Coming Up Shorts! with… Tex Avery Screwball Classics 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 back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! This time, I’m again 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 2. While the shorts have not been released in chronological order, those in this set were originally released theatrically between 1948 and 1955.

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 Screwball Classics

  1. Little Rural Riding Hood (1949) (Length: 6 minutes, 19 seconds)
    • The city wolf invites his country cousin to the city, but cannot stop him from chasing after girls.
  2. The Cuckoo Clock (1950) (Length: 7 minutes, 5 seconds)
    • A cat is being driven crazy by a cuckoo bird and tries to get rid of it.
  3. Magical Maestro (1952) (Length: 6 minutes, 31 seconds)
    • After a magician is thrown out by opera singer Spike (also known as “The Great Poochini”), he gets his revenge by taking the place of the conductor and using his magic wand to wreak havoc on Spike’s performance.
  4. One Cab’s Family (1952) (Length: 7 minutes, 56 seconds)
    • A pair of taxicabs raise their new son (with the hope that he will also be a taxicab), but he wants to be a hot rod.
  5. The Cat That Hated People (1948) (Length: 7 minutes, 1 second)
    • A black cat expresses his dislike for humans for the way he has been treated, and takes a rocket to the moon.
  6. Doggone Tired (1949) (Length: 7 minutes, 34 seconds)
    • A rabbit tries to keep a hunting dog from getting enough sleep.
  7. The Flea Circus (1954) (Length: 7 minutes, 1 second)
    • When a stray dog walks in on a circus of fleas, they all leave (except for Francois, the clown), and it’s up to him to bring more fleas back!
  8. Field And Scream (1955) (Length: 7 minutes, 9 seconds)
    • We follow American sportsman Ed Jones as he goes fishing and hunting.
  9. The First Bad Man (1955) (Length: 6 minutes, 35 seconds)
    • This short tells the story of Texas, circa one million B.C., where Dinosaur Dan laid claim to being the first bad man in Texas.


  1. Out-Foxed (1949) (Length: 8 minutes, 18 seconds)
    • A group of hunting dogs (including Droopy) are promised a steak if they can bring in a fox.
  2. Droopy’s Double Trouble (1951) (Length: 7 minutes, 6 seconds)
    • Droopy and his twin brother Drippy are tasked with taking care of a house (and keeping out strangers). Of course, Spike the dog (with an Irish accent, no less!) has to join in on the fun (as the “stranger” that they have to keep out).
  3. The Three Little Pups (1953) (Length: 6 minutes, 44 seconds)
    • Three little pups (including Droopy) take on a dogcatcher.
  4. Drag-A-Long Droopy (1954) (Length: 7 minutes, 34 seconds)
    • Sheepherder Droopy drives his sheep into cattle territory, and the Wolf (who owns a cattle ranch) tries to stop him.
  5. Homesteader Droopy (1954) (Length: 7 minutes, 31 seconds)
    • Droopy and his homesteading family find resistance from Dishonest Dan when they make a home in cattle country.
  6. Dixieland Droopy (1954) (Length: 7 minutes, 44 seconds)
    • Droopy plays Dixieland musician John Pettibone, as he tries to become famous.


  1. The Counterfeit Cat (1949) (Length: 7 minutes, 6 seconds)
    • A cat tries to pretend to be a dog to get the bird that Spike the dog is guarding.
  2. Ventriloquist Cat (1950) (Length: 6 minutes, 41 seconds)
    • A cat uses ventriloquism to play some pranks on Spike the bulldog.

Cartoons Of Tomorrow

  1. The House Of Tomorrow (1949) (Length: 6 minutes, 51 seconds)
    • We are given a tour of the house of tomorrow by the narrator.
  2. Car Of Tomorrow (1951) (Length: 6 minutes, 19 seconds)
    • We are shown the “cars of tomorrow.”
  3. T.V. Of Tomorrow (1953) (Length: 7 minutes, 7 seconds)
    • We are shown the many innovations of the television of tomorrow.
  4. The Farm Of Tomorrow (1954) (Length: 6 minutes, 32 seconds)
    • We are shown the “farm of tomorrow.”

Well, since the various Tex Avery shorts aren’t being put out on disc in chronological order, there isn’t much more that I can say about Tex himself than what I said when I reviewed Volume 1 of this series. So, I will confine my comments overall to the shorts included in this set. As indicated in the list above, this set contains more one-off shorts, some Droopy, some Spike (the bulldog), and the four Cartoons Of Tomorrow. As before, I consider the Droopy cartoons to be the most fun, since I have fond memories of growing up with them. They’re always guaranteed to give me a good laugh! I think I also remember the Little Rural Riding Hood and Doggone Tired shorts, but most of the rest were new to me through this set. Overall, it’s a fun continuation, with some cartoons just as good (if not better) than those in the first set!

All the shorts included in this set come from 4K scans of the best surviving preservation elements (since, as I mentioned before in my review of the first volume, many of the original negatives for MGM’s pre-1951 cartoons were destroyed in a 1965 vault fire). Compared to the first set, this one didn’t fare as well in overall quality in the transfers. Admittedly, most of the trouble seems to have been caused by the pandemic, which delayed the set (which I have heard was originally planned for a June 2020 release, or thereabouts, instead of the December 2020 release it got) with all the film labs and storage facilities being shut down (and thereby removing access to the film elements), and also resulted in the team that had done the earlier release and the Popeye sets being laid off. Further compounding the issue, they were still stuck with a release deadline which forced them to use some less-than-stellar transfers prepared for HBO Max. A lot more DNR (digital noise reduction) was used than would have normally been the case, resulting in too much grain being removed (and therefore, some of the detail). Now, for the most part, the average Joe (or Jane) probably won’t notice, as everything looks pretty good in motion (it’s just when you stop to pause the picture that things will look worse). Now, this isn’t a problem for ALL the shorts on the set, just a few. The majority are, for the most part, treated much better. There are a few that also had photoshopped titles, and there is a slight audio issue on the start of the short T.V. Of Tomorrow. Still, the set overall is quite nice, and even throws in an hour-long documentary on Tex Avery from 1988 as an extra. It’s only good, compared to the usual GREATNESS that we would expect from Warner Archive transfers, but it’s still better than you might see for other animated libraries.

Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The whole set has a runtime of two hours, twenty-nine minutes.

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… A Night In Casablanca (1946)

I’m long overdue for some Marx brothers zaniness, so today, we’re here for their 1946 comedy A Night In Casablanca! But first, we’ve got a theatrical short to start things off with!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Cat That Hated People (1948)

(Available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)

(Length: 7 minutes, 1 second)

A black cat expresses his dislike for humans for the way he has been treated, and takes a rocket to the moon. This was another very fun cartoon. Seeing what the cat goes through, it’s easy to understand why he hates people. Yet, as they say, “Be careful what you wish for!” What he finds on the moon is more than he bargained for, and the sheer lunacy is a lot of fun! I enjoyed it, from the cat himself (voiced by Paul Frees, doing an imitation of Jimmy Durante, if I’m correct), to all of the various gags throughout, and I know it’s one I want to revisit now and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Three managers of the Hotel Casablanca have been murdered recently, and Governor Galloux (Lewis Russell) and his prefect of police, Captain Brizzard (Dan Seymour) have no idea why! They refuse to listen to Lieutenant Pierre Delbar (Charles Drake), who claims that, during the war, he had been forced by the Germans to fly Nazi loot out of France, but he crashed his plane intentionally in Casablanca (although all the treasure disappeared while he was detained). He believes that a group of Nazis are trying to take over the hotel, to get the treasure out of there, but nobody is listening to him, except his girlfriend Annette (Lois Collier). The Governor hopes to offer the position of manager to Count Max Pfferman (Sig Ruman), but he is detained when his toupee disappears. You see, he is a Nazi, by the name of Heinrich Stubel, famous for a scar on his head (but which is hidden by the toupee). Since he doesn’t show up to accept the position (like he had wanted to), the governor decides to offer the position to Ronald Kornblow (Groucho Marx), the manager of a hotel in the desert (where, supposedly, he may not have heard about the spate of murdered Hotel Casablanca managers). Max tries to find ways to kill Kornblow, including getting his nightclub singer girlfriend Beatrice Reiner (Lisette Verea) to flirt with Kornblow, but his attempts fail, especially with his valet Rusty (Harpo Marx) and Yellow Camel Company owner Corbaccio (Chico Marx) trying to help Kornblow. Max finally gets his chance when Rusty and Corbaccio break the bank playing roulette at the hotel, and accuses Kornblow of working with them to do so. Max is given the manager’s job, and Kornblow, Rusty, Corbaccio and Annette are arrested. When they learn that Rusty had discovered the treasure, they break out of jail, and help Pierre (who had been arrested for deportation) to go after the former Nazis. But, can they stop them before the Nazis escape to South America?

In the early 1940s, the Marx brothers announced their retirement, to go into effect after their 1941 film The Big Store. At the time, they had grown tired of making movies, which was not helped by losing producer Irving Thalberg during production of A Day At The Races, and being stuck with producers who didn’t know (or care) what to do with the Marxes. However, after being retired a few years, they came back to do A Night In Casablanca as an independent film (at least partly because of Chico’s troubles with compulsive gambling). The film was originally intended as more of a parody of the classic Casablanca. Warner Brothers apparently heard about it, and started looking into it from a legal standpoint (whether anything more than that happened on their end seems to be up for debate, depending on your sources). What is known is that Groucho famously wrote a public series of letters to them, humorously picking on them for use of “Brothers” in their studio name, since the Marxes had been doing so on stage as “Brothers” for a longer period of time (or something to that effect). Nothing further happened from Warner Brothers, and the movie ended up changing the story to be more of a spoof of wartime melodramas.

Like most of the Marx brothers movies, I’ve been watching this one for a number of years. I personally think this one is more middle of the road for them, not as good as their earliest films, but definitely better than the rest of their post-A Day At The Races output. Their comedy isn’t necessarily anything new at this point (with them essentially recycling a few comedy bits, including Harpo and Chico’s “Charades” routine used previously in A Day At The Races), but their comic timing is still there, and allows for the jokes to come off well. Groucho still has his one-liners, Chico still plays his “filthy piano,” and Harpo plays his harp. I know I still laugh at Groucho as he tries to spend time with Lisette Verea’s Beatrice, only to have to keep switching rooms (and carry the champagne, flowers, and records everywhere). I also enjoy their antics as they try to keep the Nazis from getting all the trunks packed, not to mention Harpo’s sword fight with the Nazi waiter.

Now, as I hinted at, this film certainly does have its issues. Even with the Marxes a bit more in control, this film still has the unnecessary romance between Charles Drake’s Pierre and Lois Collier’s Annette (not to mention the fact that, although the characters are supposed to be French, neither of them are anywhere close to actually playing that). But, one of my biggest problems with this film is its score, by Werner Janssen. Its decent for most of the movie, but there are times it just feels too serious for some of the action going on onscreen (including the scene I mentioned earlier with the Marxes trying to stop the Nazis when packing the trunks and the film’s ending). Still, these are minor quibbles for what was the last good Marx brothers film, and they’re not enough to stop me from watching it (or recommending it either)!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Classicflix. The new transfer for this release looks wonderful, with the picture generally cleaned up to remove dirt and specks and the like. The detail is wonderful, and I would say it’s the best way to enjoy the movie. Throw in an audio excerpt of a stage performance from 1945 (where they were trying out some of their material for the movie to see how well it would work), some radio commercials promoting the film and an image gallery that contains stills, lobby cards, etc., and this is a release that I find to be well worth having!

Film Length: 1 hour, 25 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

At The Circus (1939) – Groucho Marx

At The Circus (1939) – Harpo Marx

At The Circus (1939) – Chico Marx

At The Circus (1939) – The Marx Brothers

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