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… The Cat And The Fiddle (1934)

We’re back again for another solo film featuring half of this month’s Screen Team, Jeanette MacDonald! For that, we’ve got her 1934 film The Cat And The Fiddle with Ramon Novarro!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Loan Stranger (1942)

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

(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! This one was back to being fun (after the previous one was a bit of a letdown), as Woody takes on the wolf (and, based on the introduction to the wolf, it’s hard not to cheer for Woody)! The gags are fun, and we also have Woody singing “Everybody Thinks I’m Crazy” again for more hilarity! Kent Rogers does pretty well here voicing both characters (a fact I wouldn’t have known had I not read the IMDb page!), and I know I look forward to seeing this one again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

In Brussels, penniless pianist and composer Victor Florescu (Ramon Novarro) makes a deal with a restaurant owner to play some music in exchange for a meal.  When Victor eats more than he agreed to, the restaurant owner tries to charge him for it, but he runs out on the bill.  He makes a successful escape when he hops into a passing cab, which is occupied by Shirley Sheridan (Jeanette MacDonald).  Victor is instantly smitten with her, and, upon arriving at their destination (which, although it is two different apartment buildings, is essentially the same spot since they are next door to each other).  Victor offers to pay the cab fare, but is unable to come up with the money.  The taxi driver (Henry Armetta) decides to take Victor’s portfolio (which contains all his music) as payment (at least, until Victor can actually come up with the money for cab fare).  In his apartment, Victor meets with his music teacher, Professor Bertier (Jean Hersholt), who has good news for him: he has an audition with an arts patron, Jules Daudet (Frank Morgan), who may ask him to write an operetta (that is, if Daudet likes Victor’s music).  Without his portfolio, Victor tries to remember his music, but is interrupted when a neighbor tries to play their own music.  Victor tries to complain through the window, only to discover that the neighbor playing the music is none other than Shirley!  Victor climbs across, and helps her out with some music that she is writing, before remembering his appointment with Daudet that afternoon.  He rushes off to find the taxi driver who has his music portfolio, and, upon finding him, stops traffic while they argue.  A passerby named Charles (Charles Butterworth) loans Victor the money for the portfolio, and Victor rushes off to meet with Daudet.  He is late for the audition, and starts an argument with Daudet before realizing who he is (which almost ends everything right there), but Victor’s declarations of his love for Shirley and how that love is more important than the audition cause Daudet to reconsider.  Daudet is mildly interested in Victor’s music, but while he is playing, Shirley comes to the conservatory looking for Professor Bertier.  She plays her music for him, and Daudet offers to publish her new song.  However, she slaps him when he tries to get fresh with her, and leaves.  Later, Shirley also comes to the realization that she loves Victor, but Daudet tells Victor that, if he is to write the operetta that’s been commissioned, he must do it in Paris.  Much to Daudet’s surprise, Victor declines, preferring to stay with Shirley.  Still, Daudet publishes Shirley’s song, which turns out to be a big hit, and both Shirley and Victor move to Paris.  It doesn’t work out too well for Victor, though, as he struggles to write his operetta in the midst of Shirley’s success, and he plans to return to Brussels.  When Shirley announces her plan to return with him, a jealous Daudet convinces Victor that Shirley would ruin her career if she went back.  Reluctantly, Victor fakes not being in love with her anymore, and returns to Brussels alone. He finishes his operetta, and goes into rehearsal, with the former operetta star Odette Brieux (Vivienne Segal) in the female lead, and her wealthy husband backing the show (at least, until he catches Odette kissing a reluctant Victor and withdraws his backing). Now, Victor is without a leading lady and a leading man, and also facing trouble for writing a bad check. His friend Charles (who is playing the harp for the show) turns to Shirley for help, but she refuses. Will Victor be able to put on his operetta? Will he and Shirley ever get back together?

After filming Love Me Tonight (1932) for Paramount Studios, Jeanette MacDonald took a trip to Europe, and, while there, she signed with MGM. The Cat And The Fiddle, which was based on the hit 1931 Broadway musical of the same name, was her first film under that contract. She was paired up with tenor Ramon Novarro (whose career was already on the downturn at this time), and the film was given a decent-sized budget to work with, part of which went towards filming the finale in the new three-strip Technicolor process (previously used mainly for Walt Disney’s cartoons, since he held exclusive rights for a few years). The movie ended up not doing very well at the box office (resulting in MGM opting not to renew Novarro’s contract the next year), but it did provide a model for the type of movie that would work for Jeanette herself (especially when she was paired up with Nelson Eddy the following year for Naughty Marietta).

In preparation for this month’s Screen Team blogathon, I decided to go with The Cat And The Fiddle for Jeanette MacDonald because it was a new film for me. As has been the usual for the films I’ve seen so far with her in them, I liked it! I thought the story was fun, and I thought the two leads had some good chemistry (nowhere near as much as she had with either Nelson Eddy or Maurice Chevalier, but good enough to help carry the movie). I will admit, I didn’t really find the score by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach that memorable overall, but the tune “The Night Was Made For Love” stuck with me (helped, obviously, by Jeanette’s beautiful singing voice). The movie did have some good comedic moments, with one of the main standouts being early in the movie, when Novarro’s Victor is running out on his food bill and joins a passing parade, causing the marching band to speed up their beat (and go from walking to running as they played)! Seeing it switch from black-and-white to color for the last five minutes was also interesting (and, leading into it, you could tell that they were about to do something special). Admittedly, it could use a good restoration to improve how it looks, but that can only happen if they actually have the film elements to do so, and I currently have no idea whether they do or not. It may not be Jeanette at her absolute best, but it’s still an entertaining pre-Code that I think is worth recommending!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 29 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Love Me Tonight (1932)Jeanette MacDonaldNaughty Marietta (1935)

Fast And Loose (1930) – Frank Morgan – The Good Fairy (1935)

Going Hollywood (1933) – Sterling Holloway – Remember The Night (1940)

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!