Coming Up Shorts! with… Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

“Hello, all you happy people.” – Droopy

Welcome back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! This time, I’m focusing on various cartoons from MGM that were directed by Tex Avery. The shorts I’m covering were all a part of the Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1. While the shorts have not been released in chronological order, those in this set were originally released theatrically between 1943 and 1951.

Here’s a list and quick plot description for each of the cartoons included in this set (for my comments on the individual cartoons, click on the title to go to my previous reviews):

Tex Avery Classics

  1. Red Hot Riding Hood (1943) (Length: 7 minutes, 14 seconds)
    • The re-telling of Red Riding Hood, making Red a nightclub performer, Granny a nightclub owner, and the Wolf a womanizer.
  2. Who Killed Who? (1943) (Length: 7 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • We have a murder mystery, with a detective looking to find out who committed the murder while avoiding his own death.
  3. What’s Buzzin’ Buzzard? (1943) (Length: 8 minutes, 12 seconds)
    • Two very hungry buzzards decide to try to eat each other, to hilarious effect!
  4. Batty Baseball (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 27 seconds)
    • For this short, we have a very screwy baseball game.
  5. The Hick Chick (1946) (Length: 7 minutes, 10 seconds)
    • Hick rooster Lem ends up fighting with a city slicker for the affections of his girlfriend, Daisy.
  6. Bad Luck Blackie (1949) (Length: 7 minutes, 8 seconds)
    • A little kitten is being chased by a dog, when he runs into a black cat that volunteers to help.
  7. Garden Gopher (1950) (Length: 6 minutes, 11 seconds)
    • Spike the dog has to deal with a troublesome gopher when he tries to bury his bone.
  8. The Peachy Cobbler (1950) (Length: 6 minutes, 43 seconds)
    • After an old cobbler gives some bread to some hungry birds, a group of elves help him catch up on work while he sleeps.
  9. Symphony In Slang (1951) (Length: 6 minutes, 45 seconds)
    • At the gates of heaven, a young man arrives speaking only in slang, and, unable to understand him, the main official turns to Noah Webster for help.

Screwy Squirrel

  1. Screwball Squirrel (1944) (Length: 7 minutes, 24 seconds)
    • Screwy Squirrel faces off against the bird dog Meathead.
  2. The Screwy Truant (1945) (Length: 7 minutes, 1 second)
    • Screwy Squirrel avoids going to school while being chased by the truant officer dog.
  3. Big Heel-Watha (1944) (Length: 7 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • Big Heel-Watha has to hunt don Screwy Squirrel to find some meat for his tribe.
  4. Lonesome Lenny (1946) (Length: 7 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • A big, lonely dog (who is too strong for his own good) chases his new little friend, Screwy.

George & Junior

  1. Hound Hunters (1947) (Length: 7 minutes, 18 seconds)
    • George and Junior try to work as dog catchers, but a small dog keeps eluding them.
  2. Red Hot Rangers (1947) (Length: 7 minutes, 59 seconds)
    • Forest rangers George and Junior try to put out a fire started by a lit cigarette.


  1. Dumb-Hounded (1943) (Length: 8 minutes, 1 second)
    • The Wolf escapes from prison, and Droopy must hunt him down.
  2. Wags To Riches (1949) (Length: 7 minutes, 11 seconds)
    • Droopy inherits a mansion, and Spike attempts to do him in so that he gets everything.
  3. The Chump Champ (1950) (Length: 7 minutes, 14 seconds)
    • Droopy and Spike compete in a variety of sports.
  4. Daredevil Droopy (1951) (Length: 6 minutes, 27 seconds)
    • Droopy and Spike compete to get a job in a circus.

As usual, I remind you that, when it comes to theatrical shorts, my own knowledge is generally Wikipedia level at best (not to mention whatever I find sometimes through Turner Classic Movie’s website), so I may not necessarily get everything right. Anyway, here goes. Tex Avery was a well-known animator and director from the golden age of American animation. He started out working as an inker and animator at Universal’s animation studios on some of the “Oswald The Lucky Rabbit” cartoons. During this time, he lost the use of his left eye when, in a bit of horseplay apparently common there, he was hit in the eye by either a thumbtack or wire paper clip thrown at him. Less than thrilled with his salary there, he ended up being fired. He next worked for Leon Schlesinger at Warner Brothers, where he became a director with his own unit, where they would help establish Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny, along with introducing Daffy Duck. However, he had issues with Leon Schlesinger, and he quit, briefly working for Paramount before he signed with MGM in 1941. There, he would make use of his own style, whether it be the fast pacing of the shorts, or the characters sometimes breaking the fourth wall, or making fun of the fairy tale tropes that Walt Disney made use of. He would do his shorts at MGM up through 1950, when he had to take time off from being overworked. He returned to do two more cartoons before leaving MGM entirely for the Walter Lantz studio at Universal (which would be short-lived because of salary issues yet again).

The set of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 is comprised of shorts made by Tex Avery during his tenure at MGM. The shorts included are, as I said before, not necessarily included in chronological order. The main reason for that is what shape some of the elements are in, as many of the original negatives for MGM’s pre-1951 cartoons had been destroyed in a 1965 vault fire. But, for the nineteen shorts included in this set, Warner Archive Collection used 4K scans of the best available archival elements, and the results are fantastic! Every short looks so colorful, and it makes for easy viewing! This set contains many classics, including Red Hot Riding Hood, which turned the Little Red Riding Hood story on its ear, and gave us “Red,” as well as the Wolf, who was a frequent character in some of the shorts. We also got the likes of Screwy Squirrel, with four out of five of his shorts being included. And, my personal favorites of the set, the four Droopy cartoons. I remember those the most vividly from my own childhood (although I have some recollection of some of the stand-alone cartoons as well), and it’s great seeing them looking better than I’ve ever seen them look! I very much enjoyed this set, and I can certainly say that I look forward to seeing and enjoying Volume 2 (which has sadly been delayed by the pandemic, but, at least at the time of this writing, it’s being worked on and coming)! To borrow another quote from Droopy to describe my feelings about this set:

“You know what? I’m happy. Hooray.”

Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. The whole set has a runtime of two hours, eighteen minutes.

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TFTMM 2020 & WOIANRA 2019 on… Abbott And Costello Meet The Keystone Kops (1955)

As we get into the home stretch of the Abbott and Costello films (at least, those I have to work with), we have a triple-feature for today!  Starting us off is their 1955 film Abbott And Costello Meet The Keystone Kops!

Harry Pierce (Bud Abbott) convinces his buddy Willie Piper (Lou Costello) to use his aunt’s money to buy a movie studio, believing it to be a good investment. What they don’t know (at first) is that they have been conned by Joseph Gorman (Fred Clark) into buying one of Thomas Edison’s closed down studios. By the time Harry and Willie figure it out, Gorman and his friend Leota Van Cleet (Lynn Bari) are on a train heading towards Hollywood, where he plans to be a big director, under the pseudonym Sergei Toumanoff. On his way, Gorman (or maybe I should say “Toumanoff”) is stopped and hired by movie producer Rudolph Snavely (Frank Wilcox). Harry and Willie make their way out there, on foot and by train. At one point, they find themselves on the back of a covered wagon being chased by Native Americans, before it is revealed that the whole chase was being filmed (and by none other than Toumanoff)! Snavely likes the stunts that Harry and Willie do with the wagon, and wants them hired as stuntmen. Toumanoff and Leota recognize Harry and Willie, and make plans for some stunts that may kill them. To make sure, Toumanoff hires a thug named Hinds (Maxie Rosenbloom) to help off them. Between the two of them, they make plans to have Willie double for Leota in a plane, with another pilot being given live ammunition to shoot at them (instead of the blanks he was supposed to be using). However, things don’t go as planned, and both Harry and Willie survive. When viewing the footage they had shot, Snavely decides to hire Harry and Willie as a new comedy team, with Toumanoff as their director! At first, Toumanoff protests, but Snavely reveals that he figured out Toumanoff is Joseph Gorman. Snavely allows him to keep the job and name, providing he would reimburse his victims out of his pay (and keep Harry and Willie safe). Faced with no alternative, he goes along with it, although Harry and Willie soon find out that Toumanoff is Gorman and try to find some evidence. Gorman and Leota are forced to go on the run when Hinds demands his pay, which they can only provide by stealing the money from Snavely’s safe. Harry and Willie walk in on them taking the money, leading to a chase that quickly involves the Keystone Kops!

I admit that, going into it, I was not looking forward to seeing this movie again. I saw it once before, and at that time, I was left with the feeling that it was one of the worst Abbott and Costello films. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was better than I thought (although still far from perfect). The movie did have many fun moments. Bud and Lou do their “Oyster” routine again (except this time it’s a squirrel that keeps switching between loaves of bread), with the added fun that Bud actually sees the squirrel at the end of the routine. One of the film’s best moments is when Bud and Lou’s characters try to find evidence against Fred Clark’s Joseph Gorman. Bud goes into the house dressed as a burglar, while Lou is outside dressed as a policeman (with a mustache!). They run into trouble because there is a real thief there (dressed like Bud) and a real policeman comes (and he looks similar to Lou), and the comings and goings really drive Fred Clark’s character crazy! Then, there is the final (hilarious) chase scene with the Keystone Kops!

As I hinted at, this movie does still have its problems. For one thing, the stunt doubles for Bud and Lou are way too obvious (especially watching how Bud himself moves for his age, then seeing the double running like a much younger man). Then, there is the frequent use of rear screen projection. To be fair, there isn’t much to be done about it, but it still looks way too fake. But, ultimately, I would say the Keystone Kops are the biggest disappointment. For one thing, in spite of their prominence in the title, they really don’t appear until the very end, feeling more like a quick cameo appearance. Had the film gone with its working title of Abbott And Costello In The Stunt Men, it might not have been quite so bad (still not a great title, but at least better). Then, of course, there is the fact that the Keystone Kops are not that recognizable anymore. The Universal executives were concerned about that at the time, although at least then, the comedies featuring them were starting to show up on TV, and they were still relevant. Now, it seems like only the hardcore film fans might have any idea who they are (and beyond this film, I can’t really say as I do, yet). Still, as I said, I did enjoy this movie more than I thought I would the second time around, and I would recommend giving it a try!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory as part of the 28 film The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures Collection, and is one hour, nineteen minutes in length.

My Rating: 6/10

Audience Rating:

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Abbott And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953)Bud Abbott/ Lou Costello – Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)

Abbott And Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953)The Complete Abbott And Costello Universal Pictures CollectionAbbott And Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)

Coming Up Shorts! with… Daredevil Droopy (1951)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

Welcome to my new feature on various theatrical shorts! Sometimes my comments will be on shorts included as extras on a disc set I am reviewing, and other times, they will be completely unrelated to the movie being reviewed (and I will try to indicate which). Hope you enjoy!

(Length: 6 minutes, 27 seconds)

Droopy and Spike compete to get a job in a circus. While it’s Droopy and Spike competing again, it’s still good fun here! Admittedly, there is one quick, not-very-PC joke here, but it’s a blink-and-you’ll miss it moment. Otherwise, the gags work well, the competition between Droopy and Spike continues to work, even for the one moment that Spike manages to get Droopy just a little. Admittedly, the final gag is a repeat from one of the earlier shorts, but it gets a laugh from me (as do most of the others here)!

And stay tuned for more of Coming Up Shorts! featuring cartoons by Tex Avery (and the eventual post on the entire Volume 1 set), along with other shorts!