Jazz, Sex and War Cartoons

Film archivist Dennis Nyback presents this special 16mm program.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, well before television, the cartoon was a popular supplement of feature films in almost all American movie theatres, and many of the legendary animators such as Bob Clampett and Tex Avery were in their prime. With musical scorings composed by masters like Carl Stallings, the cartoon was experiencing a golden age. These cartoons would continue to deliver joy and delight to young and old alike for decades to come. Many of these cartoons would also deliver something much darker, something much disturbing and insidious. Like the cultural time capsules they were, they would also deliver the hate, the ridicule and the callousness bound up in the racial, sexual and cultural stereotypes of the period – ugly stereotypes of women and minorities which belied the patriotic myth of a “melting pot” society where a person’s race or color did not matter.

This cartoon culture of the 30s and 40s in its extreme incarnations has been shelved, buried, suppressed and willfully ignored by the anthropologists of cinema who have little desire to re-release the toxic fumes of social hatred and inequity from another time. We must decide if it is better to ignore the past or not – and at what cost.

Buried Treasure (1928, artist unknown) Legendary porno cartoon with a boogie woogie piano soundtrack.

Bimbo’s Initiation (1931, Max and David Fleischer) Bimbo in existential Hell. He ends up playing S&M patty cake with Betty Boop.

You’re a Sap, Mister Jap (1943, Max and  David Fleischer) Popeye battles Japan. Based on a popular WW II song.

Honeymoon Hotel (1934, Earl Duval) Newlyweds set a hotel afire with their torrid love making.

Minnie the Moocher (1932, Max and David Fleischer) Cab Calloway and Betty Boop.

Lovers In The Woods (1965, artist unknown) A pornographic telling of Hansel and Gretel. What makes it especially interesting is the soundtrack, Sleeping Beauty by Tchaikovsky, is recorded backwards to give it a way out free-jazz effect.

Don’t Look Now (1936, Tex Avery) A very funny look at young Satan battling cupid on Valentine’s Day all to a snappy melody.

Red Hot Riding Hood (1943, Tex Avery) The cartoon characters revolt against a sugary telling of Little Red Riding Hood. It is then changed to a jazzy, sexy version.


Tuesday, April 19