Monday, January 13, 2014

Stuttering Charlatan Loses Girl, Wins Food Source: I Only Have Eyes For You

3/6/1937 (according to the Big Cartoon Database; IMDb says 5/18/37)

Available on the Warner Home Video DVD DAMES, released in 2006)

A reasonably good copy of this cartoon can be seen HERE (thanks for providing this, Devon Baxter!) As always, we recommend that you watch the cartoon before reading!

Frustrating cartoon, this. It comes right before Fred Avery's first bonafide masterpieceone of the most revolutionary animated cartoons in American film. This cartoon is, quite frankly, not worthy of his talent or effort.

This is a pattern that recurs through Avery's career. Minor films precede major works; masterpieces are followed by half-assed also-rans. Avery was not a consistent creator of gems. By his nature, he couldn't be. A constant, fearless experimenter, each film an object-lesson in how much he could get away with (both with the studio brass and paying audiences), Avery had to take mis-steps.

More so than Chuck Jones or Bob Clampett, Avery walked off metaphorical cliffs, and courted abject failure, so that he could excel in his cinematic and comedic gifts.

I Only Have Eyes For You is exactly the kind of cartoon producer Leon Schlesinger wanted. It exploited a hot song (and a genuinely fine oneit's become a solid part of the Great American Songbook), and, on its surface, did nothing out of kilter. It could have been made by any of the units at Schlesinger's studio.

Avery would keep making such cartoons throughout his stay at Schlesinger's. There will be four more of these song-driven cartoons in the next year. They are replaced by the troublesome string of topical spot-gag cartoons in 1939. Your humble host looks forward to covering those cartoons as he would a spoonful of syrup of ipecac.