Coming Up Shorts! With… Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2

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 the first big post in Coming Up Shorts! as I talk about some of the various theatrical shorts I have seen over the years. This time around, I’m going with shorts featuring Popeye The Sailor, specifically those released in 1946 and 1947 that have recently been put out on disc in Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2.

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. House Tricks? (1946) (Length: 6 minutes, 59 seconds)
    • Popeye And Bluto help Olive build a house.
  2. Service With A Guile (1946) (Length: 6 minutes, 29 seconds)
    • Popeye and Bluto help Olive repair an admirals car.
  3. Klondike Casanova (1946) (Length: 8 minutes, 5 seconds)
    • Popeye and Olive run a saloon in the Klondike, when Dangerous Dan McBluto comes in and kidnaps Olive.
  4. Peep In The Deep (1946) (Length: 7 minutes, 37 seconds)
    • Popeye and Olive go diving for a sunken treasure, but stowaway Bluto is also after it.
  5. Rocket To Mars (1946) (Length: 6 minutes, 35 seconds)
    • While touring a museum, Popeye and Olive accidentally start a rocket that takes Popeye to Mars.
  6. Rodeo Romeo (1946) (Length: 7 minutes, 1 second)
    • While at the rodeo, Popeye tries to show up Badlands Bluto, which results in him trying to undermine Popeye.
  7. The Fistic Mystic (1946) (Length: 6 minutes, 43 seconds)
    • Popeye and Olive come to Badgag, where they run into “Bourgeois” Bluto.
  8. The Island Fling (1946) (Length: 7 minutes, 9 seconds)
    • Popeye and Olive end up on an island with a love-hungry Robinson Crusoe (Bluto).
  9. Abusement Park (1947) (Length: 7 minutes, 7 seconds)
    • Popeye and Bluto fight for Olive’s affections in an amusement park.
  10. I’ll Be Skiing Ya (1947) (Length: 7 minutes, 25 seconds)
    • Popeye tries to teach Olive how to skate at a winter resort, and skate instructor Bluto has other ideas.
  11. The Royal Four-Flusher (1947) (Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)
    • While Popeye and Olive are in the park, they run into Count Marvo (AKA Bluto) the magician, who catches Olive’s eye (for a while, anyways).
  12. Popeye And The Pirates (1947) (Length: 7 minutes, 35 seconds)
    • Popeye and Olive run into a band of pirates, led by Pierre, who takes a shine to Olive.
  13. Wotta Knight (1947) (Length: 6 minutes, 53 seconds)
    • Popeye and Bluto joust in a tournament to win the chance to awaken Sleeping Beauty (Olive) with a kiss.
  14. Safari So Good (1947) (Length: 7 minutes)
    • While on safari, Popeye and Olive run into a Tarzan-like Bluto, who is instantly smitten with Olive.
  15. All’s Fair At The Fair (1947) (Length: 7 minutes, 19 seconds)
    • At a carnival with Popeye, Olive catches the eye of hot air balloonist Bluto, who tries to get her away from Popeye.

I’ll admit openly, when it comes to a lot of theatrical shorts (live action and animated), I am FAR from being any type of expert on them, beyond what I can find on places like Wikipedia and what others have to say. And with Popeye, that is something I am very much reliant on, as these recent Blu-ray releases are my first time seeing many of these Popeye shorts in years, as I really haven’t watched them since the 90s (maybe the early 2000s, but not much beyond that), as well as being the first time for me seeing them in the order they were originally released (well, starting with the previously released 1940s Volume 1, as I haven’t seen any of the DVD-only releases of the earlier shorts). I have seen the Famous Studios years listed as being when the Popeye cartoons went downhill, and I can see that happening. 14 out of 15 shorts in this collection are essentially Popeye and Bluto (in his many forms) fighting over Olive, with the remaining short (Rocket To Mars) differing in that, while Popeye and Bluto duke it out, this time Bluto is a Martian leader bent on invading the Earth, with Olive having (almost) nothing to do with the story.

Still, I did have fun with this set! Most of the cartoons were new to me (or, if not that just goes to show how many of them stood out from previous viewings). The main one I do remember was the last one, “All’s Fair At The Fair,” which brought back a lot of fun memories. Yes, the shorts are formulaic, and probably do get old in a hurry, especially if you watch them all in a row. Personally, I slowed things down by watching one of them, followed by whatever movie I was watching next, thus allowing me a chance to savor them without getting too tired. Yes, I do struggle with some of the earlier shorts in the set, with Popeye being voiced by Harry Welch instead of his usual voice actor Jack Mercer (since he was on active military duty and was unavailable), but for a few of those Popeye was wisely kept a bit more silent, and the shorts with Jack Mercer certainly worked a little better, even though the formula was starting to get a bit stale. However, with the restorations that all these shorts underwent, the set was EASILY worth it! The colors are so vivid, especially compared to how they have been seen in recent years! Certainly recommended, especially to help keep convincing Warner Archive to keep restoring (and releasing) some of these great animated shorts!

Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2 is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The whole set has a runtime of one hour, forty-seven minutes.

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2020) on… An American In Paris (1951)

“It’s very clear our love is here to stay.” In case you haven’t guessed already, the next movie I want to talk about is that classic 1951 Gene Kelly musical, An American In Paris, also starring Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant and Georges Guetary.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Service With A Guile (1946)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2 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.

(Length: 6 minutes, 29 seconds)

Popeye and Bluto help Olive repair an admirals car. Another fun outing as Popeye and Bluto try to one-up each other in fixing the car, resulting in even more trouble. And a fun ending I didn’t quite see coming after Popeye eats his spinach and repairs the car. While still voiced by Harry Welch instead of regular Jack Mercer, I didn’t notice it as strongly this time, which made things better. While some of the gags may not be new, they worked well enough I had a good time watching this one! Certainly another fun short that continues to make this set (and seeing some of these old Popeye shorts) well worth it!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Ex-G.I. Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) is living in Paris as a painter, alongside his pianist buddy Adam Cook (Oscar Levant). One morning when displaying his paintings, Jerry ends up selling two of them to Milo Roberts (Nina Foch), who decides to help support him as an artist. They go out to a club that night, where Jerry runs into Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron). He is instantly infatuated with her, although she is less than thrilled with his attentions (and the same could be said for Milo as well). The next day, Jerry tries to ask Lise out again, and with a little persistence, she says yes. What Jerry doesn’t know is that she is engaged to Adam’s friend Henri “Hank” Baurel (Georges Guetary), who had raised her after her parents were killed in the war. Hank is given an offer to go to America, and he hopes that he and Lise can get married before they have to leave. Meanwhile, Milo is doing all she can to help Jerry towards giving an exhibition of his paintings, by providing a new place for him to work from and helping make contacts. When Jerry is given advice to tell Lise that he loves her, he does, only to find out she is engaged to another man (and to Hank, who had given him that advice without knowing who Jerry was in love with). In frustration, Jerry takes Milo to a party, where they run into Hank and Lise before they prepare to leave.

The idea for the movie famously came to producer Arthur Freed after he attended a concert for George Gershwin’s song An American In Paris. He liked the title for a movie, and went about getting the rights to the song (along with a number of other George Gershwin tunes). With Gene Kelly quickly cast, they ended up giving the role of his romantic interest to newcomer Leslie Caron, after Gene saw her performing in a French ballet and lobbied for her to get the part. Of course, the final ballet, set to the title tune, would prove a controversial addition, as previous attempts at lengthy ballets (especially in the 1945 Fred Astaire musical Yolanda And The Thief, also directed by Vincente Minelli) had failed to connect with audiences. But Arthur Freed and company stuck to their guns, and it became a high point of the movie (and the beginning of a trend whereby many musicals in the fifties would make use of dream ballets).

I can’t deny that a lot of the fun here is indeed the music and dancing! Gene Kelly gets a lot of the fun, especially with the likes of his tap solo to “I Got Rhythm,” where he gets to work with a bunch of French children as he teaches them a little English. Of course, he also has his romantic duet with Leslie Caron to “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” which is a thing of beauty in and of itself. But that ballet to the title tune is definitely a highlight, especially since some of the music should solidly be stuck in your head by that point, after having been used as background music for most of the movie. But the variety in dance styles and sets during that ballet is just so much fun to watch!

And this movie works so well as a comedy, too! From the character introductions for Jerry Mulligan, Adam Cook and Hank Baurel, we get the camera “mistakenly” showing somebody else before showing us the actual characters (especially a hoot with Oscar Levant’s Adam, if you know how much of a sourpuss Oscar’s characters tend to be and then we are shown a guy that is “too happy” before moving on to Adam)! And then the comic interactions between them on songs like “By Strauss” and “Tra-La-La (This Time It’s Really Love).” Of course, it’s hard not to laugh at Adam after Jerry tells him he is in love with Lise (especially since Hank had told Adam about Lise at the beginning of the movie) and then, when Hank comes in, Adam is nervously re-lighting his cigarette and drinking all the tea while he waits for Jerry or Hank to say just the wrong thing. Just priceless to watch! Honestly, this movie sells itself, it is just so wonderful, I can’t even begin to recommend it enough! “‘S Wonderful!”

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video.

Film Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2020

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Summer Stock (1950)Gene KellySingin’ In The Rain (1952)

Leslie Caron – Father Goose (1964)

Oscar Levant – The Band Wagon (1953)