Friday, June 8, 2012

Cartoon characters

Wednesday night, and yes, this involves insomnia but only tangentially, we were watching a YouTube video of this old Betty Boop cartoon. Adam had heard that Coco the Clown, one of Betty's friends, had a little hidden in-joke attached to him, literally, that involved Hebrew letters that spelled out something I can't even remember. The short was an enactment of a song called, "I'll be glad when you're dead you rascal you" sung by Louis Armstrong. We spotted the thing we were looking for, but while watching, I realized there was something oddly familiar about this very trippy cartoon.  Around the middle of it, when Louis Armstrong's head floats up into the sky and sings to Betty, Coco and their little dog from up above, I remembered I'd seen something very much like this before in a movie.

Ok, it's been a while since I saw New York Stories. I hardly remember it, except for Oedipus Wrecks and the part where Woody Allen's character is mortified by his mother who has suddenly become larger than life and is floating above the city telling everyone on the streets below stories about her son's most embarrassing moments. Woody Allen plays Sheldon, the tortured son, and in my addled memory, Debbie Reynolds  played the mother.  Anyway, to make things more complicated, I had to look the movie up on imdb but found out it wasn't Debbie Reynolds at all.  It was an actress named Mae Questel who played his mother.  Of course, being the amateur sleuth I am, I looked her up and coincidence (?) of coincidences, Mae Questel was the main voice for Bettty Boop in the 1930s (

Of course I had to see if Woody Allen had been inspired by the above mentioned Fleischer Studios cartoon but could find no mention of it on the internets.  Just for kicks, I emailed his publicist to find out if there was a connection between the cartoon and Mr. Allen's short.  I doubt I hear back but you never know.  I suppose I've got my insomnia to thank for another mystery partially solved.


Miss Lisa said...

Oooh, these 30s cartoons are so peculiar. Mae Questel was also the voice of Olive Oyl in the 30s. The original black & white Popeye cartoons are often quite brilliant and definitely surreal. She is beloved among animators and fans. I'm sure Woody Allen grew up watching these and loving her as well.

Clever of you to remember the New York Stories scene with the floating head Mom. I don't think I've ever seen that film--I'll get it on Netflix. Even if Allen can't remember this cartoon specifically, I'm sure he got the idea from this and other similar things.

Did you know "Annie Hall" was originally going to be a series of really surreal sketches, strung together loosely around the relationship story? With tons of biographical backstory, plus a descent into "hell" on the sidewalks of New York, with one of those lifts that stores use to load stuff from the sidewalk. Most of it was filmed and scratched for a straightforward romantic/comedy instead. But yeah, Woody Allen was very madcap back in the day.

What did the Hebrew on Coco's speedometer say?

Dee See said...

Did you get to see NY stories? I should see it again, too. Aside from the floating head, I remember the Steve Martin Sara Jessica Parker scene where I think they're on a date and she's doing all these pirouettes and swirly dancing as they're walking down the street and she's watching herself in the reflection of the store windows they pass. It totally reminds me of my cousin the gymnast who still does stuff like that and probably mortified her two sons now.

I used to live by some unspoken Annie Hall rule to get me thru life...but then I saw it again a couple of years ago and realized I'm over it and have been for decades. I had no idea it evolved from something else...I would love to see those outtakes.

Adam reminds me the letters spelt "kosher", natch.

Miss Lisa said...

OK, I saw "New York Stories" last week and I want to know: what the hell, Francis Ford Coppola? People think he lost his mind during the making of "Apocolypse Now," but I think he officially lost it during the making of "Leaving Zoe." That said, I enjoyed Woody Allen's film the most even though much stereotyping was taking place. At least he had everyone "typed," including the crowds of New Yorkers clamoring to show off all their kids' photos to the mom in the sky.

Nick Nolte as a tortured artist was hard to watch. Uncomfortable memories surfaced as he raked Rosanna Arquette over the emotional coals in the name of "love."

Did you ever see "Guinevere" starring Sarah Polley and Stephen Rea? It takes place in San Francisco in the SOMA art world. Kind of similar in theme, but kind of wry and San Francisco-y in atmosphere. Older photographer takes up with young girl/muse. You know the story...

Dee See said...

I just saw your comment. I do want to see that...I'm trying to order it for our library cause it's not on Netflix. Sounds interesting but you never know. I especially like seeing stuff in a familiar locale...