Stokowski was the longest-lived, dying in 1977 at the age of 95.
  • On July 13, 2016, former UCLA film archivist Steve Stanchfield partially discovered the long-lost original ending of the cartoon.

Reception[edit]

The Film Daily called the short a "caricature novelty", saying, "Latest Leon Schlesinger foray into the realm of caricature will interest and amuse."[10]

Cartoon voice actor Keith Scott writes, "There have been many twenty-first-century comments about how much this cartoon's cultural references (like conga music) and its raft of celebrities are impenetrable to a contemporary audience. However, on its initial release, Hollywood Steps Out was hyped as a special event and given a publicity buildup in The Los Angeles Times. Audiences in 1941 would have greeted every caricature with instant recognition and hearty laughter."[11]

Availability[edit]

Hollywood Steps Out is available on Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 2. It is also available on Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 2 Disc 2. Both feature the Blue Ribbon reissue title card.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Tralfaz: Spot the Stars". Tralfaz. 28 May 2018. Retrieved 9 October 2020.
  2. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URBQttZUsV0
  3. ^ "Tralfaz: She Has Oomph". Tralfaz. 12 May 2020. Retrieved 9 October 2020.
  4. ^ Beck, Jerry; Friedwald, Will (1989). Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons. Henry Holt and Co. p. 116. ISBN 0-8050-0894-2.
  5. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (1999). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. Checkmark Books. pp. 104–106. ISBN 0-8160-3831-7. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  6. ^ http://www.warnercompanion.com/eowbcc-h.html
  7. ^ "The Warner Brothers Cartoon Companion". Retrieved 2018-06-03.
  8. ^ "Classic Cartoons: Who's That Guy? - "Hollywood Steps Out"". Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  9. ^ "Strange version of Hollywood Steps Out". Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  10. ^ "Reviews of Short Subjects". The Film Daily. 79 (118): 7. June 18, 1941. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  11. ^ Beck, Jerry, ed. (2020). The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes Cartoons. Insight Editions. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-64722-137-9.

External links[edit]