September in the Rain (film)
|September in the Rain|
Blue Ribbon reissue title card
|Directed by||I. Freleng|
|Produced by||Leon Schlesinger|
|Story by||Ted Pierce|
|Starring||Mel Blanc (uncredited)|
Danny Webb (uncredited)
Wini Shaw (uncredited)
James C. Morton (uncredited)
|Music by||Carl W. Stalling|
|Animation by||Cal Dalton|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. |
|December 18, 1937 (USA), September 30, 1944 (reissue)|
September in the Rain is an American one-reel animated cartoon short subject in the Merrie Melodies series, produced in Technicolor and released to theaters on December 18, 1937 by Warner Bros. and Vitaphone. It was produced by Leon Schlesinger and directed by I. Freleng, with musical supervision by Carl W. Stalling.
Timed at 5 minutes and about 50 seconds, September in the Rain may well be the shortest among all Warners Bros. Merrie Melodies or Looney Tunes animated short subjects. Due to the controversy engendered by the sequences considered to depict racial stereotyping, it has been most commonly edited to a much shorter running of four or even three minutes, with the invariable excision of the Fats Waller–Louis Armstrong "Nagasaki" production number and, often, the Al Jolson title song performance. Although not listed among the Censored Eleven, the cartoon has been exhibited infrequently, even in its brief censored version.
Re-released under the "Blue Ribbon" label, September in the Rain was shorn of its original title card containing all the credited names, however, the recovered card, along with those for other "Blue Ribbon" reissues, is available for viewing.
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"Am I Blue?", coffee, clog dance and bagpipe music
Seen from the inside of a brightly lit grocery store, the plate glass storefront window shows a dark and rainy night. The song "Am I Blue?" (voice of unbilled Wini Shaw) is heard, revealing the performer to be a bottle of blueing with a face, arms and legs. The bottle's feet are shod in spats-covered footwear and its label states, "for keeping your clothes white and clean".
Next, a white-bearded fakir on a coffee can label (which also depicts the indistinct words "air-tite dated" / "deffe that is coffee") plays a pungi-like instrument, causing a tube of "Tootsie Tooth Paste" to squeeze out a stream of snake-dancing paste with the tube's cap serving as a hat.
Then, a can marked "Searchlight", with a lighthouse pictured on the label, sends out a light beam, while four identical blonde women wearing blue dresses, aprons and wooden shoes, step off four cans of "Old Maid Cleanser" ("Old Dutch Cleanser") and perform a Klompendansen-styled clog dance which ends with the women showing their clothed backsides, including a flash of white underwear, to the audience.
After that, a shallow box marked "Rubber Gloves" is seen. A single glove rises and walks out of the box using three fingers as feet and two as hands. It has drawn lines indicating eyes and eyebrows as well as a large mouth which inhales air and inflates the glove, emitting the sound of a bagpipe upon exhaling. The glove's drawing in of more air and repetition of the bagpipe sound provides inspiration to the subsequent act — three packs of cigarettes, marked "Carmel / Turkish Blend", each with a picture of a small-scale Egyptian pyramid at the feet of a two-humped camel. The camel executes a dancing walk to the bagpipe music which carries over to the next shelf, featuring two bottles of "Good Ol' Scotch", each of which bears a label depicting a kilt-wearing thistle, the floral emblem of Scotland. The plants, with two leafy arms and two leafy legs, step off their labels of Scotch and perform the traditional Scottish dance Highland Fling, each touching a leafy finger to the top of its budding head.
Chicks and worm
The scene moves to a display of apples where, to the tune of "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree", a worm pops out and is chased by five chicks which jump off the box fronts of "My Ami? Powder" (only three boxes are visible). One of the chicks swallows the worm and begins to involuntarily bounce around and forcibly move in violent worm-like crawl. The worm eventually pops out of the chick's beak and jumps back into the apple's wormhole.
"By a Waterfall" and Al Jolson's "September in the Rain"
A shelf featuring boxes of "Threaded Wheat" has, on its front, a factory-styled structure in the background and a river waterfall in the foreground (a stylized representation of Shredded Wheat's longtime factory in the New York State city of Niagara Falls). The melody of "By a Waterfall" is heard (sung by unbilled Wini Shaw), as the water cascades to the shelf below and rains over round (unnamed) cardboard containers depicting an umbrella-holding girl resembling the familiar image from "Morton Salt". Nearby, a raincoat-wearing boy on a package of "Uneedum Crackers", hears her singing, steps off, walks to her label and joins her in a Dick Powell–Ruby Keeler-styled duet from Footlight Parade, while still holding his oversized box of crackers.
A glance at another shelf reveals a box of "Dream of Wheat" featuring, on the front, a large caricature of Al Jolson, in blackface, wearing a chef's uniform with a large red bowtie. He begins to sing "September in the Rain", a song introduced by James Melton in that year's musical, Melody for Two. Turning to the nearby package of "Aunt Emma Pancake Flour", he exclaims, "and look who's comin' to see me — 'tis mammy — ohhhh… nobody else's". Aunt Emma extends arms to him from her package and responds, with a big smile, "Sonny Boy". Jolson continues to sing and points to his "li'l ol' Southern home" — a container of "Cabin Syrup" with windshield wipers flinging away the September rain from the cabin windows — and then to "Brite Sun Cleanser" shining over the "Cabin Syrup". He ends with the sign-off phrase, "Good evening, friends..."
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance
A different shelf shows a pack of "Domingo Cigarettes", with a stylized depiction of Ginger Rogers in a checkered party hat, alongside a pack of "Tareytown Cigarettes / Cork Tips / There's a Funny Thing About Them", which depicts a stylized Fred Astaire. The miniature stars step off the fronts of the packs, as spats-wearing Astaire flings away his top hat along with cane and, sporting ballroom dancing outfits, they launch into a realistically intricate rotoscoped performance in which, as a representation of their stairstep routine, they repeatedly dance up and down matchboxes, past oversize packs of "Park Avenue" and "Lucky Blows" cigarettes. At the end of their act, they segue into a brief tap dance and then walk off behind the multitude of cigarette packs.
Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and "Nagasaki"
Watching Astaire and Rogers finish their dance, two tutu-wearing figures on the box front of "Gold Rust Twins Washing Powder", one of whom is a caricature of Fats Waller wearing a tiny bowler hat, shout, "swing it, brother", to a Bisquit chef banging upon an oversized drum. A hammer holding arm on the package of "Strong Arm Baking Soda / Burp and Company Carbonated Soda" strikes the side of "Kleenax for Pots and Pans" as Fats Waller jumps over to the box of "Piano Wax" and, with a stogie in his mouth, begins to play and sing. The other "Gold Rust Twin", a caricature of Louis Armstrong, remains on the box and sings "Nagasaki". Two roosters on the front of "Chicken Feed" follow the rhythm, Aunt Emma steps off the box of her pancake flour, executing dance steps and waving her arms, while triplicate packages feature "Yea Man" chefs singing in unison. Fats Waller leans back in his piano chair and continues to play with great speed, now using his toes, while Louis Armstrong energetically picks up the "Nagasaki" melody on his jazz trumpet, with closeup of his fingers pressing the valves.
As the music reaches its climax, the viewpoint moves back to the big storefront window and irises out on the rainy night sky.
- Barrier, Michael (2003). "Warner Bros., 1941-1945". Hollywood Cartoons : American Animation in Its Golden Age: American Animation in Its Golden Age. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198020790.
- Lehman, Christopher P. (2007). "Black Characterizations". The Colored Cartoon: Black Representation in American Animated Short Films, 1907-1954. University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 9781558497795.
- Stausbauch, John (2007), "Black & White Film", Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture, Penguin Group, ISBN 978-1101216057
- Beck, Jerry; Friedwald, Will (1989). Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company. p. 102. ISBN 0-8050-0894-2.
- September in the Rain at Dailymotion
- "Racist Cartoon: Tin Pan Alley Cats" at US Slave (March 28, 2012)
- Original title card, screen captures and other images associated with September in the Rain
- Original title card for September in the Rain at Cartoon Research
- "September in the Rain" song history at Cafe Songbook
- Hartley, Steven. "187. September in the Rain" at Likely Looney, Mostly Merrie (11 August 2012)