Coming Up Shorts! with… The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection

Welcome back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! This time, I’m going with theatrical shorts starring Woody Woodpecker, featuring various shorts from 1941 through 1961 that have been released together on disc in The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection.

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):

  1. Woody Woodpecker (1941) (Length: 6 minutes, 58 seconds)
    • The woodland animals think that Woody Woodpecker is crazy, and so he goes to see a psychiatrist.
  2. The Screwdriver (1941) (Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)
    • Woody is speeding through the countryside in his car, and decides to pick on a traffic cop watching for speeders.
  3. Pantry Panic (1941) (Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker ignores the advice of the weather groundhog, and a cold snap hits, leaving him without any food. Then a hungry cat comes a-calling, but finds himself fighting with an equally hungry Woodpecker!
  4. The Hollywood Matador (1942) (Length: 6 minutes, 58 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker takes on the bull Oxnar The Terribull in the bullring.
  5. Ace In The Hole (1942) (Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)
    • Stable boy Woody Woodpecker longs to fly in the planes, but the bulldog sergeant refuses to let him.
  6. The Loan Stranger (1942) (Length: 6 minutes, 50 seconds)
    • When Woody’s car breaks down, he gets a loan from a loan shark (or wolf in this case). After thirty days, the wolf comes to collect, but Woody won’t give him the money!
  7. The Screwball (1943) (Length: 6 minutes, 53 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker tries to watch a baseball game without paying, but has to deal with a policeman trying to stop him.
  8. Ration Bored (1943) (Length: 6 minutes, 51 seconds)
    • Disregarding the idea of conserving gas and tires, Woody Woodpecker goes out for a drive, only to run out of gas at the bottom of a hill. He and his car are then smacked into a junkyard, where he siphons gas from a few other vehicles, including a cop car (with the cop in it).
  9. The Barber Of Seville (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 56 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker stops in at the Seville Barber Shop for a haircut, but the owner is out for his physical. When an Indian chief and a construction worker come in, Woody proceeds to wreak havoc on the two men.
  10. The Beach Nut (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 50 seconds)
    • Wally Walrus has come to the beach to relax, but Woody Woodpecker keeps pestering him.
  11. Ski For Two (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)
    • As he looks through various travel brochures, Woody Woodpecker finds one for the Swiss Chard Lodge which promises good food, so off he goes. When the proprietor, Wally Walrus, throws him out for not having a reservation, Woody decides he’s still going to get the food he wanted!
  12. Chew-Chew Baby (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)
    • Wally Walrus kicks a very hungry Woody Woodpecker out of his boarding house (for nonpayment of rent). Looking in the newspaper, Woody finds a personal ad for Wally, and decides to answer it disguised as a woman.
  13. Woody Dines Out (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 42 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker is hungry, but all the restaurants that he can find are closed. Finally, he discovers a place that specializes in stuffing birds, but it turns out to be the establishment of a taxidermist!
  14. The Loose Nut (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker is out playing golf, but his ball goes into a wet patch of cement. He quickly gets into a fight with the city worker who was trying to smooth it out, and they keep fighting as the worker tries to get Woody to fix it.
  15. The Reckless Driver (1946) (Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • While driving on the highway, Woody sees a billboard reminding him to renew his driver’s license. Going to the department of motor vehicles, he tries to renew it with officer Wally Walrus.
  16. Fair Weather Fiends (1946) (Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • Everything is just fine for Woody Woodpecker and his friend, Wolfie Wolf, as they sail around on their boat, eating all day long. Then a storm leaves them stranded without food on an island, and hunger sets in.
  17. Woody The Giant Killer (1947) (Length: 6 minutes, 47 seconds)
    • With a housing shortage, Woody Woodpecker can’t find a place to stay. Buck Beaver gives him some magic beans, and a beanstalk takes him up to the giant’s castle in the clouds.
  18. Wet Blanket Policy (1948) (Length: 6 minutes, 25 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker is pushed by insurance salesman Buzz Buzzard into signing an insurance policy… with Buzz as the beneficiary!
  19. Wild And Woody! (1948) (Length: 6 minutes, 40 seconds)
    • In the town of Rigor Mortis, Arizona, outlaw Buzz Buzzard has a habit of killing off every sheriff. However, Woody Woodpecker decides to take the job, and gives Buzz a run for his money!
  20. The Woody Woodpecker Polka (1951) (Length: 6 minutes, 43 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker wants to get in to the barn dance for the free food, but Wally Walrus, the ticket taker, won’t let him in without paying. So, Woody decides to dress up as a lady to get in free!
  21. Born To Peck (1952) (Length: 6 minutes, 38 seconds)
    • An elderly Woody Woodpecker looks back on his life as a baby.
  22. Termites From Mars (1952) (Length: 6 minutes, 21 seconds)
    • The Earth is being invaded by the Martians! However, as Woody Woodpecker quickly finds out, these “Martians” are a bunch of termites out to eat up his home!
  23. Under The Counter Spy (1954) (Length: 6 minutes, 22 seconds)
    • A dangerous criminal called “The Bat” has stolen a secret formula, but has left the bottle in Woody Woodpecker’s house while evading the police. Woody mistakes the bottle for his tonic, and finds himself supercharged as he goes after “The Bat!”
  24. Niagara Fools (1956) (Length: 6 minutes, 12 seconds)
    • Woody decides to try going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, but a guide forbids him from doing so.
  25. The Bird Who Came To Dinner (1961) (Length: 6 minutes, 17 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker thinks he’s got it made when he poses as a toy woodpecker that a wealthy woman buys for her son. However, the son is very abusive towards all his toys, and intends to “play” the same way with his new toy!

Woody Woodpecker made his debut in the Walter Lantz Studio Andy Panda cartoon Knock Knock (1940). With audiences reacting strongly to the character, the animation studio quickly spun him off with his own series starting with the cartoon Woody Woodpecker (1941). For his first three appearances, the character was voiced by Mel Blanc, but Mel signed a loyalty contract with Warner’s Leon Schlesinger Productions, which ended his run in the Woody Woodpecker theatrical shorts (although the character’s laugh that he did was used as a stock sound effect for most of a decade). As time went on, Woody underwent several changes, both in terms of design and voice actors. Many potential foils, such as Wally Walrus and Buzz Buzzard were introduced to the series as well. For most of the 40s, the Woody cartoons were distributed by Universal Studios, but in the latter part of the decade, United Artists briefly took over when Walter Lantz and Universal couldn’t come to an agreement. During that time, George Tibbles and Ramey Idriss wrote “The Woody Woodpecker Song,” which became the series’ theme song. Going into the 1950s, Walter Lantz signed with Universal again, and his wife Grace Stafford started providing the voice of Woody. The latter part of the decade saw Woody make the jump to television, where his shorts were syndicated as part of The Woody Woodpecker Show. New shorts were still being produced for theatres, but that came to an end in 1972 when Walter Lantz had to shut down his studio as a result of production costs getting too high. Eventually, Walter Lantz sold all his shorts to Universal Studios, who later produced more Woody Woodpecker TV series.

For the most part, I really did not grow up with Woody Woodpecker cartoons (although I at least had something of an idea of who he was), so all the cartoons in The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection were new to me. Suffice to say, I enjoyed many of the cartoons in this set, with several that really stood out for me (in a good way). Outside of its treatment of a Native American chief, The Barber Of Seville (1944) really managed to be fun, especially with its music. Some of the shorts that featured Wally Walrus as his nemesis left me in stitches, especially Ski For Two (1944), Chew-Chew Baby (1945) and The Reckless Driver (1946). There were only two cartoons in this set that featured Woody dealing with Buzz Buzzard, but they left a strong impression on me. Admittedly, of the two with Buzz, Wet Blanket Policy was slightly weaker, but mainly because of “The Woody Woodpecker Song” carrying over beyond the opening credits, which obscured some of the opening dialogue (I have no idea whether the short has always been that way or if it was a mistake on this set). I did think that (as far as the cartoons included in this set are concerned) the series got a bit weaker as it went on, but the later Niagara Fools managed to be enough of a return to form that kept me laughing from start to finish! I wouldn’t call all of the shorts in this set memorable, but it was a fun introduction to the character of Woody Woodpecker. The biggest complaint is that this set doesn’t contain a large number of Woody Woodpecker shorts, including his first appearance (although everything included is at least put in order of original release). I certainly would enjoy looking into more if they are ever released (so yes, I do recommend this set)!

As far as how these shorts look on Blu-ray, I would say that this set has mixed results. To me, most of the earlier shorts included look really good, with nice, vivid colors. To me, one of the weakest looking shorts is The Beach Nut, which seems a bit fuzzier than others. The opening credits on a number of the latter shorts also don’t look as crisp, but, apart from that, the rest of the shorts look much better. Overall, this set certainly isn’t up to the quality that I would find in a Warner Archive release, but, for all intents and purposes, this is likely to be as good as we might get for Woody Woodpecker in the meantime.

The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection is available on Blu-ray from Universal Studios. The whole set has a runtime of two hours, fifty-five minutes.

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“Screen Team (Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy) Of The Month (January 2022)” Featuring Jeanette MacDonald in… Monte Carlo (1930)

Now that we’re into the New Year (and the new Screen Team Of The Month blogathon for Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy), we’ll start off with one of Jeanette’s solo outings, the 1930 film Monte Carlo, also starring Jack Buchanan!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Pantry Panic (1941)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker ignores the advice of the weather groundhog, and a cold snap hits, leaving him without any food. Then a hungry cat comes a-calling, but finds himself fighting with an equally hungry Woodpecker! Personally, I found this one to be a lot of fun! The way the winter storm comes in and takes away all the food Woody had stored up was fun (and VERY cartoonish), as were the attempts of both Woody and the cat to eat/cook each other. The character was now voiced by Danny Webb, but, in what may be my own inexperience with the character, I didn’t really notice, outside of Woody’s voice being different for one of his last lines (for whatever reason). Regardless, it was still fun (and funny)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Countess Helene Mara (Jeanette MacDonald) is just about to get married to Duke Otto Von Liebenheim (Claud Allister), but when she finds that her wedding dress doesn’t fit, she uses that excuse to run away. Leaving via train with her maid, Bertha (Zasu Pitts), she decides to go to Monte Carlo, where she hopes to win a fortune by gambling. On her way to the casino, she is seen by Count Rudolph Falliere (Jack Buchanan), who tries to flirt with her, but is ignored. At first, she seems to be winning big at the roulette table, but then she loses everything she had gained. Rudolph is determined to meet the Countess, but he is unable to find an opportunity. Finally, he gets his chance when he runs into and befriends her hairdresser, Paul (John Roche), who helps him out. In his new disguise, Rudolph becomes the Countess’ new hairdresser (although she doesn’t like the name Rudolph and prefers to call him “Paul”). She grows to like him as her hairdresser, and she quickly fires her a few of her other servants when she learns that he can also do their jobs. However, her money quickly runs out, and she has no choice but to fire him, too. Right about that time, the Duke finally finds her, and she reconsiders her engagement to him (which the Duke is fine with, even when she tells him that she would only be marrying him for his money). Wanting to help her out of her predicament, Rudolph tells her that he has been extremely lucky playing roulette, and wants to use his luck to help her out. He takes her out to the casino that night, but they find the Duke there and leave. After they go out dancing and enjoy Monte Carlo together, the Countess returns to her room, and sends Rudolph to the casino to gamble. While she awaits his return (for him, not so much the money), he goes up to his room and grabs some of his own money to give to her as his “winnings.” When he comes back, they kiss, but she asks him to come back the next day. In the morning, Bertha advises her not to become involved with her hairdresser, and she starts to act more standoffish towards Rudolph again when he arrives (which stops him from revealing who he really is). After kissing her, he leaves. Will the two of them get back together, or will she resign herself to being stuck with the Duke, whom she does not love?

With the advent of sound, director Ernst Lubitsch made his first sound film, The Love Parade (1929) as a musical with Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald (in her film debut). With that film’s success (both critically and commercially), Paramount Pictures and the director were ready for more. Due to his new fame in America, Maurice Chevalier was already busy with a few other film projects. Ernst Lubitsch still wanted Jeanette MacDonald for Monte Carlo, even though Paramount’s assistant production head David O. Selznick didn’t think she was a big enough star to carry the film (obviously, the director got his way on this one). With Maurice Chevalier unavailable, they instead cast British musical star Jack Buchanan as the male lead for the film. The Love Parade had differentiated itself from other early talkie musicals by integrating the story and the musical numbers to advance the plot, and the director wanted to continue that trend with Monte Carlo. The movie was successful, particularly for Jeanette MacDonald, as it provided her with what would become her signature tune: “Beyond The Blue Horizon.” It didn’t work out quite so well for Jack Buchanan, who didn’t make any more American films until he appeared in The Band Wagon (1953).

This was a movie that was new to me, which was part of the appeal of watching it for this month’s Screen Team blogathon. I admit, being a film from 1930, I was hesitant, since it seems like a number of the films I’ve seen from that era have struggled with the acting department (due to the then-new sound technology). I’m thrilled to say that the movie proved that idea wrong, and turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected! First off, the acting was superb here. The movie itself was quite funny, especially when making fun of Claud Allister’s Duke (or, for that matter, using the story of Monsieur Beaucaire as an opera to help explain what was going on, since the movie was partly based on that story). And, being a musical, mention must be made of the film’s music, which definitely worked for the characters and the plot. I certainly enjoyed Jeanette MacDonald’s song “Beyond The Blue Horizon,” and how the film made use of the train and its various parts to add to the song. I can easily understand how it became a big hit for her, and I know it’s been stuck in my head after seeing this movie for the first time! I would also say that I enjoyed the songs “Give Me A Moment, Please” and “Always In All Ways” quite a bit, too! The only song that felt dated and quite awkward was “Trimmin’ The Women,” and that does hurt the film just a little bit. So far, I’ve seen two of the four films Jeanette made with Maurice Chevalier, and all eight of her films with Nelson Eddy, so I can say that she doesn’t quite work as well onscreen with Jack Buchanan (although it sounds like she got along with him better off-screen than she did with Maurice Chevalier). That’s not to say that they were terrible together, as I thought they did pretty good. I’m just saying there was a reason she did more films with the other two. Overall, though, this was a very entertaining movie, and one that I am glad I was able to see! Even with its VERY MINOR issues (in my mind), I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending this one!

This movie is available on DVD from Criterion Collection as part of the four-film Eclipse Series 8: Lubitsch Musicals Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #3 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Jeanette MacDonaldLove Me Tonight (1932)

Jack Buchanan – The Band Wagon (1953)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you).  If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!